As World War II raged into its second year, Britain sought a powerful ally to join its cause—but the American public was sharply divided on the subject. Canadian-born MI6 officer William Stephenson, with his knowledge and influence in North America, was chosen to change their minds by any means necessary—including traveling to New York to flood the American market with propaganda supporting Franklin Roosevelt and decrying Nazism.
Mr. Hemming, despite his willingness to doubt portions of the Stephenson fable, clearly wants to argue that Britain’s challenge to enlist American aid—and maneuver a reluctant public and President Roosevelt into a wartime alliance—was a formidable one, met only with the indispensable assistance of William Stephenson. But is this claim persuasive? In assessing the influence of networking, hidden persuasion and what would later be called disinformation, it’s not easy to quantify cause and effect or separate skill from luck. Stephenson was a smart operator and imaginative man and as a Canadian had a better ear for the American idiom than his masters in London. But would the United States have failed to meet Hitler’s challenge without him? The question answers itself ... Stephenson’s not-so-secret sales campaign on behalf of embattled Britain was astute and arguably legendary. But his product had the benefit of eager customers.
Hemming...delivers a lucid, fast-paced account of England’s secret scheme to draw America into WWII ... The broad outlines of Hemming’s story are familiar, but his crisp narrative is enlivened by his family connection to the story: his grandparents were friends with, and may have worked for, Stephenson. This entertaining espionage history illuminates an important chapter in the history of foreign influence on American public opinion.
In this page-turning spy thriller, Hemming shows how [MI6 operative Bill Stephenson and U.S. lawyer Bill Donovan] mastered the art of starting rumors, infiltrating groups, and manipulating opinion polls ... Fluid, sharp writing, deep research, and a spy network with unparalleled ingenuity provide a snappy read and lots of shockers.