The best books on Kim Philby

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Kim Philby and why they recommend each book.

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By Tim Powers,

Book cover of Declare: A Novel

A Cold War Era Spy Thriller that draws heavily on real historical events and persons, Declare ups the stakes enormously with the inclusion of Weird entities of devastating power. The spy game between East and West is often centered around new technological superweapons, but in this novel the weapons are literally apocalyptic.

In a world where no one is what they seem to be and allies may become enemies in the blink of an eye, Andrew Hale learns that not all of the players are human and that the real Great Game has been going on since the creation of the world.

Who am I?

While I have often been described as a Fantasy author, I have never found the genre descriptions Fantasy and Science Fiction to be terribly useful. They describe things that exist in the story, and maybe where the story takes place, but not what the story is about. The designation Paranormal Romance lets the reader know that Romance is what the story is about, it's just romance with characters who go bump in the night in more ways than one. In the same way, my stories usually involve fantastic or futuristic elements, but the stories are the same as you'd find in mainstream fiction—Crime, Mystery, Adventure, Exploration, Romance. Only, you know, with dragons and wizards. 

I wrote...

Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts: The Case Files of Erik Rugar

By Misha Burnett,

Book cover of Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts: The Case Files of Erik Rugar

What is my book about?

It's hard to hunt wizards and demons when all you have is a gun and badge. 

Erik Rugar is a cop in Dracoheim, a city built on magic and ruled by a dragon. He works for the Committee of Public Safety, the city agency that licenses commercial magic. Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts is a collection of interrelated short stories that show the dark side of the wizard business.

Kim Philby

By Tim Milne,

Book cover of Kim Philby: A story of friendship and betrayal

Kim Philby’s most personal betrayal was not of Nicholas Elliott, as suggested in Ben McIntyre’s A Spy Among Friends , but his school friend and another MI6 colleague Tim Milne , the nephew of Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne, whom he falsely accused of being a spy in order to deflect attention from himself. Milne’s memoirs were finally permitted to be published four years after his death and provide a fascinating and fresh glimpse into both Philby and Burgess especially Milne’s teenage European travels with Philby and his August 1948 visit to Philby in Turkey where he remembered fellow guest Burgess ‘lolling in a window seat, dirty, unshaven, wearing nothing but an inadequately fastened dressing-gown”, singing on jeep rides into the countryside and  diving into the Bosphorus from a second floor balcony.

Who am I?

Andrew Lownie is a former journalist for The London Times, the British representative for the Washington-based National Intelligence Centre, and he helped set up the Spy Museum in Washington. His books include biographies of the writer John Buchan, the spy Guy Burgess (which won the St Ermin’s Hotel Intelligence Book Prize), Dickie & Edwina Mountbatten (a top ten Sunday Times bestseller) and a forthcoming book on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

I wrote...

Stalin's Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring

By Andrew Lownie,

Book cover of Stalin's Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring

What is my book about?

Guy Burgess was the most important, complex, and fascinating of "The Cambridge Spies"―Maclean, Philby, Blunt―brilliant young men recruited in the 1930s to betray their country to the Soviet Union. An engaging and charming companion to many, an unappealing, utterly ruthless manipulator to others, Burgess rose through academia, the BBC, the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6, gaining access to thousands of highly sensitive secret documents which he passed to his Russian handlers.

In this first full biography, Andrew Lownie shows us how even Burgess's chaotic personal life of drunken philandering did nothing to stop his penetration and betrayal of the British Intelligence Service. Even when he was under suspicion, the fabled charm which had enabled many close personal relationships with influential Establishment figures (including Winston Churchill) prevented his exposure as a spy for many years.

The Human Factor

By Graham Greene,

Book cover of The Human Factor

Describing any book as the best of its kind is controversial but few writers in any genre can match one of the true literary giants of the 20th century. Greene worked for MI6 in West Africa during the Second World War before coming back to England where he worked alongside Kim Philby countering German spies based in Portugal and Spain. Elements of his sympathy for Philby, a KGB agent at the heart of MI6, are evident in The Human Factor, where MI6 officer Maurice Castle finds himself embroiled in an investigation into leaks to the KGB from within his section. The book reeks of authenticity but it is the brilliance of the writing, ramping up the tension from seemingly mundane incidents, which produces such a riveting thriller. 

Who am I?

I’m a former military intelligence officer who left the British Army to become a journalist, initially with the BBC, then with The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times, working as a war correspondent in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and breaking a number of key stories, including the infamous Downing St Memos which exposed the truth about the intelligence that led to the 2003 war in Iraq. I have written a number of books on intelligence, including the UK number one bestseller Station X and the New York Times bestseller Killer Elite.

I wrote...

Ritter: No Man Dies Twice

By Michael Smith,

Book cover of Ritter: No Man Dies Twice

What is my book about?

No Man Dies Twice is the first book in a series about Peter Ritter, a German detective during the Second World War who investigates a series of murders connected to a plot by the British Special Operations Executive to kill Hitler. The British secret service MI6 is violently opposed to the idea of assassinating the German leader, partly because he is a poor general whose plans will inevitably lead to Germany’s defeat but also because killing him will create a martyr around whom the German people will rally. Ritter’s old-fashioned determination to do his job regardless of what his Nazi bosses want, and the danger that poses to him, leave him with only two possible allies, the Gestapo or a woman he believes to be a ruthless British spy.

A Spy Among Friends

By Ben Macintyre,

Book cover of A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal

A nonfiction selection. It’s an extraordinary book telling an extraordinary true tale. I found it a page-turner; Macintyre’s storytelling ability makes the book read like a classic spy thriller. It’s dramatic and insightful and cruelly entertaining, considering Kim Philby was perhaps one of the most successful Soviet spies working in the west and responsible for countless foiled MI6 and CIA missions and the deaths of hundreds of pro-western agents. Macintyre has an enviable ability to craft engaging and compelling stories with wit, charm, and panache about people who exuded wit, charm, and panache with a dangerous sideline in betrayal. The issues of friendship, loyalty, class, and betrayal make for a captivating read. I had to keep reminding myself that the story is chillingly true.

Who am I?

I have loved espionage and crime thrillers—beach reads and lit fictionsince my early teens. If the plots involve ordinary people being pulled into extraordinary events with action and romance, then I’m hooked. I have studied Ian Fleming and James Bond and have taught university classes on the subject. I believe that we can learn a lot about our culture, society, and human nature from a well-written novel. I enjoy the flexibility the genre allows and I have added resonant events, history, music, and connections to my Welsh homeland in my novels.

I wrote...

Fit For Purpose

By Julian D. Parrott,

Book cover of Fit For Purpose

What is my book about?

Former soldier Tom and actress Nia are emotionally bruised by life, don’t realize how lost and lonely they are until accidentally meeting during a transatlantic flight. They are irresistibly drawn to each other embarking on a relationship, bouncing between Nia’s bohemian life in London to Tom’s quiet existence on a narrowboat on a Welsh canal. Their love burns with an intensity that surprises Tom and frightens Nia. Just as their lives appear to meld, the relationship—and their lives—are put in jeopardy when Tom’s past unwittingly pulls them into a Russian plot to assassinate Kremlin opponents. A Russian hit squad is operating in the UK and Tom and Nia find themselves fighting for survival against a ruthless Russian colonel hell-bent on revenge. 

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