Macintyre, Ben, A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal. Toronto: Signal, McClelland & Stewart, 2014. 368. $21.64.
It can be tempting for "serious" historians to dismiss works that are aimed at a more general audience and achieve popular success. Often these dismissals are valid; histography sections and extensive endnotes detailing primary sources do not usually make for page turners. However, a recent generation of historians--and many of them are trained journalists rather than history PhDs--are writing solid historical narratives that can be found not just on the shelves of university libraries but at Barnes & Noble (or, more realistically, Amazon distribution centers) as well. Chief among these historians is Ben Macintyre.
Ben Macintyre's 2014 (1) A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal is not his first book. One of his earlier works, The Englishman's Daughter, (2003) helped inspire me to examine life in occupied France during the First World War for my dissertation. His speciality is spies: including 2008's Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal, and 2011's Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory. In A Spy Among Friends, he brings back to life Kim Philby, often hailed (or condemned) as the greatest double agent of all time. A man many in the know once assumed would someday head MI6, Kim Philby duped his wives, friends, and colleagues in the British spying business for decades, acting as a mole for the Soviet Union. Recruited while still at Cambridge along with two other students, the raison d'etre for his spying career was to help the Communist cause. He fooled everyone for decades. In 1951, when two of his fellow "Cambridge" spies were outed and defected to Russia and voices at MI5 and the CIA were calling for Philby's arrest, he convinced the world through a brilliant media conference and his MI6 friends through his pedigree, that he was innocent. While forced to resign his high-level position, he became a journalist in Beirut and quickly became an agent for MI6 and a double agent for the Soviets once again. When in 1963 the evidence became unsurmountable that Philby was a spy, lax surveillance by his former friends allowed him to defect to Russia, most likely on purpose to avoid the embarrassment of a trial.
Prior to this book there was no dearth of works dedicated to Philby's life; this book adds some detail thanks...