New Novel views Kim Philby through the Looking Glass

[This review written for EXAMINER.COM]

Harold Adrian Russell Philby, better known by his prescient nickname, “Kim,” continues to fascinate writers. Having falling prey to this compelling interest myself with my own research and story, I recall what the wife of a famous writer (someone who actively covered the Washington “spy” beat for many years back in the day) once told me when I shared my interest in all things Philby.  She called it an obsession-inducing black hole.

She understated the case.

So I waited for the latest offering from skilled espionage-stuff writer, Robert Littell, with great anticipation.

I wasn’t disappointed.

The recently released novel is called Young Philby. The narrative is voiced by several characters, real people who interacted with Kim Philby throughout his journey from naïve Cambridge student idealism to full-fledged treachery as one of the most notorious Soviet agents in history.  He was a man addicted to what one biographer called “the drug of deceit.”

Along the way in the pages of Littell’s interpretation of Kim’s life, we witness his (presumably) theory about Philby’s development as an espionage agent.  We learn about a key recruiter, an early love interest, and the order of things with relationship to the other well-known Cambridge spies: Guy Burgess, Donald MacLean, and Anthony Blunt.

Littell’s chronology when it comes to the order of recruitment seems to be one of the most fictional aspects of Young Philby, not fitting with the actual history of what happened. But then again, his ultimate speculation in the book about Philby’s real agenda and loyalty is, as well, clear fiction—compelling fiction—but fiction nonetheless.

A good book from an excellent author who knows his genre—Young Philby is a quick read that will linger in your mind.

The Cambridges Spies are Back in the News with Release of Diplomat’s Secret Diaries

Guy Liddell was the deputy director general of MI-5 (sort of like their FBI, with MI-6 being more like CIA, domestic vs. international work—but much more overlap over there) in Great Britain in 1951.

He was also a very good friend to several men who, though also working for the British government–though they actually Soviet spies. It was quite the scandal more than 60 years ago–and it’s all in the news again.

Names like Guy Burgess, Donald MacLean, Anthony Blunt, and especially, Harold Adrian Russell “Kim” Philby, are familiar to anyone interested in the history of espionage in the Cold War. Their stories read like spy novels—but, in fact, this stuff is all too true.

Kim Philby

[Note: I have dealt with these “Cambridge Spies,” along with a lesser known ring of spies at Oxford in my novel, CAMELOT’S COUSIN.]

Guy Liddell was their friend and started figuring things out way too late. Recently his personal diaries were released to the National Archives over there (Kew, in West London) and they are quite revealing:

Spies investigator ‘shared his secrets with Russians’

The man investigating the defection of two of the notorious “Cambridge spies” was unwittingly confiding in members of the same group of Soviet double agents, newly released records reveal.
The personal diaries of Guy Liddell, deputy director general of MI5, have been released to the National Archives in Kew, west London.
They describe the moment when security services realised Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean had fled to the Soviet Union in May 1951.
[To read the complete story in Cambridge University News, CLICK HERE]