The Ariadne Objective
The Underground War to Rescue Crete from the Nazis
By Wes Davis
(Crown, Hardcover, 9780307460134, 352pp.)
Publication Date: November 12, 2013
Enter your zip code below to find indies closest to you.
The incredible true story of the World War II spies, including Patrick Leigh Fermor and John Pendlebury, who fought to save Crete and block Hitler's march to the East.
In the bleakest years of World War II, when it appeared that nothing could slow the German army, Hitler set his sights on the Mediterranean island of Crete, the ideal staging ground for German domination of the Middle East. But German command had not counted on the eccentric band of British intelligence officers who would stand in their way, conducting audacious sabotage operations in the very shadow of the Nazi occupation force.
The Ariadne Objective tells the remarkable story of the secret war on Crete from the perspective of these amateur soldiers – scholars, archaeologists, writers – who found themselves serving as spies in Crete because, as one of them put it, they had made “the obsolete choice of Greek at school”: Patrick Leigh Fermor, a Byronic figure and future travel-writing luminary who as a teenager had walked across Europe in the midst of Hitler's rise to power; John Pendlebury, a swashbuckling archaeologist with a glass eye and a swordstick, who had been legendary archeologist Arthur Evans's assistant at Knossos before the war; Xan Fielding, a writer who would later produce the English translations of books like Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes; and Sandy Rendel, a future Times of London reporter, who prided himself on a disguise that left him looking more ragged and fierce than the Cretan mountaineers he fought alongside.
Infiltrated into occupied Crete, these British gentleman spies teamed with Cretan partisans to carry out a cunning plan to disrupt Nazi maneuvers, culminating in a daring, high-risk plot to abduct the island’s German commander. In this thrilling untold story of World War II, Wes Davis offers a brilliant portrait of a group of legends in the making, against the backdrop of one of the war’s most exotic locales.
WES DAVIS served for two years as an assistant to the director of excavations at Kavousi in Eastern Crete, not far from the plateau where Patrick Leigh Fermor parachuted onto the island during WWII. He holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Princeton University and is a former assistant professor of English at Yale University. Editor of the Harvard University Press Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry, he has written for publications that include the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Nation.
"Wes Davis' fast-paced tale of wartime sabotage reads more like an Ian Fleming thriller than a mere retelling of events."–Wall Street Journal
"Pendlebury and Fermor are just two of the extraordinary characters in Wes Davis' The Ariadne Objective: The Underground War to Rescue Crete From the Nazis…Many of the heroes in Davis' book are so literary that they merit a seemingly oxymoronic designation: swashbuckling men of letters…Drawing on letters, diaries, and long reports to headquarters, he reconstructs their escapades and espionage with incredible, novelistic detail. The story unfolds with the rich characterization and perfectly calibrated suspense of a great novel. It can be hard at points to remember the book is actually a work of nonfiction." –Christian Science Monitor
“Exciting stuff, to be sure, but what really sets the book apart from the host of look-alikes is Davis’s dedication to fleshing out the eccentricity of the main players…. It is surely is a good thing that we no longer associate war with adventure; if it were always as appealing as Davis has made it here, we would grow to love it too much.”–The Daily Beast
"Fascinating." –New York Post
“Already thrilling in premise, Davis's execution of this previously untold war story is spot on especially when he colors in history with intricate descriptions of the exotic locale.”–Publishers Weekly
“An exciting, tense narrative that unfolds like an espionage novel.”–Booklist
"History both crucial and swashbuckling." –Library Journal
"An exciting, earnestly narrated World War II story."–Kirkus Reviews
“Wes Davis's brilliant chronicle of the battle for German-occupied Crete is doubly rich in its description of character and of the perilous varieties of combat. This story tells how classically literate and well nigh fearless Britons allied with brigandish locals to confound, confuse and finally defeat the Nazi occupiers.” –Robert Stone, author of Dog Soldiers
“Meticulously researched and gracefully narrated. The Ariadne Objective shows close-up the final gaudy flowering of the imperial swashbucklers—indifferent to discomfort, fluent in many languages, reckless, eccentrically decadent mischief-makers, never unintentionally ill-mannered—who made their home in the world, before George Smiley took over his grudging service to the Empire.” –Geoffrey Wolff, author of A Day at the Beach
"In the grand tradition of John LeCarre, Wes Davis has created a thrilling tale of espionage in the face of great peril. This is gripping history, masterfully told." –McKay Jenkins, author of The Last Ridge
“The Ariadne Objective is a ripping yarn, and Wes Davis is the perfect person to spin it. Ariadne will appeal to fans of Ben Macintyre's books like Double Cross and Operation Mincemeat and, in fact, to anyone who enjoys a good story well told. This book kept me up well past my bedtime: I couldn't go to sleep until I finished it.” –Ben Yagoda, author of About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made and How to Not Write Bad