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Covert Affair - Prologue Summer 2011

Covert Affair - Prologue Summer 2011

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Published by Prologue Magazine
Authors on the Records: An interview with the author of A Covert Affair, a book about Julia Child in the OSS.
Authors on the Records: An interview with the author of A Covert Affair, a book about Julia Child in the OSS.

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Published by: Prologue Magazine on Oct 26, 2011
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10/26/2011

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AUTHORS ON THE RECORD
 You have written books about spies and secrets beore, but what prompted you to look into the wartime lives o Paul and Julia Child?
I ws o  book tour i 2008 or
Te Irregulars 
whe the ntiol
 archives relesed  cche  dcumets tht icluded the oSS
persel les. Everywhere I wet  the bk tur, peple ske
me bout it. I oud two spy stories—the Childs’ ivolvemet with
the oSS  the the BI cuist witch hut— I thughtthis cul be  iterestig bk.
 You visited two National Archives facilities: the Harry S. Truman
Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri, and the
National Archives at College Park in Maryland. Did you havea diferent research experience at these two places, or did it eelmuch the same?
Tey re gret plces—very proessiol. Tey mke my job esy.Tis is my ourth book o World Wr II, d I hve bee to severl
presietil librries.I h ever bee t Cllege Prk bere. Tey u ll kis
 stuf. Wht mde the bk pssible—d much mre cm-plete—ws beig ble t get the wrtime reprts d diries  
the Chils’ cllegues  superirs. Yu were ble t hve  uchuller picture  wht ws hppeig.Cbles, telegrs—ll kis  thigs—llwe e t write iuch re etil. Crss-reerecig with letters  iries rtheir cllegues lle i etils such s the wether  icietstht hppee tht y. It’s  writer’s re.
In this book, you tell personal stories based on letters and inter-
 views that intertwine with bureaucratic stories of government 
orders and investigation. Did you preer one kind o record tothe other, or did they both ascinate you?
 You eed both. Whe you do iterviews with people who servedi World Wr II, you re tlkig to them 50 yers lter. as  writer, Iever eel comortble without  secod source tht lets me double-
check the stries t esure tht thig y subject si hs bee
ltered by time or emotios like sdess d guilt d ostlgi. It’s
bslutely vitl r y histri t wrk with ctepreusrecrs—yu’ve gt t hve bth.
Paul Child’s career was nearly scuttled by the McCarthyites who were investigating him. Were you surprised at the extent 
o the investigation to which he was subjected? Was there any 
particular record that you felt summarized the feeling of fear
during that time?
I rst h the oSS stry,  the I iscvere the sec stry 
 Je ster’s BI ivestigti, which is wht tited Pul’s
creer. Se  the BI iterrgti  Pul ws just stuigi their stiess. Clerly the BI thught he ws subversive, becuse he ws eccetric, they were prepre t see hi s  h-sexul r eve  pephile. It h t be  hrrwig experiecer hi  the receivig e  these iterviews.
I his letters t Juli, he sys he is suferig rm ightmres,
 he is tkig eictis r his erves, r sleep, r his ulcer.He’s cvice it’s the e  his creer. Te letters re relly lleUtil recetly, Juli Chil ws best kw r her televisi shw  ckig  her lve rech . But recet eclssicti  cuets revele tht Juli mcWillis hbee  eber  the ofce  Strtegic Services (oSS)  wrke with  high security clerce urig Wrl Wr II. alg with expsure t espige, Juli’s tie i the oSS et ew vetures trveligi the r Est  servig i Ky  Kuig. She ws i the cpy  the y clrul, itelliget,  uusul chrcters tht oSS chie Willi dv hire. She et
her uture husbd, Pul Child—d  wom med Je oster, whose ree spirit d sese
 ischie wul ce bck t hut the cuple. durig the mcCrthy yers, ster ws ccuse  spyig r the Cuists, her wrtie ries were ivestigte by the BI, erly ruiig Pul Chil’s creer. Jeet Ct is  jurlist wh hs writte ur bks  Wrl Wr II, icluig
Te Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the BritishSpy Ring in Wartime Washington
but British espige i the Uite Sttes bere  ter Wrl Wr II.
a covert affair
by hilary parkinson
   J  e  n  n  e  t   C  o  n  a  n  t
62
Prologue
Summer 2011

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