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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of the Great Game?
In one breathtaking, breathless volume Fitzroy Maclean tells of his career as diplomat and soldier from 1937-45.
The first part of the book deals with his diplomatic career in the USSR. Maclean quickly tires of the endless cycle of diplomatic receptions and the restrictions upon travel, and decides to see more of the USSR, particularly the Central Asian republics...
Published on 20 Oct. 2004 by Peter Fenelon

versus
5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but dont believe him about Yugoslavia.
The book is undoubtably enjoyable. Readers particularly interested in the chapter regarding Maclean's relationship with Tito should be aware that Maclean is held by many well informed historians and British soldiers to have been crucial in the deception of the FCO in the war which lent support to communists and that he did so because he and Churchill were successfully...
Published on 6 Nov. 1998


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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of the Great Game?, 20 Oct. 2004
By 
Peter Fenelon - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Eastern Approaches (Paperback)
In one breathtaking, breathless volume Fitzroy Maclean tells of his career as diplomat and soldier from 1937-45.
The first part of the book deals with his diplomatic career in the USSR. Maclean quickly tires of the endless cycle of diplomatic receptions and the restrictions upon travel, and decides to see more of the USSR, particularly the Central Asian republics that were still being assimilated into the Union. He sets off on a series of enlightening journeys (with little or no official approval!) that take him far from Moscow to the legendary cities of Samarkand and Bokhara. This is fine travel writing indeed, Maclean giving a very powerful sense of what the Stalinist era was like and also of the exoticism of Central Asia. There are also powerful descriptions of the Stalist purges of 1938 and the accompanying "show trials".
The second part of the book covers Maclean's exploits with the SAS in the North African deserts and the Middle East. Resigning from his diplomatic post to join the Army (using the convenient excuse of becoming an MP!) Maclean serves as a private in a Scottish regiment for some time before being commmissioned and sent to the Middle East. Here he falls in with David Stirling and becomes an early member of the SAS - his stories of their training, tactics and raids are powerful indeed, matched by evocative descriptions of the African landscapes. Maclean moves on to form SAS units in the Middle East, but before long is summoned to go behind enemy lines as Churchill's military representative to Tito's Yugoslav partisans.
The final third of the book mixes military action and politics, with Maclean organising the support for the Partisans and representing them to the Allies. The political agenda here is a little blurred - Maclean is obviously a Conservative who has instinctive support for the return of the Yugoslav monarchy, and yet he admires Tito for what he has achieved in the liberation of his own country, while still maintaining a personal anti-Communist agenda... This section of the book makes the sheer scale of the Partisan operations very apparent, and hints at the confusion between the Western allies over the future fate of Yugoslavia.
This is a splendidly readable book, full of incident and description, with vividly drawn characters. It is told with occasional gentle humour, modesty, and genuine insight.
Maclean's adventures arguably span the end of the "Great Game" - political influence won by adventurers - and the beginning of the Cold War, and his memoirs of this historical crossroads are thought-provoking and highly entertaining.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars He lived so many lives in so many worlds, 23 Jun. 2004
This review is from: Eastern Approaches (Paperback)
These are the memoirs of the early years of Sir Fitzroy Maclean, diplomat, soldier and politician. An extraordinary account of the formative years of an exceptionally gifted young man. Maclean's memoirs are roughly divided into three sections. The first deals with his time in Moscow before the war; the second with his experiences in the Second World War in north Africa; and the third recounts the time he spent in Yugoslavia towards the end of the war as Churchill's personal envoy to Tito.
Maclean was stationed in Moscow at a time when the embassy staff there was still quite small. Black tie dinners and frequent hob-nobbing with diplomats from other legations. As someone who has been to Russia ten times in the last fifteen years, the accuracy of his observations astounded me. It may read as exaggeration, but his tales of drunken train journeys, the smell of BO and cabbage in the tube; the depressingly morose looks of Russians in the street conflicting strongly with their demeanour when behind closed doors; the stifling influence of the security forces and Soviet bureaucracy; all these still ring true today. Most of the space devoted to the time he spent in the Soviet Union does not deal, however, with Moscow (with the notable exception of the last and biggest show trial of the Stalin era), but those regions further south. Whether he went there as a spy or whether we are to believe him when he says that he went there as a tourist, out of plain curiosity, Fitzroy was one of the first Europeans to venture so far south in one hundred years. He captures the sights, sounds and smells of Kazakhstan, Uzbekhistan and Afghanistan amazingly well. How easy to recognize Boukhara and Samarkand, Almaty and the Kush in his wonderfully descriptive writing. In some ways this is the most enjoyable part of the book as the author's love of what he sees shines through his writing.
As the war breaks out, he resigns from the FCO, becomes MP for Lancaster and enlists in the Cameroon Highlanders. He ends up, like so many, in Egypt where he meets his friend, David Stirling (Maclean has innumerable friends who always turn up to help him when he needs them (surely one of the great networkers)), the founder of the SAS. Maclean gladly accepts the offer to join the burgeoning SAS and provides vivid details of a handful of their more famous missions.
His knowledge of the Soviet Union allied to his understanding of guerrilla tactics and missions behind the lines leads to Churchill choosing him as his representative to Tito (Maclean is also well acquainted with Churchill's son, Randolph!). Maclean's role is to ascertain the Communist revolutionaries' importance in the war effort in the Balkans and whether or not the Allies should envision providing more proactive support to them in their fight against the Germans. Maclean quickly comes to the conclusion that Tito's men are many, well organized, efficient, motivated and much more of a threat to the Germans than the fascist opposition in Yugoslavia. He recommends to Churchill that they support Tito as much as possible despite the fact that his men will undoubtedly prove to hold the upper hand in post-war Yugoslavia and are almost undoubtedly sure to turn more to the Soviet Union for support than to the West. Churchill ignores this believing the victory over Germany to override any other consideration. Detailed first-hand accounts again from Maclean about how he dispatched liaison officers all over Yugoslavia; how they helped him and Tito to gain a better understanding of how events were unfolding; which units needed immediate support and how best to provide that; and finally how the Allies helped with ever-increasing air drops, bases and coordinated air attacks. Maclean's role in this theatre of war was huge, his contribution considerable and his effort recognized as he finished the war a Brigadier.
All in all, this is a brilliant account of the very full life of an exceptionally gifted young man.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War Horse - not Water Horse, 29 Sept. 2009
By 
Gs-trentham - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eastern Approaches (Penguin World War II Collection) (Paperback)
What to make of the only other review here that purports to deal with Eastern Approaches? The review plainly refers to a children's book about a Water Horse. Two out of six people found the review helpful. If, on the strength of that, they bought a copy of Eastern Approaches they will have been mightily surprised but surely also hugely rewarded.

I came to Eastern Approaches by way of a glowing testimonial in Peter Hopkirk's The Great Game (see my review elsewhere). The front cover calls Maclean's memoir "The best book you will read this year" and for once a clever line in a blurb is hard to challenge. Eastern Approaches will linger in the memory for many a year. It was, after all, first published in 1949 and remains in print.

Fitzroy Maclean - later Sir Fitzroy - tells the story of eight years in his life, from 1937 to 1945. It begins with Maclean as a junior diplomat in Paris, then at the epicentre of European upheaval. He breaks with all precedent by applying for a transfer to the supposedly dead end of the British embassy in Moscow. Once there, he becomes a shrewd observer of a Russia in search of identity; meanwhile, on his frequent (and seemingly often overstayed) leaves he explores - by train, bus, clapped-out car and ferry, on horse and camel, and on foot - the terra incognita of Caucasia.

When war is declared in 1939 Maclean wants to become a soldier but diplomatic rules prevent it. He discovers that diplomacy and politics are not allowed to mix, gets himself proposed as a parliamentary candidate and thus forces the Foreign Office to demand his resignation. He is elected Conservative member for Lancaster but before taking his place at Westminster, enrols as a private soldier. Soon promoted as a subaltern, he finds himself in Cairo where the old pals network steers him into the SAS, leading a raid on Benghazi hundreds of miles behind German lines. There is no false glory: the raid, which reads like the script for a wartime movie, is a failure. Lives are lost, survival is always in the balance.

But Montgomery is winning the war in the desert and Maclean needs new adventures. He is parachuted into occupied Yugoslavia as head of an official British military mission to the Partisans led by Tito - this at a time when the British government is actually backing another group of insurgents. A substantial body of Eastern Approaches is taken up by a gripping account of delicate diplomacy (Tito is a convinced communist with Stalin as a natural ally) and military bravado. From time to time Maclean is temporarily lifted out for consultations at the highest levels, military and political (Churchill asks if, when he parachuted into Yugoslavia, he was wearing the kilt), but he returns each time to see the campaign through to its ultimate victory with the fall of Belgrade.

So in eight years, Maclean experienced enough for three lifetimes, enough for three books. As if that were not enough, he writes with fluency and wit, enlivening his story for page after page by pointed anecdotes and evocative recreation of people and places. In short, this is superb story-telling by one who was there in the heart of it.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding adventures, 5 Sept. 2001
This review is from: Eastern Approaches (Paperback)
A marvellous and incredible true story. It divides neatly into three parts, each of which would stand up as a fantastic book on its own. The first chapter contains an incredible insight into Russia, full of tales of travel to mystic places, then onto Stalin's show trials - the only foreign observer who could speak Russian present, Then its behind enemy lines with the SAS and finally into Tito's Yugoslavia. On the way be becomes an MP, not for political ends you understand, he just wanted to get out of the diplomatic corps. The adventures this man has are simply extraordinary. The writing is cool, underplayed and intelligent without being turgid or cumbersome. The man is something of a legend and it's easy to understand why
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ripping Yarns!, 31 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Eastern Approaches (Penguin World War II Collection) (Paperback)
Fitzroy Maclean makes Indiana Jones look like a housebound agoraphobic. He had a fascinating, one might almost say Charmed, life. Joining the Diplomatic Corps in the 1930's, he quickly grew bored with his residency in Paris and volunteered for a posting to Moscow which, in terms of career advancement, was a bit like asking to be transferred from Central London to West Bromwich. During the years 1937-39 he immersed himself in Soviet life, not staying within the diplomatic compound like most of his colleagues, but travelling all around the vast and alien reaches of the country, finding out what life was really like for the mass of Soviet citizenry never seen by most Westerners. By turns he encountered suspicion, hostility, obstruction (both official and unofficial) and matchless warmth and companionship of a sort rarely encountered by anyone who had never gone beyond the grey and depressing sprawl of Moscow (my words for Moscow, not his - I've been there). His travels were never less than entertaining:
"My next object was to get myself to Ayaguz (but no) officials were to be found. Finally... I came across the assistant station-master... suckling her new-born baby. The station-master was lying unconscious face-down on the floor throughout the interview. Asleep? Drunk? Dead? It was impossible to say..."

"(en route to Bokhara) I caught sight of a lorry moving off... A short sprint and a flying jump landed me head-first in a cargo of cotton... The sight of me jumping on had put the same idea into a number of other heads. There was a rush and the lorry filled with Uzbeks, kicking and biting as only Uzbeks can... the driver caught sight of this multitude of uninvited passengers and let down the sides of the truck, pushing off as many passengers as he could reach, while others climbed in again on the other side..."

They didn't have Intourist then.
When War broke out, and having witnessed the incomprehensible horror of Stalin's Show Trials, he returned to Britain and enlisted in a Scottish infantry regiment. In due course he was commissioned and transferred to the nascent SAS in the Western Desert, where he spent many months trekking across the baking plains of the desert and dodging German and Italian bullets. Once it became clear that the Axis was going to lose North Africa, he decided to join the resistance in Yugoslavia, getting parachuted into Bosnia and joining Tito's Partisans, with whom he stayed until the country was liberated. While with the Partisans he gained a good insight into (and gives a very good precis of) the boiling cauldron of political and ethnic factors that made up Yugoslav history, none of which will surprise anyone who had witnessed the disintegration of the once-Yugoslavia into the Madhouse that we all know today.
This, believe it or not, is a short introduction to a book filled with romance, high adventure, history and politics. It is riotously funny and deeply shocking, endlessly fascinating and occasionally heart-breaking, but never, ever dull.
Here is a man who smelt the coffee. If you start reading this, take some holiday time, because you won't be able to put it down.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling account of subterfuge in Russia and Yugoslavia, 10 Oct. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Eastern Approaches (Paperback)
Although an obvious member of the upper echelons of British society, this is a special book about one man's adventures in Russia and Yugoslavia, as a member of the FCO and SIS. The images he portrays are vivid and revealing, his never-give-in attitude make it a joy to read, he comes across as a man of integrity, the kind of person you want carrying out difficult foreign assignments on behalf of your country.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars of historical importance, 1 Jan. 2013
By 
Dennis Argall (Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Eastern Approaches (Paperback)
I came back to reading this after a gap of many years, delighted to obtain via Amazon a 1949 hardback edition in remarkable condition.

I had wanted to read again Maclean's perspective on central Asia, which I thought might be relevant to how mucked-up our lives have become by the madness of going to war again in Afghanistan, failure begun by Britain in the 1830s. In fact that is the most slight part of the book. For a more rewarding and also very entertaining view of Afghanistan in that era, try Eric Newby's A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Short-Walk-Hindu-Kush/dp/0007367759/

At the outset Maclean notes his delight in diplomatic life in Paris but his unusual-among-colleagues desire to do something more than be trapped in that fishbowl***. The fishbowl life of the diplomatist and hangers-on is surely alive in many places still, satirised extravagantly in Bunuel's 'Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie' [...] long ago, and displayed in tawdry post-modern misery by the Petraeus-Broadwell-Kelley gang [...]

Back in the days when the world was small (or large, or open, or offering opportunities)... how it was possible to devise, invent, decide and implement policies and actions! Since the 1970s we have groaned under the increased weight of intelligence assessment and policy process, with forests felled for the sake of muddying issues. Read Philip Knightley's 'A Hack's Progress' http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hacks-Progress-Phillip-Knightley/dp/0224043994/ for his judgement of the worthlessness of post-war intelligence systems, east and west. Paper and HR are drowning the planet faster than carbon dioxide.

Others have in reviews offered modestly spoilerish accounts of the book. I encourage you to read it as a document of 1949, a public document over which Churchill and others had cast their eyes in draft. Published at the time when eastern European states were being rolled up into the mesh of the Soviet system, behind the Iron Curtain, from which they were not to escape till 1989. At which time Maclean and Churchill both needed to explain why they had supported a communist cause in Yugoslavia - the third and weightiest part of the book. The first two sections of the book, dealing with the Soviet Union in the 1930s and the derring-do of invention of the SAS in the north African campaign in WW2 are remarkable in themselves, but importantly provide a launching ramp to acceptance of the judgements and actions of the Yugoslav campaign.

Maclean's potted history of Yugoslavia in the several centuries before WW2 is an excellent introduction to a subject in which cool and independent perspective is much harder to find than say at an FA cup final. It stands also as a good start point for understanding all that happened in the break up of Yugoslavia and the horrors of Balkan conflict in the 1990s. And a sensible warning to policy makers who believe in lasting, let alone final solutions to international issues (I know, I know, 'Final Solution' has particular meaning, but 'final solution' seems to be what every business and political leader seems supposed to achieve these days).

Read it as a boy's own adventure, it certainly is that. Would that we had the opportunity, the freedom (not least from liability assessments and cautions) the courage, the strength, determination and judgement now. The book ends when Maclean is 33, the age of Alexander the Great when he died. What in life could follow this story? Read it as remarkable history portrayed by a very intelligent and courageous participant. The world is too crowded now for such freedom of thought and action... perhaps this is why young people hasten to fantasy.

*** in saying 'fishbowl' I acknowledge this delight: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hedgehog-Reg-2-DVD/dp/B0064MA0UI/
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Edge of the World, 22 Feb. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Eastern Approaches (Paperback)
This is, first of all, a straightforward, though sensitively told, military adventure yarn. The inevitable clash of civilizations, the ominous background of the disintegration of the whole world in the flames of an insane war, the colourful local customs, myths, beliefs, habits and myths, the ethos of camraderie and the horror of betrayal and impending torture and worse - are all told captivatingly. As good as any action film and a lot deeper. as an old Balkan hand, I was especially interested in what the author had to tell about Tito and his partisans. You won't find this in history book, I grant you! Sam Vaknin, author of 'After the Rain - How the West Lost the East'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The great adventurer, 26 Feb. 2009
By 
N. Young (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Eastern Approaches (Paperback)
Sir Fitzroy Maclean - diplomat, soldier, politician, adventurer. A man who, one feels, could come straight from the pages of a John Buchan thriller.

'Eastern Approaches' covers Sir Fitzroy's life from the mid-1930s to the end of the Second World War and is essentially a three-part adventure story: His escapades as a somewhat wayward diplomat in Stalin's Russia prior to the war (where the NKVD suspected him, perhaps with some justification, of being a spy), leading SAS raids against the Afrika Korps in North Africa, and being Churchill's representative to Tito's Partisans in Yugoslavia.

At times it seems as though this is more than one man could reasonably be expected to handle, and it is adventure that is unashamedly of the 'old school'. But my God, it's a cracking read.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The real 007, 25 Feb. 2001
This review is from: Eastern Approaches (Paperback)
History may judge him harshly - see the review of A Reader from London - but this book is an incredible adventure story and worth reading for its coverage of Stalin's purges alone. Fitzroy Maclean was apparently Ian Fleming's model for his most famous creation, James Bond. Whether stooging quietly around the back of beyond in Stalin's Soviet Union, sneaking across the Sahara to launch raids far behind German lines in World War Two or hiking through the vertical mountains of Yugoslavia Maclean is both modest and reticent. But the adventures he has are so outrageous that anything but a self-deprecating approach would seem both boastful and wildly improbable. With Eric Newby and Wilfred Thesiger, this man was the last of a particular breed of Englishmen. The world will be a poorer place for their passing.
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Eastern Approaches (Penguin World War II Collection)
Eastern Approaches (Penguin World War II Collection) by Fitzroy MaClean (Paperback - 6 Aug. 2009)
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