by W. E. B. Griffin, William E. Butterworth
Interviewer: Elise Cooper
Curtain of Death
is a novel that mixes intrigue and diplomacy within a
suspenseful and enthralling story. An added bonus is the
sarcasm and humor sprinkled throughout the scenes.
Cooper: Can you tell us what is true in the book?
W.E.B. Griffin: I was there when I was
a kid. I knew and saw a lot. The Nazi General Reinhard
Gehlen, who became the head of German intelligence in
the, 1940s, did work for us to save his people from the
Russians. Also true are the Operations OST, Paperclip,
What about the women characters?
W.E.B: We also had many good women who
played a prominent role in 1940s Germany as spies and
intelligence analysts. Characters in the story like my
fictional Claudette Colbert were real and did carry pistols,
but the idea of her hiding it in her brassiere was mine.
They did this because we could not afford to have them
kidnapped. Seven-K was a character I created. She was
based on some Mossad agents who did work with us in exchange
for getting Zionists out of Russia.
Butterworth IV: There are fascinating stories
of women spies in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS),
the predecessor to the CIA, and their missions are the
stuff of legend. Yet the contributions made by the 4,000
women, including Julia Child and Marlene Dietrich are
largely unheralded. Exceptions include Elizabeth McIntosh’s
book Women of the OSS: Sisterhood Of Spies.
Can you explain this quote from the book, “The DCI
itself-was that its formation was going to displease the
Pentagon, the Navy, the State Department, and the FBI,
all of whom had urged the President to disestablish the
OSS and have its functions transferred to them.”
W.E.B: President Truman realized putting the OSS out of
business was a mistake. He created the DCI under his buddy
Rear Admiral Sidney Souers, who formerly worked in insurance.
He was in charge for about eighteen months, but then wanted
to go back to his profession to make some money. Truman
allowed them to do anything they wanted, but they were
not allowed to tell anyone else what to do. Unfortunately,
there was no cooperation among the units. Truman purposely
kept Central Intelligence out of everyone’s hands
but his. This caused bureaucratic infighting, because
Truman made sure he kept the sole control.
You interject humor in the story?
W.E.B: I love to write humor. If I could
make a living doing it that is all I would write. The
happiest period of my life is when I was writing the sequels
to MASH. I was able to ridicule everyone.
What is the difference between the CIC and the DCI?
Butterworth IV: CIC is the Counterintelligence
Corps and the DCI is the Directorate of Central Intelligence.
The DCI is the fictional name in the series for what became
the Central Intelligence Agency.
Is the story based on anyone?
IV: Dad said he subconsciously wrote in part,
about Rene J. Defourneaux, and called their relationship
cousin-like. He was an Army OSS Second Lt. and later became
a legendary US Army intelligence officer. Like a lot of
highly intelligent spooks he also had a terrific sense
of humor. I am intrigued by the history and stories of
these men and women.
What is the process you both use to write the books together?
W.E.B: We talk a lot. I send to him a
chapter and he tells me what he thinks: ‘don’t
do this’ or ‘do this’. One of us will
write 90% of a book and the other 10%, and then it reverses
with another book. Billy is a very good editor and had
been one for sixteen years before we began working together
on a daily basis.
IV: Dad lived this period, knew the principles from having
worked with General White and others, so he wrote most
of this book. And I added what I could. A good editor
has an invisible hand in the work, making suggestions
and edits that help the story without changing the writer’s
Speaking of edits, would you ever put in the front of
the book a list of characters and their relevance?
IV:I can see it as possibly a companion book,
but do not like doing that because it bogs down the story.
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