The Third Man

Just when you were getting used to Cthulhu Mythos and World War One reviews mixed in with your science fiction, I jump to another topic.

That’s the way things work here.

This retro review from December 18, 2005 covers a biography of famous spy Kim Philby. It is by no means the first work I read that dealt with Philby. That was probably Tom Mangold’s Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton — The CIA’s Master Spy HunterIt argues that Kim Philby’s betrayal cranked up James Jesus Angleton’s professionally useful paranoia to a dangerous level.

With the exception of The Sword and the Shield, most of the titles below come from the source notes in Tim Powers’ excellent fantasy spin on the life of Kim Philby and his father, Declare. (My favorite Powers’ title)

Review: The Third Man: The Full Story of Kim Philby, E. H. Cookridge, 1968.

This book is very dated in some aspects. Anthony Blunt, one of the Magnificent Five as the KGB called the Cambridge Spy Ring, gets a one sentence mention as someone who occasionally hung out in fellow spy Guy Burgess’ apartment. There is a far too kind portrayal of Donald Maclean as a conflicted man — he loved his commendations from the King and hated Britain’s captialist society . But, instead of a tragic figure blackmailed by Burgess into spying during the latter years of World War Two, Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin’s The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB shows him voluntarily starting his espionage work in 1934. And, of course, its date of composition means the full life of its main subject, Harold Adrian Russell “Kim” Philby, is not covered. Nor is there much on the specific clues, like the Venona intercepts, that led American intelligence officials to suspect Philby.

The only books on Philby I’ve read are Anthony Cave Brown’s Treason in the Blood: H. St. John Philby, Kim Philby, and the Spy Cast of the Century and Andrew Boyle’s The Fourth Man: The First Full Account of the Cause and Origins, the Control and Running, of the Three Most Notorious Traitors in Modern History, so I’m not a Philby scholar, but I did find this book valueable for two reasons: Cookridge’s personal acquaintance with Philby and his providing the political context for Philby’s spying.

Cookridge first met Philby in Vienna in 1933 when both were in the Social Democratic underground being crushed by the government. Cookridge found Philby kind and courageous, but claims to have eventually come to suspect Philby was in the employ of the communists who wanted to take over the liberal socialist movement.

Cookridge covers some of the background to Philby’s life in more detail than the above books: why Turkey was an important posting for him in 1947, what the CIA was trying to accomplish by supporting an Albanian insurgency Philby betrayed, what Philby did between the time he resigned from the foreign service in 1951 and 1955 when he was again put on the SIS payroll, the exact details of his near brush with death in the Spanish Civil War, the interdepartmental struggles of British intelligence, and Philby’s last days in Beirut when British Intelligence tried to get him to surrender himself.

This book lacks a feature all works of espionage history should have: an index.


The Espionage page.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.