In June 1952, a woman was murdered by an obsessed colleague in a hotel in the South Kensington district of London. Her name was Christine Granville. That she died young was perhaps unsurprising; that she had survived the Second World War was remarkable.
The daughter of a feckless Polish aristocrat and his wealthy Jewish wife, Granville would become one of Britain's most daring and highly decorated special agents. Having fled to Britain on the outbreak of war, she was recruited by the intelligence services and took on mission after mission. She skied over the hazardous High Tatras into occupied Poland, served in Egypt and North Africa, and was later parachuted behind enemy lines into France, where an agent's life expectancy was only six weeks. Her courage, quick wit, and determination won her release from arrest more than once, and saved the lives of several fellow officers—including one of her many lovers—just hours before their execution by the Gestapo. More importantly, the intelligence she gathered in her espionage was a significant contribution to the Allied war effort, and she was awarded the George Medal, the OBE, and the Croix de Guerre.
Granville exercised a mesmeric power on those who knew her. In The Spy Who Loved, acclaimed biographer Clare Mulley tells the extraordinary history of this charismatic, difficult, fearless, and altogether extraordinary woman.
In The Generals we meet great leaders and suspect ones, generals who rose to the occasion and those who failed themselves and their soldiers. Marshall and Eisenhower cast long shadows over this story, as does the less familiar Marine General O. P. Smith, whose fighting retreat from the Chinese onslaught into Korea in the winter of 1950 snatched a kind of victory from the jaws of annihilation.
But Korea also showed the first signs of an army leadership culture that neither punished mediocrity nor particularly rewarded daring. In the Vietnam War, the problem grew worse until, finally, American military leadership bottomed out. The My Lai massacre, Ricks shows us, is the emblematic event of this dark chapter of our history. In the wake of Vietnam a battle for the soul of the U.S. Army was waged with impressive success. It became a transformed institution, reinvigorated from the bottom up. But if the body was highly toned, its head still suffered from familiar problems, resulting in tactically savvy but strategically obtuse leadership that would win battles but end wars badly from the first Iraq War of 1990 through to the present.
Ricks has made a close study of America’s military leaders for three decades, and in his hands this story resounds with larger meaning: about the transmission of values, about strategic thinking, and about the difference between an organization that learns and one that fails.