Author’s Notes: The Rules in Rome

This book started with the vague concept of two agents trying very hard not to fall in love with each other, mixed in with some cool motorcycle scenes. When I started planning the where and the why, I thought Rome before the Allied liberation would be a great place for a pair of American spies. Allied intelligence had the same idea, only they had it seventy years before I did. Though the specific information Bastien and Gracie provide the Allies was made to fit this story, there were several real OSS agents in Rome in the spring of 1944 and many Italian nationals working for their country’s liberation. Otavia and Angelo are fictional, representing examples of the real Italians who worked against the Nazis. Throughout the book, partisan is used as a general term for armed resisters, as opposed to the word’s use in Yugoslavia (and in my last novel, Deadly Alliance), where partisan refers to a member of a specific guerilla group.

Bastien’s opinion of Allied leadership on the Anzio beachhead is perhaps overly harsh. Most historians today conclude that there simply weren’t enough men to be effective at Anzio, but Bastien’s condemnation was mirrored by contemporary intelligence officers and frontline soldiers.

Prior to the offensive in spring 1944 that culminated in Rome’s liberation, rumors circulated that the Allies had given up taking Rome from the south and were planning another amphibious landing north of Rome, near Civitavecchia. This deception, planned by the Allies, helped keep
German forces spread out while the British, Americans, and other Allies massed enough manpower for successful breakthroughs through the Gustav Line and past the Anzio beachhead.

Descriptions of civilian life in occupied Rome are accurate, including the dirt, the hunger, the huge roundups, and the commonplace torture at both the Via Tasso and the Regina Coeli. The water supply in Rome at that time was inconsistent, affecting fountains and drinking water. It’s also true that for a small percentage of the population, luxury and curfew parties were the norm until the German evacuation.

In the spring of 1944, a pregnant woman named Teresa Gullace was shot dead by a German soldier while she tried to throw a package of food to her husband, who was locked in a train as part of the large March 1 roundup of seven hundred Italian men for forced labor. She left behind five children. While Otavia is a fictional character, I felt her story showed how even those most deserving of mercy were often denied it during the harsh occupation.

The various German defensive lines mentioned in the book are factual, as are events such as the Gappisti attack at the Via Rasella and the subsequent massacre at the Ardeatine Caves. Though the Via Rasella bomb was hidden in a garbage can, those investigating immediately after the explosion assumed it was dropped from a window or rooftop. General Mälzer did order the block destroyed, but fortunately for the rounded-up Italian civilians, the orders were changed. Zimmerman’s participation in the events is fictional, of course, but the methods and inner justifications he used as he assembled his list of victims is in line with what actually happened. Readers may have noticed that the number of victims killed in the Ardeatine Caves is first stated to be three hundred thirty, then three hundred thirty-five. Due to a miscount, five extra men were executed.

Differing accounts of the Via Rasella attack and the Ardeatine Caves massacre give conflicting details. In this novel, I chose to go with the time line Robert Katz described in The Battle for Rome, but other accounts place the demolition of the cave entrance by German engineers days later instead of immediately after the executions. There is also conflicting information about when the final Bozen SS troops died of their wounds and how many civilians were killed in the blast on the Via Rasella.

OSS employed many women during WWII. Most of them didn’t work behind enemy lines, and of those who did, most were residents of the occupied countries. Women like Gracie, Americans citizens sent into the field, were rare but not unheard of. Though Gracie’s story isn’t based on the
work of any one agent, there are parallels between her and the real-life tale of Noor Inayat Khan, a British SOE agent ruled unsuitable for espionage but sent to France anyway because she spoke the language and SOE was desperate for wireless operators.

At 11:00 p.m. on March 30, 1944, members of the 36th Infantry Division, a Texan National Guard unit, set out for Mount Artemisio. Before dawn, they had surrounded Velletri, and the Caesar Line that had held the Allied Armies on the beach at Anzio was finally breached. Gracie meeting an advanced patrol on the night of May 30/31 has her running into the Allied line at the earliest possible time.

The Americans were in Rome on June 4, but most of the German forces they fought were able to retreat, regroup, and fight on for almost a year. Most historians agree with Bastien’s conclusion that more of the German Army could have been captured with better Allied strategy.

I’d like to thank the readers who connected with me on Facebook and helped name my characters. Thank you, Lane, Randa, Tracy, Elaura, Vanessa, Lela, Mark, and Suzanne, for your suggestions. I apologize if I missed anyone.

A special thanks goes to the members of my writer’s group: Linda White, Terri Ferran, Kathi Oram Peterson, and Nikki Trionfo. Their feedback made this book far better than it would have been without their help. Likewise, I’m grateful to my test readers: Melanie Grant, VaLynn Woolley, Candice N. Toone, Ron Machado, Stephanie Fowers, and Carli White. They not only got rid of typos but also gave suggestions that added depth to this story. Special thanks to George Evans Jr. for looking over the motorcycle scenes.

Thanks also goes to my publisher, Covenant Communications, especially my editor, Sam. This was a fun story to write, and I’m grateful for their help in getting it to the public.

Special thanks also to my mapmaker, Briana Shawcroft, who graciously fit my project in despite a very busy schedule.

And I couldn’t have written this without the support of my family, who have courageously put up with years of lazy cooking while my mind and fingers have been busy with the 1940s.