This week we received several emails from Spybrary Spy Podcast listeners asking which books about George Blake they should read.
Soviet Double Agent, George Blake passed away in Russia this week aged 99. Here are the top 3 spy books about George Blake we recommend.
I am a big believer that those interested in a historical person or event should read several books about the subject in order to build a fuller picture. So here are our 3 picks for books about George Blake.
The Greatest Traitor – The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake
‘Drawing on hitherto unpublished records from his trial, new revelations about his dramatic jailbreak from Wormwood Scrubs, and original interviews with former spies, friends and the man himself, The Greatest Traitor sheds new light on this most complex of characters and presents a fascinating shadow history of the Cold War.'
George Blake claims in his own autobiography (more on that book shortly) that he approached the KGB in Korea. Hermiston claims that Russian sources claim George Blake was turned ‘by a gifted KGB officer.' Nikolai Loenko. (This is one of the reasons I always read several books on a topic before coming to my own conclusions.)
According to to author Alan Judd writing for the Spectator, Hermiston focuses on the three big questions.
‘Firstly, why did Blake do it?
Hermiston shows that his reasons were, as nearly always in such cases, both political and personal; although it remains a puzzle as to why he felt excluded from a society and a service in which he was well treated and evidently well regarded.
Secondly, how can he refuse to this day to accept that many he betrayed were executed?
What did he think happened to Soviet spies caught in the deep Cold War — community service?
Finally, if his ideological conversion was as pure as he asserts, why did he not resign and join the Communist party — or the Labour party, where there were many who thought like him?
He was free to do that in Britain, yet he preferred to betray his family, his friends, his agents, and his country in favor of a cause that refused everyone the freedoms he spurned. Was there, at the heart of his betrayal, a lust for power? His wife thought so.'
No Other Choice by George Blake
Autobiographies whether written by actors, politicians, sports stars and in this case a cold war double agent require large amounts of salt rather than pinches. Nonetheless they form essential reading as we seek to understand and the personality.
In his autobiography No Other Choice, George Blake insisted that his treachery had been ideologically motivated, having witnessed Allied atrocities during the Korean War, he also claimed that he had been entrapped into making an admission when accused by SIS of having been coerced into cooperating with the KGB.
Blake argued that none of the agents he named perished because he had reached an agreement with the KGB that guaranteed their lives would be saved. A senior KGB officer who knew him well commented that he must have known but did not like to acknowledge that this was not the case.
No Other Choice, was published in 1990 but his royalties were frozen as a result of a court action brought by the British government.
Betrayal in Berlin – Steve Vogel
The astonishing true story of the Berlin Tunnel, one of the West’s greatest espionage operations of the Cold War—and the dangerous Soviet mole who betrayed it.
Betrayal in Berlin is Steve Vogel’s heart pounding account of the operation. He vividly recreates post-war Berlin, a scarred, shadowy snake pit with thousands of spies and innumerable cover stories. It is also the most vivid account of George Blake, perhaps the most damaging mole of the Cold War. Drawing upon years of archival research, secret documents, and rare interviews with Blake himself, Vogel has crafted a true-life spy story as thrilling as the novels of John le Carré and Len Deighton.
You can listen to our Spybrary interview with author Steve Vogel On Episode 90 of the Spybrary Spy Book Podcast.
And read Steve Vogel's interview with Cold War spy George Blake in the Washington Times
George Blake Obituaries.
George Blake, infamous Cold War spy who escaped from prison and fled to Moscow – obituary – The Telegraph
George Blake Obituary – BBC News
Love good spy books? Check out our feature-length interview with author Simon Conway on Episode 117 of the Spybrary Spy Podcast.