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Russian Roulette Paperback – 29 Aug 2013

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Paperback, 29 Aug 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (29 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444737031
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444737035
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,746,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Giles Milton is a writer and historian. He is the bestselling author of Nathaniel's Nutmeg, Big Chief Elizabeth, The Riddle and the Knight, White Gold, Samurai William, Paradise Lost and, most recently, Wolfram. His books have been translated into 18 languages. White Gold is currently being piloted as a major Channel 4 series. He has also written two novels and three children's books, two of them illustrated by his wife Alexandra. He lives in South London.

Find out more about Giles and his books by visiting the following links.

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

By Robert Meadley on 12 Nov. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
bought this as a present. seemed to be well-received.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 67 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
The Beginning of MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service) 26 Mar. 2014
By Grey Wolffe - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Near the end of the First World War, the British government (HMG) created an investigative group called the “Secret Intelligence Service (SIS)” to spy on the Germans. Part of this group was stationed in Russia in order to help the Tsar’s military with information as to German troop movements. Though mostly involved with intercepting wireless (radio) transmissions, a human intelligence network was put in place. When the Provisional Government overthrew the Tsar, the SIS stayed in place to follow what was happening in Petrograd.

Much of the information supplied to London was related to the strength of the new government and to keep tabs on the mob of revolutionaries returning from exile. Having worked with both the military and foreign offices (in Russia) they were perfectly placed to keep an ear to the ground. With the Bolshevik October Revolution, it turned out that SIS had many friends in high places, making for a substantial intelligence windfall.

But as the Revolution turned into the Red Terror and the Communist International (Comintern) began planning for international revolution, the members of SIS in Russia had to go underground. Espionage now became a dangerous game. While most of the SIS spies started out as gentlemen amateurs, those who survived quickly became adept at living underground as natives under assumed names. Along with intelligence gathering SIS now was in the business of sabotage.

Lenin let it be known that the first priority of the Comintern was to ‘set the East ablaze’. He was going to arm the Islamic fundamentalists in Central Asia and Afghanistan to attack India and free it from British Imperialism. The collection of ‘dirty tricks’ that prevented this invasion, and destroyed the “Army of God” is just one of the stories in this eminently readable history.

[You will get to meet “C”, who Ian Fleming's “M” is based on, and the man known as the “Ace of Spies” the prototype for James Bond. Fleming worked for SIS during WW2 and that’s what made his novels so realistic.]

Zeb Kantrowitz
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The More Things Change . . . . 13 Mar. 2014
By Ogr8ys1 - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When a history book is written like a novel and that book is informative and fun to read you have the makings of a five star book, which this book easily cinches. My favorite period of history to read about is from the end of World War I to the beginning of World War II, when the world was faced with a political landscape that was evolving into the the extremes we see evident into today's politics.

Russian Roulette takes us into the inner workings of the British government and their involvement to keep the Red Menace contained during the communist and Soviet infancy. We are introduced to the players on both sides and the intrigues played by these up until now unknown men and woman. Sydney Reilly the master-spy, the pages that he is splattered on is worth the price of the book itself, and as I read I could not help but wonder if Ian Fleming based James Bond on him as his quote adorns the cover page.

From beginning to end you get a sense of being a fly on the wall as the events of the day unfurl so quickly that the history being made by those you read about is unrealized by those performing the tasks their governments ask of them. If you are a student of this time period there is no doubt you will enjoy this book immensely.

5 stars.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Good reading, very interesting subject. 17 Mar. 2014
By P. Eisenman - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I enjoyed reading RUSSIAN ROULETTE. A subject I've not seen covered before, yet one that was very intriguing. I found myself pondering a wide variety of "what if...?" questions after reading the book.

Well-written and easy to follow, with good footnotes and sourcing. Maps at the beginning allow you to put some geography behind the story. The people involved are well described, which makes it easy to picture in your mind the situations and activities found in the book. While a factual, historical tale, the presentation is entertaining enough to really make you want to keep reading and see what happens next. I found it to be quite the page turner!

Post-revolution Russia is one of those subjects that seems to fall into the black hole of obscurity in popular cultural knowledge. Even among Western historians, it seems quite overlooked--rather like the entirety of the Eastern front in World War I. Most general histories, if they mention it at all--give the subject of what happens after 1917 in Russia short shrift and one would think after the Tsar's overthrow, Russia simply fell off the map and history stopped being worth recording! Everybody knows about the "reds" and the "whites", but beyond that it's treated as a mere historical afterthought, much like the Spanish Civil War--we all know there was one, but beyond that, other than history professors, who knows??? Here at last is an easy to read bit of insight into the early years of the Soviet Union that even the casual reader would find fascinating and though provoking. While it's not the main topic, it's definitely relevant and VERY INTERESTING!

I'd give a hearty FOUR STARS to RUSSIAN ROULETTE. I found it to be a fascinating subject written in an easy to understand, yet still intriguing manner. It's definitely worthy of your consideration if you have any interest in post-Romanov Russia.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"Keen As Mustard" 6 May 2014
By John D. Cofield - Published on
Format: Hardcover
That's the jaunty reply of a young British recruit to the Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6, when asked if he was up to the challenge of infiltrating Bolshevik Russia. It's an excellent descriptor for nearly every page of this lively, highly entertaining, history of the early years of British espionage. Giles Milton has produced a well researched history that reads like a novel, only much more entertaining because it's all true. Here we have as much of the full story as it's possible to know of such legendary figures as Sidney Reilly, Robert Bruce Lockhart, Arthur Ransome, and many other intrepid men (and some women), including and most importantly Mansfield Cumming, the founder of the SIS who was always known as "C."

The SIS began shortly before World War I as a way of keeping a wary eye on German and other threats to the Britiish Empire. During World War I Cumming and his staff, as well as the rest of the British government, became increasingly worried over their Russian ally's ability to keep fighting. SIS's goal for Russia at first was simple, to keep her in the war. After the Bolshevik Revolutioin things became more complicated, as it was necessary both to keep an eye on and if possible destroy the new regime led by Lenin and Trotsky, as well as frustrate that regime's efforts to export revolution abroad, especially to Britain's "Jewel in the Crown," India. The story starts in the final days of Imperial Russia, with the murder of Grigorii Rasputin, continues through the February and October Revolutions of 1917, and through the Russian Civil War period into the early 1920s.

There are countless tales of bravado and derring-do here, as Cumming recruited and sent into harm's way large numbers of spies. Many met grisly ends, but many more survived and returned to write some hair raising memoirs. There are also many stories of the Bolsheviks who were MI6's targets, including Lenin himself, Trotsky, Felix Dzerzhinsky, and Karl Radek, who were just as implacable in their determination to bring down the British Empire and capitalism. Many of the names will be well known, while others like Mansfield Cumming himself and Manahendra Nath Roy, who planned to lead a Bolshevik/Muslim army of "liberation" into British India, who will be less so. Russian Roulette is a fascinating book, well written and researched, with an invaluable notes section and a list for further reading. Best of all, there's a hint in the Epilogue that there may well be a sequel in the works telling more tales of the SIS and Soviet Russia. I certainly hope so!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Rousing tale of British espionage in revolutionary Russia 26 Mar. 2014
By Hal Jordan - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Giles Milton's history of British spying during and immediately after the Russian revolution reads like a spy thriller. It's one of those books that you have finished before you know it, leaving you wishing you had more to read.

The spies Milton writes about, including the famous Sidney Reilly "Ace of Spies," are primarily upper-class, private school types who literally live by their wits as they try to hinder the plots of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Risking arrest and execution at the hands of the Cheka, the Russian secret police, they become masters of disguise and penetrate to the heart of the Bolshevik regime.

Most books of this type are written from secondary sources, but Milton has dived into the primary sources -- mainly official British records, some of which have only recently been released to researchers. Although I'm by no means an expert in this area, Milton seems to have uncovered new facts, particularly with respect to the attempts to deter Lenin's plans to spread revolution to British India. The book does not contain footnotes or other explicit references, though, so scholars who hope to follow up some of Milton's assertions may have difficulty doing so.

Although I highly recommend this book, I do have a couple of small caveats. First, Milton assumes that you know the general history of World War I, the Bolshevik revolution, and the civil war that followed the revolution. His narrative is tightly focused on the activities of the British spies and he spends little time providing a broader narrative of events. The result is a book that moves like lightening, but one that also may confuse readers whose command of the events being described is weak.

Second, the publisher overstates what the results of this spying were. For instance, the statement on the back cover that "this unlikely band of agents succeeded in foiling Lenin's plot for global revolution" is an exaggeration. Lenin's hopes for world revolution were damaged much more by the failure of the invasion of Poland and the economic problems that developed as a result of his policy of "war communism" than by the information that British spies were able to gather. In fact, you can even make an argument that by providing negative (if accurate) reports on the state of the anti-Bolshevik White Russian forces, British agents made it less likely that these forces would receive the aid they needed to succeed. Only with respect to Russian attempts to form an alliance with the government of Afghanistan in order to bring revolution to British India were British agents of significant importance in foiling Lenin's plans. Even then, Milton seems to be arguing that it was Lenin's desperate need to sign a trade agreement with Britain that ultimately convinced him to call off the dogs of revolution.
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