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MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service Paperback – 3 Oct 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; Reprint edition (3 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753828332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753828335
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 3.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

His analysis is shrewd, his judgement sound...(the book's) strength is to present stories of the secret service's successes and failures within the political and strategic context of the times. (Adam Sisman THE SUNDAY TIMES)

THE ART OF BETRAYAL tells the history of MI6 in the words of real spies. (THE MAIL ON SUNDAY)

A refreshing...(and) compelling read. (Christopher Silvester THE DAILY EXPRESS)

Corera, the BBC's security correspondent, has enjoyed privileged access to key spy players from the past few decades and, writing in an engaging style, he picks up the story of the MI6 at the point where the "official" history grinds to a halt after the Second World War. (Annie Machon THE SUNDAY EXPRESS)

As a good journalist and a reader of spy novels, Corera presents his material as fast-paced stories, from the covert diplomacy of the Cold War to recent and current security concerns in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and he humanises the grand dramas of a duplicitous trade. (Iain Finlayson THE TIMES)

Highly readable and well-researched account of the Service...Let's hope the current generation of spooks has learnt from past mistakes. (Con Coughlin THE DAILY TELEGRAPH)

Corera provides a unique insight into how British intelligence has changed since the Second World War and how our spymasters reacted to major crises such as the September 11 attacks and the Iraq war. A fascinating read. (THE PEOPLE)

Superb new history of British intelligence (THE EVENING STANDARD)

The best post-1949 account of British intelligence I have read...this is as good as it gets. And it's a good read. (THE SPECTATOR)

This book will intrigue anyone with a taste for adventure and an interest in the moral dilemmas of loyalty and disloyalty. (COUNTRY LIFE)

His readable, breezy book's strength is to present the service's successes and failures within the political context of the times. (Adam Sisman THE SUNDAY TIMES CULTURE)

BBC security correspondant Gordon Corera's illuminating postwar history of Britain's secret intelligence services is told with the brio of a thriller and a good deal more clarity. (THE FINANCIAL TIMES)

An absorbing and often exhilarating account. (THE SUNDAY BUSINESS POST)

This fast-moving account by the BBC's Security Correspondent reveals that the true story of Britain's overseas intelligence service is as gripping as any novel... Corera works wonders in untangling the murky, convoluted doings of the organisation through the decades. (THE INDEPENDENT)

Book Description

The secret history of MI6 - from the Cold War to the present day. Published in hardback as THE ART OF BETRAYAL and fully updated for this edition.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By stubie 96 on 12 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book much more than the previous reviewer.

It may not be an academic tome and may contain little that's new to a specialist audience but I suspect that's not the target market anyway. For a general reader like me it was accessible, well-researched and fluidly written.

I always value Gordon Corera's analysis of security issues on BBC News and have enjoyed his Radio 4 documentaries. This book was equally rewarding.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 16 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover
Written by a BBC journalist, this is a readable and gripping book about MI6 and the development of Britain's secret service. Though MI6 was born in 1909, this history effectively starts with the post-WW2 Cold War period, and the early chapters set in Vienna read like the novels of Graham Greene and John le Carré, both of whom worked for MI6.

The fall of Soviet Russia in 1991 changed the game, however, and the latter part of the book discusses MI6's search for a new role and identity in a post-Cold War world.

The book is especially good on tracking the involvement of MI6 in Afghanistan where, with the CIA, they helped arm, train and fund mujahideen against the communist government and later Soviet invasion in the 1980s, and there's a nice irony in quoting Thatcher's government on how Islamic groups "`were good terrorists so we supported them. The ANC were bad. That caused her [Thatcher] no problem at all,'".

The final chapter looks at the role of MI6 in the `weapons of mass destruction' debacle which led to the invasion of Iraq, and the impact that has had on the management, role and status of MI6.

Throughout Corera keeps this readable and involving, and maintains a fairly judicious and objective viewpoint. So this is very good political reportage which weaves the personal stories of spies, agents, handlers and bureaucrats together. In some ways, the story of MI6 is also the story of world politics, from the Cold War between global superpowers to international terrorism - and Corera tells it in an accessible and fluent way.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Mitchell on 12 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Fascinating - a really good look at MI6, full of info and surprises. Paints MI6 as a strange mix of the heroic and macho world of Ian Fleming's James Bond, and the secretive and dangerous world of le Carré. It's thought provoking and relates to events still very fresh - and possibly raw - in Britons' minds, such as Blair's decision to invade Iraq; however it also brings back memories of the Cold War and really emphasises how little we knew about what was actually going on (that hasn't changed, it seems). Really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it - a superb read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. G. Short on 23 Oct. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm not really complaining, just warning any other people who buy a lot of books. I didn't realise this book was one I'd already bought in hardback. It was called: The Art of Betrayal: Life and Death in the British Secret Service. Now it's called MI6: etc.....I read a review of it in FT Weekend and bought it on Kindle. Once I started reading it, it seemed familiar, and sure enough, there it was on my bookshelves.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Harold C Angstrom on 25 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating book written with great verve and aplomb. The history of the Secret Intelligence Service - MI6 as it is familiarly known today - has been charted by many, but few have possessed Corera's narrative style. Particularly enthralling are the sections about the 1950s and early 1960s, when Soviet moles seemed to be emerging with regularity and the KGB appeared all too often to be winning the intelligence war. But the story of perhaps MI6's greatest success from that era - that of the defector Oleg Penkovsky - is the most compelling of all, with Corera recreating with real authenticity the tense, taut discussion (interrogation) between MI6 (and the CIA) and Penkovsky in Room 360 of London's Mount Royal Hotel.
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Format: Paperback
There is a passage in Le Carre's "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" where the traitor Bill Haydon tells George Smiley that the secret services are the only true expression of a nation's character. Corera's book relates how the secret service tried to preserve the nation's character from Moscow's attempts to subvert and undermine the British establishment through post 2nd WW classic tradecraft espionage until the arrival of multi facetted, and arguably more potent, threats from terrorism and proliferation heralded a whole new set of responses during the post Soviet era.

If there is a discernible theme running through the narrative it's how the secret service became less elitist and insulated from mainstream political oversight and was compelled by global events and social change to be more transparent and accountable for its actions. Corera relates the history of these changes with lively anecdotes and commentary from many of the major practitioners who helped to bring the secret service out of the shadows. He cites the fallout from the "Cambridge Five" betrayals in the 1950s/1960s and the Iraq WMD fiasco of 2002/2003 as the two low points in the service's credibility to the British public. Although the book is entitled "MI6" there is a generous amount of material and first hand attribution from those more directly connected to its sister service "MI5".This didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book but perhaps a broader themed title may have been more appropriate to reflect the duality and interdependence of both agencies.
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