I'll post my review of this book here because LibraryThing and the publishers sent me this edition, but I have to make a sort of embarrassing confession: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher, but couldn't get started on it right away so I set it aside to be picked up later. When I was ready to read it, which was like 2 weeks ago, I went to find it, and it was nowhere. It had just disappeared. I looked through each and every bookshelf and each and every book to find it (which in my case, is like looking for a needle in a haystack), and it didn't turn up. I went to find one on Amazon and to my horror discovered that the book is not scheduled for publication until July. Then I went into full-on panic mode because I had committed to reading this for LibraryThing's early reviewers' program for April so I bought a new, UK copy of A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal. Considering the pound to dollar conversion rate, I ended up paying about $40 for my stupidity. But I will say this: it was worth every penny I spent on it and more.
A Spy Among Friends, which is, in Macintyre's words, "not another biography of Kim Philby," ... "less about politics, ideology and accountability than personality, character, and a very British relationship that has never been explored before." Macintyre notes also that the "book does not purport to be the last word on Kim Philby," but rather "it seeks to tell his story in a different way, through the prism of personal friendship..." and his work succeeds on every possible level: impeccable research, the very-well developed investigation of Kim Philby's dual character, and frankly, despite the fact that it's nonfiction, it reads like a highly-polished, top-tier espionage novel, making it reader-friendly for anyone at all interested in the subject.
Macintyre's account brings new life to this very old and well-covered story: he sets Philby's story among friends, most notably Nicholas Elliott of MI6 and James Jesus Angleton (who had met Philby in London at the age of 24, and for whom Philby right away became "an elder-brother figure), who ultimately became an ultra-high ranking member of the CIA. Both men trusted Philby implicitly and both refused to believe that he was a spy the first time he came under suspicion after the defections of Maclean and Burgess. As Macintyre examines the respective careers of the three high-level spies, their social interactions, their proximity to each other over the course of their work as spies, and their ties to upper-class British society with its private clubs, the best schools, etc., he also establishes how easy it was for the trusted Philby to carry away much highly-secret information and hand it over to his Soviet contacts. As Macintyre notes, one of the "weaknesses" within the intelligence community was how natural it was to trade information, since agents are not able to share it with anyone outside of their small circle. Philby, a big drinker, boozed it up with Angleton, for example, during lunches in Washington DC when after being transferred there as MI6 chief (selected by Angleton himself); Angleton and Philby exchanged info while drinking bourbon, eating lobster, and having cigars at the end. In one particular Albanian operation that ended in possibly hundreds of deaths, Macintyre notes that "Lunch at Harvey's restaurant came with a hefty bill." Philby's relationship with Elliott was one of even stronger ties and a stronger long-term friendship; Elliott would have never in a million years banked on Philby, with whom he shared his secrets, as putting those secrets to "murderous use."
Throughout this entire book, Macintyre focuses on Philby's "two faces," his dual nature as a "double-sided man," where "One side is open to family and friends and everyone around them,..the other belongs only to himself and his secret work." As much as friends and family thought they knew him, the real truth was that
"Philby was spying on everyone, and no one was spying on him, because he fooled them all."
Among other things, Macintyre also examines the effects on the friends and family left in the wake of Philby's betrayals, the divisions between MI5 and MI6, and the results in human terms of Philby's work in passing along info to the Soviets.
A Spy Among Friends is extremely well written, and even though it's a work of nonfiction, the story kept me on edge up until the last minute. In fact, one of the most eye-opening sections of this book is at the point where Philby's been outed in 1963, and Nick, Philby's biggest supporter, takes it upon himself to be the one to get him to confess. If this conversation hadn't been recorded, one would think it was the work of a master spy novelist. Then, when Macintyre has written his last word, the reader comes upon a short, but wonderful afterword by John LeCarré that the reader should absolutely not miss. In fact, anyone who's even remotely interested in Kim Philby, or anyone who has enjoyed Macintyre's previous work should not miss this book -- it is simply stellar.
as usual, this is a short review; for a somewhat longer post click here.
My many thanks to Random House for sending me a copy of this book. It is an eyas usual, this is a short review; for a somewhat longer post click here.
My many thanks to Random House for sending me a copy of this book. It is an eye-opening, well-researched and intelligently-constructed history of the FBI in its role as a "secret intelligence service." The book examines how the Bureau has long been operating outside of the rule of law -- "the foundation on which America was built", and offers its readers a look at the ongoing struggle between national security and civil liberty. It also details the relationships the FBI directors (especially J. Edgar Hoover) have had with American presidents since the Bureau's inception. Although I may not personally agree with the author's final conclusion, it's still a very well-written book.
Enemies is incredibly interesting, fleshing out bits and pieces of history with which I'm somewhat familiar, and it offers anyone remotely interested in the topics he covers a great deal of fodder for further reading. It's very reader friendly, and despite some reviews I've read about it being snooze material, it will grab the attention of anyone who's interested. What you won't find here are any juicy pieces of speculation about Hoover and his sex life, which is just as well -- it's all hearsay anyway and it's also irrelevant. I think, though, that Weiner might be looking through his rose-colored glasses -- an FBI manual of operations is all well and good, but time and again, and he shows it himself, when push comes to shove in a matter of national security, the government can exercise greater powers that don't always mesh with our constitutional rights. ...more
Briefly, I have to say that this is one of the most fascinating books of history I've read in a very long time. You don't even need to be a WWII buffBriefly, I have to say that this is one of the most fascinating books of history I've read in a very long time. You don't even need to be a WWII buff to appreciate it -- I'm not -- but it's simply amazing. The basic story is this: it's 1943, and the Allies have plans to invade Sicily to get a foothold in Europe and defeat Hitler. But since Sicily is the most obvious place for an Allied landing, Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley (it's pronounced "Chumley") of the Naval Intelligence section of the Admiralty decide to dupe the Germans into thinking that Greece is the actual target -- and with the help of a fiction writer, a plan is born. The British Navy will ferry a dead body in the guise of a Navy officer carrying misleading documents to the coast of Spain, where the body would be found and the documents leaked to German spies there and hopefully believed. The idea is that the Germans will redeploy a large percentage of their military forces currently on Sicily elsewhere, saving countless Allied lives. How the plan was conceived and how it was put into action is an amazing story in itself, but Macintyre does so much more -- he manages to infuse the story with a bit of suspense and delivers human portraits of all those involved, including the Germans, rounding out this remarkable story. The drawback to this one is that often the story gets bogged down with a little too much detail (like the description of an entertainer doing his show), breaking up the flow of the narrative, but otherwise it is definitely one of those stories you won't soon forget.Highly recommended. ...more