Title: The Double Agents
Author: W. E. B.Griffith
Griffith, W. E. B. (2007) with Butterworth, William E. IV. The Double Agents .New York: G.P. Putnam’s and Sons
Date Updated: June 18, 2015
In April 1943, Spanish sympathizers discover the body of Major William Martin of the British Royal Marines in waters off the coast of Spain. The remains contain a parcel of letters, both personal and top secret. Unknown to the Spaniards who find the body is its bizarre history prior to the man’s demise. Certifying that the Major carried important papers to the German and Italian war effort, the information is passed to those directly involved. Certain that Allied forces plan a massive attack on Sicilian and Italian shores, Hitler’s generals concentrate troop strength on the Italian front.
W. E. B. Griffin co-authors with his son, William E. Butterworth IV, a sixth Men at War novel, titled The Double Agents. Midway through World War II, the British and American OSS (Office of Strategic Services) devise the elaborate ruse to confuse German planners. Prior to the body’s discovery near Huelva, OSS Major Richard “Dick” Canidy, working out of Algiers, carries out a daring attack on a German supply boat disguised as a fishing vessel. Canidy is the OSS hero from the previous Men at War books. He’s good-looking, the picture of an American playboy type, but hard as rock when called upon by the President for his top-secret mission.
An Italian scientist named Dr. Rossi has proof that the Germans have infected prisoners with Yellow fever. In addition, Canidy has blown up the boat that contains Tuban, a dangerous nerve gas slated for use against the Allies. From Algiers, his mission is to determine if the gas has sunk or burned in the fire. If burned, the gas can cause savage injury and many deaths.
Canidy’s interaction with those under his command in the mission is a fun read. One minute he’s the no-nonsense commander, the next he’s concerned for their safety. Canidy manages a sense of humor underneath the serious planning, plotting and commission of his orders. He works closely with an Italian Mafia native Sicilian to gain access to the Island. Lucky Luciano, from an American prison, has linked the OSS with Frank Nola, the local Mafioso. His contacts on Palermo help Canidy’s plan, but Dick is acutely aware that Nola’s motives may endanger the entire effort. Tubes, a young California surfer, operates the radio equipment necessary to their success and survival.
Meanwhile, Griffin and his son develop numerous chapters about the dead Major Martin’s identity. Based on the fact that David Niven, Peter Ustinov and Ian Fleming served as officers in the British military services, the authors write a hilarious scenario whereby these famous men, along with OSS Lt. Charity Hoche and others, craft a cadaver’s identity. The Hollywood personalities, complete with alcoholic tendencies, round out a voluminous cast of characters in The Double Agents.
The story is based on a true event – the dead body’s discovery by the enemy. While the majority of Allied troops fought in the deserts of Africa, a covert operation is carried out in Sicily. The history presented in The Double Agents is a reminder that war is horrific theater. Without dedicated agents such as the fictional OSS characters depicted on its pages, novels like this one would merely entertain.