Master storyteller Ben Macintyre's most ambitious work to date brings to life the twentieth century's greatest spy story.
Kim Philby was the greatest spy in history, a brilliant and charming man who rose to head Britain's counterintelligence against the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War - while he was secretly working for the enemy. And nobody thought he knew Philby like Nicholas Elliott, Philby's best friend and fellow officer in MI6. The two men had gone to the same schools, belonged to the same exclusive clubs, grown close through the crucible of wartime intelligence work and long nights of drink and revelry. It was madness for one to think the other might be a communist spy, bent on subverting Western values and the power of the free world.
But Philby was secretly betraying his friend. Every word Elliott breathed to Philby was transmitted back to Moscow - and not just Elliott's words, for in America, Philby had made another powerful friend: James Jesus Angleton, the crafty, paranoid head of CIA counterintelligence. Angleton's and Elliott's unwitting disclosures helped Philby sink almost every important Anglo-American spy operation for twenty years, leading countless operatives to their doom. Even as the web of suspicion closed around him, and Philby was driven to greater lies to protect his cover, his two friends never abandoned him - until it was too late. The stunning truth of his betrayal would have devastating consequences on the two men who thought they knew him best, and on the intelligence services he left crippled in his wake.
Told with heart-pounding suspense and keen psychological insight, and based on personal papers and never-before-seen British intelligence files, A Spy Among Friends is Ben Macintyre's best book yet, a high-water mark in Cold War history telling.
Friends: noun, general slang for members of an intelligence service; specifically British slang for members of the Secret Intelligence Service [or MI6].
If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friends, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country. Such a choice may scandalize the modern reader, and he may stretch out his patriotic hand to the telephone at once and ring up the police. It would not have shocked Dante, though. Dante places Brutus and Cassius in the lowest circle of Hell because they had chosen to betray their friend Julius Caesar rather than their country Rome.
There is a voluminous literature on Kim Philby, including the invaluable pioneering work of writers such as Patrick Seale, Phillip Knightley, Tom Bower, Anthony Cave Brown, and Genrikh Borovik. But to many readers Philby remains opaque, like the cold war itself, often alluded to but little understood. Moreover, in ...
The retelling of Philby's activities is so entertaining that I had to keep reminding myself I was reading a work of non-fiction and not the latest John Le Carré thriller (who, incidentally, knew the parties involved in the Philby affair and wrote an afterword). The understanding MacIntyre displays of the British intelligence community gained through his many years researching the subject adds a layer of insight that kept me riveted.
(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (673 words).
Several men have worked for the British Intelligence services and have gone on to have successful writing careers.
John Michael Ward Bingham, 7th Baron Clanmorris (aka Michael Ward) (1908-1988) was the author of 17 thrillers, detective and spy novels between 1952 and 1982. He was born in Haywards Heath, Sussex, and educated at Cheltenham College before beginning a career as a journalist. It is rumored that during WWII he was on a train when he overheard people talking in German and taking notes on possible munition factories. Pretending to be German, he spoke with them, obtained their names and places of residence and passed the information on to a friend in Intelligence. MI5 recruited him a short time later and he remained a member of...
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