When my publishing team at Melville House suggested I write an open letter to librarians to promote my book, The Greek Connection, I jumped at the opportunity.
My love of libraries began at age 5, when my grandmother, a voracious reader, lovingly took me to our town library, and a warmhearted librarian helped me get my very first library card. The first book I took out was on Egyptian hieroglyphics—it had a creamy beige and black stippled cover– and I’ve been exploring hidden worlds by reading books ever since.
I helped the headmaster set up the library in our new high school; in college and graduate school, I worked in libraries. On my first trip to Europe, I asked a librarian for permission to see the stacks at the old Paris Opera House, where I stared in awe at the thousands of books about music and music makers in dozens of languages and realized how much I had to learn. Librarians, generous with their time and wisdom, were indispensable to my years of researching The Greek Connection: from those at a variety of presidential libraries to the National Archives, from private collections at colleges and universities, to the British Public Records Office at Kew and the Parliament Library in Athens. For years, local librarians and those connected on the Minuteman Library Network provided me with a stream of needed volumes.
I’ve spent a good part of my life in libraries, and, when our neighborhood fought to keep open our small branch, I donated funds and provided a paver stone exhorting patrons to “Read Omnivorously.”
The Greek Connection is a real-life political thriller about abuse of power, foreign interference in elections, dark money, vicious smear campaigns, intimidation of journalists and heroism against enormous odds. The story spans events from World War II to the end of the Cold War that are still relevant today.
My book is about an intrepid Greek journalist – Elias Demetracopoulos – who in 1968 uncovered an illegal transfer of money from the Greek CIA to the Nixon campaign. This potential October Surprise could have swung the election outcome from Nixon to Humphrey. But the Democrats, at the highest level, failed to act, and Nixon won. Nixon’s fear that the full story would leak out in the 1972 campaign is a largely unknown reason for the Watergate break-in.
Elias was a decorated teenage hero of the Greek resistance in WWII, who was captured, brutally beaten and sentenced to death by the Gestapo. He was saved from execution by being moved to a horrific mental asylum for the last year of the war. He survived being shot by the communists during the Greek Civil War and later developed near fatal tuberculosis. He went on to become a controversial and celebrated journalist covering important Cold War stories for major US and Greek publications.
When a military junta took over Greece in 1967, Elias had to flee. After a harrowing escape, he made it to Washington and led the fight to save his homeland. Elias’s goal was to end Greece’s repressive dictatorship, which was supported by the United States. In the process, he rattled so many cages that the CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies hounded him with a disinformation campaign that lasted for decades The Greek Connection is about his relentless battle against abusive authorities, his fights to free his country and later clear his name. His courageous battles over years made him a marked man, targeted by powerful governments and spies, and set up for kidnapping, torture and probable death.
It’s more than just an exciting yarn. Think about the rampant abuses of power today, the attacks on journalists and a free press, the impact of dirty money on the political process, the interference of one government in the political affairs of other countries, the mauling of human rights, the weaponizing of lies, and the reckless breaking of democratic norms. Elias had to confront all these issues decades ago.
Bottom line: This is a book about relentlessly sticking with your principles in the face of adversity…over and over and over again.
The Greek Connection has already received some glowing reviews. I hope you read The Greek Connection, enjoy it and select it for your library’s collection. I would be honored to see it on your library shelves. I wish my grandmother were here to see it too.
James H. Barron