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The Lawn Road Flats: Spies, Writers and Artists (History of British Intelligence) [Kindle Edition]

David Burke
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Isokon building, Lawn Road Flats, in Belsize Park on Hampstead's lower slopes, is a remarkable building. The first modernist building in Britain to use reinforced concrete in domestic architecture, its construction demanded new building techniques. But the building was as remarkable for those who took up residence there as for the application of revolutionary building techniques. There were 32 Flats in all, and they became a haunt of some of the most prominent Soviet agents working against Britain in the 1930s and 40s, among them Arnold Deutsch, the controller of the group of Cambridge spies who came to be known as the "Magnificent Five" after the Western movie "The Magnificent Seven"; the photographer Edith Tudor-Hart; and Melita Norwood, the longest-serving Soviet spy in British espionage history. However, it wasn't only spies who were attracted to the Lawn Road Flats, the Bauhaus exiles Walter Gropius, László Moholy-Nagy and Marcel Breuer; the pre-historian V. Gordon Childe; and the poet (and Bletchley Park intelligence officer) Charles Brasch all made their way there. A number of British artists, sculptors and writers were also drawn to the Flats, among them the sculptor and painter Henry Moore; the novelist Nicholas Monsarrat; and the crime writer Agatha Christie, who wrote her only spy novel N or M? in the Flats. The Isokon building boasted its own restaurant and dining club, where many of the Flats' most famous residents rubbed shoulders with some of the most dangerous communist spies ever to operate in Britain. Agatha Christie often said that she invented her characters from what she observed going on around her. With the Kuczynskis - probably the most successful family of spies in the history of espionage - in residence, she would have had plenty of material. DAVID BURKE is a historian of intelligence and international relations and author of "The Spy Who Came In From the Co-op: Melita Norwood and the Ending of Cold War Espionage" (The Boydell Press, 2009).

Product Description


Burke's book is constructed like the building itself: each chapter has at its centre a life story of one or other key resident of the ISOKON, and these stories are as interconnected as were the tenants at the Lawn Road Flats. ... (Its) history has now been meticulously restored by David Burke. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENTA fascinating book. CHARTISTBurke intersperses his painstakingly detailed research with fascinating glimpses of life at the time, drawing on stories and letters that bring his account into vivid relief. TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT A lively and vivid chronicle of a generation shaped by war, political upheaval and idealism. HISTORY TODAY Cocktails, glamour, spies - Bond would love it. SAGA MAGAZINEBurke proves to be a brilliant sleuth...and is insightful on the...daily detail of a spy's life. TIMES This book, like the Lawn Road flats themselves, is full of surprises. SUNDAY TIMES (Lynn Barber) Reveals the staggeringly rich artistic and political machinations that took place within. FINANCIAL TIMES

About the Author

DAVID BURKE is a historian of intelligence and international relations and author of The Spy Who Came In From the Co-op: Melita Norwood and the Ending of Cold War Espionage (The Boydell Press, 2009).

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 27784 KB
  • Print Length: 309 pages
  • Publisher: Boydell Press (20 Mar. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00IWUB9M8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #506,669 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor research 28 July 2014
It is a pity that the author spoils what could have been an interesting story by very sloppy research and a determination to prove the highly unlikely hypothesis that an entire family was a nest of spies. There are hosts of misspellings and inaccurate dates. It is hard to take seriously any coverage of German history by an author who cannot spell Karl Liebknecht's name correctly, nor get the date right for the Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich. In fact one has to wonder whether the author even reads German, given the minimal number of sources quoted. Perhaps he should have stuck to architectural history, which could made the book so much more worthwhile.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A poor history 20 Aug. 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book is disappointing in the quality of its research. Uncritical use of MI5 files provides a narrative with plenty of speculation delivered as fact. Too many of the claims that individuals were Soviet agents are unreferenced and seem to be inventions. This is a shame in a book which has chosen an interesting combination of architectural history and the residents of these flats.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is very much more of a text book for which you need to have a reason for reading, than a book which simply entertains. The author has clearly put in a huge amount of research in the writing of "The Lawn Road Flats". Each chapter is accompanied by a wealth of references to enable further study.
The subject matter of "The Lawn Road Flats" is somewhat specialised, - left wing politics between the Two World Wars, Soviet agents of that time, and the innovative architecture behind the building of the flats in particular. You would need to be especially interested in these topics to do the book full justice. Clearly, this book should be seen as a useful work of reference for serious students of the above topics.
In my case, one of my relatives is mentioned by name in the book, and reading the book has helped me to understand more about this particular person. However, following up the references to this individual has not been easy, and I am having to take it on trust that what is written about him in the book has been fully researched.
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