ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- George Blake was given the longest jail sentence in British history for his spying activities. Blake grew up in the Netherlands, was a multi-linguist and a spy for Russia. Whilst being in prison in North Korea during the Korean war, Blake was disgusted by the Allied bombing of peasant villages – he approached the North Koreans and became one of the most important double agents in the Cold War. Sentenced to 41 years in England, Blake escaped from Wormwood Scrubs with a ladder made from knitting needles – his activities led to hundreds of agents being exposed – Kuper who managed to interview Blake tells his remarkable story of a man ruled by his convictions with few regrets. Highly readable a must for fans of Ben Macintyre and Le Carre. Greg Waldron
Simon Kuper is a British author and columnist for the Financial Times. Kuper was born in Uganda of South African parents in 1969, and moved to the Netherlands as a child. He studied History and German and attended Harvard University as a Kennedy Scholar. He has written for Observer, the Times and Guardian. His previous books include Soccernomics, Soccer Men, and Ajax, the Dutch, the War. He lives in Paris with his family.
Kuper provides a different and valuable perspective, humane and informative. If the definition of a psychopath is someone who refuses to accept the consequences of his actions, does George fit the definition? There he sits, admitting it was all for nothing, but has no regrets. Or does he? -- John Le Carre Truly enthralling, gets under the skin, gives us a more nuanced sense of who Mr Blake - or is it Comrade Blake? - really was and what, if anything, actually motivated him. It's a deeply human read, wonderfully written, on the foibles of a fascinating, flawed, treacherous and sort of likeable character. -- Philippe Sands