Larry Loftis is back with another captivating spy story that will have readers racing to read the full account of Aline Griffith, the Countess of Romanones. A true story, The Princess Spy is the story of a bright-eyed young woman determined to help her country through deep-cover espionage. Infiltrating the high society of titled Europeans, Aline risked everything to serve her country, and readers won’t be able to get enough of this vivid recounting of her dazzling adventures.
“As exciting as any spy novel” (Daily News, New York), The Princess Spy follows the hidden history of an ordinary American girl who became one of the OSS’s most daring World War II spies before marrying into European nobility. Perfect for fans of A Woman of No Importance and Code Girls.
When Aline Griffith was born in a quiet suburban New York hamlet, no one had any idea that she would go on to live “a life of glamour and danger that Ingrid Bergman only played at in Notorious” (Time). As the United States enters the Second World War, the young college graduate is desperate to aid in the war effort, but no one is interested in a bright-eyed young woman whose only career experience is modeling clothes.
Aline’s life changes when, at a dinner party, she meets a man named Frank Ryan and reveals how desperately she wants to do her part for her country. Within a few weeks, he helps her join the Office of Strategic Services—forerunner of the CIA. With a code name and expert training under her belt, she is sent to Spain to be a coder, but is soon given the additional assignment of infiltrating the upper echelons of society, mingling with high-ranking officials, diplomats, and titled Europeans. Against this glamorous backdrop of galas and dinner parties, she recruits sub-agents and engages in deep-cover espionage.
Even after marrying the Count of Romanones, one of the wealthiest men in Spain, Aline secretly continues her covert activities, being given special assignments when abroad that would benefit from her impeccable pedigree and social connections.
“[A] meticulously researched, beautifully crafted work of nonfiction that reads like a James Bond thriller” (Bookreporter), The Princess Spy brings to vivid life the dazzling adventures of a spirited American woman who risked everything to serve her country.
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Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: Dying to Fight CHAPTER 1 DYING TO FIGHT
May 24, 1941
The American checked in and surveyed his luxurious surroundings. Estoril’s Palacio, Portugal’s finest, was everything he had heard: an opulent five-star hotel and resort with a golf course, spa, and Europe’s largest casino, all situated alongside the gleaming Tamariz Beach. Royalty often visited here, creating Estoril’s reputation as the Portuguese Riviera, and with Portugal’s neutrality during the war, many were here now, enjoying the town’s safety, beauty, and amenities.
The clerk mumbled in broken English about a form for foreign guests and asked his occupation. Thinking of something generic, he said “businessman” and watched as the clerk wrote comerciante on the form.
Stepping away from the registration desk, he could see the pool and terrace tables through the full-length windows. To his right was the Palacio bar, small but handsomely appointed. If the rumors were true, many of its patrons were spies, which meant he’d have to frequent it nightly.
His cover was sound as he had no ostensible reason to be here; America wasn’t in the war, after all, and he couldn’t be suspected of being a spook since the US had no intelligence agency. He wasn’t even in the military. For all practical purposes, he was a ghost.
His name was Frank T. Ryan.
What he was up to was off the record but vitally important to US national interests. And his timing couldn’t have been better. British Naval Intelligence officer Ian Fleming had checked in to the Palacio four days earlier. German press attaché Hans Lazar—the most powerful Nazi in Spain—would arrive two weeks later.
Frank Timothy Ryan’s Palacio Hotel registration, May 24, 1941. Cascais Archive
Meanwhile, an ocean away in rural New York, a tall young woman who had just graduated from the College of Mount Saint Vincent was searching for employment. She had the good looks of a model or actress, but her small town didn’t offer those kinds of jobs. Born May 22, 1920, in Pearl River, New York, Marie Aline Griffith was the eldest of six children. Her mother and father also had been born in Pearl River, a hamlet located twenty miles north of midtown Manhattan.
Founded in 1870 by Julius Braunsdorf, a German immigrant who had relocated his Aetna Sewing Machine Company there, the town began to flourish some twenty-two years later when Aline’s grandfather, Talbot C. Dexter, moved his Dexter Folder Company into Braunsdorf’s building. Dexter had invented and patented a machine that changed the way that books, newspapers, and magazines were assembled.
During Aline’s childhood Pearl River was a Norman Rockwell town, with four Main Street attractions: Schumacher’s grocery, Rowan’s butcher, Sandford’s drugstore, and the First National Bank. There was one school—the Pearl River School—and Aline would see no other classrooms until she left for college.
Aline’s father managed the Dexter factory and her mother was a homemaker. Their house, situated less than a thousand feet from the Pascack Valley Line, allowed Aline to see and hear the train as it whistled by, twice in the morning and twice in the evening, on its way to and from Manhattan.
Pearl River as Aline knew it during her childhood. The Griffith home was located in the wooded section about where the center of the north-pointing arrow is located. Directly above “Pearl River” the rendering shows the Braunsdorf-Dexter factory where her father worked, and to the right of “Pearl River” the local train can be seen heading into town.
Even in the 1930s and 1940s, Pearl River felt like a town somehow suspended in an earlier time, and some of Aline’s schoolteachers had taught her mother. Crime was virtually nonexistent here, but there wasn’t much to do other than stroll to the park or hike in the woods. In an effort to promote business and commercial construction, Pearl River branded itself “The Town of Friendly People.” Indeed, it was a friendly town—a nice, quiet place to raise a family—but when Aline graduated from high school, she couldn’t get out fast enough. She was seventeen, yet she knew nothing of the outside world. Life was ticking by, and she was determined to broaden her small-town horizons.
Hoping to attend a university that had football games and dances, Aline was a bit disappointed when her parents chose for her a less exciting alternative: Mount Saint Vincent. It was a Catholic girls’ school with the regimen of the Marines: lights out at ten o’clock. It was also in the Bronx, a less than appealing college town.
The adventure Aline had been hoping for seemed far away.
In the summers she found convenient, mundane jobs. After her sophomore year, she worked as a supervisor at Rockland State Hospital, and after her junior year she worked as a secretary for Manny Rooney, a Pearl River attorney. She wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do after graduation, but events soon conspired to create the opportunity she was looking for. During her final semester, the winter of 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and her younger brothers went off to war almost immediately, Dexter as a fighter pilot in England and Tommy as a submariner in the South Pacific. Aline knew that as a woman she couldn’t be a soldier but felt that nothing short of joining the war effort in some manner would fulfill her patriotic longing to do her part. Throughout December she searched for a way to help, but without success.
After the New Year she found employment, but it was a far cry from military service. At five foot nine, slender, and beautiful, Aline was perfectly suited for modeling, so she took a job with Hattie Carnegie in New York City. It was a dream job for any young woman, as Hattie was one of the top fashion designers in the country, but it wasn’t Aline’s dream.
While Aline wouldn’t have known it, Hattie Carnegie was an American success story. When her father died in 1902, thirteen-year-old Henrietta Kanengeiser commenced her business career as a messenger for Macy’s. Two years later she began modeling, and in 1909 she launched her own custom clothing business, having changed her last name to Carnegie, a nod to Andrew Carnegie, the wealthiest man in America. Just a few years later Hattie opened her own store just off Park Avenue and was traveling to Paris annually in search of the latest fashions.
From Hattie, Aline would learn not only fashion, but poise, composure, and how to mingle at high-society events—skills that would come in handy later in situations with much higher stakes.
For eighteen months Aline modeled each season’s new dresses, parading down runways as if she’d been trained in Paris. But the fittings, makeup, hair styling, and glitz of fashion were the last things she wanted. She was grateful for the work but there was a war going on, and what she was doing on a daily basis seemed almost sinful compared to the sacrifices others were making.
In August 1943 one of her friends, Amy Porter, invited her to a dinner party. Amy was dating a wealthy young man named John whom she hoped to marry, and she wanted to introduce Aline to John’s brother Frank, who was coming to town. Frank was in his midthirties, Amy said, and he was flying in from somewhere overseas.
Overseas. Perhaps he’d have firsthand knowledge about the war, Aline thought.
The dinner was at John’s apartment in Manhattan, and along with Frank, Amy, and Aline, two of John’s colleagues from Standard Oil had been invited. The oilmen sat to Aline’s left, Frank to her right. His suit was immaculate and looked hand-tailored, suggesting Wall Street or Madison Avenue. He had light blue eyes, a square, intelligent-looking face, and thin lips. His neck and jaw were thick like a wrestler’s, but he had an easy smile. He was handsome, she reckoned, in a college professor sort of way.
As the night wore on the men bantered endlessly about the war, going back and forth about Patton and Rommel, Hitler and Roosevelt. Aline noticed that Frank was polite but a bit aloof, as if preoccupied with more important matters. He also didn’t seem to express any romantic interest in her, which was something of a relief.
When the conversation lulled, Frank turned to her, smiling.
“Are you planning to become a famous model?”
The question caught Aline off guard, but she realized that John must have told Frank that she worked for Hattie Carnegie.
Aline smirked. “Not if I can help it.”
“Really? And why is that?”
“I want to get into the war—overseas.”
Frank suggested that she could become a nurse, but Aline brushed it off, saying that training to become a nurse would take years. She wanted to get into the war now, she said, and in Europe where the real fighting was.
“Now, why on earth would an attractive girl like you, safe and sound here in New York, want to go abroad to become embroiled in a bloody massacre? Someplace where your life could be in danger?”
Aline shrugged. “I love adventure. I like taking risks. All the men I know are eager to get over there. Why should it seem strange that a woman wants to also?”
Frank ignored the rhetorical question and probed about Aline’s romantic life. Did she have someone she was in love with? Was she about to get married?
The inquiries were a little personal, Aline thought, but she answered that no, she wasn’t in love—not that it should make any difference about what she could or could not do for her country.
“Do you know any foreign languages?”
Aline replied that she had majored in French and minored in Spanish.
Frank flashed his easy smile. “Well, Miss Griffith, if you’re really serious about a job overseas, there’s a slight possibility I can help. If you should happen to hear from a Mr. Tomlinson, you’ll know what it’s about.”
Aline returned the smile with a glimmer of hope, but at the same time she didn’t expect much. Frank hadn’t said who Mr. Tomlinson was, or even taken her number, so how serious could he be?
At the very least, though, she felt she’d made a new friend in Frank Ryan.
About two weeks later Aline’s father mentioned that their bank had received an inquiry of some sort about them. Her mother thought it probably had to do with their boys now that they were in the service, but her dad worried the investigation might be connected to business.
But when they heard nothing more about it, it slipped from their minds. Then, on the last day of September, Aline received a long-distance call.
“This is Mr. Tomlinson,” the man said in a deep voice. “Can you be free for a few minutes tomorrow?”
Aline said she could.
“Then please be in the Biltmore Hotel lobby, at six o’clock. A man with a white carnation in his lapel will be looking for you. Don’t mention this meeting to anyone.”
At the appointed hour Aline was at the hotel. Soldiers in crisp uniforms were buzzing in and out, a few at the bar having their last drinks before shipping out. After several minutes a distinguished silver-haired man in an expensive suit—duly adorned with a white carnation—greeted her without mentioning his name. He motioned to a quiet alcove where they could talk.
He said he worked for the War Department, and that they might have some work that could interest her. He couldn’t tell her exactly what the work would entail, though, until she had passed some tests. He had a calm, soothing demeanor that put Aline at ease, and he seemed to take it for granted that Aline would be interested.
“Would I work overseas?”
The man nodded. “If you succeed in the tests, yes. Can you come to Washington within ten days? It will mean taking leave from your job. You may never go back, if all goes well.”
Aline said she could.
He thumbed through a date book and told her she’d need to arrive in Washington on November 1. Handing her a card with a phone number and address to give to her parents, he explained that she would not be at that location, but that calls and messages would be forwarded to her.
“Tell your family you’re being interviewed by the War Department for a job. Bring a suitcase of clothes suitable for the country. Remove all labels. Carry nothing with your initials, nor papers or letters with your name. No one must be able to identify anything about you.”
He gave her a second card with a different address and told her this was where she was to arrive, no later than noon. “Go directly to the Q Building. Give a false name and home address to the receptionist.”
With that he bid her good luck and was gone.
Table of Contents
Dramatis Personae xi
Chapter 1 Dying to Fight 3
Chapter 2 The Farm 11
Chapter 3 Close Encounters 23
Chapter 4 The Clerk 35
Chapter 5 Man of Swords 49
Chapter 6 Snatch-22 62
Chapter 7 Death by Murder 70
Chapter 8 Putting on the Ritz 78
Chapter 9 Glorious Gloria 94
Chapter 10 Visitors 103
Chapter 11 The Body 116
Chapter 12 Resurrection 127
Chapter 13 The Prisoner 135
Chapter 14 The Bohemian 145
Chapter 15 The Lady Vanishes 150
Chapter 16 The Count 156
Chapter 17 Butch 167
Chapter 18 Pay Dirt 175
Chapter 19 Intelligence Goes to Ground 183
Chapter 20 Paris 190
Chapter 21 La Tienta 203
Chapter 22 The Bookkeeper 212
Chapter 23 Cortando la Coleta 221
Chapter 24 Countess Quintanilla 230
Chapter 25 Living the Dream 242
Chapter 26 Twin Souls 252
Epilogue: The Rest of the Story 257
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for THE PRINCESS SPY includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Larry Loftis. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
In 1941, Aline Griffith, born and raised in a quiet New York suburb, is a college graduate desperate to aid in the war effort as World War II rages across Europe. Although she studied Spanish and French, she has hardly left New York and doesn’t know where to begin as a bright-eyed young woman whose only career experience is modeling clothes.
Aline’s life changes when she meets a man named Frank Ryan and reveals her love of adventure and her desire to do her part for her country. Within a few weeks he recruits her to join the Office of Strategic Services—forerunner of the CIA. With a code name and expert training under her belt, she is sent to Spain to be a coder, but is soon given the additional assignment of infiltrating the upper echelons of society, mingling with high-ranking officials, diplomats, and titled Europeans, any of whom could be an enemy agent. Against this glamorous backdrop of galas and dinner parties, she recruits sub-agents and engages in deep-cover espionage to counter Nazi tactics in Madrid.
Even after falling in love with and marrying the Count of Romanones, one of the wealthiest men in Spain, Aline secretly continues her covert activities, taking special assignments when abroad that would benefit from her impeccable pedigree and social connections. Full of adventure and danger, The Princess Spy is the story of a woman who risked everything to serve her country.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. When Aline meets Frank Ryan on a blind date at a friend’s house, she doesn’t know that he works for the Office of Strategic Services, an intelligence operation that served as the forerunner to the CIA. She tells him she wants to get into the war, stating, “I love adventure. I like taking risks. All the men I know are eager to get over there. Why should it seem strange that a woman wants to also?” (8) How does this chance encounter with Ryan influence the rest of her life? What do you believe he saw in her then and later that made him think she had a talent for intelligence work?
2.Discuss the role of Spain during World War II. Why was Spain critical to both Allied and Axis powers during the war, despite its purported neutrality? Why was the Iberian Peninsula (and the cities of Madrid and Lisbon in particular) such a hub for intelligence operations?
3. Aline’s flight on the Yankee Clipper reveals how important the OSS felt she was to their operation in Madrid. Why do you think that was the case?
4. The OSS and the American Embassy in Spain had a frosty relationship throughout this period, especially given Ambassador Hayes’s disdain for the OSS (65). What reasons did both organizations have for this animosity? Did the lack of cooperation hinder American efforts in Spain? During the time, espionage was a crime in Spain that could carry a sentence of death. What effect did this have on the relationships between the OSS, the American Embassy, and the Spanish authorities?
5. Aline frequently mixes her social life and espionage work, attending parties held by the Marquesa Torrejón in Madrid, the Count of Avila in Toledo, and the Hohenlohe family El Escorial. How did the qualities that made her a welcome guest also make her a capable spy? What personal advantages might she have had that made her well-suited for the role? And how do these relationships foreshadow her many friendships later on with aristocrats, political figures, and Hollywood stars?
6. Bullfighting and flamenco seem to play a central role in Aline’s world of espionage, and she had a close relationship with two bullfighters (Juanito Belmonte and Manolete). She also took a turn in the ring with a young heifer, a dangerous activity for anyone. Discuss the relationship of bullfighting, flamenco, and espionage, and how Aline’s exposure to all three affected and reflected her decision-making and bravery.
7. When Aline returns from Toledo she finds Marta, the young woman she had been harboring, killed by a gunshot wound to the head while sleeping in Aline’s bed. How does Marta’s killing reflect the real dangers of Aline’s work?
8. Aline frequently believes she is being followed. Does her enthusiasm for espionage overshadow concerns for her personal safety? Do you think she was well-prepared for her job in Spain?
9. The realization that Ana del Pombo’s salon functioned as a letter box is a turning point in Aline’s career with the OSS, although it was “still conjecture at this point and she wasn’t actually a field agent.” (149). Was it Aline’s training at The Farm that led her to act and think as a field agent at this point, her personality, or both?
10. Toward the end of the war, Aline works closely with Edmundo, whose intention is to find “an aristocratic wife with an impressive title and bank account.” (171) How do Aline and Edmundo’s romantic and social lives mix and diverge? How do they compare with the usual expectations of spies?
11. When Aline tells her husband about her espionage work during the war, he replies incredulously with “You, a spy!” (226). Why does he find this unbelievable? Is his disbelief a testament to Aline’s training to disguise her work, or perhaps due more to Aline’s socialite personality, or her husband’s own upbringing and understanding of women’s roles?
12. Macmillan notes that Aline had a “special aptitude for intelligence work,” including “an unusual sense of the importance of security” (192). How do you think Aline acquired this sense? Or was it something innate?
13. In a book that leaves many mysteries, one of the largest and most personal is the identity of Pierre. Who do you think he was? Which side do you believe he was on? And what about World Commerce Corporation? Do you think it conducted espionage, or was it merely a business organization? Could it have conducted both?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Get out a map of Spain and plot the places Aline visited or mentioned, including El Escorial, Toledo, Malaga, and Irun. Have members of your group research each of these towns and report any interesting discoveries about their history.
2. Read Larry Loftis’s previous book Code Name: Lise and discuss the similarities and differences between the story of Odette Sansom and Aline Griffith.
For more information and research, visit the author’s website at larryloftis.com.
Q: What drew you to the story of Aline Griffith? How did you know she would become the focus of your next book?
A: As I note in the preface, a friend mentioned her to me with the caveat that much in her story might be untrue. He was right. Of the nine murders/killings mentioned in her first two espionage memoirs (The Spy Wore Red and The Spy Went Dancing), eight were untrue. A real turning point for me was the murder of Marta, which—like the other killings Aline wrote about—is not mentioned in the OSS files. However, during my research I met the sons of Aline’s code room partner, Robert Dunev, and they gave me a copy of their father’s unpublished memoir, A Spy Reminisces. In this document (prepared only for the Dunev family) Robert mentions “the night I removed a body from Aline’s apartment.” Bingo!, I thought at the time. With my background as a lawyer, I knew that this was highly credible evidence since Dunev was an eyewitness and had no potential conflicts of interest (such as making money on a book).
Since I write nonfiction thrillers, I knew that I had at least one frightening event to include in the book, and now had to dig in. A trip to the National Archives to review the OSS files, along with materials from other primary sources, allowed me to include everything you find in the book.
Q: Your previous books, Into the Lion’s Mouth and Code Name: Lise, were also about World War II spies. The former became an international bestseller, and the latter a national bestseller. Why do you think readers are hungry for these WWII espionage stories?
A: I think these stories are popular for a number of reasons. First, WWII was one of the only truly world-wide events in history, and readers never seem to tire of learning more about it. Look at the popularity of movies like Saving Private Ryan and Dunkirk, and the never-ending supply of books about D-Day. Second, with the creation of James Bond, Ian Fleming (and Sean Connery) made espionage “cool” and exciting, thus spawning countless books and movies in the genre. Third, I only write nonfiction stories that have enough exciting events and suspense to quality as legitimate thrillers, and I think readers are drawn to this unusual combination.
Ironically, the subject of Into the Lion’s Mouth, Dusko Popov, was Ian Fleming’s inspiration for Bond, and Aline Griffith was a real-life female version of Bond. In fact, they were both trained in close combat (including knife fighting) by the same man, the legendary William Fairbairn.
Q: Tell us a little about your research process. Knowing about the embellishments Aline created in her own memoirs, how did you establish the veracity of documents and stories and then weave them into a compelling narrative?
A: With all of my books, I start with any autobiography (Dusko Popov’s Spy/Counter-Spy, Aline’s five books) or biographies (Russell Miller’s of Popov, Jerrard Tickell’s of Odette Sansom) of my subject. After that I go to the pertinent archive files (UK and US for Popov, UK for Sansom, US for Aline), which are the most reliable and the most credible under evidentiary rules. For Aline, these were the OSS Madrid files. After pouring through all of the memos, agent reports, and letters in these files I can generally determine the errors contained in the autobiographies or biographies, and in some cases discover what was simply invented. A quick illustration would be the two operations Aline claimed to have worked on: “Operation Bullfight” and “Operation Safehaven.” The former Aline invented, but the latter was very much true, and she played a key role in it, second only to Edmundo Lassalle.
In my endnotes I always explain these discrepancies or embellishments. Popov, for example, had written that MI5 had given him a small banquet in Lisbon “as the bombs of D-Day were falling.” His case officer, however, who was at the event, put a memo in the MI5 file at the time showing that the date was actually April 26, 1944. Since Popov was writing thirty years later, the error on dates is understandable.
A more serious error, of course, is when spies simply make up events. In The Spy Wore Red, for example, Aline writes that she witnessed the murder of an OSS informant at Casino Estoril (Lisbon, Portugal) on Christmas Day, 1943, and that the murderer was her OSS partner, Edmundo Lassalle. The problem with this story is that Aline and Edmundo were both in the US at this time. Aline would not arrive in Lisbon (OSS files and hotel records show) until February 8, 1944, and Edmundo would not arrive until June 1, 1944 (leaving from Philadelphia aboard the SS Thoma on May 13). This is why I often include copies of hotel registrations in my books (showing Popov’s and Ian Fleming’s in Into the Lion’s Mouth, and Aline’s in The Princess Spy).
After reviewing archive files I then fill in gaps with details gleaned from primary sources (e.g. memoirs of Robert Dunev, Ambassador Carlton Hayes, Barnaby Conrad, Walter Smith, Edmundo Lassalle’s daughter, etc.).
I then weave the story into a compelling narrative by preparing a calendar of what happened on each day throughout the entire time frame, which serves as my outline. I have to follow the calendar in setting out the story, of course, but I get to pick where and how I end chapters (with cliffhangers!).
Q: What was the most intriguing bit of information you uncovered in your research?
A: Without question, World Commerce Corporation. This was the mysterious company that apparently bridged the gap between closure of the OSS on August 15, 1945, and the commencement of the CIA on September 18, 1947.
I was also amazed to discover Barnaby Conrad’s background in coding, his rise to a diplomatic post, and his activities as a bullfighter.
Q: There are many mysteries still unanswered by the end of the book—Marta’s death, Frank Ryan’s postwar business, Pierre’s identity. Are there any you wish you had visible trails or conclusions?
A: This is the ongoing problem of investigating historical events: sometimes the evidence is unclear or missing. With some events, such as Marta’s murder, you simply have to apply logic. As I point out in the text, Marta had already killed two Civil Guards and was at risk of being shot upon capture. Aline’s cover had not been broken, and even if it had, the Germans would have been more likely to take her prisoner than shoot her. So the only logical explanation is that the killer was Spanish.
In some cases, like Frank Ryan’s World Commerce Corporation, there is evidence on both sides. Tax records show that WCC certainly conducted normal business operations, but on the flip side, the entity was founded by and stacked with espionage officers from the OSS, BSC, MI6, and SOE. That’s all we really know so my job is to give all of the dots the records provide, and then let the readers decide where and how to connect them.
With Pierre, as I point out at the end of the book, there’s simply no traceable evidence without his real name or real code name. So I made a judgment call on each bit of dialogue or each scene Aline claimed to have had with him, deleting some (where it was impossible or highly unlikely) and keeping some.
I would love to see all CIA records, but in my experience that organization will release nothing (even under the FOIA).
Q: Which real-life character in the book do you identify with most and why?
A: Barnaby Conrad, for sure. Like Conrad, I have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, adventure, new challenges, and a bit of danger now and then. I was a corporate lawyer for many years but never really felt challenged (except in law school) or fulfilled in that career. If you recall from the story, Conrad became a vice-consul because he was bored to tears as a coder in Washington. I could relate.
Recall too that Conrad had gone to Mexico for a little adventure, and to learn Spanish. I have gone to Colombia many times for adventure, to brush up on my Spanish as well.
Then the bulls. Conrad, you remember, was a bullfighter. Growing up in Texas, I went to many rodeos and know well the ferocity of these beasts. And just as Conrad (with no prior training) jumped the fence to fight a bull, I (with no prior training) rode a massive, nasty bull in a rodeo in Beaumont. Fortunately, we both escaped our adventures uninjured, but I learned first-hand that a bull can toss you a country mile. And remember that scene with Juanito Belmonte being launched out of his shoes? The same happened to me that night, as my boots were halfway off when I hit the ground.
Q: You write beautifully about bullfighting, a sport little known in the US. Is this a particular interest of yours? What drew you to the subject matter?
A: Thank you. Part of it was my connection to Barnaby Conrad, as explained above. Like Conrad, I had been drawn to bullfighting by reading Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon. And because bullfighting played such an important role in Aline’s story, I felt I had to be somewhat of an expert on it. So in addition to Hemingway’s book, I read three of Conrad’s bullfighting books: Matador, La Fiesta Brava, and Fun While it Lasted. It was his bullfighting books that propelled Conrad’s writing career, eventually leading him to found the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.
Q: And, just for fun: Aline’s code name was BUTCH. If you were able to choose a code name for yourself, what would it be?
A: Ha! Well, I queried my Facebook (or was it Instagram?) followers about a year ago with that very question (what my code name should be) and two people came up with a name I had thought of as well: BARRISTER. So with a nod to my British legal colleagues, I guess that shoe fits.