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About Ben Macintyre
Ben Macintyre is a writer-at-large for The Times of London and the bestselling author of A Spy Among Friends, Double Cross, Operation Mincemeat, Agent Zigzag, and Rogue Heroes, among other books. Macintyre has also written and presented BBC documentaries of his work.
(Photo Credit: Justine Stoddart)
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“Reads like a mashup of The Dirty Dozen and The Great Escape, with a sprinkling of Ocean’s 11 thrown in for good measure.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
ONE OF NPR’S BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR • “Rogue Heroes is a ripping good read.”—Washington Post (10 Best Books of the Year)
Britain’s Special Air Service—or SAS—was the brainchild of David Stirling, a young aristocrat whose aimlessness belied a remarkable strategic mind. Where most of his colleagues looked at a World War II battlefield map and saw a protracted struggle, Stirling saw an opportunity: given a small number of elite men, he could parachute behind Nazi lines and sabotage their airplanes and supplies. Defying his superiors’ conventional wisdom, Stirling assembled a revolutionary fighting force that would upend not just the balance of the war, but the nature of combat itself.
Bringing his keen eye for detail to a riveting wartime narrative, Ben Macintyre uses his unprecedented access to the SAS archives to shine a light on a legendary unit long shrouded in secrecy.
“The best true spy story I have ever read.”—JOHN LE CARRÉ
Named a Best Book of the Year by The Economist • Shortlisted for the Bailie Giffords Prize in Nonfiction
If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the savvy, sophisticated Gordievsky grew to see his nation's communism as both criminal and philistine. He took his first posting for Russian intelligence in 1968 and eventually became the Soviet Union's top man in London, but from 1973 on he was secretly working for MI6. For nearly a decade, as the Cold War reached its twilight, Gordievsky helped the West turn the tables on the KGB, exposing Russian spies and helping to foil countless intelligence plots, as the Soviet leadership grew increasingly paranoid at the United States's nuclear first-strike capabilities and brought the world closer to the brink of war. Desperate to keep the circle of trust close, MI6 never revealed Gordievsky's name to its counterparts in the CIA, which in turn grew obsessed with figuring out the identity of Britain's obviously top-level source. Their obsession ultimately doomed Gordievsky: the CIA officer assigned to identify him was none other than Aldrich Ames, the man who would become infamous for secretly spying for the Soviets.
Unfolding the delicious three-way gamesmanship between America, Britain, and the Soviet Union, and culminating in the gripping cinematic beat-by-beat of Gordievsky's nail-biting escape from Moscow in 1985, Ben Macintyre's latest may be his best yet. Like the greatest novels of John le Carré, it brings readers deep into a world of treachery and betrayal, where the lines bleed between the personal and the professional, and one man's hatred of communism had the power to change the future of nations.
“Not since Ian Fleming and John le Carré has a spy writer so captivated readers.”—The Hollywood Reporter
In this gripping narrative, Ben Macintyre tackles one of the most famous prison stories in history and makes it utterly his own. During World War II, the German army used the towering Colditz Castle to hold the most defiant Allied prisoners. For four years, these prisoners of the castle tested its walls and its guards with ingenious escape attempts that would become legend.
But as Macintyre shows, the story of Colditz was about much more than escape. Its population represented a society in miniature, full of heroes and traitors, class conflicts and secret alliances, and the full range of human joy and despair. In Macintyre’s telling, Colditz’s most famous names—like the indomitable Pat Reid—share glory with lesser known but equally remarkable characters like Indian doctor Birendranath Mazumdar whose ill treatment, hunger strike, and eventual escape read like fiction; Florimond Duke, America’s oldest paratrooper and least successful secret agent; and Christopher Clayton Hutton, the brilliant inventor employed by British intelligence to manufacture covert escape aids for POWs.
Prisoners of the Castle traces the war’s arc from within Colditz’s stone walls, where the stakes rose as Hitler’s war machine faltered and the men feared that liberation would not come soon enough to spare them a grisly fate at the hands of the Nazis. Bringing together the wartime intrigue of his acclaimed Operation Mincemeat and keen psychological portraits of his bestselling true-life spy stories, Macintyre has breathed new life into one of the greatest war stories ever told.
“[A Spy Among Friends] reads like a story by Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, or John le Carré, leavened with a dollop of P. G. Wodehouse.”—Walter Isaacson, New York Times Book Review
Who was Kim Philby? Those closest to him—like his fellow MI6 officer and best friend since childhood, Nicholas Elliot, and the CIA’s head of counterintelligence, James Jesus Angleton—knew him as a loyal confidant and an unshakeable patriot. Philby was a brilliant and charming man who rose to head Britain’s counterintelligence against the Soviet Union. Together with Elliott and Angleton he stood on the front lines of the Cold War, holding Communism at bay. But he was secretly betraying them both: He was working for the Russians the entire time.
Every word uttered in confidence to Philby made its way to Moscow, sinking almost every important Anglo-American spy operation for twenty years and costing hundreds of lives. So how was this cunning double-agent finally exposed? In A Spy Among Friends, Ben Macintyre expertly weaves the heart-pounding tale of how Philby almost got away with it all—and what happened when he was finally unmasked.
Based on personal papers and never-before-seen British intelligence files and told with heart-pounding suspense and keen psychological insight, A Spy Among Friends is a fascinating portrait of a Cold War spy and the countrymen who remained willfully blind to his treachery.
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Shelf Awareness
“[An] immensely exciting, fast-moving account.”—The Washington Post
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Foreign Affairs, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal
In 1942, in a quiet village in the leafy English Cotswolds, a thin, elegant woman lived in a small cottage with her three children and her husband, who worked as a machinist nearby. Ursula Burton was friendly but reserved, and spoke English with a slight foreign accent. By all accounts, she seemed to be living a simple, unassuming life. Her neighbors in the village knew little about her.
They didn’t know that she was a high-ranking Soviet intelligence officer. They didn’t know that her husband was also a spy, or that she was running powerful agents across Europe. Behind the facade of her picturesque life, Burton was a dedicated Communist, a Soviet colonel, and a veteran agent, gathering the scientific secrets that would enable the Soviet Union to build the bomb.
This true-life spy story is a masterpiece about the woman code-named “Sonya.” Over the course of her career, she was hunted by the Chinese, the Japanese, the Nazis, MI5, MI6, and the FBI—and she evaded them all. Her story reflects the great ideological clash of the twentieth century—between Communism, Fascism, and Western democracy—and casts new light on the spy battles and shifting allegiances of our own times.
With unparalleled access to Sonya’s diaries and correspondence and never-before-seen information on her clandestine activities, Ben Macintyre has conjured a page-turning history of a legendary secret agent, a woman who influenced the course of the Cold War and helped plunge the world into a decades-long standoff between nuclear superpowers.
“Pure catnip to fans of World War II thrillers and a lot of fun for everyone else.”—Joseph Kanon, The Washington Post Book World
Near the end of World War II, two British naval officers came up with a brilliant and slightly mad scheme to mislead the Nazi armies about where the Allies would attack southern Europe. To carry out the plan, they would have to rely on the most unlikely of secret agents: a dead man.
Ben Macintyre’s dazzling, critically acclaimed bestseller chronicles the extraordinary story of what happened after British officials planted this dead body—outfitted in a British military uniform with a briefcase containing false intelligence documents—in Nazi territory, and how this secret mission fooled Hitler into changing military positioning, paving the way for the Allies’ drive to victory.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES
“Wildly improbable but entirely true . . . [a] compellingly cinematic spy thriller with verve.”—Entertainment Weekly
ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Entertainment Weekly
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post
Eddie Chapman was a charming criminal, a con man, and a philanderer. He was also one of the most remarkable double agents Britain has ever produced. In 1941, after training as German spy in occupied France, Chapman was parachuted into Britain with a revolver, a wireless, and a cyanide pill, with orders from the Abwehr to blow up an airplane factory. Instead, he contacted M15, the British Secret service, and for the next four years, Chapman worked as a double agent, a lone British spy at the heart of the German Secret Service. Inside the traitor was a man of loyalty; inside the villain was a hero. The problem for Chapman, his spymasters, and his lovers was to know where one persona ended and the other began. Based on recently declassified files, Agent Zigzag tells Chapman’s full story for the first time. It’s a gripping tale of loyalty, love, treachery, espionage, and the thin and shifting line between fidelity and betrayal.
“Not since Ian Fleming and John le Carré has a spy writer so captivated readers.”—The Hollywood Reporter
On June 6, 1944, 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and suffered an astonishingly low rate of casualties. A stunning military achievement, it was also a masterpiece of trickery. Operation Fortitude, which protected and enabled the invasion, and the Double Cross system, which specialized in turning German spies into double agents, tricked the Nazis into believing that the Allied attacks would come in Calais and Norway rather than Normandy. It was the most sophisticated and successful deception operation ever carried out, ensuring Allied victory at the most pivotal moment in the war.
This epic event has never before been told from the perspective of the key individuals in the Double Cross system, until now. These include its director (a brilliant, urbane intelligence officer), a colorful assortment of MI5 handlers (as well as their counterparts in Nazi intelligence), and the five spies who formed Double Cross’s nucleus: a dashing Serbian playboy, a Polish fighter-pilot, a bisexual Peruvian party girl, a deeply eccentric Spaniard, and a volatile Frenchwoman. Together they made up one of the oddest and most brilliant military units ever assembled.
With the same depth of research, eye for the absurd, and masterful storytelling that have made Ben Macintyre an international bestseller, Double Cross is a captivating narrative of the spies who wove a web so intricate it ensnared Hitler’s army and carried thousands of D-Day troops across the Channel in safety.
“Fascinating . . . a brisk, lively, colorful biography of an amazing criminal.”—The New York Times (Best Books of the Year)
The Victorian era’s most infamous and iconic thief, the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes’s Professor Moriarty, Adam Worth was known as the Napoleon of crime. Suave, cunning, and fearless, Worth learned early that the best way to succeed was to steal. And steal he did.
Following a strict code of honor, Worth won the respect of Victorian society. He also aroused its fear by becoming a chilling phantom, mingling undetected with the upper classes, whose valuables he brazenly stole. His most celebrated heist: Gainsborough’s grand portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire—ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales—a painting Worth adored and often slept with for twenty years.
With a brilliant gang that included “Piano” Charley, a jewel thief, train robber, and playboy, and “the Scratch” Becker, master forger, Worth secretly ran operations from New York to London, Paris, and South Africa—until betrayal and a Pinkerton man finally brought him down.
The Napoleon of Crime is a grand, dazzling tour into the gaslit underworld of the nineteenth century, and into the doomed genius of a criminal mastermind.
'Marvellously entertaining and informative' Spectator
'Thrilling' Sunday Times
'An entertaining mix of history, espionage, biography, and post-war sociology' Literary Review
'I am going to write the spy story to end all spy stories.'
One morning in February 1952, a journalist called Ian Fleming sat down at his desk and set about creating a fictional secret agent. James Bond was born and would go on to become one of the most successful, enduring and lucrative creations in literature. But Bond's world of glamour and romance, gadgets and cocktails, espionage and villainy wasn't entirely drawn from imagination: Fleming's background and his experiences as an intelligence officer during the Second World War were all formative parts in the creation of the world's most famous spy.
Packed with astonishing detail and written in Macintyre's inimitable style, For Your Eyes Only is the most enlightening, enlivening book on the creator of the spy who not only lived twice, but proved to be immortal.
In 1886, Elisabeth Nietzsche, the bigoted, imperious sister of the famous philosopher, founded a “racially pure” colony in Paraguay with her husband, anti-Semitic agitator Bernhard Förster, and a band of fair-skinned fellow Germans. More than a century later, Ben Macintyre tracked down the survivors of Nueva Germania to discover the remains of this bizarre colony, and found a strange, tight-lipped people, still interbreeding to the point of genetic deterioration.
Digging into recently opened German archives, Macintyre unfolds how Elisabeth, who returned to Germany in 1893, grafted her anti-Semitic, nationalist ideas onto her brother’s philosophy, building a mythic cult around him, and how she later became a mentor to Hitler—her stately funeral in 1935 attended by a tearful Führer. Laced with mordant irony, Macintyre’s brilliant piece of investigative journalism explores how the Nazis perverted Friedrich Nietzsche’s ideas to justify their evil deeds, and unearths a rich and disturbing vein of the twentieth century’s dark history.
Never before told, Ben Macintyre's The Englishman's Daughter is a harrowing tale of love, duplicity and their tragic consequences, which haunt the people of Villeret eight decades after the Great War.
"I have a rendezvous with death, at some disputed barricade." Alan Seeger, 1916
In the first days of World War I four soldiers, left behind as the British army retreated through northern France under the first German onslaught, found themselves trapped on the wrong side of the Western Front, in a tiny village called Villeret. Just a few miles from the Somme, the village would be permanently inundated with German troops for the next four years, yet the villagers conspired to feed, clothe and protect the fugitives under the very noses of the invaders, absorbing the Englishmen into their homes and lives until they could pass for Picardy peasants.
The leader of the band, Robert Digby, was a striking young man who fell in love with Claire Dessenne, the prettiest maid in the village. In November 1915, with the guns clearly audible from the battlefront, Claire gave birth to Digby's child, the jealous whispering began, and the conspiracy that had protected the soldiers for half the war started to unravel.