Who was Kim Philby? Those closest to him—like his fellow MI6 officer and best friend since childhood, Nicholas Elliot, and the CIA’s head of counterintelligence, James Jesus Angleton—knew him as a loyal confidant and an unshakeable patriot. Philby was a brilliant and charming man who rose to head Britain’s counterintelligence against the Soviet Union. Together with Elliott and Angleton he stood on the front lines of the Cold War, holding Communism at bay. But he was secretly betraying them both: He was working for the Russians the entire time.
Every word uttered in confidence to Philby by his colleagues in the West made its way to Moscow, leading countless missions to their doom and subverting American and British attempts to subdue the Soviet threat. So how was this cunning double-agent finally exposed? In A Spy Among Friends, Ben Macintyre expertly weaves the heart-pounding tale of how Philby almost got away with it all—and what happened when he was finally unmasked.
Based on personal papers and never-before-seen British intelligence files, this is Ben Macintyre’s epic telling of one of the greatest spy stories ever, a Cold War history that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
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Excerpted from "A Spy Among Friends"
Copyright © 2014 Ben Macintyre.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Apprentice Spy 3
Chapter 2 Section V 19
Chapter 3 Otto and Sonny 35
Chapter 4 Boo, Boo, Baby, I'm a Spy 52
Chapter 5 Three Young Spies 68
Chapter 6 The German Defector 79
Chapter 7 The Soviet Defector 90
Chapter 8 Rising Stars 106
Chapter 9 Stormy Seas 124
Chapter 10 Homer's Odyssey 142
Chapter 11 Peach 158
Chapter 12 The Robber Barons 174
Chapter 13 The Third Man 190
Chapter 14 Our Man in Beirut 208
Chapter 15 The Fox Who Came to Stay 220
Chapter 16 A Most Promising Officer 232
Chapter 17 I Thought It Would Be You 244
Chapter 18 Teatime 256
Chapter 19 The Fade 268
Chapter 20 Three Old Spies 283
Afterword John le Carré 295
Select Bibliography 355
A Q&A with Author Ben Macintyre
Q: What inspired you to turn your hand to Kim Philby—greatest spy of the Cold War—and, in particular, through the lens of his closest relationships and greatest betrayals?
A: A SPY AMONG FRIENDS was born out of a conversation with John le Carré some years ago, in which I asked him—while walking on Hampstead Heath—which was the best untold spy story of the Cold War, and he replied unhesitatingly, “The friendship between Kim Philby and Nicholas Elliott.”
Q: Did you make an effort to read other books or watch movies about Kim Philby before you wrote this book? Are there any others you’d recommend after reading A Spy Among Friends?
A: There are several excellent books about Kim Philby, and almost no good films. Of the straight biographies, Phillip Knightley’s Philby: KGB Masterspy is probably still the best, having the benefit of several interviews with Philby before his death. Oddly, Philby has inspired more great fiction, on the page and on-screen, than good nonfiction.
Q: Where (or how) did you conduct most of your research, and did you encounter any difficulties or roadblocks along the way?
A: My research was a combination of archival research, gathering material from private sources, and interviews with individuals, including some in the intelligence services. The principal roadblock is the fact that MI6 has not released its Philby files, and probably never will. MI5 [the security service], however, is much more open, and a quantity of new material relating to Philby has recently been released.
Q: In the research you did for this book, what single fact or story most horrified you?
A: The sheer extent of the bloodshed Philby unleashed by betraying Operation Valuable, the inaptly named mission to insert insurgents into communist Albania: hundreds were killed, and many entire families were wiped out.
Q: Do you think Philby’s betrayal had lasting effects on either the British secret services or their relationship with our own CIA?
A: Certainly. The intelligence relationship between London and Washington, so warm and valuable during the war, went into a sharp decline as a result of the betrayal by Philby and the other Cambridge spies: the CIA never saw MI6 (and MI6 never saw itself) in quite the same light again.
Q: What’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you as a result/part of your career as a writer?
A: For this book, being able to explore Kim Philby’s abandoned and derelict apartment in Beirut was probably the most atmospheric moment of the research process. I stood on the balcony, pitted with bullet holes from Lebanon’s civil war, from which he signaled his Soviet controller that he needed to flee. The next day, he absconded to Moscow.
Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
I would love to think I would have made a good spy, but on reflection, having been immersed in this world for nearly eight years, I think I would be hopeless at intelligence work—an inability to keep a secret being one of my main failings. I suspect if I did not write, I would be teaching history.
Q: What “comfort” books do you keep in order to re-read when you are in need of something really good?
A: When I am writing, I find that I dip back into John le Carré, who provides just the atmospheric lift and inspiration I need. For pure, unadulterated relaxation and pleasure: Wodehouse, Waugh, and William Boyd.
Q) What’s next for you?
A: Almost certainly, more spies. I have found that writing about real espionage offers an extraordinary backdrop for exploring all the concepts that fascinate us in fiction: loyalty, betrayal, friendship, politics, and love. The history of intelligence is opening up as never before, as more and more secret material is released into the public domain.