Tim Powers’ Declare certainly was not my first exposure to Kim Philby’s story, but I did seek out several of the Philby biographies Powers mentions in his notes.
This one, however, was the only one I made notes on.
Raw Feed (2003): Treason in the Blood: M. St. John Philby, Kim Philby, and the Spy Case of the Century, Anthony Cave Brown, 1994.
This is the first book length treatment I’ve read of Kim Philby’s story. Prior to this my exposure to him came in books about other espionage figures who crossed paths with Philby: John Costello and Oleg Tsarev’s Deadly Illusions (about Alexander Orlov, one of Philby’s NKVD controllers) and Tom Mangold’s Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton, The CIA’s Master Spy Hunter (Angleton being a figure of key importance in the Philby story).
The inspiration for reading this book was its mention in Tim Powers’ note in the Afterword of his excellent Declare. After reading this book, I can understand the attraction of Philby’s story. This dual biography is more than just a gimmick to distinguish itself from the rest of the horde of Philby biographies. St. John Philby (who has already had biographies done on him) turns out to have been a figure of major importance in Middle Eastern politics, particularly the formation of the House of Saud and how American oil companies got the oil rights in Saudi Arabia. He was a learned man. Brown introduced me to a lot of early 20th century Middle Eastern colonial history I was not aware of: communist conspiracies in India, the British rule in Iraq, and the backpedaling of Britain and France in keeping its political promises to its Arabian allies of World War I. Continue reading →
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 Hunter. It 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. Continue reading →