“One of the best books of 2009”
UNLIKELY ALLIES is the untold true story of the secret diplomacy that won the American Revolution. In 1775, Benjamin Franklin decides to send Silas Deane—a shopkeeper who has never left Connecticut in his life and can’t speak a word of French—on a secret mission to persuade the French king to arm the Americans. Franklin thinks Deane is such an improbable secret agent that the British spies will never suspect him. Hounded by spies, betrayed by his own colleagues, and besieged by privateers, Deane succeeds with the help of Beaumarchais, a French playwright, and the Chevalier d’Eon, the French ambassador to London. The sexually ambiguous d’Eon, a military hero, French spy, and cross-dresser provides the catalyst that persuades Louis XVI to aid the Americans. Full of political intrigue, betrayal, and espionage, UNLIKELY ALLIES is a bold reinterpretation of the struggle for Independence that exposes the complexity of human motivation and the accidental path of history.
The Chicago Tribune called UNLIKELY ALLIES “the ideal book for a distracted century.” “A rip-roaring account of the American Revolution told from a fresh, and undeniably, offbeat perspective,” praised Booklist.
Selected by the History Book Club and named a “hot book of the week” by the Daily Beast.
“Like it or not, the American Revolution is the gift that keeps on giving. Just when you thought no author could possibly say more on the subject, along comes a book that proves you wrong.
Oftener than not, these books repackage the lives of founding fathers or present the dramatic wartime career of some forgotten white chap relegated to the sidelines by Adams, Jefferson, and Washington. Joel Richard Paul, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law, aims higher and achieves something new in Unlikely Allies. …
… Unlikely Allies possesses the menacing atmospherics of an Allen Furst novel, and the intellectual verve for which Furst’s spy thrillers are justly admired. And Paul’s blessedly short chapters and razor-sharp prose make the book an ideal read for a distracted century. That is no small achievement, especially for an author who must balance, as Paul does so brilliantly, character development and historical analysis.
…Paul’s three intertwined lives tell us much about the power of personality, the complexity of human emotions, and as he put it best, “the accidental path of history.”
“…wildly entertaining history … “Unlikely Allies” is a nonfiction account, but it reads like a Monty Python movie… The wonder is, our great country came out of such undignified scheming.”
“Paul’s fast-paced, engaging narrative fills a gap in the historiography of the American Revolution and is essential reading for students of revolutionary diplomacy as well as general devotees of the age.”
“A rip-roaring account of the American Revolution, told from a fresh, and undeniably offbeat, perspective.”
“A tantalizing review of early American foreign policy.”
“Unlikely Allies is an astonishing look at the sometimes seedy side of our country’s founding-a side in which a good man doing an impossible job would be painted with the brush of “traitor,” losing his fortune, his family, his sacred honor and at last his life in service to the land he loved. Paul tells the story with the skill of a novelist, crafting a compelling tale with engaging characters, intriguing twists and a surprise ending, without having to make anything up. Now that is history!”
“What makes Unlikely Allies such a delight is the panache with which Paul spins his warts-and-all tale. He takes us inside the courts of London and Versailles and reveals levels of deceit and double-cross that read as if we’re guiltily indulging in an overwrought soap opera. The tale he tells would be histrionic if it were not actual history.”