Guy Burgess

Title:                      Guy Burgess

Author:                 Stewart Purvis

Purvis, Stewart (2016) and Jeff Hulbert. Guy Burgess: The Spy Who Knew Everyone. London, England : Biteback Publishing

OCLC:    923553744

Subjects

Date Posted:      December 8, 2016

The publisher would have us believe that this is the “first, full biography of Guy Burgess,” that “reveals the extent of his espionage and culminates in new revelations about his last days ibn Moscow.” Hardly anyone, other than Kim Philby, has more been written about. This includes Guy Burgess: Revolutionary in an Old School Tie[1], Guy Burgess: A Portrait with Background[2], Burgess and Maclean[3], and another earlier book Fisher, Burgess And Maclean[4], and Stalin’s Englishman: Guy Burgess, The Cold War, And The Cambridge Spy Ring[5]. How many books can we read that claim to have “new revelations?” I find Purvis’ conclusion that Burgess was a master spy to be laughable.

Review by Nigel Jones[6]

Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[7]

Like London buses, you wait ages for a Guy Burgess biography, then two turn up at once. The journalist authors of this one are unlucky to be trailing in the recent wake of Andrew Lownie’s meticulously researched life of the disreputable but undeniably fascinating Guy, Stalin’s Englishman [See footnote 5 below], but they do add materially to the familiar story.

With the benefit of hundreds of newly released National Archives files on Burgess and his fellow Cambridge spies[8], their breezy account confirms Lownie’s thesis that it was Burgess, rather than the notorious Philby, who was the real ringleader of the traitorous circle, and that Guy was a world-class networker.

Their revelations leave us all the more astonished that such a smelly, scruffy, lying, gabby, promiscuous, drunken slob could penetrate the heart of the establishment without anyone apparently noticing that he was also a Soviet masterspy.

[1] Holzman, Michael (2012). Guy Burgess: Revolutionary in an Old School Tie. New York: Chelmsford Press.

[2] Driberg, Tom (1956). Guy Burgess: A Portrait with Background. London: Weidenfelt & Nicolson.

[3] Purdy, Anthony (1963) and Douglas Sutherland. Burgess and Maclean. London: Secker & Warburg

[4] Fisher, John (1977). Burgess And Maclean: A New Look At The Foreign Office Spies. London: Robert Hale

[5] Lownie, Andrew (2016). Stalin’s Englishman: Guy Burgess, The Cold War, And The Cambridge Spy Ring. New York: St. Martin’s Press

[6] Nigel Jones, in The Observer (February 14, 2016), downloaded December 8, 2016.

[7] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]

[8] See “File release: Cold War Cambridge spies Burgess and Maclean,” (October 23, 2015) at The National Archives. The article contains links by which the files can be explored.

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