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About Lynne Olson
Lynne Olson is a New York Times bestselling author of eight books of history, most of which deal in some way with World War II and Britain’s crucial role in that conflict. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has called her “our era’s foremost chronicler of World War II politics and diplomacy.”
Lynne’s latest book, Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against the Nazis, will be published by Random House in spring 2019. Two of her previous books, Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941, and Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour, were New York Times bestsellers.
Born in Hawaii, Lynne graduated magna cum laude from the University of Arizona. Before becoming a full-time author, she worked as a journalist for ten years, first with the Associated Press as a national feature writer in New York, a foreign correspondent in AP’s Moscow bureau, and a political reporter in Washington. She left the AP to join the Washington bureau of the Baltimore Sun, where she covered national politics and eventually the White House.
Lynne lives in Washington, DC with her husband, Stanley Cloud, with whom she co-authored two books. Visit Lynne Olson at http://lynneolson.com.
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“Brava to Lynne Olson for a biography that should challenge any outdated assumptions about who deserves to be called a hero.”—The Washington Post
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND THE WASHINGTON POST
In 1941 a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman, a young mother born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour, became the leader of a vast intelligence organization—the only woman to serve as a chef de résistance during the war. Strong-willed, independent, and a lifelong rebel against her country’s conservative, patriarchal society, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was temperamentally made for the job. Her group’s name was Alliance, but the Gestapo dubbed it Noah’s Ark because its agents used the names of animals as their aliases. The name Marie-Madeleine chose for herself was Hedgehog: a tough little animal, unthreatening in appearance, that, as a colleague of hers put it, “even a lion would hesitate to bite.”
No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence—including providing American and British military commanders with a 55-foot-long map of the beaches and roads on which the Allies would land on D-Day—as Alliance. The Gestapo pursued them relentlessly, capturing, torturing, and executing hundreds of its three thousand agents, including Fourcade’s own lover and many of her key spies. Although Fourcade, the mother of two young children, moved her headquarters every few weeks, constantly changing her hair color, clothing, and identity, she was captured twice by the Nazis. Both times she managed to escape—once by slipping naked through the bars of her jail cell—and continued to hold her network together even as it repeatedly threatened to crumble around her.
Now, in this dramatic account of the war that split France in two and forced its people to live side by side with their hated German occupiers, Lynne Olson tells the fascinating story of a woman who stood up for her nation, her fellow citizens, and herself.
“Fast-paced and impressively researched . . . Olson writes with verve and a historian’s authority. . . . With this gripping tale, Lynne Olson pays [Marie-Madeleine Fourcade] what history has so far denied her. France, slow to confront the stain of Vichy, would do well to finally honor a fighter most of us would want in our foxhole.”—The New York Times Book Review
The acclaimed author of Troublesome Young Men reveals the behind-the-scenes story of how the United States forged its wartime alliance with Britain, told from the perspective of three key American players in London: Edward R. Murrow, the handsome, chain-smoking head of CBS News in Europe; Averell Harriman, the hard-driving millionaire who ran FDR’s Lend-Lease program in London; and John Gilbert Winant, the shy, idealistic U.S. ambassador to Britain. Each man formed close ties with Winston Churchill—so much so that all became romantically involved with members of the prime minister’s family. Drawing from a variety of primary sources, Lynne Olson skillfully depicts the dramatic personal journeys of these men who, determined to save Britain from Hitler, helped convince a cautious Franklin Roosevelt and reluctant American public to back the British at a critical time. Deeply human, brilliantly researched, and beautifully written, Citizens of London is a new triumph from an author swiftly becoming one of the finest in her field.
Praise for Citizens of London
“Brilliantly bursting with beautiful prose, Olson flutters our hearts by capturing the essence of the public and private lives of those who faced death, touched the precipice, hung on by their eyelids, and saved the free world from destruction by the forces of evil.”—Bill Gardner, New Hampshire Secretary of State
“If you don't think there's any more to learn about the power struggles, rivalries and dramas—both personal and political—about the US-British aliance in the World War II years, this book will change your mind—and keep you turning the pages as well.”—Jeff Greenfield, Senior Political Correspondent, CBS News
“Three fascinating Americans living in London helped cement the World War II alliance between Roosevelt and Churchill. Lynne Olson brings us the wonderful saga of Harriman, Murrow, and Winant. A triumph of research and storytelling, Citizens of London is history on an intimate level.”—Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein
When the Nazi blitzkrieg rolled over continental Europe in the early days of World War II, the city of London became a refuge for the governments and armed forces of six occupied nations who escaped there to continue the fight. So, too, did General Charles de Gaulle, the self-appointed representative of free France.
As the only European democracy still holding out against Hitler, Britain became known to occupied countries as “Last Hope Island.” Getting there, one young emigré declared, was “like getting to heaven.”
In this epic, character-driven narrative, acclaimed historian Lynne Olson takes us back to those perilous days when the British and their European guests joined forces to combat the mightiest military force in history. Here we meet the courageous King Haakon of Norway, whose distinctive “H7” monogram became a symbol of his country’s resistance to Nazi rule, and his fiery Dutch counterpart, Queen Wilhelmina, whose antifascist radio broadcasts rallied the spirits of her defeated people. Here, too, is the Earl of Suffolk, a swashbuckling British aristocrat whose rescue of two nuclear physicists from France helped make the Manhattan Project possible.
Last Hope Island also recounts some of the Europeans’ heretofore unsung exploits that helped tilt the balance against the Axis: the crucial efforts of Polish pilots during the Battle of Britain; the vital role played by French and Polish code breakers in cracking the Germans’ reputedly indecipherable Enigma code; and the flood of top-secret intelligence about German operations—gathered by spies throughout occupied Europe—that helped ensure the success of the 1944 Allied invasion.
A fascinating companion to Citizens of London, Olson’s bestselling chronicle of the Anglo-American alliance, Last Hope Island recalls with vivid humanity that brief moment in time when the peoples of Europe stood together in their effort to roll back the tide of conquest and restore order to a broken continent.
Praise for Last Hope Island
“In Last Hope Island [Lynne Olson] argues an arresting new thesis: that the people of occupied Europe and the expatriate leaders did far more for their own liberation than historians and the public alike recognize. . . . The scale of the organization she describes is breathtaking.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Last Hope Island is a book to be welcomed, both for the past it recovers and also, quite simply, for being such a pleasant tome to read.”—The Washington Post
“[A] pointed volume . . . [Olson] tells a great story and has a fine eye for character.”—The Boston Globe
From the acclaimed author of Citizens of London comes the definitive account of the debate over American intervention in World War II—a bitter, sometimes violent clash of personalities and ideas that divided the nation and ultimately determined the fate of the free world.
At the center of this controversy stood the two most famous men in America: President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who championed the interventionist cause, and aviator Charles Lindbergh, who as unofficial leader and spokesman for America’s isolationists emerged as the president’s most formidable adversary. Their contest of wills personified the divisions within the country at large, and Lynne Olson makes masterly use of their dramatic personal stories to create a poignant and riveting narrative. While FDR, buffeted by political pressures on all sides, struggled to marshal public support for aid to Winston Churchill’s Britain, Lindbergh saw his heroic reputation besmirched—and his marriage thrown into turmoil—by allegations that he was a Nazi sympathizer.
Spanning the years 1939 to 1941, Those Angry Days vividly re-creates the rancorous internal squabbles that gripped the United States in the period leading up to Pearl Harbor. After Germany vanquished most of Europe, America found itself torn between its traditional isolationism and the urgent need to come to the aid of Britain, the only country still battling Hitler. The conflict over intervention was, as FDR noted, “a dirty fight,” rife with chicanery and intrigue, and Those Angry Days recounts every bruising detail. In Washington, a group of high-ranking military officers, including the Air Force chief of staff, worked to sabotage FDR’s pro-British policies. Roosevelt, meanwhile, authorized FBI wiretaps of Lindbergh and other opponents of intervention. At the same time, a covert British operation, approved by the president, spied on antiwar groups, dug up dirt on congressional isolationists, and planted propaganda in U.S. newspapers.
The stakes could not have been higher. The combatants were larger than life. With the immediacy of a great novel, Those Angry Days brilliantly recalls a time fraught with danger when the future of democracy and America’s role in the world hung in the balance.
Praise for Those Angry Days
“Powerfully [re-creates] this tenebrous era . . . Olson captures in spellbinding detail the key figures in the battle between the Roosevelt administration and the isolationist movement.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Popular history at its most riveting . . . In Those Angry Days, journalist-turned-historian Lynne Olson captures [the] period in a fast-moving, highly readable narrative punctuated by high drama.”—Associated Press
A riveting history of the daring politicians who challenged the disastrous policies of the British government on the eve of World War II
On May 7, 1940, the House of Commons began perhaps the most crucial debate in British parliamentary history. On its outcome hung the future of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's government and also of Britain—indeed, perhaps, the world. Troublesome Young Men is Lynne Olson's fascinating account of how a small group of rebellious Tory MPs defied the Chamberlain government's defeatist policies that aimed to appease Europe's tyrants and eventually forced the prime minister's resignation.
Some historians dismiss the "phony war" that preceded this turning point—from September 1939, when Britain and France declared war on Germany, to May 1940, when Winston Churchill became prime minister—as a time of waiting and inaction, but Olson makes no such mistake, and describes in dramatic detail the public unrest that spread through Britain then, as people realized how poorly prepared the nation was to confront Hitler, how their basic civil liberties were being jeopardized, and also that there were intrepid politicians willing to risk political suicide to spearhead the opposition to Chamberlain—Harold Macmillan, Robert Boothby, Leo Amery, Ronald Cartland, and Lord Robert Cranborne among them. The political and personal dramas that played out in Parliament and in the nation as Britain faced the threat of fascism virtually on its own are extraordinary—and, in Olson's hands, downright inspiring.
After Poland fell to the Nazis, thousands of Polish pilots, soldiers, and sailors escaped to England. Devoted to liberating their homeland, some would form the RAF’s 303 squadron, known as the Kosciuszko Squadron, after the elite unit in which many had flown back home. Their thrilling exploits and fearless flying made them celebrities in Britain, where they were “adopted” by socialites and seduced by countless women, even as they yearned for news from home. During the Battle of Britain, they downed more German aircraft than any other squadron, but in a stunning twist at the war’s end, the Allies rewarded their valor by abandoning Poland to Joseph Stalin. This moving, fascinating book uncovers a crucial forgotten chapter in World War II–and Polish–history.
"The Murrow Boys" tells the story of the legendary band of correspondents who, under Edward R. Murrow's direction, formed CBS's pioneering World War II news team and, in doing so, invented modern broadcast journalism. All in their twenties and thirties, Murrow and the Boys (who included William L. Shirer, Eric Sevareid, and Howard K. Smith) covered and brought to vivid life the war's great events, from the German invasion of Poland to D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. Young idealists, they believed they were here to change the world.
But their triumphant early careers, which made them celebrities in America, would eventually come to grief in the fickle world of broadcasting. The increasing desire for entertainment, McCarthyism, the rise of corporate sponsorship, and ultimately the birth of television all conspired to taint the tradition of serious journalism as the Boys had known it.
A dramatic, exhilarating narrative that portrays exceptional lives against the tumultuous backdrop of the last half century, The Murrow Boys is both a powerful reminder of the possibilities of broadcast journalism and a sharp-eyed account of where the craft went wrong.
"This is one of those rare books, a history so vivid and clear you get fifty years younger by reading it, about a shining moment in the radio business, CBS's reporting from Europe at the outset of World War II."--Garrison Keillor
"These great correspondents created and set the early standards for broadcast news. They and their dramatic stories represent the 'right stuff' of journalism." -- Walter Cronkite
"A lively, colloquial history of broadcast journalism that is so exciting one's impulse is to read it in a single sitting." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"One of the most fascinating and important accounts of broadcast journalism I have read." -- Jeff Greenfield, Time
"A riveting, entertaining, exhilarating, warts-and-all story." -- New York Daily News
"A wonderful evocation of a time and of a group of men bound together by their loyalty to Edward R. Murrow. Men of integrity all, but not without petty jealousies, ambition, intrigue, and yes, great courage, too." -- Morley Safer
"A greater appreciation of the glories of broadcasting can be gained by reading [this] book than by observing the reporting and interviewing styles of...current news personalities." -- New York Times
"A book to savor." -- BookPage
"Consistently fascinating, The Murrow Boys is essential reading for anyone interested in broadcast journalism...Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson give us a splendid sense of the professional heritage that broadcast journalists might someday reclaim." -- Dallas Morning News