Between Silk and Cyanide; A Codemaker's War, 1941-1945

New York: The Free Press, 1999. First Printing [Stated]. Hardcover. viii, [2], 613, [1] pages. Illustrations. Appendix. Index. Inscribed by the author on the title page. Inscription reads To Ken Van Mechelen With best wishes Leo Marks 22/6/99. [Believed to have been inscribed to the IBM scientist]. A brilliant World War II cryptographer chronicles his career in the Special Operations Executive, discussing his replacement of outmoded codes with one-time silk-printed codes and showing how he broke de Gaulle's secret code, helped organize secret D-Day armies, and much more. The author was the son of an antiquarian bookdealer in London. Marks was assigned to the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War II; his innovations greatly enhanced cryptographic security. Leopold Samuel Marks, MBE (24 September 1920 – 15 January 2001) was an English writer, screenwriter, and cryptographer. During the Second World War he headed the codes office supporting resistance agents in occupied Europe for the secret Special Operations Executive organization. After the war, Marks became a playwright and screenwriter, writing scripts that frequently utilized his war-time cryptographic experiences. He wrote the script for Peeping Tom, the controversial film directed by Michael Powell that had a disastrous effect on Powell's career, but was later described by Martin Scorsese as a masterpiece. In 1998, towards the end of his life, Marks published a history of his experiences during the war, Between Silk and Cyanide, which was critical of the leadership of SOE. The book was written in the early 1980s, but didn't receive UK Government approval for publication until 1998. One of Marks's first challenges was to phase out double transposition ciphers using keys based on poems. These poem ciphers had the limited advantage of being easy to memorize, but significant disadvantages, including limited cryptographic security, substantial minimum message sizes (short ones were easy to crack), and the fact that the method's complexity caused encoding errors. Cryptographic security was enhanced by Marks's innovations, especially "worked-out keys." Derived from a Kirkus review: An exciting, witty, and compelling memoir of Great Britain’s cryptographic war against the Germans, by code-breaker Marks. The author pulled strings to get a position as a cryptographer with the exclusive Special Operations Executive (SOE) branch of the British war effort. SOE was charged by Churchill with the mission of “setting Europe ablaze”; it had agents in every field of the war, who all had to send information and receive instructions. When 22-year-old Marks arrived at SOE in 1942, agents memorized poem-codes, which they transmitted from the field back to London. These were prone to operator error and troubles in transmission. Marks revolutionized this by printing one-time only codes on water-soluble silk. As an operative in the London office, Marks had a prime opportunity to observe some facet of almost every major allied intelligence operation of the war, and there seems to be little he doesn't remember. Among the numerous famous Allied operations retold from Marks’s perspective (which almost always includes new nuggets of information), including the attacks on the German heavy-water plants, surveillance of the German fleet, and the continual struggles of the French Resistance. Marks paints a vivid portrait of London of that era, from the matrons who oversaw the young women in the coding office to the in-fighting of the various French factions, the privations of rationing, and his own attempts at getting ahead in the vast war machine. The hustle and bustle of London in the war years comes alive in this captivating story of keeping the Allies” secret agents secret. Condition: Very good / Very good.

Keywords: WWII, Special Operations, Cryptography, SOE, Intelligence Service, Yeo-Thomas, Codebreaking, London, Codemaking, Giskes, Maurice Buckmaster, Eric Heffer, Noor Khan, John Tillman, Pierre Brossolette, Arquebus Mission

ISBN: 0684864223

[Book #88128]

Price: $125.00

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