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Papa Spy: A True Story of Love, Wartime Espionage in Madrid, and the Treachery of the Cambridge Spies Paperback – 3 May 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 414 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (3 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408803097
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408803097
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 535,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'A great story, with drama, betrayal and historical significance' (Independent)

'Frank and revealing ... a world of intrigue and betrayal ... A son's search for who his father really was. ****' (Phillip Knightley, Daily Telegraph)

'Jimmy Burns's lively biography of his father is more than an act of filial piety ... the murky world of intelligence, counter-intelligence, deception and double agents, provide a series of real James Bonds' (Raymond Carr, Spectator Books of the Year)

'A thrilling book, written with passion and precision' (Javier Cercas, author of Soldiers of Salamis)

Book Description

A true story with a cast of characters and a plot worthy of John le Carré's Smiley novels

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Denis George on 18 Dec. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Apart from one or two irritating typing errors - surprising for Bloomsbury - this was a truly excellent read. Its combination of the affairs and political intrigues of that interesting coterie of Catholic intellectuals of the 1920s and 1930s (Belloc,Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene Tom Burns et al) and the fascinating details of the contribution of the British Embassy in Madrid in combatting the propaganda of Nazi operatives in Franco's Spain and helping to keep Spain out of the Fascist Axis embrace, makes this book of real interest to any lovers of espionage. It will also appeal to all those with a deep regard for Spanish culture. It is also very well written, perhaps the somewhat sentimental title might put off some readers - should't, it's an engrossing read.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Paul M. Cheeseright on 8 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Jimmy Burns's father, Tom, was one of Britain's unsung war heroes, not because of physical gallantry but because he was astute enough to play a major role in the diplomatic effort to keep Spain out of World War II. How he did this is the central theme of Jimmy Burns's admirable and engaging study. This is a book to which it is a pleasure to return, a memoir and historical work which can read like a novel.
The author is ideally placed to write it. Apart from being the son, he has an Anglo-Spanish background, he worked in Spain as a journalist and in London he wrote about security and spies. He needed all these qualities. What he does is to weave the personal history of Tom Burns into the web of international and Spanish politics, the morass of bureaucratic infighting in the intelligence community of wartime London (featuring, among others, notorious Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt). He does this with great skill and a sure touch. This is not a book to miss.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By a reader on 30 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover
History is written by the winners and this book shows it. It is a very chatty discursive "family history" by a son about his father's very colourful career. There seems to be a lot of intent to "set the record straight" and not a few "get squares" . Normally we don't get much written about how much the British Government actually supported Franco. There is much more literature about heroic support from the Left for the communist Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. The extent to which the conservative old boy network dominated British government, military and espionage policy in World War 2 comes through in this book. The Public School, Oxbridge and Clubland web of privilege seems to determine everything. The role of Catholicism in being apparently able to make both fascists and communists the baddies is emphasised more than usual in literature.

Nevertheless, the book is entertaining for its range of real characters, bizarre events and new twists on "history". There is quite a bit of repetition and there are quite a few typographical errors.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Brimacombe on 16 Sept. 2009
Format: Hardcover
A fantastic story and life, encompassing the London literary scene, a touching love story, espionage and Spain during WWII. Well researched and well written I can highly recommend this book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Achille Talon - Erudit on 3 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Jimmy Burns describes for the first time a top secret intelligence campaign of bribery, recruitment and propaganda that, with Churchill's blessing, kept Franco in power to secure Spanish neutrality and protect Allied strategic interests in southern Europe and North Africa: if we had lost Gibraltar we would have lost the war.

This was the only strategic campaign of WWII conducted purely as an intelligence campaign: because no shots were fired it has eluded historians and biographers but its importance was simply vital, in the proper sense, to beating Germany. If Germany had been able to close off the Mediterranean, it would have gained access to the Middle East for the oil it so desperately lacked (Germany had to crack coal for its poor-quality fuel): with oil, and with Britain cut off from oil, it is hard to imagine the Germans losing the war. It was lack of fuel that was in Rommel's own judgement the reason he lost to Montgomery in the Western Desert and it was a major factor on both sides in the Battle of Britain .

Trying to keep Kim Philby off his back in London and fighting for influence against Germans in Spain, Tom Burns was involved in some of the more colourful episodes of WWII, entrapping German agents, thwarting a Nazi attempt to kidnap the Duke of Windsor in Spain and recruiting several unusual British agents such as the romantic Hollywood actor Leslie Howard. The author clarifies some of the many factors that prevented Franco paying his debt to Hitler and Mussolini who had helped him with the Spanish Civil War.

After five years of personal interview and probing family papers, classified government documents and other previously undiscovered archives, Jimmy found that Tom Burns was at the heart of the Allies' intelligence and propaganda operations in Madrid, Lisbon, Gibraltar and Tangier.

For the role of oil in all of 20th century history, including WWII, see Daniel Yergin's "The Prize".
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By N. Howell on 14 Sept. 2009
Format: Hardcover
The story could have come from the pen of Graham Greene himself. Book has extra layer of interest and sincerity in that the author is the subject's son. Excellent!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Colin Smith on 11 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not a bad book, but the title is a bit misleading. The subject of the book was an attache at the British embassy in Madrid,
and as such was involved in a lot of underhand escapades, very much the same kind of thing you would imagine an attache to
do in a modern day Embassy in Russia for example. Not what I would call a spy.
There is also a lot of reference to high society jinks, both in Spain and England, none of which has much bearing on the 'Spy'
aspect of the book, or the War which was going on at that time.
Disappointing for me.
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