On 3 May 1961, after a trial conducted largely in secret, a man named George Blake was sentenced to an unprecedented 42 years in jail. By his own confession he was a Soviet spy, but the reasons for such a severe punishment were never revealed.
To the public, Blake was simply the greatest traitor of the Cold War. Yet his story touches not only the depths of treachery, but also the heights of heroism.
Drawing on hitherto unpublished records from his trial, new revelations about his dramatic jailbreak from Wormwood Scrubs, and original interviews with former spies, friends and the man himself this audiobook sheds new light on this most complex of characters and presents a fascinating shadow history of the Cold War.
Blake is a fascinating character and his life, thinking, and motivations are explored and presented in this well-written account. The era and historical context of the events are also explored so the book is both history lesson and biography as well as a ripping yarn. Blake was a highly intelligent and quite charismatic man who lived an exceptionally full and often exciting life with some nail-biting episodes to keep the reader enthralled. A fiction writer couldn't have created a more complex protagonist or a more interesting plot. Full marks to the author on every aspect of the book, and to Michael Tudor Barnes for his very competent narration.
Having just finished the highly enjoyable 'A Spy Among Friends' about Kim Philby, I wanted another book about the same era and subject matter so chose 'The Greatest Traitor' about George Blake. This is a very well written and researched account of Blake's life from his pre-war childhood in the Netherlands to his life today in suburban Russia. I had no idea that Blake had such a colourful life even before his notorious 1961 trial for spying for the Soviet Union. Like any good biography, I kept asking myself questions about Blake's motivation and kept trying to put myself in his shoes and, particularly of those who helped him escape from Wormwood Scrubs. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone interested in the period or just in a fascinating life story of an engaging but entirely flawed character. The book is well read by Michael Tudor Barnes, although his mastery of accents could have been better, in particular his Dutch approximation that had me wondering why there were so many Russians in the Netherlands in the 1930s!
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A very well researched book there is a lot I did not know about Blake.
I really enjoyed this book and because George Blake is still alive it is possible to see video of him on YouTube and to flesh out the full story. He seems to put himself into a different category to the other spies because he did not take payment. However I found Sean Bourke's description of Blake in Russia very telling.
He explains that Blake was a very different character than he was in the Scrubs and was patronising and supercilious. Had Bourke and co been played because they would have their uses to Blake in helping him escape? Blake's treachery is easier to understand because as he said, he never belonged and England wasn't his country so he felt no loyalty to it.