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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary true story, often stranger than fiction
I had heard of George Blake and knew at least that he had a dramatic escape from prison, but was surprised at how much richer his story is, encompassing World War II dramas and a Korean 'death march' as well as the well-known espionage. The author does an excellent job of focusing on the interesting stuff and is quite fair on Blake: he acknowledges the harm he did to the...
Published on 26 Mar. 2013 by A reader

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good
This is a good read. If you know little about George Blake then you will enjoy this book which is well put together and is well written.

If you know anything at all about Blake then this treads a well-worn path that reveals little new and doesn't have any great depth of research. We have read the majority of it elsewhere, which is okay, though it is easy to...
Published 23 months ago by Stephen Dorril


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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary true story, often stranger than fiction, 26 Mar. 2013
This review is from: The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake (Hardcover)
I had heard of George Blake and knew at least that he had a dramatic escape from prison, but was surprised at how much richer his story is, encompassing World War II dramas and a Korean 'death march' as well as the well-known espionage. The author does an excellent job of focusing on the interesting stuff and is quite fair on Blake: he acknowledges the harm he did to the British (and Americans) but seems to accept that Blake had his own set of values.

Overall, a really enjoyable account of an amazing life, and one that is still being lived. It would be fascinating to know what Blake himself, still alive in Moscow, would make of this excellent book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake, 21 May 2013
This review is from: The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake (Hardcover)
What really impressed me about this book was the writer's use of previously written works about the subject seamlessly merged with his own meticulous research. Blake's early life on the continent during WW11 and subsequently in Korea where he was taken prisoner just after the outbreak of hostilities there offers a fascinating insight into the moulding of the man's political leanings. He saw in communism ideological similarities with his Calvinist upbringing in Holland and was convinced he was correct in doing what he did to hasten the dawning of a Utopian era which he viewed as being the only way society should function. He acknowledged but turned a blind eye to the excesses of the communist regime in the Soviet Union but readily embraced the changes that came about gradually after the death of Stalin. This book is a must read for anyone with even a passing interest in espionage and reads very novel like in its's approach to post war life in Europe's spy capital Berlin and beyond. It was almost to easy for Blake to escape from Wormwood Scrubs and reach East Berlin but again the author goes into great detail about life in the prison and the characters Blake met with. I could not put this book down a cracking fast paced read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, 10 April 2013
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Stephen Dorril (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake (Hardcover)
This is a good read. If you know little about George Blake then you will enjoy this book which is well put together and is well written.

If you know anything at all about Blake then this treads a well-worn path that reveals little new and doesn't have any great depth of research. We have read the majority of it elsewhere, which is okay, though it is easy to spot the sources, but there really should have been more. Blake's period in MI6 is pretty thin and doesn't take into account some of the Soviet material (good on Korea) and the chunk on the escape from prison is too long. But overall an enjoyable read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE LIFE OF GEORGE BLAKE, 13 Jan. 2014
This review is from: The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake (Hardcover)
Only knowing about the infamous escape from Wormwood Scrubs in the 1960's,the res of the story about George Blake was a revealation. The book covers in an objective manner, the rise and fall of George Blake, and the reasons he took such as a momentous step to spy for the KGB at the expense of his 'home' country, the United Kingdom. Roger Hermiston quotes exactly from George Blake why he took this momentous step. The book was good because it was factual, it left the reader to make the interpretations of the events, and come to their own conclusions about the affair. This book was well written and did not enter into difficult discussions about ideologies, and the reasons for spying.
Good and entertaining read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Story Well Told., 17 Jan. 2015
Roger Hermiston's superb book about George Blake shows us all sides of a fascinating and complex character in a balanced and flowing manner. Blake's story reads like a Le Carre novel,and carries an endorsement from the great man on the front cover. More than just the story of Blake's espionage career it's basically his autobiography. Don't let that put you off if you're only really interested espionage or "spy stories" as it reveals Blake's motivation and inspiration.
Not only is this book very well written,the facts of his escape from prison are related as any fictional prison escape I've ever read,but it's also even handed and shows Blake to have been motivated by the deep seated beliefs of a very intelligent and thoughtful man shaped by what he sees and reads. On reading of his "conversion" it struck me that in today's parlance he would be considered "radicalised" by his experiences,experiences that pushed him towards Communism and a hatred of American foreign policy.
Was he a hero or villain? Having read this book things are not black and white.During his time in Holland during the war he risked his life several times and probably saved the lives of others in Korea.As one of his supporters pointed out he was doing nothing Russian double agents were not doing for their British handlers so if there was illegality they were guilty of it as well.Talking of supporters,Blake appeared to be a respected and charismatic man who attracted admirers wherever he went,from Intelligence community circles to Wormwood Scrubs where he played a big part in prisoner education and gained the loyalty of the inmates.
This book took up all of my free time for two days,the story of a fascinating character well told.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting biography, 15 Jan. 2015
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John Hopper (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a riveting biography of George Blake, the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) officer who spied for the Soviet Union for several years in the 1950s, was discovered, tried and sentenced to the unprecedentedly long prison term of 42 years, sprung from Wormwood Scrubs five years later, and assisted to flee via East Germany to the Soviet Union, where he still lives today at the age of 92. His has been a fascinating life from its earliest days: the son of a British Jewish father and a Dutch mother, he was born and brought up in the Netherlands and never saw himself as British anyway. He helped the Dutch resistance under the Nazis, displaying a necessary predilection for subterfuge. He joined MI6 in the late 1940s and while working in South Korea was taken prisoner by the North Koreans during the war on the peninsula, when Kim Il Sung's forces at the height of their success swept south and captured the South Korean capital. During that time he offered his services to the Soviets, having become genuinely convinced that communism, for all its faults in practice, offered in principle a better and more just future for humankind. He was always clear that he spied on this basis and never for personal gain, so can be said to be, at one level, a man of principle, despite the damage that his actions caused for Western security and the probable (though not entirely proven) deaths of British agents. It was this feature, plus the length of his sentence, compared to the comparatively more lenient treatment of the Cambridge Five and the atomic spy Klaus Fuchs, that prompted sympathy from him on the inside and efforts by the peace campaigners Michael Randle and Pat Pottle, and petty criminal Sean Bourke, to spring him from prison and assist in his fleeing to the Soviet Union. Randle and Pottle were eventually tried for the springing much later in 1991, but acquitted by the jury. Blake settled into Soviet life better than Philby or Burgess (Maclean also settled in well) and married a Russian lady and had a son. As recently as 2007 he was awarded an Order of Friendship medal by Putin (an award that has also been bestowed on Prince Michael of Kent and Rowan Williams, among others). A fascinating story of the long, colourful and controversial life.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of anyone who has an interest in the Cold War., 5 Nov. 2014
A good solid account of George Blake the MI6 agent who, in the course of nine years betrayed details of some 40 MI6 agents to the Soviets, destroying most of MI6's operations in Eastern Europe.

I'd read Sean Bourke's book The Springing of George Blake quite a few years back and have been fascinated by this case. Particularly how the small group of non-soviet sympathisers helped to organise his escape from Wormwood Scrubs prison and subsequent journey to East Germany.

The book covers in detail his early life, capture in the Korean war and particularly the solidifying of his political views as a result his experiences.

Worthy of anyone who has an interest in the Cold War.

Anyone know of anything similar on the Portland Spy Ring? That story is definitely worth a book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a fiction book, 23 May 2013
This review is from: The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake (Hardcover)
It has been a long time since I read a book cover to cover in one sitting, but this is exactly what happened when I read The Greatest Traitor by Roger Hermiston. This non-fiction books embeds the reader in the life of George Blake, a fascinating character from a complicated background who was at most of the major geo-political events of the mid 20th Century and, as it happened, was influencing many of them in sinister ways. The George Blake story is well known and documented, but Hermiston captures the story of the man and the era and in doing so delivers a page turner to match any work of fiction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Traitor, 25 May 2013
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This review is from: The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake (Hardcover)
This is an extremely interesting account of the circumstances that turn a loyal citizen into a traitor. It is fascinating to read about the brutal treatment that George Blake and other POWs suffered at the hands of the communist North Korean regime during the Korean war and how, in spite of all that, he decided to become a communist himself, taking advantage of the post he held with MI 6 in Berlin to become a double agent and to pass on military secrets of the western military powers. Psychologically fascinating and very readable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A spotlight on an often forgotten Cold War spy scandal, 11 Aug. 2014
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This book is a real page-turner. Well written and well researched it shines a light not only on the murky world of MI6 and international spying, but also on some largely forgotten bits of 20th century history in the Korean War. It also paints a good picture of post war Europe and has a good vignette of late 1950s Lebannon. I would thoroughly recommend it.
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The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake
The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake by Roger Hermiston (Hardcover - 4 April 2013)
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