The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
New York Times Best Seller
The celebrated author of Double Cross and Rogue Heroes returns with his greatest spy story yet, a thrilling Americans-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the end of the Cold War.
“The best true spy story I have ever read.” (John Le Carré)
If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the savvy, sophisticated Gordievsky grew to see his nation's communism as both criminal and philistine. He took his first posting for Russian intelligence in 1968 and eventually became the Soviet Union's top man in London, but from 1973 on he was secretly working for MI6. For nearly a decade, as the Cold War reached its twilight, Gordievsky helped the West turn the tables on the KGB, exposing Russian spies and helping to foil countless intelligence plots, as the Soviet leadership grew increasingly paranoid at the United States's nuclear first-strike capabilities and brought the world closer to the brink of war. Desperate to keep the circle of trust close, MI6 never revealed Gordievsky's name to its counterparts in the CIA, which in turn grew obsessed with figuring out the identity of Britain's obviously top-level source. Their obsession ultimately doomed Gordievsky: the CIA officer assigned to identify him was none other than Aldrich Ames, the man who would become infamous for secretly spying for the Soviets.
Unfolding the delicious three-way gamesmanship between America, Britain, and the Soviet Union, and culminating in the gripping cinematic beat-by-beat of Gordievsky's nail-biting escape from Moscow in 1985, Ben Macintyre's latest may be his best yet. Like the greatest novels of John le Carré, it brings listeners deep into a world of treachery and betrayal, where the lines bleed between the personal and the professional, and one man's hatred of communism had the power to change the future of nations.
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|Listening Length||13 hours and 20 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||September 18, 2018|
|Publisher||Random House Audio|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #1,325 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#1 in Espionage True Crime
#1 in Military Intelligence & Espionage
#3 in Espionage True Accounts
Reviewed in the United States on February 5, 2021
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Are we beginning to see a pattern here? Is history repeating itself? It's like looking at your reflection in a two-way mirror. You see life from "Both Sides, Now," as in the Joni Mitchell song from many moons ago.
Be that as it may, the book depicts interesting, biographical information about some of the most famous (or infamous) spies of the twentieth century from the U.K., the U.S., and the U.S.S.R. An excellent selection of photographs is included, which represents a virtual "Who's Who" gallery in high-resolution from the shadowy world of cloak and dagger. The book takes you on a virtual tour of the most conservative hot-beds of intrigue you can imagine from around the globe. Make no mistake about it. It's a no-holds-barred, kiss-and-tell book. You can hardly miss, skimming the pages of this book, if you're on a fact-finding mission concerning the secretive intelligence community operating with impunity in the 1960's to the 1990's. What formerly had been considered classified, closely guarded secrets has suddenly "come alive" and become common knowledge. Shocking! I shiver at the mere thought of another "cold war." To think that all of these events actually transpired before the advent of super-fast, high-volume storage, internet-accessible personal computers, thumb-drives, and the foggy cloud of securely triple-encrypted data is mind-boggling.
"Where is Ed Snowden, when you need him to reset a password?"
Most of all, the book provides keen insight into what it takes to make it to the top of the bureaucratic hierarchy in the corporate boardrooms of spy-craft. You are constantly reminded that longevity is never guaranteed in the spy trade. You find out the hard way that building a successful business career in "Her Majesty's" secret service is definitely no accident.
A good spy (and author) can fully describe, characterize, criticize, evaluate, and assess his subject within the space of two or three paragraphs, pointing out all of his flaws, failures, faults, weaknesses, shortcomings, and inadequacies in the process. He knows what he's up against. He reads his adversaries like a book. He knows their limits.
Good luck with that, James! There are ramifications for your actions. You're either on your way up or on your way out the door, when you mix and mingle with that sort of crowd.
R. Royce rode the beach cruiser in a northerly direction to the park proceeding at a pleasant, leisurely pace. He stopped and leaned the bike against the trunk of an old walnut tree, to walk alongside a clear running creek. Oftentimes, he enjoyed reveling in and communing with nature. The weather was warm and sunny, for a winter day. The winds were calm. He noticed the brown paper grocery bag through the branches of a tremendously large, towering maple tree, all camouflaged and concealed by an abundance of leaves. One principal branch had fallen into a great depression in the muddy embankment, due to a lightning strike. It too was covered over with leaves, and partially hidden from the view of prying eyes behind some dense undergrowth and the trunk of a fallen oak. He quickly retrieved the item, then walked back to the bike. He placed the lunch-sack size bag inside the water-proof, rip-stop fabric bike pack which had been velcro-ed on top of the bronze anodized-aluminum rack, affixed to the back of the bike. The metal rack had been firmly attached to the titanium frame with small stainless steel bolts, nuts, and washers, and fit stylishly over the rear wheel. The flat, broad surface of the rack thus placed in this manner had the added advantage of preventing water from spraying up his backside when he rode through water puddles on the sidewalks and in the roadway, much in the same way as a curved metal fender skirting would, but without the narrow space between the tire and the fender becoming clogged up with mud and debris, causing the bike to drag, and not roll as freely, almost effortlessly, as it should. He truly loved the technology, innovation, and ingenuity behind fine craftsmanship.
He climbed aboard the cruiser bike, thought about poor "Pee Wee Herman," and rolled away swiftly downhill. He was elated, and accelerated. It went faster than usual.
"Not bad for a day's work," said Royce, having returned to the apartment, well-exercised and exhilarated. He verified the contents of the bag, which might have contained sandwiches and cans of soda for an impromptu picnic. Except it didn't.
"Don't quit your day job," said Meghan, his constant traveling companion and business associate, seated on a flowery sofa in the living room.
"Some people would kill for a 'Pay-Day' like this," he said, taking a bite out of a warm portion of fruitcake, the shape of a candy bar. He began stacking bundles of $100 bills in two neat piles. The total added up precisely to a total of $65,000.
"One for me, one for you. One for you, two for me," she recited.
"Fair is fair," he said. "Who said money doesn't grow on trees?"
"As long as the assignment doesn't involve extortion, blackmail, or serious bodily injury, we can't lose," said Meghan.
"Simple arithmetic, security and surveillance are all important," said Royce. "Today's task reminds me of the country and western music we heard broadcasted over the public television station airwaves the other night. Two musicians were playing guitars, one acoustic, one electric."
"Their instrumentalist performance was flawless. They sounded absolutely fabulous. One of them sang a song, called 'The Walk of Life.' I don't think I'd exactly call it a recent hit. It sounded more like a popular Cajun tune of the 60's or 70's," said Meghan. "Sticks right in your brain."
Royce pulled out an old guitar case that was "stashed behind the couch," reminiscent of Glen Campbell, on his way to Arizona. He extracted an old wooden dulcimer and began to strum. She began to hum. She scraped a bottle cap over a corrugated, dull gray, galvanized metal wash-board. Ecstatic, they played their roles to the hilt.
"You don't think, they'll miss the money, do you?" he asked.
"Not really. There's plenty more where that came from." she replied, confidently. "Cornelius said he would help the 'Small-Fry' out with a safer, more lucrative part-time job. It's honest work, with incentive pay. The job satisfaction he gains will make it even more rewarding in the long run."
"You're suggesting that 'the Rascal' keeps his job and isn't incarcerated?" asked Royce.
"What are friends for if they can't bail you out, when you make a drastic error in judgement that has the serious consequences and far-reaching implications of an international incident?" asked Meghan. "Selling public information for the greater common good may not seem to be that big of a deal, in all fairness, when your loyalist customer has an obvious need to know and the means to pay big bucks for it. Yet, as we have learned from past experience, there are more important issues at work in the marketplace than the latest fashion trends."
"However convoluted your logic is, I have to admit that making a fashion statement should be a matter of personal taste and preference," said Royce, reflecting for a moment on the gravity of the situation. "The affected individual must ultimately, rationally, and creatively decide for himself which role he is to play. Others will judge him accordingly, however wisely, collectively and humanely."
"Finders, keepers," said Alexis Sue, having been briefed about the operation on the following day. "Losers, weepers!"
"Right," said Cornelius Korn, the most far-sighted and trustworthy member of the group of long-time business associates. "Except, we should have something to trade of equal value, for a win-win situation all the way around."
"They lost their investment capital in a volatile trading day on Wall Street. Our contact in Washington will square the deal. Shall we move on to new business?" asked Royce. He was growing impatient.
"Okay, done deal, said Korn. "By the way, do you know anything about the latest fighter jets?" he inquired, casually changing the subject.
"Not much," said Royce. "You'd need a squadron of military pilots to brief you."
"I can't help you in that department, either," said Meghan. "I've retired and lost my FAA certification."
"In that case, we should stick to strictly civilian pursuits," said Korn. "Keep a low profile and our feet firmly planted on solid ground."
"Agreed," said Royce. "I think we're running low on ammunition, anyway."
"We can always fall back and resume work on our mining interests," suggested Alexis Sue.
"Let's do it," said Meghan. "We're all out of hyper-sonic projectiles."
"We pull the plug on this operation, as of now," said Korn. "I'll notify Washington."
"See you back at the ranch," said Royce.
Much of the second half of the book details the planning that went into a potential exfiltration of Gordievsky from Moscow should the need ever arise. And the need did arise after Gordievsky's exposure as a double agent by career CIA analyst, Aldrich Ames (who, unlike Kim Philby and the Cambridge Five, was just in it for the money to support his and his wife's extravagant taste). In 1985, Gordievsky was summoned to return to Moscow from London upon the KGB learning of his potential duplicity whereupon he was put under intense pressure by the KGB to spill the beans - but he was able to activate the escape plan with MI6. The story of his escape from Moscow, eluding his KGB tails, his hookup with the extraction team and smuggling over the border into Finland in the boot of a car was unputdownable!
I have subsequently checked into the availability of online resources and there are plenty on YouTube etc - so I plan to learn more. But Ben McIntyre is now on my list of authors to read more of - he has written a number of non-fiction books on the world of spies and I plan to check them out.
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Essentially it concerns the remarkable Oleg Gordievsky, but we also learn a great deal about the KGB and British and American espionage and counter espionage.
Gordievsky’s father was a dyed in the wool KGB agent, and as such Oleg grew up in a family that was “well-fed, privileged and secure”. He seemed to be ideally set to follow his father and his older brother, Vasily, into the party machine, and indeed the talented young Oleg joined the Komsomol, with his brother already established as a rising figure in the KGB. All seemed to be set fair for the future. Yet even in his early years he is sensitive to divisions and secrets within the family. His mother, Olga, keeps remote from her husband’s political world and beneath the man for whom the Party was God, Oleg detects in his father, Anton, a “small, terrified man”.
With the death of Stalin, Khruschev assumes power in the Soviet Union. At first there is much talk of the Khruschev Thaw, but the new leader is a tough man, who while purging the Party of many Stalinists and releasing political prisoners, has no intention of loosening the hold on the Soviet bloc. During this time Oleg is beginning to cultivate his yearning for foreign travel and becomes a regular listener to the BBC’s World Service. He is beginning to see a world beyond the confines of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, he idolises his elder brother and his prospects in the party machine are further enhanced by his acceptance at the KGB’s elite training school, specialising in the preparation of “illegals”, the secret, undercover agents as opposed to those who openly hold positions in consulates etc.
In the early 1960s we have the Molody/Lonsdale affair, the Portland Spy Ring and most importantly, perhaps, the defection of Kim Philby. Philby was the highest in rank of all the spies that emerged in these years. His defection was a major blow to the morale of British and American intelligence and the trust between the two countries in this area.
Success in the upper echelons of the KGB presupposed a stable marriage and Gordievsky makes what in effect is a marriage of convenience with Yelena, who is totally committed to the communist cause. While prospering in his KGB career, Oleg is deeply affected by his friendship with the cultivated Czech, Kaplan, by his experiences in East Germany and most of all his time in Denmark, where he delights in the freedom and opens himself to the wonders of classical music and western literature forbidden in Moscow. Vague alienation turns to loathing of the drab conformity of his homeland. Informal contacts are made with the Danish intelligence service PET and Oleg is now disillusioned with his life at home and nourished by western values. He is ripe for turning.
At the same time his career is forging ahead. He is promoted to the rank of Major in the KGB, even as he suffers withdrawal symptoms on returning to Moscow. Key events move things on: the defection of Kaplan, the death of his brother, the appearance of Bromhead, who is to initiate Oleg’s defection as the codename SUNBEAM is born, a secret kept from the CIA.
Mcintyre now picks up the intrigue that leads to the overcoming of suspicions within the intelligence services and the British government and eventually launches PIMLICO, the escape plan should it be necessary to get Gordievsky out of the USSR in a hurry. There are major obstacles ahead. Oleg’s re-marriage is one of them. The activities of an at first unpromising CIA agent, Aldrich Ames is a far more dangerous one. We are also approaching the 1982 nuclear crisis and Andropov’s assumption of supreme power – an old -fashioned, inward -looking ex-KGB officer.
It is not long before Ames will uncover a key KGB agent working for British intelligence, even if his exact identity remains unknown for some time. Ames himself is to rise to become the chief of the CIA’s Soviet counter-intelligence unit and himself to desert to the Soviet cause. Gordievsky is promoted to become Rezident in London, the highest-ranking officer in the KGB in the UK. He is in a position now to pass almost all secret KGB documents to his new friends. Then comes the summons to Moscow. No pressure is placed on Gordievsky but in the end he elects to return. PIMLICO goes on to high alert.
Amazingly, despite their knowledge via Ames, the KGB do no more than question Oleg and his new wife before sending the former to an expensive health resort. PIMLICO is now triggered and the exciting finale to the book is under way. McIntyre, sustains the suspense via precise detail while relentlessly turning the screw till it reaches unbearable tension.
McIntyre deals fully with the aftermath, the meeting with Mrs Thatcher at Chequers, the conviction for treason and the death sentence passed on Gordievsky, the world tour that McIntyre describes as a “one man intelligence roadshow”, through to Gorbachev’s refusal to discuss the issue of Oleg’s family joining him in Britain. Not least is the loneliness that a man in hiding is unable to avoid.
McIntyre, both directly and indirectly gives us a profound insight into the life of an illegal and the lives of espionage agents in general. From early on we see that spies are motivated in many different ways: for ideology, money, sex, blackmail and other far more confused needs. Whereas Ames sends at least 25 people to their deaths for money, others, Gordievsky and Philby among them, were ideologically motivated. As McIntyre tells us at the end, Oleg Gordievsky “is one of the bravest men I have ever met and one of the loneliest.” We are reminded of Kim Philby, who attempted to kill himself. The two, have much in common. Though Philby may have had the sharper intellect and the icier nerve, Gordievsky comes across as the more human figure, a man tortured by his conscience and his personal feelings.
McIntyre is a first-rate writer, lucid and forever not just presenting events, but reaching beyond to the human realities that affect his subjects and all of us. This is a remarkable book. I cannot recommend it too highly.
It is gripping, all the more for recalling the period in which the events took place.
In the epilogue the book continues right up to the poisoning of the Skripals.
I’m rating this 2 stars for the outright bias shown against Labour and British socialism. I don’t particularly sit either side of the fence but the author would do well to provide some balance when attempting to relay supposed factual content. Calling out Labour MP’s, trade Unionists and Guardian journalists constantly just smacks of childish point scoring and not skilled writing. If we were to believe this book then the KGB were only interested in infiltrating one half of the government and a bunch of Liverpool dock workers, I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions but logically it’s difficult to buy into.