A Spy Among Friends

A Spy Among Friends

Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal

Book - 2014
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"Kim Philby was the greatest spy in history, a brilliant and charming man who rose to head Britain's counterintelligence against the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War - while he was secretly working for the enemy. And nobody thought he knew Philby like Nicholas Elliott, Philby's best friend and fellow officer in MI6. The two men had gone to the same schools, belonged to the same exclusive clubs, grown close through the crucible of wartime intelligence work and long nights of drink and revelry. It was madness for one to think the other might be a communist spy, bent on subverting Western values and the power of the free world. But Philby was secretly betraying his friend. Every word Elliott breathed to Philby was transmitted back to Moscow - and not just Elliott's words, for in America, Philby had made another powerful friend: James Jesus Angleton, the crafty, paranoid head of CIA counterintelligence. Angleton's and Elliott's unwitting disclosures helped Philby sink almost every important Anglo-American spy operation for twenty years, leading countless operatives to their doom. Even as the web of suspicion closed around him, and Philby was driven to greater lies to protect his cover, his two friends never abandoned him - until it was too late. The stunning truth of his betrayal would have devastating consequences on the two men who thought they knew him best, and on the intelligence services he left crippled in his wake."--book jacket.
Publisher: New York :, Crown Publishers,, [2014].
Edition: First American edition.
ISBN: 9780804136631
Branch Call Number: BIO PHILBY K. Macintyr 07/2014
Characteristics: xii, 368 pages :,illustrations ;,25 cm


From Library Staff

The best-selling author of Operation Mincemeat presents a definitive portrait of the notorious 20th-century spy that discusses his rise in MI6, high-profile intelligence friendships and 20-year espionage operation that culminated in his 1963 defection to Moscow.

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Jan 27, 2019


Oct 19, 2017

Required reading for all would-be members of the intelligence community in order to avoid the amateurish conduct of the British and American services in the 40's, 50's and 60's.
An excellent history.

Sep 30, 2017

A testament to the power of personality. He was so likable; he so just "fit" their social/cultural milieu. They just didn't want to believe that he was NOT one of them.

Very intriguing. I will have to go back and read more Le Carre and Fleming in light of this amazing true story of WWII and cold war spying and the failure of the Old Boy's network to weed out some of the sociopaths who became double agents.

multcolib_susannel Mar 14, 2016

Greatest British spy or Greatest Cold War Traitor?

True story.

rb3221 Oct 01, 2015

Well written and a very good and riveting story that feels like a novel rather than non-fiction. Macintyre gives us a fascinating account of Philby's friendship with and eventual betrayal of his best friend, and fellow agent Nicholas Elliot and of Angleton, the head of the CIA. Why did Philby become a spy? In Macintyre's view, it was to change the world since "the only bulwark against fascism was Soviet communism... and capitalism was doomed and crumbling." He was an ideological spy that would prove to be staggeringly successful. Philby thought communism was the answer to injustice, poverty and war. Macintyre puts it, "he was the fox not merely guarding the hen-house but building it, running it, assessing its strengths and frailties, and planning its future construction." Incredible but true. His Soviet handler referred to him as 'probably the best ever.'
Macintyre takes the reader through a complex series of events in lives of Philby and Elliot and the other key characters. At one point Elliot comes to Philby's defense when he was suspected and, astonishingly, managed to engineer Philby's return to MI6 (possibly because of the very strong class bound loyalties and rituals within M16).
The big question was whether Philby defected or was allowed to defect. Macintyre strongly suggests the latter as putting him on trail would have shaken the British establishment to the core and clearly shown the huge damage to British intelligence as well as American intelligence under James Angleton (who was 'destroyed' by the defection).
A very enjoyable book, that I would highly recommend. I especially enjoyed the questioning by Elliot trying to get Philby to confess just days before he finally defected.

Jul 10, 2015

A page turner! Hard to put down.

Mar 19, 2015

A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal --- by --- Ben Macintyre. Kim Philby’s career stretched from the years before the Second World War to 1963. He started his career as a handler in Britain’s MI6 and then quickly graduated to double agents, selling secrets to the KGB. A product of Britain’s old-boys class system, no one in the upper class to which he belonged ever believe he could possibly be anything but true and loyal to his class, his club, and his country. And so, in spite of suspicions and charges leveled against him by MI5 more middle-classed operatives, Philby continued his skullduggery until the evidence of his wrong-doing was incontrovertibly overwhelming. Only then did Philby show his true hand and flee to Moscow. This is not and Ian Flemming James Bond spy thriller even though Ian Flemming appears briefly in the book, rather it is true fact. It’s about how one person, perhaps mentally bent, delivered up, literally, hundreds of people to his Russian paymasters in exchange for what, money, or in the belief that what he was doing was for the purpose of bringing about a better world. You won’t read this book in one evening but it is interesting and engaging enough that a few nights should see you through this book.

Mar 12, 2015

Well written

Mar 01, 2015

I could hardly put this book down. It's like sitting at a table over coffee while the author tells you the story. What a look into this clandestine world!

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