Back in March I received a message from Scott Philbrook, one of the hosts of The Astonishing Legends Podcast. He was planning a show about a famous unsolved mystery from 1948. The Somerton Man was found dead on an Australian beach, and so far no one knows who he is or how he died. But there are plenty of theories. Some of the theories involve espionage and coding, so Scott interviewed me about poem codes and the tensions between the Soviet Union and the US, Great Britain, and Australia both during World War Two and at the beginning of the Cold War.
The case is fascinating. I won’t go into details here, but I will provide links to the podcasts. They found so much information that they divided the show into 4 parts (roughly seven hours). My interview is in the last segment.
For anyone visiting my website because of the podcast, I’ll post a link to my original blog post about poem codes: How to Code Messages Like a WWII Spy (It has pictures.)
For anyone wanting more information about poem codes, I recommend reading Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker’s War, 1941-1945, by Leo Marks. For more information about the tensions between the Soviet Union and the western Allies during WWII over POWs, I’d recommend reading The Last Escape: The Untold Story of Allied Prisoners of War in Germany, 1944-1945, by John Nichol and Tony Rennell.
And since I’ve already heard one Astonishing Legends listener express an interest in my books, I’ll give a quick run-down here. I was researching for The Rules in Rome when I wrote the blog post about poem codes. The characters in that book use double transposition, moving from poem codes to worked-out keys. It’s a romantic suspense novel, and it just won a Whitney Award for the 2015 Best Historical Novel.
My newest novel, The Spider and the Sparrow, takes place during WWI. It involves espionage, but not any of the techniques discussed in the podcast. But while it lacks portrayals of advanced coding methods, it does have dog fights (the aerial kind), a few sweet romances, and a great immersion into WWI.
My WWII trilogy, Espionage, Sworn Enemy, and Deadly Alliance, also involves spies. Several villains in Sworn Enemy and Deadly Alliance were inspired by members of the Cambridge Spy Ring. Those two books also include a character with a one-time pad. Readers should be aware that all my books include some religious themes. Those themes are strongest in Espionage and Sworn Enemy. So if you prefer books without that, you might want to try The Spider and the Sparrow or The Rules in Rome.
It was fun to be a part of the podcast. Thank you to the Astonishing Legends team for having me.