Between Silk and Cyanide

silk and cyanide

The secret of SOE’s code war revealed for the first time… ‘As a comedy about the British at war, Leo Marks’s book ranks with the fiction of Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh.’ Observer

• This is the witty, engrossing and highly personalised account of Leo Marks’s experiences during the Second World War. He worked for the SOE – responsible for placing, monitoring and communicating with all British secret agents working in enemy territory. Marks played a crucial role, re-inventing how agents sent coded messages back to London and using every trick in the book to get his way.
• Between Silk and Cyanide is a great mixture of high level espionage, cynical commentary on government power struggles, human feeling for the agents risking everything for the war effort, and a keen sense of the absurd.

Leo Marks never made it into the field himself. But his memoirs are as explosive as any sabotage conducted by those who did… Leo Marks never once loses contact with the personal courage and sufferings of the agents in the field, the reality which so shames the Whitehall warriors in the eyes of posterity… His tale is by turns fiery, scabrous, infuriating and deeply tragic. The eyes mist over, the throat constricts; the heart thumps. I found Between Silk and Cyanide impossible to put down.


Irrepressibly witty and readable chronicle of a Candide in the madhouse of secret bureaucracy… It’s made up of reconstructed dialogue and amazing anecdote. Many readers who think they are allergic to Maths will be astounded to find themselves reading and even grasping the devilish poetry of figure-ciphering … But at the centre of the Book is the black mystery of the worst disaster of Britain’s secret war. The fun and satire of Between Silk and Cyanide sparkle against a dark background of anger and grief.

Neal Ascherson, Observer


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