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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars intelligence/spy thriller
Initially ,I was unsure whether I would read this tale of intelligence work as I found it difficult to 'like' the main protagonist. But I persevered and soon reached the stage where I did not want to put the book down.a Well crafted tale of British Intelligence work and the uneasy relationship with US (andother) intelligence agencies,plus treachery.Worth the effort...
Published on 27 April 2013 by easyreader

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good background material
Historical facts, rumour and gossip from the Cold War period provide background for this tale.
Although the central character would seem to have more influence on events than is credible, it is a well written story and worth a 'read.'
Published 21 months ago by para3drop


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars intelligence/spy thriller, 27 April 2013
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Initially ,I was unsure whether I would read this tale of intelligence work as I found it difficult to 'like' the main protagonist. But I persevered and soon reached the stage where I did not want to put the book down.a Well crafted tale of British Intelligence work and the uneasy relationship with US (andother) intelligence agencies,plus treachery.Worth the effort
I am now reading all his other books
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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magic and believable blend of fact and fiction, 26 Feb. 2012
By 
Craddock Edwards from Bristol (bristol, uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Midnight Swimmer, The (Paperback)
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Author Edward Wilson was born in the USA and served in Vietnam as an Officer with the 5th Special Forces. He became a naturalised British citizen in 1986 and for the last 30 years has lived and taught in Suffolk. 'The Midnight Swimmer' is his fourth book.

Mixing historical times, places and people with fiction is not a new genre but Wilson does in such a seamless, plausible and convincing way I sometimes had to stop and remind myself I was reading a spy novel, not a work of historical non - fiction. Or was I? Mr Wilson knows his subject well, in this case the ramping up of Cold War tensions in the early 1960's.

Khrushchev is in the Kremlin, desperate to make the West believe the Soviet Union has a much more potent and long range nuclear armory than they actually possess.

Fidel and Che in Cuba willing to allow the Soviets to construct and operate a nuclear missile base in Cuba thus threatening the whole United States.

A youngish JFK in the White House after his father Joesph had supposedly 'purchased' his election victory, trying to live up to his 'macho' image by bedding every secretary or female aide in sight ("the most exciting 30 seconds of my life" said one young lady recipient of the President's sexual favours) and trying to contain hawks from the Chiefs of Staff who want a preemptive nuclear strike against the Soviets. The method suggested that Kennedy Snr used to launder the cash he needed to pay off the mob in Chicago and other 'election' expenses is simplicity itself but of course is a work of fiction. Must be - the author says so at the end of the book.

Into the mix throw the Brits who would decidedly come off worse in any nuclear exchange between the super powers due to their home grown nuke bases plus all the American ones on several bases in the U.K. As Khrushchev once said "In the event of nuclear war, Britain would be sunk like an obsolete aircraft carrier". Maybe the Soviets did not have any/many missiles that could reach the USA but they sure had enough to wipe the UK off the map.

Our 'hero', Catesby, is a 'Cultural Attache' or whatever titles were given to spies operating out of British Embassies abroad, he is a proud member of the British working class who loves his country but is not at all keen on the pompous, public school educated, upper class, establishment types who run it. I guess he is probably a closet socialist. Being as he is fairly expendable and is trusted by the Soviets, although disliked by the Americans, Catesby is used by H.M.G. as a secret envoy to try and use his powers of persuasion to defuse the Cuban missile crisis having been authorised by London to offer a secret deal to Moscow without U.S. knowledge.

There is a fine line between being a spy for your country and being a traitor, also which is the greatest crime - betraying your country or betraying the one you love?

This very sophisticated story is full of twists and turns, the characters (both imaginary and real)are totally credible and I found I could get 'involved' with them. The author is equally at home with the grubby and darker side of the spy trade at ground level as he is with the total immoral and cynical dealings at high government level. All in all a roller coaster of a read although it would help if you have some understanding of the Cold War and especially the Cuban Missile Crisis which probably bought us as close to a nuclear holocaust as we have yet been. The one thing I loved and am quite likely to believe for the rest of my life is the reason given for Marylin Monroe singing 'Happy Birthday'to JFK. I believe it even though I know 'The Midnight Swimmer' is a work of fiction. Isn't it?

I have become an instant fan of Mr Wilson's documentary/historical novel style and intend to read his three previous titles which I believe are written in the same format and look forward to much more of the same from the author's creative and rather progressive attitude to blending history, fact and fiction into extremely readable stories, in this case nearly 300 pages worth.

Hate to go on but this book really did knock me out.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Conradesque genre subversion, 2 Feb. 2012
I have spent some months since reading and re-reading Edward Wilson's three spy novels, trying to identify what it is about them that I like so much. It hasn't been easy, but I think I'm getting there.

The first remarkable thing the writer does is mess, very skilfully, with your head. Without wanting to give anything away, it is all but impossible to reconcile the ending of any book in the series to the beginning of the next. The events simply fail to match up, even though all that's changed is the character from whose perspective they are described.

This feature is of a piece with the dialogue - which gets markedly better from one book to the next. Characters often make remarks that are either too pat, or too neat, or simply sound out of period; taken together with the previous point, you find yourself wondering whose account of events you are actually reading.

For all that these are ostensibly spy novels, they subvert most of what you thought you knew about the Cold War. The spies spend the overwhelming majority of their time spying not on their enemies, but on their allies. The main theme of The Envoy, for example, is America's attempts to ensure Britain does not get a thermonuclear weapon, because this will mean Britain cannot be expended absorbing a Russian first strike. Russia, meanwhile, works energetically to make sure Britain does get a thermonuclear bomb, because although this might be bad for Russia, it would destabilise America more.

In these novels, spying breeds traitors. Spies routinely expect to be betrayed - and indeed expended - by their colleagues, their superiors, their families and their underlings. The most trustworthy people are almost always the other side, because they can be bargained with. Spies themselves have their own agenda. Here, William Catesby, for example, doesn't much care who wins the Cold War, as long as his own country physically survives.

The events here are those of 50 years ago. These are, in effect, historical novels. The historical novel is normally derided because the typical author writes hopelessly wooden characters who fail to drive the historical events credibly. Instead, events are forced onto the characters, who have to fit around them. And then you just don't believe it. Anything by Robert Graves is a stellar exception to this rule, and Edward Wilson's novels are exceptions too. Here, for example, we are presented with an inside account of the real reason why Marilyn Monroe really sang "Happy Birthday" to JFK for his 45th birthday party. I laughed out loud, and came away convinced that it really happened this way. It is often noted that in a Frederick Forsyth thriller you can't actually tell where he stops relating genuine history and where he starts making it up for narrative effect. There is the same seamless plausibility here. Other historical figures are inserted believably into the events, with Robert Kennedy getting particularly unsympathetic treatment, and Che Guevara doing rather well. I have no idea if these portaits are accurate, but they convinced me.

Perhaps inevitably, characters become unable to distinguish between the values they are supposed to be defending and those they are supposed to subverting. Take them out of their comfort zone and they lose their political and even their moral bearings, so that espionage itself begets betrayal.

If you came to any of EW's novels expecting the kind of thing that John Le Carre wrote, I think you would be surprised. It's not all about fiendishly clever double-crossing; not really. On reflection, these are not spy novels at all. They are about how people are morally constructed, about what drives them, about what they value and about what pulls them apart under pressure. In sentiment, and in their focus on character and trust and on where these come from, they are much more literary - so much so that Wilson appeared to me to be channelling Joseph Conrad at times. If the writer of Lord Jim and Nostromo, a Tale of the Seaboard were writing today, I suspect he'd be doing something very like this.

After reading these three books twice, I felt like I had read a reinvention of the spy and the historical novel in one pass.

And I really, really want to believe all the stuff about J. Edgar Hoover.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Booktrail through the spyworld of the 1960s - London, Berlin, Washington and Havana, 7 Aug. 2014
By 
thebooktrailer (Whereever a book takes us) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Midnight Swimmer (Paperback)
Place in time – Early 1960s

Setting – London, Berlin, Washington and Havana

Where fact meets fiction – at the heart of the Cuban missile crisis, the Profumo Affair, the French Connection and precisely why Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday” to JFK.

This is a clever tour of behind the scenes of the diplomatic and spy worlds at a time in history – leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis – where tensions are heightened and no-one or nothing is as it seems.

Fact and fiction merge seamlessly together – our character Catesby who is somewhat of a reluctant spy – almost everything he does, he questions the morality of it and the rights and wrongs of further actions. He has rather an interesting background for a spy – working class, grammar school and then Cambridge before entering the SIS. So, he set up as not quite the outsider anyore but certainly not ‘ one of the boys’ either.

Catesby’s boss, Henry Bone, is introduced early on as he disposes of someone is no longer useful. Further actions and events cause us to wonder who is the hunter and who is the hunter – which must have been the real state of affairs at a time where the Americans and Russian were playing a game of ‘who will blink first’ with the future of humanity. The tension of possible nuclear warfare is lurking…

The murky and shady dealings of the spy setting goes hand in hand with that of the real historical setting and combines for an explosive and fascinating mix. The fictional characters in The Midnight Swimmer become involved with scandal and intrigue on every level – rubbing shoulders with as diverse characters as Harold Macmillan and Che Guevara

Take a shady but thrilling ride along the corridors of the smooth stone walls of La Cabaña of Che Guevara

The ornate embassies of Georgetown, Washington

The fishing villages of Norfolk

Quite a ride.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A superior quality cold war thriller, 25 Feb. 2013
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Like many enjoyable books, took a while to set the scene and establish the lead character. Once into its stride a very enjoyable read with ambitious scope, from Berlin, London, Washington to Havana, successfully evoking the paranoia of the height of the cold war. I loved the description that the protagonists were playing different games, the Americans poker and the Russians chess.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Thought Out Insight Into a Fascinating Period, 23 Jan. 2014
By 
Brett H "pentangle" (Brighton) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Midnight Swimmer (Paperback)
When I have read books set in the Cold War period in the last few years, many of them have come across as rather dated. They do have a certain degree of charm. However, the world has moved on a considerable way, and not necessarily for the better. Hence it is often hard to relate to the atmosphere within international relations which was very much Us and Them, Black and White, Good and Bad. An overwhelming mutual suspicion and misunderstanding of the other's motives by the two sides pervaded.

The Midnight Swimmer is a highly intelligent and well researched novel set within this period. It hits the ground running with Catesby, a British spy and occasional assassin helping to dispose of a corpse. Most of the early action is set in East Berlin, but we then move onto Cuba where the Cuban Missile Crisis is taking shape following Castro's successful revolution in 1959. Historical fact and fiction are carefully blended together so that the whole story has an air of authenticity.

I thought that the insights into this period were very well thought out and quite convincing. The Russians and Americans are playing a game of bluff and double bluff. As the book comments at one point, the Russians are playing chess whilst the Americans are playing poker. Hence there is little understanding between the two. We see JFK in a completely different light to the near saint like persona he assumed following his assassination. Here he is shown as having been elected with the assistance of the mafia, keen to re exert their influence over Cuba, and as a rather gung ho President, very likely to press the nuclear button if he feels it is to America's advantage.

Meanwhile there are plenty of insights into the individuals involved. Catesby himself is highly patriotic, but basically doing his job. Bone, his boss is a complex character whose intentions are less clear. The enigmatic Katya who regularly appears is fascinating. There are plenty of interesting cameos. The cast of characters is large and I do feel this is a book better enjoyed if read in a fairly short space of time to avoid having to mentally recollect who is who.

This is not a book which feels at all dated despite the setting being half a century ago. The reader quickly gets an appreciation of the political atmosphere of the period against which the story is set. The plight of the UK, within reach of the Soviet missiles, which America was not before they were stationed in Cuba is clearly portrayed. Overall this is an excellent book and one I would thoroughly recommend, not just for the very well thought out plot but also for the insights it gives into a fascinating period.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Complex Spy Thriller, 26 Aug. 2013
By 
Mr. Ross Maynard (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Midnight Swimmer (Paperback)
Although not exactly a sequel to "The Envoy", "The Midnight Swimmer" moves similar Cold War spy action forward a decade and does refer to some of the people in the earlier book.

Like the earlier book, this one gives us a complex twisting plot centred around the nuclear threat to Great Britain. It is a gripping and enjoyable read, though I do prefer the earlier book. In "The Envoy" real people and events were subtly threaded into the background of the story to add credibility. Here the real people and events are right at the forefront and I feel that this rather spoils the plot. There are just too many "real-life" coincidences to be credible. In fact the author seems to be having some sort of contest to reference as many real people and events as he can. For me this detracts from an otherwise excellent read.

Overall though, this is a fun and enjoyable read if you like period spy thrillers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars really enjoyed this..., 7 Sept. 2013
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Have never read one of this author's novels before. However, found Catesby a really engaging character. He's a sort of "proper-James Bond" figure. What helps this story is the splashes of real history thrown in throughout.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The midnight swimmer, 22 July 2013
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I was expecting, I think, a run of the mill mystery tale but that is not what this book is. It's much better than that. I thoroughly enjoyed it, found it a very satisfying read. Definitely one to recommend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Midnight Swimmer, 15 July 2013
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Once I got into it I really enjoyed this book, though the relevance of the title doesn't become obvious until near the end. It is a chilling reminder of the Cold War, and how things could have been so very different. I though it was well researched, and if not factual at least pretty plausible, and who ever knows the real story anyway? A good read.
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The Midnight Swimmer
The Midnight Swimmer by Edward Wilson (Paperback - 1 Jun. 2013)
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