The Cairo Caper

John Carroll’s latest collectable book is about wartime espionage in Egypt and was originally published in French in 1974

For those with money, the 1930s was a stylish decade, even if its hedonism culminated in wars in Abyssinia and Spain before the outbreak of World War Two. Travel to exotic destinations was fashionable and was indirectly promoted by the likes of Agatha Christie in novels such as Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, which offered a romanticised picture of the era.

On the other hand, two real-life characters led lives that read like novels: one being the Hungarian aristorcrat and explorer Count László Almásy (1895-1951), and the German spy Johannes Eppler (1914–1999). The latter, as John Eppler, was the author of the autobiographical Operation Condor: Rommel’s Spy, in which Almásy makes an appearance as a result of a journey the two made together.

German-born Eppler had been raised in Egypt after his widowed mother was remarried to an Egyptian. An early episode in his life involved driving a Model T Ford on a gold prospecting expedition across Tanganyika (now Tanzania), before being recruited to the Abwehr, the German military-intelligence service, in 1937. Around the same time, Almásy was exploring the deserts in Egypt and Libya, sometimes in the company of the Brits who would go on to found the Long Range Desert Group,which is where His and Eppler’s lives become intertwined in the history of the desert war of 1940-43.

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