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Published by: Key Porter Books
Release Date: April 28, 2008
Henri le Caron (1841-1894) was a British spy who, inspired by genuine patriotic feeling, infiltrated the Fenian movement in 1965, as it was planning a plot against Canada. Risking his career, his family and even his life for Queen and country, he continued to work undercover until 1889, when his cover was finally blown. Through the fascinating life story of this extraordinary man, Peter Edwards reveals the early history of Canadian, British and American intelligence agencies and their infiltration of the Irish Republican movement.
“Peter Edwards is to be commended for bringing the Le Caron story back to life.”
—The Globe and Mail
“This is history that is as well paced as a novel, despite its depth of research. Edwards is a thought-provoking and entertaining guide through the Fenian movement, its attempts to conquer Canada, the spy who helped bring it all down and the fall of Parnell. It raises the question of what the back-story of the recent troubles will reveal. A real page turner of a book!
—Liam Clarke, The Sunday Times
“I applaud Edwards’ skill at weaving a rousing narrative… I congratulate him on creating an entertaining book that reads more like a novel than a work of non-fiction. He successfully brings Henri Le Caron out of the shadows of history so that readers can decide for themselves if he was one of North America’s greatest liars and scoundrels or one of the new Dominion of Canada’s first heroes”
“Edwards grabs the facts of the Irish-American intrigue and skulduggery and makes them a first class thriller that is a masterclass of how to make history relevant and engaging to a modern audience.”
—Manchán Magan, The Irish Times
“The Infiltrator opens a window into the fascinating world of 19th century espionage and intrigue.”
—Declan Power, security journalist and author
“I was written down as the black sheep of the family, from whom no permanent good could ever be expected.”
Spy Thomas Billis Beach (a.k.a.) Major Henri Le Caron.
A hard look into the stranger’s flashing black eyes might have forced the American president to pause uncomfortably. Those sharp eyes, with their ferret’s stare, weren’t the only unsettling things about the neat, alert, rigid man in his late twenties. The visitor’s slender body appeared almost ready to explod with energy, even as he sat in his chair with his arms tightly coiled across his chest like a skinny Napoleon. A further study of the visitor’s face would have offered President Andrew Johnson no comfort, and it would later be described by a newspaperman as “one of the boniest faces in or out of the New World, like a death’s head with a tight skin of yellow parchment.”
The hard-eyed, bony-faced visitor to the Oval Office didn’t seek attention, and the president focused instead on General John O’Neill, the other White House guest that day in early 1868. General O’Neill clearly enjoyed the attention and was a man impossible to ignore, with a shock of facial hair that made the wild beard of Karl Marx look grromed and effeminate by comparison.
O’Neill’s hairy countenance was a friendly and familiar sight for the president as their connection dated back to 1862 when Johnson was military governor of Tennessee during the Civil War and O’Neill was in his command. Now, Johnson was into his fourth year in the White House, easily long enough for him to know how lonely Washington could be. The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., by actor John Wilkes Booth made Johnson the first vice-president to ascen to the presidency through assassination. It had to sting when Johnson heard snickers calling him His Accidentcy, a pathetic contrast to Lincoln’s affectionate nickname of The Great Emancipator. There had been rumours that Johnson had been drunk when he gave his inauguration address, and now there were rumblings that he was about to experience another sad historic first, and become the first American president to undergo the humiliation of impeachment proceedings. Long before his visit from O’Neill and his unsettling companion, Johnson realized he must take his friends and support when and where he could find them.
Like Johnson, O’Neill’s past included flashes of brilliance, wild mishaps, and no small measure of alcohol. O’Neill had pulled himself up from the rank of private, fighting Native Americans on the Plains and Confederates in the Deep South while wearing the blue of an American cavalryman. In his heart, however, Irish-born O’Neill was always first and foremost an Irish revolutionary, which explained the sprig of green pinned over his heart. Thoughts that America won her freedom from Britain less than a century before inspired O’Neill, who was further buoyed by the realization that he had a friend in the White House. Now, at age thirty-four, in a rich voice that told of his roots in the town of Drumgallon, parish of Contifret, County Monaghan, Ireland, General O’Neill told his old friend of a plan that was even wilder than his beard.