The spy who knew everyone
By Stewart Purvis & Jeff Hulbert
Published by Bitback, Distributed by New South
RRP $49.99 in hardcover * ISBN 9781849549134
This is a fascinating look at one of the infamous Cambridge spies, Guy Burgess, who along with Mc Lean, Philby and Blunt, supplied the Russian intelligence with British and American secrets for many years.
Recruited to work for the KGB in 1935 because of his political leanings, his network of friends in high places and because the Russians felt he was too liberal with his tongue to be left outside the organisation, Burgess became a valuable purveyor of intelligence to the KGB.
He worked variously for the BBC, MI5, MI6, the War Office and the Ministry of Information while all the time working for the KGB.
Burgess was arguably a drunk and a promiscuous homosexual at a time when neither was acceptable in Britain.
Yet Burgess, an Eton and Cambridge old-boy, was forgiven his short-comings because he came from the wealthy upper classes. And it was this same cloak of respectability which gave him access to people and places and to go undetected and unsuspected for years as a Russian spy.
Ironically, he was also not suspected because of his drinking and erratic behaviour which, the authorities believed, made him too “unreliable” to be a Russian spy.
A must-read book for anyone interested in the Cambridge spies.