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A Man Called Intrepid

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,669 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
A true story of WW2 espionage. NBC News calls it, "A historical document of major significance." The focus is on Sir William Stephenson, Britain's urbane spy chief who inspired James Bond.
Paperback, 544 pages
Published September 1st 2000 by Lyons Press (first published 1976)
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The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréTinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick ForsythThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
121st out of 699 books — 825 voters
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2nd out of 51 books — 37 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jun 04, 2015 Sketchbook rated it it was amazing
A real-life W2 thriller you won't forget, from the sinking of the Bismarck, the development of the A bomb, the Isolationism of America prior to Pearl Harbor, the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich ("the butcher of Prague"), the exploits of a beautiful Allied spy code-named CYNTHIA and the perfidy of monstrous Stalin, to the double-crossing-defeatist US Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy. Minor heroic roles by Ian Fleming, Leslie Howard and good deeds by Garbo.
Erik Graff
Aug 29, 2012 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: WWII/espionage fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
This is only in part a biography of Sir William Stephenson (1/23/1897–1/31/1989) through the war. It is primarily a history of the coordination of the intelligence services of the British Commonwealth and the U.S.A. during WWII with which he was involved and for which he was substantially responsible.

A thoughtful page-turner, Stevenson's text deals seriously with the problematics of modern statecraft, intelligence capabilities and warfare and how it might be possible to preserve some degree of o
Sep 13, 2014 Abbas rated it really liked it
Came across a mention of this book on Goodreads and remembered reading it years ago. Its about the birth of the British Secret Service during the second world war - what was to later become MI6. And about two men's determination not to lose a lost war: Winston Churchill, and William Stephenson. It offers fascinating insights into how individual events change the course of history, and how easily everything could have been otherwise. Also, it's difficult to forget because of a quirky little detai ...more
Nov 25, 2010 Paul rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Fantastic book, loved the writing, it's a great page turner too.
Nov 20, 2014 Bob rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, world
Very interesting book. It's not a biography of a James Bond-like superspy, like I was expecting (and like the dust jacket leads you to expect). It's more of a view of espionage and intelligence in Britain and the US during World War II, with particular emphasis on the contributions of one man, William Stephenson. It was very interesting: I definitely learned a lot that I hadn't known before, and I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about World War II.

Sometimes I was getting lost in where we we
Larry Loftis
Mar 17, 2016 Larry Loftis rated it it was amazing
This is the best book on William Stephenson, head of British Security Coordination and one of the key players in encouraging FDR to: a) create a separate agency for foreign intelligence (and thus replace the FBI's role); and b) appoint William Donovan as the director of the new agency (OSS, forerunner to the CIA).

It is a resource book, and one of the sources I cite in my own book (Into the Lion's Mouth, Berkley, June 14, 2016) for details of how the BSC was involved in counter-espionage in New
Not a bad novel although the author is naive to think Stephenson, Roosevelt or Churchill were any better than their enemies. They were willing to sacrifice innocent victims (Coventry) and naval divisions (Dieppe) as part of their "end justifies the means" philosophy. That intel is of critical importance in war is obvious and the allies were fortunate that the Third Reich were more concerned with mass exterminations.
Chris Mcmanaman
Ian Fleming himself once wrote, "James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is ... William Stephenson."
Ann Garback
May 26, 2016 Ann Garback rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Required reading for today's world

How would the world have been different if Roosevelt would have died a few days later thus having signed the intelligence order? We can only guess. But any consideration of how our world should be using intelligence demands we first exam the work & vision of Intrepid. Such an effort will change our view of today's world & how the war was really won. This book is well written. Easy to follow complicated events while not losing scale or purpose. The world
Austin Gisriel
Sep 25, 2015 Austin Gisriel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Man Called Intrepid: The Secret War should be assigned to every high school student in the United States. Not only does it detail how World War II could not have been won without intelligence work and precisely directed underground armies, it is a warning regarding the world today. Author William Stevenson makes clear that Hitler’s Third Reich was the first modern terroristic state and it used the latest technology to subdue—or annihilate—the will of others to defend themselves.

It would be imp
Brent Venton
Mar 15, 2013 Brent Venton rated it really liked it
A fascinating look into the secret war waged by British and American intelligence against Nazi Germany. The book is at its best when it relates the stories of the little people: the young woman parachuted into France to transmit wireless messages to Britain only to immediately see her entire section rounded up by the Germans, the pilot sent to pick up physicists in Sweden and smuggle them back. The human costs of secret warfare is grimly recounted. Is it possible today for us to imagine a govern ...more
Gavin McGrath
Jun 08, 2013 Gavin McGrath rated it liked it
Fascinating story but why or why didn't the editor do his/her job?!! Very often the abrupt switches and digressions left me puzzled. This is an important story but longed for a tighter presentation.
Sep 09, 2010 Rich rated it it was amazing
This is the second time I've read this book. I enjoyed it very much again and thirty years of experience gave me new insights into the challenges "Intrepid" faced and overcame.
Jun 17, 2016 Jerry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Bible of sacrifice.

This book should be mandatory reading for every high school senior to provide a grasp of the evils of totalitarian societies and the forces required to squelch their evils. Every American and every Ally who who lived this era owes their gratitude to those mentioned in this book. To every future generation this should reflect the human values and sacrifices necessary to preserve the freedoms we were able to salvage from the actions of these patriots. The story was document
Aug 15, 2015 Quanita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book about Sir William Stephenson written by William Stevenson - had to look twice at the spelling to make sure Intrepid and the author were two different people. Although Intrepid (Sir William) was British, this book gives a lot of info on America before and during WWII. The author says there were "vast oceans of details" and I agree. Spys, secrect meetings with our POTUS, an American public that wanted no part of "Europes' war" - this book has everything. Can I whet your curiosity? - J. Edga ...more
Feb 09, 2015 David rated it really liked it
I liked it. I've been meaning to read for, well, probably since the book first came out. I can't say clearly what the book actually was trying to cover. Was it a more general, the intelligence war? Was it, BSC? Was it, Intrepid? I was never quite sure where the focus lay. It's still a good story. Once the war starts, I feel like I lose the man. As the war progresses, I feel like I lose the organization, BSC. It's still a great story. I do wonder what, in subsequent years, has been declassified, ...more
Apr 07, 2016 Kenneth rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone interested in WWII, spying, Churchill, or F.D.R. I have read numerous books on all of those subjects, but this one "delivers the goods" - since most of those goods were "classified" until just before this book was released. A very quick read- you will just want to keep going. I found that the chapters were of a very desirable and convenient length. The book is well edited too. You will read things here that you will not read anyplace else, and together with your other read ...more
Johnny Stafford
Feb 07, 2014 Johnny Stafford rated it liked it
Fascinating. Wonderful stories of espionage, but roughly compiled.
Len Knighton
May 07, 2016 Len Knighton rated it it was amazing
It has been said that TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Had I finished this book a few days earlier, I would have given it 4 stars, although recommending it highly. But yesterday I heard an interview on NPR with Pat Buchanan and upon reflection changed my rating to 5 stars.
Buchanan defended his choice to support Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for President while at the same time lauding his own proclamations and predictions which he believes to have come true. One of the key areas Trump and Buchanan
Mar 06, 2013 Alec rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As you can tell from the cover of this wonderfully researched, non-fiction novel, William Stephenson was once a man called Intrepid. Actually, maybe you can't tell. Stephenson is the guy in the picture...not to be confused with William Stevenson the author, whose name is found in the bottom right corner of the cover. He's not intrepid. Well, he might be, but he's not Intrepid. Oh god, pronoun ambiguity abounds. This is not off to a great start.

Let's regroup. A Man Called Intrepid is a novel abou
May 18, 2013 Grant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't often come away from a biography feeling both sated yet still wanting to know more about the subject, but A Man Called Intrepid really sparked my curiosity. William Stephenson is a fascinating figure, and it's hard not to admire his intellect and the recollections of meticulous and brilliant British intelligence and espionage efforts.

'The quiet Canadian' himself is still a mysterious figure even after reading the book, however: despite Stephenson's cooperation, this is not a tell-all bio
Jan 12, 2013 Andy rated it liked it
This books tells a different story about WW2 adding details to the battles I was familiar with going into the book. I'm no WW2 buff, but the book still kept my attention. The main idea is that Britain would have lost the war without its espionage operations, and the Allies really benefited from the unprecedented coordination between countries in these efforts.

The book reads like a set of vignettes which cover some smaller subject through a range of time. The author selected a strange scope for t
Khairul H.
Sep 03, 2011 Khairul H. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
As much as the Allied powers beat the Axis by the blood and guts of the soldiers on land sea and air, it was also won with the immense help of the secret army; the code-breakers and the spies who risked everything in return for nothing. William Stephenson (codename: INTREPID) was Churchill's master spy who recruited and coordinated the actions of hundreds of anonymous Allied secret agents in the quest to defeat the Axis powers especially Nazi Germany. Many tough decisions had to be made during t ...more
Mark Wood
May 08, 2015 Mark Wood rated it it was amazing
Wow! A bunch of this stuff was declassified years ago, but I didn't know any of it. I majored in history in college and took a bunch of classes on WWII, but the ULTRA stuff wasn't part of any of those classes, and especially not the work that Bill Stevenson did. I can think of at least 5 times that his espionage team changed the course of the war, but nobody really knew it and Stevenson eventually returned to private life in obscurity.
May 23, 2016 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title is a bit of a misnomer. It's less a story of Stephenson than it is a story of the war he fought; that said, this was a fascinating look at the covert war fought from Manhattan by the British well ahead of the American entry into WWII. I wonder if all of the claims here check out... in several cases I was skeptical at claims that felt borderline fantastical. That said, it was at times thrilling, and an insightful look at many unheralded people who helped fight for the Allies in secret. ...more
Jonne Adams
Sep 21, 2014 Jonne Adams rated it it was amazing
Wow! What a history lesson packed into one book. One that keeps your attention riveted throughout. The inspiration for Ian Fleming's (who himself was involved in these operations) James Bond Series. I definitely have one more historical hero to add to my list. Were it possible I would rate this book a 10!
Jack Sussek
Feb 09, 2015 Jack Sussek rated it really liked it
Excellent rendering of a deeply historical period covering material that has not been widely known, even today. One of the more disturbing aspects of Intrepid's story is the idea of 'playing god,' that is to say, knowing in advance of German attacks and not informing the future victims of those attacks out of concern over revealing the source of intelligence (the British had broken the Enigma code, the German codes used for transmitting all orders from the German High Command). The relationship ...more
Nov 07, 2008 Jon rated it it was ok
Interesting Second World War backstory. Definitely enhances my opinion of Winston Churchill who, I had not realized, recognized early on the menace posed by the Nazis. He incurred great unpopularity and was ridiculed as a "warmonger" for trying to alert his country to the dangerous tendencies of the Nazis and the danger posed by the not very clandestine rearmament of Germany.

Also of note: Churchill and Interpid among a small group on like minded men knew of the Nazi "final solution" or "night an
Mar 30, 2016 Andrei rated it really liked it
One of the most interesting books about the British intelligence I've ever read. I found it in an antiquarian bookstore in London, Ontario, which gives the story of the Quiet Canadian an additional flavour but it's still thought provoking, even 40 years since it was published.
Jan 08, 2016 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
More of a 3.5 star than either a 3 or 4 star book. The title is somewhat deceptive, as it indicates biography, when it is more a history of the undercover, or "secret" war waged by the British and Americans (but mainly British) against the Axis leading up to and throughout World War II. Spoiler alert: The Allies won with great help from spies and guerrillas managed or aided by the BSC and OSS. Anyway, great tales and familiar names dot the narrative (e.g. Leslie Howard, Ian Fleming, etc.), as we ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

William Stevenson was a British-born Canadian author and journalist. His 1976 book "A Man Called Intrepid" was about William Stephenson (no relation) and was a best-seller. It was made into a 1979 mini-series starring David Niven and Stevenson followed it up with a 1983 book titled "Intrepid's Last Case."

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