Sunday, November 1, 2015


The latest biography of Guy Burgess, one of the Cambridge spies and a very interesting read it is.

All the previous articles and books I've read on Burgess tend to show him as an alcoholic promiscuous homosexual who was not much of a spy.  This book however highlights how he was a very very intelligent individual who but  for a few quirks of fate may have gone on to be a high ranking navel officer or a Cambridge Don.

The book also contends that he was the glue that held the Cambridge spies together due to his dedication to his Marxist ideology.

It is established that Burgess supplied the Russians with amounts of information so vast much of it will not have been looked at even today.  Most of this information was irrelevant but he was so dedicated that he literally took suitcases of documents to his masters.

He was alcoholic, very promiscuous and either utterly charming or repulsive depending on who was being spoken to.  One thing all persons interviewed agreed on on that his personal hygiene left a lot to be desired.

This is a fascinating read and sheds light on one of the five who has not been given the attention by historians in the past.

Again as with all the books on the Cambridge spies no due diligence was done on Burgess prior to him working for the government.  Burgess was a leader of the Cambridge University Communist party, was publicly involved in all sorts of actions on their behalf but "no worries" later on he just told everyone he'd "given up". Again, this was accepted because he was an Eton old boy and he had given his word.  Again staggering, the same happened with Philby.

Reading this he does sound like he would have been great fun to have several drinks with at almost anytime.

Highly recommended

TRIGGER MORTIS - Anthony Horowitz

The latest in a series of 'James Bond' re-boots written by guest authors and its not bad.  The story is set three weeks after the end of 'Goldfinger' with Bond back in London have a break with Pussy Galore the unrivaled female lead name in the series for making school boys giggle.

Bond goes Formula 1 racing at the  Nurburgring as you do and goes up against SMERSH directly who have a dastardly plot to cause havoc as usual.

Horowitz writes in the Fleming style well, this is much better than the last Bond book by William Boyd.  There is a good villain who perhaps could have done with a bit more air time in the book but good escapists fun and Horowitz should get another outing.  The proviso on this is, as long as he doesn't attempt to do with the Bond series anything like he did with Sherlock Holmes in "Moriarty'.

CARTEL - Don Winslow

This is the sequel to "Power of the Dog" set several years in the future.

It covers a a ten year period with a DEA agent ,Art  Keller, attempting to track down a Mexican drug cartel boss, Adan Barrera.

Firstly, the book is about 200 pages too long, we have a characters introduced and disposed of for no other reason than to have a grisly death.

The second problem I have with the book is the grisly deaths.  I know that these cartels specialize in spectacularly horrid deaths for those they want to dispose of but it seems at times every third page describes a beheading, de-limbing or disembowelment.  After the first three hundred beheadings they lose their shock value, take up space and appear as padding.

The book highlights the corruption that is rife in Mexico and Central America that allows these cartels to flourish, when you have police earning $100 per month and they're offered $10,000 to look away its understandable.

Winslow can write much better than this,( Savages, The Winter of Frankie Machine) the book feels dictated.  His novels are starting to be made into films which again makes me  think this has a film or TV series payday in mind.

If this had been edited tighter and the rather weak ending tidied up it would have been much more satisfying.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


The second book in the "Karla" trilogy and this must be the 5th or 6th time I've read it and even though I know the story back to front there's still something new every time.

The "Circus" is in turmoil after Bill Haydon was discovered to be a Soviet agent in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", Smiley is the temporary head and sets out to uncover a sleeper agent in Hong Kong.

To assist he activates part time agent ,The Honourable Gerald 'Jerry' Westerby.

From here we have a story set in South East Asia  during the last days of the Vietnam War and the back rooms of London.

This story is often over looked as a real Smiley novel with many jumping to Smileys People, but I think its one of the best, certainly the saddest.  You don't have to have had read the previous book  as this stands alone but you should.

In fact if you are over 12 years of age you should have read the series. Brilliant 11/10.

DON'T TELL ALFRED - Nancy Mitford

This is the third book in the Fanny Logan "series" following "Love in a Cold Climate" and "The Pursuit of Love" and its one book too far.

Where the first two were full of quirky characters and poked fun at the UK upper classes this one has none of this.

Fanny is still married and her husband out of the blue is posted to Paris as the British Ambassador. The book revolves around events during this ambassadorship.  There's smiles but no belly laughs, characters appear from the previous books but it is all a bit lame.

This was very hard work and not recommended especially if you loved the first two novels like I did.

MR CALDER & MR BEHRENS - Michael Gilbert

Another re-read featuring the two retired MI 6 spies who now work for a shadowy intelligence section which involves them disposing of enemies of the state.

This collection of short stories is brilliant. Gilbert only wrote the two collections which is a shame. They are much better than the Ashenden stories and have lots of humour.

I've never seen them in book form in New Zealand, I got the books on Kindle but they are available on Amazon.

Money well spent.  They deserve the re-read every few years

GAME WITHOUT RULES - Michael Gilbert

A re-read featuring the retired spies Calder & Behrens.

The kill and solve problems with much humour.  These will get read again and again.