Harrogate History Festival is launched this week and among the big literary names attending is Paddy Ashdown.
The former Royal Marine and Special Forces soldier - as well as Liberal Democrat leader- will be talking about his brand new book at the Old Swan Hotel this Thursday, October 20 at 7.30pm.
Game of Spies follows the deadly espionage triangle played out between three men trapped in the maelstrom that was Occupied France in the later years of the Second World War.
Roger Landes, the brilliant, ruthless British secret agent; Friedrich Dohse, the Gestapo officer charged with finding him; and French Resistance leader Andre Grandclement, responsible for one of the most controversial betrayals of the entire war.
The story of how the book came into being is just as intriguing. The trio had “flitted across” his 2012 retelling of the Cockleshell Heroes’ mission, then one day a friend called with an exciting find.
“He said, ‘I’ve got a box of documents here that were taken out of a house when the owner, called Aristide, died’,” recalls Ashdown. “My ears pricked up because Aristide was Roger Landes’s codename. So we rushed out to see them and spent a whole day going through the private papers of, in my view, the greatest secret agent we ever dropped into France.”
A bit of digging in the Bordeaux archives then unearthed Dohse’s memoirs, allowing him to piece together an intimate account of the lives of these three men and how they came to be intertwined.
“In a sense it’s a completely counter-intuitive book because all the things you think you knew turn out to be the opposite. The most likeable man in the book, arguably, is the Gestapo officer. The Frenchman is a stupid man more than a traitor, and the ruthless, single-minded operator who in the end kills far more than the Gestapo officer is Roger Landes.
Also appearing at the festival is Girl with a Pearl Earing author, Tracy Chevalier, war historian Antony Beever and Tudor expert Tracy Borman.
Harrogate History Festival runs from October 20-23.