Five essential books on real-life espionage, from the story of legendary spymaster 'M' to the autobiography of double agent Kim Philby.
In the annals of espionage, one name towers above all others: that of H. A. R. "Kim" Philby, the ringleader of the legendary Cambridge spies. A member of the British establishment, Philby joined the Secret Intelligence Service in 1940, rose to the head of Soviet counterintelligence, and, as M16's liaison with the CIA and the FBI, betrayed every secret of Allied operations to the Russians, fatally compromising covert actions to roll back the Iron Curtain in the early years of the Cold War.
Written from Moscow in 1967, My Silent War shook the world and introduced a new archetype in fiction: the unrepentant spy. It inspired John Le Carre's Smiley novels and the later espionage novels of Graham Greene. Kim Philby was history's most successful spy. He was also an exceptional writer who gave us the great iconic story of the Cold War and revolutionized, in the process, the art of espionage writing.
Maxwell Knight was a paradox. A jazz obsessive and nature enthusiast (he is the author of the definitive work on how to look after a gorilla), he is seen today as one of MI5's greatest spymasters, a man who did more than any other to break up British fascism during the Second World War – in spite of having once belonged to the British Fascisti himself. He was known to his agents and colleagues simply as M, and was rumoured to be part of the inspiration for the character M in the James Bond series.
Knight became a legendary spymaster despite an almost total lack of qualifications. What set him apart from his peers was a mercurial ability to transform almost anyone into a fearless secret agent. He was the first in MI5 to grasp the potential of training female agents.
'The story of MI5's transformation - is fascinating. So, too is Rimington's account of her rise in what was very definitely a man's world' Guardian
During her career in MI5, which lasted from 1969 to 1996, Stella Rimington worked in all the main fields of the Service's responsibilities - countersubversion, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism - and became successively Director of all three branches. She was appointed Director-General of MI5 in 1992. She was the first woman to hold the post and the first Director-General whose name was publicly announced on appointment. During her time as DG she pursued a policy of greater openness for MI5, giving the 1994 Dimbleby Lecture on BBC TV and several other public lectures and publishing a booklet about the Service.
Edited by Graham and Hugh Greene
On its first appearance in 1957, Hugh and Graham Greene's The Spy's Bedside Book provoked a storm of interest, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, 100 copies were bought by East German Intelligence. This classic anthology, with a new introduction by the former head of MI5, Stella Rimington, includes stories by some of the great writers on spying and many practitioners, including Ian Fleming and John Buchan, Sir Robert Baden-Powell and Belle Boyd, Walter Schellenberg and Major André, Sir Paul Dukes and Vladimir Petrov, and from the golden age of mystery and suspense, William Le Queux and E. Phillips Oppenheim. There are also some unexpected figures: William Blake, D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Mann, all suspected of spying in three great wars.
In the World War II era, Geoffrey Pyke was described as one of the world's great minds. An inventor, adventurer and polymath, he was an unlikely hero of both world wars. He earned a fortune on the stock market, founded an influential pre-school, and is seen as the father of the U.S. Special Forces. In 1942, he convinced Winston Churchill to build an aircraft carrier out of reinforced ice. He escaped from a German WWI prison camp, wrote a bestseller, and aided Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. He even launched a private attempt to avert the outbreak of the Second World War by sending into Nazi Germany a group of pollsters disguised as golfers. And he may have been a Russian spy. 70 years after his death, Henry Hemming reveals Pyke's astonishing story in full: his brilliance, his flaws, and his life of adventures, ideas, and secrets.
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