The Last Goodnight by Howard Blum

“Two aging former spies—each burdened by dark secrets and hidden motives—steal away for a final rendezvous. Out of that inspired structure unspools a dazzling masterwork of narrative nonfiction that is The Last Goodnight. Howard Blum has vividly captured the extraordinary life of a passionate, complicated, thoroughly modern woman who did nothing less than help win World War II.”
   — Mitchell Zuckoff — bestselling author of Lost in Shangri-La, Frozen in Time, and 13 Hours In Benghazi

Time magazine called her “a blonde Bond…a Mara Hari from Minnesota who, under the codename Cynthia, used the boudoir as Ian Fleming’s hero uses a Berretta.” OSS chief General “Wild Bill” Donovan said she was “the greatest unsung heroine” of the Second World War. She was Betty Pack, and her story has been virtually unknown—until now. In THE LAST GOODNIGHT: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal (Harper; April 12, 2016; $28.99), Vanity Fair contributing editor and New York Times bestselling author Howard Blum reconstructs the riveting life of the beautiful American debutante-turned-spy. It is a breathtaking adventure tale of stolen secrets, seduction and sex, told with the unrivaled narrative gifts of Blum, who The Daily Beast says “has a remarkable talent for both uncovering history’s most inexplicably forgotten stories….and for writing non-fiction paced like a big-budget thriller.”

Blum has tapped a trove of recently unclassified files to resurrect Betty Pack’s remarkable story. Recruited first by Britain’s MI-6, and then the American OSS, Pack was the ultimate “swallow”—the trade name for a female agent who uses sex as a weapon. Indeed, Pack’s handlers quickly realized that her biggest asset as a spy was her willingness to employ her sexuality, manipulating men of influence and power who fell prey to her considerable charms. “Cynthia” seduced diplomats and military men from Europe to South America to gain access to codes, ciphers, and secrets. Her espionage achievements include obtaining Polish notebooks that proved key to Alan Turing’s success in deciphering the “unbreakable” messages sent by Germany’s Enigma machines, securing Italian naval ciphers (by seducing an Italian Naval Attaché) that helped the Royal Navy triumph over Mussolini’s forces at sea, and sneaking into the French Embassy in Washington to break into a safe and photograph Vichy naval codes. Percolating beneath the surface of these acts of daring and peril, however, lurks the story of a woman troubled by the very traits that made her so successful as a spy: a lack of emotional connections and a readiness to risk everything.

As USA Today said of his book Dark Invasion, Blum “will move you to the edge of your seat with the facts alone, but the author’s suspenseful detective-mystery narrative is what keeps you there.” THE LAST GOODNIGHT is a dazzling, panoramic work of history and biography, and a portrait of an extraordinary heroine whose contribution to The Good War has long been overlooked. I hope you will plan prominent review and feature attention for this masterful, captivating book.

 

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