In the World War II era, Geoffrey Pyke was described as one of the world's great minds - to rank alongside Einstein. Pyke was an inventor, adventurer, polymath, and unlikely hero of both world wars. He earned a fortune on the stock market, founded an influential pre-school, wrote a bestseller, and came up with the idea for the US and Canadian Special Forces. In 1942, he convinced Winston Churchill to build an aircraft carrier out of reinforced ice. Pyke escaped from a German WWI prison camp, devised an ingenious plan to help the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, and launched a private attempt to avert the outbreak of the Second World War by sending into Nazi Germany a group of pollsters disguised as golfers. And he may have been a Russian spy.
In 2009, long after Pyke's death, MI5 released a mass of material suggesting that Pyke was in fact a senior official in the Soviet Comintern. In 1951, papers relating to Pyke were found in the flat of "Cambridge Spy" Guy Burgess after his defection to Moscow. MI5 had "watchers" follow Pyke through the bombed-out streets of London, his letters were opened, and listening devices picked up clues to his real identity. Convinced he was a Soviet agent codenamed Professor P, MI5 helped to bring his career to an end. Henry Hemming is the first reporter to sift through this extraordinary new information and finally tell Pyke's astonishing story in full: his brilliance, his flaws, and his life of adventures, ideas, and secrets.
©2015 Henry Hemming (P)2015 Tantor
"A rich recounting of a brilliant, idiosyncratic man." (Booklist)
I love historical fiction, history (especially WWII), rock bios, well-told and interesting fiction, non-fiction, & a bit of fantasy sci-fi.
Initially, I wrote a review praising this book as I was a third a way in. Was such a great start! I didn't expect it to fall so flat. Perhaps I just bored quickly of the same plot: big dilemma, will our hero be misunderstood or jailed or will he prevail? He prevails, lies low for awhile until the next big dilemma.
I suppose it's short enough that I could've battled through it but there are so many better books to spend time on.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
Hemming’s opening paraphrased the London Times obituary saying Geoffrey Pyke was one of the most original yet unrecognized figures of the 20th century. He was educated at Cambridge and was a Jew.
Pyke had a miserable childhood; this inspired him to earn a fortune on the London Metal exchange, and he spent this to create a school to educate his son and other young children. The revolutionary ideas of Malting House continue to influence British education 85 years after it closed.
Hemming says Pyke was a prolific inventor and worked with the government during WWII. Several of his ideas from WWII are still being used today such as the Special Forces Military Units. MI5 tracked him for years thinking he was a Soviet spy. Hemming has an interesting chapter about what MI5 had discovered about Pyke.
In WWI Pyke made a perilous journey into the heart of Germany, he was a reporter for the London Daily Chronicle. He was captured and placed into Ruhleben internment camp. He escaped and wrote a book about his ordeal which became a best seller. Hemming spent time describing Pyke’s problem solving method as well as some of his other investigative techniques, I found this somewhat interesting. James Langton narrated the book.
I found myself getting distracted easily. I suffered through in hopes that I may find something I found interesting or liked. Especially since this was the book for our book club.
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