Leo Marks
Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War 1941-1945
July 09, 2019 Comments.. 485
Between Silk and Cyanide A Codemaker s War In Leo Marks left his father s famous bookshop Charing Cross Road and went off to fight the war He was twenty two Soon recognized as a cryptographer of genius he became head of communicati
  • Title: Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War 1941-1945
  • Author: Leo Marks
  • ISBN: 9780684864228
  • Page: 319
  • Format: Hardcover
  • In 1942, Leo Marks left his father s famous bookshop, 84 Charing Cross Road, and went off to fight the war He was twenty two Soon recognized as a cryptographer of genius, he became head of communications at the Special Operations Executive SOE , where he revolutionized the codemaking techniques of the Allies and trained some of the most famous agents dropped into occupiIn 1942, Leo Marks left his father s famous bookshop, 84 Charing Cross Road, and went off to fight the war He was twenty two Soon recognized as a cryptographer of genius, he became head of communications at the Special Operations Executive SOE , where he revolutionized the codemaking techniques of the Allies and trained some of the most famous agents dropped into occupied Europe, including the White Rabbit and Violette Szabo As a top codemaker, Marks had a unique perspective on one of the most fascinating and, until now, little known aspects of the Second World War.Writing with the narrative flair and vivid characterization of his famous screenplays, Marks gives free rein to his keen sense of the absurd and his wry wit, resulting in a thrilling and poignant memoir that celebrates individual courage and endeavor, without losing sight of the human cost and horror of war.
    • [AZW] ↠ Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War 1941-1945 | BY ☆ Leo Marks
      Leo Marks

    1 Blog on “Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War 1941-1945

    1. Rose says:

      This is a fantastic book It is gripping, educational, and funny, and comes highly recommended At the age of 22, Leo Marks joined the Special Operations Executive, which managed resistance, espionage, and sabotage operations in Occupied Europe His path to becoming an SOE cryptographer was not particularly smooth First off, his interview with the code breaking school did not get off to a good start, when the interviewer.n the interview by asking what my hobbies were Incunabula and intercourse, sir [...]

    2. A.L. Sowards says:

      I added this to my to read list last year, when a friend thanks, Christie said it was among the best WWII books she d read in 2012 Now that I ve read it, I have to say that it s among the best I ve read in 2013.The book begins with Leo Marks going off to war to codebreakers school He spends too much time trying to find shortcuts, so his instructors decide he s not quite good enough for Bletchley Park where the British are busy breaking German codes , but maybe a new outfit called SOE can use him [...]

    3. Meaghan says:

      I admit that all the jargon about codemaking and codebreaking went over my head, but Marks s self deprecating humor and engaging writing style kept me going so I finished the whole book in just two sittings in less than 24 hours People who like World War II books will love this it s thrilling and suspenseful but without the violence I did not envy the coders, and even less so the field agents, and I admired Marks for kicking and screaming and agitating so much to try to make their lives easier a [...]

    4. Steve Merrick says:

      I was despairing when I finally reached this gem of a book Its one of the nightmares when you are researching subjects like Special Operations Executive, British wartime organization with the brief from Churchill to set Europe Ablaze sending agents hither and dither across Europe the SOE did just that There is a dearth of books mostly bad written about it, Yet before I get side tracked by that, I can say that this is one of the funniest and thought provoking books about espionage that I have eve [...]

    5. Jeanette says:

      Worth the detailed read about code breaking by SOE during WWII years for those who have patience and interest because it is dense reading How the organization formed and what components melded during the get go under Great Britain s distress were exceptional.But this will appeal far to people who love logic puzzles or maybe difficult math progressions Because there is majority explanation in those pattern abilities here enough which would make people who don t enjoy math go cross eyed.For me, i [...]

    6. Mairi says:

      I wish I could give it six stars Or ten.Without reservation or exception, this is the best book on WWII coders or WWII spy stuff in general that I have ever read and one of the best books I ve read in a long time Marks s style is easy and engaging If I didn t have to pace myself, I would ve devoured it much faster As it stood, I ended up coming back to work after lunch late a couple of times I cannot possibly recommend it highly enough if you re interested in the subject matter.

    7. Chris says:

      If you love math, wordplay, puzzles in general, and tricks for navigating intense wartime bureaucracies, this book is for you As for me, I was mainly interested because I recently learned that my great aunt did coding during WWII For me the most interesting parts were about the FANY First Aid Nursing Yeomanry who did espionage and many of whom were trained and supervised by the author and stuff about how the war was won, and at what cost While Marks story was invaluable history, as a book it wou [...]

    8. Chris says:

      Leo Marks worked in SOE during the Second World War, and this book is an account of what happened to him during that time Marks writes with great humor his father owned 84 Charing Cross Road , and sympathy He is also respectful of the women he works with doesn t look down on them acknowledges their intelligence One of the funniest sections of the book has to do with monthies I just wish there had been years at the top of each chapter.

    9. Alger says:

      A deeply frustrating book, one that falls very short of the inside history of a hidden war that that it promises, and is instead a personal memoir of a very vain and unreliable narrator.Marks greatest failing as a writer of memoirs is his false modesty, where he depreciates himself endlessly as a young a foolish boy whose only saving grace is his willingness to sacrifice his own best interests for the sake of the agents Marks greatest failing as a historian is his remarkable memory of events tha [...]

    10. Zora says:

      What is it about the story that keeps me coming back to it The story of how Hitler was defeated, especially the role of the French underground and British spies and regular English girls doing amazing things on the homefront, this to me is the greatest story ever told and likely always will be Funny, touching, intellectually stimulating, here is a terrific addition to that powerful tale.The title refers to the conversation had, when the author was asked why meager stores of silk should be used t [...]

    11. Rachel says:

      Wow, this book was great Eric s been trying to get me to read it for ages, and I finally got around to it.Leo Marks was the cryptographer who revolutionized the British codes during World War II He invented many of the codes used by the British during the war, briefed many of their agents, and organized systems for decoding indecipherables coded messages that were garbled to the point that they couldn t be decrypted He also turns out to be an excellent writer he s also a screenwriter and poet , [...]

    12. Kay says:

      So far the author has spent an awful lot of time patting himself on the back for being so clever I hope he stops soon or this will be shelved with the 50 page rule books Update, June 2012 I never did finish this, but got about halfway through The insufferable smugness just wore me down, plus I tired of the minutia how the hell did he remember every detail and conversation It seemed suspect Perhaps he took incredibly detailed notes, which I assume was forbidden No one could recall the kind of min [...]

    13. Pedro says:

      Between Silk and Cyanide was a wonderful recommendation I received and it really paid off When you think about cryptography during WWII the names that come to mind are Bletchley Park and Alan Turing, but Leo Marks did a fantastic job too He describes his battle with the bureaucracy to provide better codes to the agents on the field in a very humorous tone, also he writes very well and the book is very agreeable to read.My only regret is not having discovered this book while my grandpa was still [...]

    14. Michelle Diener says:

      This is quite frankly the best book I have read in months and months An auto biographical account by Leo Marks of his time as the Head of Codes for Special Operations Executive, the British war department created to set Europe ablaze during WWII, it was unputdownable.That everything actually happened made the story even riveting I have always been interested in codes and ciphers, and I found Mark s descriptions of how they created codes and how they broke them fascinating Marks is such a wonder [...]

    15. Jamie Collins says:

      A fascinating memoir by WWII cryptographer Leo Marks, the son of one of the owners of the Marks Co antiquarian bookshop made famous by Helene Hanff s book 84, Charing Cross Road a nice read for bibliophiles At the age of 22 Marks was deemed unsuitable for Bletchley Park due to his originality and flippant sense of humor much in evidence in the book and was sent to work for the Special Operations Executive instead, where he supervised encoded messages to and from intelligence agents in the field. [...]

    16. Nathan says:

      A bloated, blathering account of what should have been a fascinating subject Marks s faults are manifold he never gives us a clear picture of how he solved codes and leaves us in the dark for most of the book as to the exact significance of codebreaking in relation to the war effort as a whole He s also rather full of himself, expecting us to be interested simply because being a codebreaker is Just So Cool , and constantly making tired attempts at wit in order to leaven his dull account 600 page [...]

    17. David Crosby says:

      Good grief, what an excellent read I d settled down for what I assumed would be a dry but interesting read Not at all, it was all about the characters, brought to life in a superb way I was enthralled from start to finish, and only realised at the end that I had also been learning code breaking Wow, will read again.

    18. Zella Kate says:

      I ve always been fascinated by cryptography and British espionage during WWII I blame repeatedly reading this book as a teenager book show 1 I stumbled across a reference to Marks s book recently and was surprised I had never heard of it before It s easily one of the best wartime memoirs I have ever read Though Marks was, essentially, deskbound for the duration of the war, his account of his time developing codes for the SOE a secret organization that instigated sabotage and organized partisan r [...]

    19. Jeffrey says:

      Take the cyanide it ll be humane than reading this mess If you care deeply about bureaucrtic intrigue in mid century British intelligence agencies, laced with bad poetry, endless puns, inside jokes, false modesty, and a hazy explanation of cryptography, this is your book I d have never finished this unedited excuse for a memoir had I not paid for it Let my pain be your salvation, and look elsewhere.

    20. Sean says:

      This is a rare memoir, written with a unique voice I ve yet to reread Foot et al on SOE, but I intend to see just where Marx contradicts him The destruction of evidence is one of the most shameful episodes in a long history of shame regarding SOE.A number of things stand out given that Marks presumably had ULTRA clearance, why wasn t he informed of the strategic ramifications of the code war until much later in the war Given the several visits of SIS, it just seems odd they did not deign to brie [...]

    21. Skyring says:

      The science of codebreaking and codemaking is usually a subject guaranteed to glaze the eyes of all but the most devoted Technical details abound and the reader is led through lots of alphabet soup.Usually.Not this time The codebreakers of WW2 were an eccentric lot, it turns out, all brilliant, many fatally flawed Leo Marks son of the bookseller who established the famous 84 Charing Cross Road shop is no exception Brilliant.And flawed in that he had a deep attachment to the agents sent overseas, [...]

    22. Alan Cohen says:

      This was a fantastic book for me It combined intelligence and wit from a genius who worked magic for the British in World War II As I finished the book, I was saddened to see it end, as well as touched by the author s sensitivity and charm demonstrated repeatedly throughout His personal retelling of the cataclysm that was World War II, the damage it did to those brave souls in the field and back home and the consequences of Total War, is mesmerizing.Marks had a unique style in writing that perso [...]

    23. Christopher says:

      This is one of those rare books that really moved me to tears, to laughter, and to some deep thoughts around cryptography and its role in one of the most epic conflicts in history WWII.The author, Leo Marks has a delightfully British style of prose that s witty, self effacing, and delightfully quirky.While the book is semi autobiographical, the story really revolves around the incredible game of chess waged between Mr Marks and his opposite number in German intelligence Herr Giskes.Make no mista [...]

    24. Relstuart says:

      One of the best books I ve read all year.The memoir of Leo Marks A code breaker code maker for the SOE during WWII in Britain Bloody brilliant chap with a hilarious sense of dry, wry, British humor A humorous excerpt My long lost corporal was waiting for me outside the NDO s office His complexion was the colour of his uniform Very sorry sir I was taken short I knew how he felt I was born short I thanked him for his help, but he continued standing there I wondered if he d taken short again Dismis [...]

    25. Susan Swiderski says:

      Okay, so this isn t what I d consider a fast read , but who cares For anyone with an interest in World War II history, this book is a treasure Leo Marks, one of Britain s WWII codemakers, takes the reader behind the scenes and into the world of developing, and then teaching, clandestine codes to men and women who were about to be dropped behind enemy lines He describes the arduous task of trying to crack the indecipherables , or garbled radio messages operatives sometimes sent some due to human [...]

    26. Genean says:

      I remember watching old WW2 movies such as Carve Her Name With Pride, He Also Serves Who only Stands and Waits and in reading this book uncovered who had been writing those film scripts Leo Marks Yet these stories have not emerged by way of any casual acquaintance, but rather through the living those moments with those concerned To read this book is to open eyes on a central figure who s advantage is not only to know such an assortment of brave Heroes but to sort through the often lumbering offi [...]

    27. Katie says:

      This is exactly the type of unique experience I wish people would routinely write strong nonfiction about Marks s interesting and evocative writing really humanizes the process of cryptography and puts a lot of my own problems in perspective He s funny, in a way that isn t annoying, and smart, also in a way that isn t annoying.Reading the book also made me want to be really good at my job perhaps an unintended consequence since Marks stopped his own work following the end of the war, but it has [...]

    28. Jerry says:

      Like Peter Wright s book on the intelligence services of Britain and US after WWII, this book about code breaking in Britain during WWII is rare reading, not because the prose is perfect, or the organization taught, but because the author is so revealing of exactly how he felt and what he was doing Because we are not in a matched set war now, nothing in the current world is as intense, forensic, and challenging Although tv and movies make the modern world seemthat challenging The nearest analogy [...]

    29. Elinor says:

      Like listening to an old man tell stories from his time at war, this is a rambling memoir of vague accounts of incidental intelligence encounters There is no chronology, no plot, no cohesive story, no greater authorial goals in short, there is absolutely nothing for the reader to follow To that end, the author even fails to describe the coding puzzles or how he solved them, merely smugly noting that he did Between Silk and Cyanide was such an insufferable read by page 100 that I could not bring [...]

    30. Cat. says:

      Quite a funny book on a serious subject He was involved in a major way with producing codes for Allied agents in Axis countries, outside of Germany Italy, in Europe Fascinating and frustrating After the war, he became involved in making movies Another odd connection is that his father was co owner of the bookshop at 84 Charing Cross Rd Now you know why I read that book This one s better.

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