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VINE VOICEon 1 February 2010
This is one of those books that I came to late in the game, but after perusing the first page of "Spycatcher", I couldn't put it down for three days! One of the reasons that I resisted reading it was that various espionage writers have criticized the book for its inaccuracies (So he got the date of Philby's interrogation wrong!). I am actually glad that I read the thesaurus of other espionage books including "The Second Oldest Profession," "The Crown Jewels," "My Silent War," "The Philby Files," "Anthony Blunt," (etc.) first, because by the time I read "Spycatcher," I was thoroughly familiar with the multifarious cast of characters. However, as much as I have enjoyed other espionage books, "Spycatcher" surpasses them in one respect: it gives details of tradecraft--now certainly outdated, but nevertheless fascinating--that are impossible in an account of Philby or Blunt who, by necessity, had to remain silent about the fine particulars of their work in intelligence--whether Soviet or British (In "Crown Jewels," Mr. West gives us a glimpse of such details, which the opening of the KGB archives has made accessible.).

Peter Wright lets the reader peek over his shoulder as he installs--what were at that time--sophisticated bugs behind convincing false doors at midnight. He also gives the reader a good chuckle when such operations go disastrously awry and floors collapse or cables are cut, and the work has to begin all over again.

The author writes a wry account of brazen Russian agents importuning numerous passers-by in various London parks in an effort to "turn" them into Soviet assets, until the police, at Wright's instigation, out-brazen the agents by threatening to arrest them for harassment of British subjects. He also informs us of MI5's system of Watchers, who were posted all over London and its environs, whose chief duty was to tail diplomats and cypher clerks from the Soviet embassy (A memorable moment occurs when 105 Russians are declared PNG and expelled from Britain in 1971--an event I recall seeing on television.).

The author's anecdote of Klop Ustinov (actor Peter's father), who had served British Intelligence so faithfully and effectively (at great peril) throughout World War II, and who was living in penury without a pension, is particularly poignant, probably to highlight Wright's own predicament in the pension department at the end of his career (Desmond Bristow of SIS relates a similar story of official cheese-paring in "A Game of Moles.").

The thrust of "Spycatcher" is to build a case against Roger Hollis, the former Director General of MI5, who was at the helm when so many of Wright's operations went wrong. Whether Hollis was a Soviet agent or not (Bristow, who believed that the British intelligence agencies were riddled with Soviet penetration agents, echoes Wright's suspicions in "A Game of Moles."), Peter Wright builds an intriguing circumstantial case against him, noting that the leaks to the Russians and the ruined operations stopped after Hollis had retired. As far as Wright was concerned, the case against Hollis was not proven but the suspicion remained. It was to haunt him the rest of his life.
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VINE VOICEon 30 January 2010
This is one of those books that I came to late in the game, but after perusing the first page of "Spycatcher", I couldn't put it down for three days! One of the reasons that I resisted reading it was that various espionage writers have criticized the book for its inaccuracies (So he got the date of Philby's interrogation wrong!). I am actually glad that I read the thesaurus of other espionage books including "The Second Oldest Profession," "The Crown Jewels," "My Silent War," "The Philby Files," "Anthony Blunt," (etc.) first, because by the time I read "Spycatcher," I was thoroughly familiar with the multifarious cast of characters. However, as much as I have enjoyed other espionage books, "Spycatcher" surpasses them in one respect: it gives details of tradecraft--now certainly outdated, but nevertheless fascinating--that are impossible in an account of Philby or Blunt who, by necessity, had to remain silent about the fine particulars of their work in intelligence--whether Soviet or British (In "Crown Jewels," Mr. West gives us a glimpse at such details, which the opening of the KGB archives has made accessible.).

Peter Wright lets the reader peek over his shoulder as he installs--what were at that time--sophisticated bugs behind convincing false doors at midnight. He also gives the reader a good chuckle when such operations go disastrously awry and floors collapse or cables are cut, and the work has to begin all over again.

The author writes a wry account of brazen Russian agents importuning numerous passers-by in various London parks in an effort to "turn" them into Soviet assets, until the police, at Wright's instigation, out-brazen the agents by threatening to arrest them for harassment of British subjects. He also informs us of MI5's system of Watchers, who were posted all over London and its environs, whose chief duty was to tail diplomats and cypher clerks from the Soviet embassy (A memorable moment occurs when 105 Russians are declared PNG and expelled from Britain in 1971--an event I recall seeing on television.).

The author's anecdote of Klop Ustinov (actor Peter's father), who had served British Intelligence so faithfully and effectively (at great peril) throughout World War II, and who was living in penury without a pension, is particularly poignant, probably to highlight Wright's own predicament in the pension department at the end of his career (Desmond Bristow of SIS relates a similar story of official cheese-paring in "A Game of Moles.").

The thrust of "Spycatcher" is to build a case against Roger Hollis, the former Director General of MI5, who was at the helm when so many of Wright's operations went wrong. Whether Hollis was a Soviet agent or not (Bristow, who believed that the British intelligence agencies were riddled with Soviet penetration agents, echoes Wright's suspicions in "A Game of Moles."), Peter Wright builds an intriguing circumstantial case against him, noting that the leaks to the Russians and the ruined operations stopped after Hollis had retired. As far as Wright was concerned, the case against Hollis was not proven but the suspicion remained. It was to haunt him the rest of his life.
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on 24 November 2005
This is above all an entertaining book really. There is something about it that makes you want to re-read it again after you just finished. I gave it four stars cause it starts to plod a bit say two thirds in, although picks up again towards the end. It tells the story of Wright's career, his eventual job as a spy catcher within MI5, some of the more famous spys he dealt with and MI5's relations with MI6, GCHQ the FBI and CIA.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 March 2014
When I brought this book home I was greeted with comments that it was very dull, but that was from someone who had never read it. I have since suggested to that person that they really should read it. I found it anything but dull, in fact it was completely fascinating and I was hooked. I read it in two days but that was two days of intense reading. Obviously the reader starts the book with knowledge of many of the events, which the author didn't have at the beginning of his investigations, and it is hard not to search for clues in the text and to be impatient to find them. Even though I know that certain suspicions were never proved, but I was hoping that there might be a confession which was quietly "filed" as others had been previously, and was eagerly looking forward to the denouement, but sadly that didn't happen. Not being a novel there was no neat ending to this spy drama but there is much for the author to feel satisfied about as he achieved a great deal in his career.
Although I am convinced that the technology has moved on tremendously since the times told of here, I am amazed at the ingenuity displayed in creating their own technology, even if it wasn't as Heath Robinson as it appeared to be. Whilst the real MI5 and MI6 were a world away from the fantasy spy world of fiction, there really is a lot which is congruent. The creativity involved in obtaining information was extraordinary, yet so was the level of deliberate disinformation and the deflation when the Soviets so often immediately found the listening devices, and removed either the devices, or the desirable conversations from their proximity. The reasons for those things soon become clear however.

I found this book engrossing and informative, I enjoyed reading the whole story behind events which I have only had a sketchy idea of for many years.
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on 14 January 2010
I found the book quite interesting and entertaining to read. Although at times I was struggling to keep up with all the names of people and organizations.
I have no idea whether everything in the book is true but assuming most of it is quite close to reality the book gives a good insight into what MI5 was like 40 years ago.
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on 1 October 2007
Much of the notoriety of this title is because it was banned in the UK when first launched back in 1987. The steady stream of imported copies into the UK and US publication meant that the authorities eventually gave up.

The title is interesting because of the insight it gives into the then day to day workings of the intelligence services. However, depending on whom you believe, its central assertions are now largely discredited. So if you do purchase it don't take it all at face value.
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on 24 April 2014
I smuggled a copy into the UK from Holland..:) Bit dated now though. Shows how governments hate the truth to come out. Which has not changed.​
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on 17 July 2007
I think the technical and beaurocratic detail makes this book what it is, a fascinating insight into the real intelligence services. It's not Flemming and why would it be? Oddly enough it's not a million miles from early Len Deighton and John le Carre. They also write at length about the beaurocratic nonsense that plagued the 1950s/60s MI5/SIS. I get the feeling after reading Spycatcher and others that a real 1960s Bond would have spent a good deal of time trying to explain his extravagent expenses and generally being hounded for paperwork. Wonderful stuff, highly recommended
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on 13 April 2015
The condition of the book was as described .I read "Spycatcher" a long time ago and decided to read it again before reading biographies of the "Cambridge Five", it made for very interesting reading and I remember thinking,whenI finished reading it first time round "No wonder Mrs T. banned its publication in Britain".
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on 31 July 2014
Read it before, when it was banned. Still every bit exciting, a good read.
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