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23 April 1987
Molehunt: The Full Story of the Soviet Mole in MI5 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 208 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 297 79150 8
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... of his work for the Russians. Elliott went on his way and Philby promptly cut and ran for Russia. Nigel West, like many other spy-writers before him, is intrigued by this episode. Most significant of all, he believes, was a remark Philby is alleged to have made to Elliott on the latter’s arrival. This remark, described by ...

Going Straight

Neal Ascherson

17 March 1983
After Long Silence 
by Michael Straight.
Collins, 351 pp., £11.95, March 1983, 0 00 217001 9
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A Matter of Trust: MI5 1945-72 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 196 pp., £8.95, December 1982, 0 297 78253 3
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... Straight immediately recognised – in the spirit of the world described by Conrad in Under Western Eyes. On this day, not long after John Cornford had been killed in the fighting near Cordoba, Anthony Blunt invited Straight to his rooms and said: ‘Some of your friends have different ideas for you.’ Michael Straight at first rejected the proposal ...

Uncle Max

Patricia Craig

20 December 1984
The man who was M: The Life of Maxwell Knight 
by Anthony Masters.
Blackwell, 205 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 631 13392 5
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Unreliable Witness: Espionage Myths of the Second World War 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 166 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 297 78481 1
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The Great Betrayal: The Untold Story of Kim Philby’s Biggest Coup 
by Nicholas Bethell.
Hodder, 214 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 340 35701 0
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... and animals, on the other. Has Masters got Uncle Max mixed up with Uncle Mac? The MI5 historian ‘Nigel West’ has written a book which aims to separate the actual from the apocryphal in the field of espionage stories. Two small examples from his own previous work may be taken to show how easily the unfounded assertion can get accepted as ...

Don’t talk to pigeons

Ben Jackson: MI5 in WW1

22 January 2015
MI5 in the Great War 
edited by Nigel West.
Biteback, 434 pp., £25, July 2014, 978 1 84954 670 6
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... names are cross-referenced to sections of the report in which they are dealt with in more detail (Nigel West, the editor of MI5 in the Great War, removes the cross-references), but three of them never appear again in MI5’s official history of its activities during the war, while Karl Ernst, an undoubted German agent who was undoubtedly arrested, is ...

Maggie’s Hobby

Nicholas Hiley

11 December 1997
New cloak, Old dagger: How Britain’s Spies Came in from the Cold 
by Michael Smith.
Gollancz, 338 pp., £20, November 1996, 0 575 06150 2
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Intelligence Power in Peace and War 
by Michael Herman.
Cambridge, 436 pp., £50, October 1996, 0 521 56231 7
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UK Eyes Alpha 
by Mark Urban.
Faber, 320 pp., £16.99, September 1996, 0 571 17689 5
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... by the large number of SIS officers who retire at 55 to join merchant banks. In the words of ‘Nigel West’ (a.k.a. Rupert Allason, the former Tory MP), the postwar drift to the City ‘was ... sponsored by men such as George Young, the SIS Vice-Chief who joined Kleinwort Benson in 1961, and Frank Steele, a legendary figure from the Cold War who ...
12 October 1989
The Intelligence Game: Illusions and Delusions of International Espionage 
by James Rusbridger.
Bodley Head, 320 pp., £12.95, August 1989, 0 370 31242 2
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The Truth about Hollis 
by W.J. West.
Duckworth, 230 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 7156 2286 2
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... being a Russian spy in MI5. Some say the spy was Sir Roger Hollis, the director. A man called Nigel West wrote a whole book saying the mole wasn’t Hollis: it was his deputy, Graham Mitchell (a former official of the Tory Party). Now we have another equally boring and unimpressive book by W.J. West, who says it ...
4 August 1983
British Intelligence and Covert Action: Africa, the Middle East and Europe since 1945 
by Jonathan Bloch, Patrick Fitzgerald and Philip Agee.
Junction, 284 pp., £5.95, May 1983, 0 86245 113 2
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Through the Looking-Glass: British Foreign Policy in an Age of Illusions 
by Anthony Verrier.
Cape, 400 pp., £12.50, February 1983, 0 224 01979 1
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... the young Tory Rupert Allason’s rather disingenuous recent book on MI5, under the pseudonym ‘Nigel West’, was treated to the compliment of injunction proceedings and a little filleting. It may be that MI6 no longer care very much about the trickle of disclosures. Those by outsiders – like this one – can be ignored, and no one on the inside has ...
25 October 1990
No Other Choice 
by George Blake.
Cape, 288 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 0 224 03067 1
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Inside Intelligence 
by Anthony Cavendish.
Collins, 181 pp., £12.95, October 1990, 9780002157421
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... when they fitted such fiction and were written by ‘safe’ journalists like Chapman Pincher or Nigel West, were received enthusiastically. It was only when the former MI5 agent Peter Wright, in a fit of pique, suddenly blurted out the truth that a gang in MI5 used their enormous irresponsible powers against the elected government of the day; and that ...

Vita Longa

Mary-Kay Wilmers

1 December 1983
Vita: The Life of V. Sackville-West 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £12.50, September 1983, 0 297 78306 8
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... name was Christabel Marshall. We know how she felt about the object of her passion, Vita Sackville-West, because she kept a ‘love-journal’ in Vita’s honour. Miss Sackville-West, who had recently (and most unusually) been abandoned by another woman, allowed Miss St John to hold her hand. She even allowed her, Victoria ...

Reader, he married her

Christopher Hitchens

10 May 1990
Tom Driberg: His Life and Indiscretions 
by Francis Wheen.
Chatto, 452 pp., £18, May 1990, 0 7011 3143 8
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... lately been superimposed upon it. A whole flock of mediocre scavangers, from Chapman Pincher to ‘Nigel West’, have feasted on each other’s leavings in this case. Unable to concert their stories with any intelligible sequence of dates or developments, and unable to prove that Tom was an agent of the Russians, they have concluded – quoting from each ...

Landlord of the Moon

David Craig: Scottish islands

21 February 2002
Sea Room: An Island Life 
by Adam Nicolson.
HarperCollins, 391 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 00 257164 1
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... and understand the reason each feature, natural or civilised, is as it is. That stone-heap on a west-facing slope, is it scree, or a cairn, or the remains of a house? Who made those cup-holes in a reef by the shore, and why? When did somebody last dig those lazy-beds, the ridges for potatoes or barley that corduroy the rough pasture? Nicolson has spent so ...

Find the birch sticks

R.W. Johnson: A spy’s diary

1 September 2005
The Guy Liddell Diaries. Vol. I: 1939-42 
edited by Nigel West.
Frank Cass, 329 pp., £25, February 2005, 0 415 35213 4
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... On 2 February 1940, Guy Liddell, MI5’s director of counter-espionage, wrote in his diary: An elderly statesman with gout When asked what the war was about In a written reply Said ‘My colleagues and I Are doing our best to find out’ A not inapposite comment on the Phoney War (and we learn from Liddell that there was a good deal of hidden last-minute talk between Chamberlain and Goering), the verse also conveys something of the self-contained world of MI5 ...

German Jew

Michael Irwin

17 April 1980
The Missing Years 
by Walter Laqueur.
Weidenfeld, 281 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 297 77707 6
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Jack be nimble 
by Nigel Williams.
Secker, 213 pp., £5.50, March 1980, 0 436 57155 2
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Identity Papers 
by Anthony Cronin.
Co-op Books, 194 pp., £4.50, February 1980, 0 905441 23 0
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Narrow Rooms 
by James Purdy.
Black Sheep Books, 185 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 906538 60 2
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Six Moral Tales 
by Eric Rohmer, translated by Sabine d’Estrée.
Lorrimer, 252 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 85647 075 9
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... descriptive detail agitates the imagination as Dr Lasson’s rather flat story-telling does not. Nigel Williams, who won the Somerset Maugham Award for Fiction in 1978, has produced a second novel, which shows plenty of talent but is rather a mess. Its hero, Jack Warliss, a writer of sorts, invents a series of aliases for himself as he struggles to find his ...

A Tale of Three Novels

Michael Holroyd: Violet Trefusis

11 February 2010
... into my life as she has had in hers,’ Violet wrote in the summer of 1918 to Vita Sackville-West. She had begun to squeeze a very indiscreet romance with Vita into her own life. The girls’ passion for each other was to be the subject of an early novel by Sackville-West called Challenge and secretly dedicated to ...

In the field

Nigel Hamilton

5 November 1981
Washington Despatches, 1941-45: Weekly Political Reports from the British Embassy 
edited by H.G. Nicholas.
Weidenfeld, 700 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 297 77920 6
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. II 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 850 pp., £15.95, September 1981, 0 11 630934 2
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Mars without Venus: A Study of Some Homosexual Generals 
by Frank Richardson.
William Blackwood, 188 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 9780851581484
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Soldiering on: An Unofficial Portrait of the British Army 
by Dennis Barker.
Deutsch, 236 pp., £8.50, October 1981, 0 233 97391 5
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A Breed of Heroes 
by Alan Judd.
Hodder, 288 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 340 26334 2
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War in Peace: An Analysis of Warfare Since 1945 
edited by Robert Thompson.
Orbis, 312 pp., £9.95, September 1981, 0 85613 341 8
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... fight another day. This was a very courageous decision to make, and there are still those – like Nigel Nicolson – who hold that it was too great a risk to take at such a critical moment. One can imagine, therefore, Montgomery’s relief when, four days after giving out his new orders for Alam Halfa, Ultra provided conclusive evidence that Rommel ...

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