Lifting veil on wartime secret
THE exploits of the British Security Co-ordination was one of the best-kept secrets of World War II . . . which is just how the Brits wanted it, given its mission was to manipulate the American media to such a degree that the US felt compelled to join the war.
‘‘It’s an amazing story and the Brits of course came close to sweeping it completely under the carpet – they’re very embarrassed,’’ says William Boyd, the acclaimed UK author and screenwriter whose novel Restless follows a young woman recruited into this clandestine organisation.
Boyd has adapted his bestselling book into a twopart miniseries which is airing on pay-TV channel 13th Street. Hayley Atwell plays Eva, who is recruited as a secret agent by spymaster Lucas Romer (Rufus Sewell) and dispatched on missions that blur the line between professional and personal.
stars Hayley Atwell and Rufus Sewell Are you happy with the way Restless came to the screen?
Hand on heart, I am delighted with it. I was heavily involved, not only in writing the script but all the way through, and everything seemed to click – we had great actors, great direction, great production values. Does seeing your characters come to life on screen change your view of your work?
It’s very odd and I did keep a separation in my head. The book came first and will always be there, and any film or TV version will always be some kind of bonus. Intellectually, I’m in the right place for it. How did you come across the story of the British Security Co-ordination?
It was an amazing stroke of luck. I was asked to write a film about the relationship between Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt during World War II. In my research I kept coming across references to Churchill’s ‘‘dirty tricks’’. I came across this book, written by three former British Security Co-ordination operatives, that listed everything they did. It’s estimated there were between 2000 and 3000 subagents working for the cause in this massive and highly successful attempt to manipulate the media of another country. And, more extraordinarily, a country we wanted to be our ally. I wanted to write a spy novel and I thought: ‘‘Well, this is where it will take place, not in Germany or occupied France, but in the United States and about what we were up to before Pearl Harbor’’.
– GUY DAVIS
Restless: Part 2: Saturday, 8.30pm, Part 1 and Part 2 encores, various times, 13th Street.