*** The Sunday Times bestseller ***
'Vividly imagined and prodigiously researched' Helen Davies, Sunday Times, Books of the Year
'Such a rewarding read' John Preston, Daily Mail, Books of the Year
'This odd, secretive man is brought to life', Robbie Millen, The Times, Books of the Year
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.
M is about more than just one man however. In its pages, Hemming reveals for the first time in print the names and stories of seven men and women recruited by Knight, on behalf of MI5, and then asked to infiltrate the most dangerous political organizations in Britain at that time. Until now, their identities have been kept secret outside MI5. Drawn from every walk of life, they led double lives—often at great personal cost—in order to protect the country they loved. With the publication of this book, it will be possible at last to celebrate the lives of these courageous, selfless individuals.
Drawing on declassified documents, private family archives and interviews with retired MI5 officers as well as the families of MI5 agents, M reveals not just the shadowy world of espionage but a brilliant, enigmatic man at its centre.
From the author of the Sunday Times bestseller, M: Maxwell Knight, MI5's Greatest Spymaster
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.
Henry Hemming is the author of five works of non-fiction, including the Sunday Times bestseller M, the Dolman Travel Award-shortlisted Misadventure in the Middle East and Churchill’s Iceman, a New York Times bestseller. He has written for the Economist, The Sunday Times, FT Magazine and the Washington Post, among many others. He lives in London with his two children.