Spies, Lies, and Exile

The Extraordinary Story of Russian Double Agent George Blake

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Pub Date 11 May 2021 | Archive Date 31 May 2021

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“Fascinating, rich, and probing . . . a beguiling and endlessly interesting portrait”—The Wall Street Journal

For fans of John le Carré and Ben Macintyre, an exclusive first-person account of one of the Cold War’s most notorious spies

“Kuper provides a different and valuable perspective, humane and informative. If the definition of a psychopath is someone who refuses to accept the consequences of his actions, does George fit the definition? There he sits, admitting it was all for nothing, but has no regrets. Or does he?” —John le Carré

Few Cold War spy stories approach the sheer daring and treachery of George Blake’s.

After fighting in the Dutch resistance during World War II, Blake joined the British spy agency MI6 and was stationed in Seoul. Taken prisoner after the North Korean army overran his post in 1950, Blake later returned to England to a hero’s welcome, carrying a dark secret: while in a communist prison camp in North Korea, he had secretly switched sides to the KGB after reading Karl Marx’s Das Kapital.

As a Soviet double agent, Blake betrayed uncounted western spying operations—including the storied Berlin Tunnel, the most expensive covert project ever undertaken by the CIA and MI6. Blake exposed hundreds of western agents, forty of whom were likely executed. After his unmasking and arrest, he received, for that time, the longest sentence in modern British history—only to make a dramatic escape to the Soviet Union in 1966, five years into his forty-two-year sentence. He left his wife, three children, and a stunned country behind.

Much of Blake’s career existed inside the hall of mirrors that was the Cold War, especially following his sensational escape from Wormwood Scrubs prison. Veteran journalist Simon Kuper tracked Blake to his dacha outside Moscow, where the aging spy agreed to be interviewed for this unprecedented account of Cold War espionage. Following the master spy’s death in Moscow at age ninety-eight on December 26, 2020, Kuper is finally able to set the record straight.

“Fascinating, rich, and probing . . . a beguiling and endlessly interesting portrait”—The Wall Street Journal

For fans of John le Carré and Ben Macintyre, an exclusive first-person account of one of...


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Featured Reviews

I knew of the author through his football titles but he clearly demonstrated his versatility in this fascinating and well researched biography of one of the forgotten spies of the 60s, George Blake. Sharing his Dutch heritage with the author, Blake opened up to Kuper providing an in-depth account of his spying and why he became a traitor. In reality he did not see himself as British and was a communist ideologue. I was shocked by his apparent naivety and lack of perception- or was it concern - about the consequences of his treachery. The book is fast paced and revealing, particularly about his escape from Wormwood Scrubs. A good and interesting read.

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An interesting novel about a spy during the Cold War. The first hand accounts and personal interviews really brought great depth to the book. It was interesting to understand why the individual did what he did. Thank you to #NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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