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The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake Paperback – 15 Mar 2014
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‘A gripping portrait of one of the Cold War’s most devastating double agents. A real page-turner.’(Caroline Jowett Daily Express)
'One of the most argued-over spy stories of the 20th century is brought thrillingly to life by Roger Hermiston, who avoids the trap of painting his anti-hero only in black and white. Blake was a traitor but also a diligent soldier; he received a 42-year sentence in a trial whose evidence could not be reported. His escape from prison - in a way that would be farcical in any other context - created a kind of legend. At every turn the gripping writing reminds you of a world of spies and betrayal that was so much a part of life in post-war Europe. It makes for a brilliant read: Roger is a brilliant researcher and writer of this painful, colourful chapter in our history; and writes in a way so objective and unslanted that the reader is challenged to decide what to make of his subject. Superb from start to finish.'(Jeremy Vine)
'Thrillingly described'(Choice Magazine - Paperback Book of the Month)
‘Hermiston’s book tells Blake’s backstory in fascinating detail.’(Simon Heffer New Statesman)
'Hermiston’s account is unlikely to be bettered... He makes good use of hitherto undisclosed material and seeks not only to describe but to understand, surely the biographical holy grail.'(Alan Judd Spectator)
***** ‘Hermiston offers a fascinating account of a life in which communism was the only constant. The jailbreak episode is a masterpiece of narrative tension.’(Daily Express)
‘The story of Blake’s arrest, confession, sentencing, imprisonment and escape suggests that Roger Hermiston should be writing spy novels. It is gripping in its detail. Even more appealing is Hermiston’s reluctance to sit in judgement on Blake. As he points out, Blake was not brought up in this country and genuinely saw parallels between his own religious beliefs and Communism. As Blake himself pointed out: “The real spies are those who are not paid and do it for conviction”.’(Scotsman)
'An excellent book that reads more like a spy thriller than a biography'(Tribune)
‘Hats off to Roger Hermiston for bringing to life the exploits of this Second World War resistance fighter turned Soviet agent. Hermiston spins a yarn of high adventure, of a life ennobled by wartime valour only to be laid low by the twisted belief in the means justifying the end, even if this meant betrayal of one’s own country.’(Military History Monthly)
'The bones of Blake’s story are well known. Hermiston’s account, however, adds well-researched details which bring it to life. The result is a book as riveting and tightly written as a John le Carré novel.'(Michael Randle Camden New Journal)
'An enjoyable romp through the life of George Blake, MI6’s deadliest traitor. Roger Hermiston has produced an enjoyable account of the life and works of a creepily amoral man who still betrays an astonishing ability to duck the consequences of his crimes.’(Stephen Robinson Sunday Times)
‘Eastern Europe was riddled with spies throughout the 1950s, but no one on either side amassed such a wealth of information to pass on to the KGB as the double agent, Blake. For decades, Blake had run rings round Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. How did he get away with it; and for so long? The Greatest Traitor and Britain’s mostly closely guarded criminal very nearly had to serve the longest prison sentence (42 years) ever awarded. George Blake’s audacious plan to escape to freedom behind the Iron Curtain by scaling the walls of Wormwood Scrubs came within an ace of discovery. His escape from Wormwood Scrubs in 1966 is thrillingly related by Roger Hermiston.'(Christopher Hudson Daily Mail)
About the Author
ROGER HERMISTON is a journalist and was assistant editor on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme from 1998-2010. It was there that he first encountered George Blake, when editing an interview with the former spy in 1999. His first book, Clough and Revie, was an acclaimed dual biography of two of English football's most famous and controversial managers.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The product bore all the hallmarks of an ex library with the occasional stain on the pages and crease folds, but was in good overall condition, and I am well satisfied with my... Read morePublished 10 months ago by eymunk frattel
not read yetPublished 19 months ago by derek john hyde. as an old soldier I found this Germans experience of service life very interesting,
a superbly written story of the famous British spy who still continues to believe that socialism is the answer to all our woes!Published 19 months ago by Sykes
I thoroughly enjoyed this account of George Blake's life. I had never heard of him and I was totally fascinated with his story. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Noreen Murray
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