AUTHORS ON THE RECORD
You have written books about spies and secrets beore, but what prompted you to look into the wartime lives o Paul and Julia Child?
I ws o book tour i 2008 or
whe the ntiol
archives relesed cche dcumets tht icluded the oSS
persel les. Everywhere I wet the bk tur, peple ske
me bout it. I oud two spy stories—the Childs’ ivolvemet with
the oSS the the BI cuist witch hut— I thughtthis cul be iterestig bk.
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 gret plces—very proessiol. Tey mke my job esy.Tis is my ourth book o World Wr II, d I hve bee to severl
presietil librries.I h ever bee t Cllege Prk bere. Tey u ll kis
stuf. Wht mde the bk pssible—d much mre cm-plete—ws beig ble t get the wrtime reprts d diries
the Chils’ cllegues superirs. Yu were ble t hve uchuller picture wht ws hppeig.Cbles, telegrs—ll kis thigs—llwe e t write iuch re etil. Crss-reerecig with letters iries rtheir cllegues lle i etils such s the wether icietstht hppee tht 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 preer one kind o record tothe other, or did they both ascinate you?
You eed both. Whe you do iterviews with people who servedi World Wr II, you re tlkig to them 50 yers lter. as writer, Iever eel comortble without secod source tht lets me double-
check the stries t esure tht thig y subject si hs bee
ltered by time or emotios like sdess d guilt d ostlgi. It’s
bslutely vitl r y histri t wrk with ctepreusrecrs—yu’ve gt t hve bth.
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 stry, the I iscvere the sec stry
Je ster’s BI ivestigti, which is wht tited Pul’s
creer. Se the BI iterrgti Pul ws just stuigi their stiess. Clerly the BI thught he ws subversive, becuse he ws eccetric, they were prepre t see hi s h-sexul r eve pephile. It h t be hrrwig experiecer hi the receivig e these iterviews.
I his letters t Juli, he sys he is suferig rm ightmres,
he is tkig eictis r his erves, r sleep, r his ulcer.He’s cvice it’s the e his creer. Te letters re relly lleUtil recetly, Juli Chil ws best kw r her televisi shw ckig her lve rech . But recet eclssicti cuets revele tht Juli mcWillis hbee eber the ofce Strtegic Services (oSS) wrke with high security clerce urig Wrl Wr II. alg with expsure t espige, Juli’s tie i the oSS et ew vetures trveligi the r Est servig i Ky Kuig. She ws i the cpy the y clrul, itelliget, uusul chrcters tht oSS chie Willi dv hire. She et
her uture husbd, Pul Child—d wom med Je oster, whose ree spirit d sese
ischie wul ce bck t hut the cuple. durig the mcCrthy yers, ster ws ccuse spyig r the Cuists, her wrtie ries were ivestigte by the BI, erly ruiig Pul Chil’s creer. Jeet Ct is jurlist wh hs writte ur bks Wrl Wr II, icluig
Te Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the BritishSpy Ring in Wartime Washington
but British espige i the Uite Sttes bere ter Wrl Wr II.
a covert affair
by hilary parkinson
J e n n e t C o n a n t