Monday, March 24, 2014

A SPY AMONG FRIENDS: KIM PHILBY AND THE GREAT BETRAYAL - Ben MacIntyre



Kim Philby was a vile human being, not only did he send hundreds directly to their deaths he is implicated in the deaths of thousands, he drove one wife to suicide and deserted another.

But Kim Philby was " one of us " - "us" being an old Etonian, a member of the upper class so he couldn't have been a spy, it just wasn't done by old Etonians.  What was staggering and has been the subject of several books, it was known he was a spy but his friends managed to get him re-instated to the extent that he was allowed to work again for MI6, once again because he was "one of us".

He hoodwinked the British and American Intelligence communities for over 30 years.  It actually makes an oxymoron of intelligence" after you have read this.

As noted there are lots of books about Philby but for me this is the best in that there is no pretence, no excuses, it states he was scum ( my word) and proves it, there is nothing redeemable about the man.  Its been said he was loyal to friends but this isn't true either as be betrayed their every confidence.

This is a great  read, it says much about the class system through which a man is accepted into the secret world because he was at Eton 'with me'.  This attitude got many brave people summarily executed.




AN ENGLISH AFFAIR:SEX CLASS AND POWER IN THE AGE OF PROFUMO - Richard Davenport- Hines



A social history set against the back drop of the Profumo Scandal.  The book starts with mini biographies of all the main players starting with Harold MacMillan through to all the newspaper owners.

The scandal wasn't really much of a scandal as this book shows.  What the book really shows is that the level of class and police corruption was absolutely staggering.  Stephen Ward was driven to suicide by the British establishment pure and simple, because he wasn't one of them.

Profumo does not come out of this with any honour either, the myth that dedicated his life to good works after this is just that, a myth, he was someone who could not leave women alone and remained this way until he died.

The level of police corruption is equaled by the enormous power that was misused by the newspapers and this misuse seems to have been accepted.  It may have been done and I am  unaware of it but the newspapers in this matter are worth a book on their own.

A great social history and gives a great view of Britain as it came to change in the early 1960's.







VIVA LA MADNESS - J J Connolly



The sequel to 'Layer Cake'.  We have the unnamed hero brought out of drug dealer retirement in the Caribbean for a big score back in England.

We have a big cast of London and South American crooks.  One set of crooks have ripped off another set of crooks and there is potentially a billion dollars up for grabs.

There is great dialogue and spectacular random violence.   For me its the dialogue that makes the book, it sparkles.The entire thing is very "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and is brilliantly entertaining until the last twenty pages when it seems the author decided that he needed to go to the pub and just ended it. The wrap is too cute and leaves several threads hanging.  This may mean another book but it was a bit of a disappointment as I was expecting several nasty individuals to get their deserts.

Good fun but don't read if really foul language offends.

Monday, March 17, 2014

GOD IS NOT GREAT - Christopher Hitchens



Hitchens pulls apart the Christian belief system and he does an excellent job.  He has a major crack at all the others as well but its the Christian's he really goes for. My only complaint  about the book is he does pander to the Muslims, if you are going to attack belief systems attack them all with equal gusto.

This is fantastically entertaining, history snippet after history snippet all strung together with Hitchens brilliant use of the language.

And he only goes into full " hit a fly with a sledge hammer mode" a couple of times

Even if Hitchens is wrong and there is an afterlife he will be sitting there arguing that there is nothing to support its existence while having a drink and cigarette.  Love his writing.



SECOND SIGHT - Charles McCarry



The final chapter in the Paul Christopher series.  A family saga more than a straight spy story and it tends to be a bit repetitious if you have read the series but all in all superb.

The entire series has been released and is available in the book stores again.  Get into them.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

THE LAST SUPPER - Charles McCarry



This is the absolute equal of anything Le Carre has written  in the Karla trilogy.   It gives the back history of Paul Christopher's family and early life leading up to the beginning of WWII.

The betrayal in this novel is absolute and destroys entire families over generations.

The tracking down and unmasking of the traitor lasts until the end and is as intricate and taxing as anything Smiley did . Fantastic.

The cover blurb from P J O'Rourke "The classic thriller from the absolute best thriller writer alive" is not hyperbole.

SAINTS OF THE SHADOW BIBLE - Ian Rankin



Rebus is back in the police not at his previous rank of Detective Inspector but as a lowly Detective Sergeant working under people who were formerly his junior staff.

Due to political pressure put on to Professional Standards an historic case is re-opened which looks at a group of detectives one of whom is Rebus. This case is one where a murder trial appears to have been deliberately blown by these detectives.

This novel has Rebus working with Malcolm Fox who has appeared previously in stand alone novels written by Rankin.  He is a policeman who polices other police and universally despised because of this.

The Rebus series is the most consistent of procedural's going around, they never disappoint and a few are stunners. This is a good solid entry and worth the effort.