Tales of an espionage coup in Codename Rygor

  • August 19, 2010 17:09
  • Katy Scholes

Michael Smith writes:

"It often seems as if espionage is more about turf wars between the various agencies than collecting intelligence. If it isn’t the Americans claiming some great spying success that was actually down to the British, it’s the British claiming one that was down to the Poles, as they did with the breaking of the German Enigma cipher. Biteback’s latest title Codename Rygor: The Spy behind the Allied victory in North Africa is an example of where the Americans claimed an espionage coup that was in fact down to the Poles.

The first major allied landing of the Second World War, Operation Torch, in November 1942 saw US and British troops swiftly defeat the Vichy French forces. One of the key factors was the extensive intelligence they possessed, which was largely credited to the US Consul in Algiers Robert Daniel Murphy. In fact, the vast bulk of the allied intelligence came from the Polish intelligence service representative in the Algerian capital, Major-General Mieczyslaw Zygfryd Slowikowski, codenamed Rygor."<!--more-->

To whet your appetite, here is an excerpt from Codename Rygor..., where Slowikowski's cover is potentially jeopardised:

"The next morning (the 16th), after a sleepless night, my routine was interrupted by Achiary’s unexpected arrival. I had never seen him looking so nervous and tense. The first word I heard was ‘Treason!’

Early that morning his men had stopped a group of two men and two women arriving from France without documents, ostensibly fleeing from Paris and from arrest. They stated that they wanted to meet ‘RYGOR, who is in charge of the Allied secret service in Algiers’. This news put him on guard as it reeked of provocation by the Gestapo, who had somehow uncovered the existence of our network. He had no idea what to do with them. They had no means of support and he did not have any funds at his disposal for such a contingency. Thank God, he had arrested them without the knowledge of the Germans or of Commissioner Begue, who, fortunately, was not on the ship. The situation was extremely serious.

I told him: First of all, I’ll immediately give you some money for their support. We’ll have to keep them in hiding for the time being. The Polish Secret Service is operating within Occupied France with a main outpost in Paris. Many Frenchmen and women are employed in the network. While I was still in Marseilles, I knew some of their cryptonyms, for example ‘La Chatte’ [in London known to Poles and British as VICTOIRE]. I’ve heard nothing from London about betrayal and arrests in Paris. If these people are saying something about the Secret Service there, then they must have cryptonyms if they worked for it. You must speak to them again and find out. In the meantime, I’ll ask Central Office for clarification and we’ll decide what to do after London replies.

Achiary, having calmed down, and with the funds in his pocket, went to obtain the information, which he would immediately report back to me.

There were only two possibilities: first, some form of betrayal leading to arrests, the liquidation of the Paris outpost and the network, and the agents’ escape. I still couldn’t understand how individual agents came to know about my cryptonym and my Algerian work. How could TUDOR, the only person in France who knew my cryptonym, have passed it on to Czerniawski, and how could it have become known to the other agents? That worried me most. Secondly, perhaps the Gestapo really had picked up my trail and, since they knew of our work, had sent agents provocateurs to Algiers. In that case, I resolved to get rid of them – there was no other choice."

Codename Rygor: The spy behind the Allied victory in North Africa is part of our new Dialogue Espionage Classics series and is available from Biteback, priced £9.99


Brought to Book: Tim Coates

  • August 17, 2010 13:46
  • Katy Scholes

The first in a new series for Biteback Publishing, Tim Coates gets, well, bookish.

What is your favourite book and why?

The Scots Quair by Lewis Grassic Gibbon (of which Sunset song is the first part). I read this first when I was living in Scotland and the language is so beautiful and original. I also adore the short stories of Katherine Mansfield and would call that my favourite book, too, in all possible editions and variations. The opening pages of "At the bay" are near to heaven on earth as I have found. Florrie the cat - you'll see.

As a child, what was your favourite book and why?

I read Jane Eyre when I was 10 and have re-read it several times. I don't think I could tell you the story, but if I open the book at any page, the writing and the style are totally electrifying for me. Every sentence. Now it reminds me of childhood and reading under the covers.

What book would you take on holiday this year?

I have been reading the novels of Georges Simenon. Not the Maigret stories, which are wonderful, but the novels he wrote that do not feature Maigret. They are high class novels of the 30s, 40s and 50s to match anything American of the same time. I have been searching second hand stores for them and take them everywhere.<!--more-->

Do you have a favourite political book/biography?

I learned my politics from two writers: Jaruslav Hasek and Kurt Vonnegut. Both are deeply sceptical of politics and administration in a very funny way. They have influenced me enormously. Many people don't like Hasek and I'm sure he was reprobate, but royal families should be seen as he saw his. Kurt Vonnegut is a total genius.

Which book published in the last ten years do you think is the most significant?

Delane's War... In it I tried to tell the story of how politics is now currently as a metaphor in history. I hope it gets wider readership.

Which literary character would you most like to be and why?

Beethoven. I know he wasn't a literary character, but he is the person I would most like to have been. Ridiculous, but it is my daily wish to have been him, or even like him.

Tim Coates' latest book Delane's War: How front-line reports from the Crimean War brought down the British Government is available now for £19.99 here.


The Kremlin's Geordie Spy featured in the Daily Express

  • August 16, 2010 11:49
  • Katy Scholes

This weekend the Daily Express had a fantastic feature written by Anna Pukas on Vin Arthey's The Kremlin's Geordie Spy.

"IN the early hours of June 21, 1957, two FBI agents knocked on the door of room 839 at the Latham Hotel in New York.

It was opened by a lean, balding man in his 50s and as he sat on the bed, naked, silent and minus his dentures, he could not have looked more unprepossessing. Though they didn’t yet know it the FBI men had just bagged one of the most important Soviet spies working in the West.

As a search of his hotel room unearthed a miniature photographic kit, messages on microfilm hidden in hollowed out pencils and thousands of dollars in cash it became apparent that the man calling himself Martin Collins – who was wanted for entering the US illegally – had done more than cross the border on a forged passport. Finally he admitted that Collins was not his real name. “My name is Rudolf Ivanovich Abel,” he said.

If the arresting FBI agents wondered how a Russian had acquired such fluent, accentless English they would have found the answers on his birth certificate. Abel was in fact born William August Fisher in 1903 at 140 Clara Street, Benwell, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. A bona fide British grammar schoolboy he rose to become a colonel in the KGB, as a fascinating new book on his life reveals."<!--more-->

The feature is available to read in its entirety on the Daily Express website.

The Kremlin's Geordie Spy by Vin Arthey is published later this month, and is available for pre-order from the Biteback website, priced £9.99



  • August 13, 2010 15:28
  • Katy Scholes

Biteback Publishing is proud to present a new range of books dedicated to classic tales of true life espionage. From secret spy operations in North Africa to the codebreakers of Bletchley Park, this new collection provides a narrative to twentieth century covert history by exposing common myths and unearthing previously unknown accounts of wartime intelligence machinations. The Dialogue Espionage Classics promise to rival anything in fiction.

Bletchley Park’s role in breaking Japan’s secret ciphers

The extraordinary wartime exploits of the British codebreakers based at Bletchley Park continue to fascinate and amaze. In The Emperor's Codes Michael Smith tells the story of how Japan's wartime codes were broken, and the consequences for the Second World War. He describes how the Japanese ciphers were broken and the effect on the lives of the codebreakers themselves. Using material from recently declassified British files, privileged access to Australian secret official histories and interviews with British, American and Australian codebreakers, this is the first full account of the critical role played by Bletchley Park and its main outposts around the world.

The Emperor’s Codes is available from Biteback, priced £9.99

The spy behind the allied victory in North Africa

Major General Mieczyslaw Zygfryd Slowikowski, codenamed Rygor, was a Polish intelligence officer who helped establish Allied spy networks in occupied France, and later, in German occupied North Africa. In July 1941, Slowikowski was transferred to Algiers where he set up and ran one of the War’s most successful intelligence operations, providing the vast bulk of the intelligence for Operation Torch, the 1942 Allied invasion of North Africa. This was the first joint Allied military operation involving both the British and the Americans, in the first large-scale Allied landings of the war. Operation Torch provided a turning point in the war against the Axis powers and Slowikowski’s immense bravery and effort were later rewarded with the American Legion of Merit and an Order of the British Empire. This is his extraordinary story.

Codename Rygor is available from Biteback, priced £9.99

COMING SOON: The Kremlin’s Geordie Spy by Vin Arthey


Praise for SIX from ARRSE

  • August 13, 2010 09:31
  • Katy Scholes

Thanks to ARRSE (The Army Rumour Service) for the fantastic review of Michael Smith's SIX: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service.

"This is a fine book. On one level, it is a rattling good yarn which does what it says on the cover; on another level, Smith’s research illuminates the sometimes complex (and to the indifferent, dull) bureaucratic manoeuvring which is a feature of any intelligence organisation and on a third level, it is a fascinating insight into the people who came together to create one of the world’s foremost intelligence services."

To read the full review, click here.

SIX: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service. Part 1: Murder and Mayhem is available to buy from Biteback, priced £19.99