. . . by Karna Small Bodman
We Rogues write novels about plots, spies, and danger among other things. And we are often inspired by “real life” experts in spy craft, who we could call “Quintessential Rogues” in their own right. I’d like to share two brand new stories with you about some brave and talented people that would indeed be great sources for thriller writers as well as great reads for anyone interested and intrigued by the experiences of experts in the field. It is especially helpful to be able to attend a presentation by the authors of these excellent books and hear first-hand, how some of their heroes served in the most dangerous assignments, survived under harrowing pressure and were able to make great contributions to our country’s national security.
For example, I had the pleasure of attending a talk the other night here in Washington, DC given by Lynne Olson, a New York Times bestselling author of non-fiction books, where she discussed her brand new one, Madame Fourcade’s Secret War.
This is the little-known story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who headed the largest and most influential spy network in occupied-France during WW II. In 1941, at the age of 31, this beautiful French woman became la patronne — the boss — of what would emerge as the most
important Allied intelligence organization, working on sabotage, helping escapees in occupied territory and, most important, gathering intelligence on everything from German military secrets, troop movements, submarine sailing schedules, gun emplacements, and the Reich’s new terror weapons, the V-1 flying bomb and the V-2 rocket — all of which she and her 3,000 agents shared with MI6.
Marie-Madeleine had recruited her agents from all walks of life: bartenders, dockworkers, housewives – and assigned code names to each one from the animal kingdom such as Wolf, Lion, Tiger, Eagle. For herself, she chose Hedgehog (she loved the stories of Beatrix Potter as a child). Known only by that code name for the first year, when she finally met her MI6 contact, he couldn’t believe this leader was a woman! But he had to admit that her network was indispensable to the war effort.
The element of danger was ever-present, and when she was arrested – twice – by the Gestapo, she escaped both times. . . once by stripping naked and forcing her slim body through the bars of her jail cell hours before what would have been a brutal interrogation. A hero indeed. Now wouldn’t this story make a wonderful movie? Speaking of movies, if you’d like to “meet” the author of this incredible tale, Lynne Olson, tune into Turner Classic Movies on June 27 when she will co-host with Ben Mankiewiz for two nights of films commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Another woman who became a spy as well as a writer herself is Jonna Mendez. She and her husband, Antonio, were both CIA operatives. It was “Tony’s” rescue of 6 American diplomats from Tehran during the Iranian revolution that was the basis of their book Argo which was made into an Academy Award winning movie that won Best Picture in 2013.
As for Jonna, she was a Master of Disguise, helping to prepare the CIA’s most highly placed foreign assets to serve in dangerous places. Her disguise of husband, Tony, is just one example of her work:
Now there is a new book by this couple that just came out a few days ago, The Moscow Rules, which tells the story of how Jonna and Tony were CIA operaties working to spy on Moscow at one of the most dangerous moments in the Cold War. This is a tale of intelligence breakthroughs honed by the pair that allowed our officers to finally get one-step ahead of the KGB…using techniques such as identity swaps, evasion weapons, forgeries, and gadgets including the development of receivers that were able to listen in to radio frequencies that KGB surveillance teams were using.
If you’d like to hear one of Jonna Mendez’ author talks, here are several on her upcoming schedule: May 29 at the Washington, DC Spy Museum; June 19, Hotel Crescent Court, Dallas, TX; June 25, Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, CA; and June 26, Forum at Town Hall, Seattle. Details are on the book’s website.
I’m sure many of you have read books about “real life” heroes and heroines working in the most dangerous of circumstances….individuals we could also dub “Quintessential Rogues.” Please share some of the titles with us in a comment below and on our Facebook and Twitter pages (icons at top left). I’m sure they would offer great ideas and additional research to our efforts to craft new (and believable) thrillers.
Now, thanks for visiting for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers.
. . . Karna Small Bodman
How fascinating and so intriguing! Thanks for putting both these books on our radar. I can't wait to read them!
They sound terrific, Karna. I love deep dives into fascinating research, and these authors are providing amazing intel research! Thank you!
It’s always amazing to hear about a woman who defies all stereotypes! I’d like to think I’d be a wartime hero as well, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be! I might be in the troops but the leader? Never. So it’s so cool to hear about these ladies.
Yes, Robin, Gayle and Lisa — thanks for your comments. I really is so interesting to learn about these often "unsung" heroes in the spy business — and pay "tribute" to them along with those who served in our military this Memorial Day weekend!….Karna Bodman
Thank you! Interesting article.
Stripping naked and squeezing through the bars! Oh my goodness, she was amazing. I just read about another fascinating woman spy named Virginia Hall in a new book A Woman of No Importance. So inspiring to read about these women. Thanks for the post!
Wow! Any chance Jonna Mendez would guest blog at Rogue Women Writers? Her stories sound fascinating.
Or Lynne Olson? Both have stories of real rogue women to share.