Churchill’s Secret Agent

Backstory

– Linda Ciampoli

Max and I met in 1986 in Marina del Rey, California, where my French boyfriend and I were looking for a boat to live on. When we entered one of the marina yacht brokerages, the receptionist introduced us to the manager, Max Ciampoli.  Though my boyfriend and I decided against living on a boat, the three of us developed a good relationship and often went out to dinner together. The French language contributed in bringing us even closer together. I found Max to be not only fascinating, but ethical and honorable as well—besides, he had a great sense of humor. When I became “single” the following year, Max and I began seeing each other.

We surmounted many difficulties during our courtship which culminated in a beautiful marriage in May, 1991. Soon after, his nightmares from World War II were keeping both of us awake. I suggested he begin writing down his memories to get them out of his system, a process that had worked for me to diffuse the power of bad recollections.

But writing didn’t seem to lessen his pain in the least. Once started, however, Max persevered. Legal-sized pads of yellow paper were filled and stacked one on another. Neither of us remembers exactly how the idea of compiling his writing into a book developed. Though I had no difficulty reading French, I could not read his writing. So he recorded his story onto tapes which I eventually translated, organized and expanded through in-depth questioning. Almost every time we talked about a mission, Max would have nightmares about the war. (He still does.) The process did not lessen the hold the memories had on him; rather, it made the memories more vivid—not good for my beloved’s peace of mind, but ultimately valuable for the development of a book.

By the mid-1990s, there was no turning back. One memory birthed another. A book had been conceived, but we had no idea how to find an agent or get a publisher. Finally, early in 2008 we found our agent through the recommendation of another writer. A few months later, our wonderful literary agent, now a cherished friend, Nancy Ellis, sold our book to the Berkley/Penguin Publishing Group. Just to let you know, this writing/publishing process is not for the faint of heart. It has been especially wrenching for Max having to relive these long-repressed experiences time and again, many of which he will not share because, he tells me, they are too gruesome.

My heart goes out to anyone who has survived a war. The sights you have seen, the pain you have experienced that you carry within for a lifetime are beyond my ken. I applaud you, and I am indebted to each one of you who has fought for freedom and equality for us all.