Saturday, March 26, 2011

Five best windows on the Cold War

Charles Cumming's latest novel is The Trinity Six, which William Boyd, author of Ordinary Thunderstorms, called "Utterly absorbing and compelling. A brilliant re-imagining of events surrounding the notorious Cambridge spy-ring."

For the Wall Street Journal, Cumming named a five best list of books on the Cold War.

One title on the list:
My Five Cambridge Friends
by Yuri Modin (1994)

While studying at Cambridge University in the 1930s, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Kim Philby, John Cairncross and Anthony Blunt were recruited as spies by the Soviet Union. Over the course of the next 50 years, they were gradually exposed, but not before they had reached positions of eminence in the diplomatic and intelligence services and handed vast amounts of classified information to Moscow. Yuri Modin was their KGB "controller" in London until 1955. His memoir, "My Five Cambridge Friends," offers fascinating details about KGB countersurveillance techniques as well as compelling insights into the personalities of the Cambridge Five. We learn that Blunt hated to be looked directly in the eyes. Burgess "could be an unmitigated bastard if he thought he was being treated without the respect he felt was due him." Cairncross had "a sizeable chip on his shoulder." Maclean "gathered the political, economic and scientific intelligence that guided the strategy of our leaders for over ten years." On Philby, Modin is curiously ambivalent. "In the end," he writes, "I suspect that [Philby] made a mockery of everyone, particularly ourselves."
Read about the other books on the list.

Learn more about Charles Cumming's novels A Spy By Nature, The Spanish GameTyphoon, and The Trinity Six.

Read about Cumming's five favorite works of espionage.

--Marshal Zeringue