M: Maxwell Knight, MI5's Greatest Spymaster

Non-Fiction, History & Politics, British History, 20th Century Britain
Paperback Published on: 01/02/2018
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Waterstones Non-Fiction Book of the Month for February 2018 From the author who uncovered the story of the genius defector Geoffrey Pyke in Churchill’s Iceman comes a true tale of espionage to rival any Le Carré thriller. M is the extraordinary history of Britain’s greatest spymaster and the double lives of the men and women under his agency; the secret keepers of the British establishment.   To his friends, he is Max. To most of his colleagues in MI5, Britain’s counterespionage agency, and to his sprawling family of undercover agents, he is better known as ‘M’.  Maxwell Knight was a paradox. He was known to his agents and colleagues simply as ‘M’, and was rumoured to be part of the inspiration for the character ‘M’ in the James Bond series. A jazz obsessive and nature enthusiast (he is the author of the definitive work on how to look after a gorilla), he is seen today as one of MI5's greatest spymasters. He was the first in MI5 to grasp the potential of training female agents and a man who did more than any other to break up British fascism during the Second World War - in spite of having once belonged to the British Fascisti himself. Knight became a legendary spymaster despite an almost total lack of qualifications. What set him apart from his peers was a mercurial ability to transform almost anyone into a fearless secret agent. ‘M’ is about more than just one man however. In its pages, Hemming reveals for the first time in print the names and stories of seven men and women recruited by Knight, on behalf of MI5, and then asked to infiltrate the most dangerous political organizations in Britain at that time. Until now, their identities have been kept secret outside MI5. Drawn from every walk of life, they led double lives-often at great personal cost-in order to protect the country they loved. With the publication of this book, it will be possible at last to celebrate the lives of these courageous, selfless individuals. Drawing on declassified documents, private family archives and interviews with retired MI5 officers as well as the families of MI5 agents, M reveals not just the shadowy world of espionage but a brilliant, enigmatic man at its centre. A page-turning spy story, Matt Charman, Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Stephen Spielberg's Bridge of Spies, and Mammoth Screen, producers of Poldark and Victoria, are producing a big budget television series based on the book. British author Henry Hemming is a popular journalist and writer of non-fiction. His most recent work has focused on the history of the British secret services in the twentieth century. His books include M, Churchill’s Iceman and In Search of the English Eccentric.

  • Publisher: Cornerstone
  • ISBN: 9781784752040
  • Number of pages: 416
  • Weight: 311g
  • Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 27 mm

Customer Reviews

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A Surprising Spy
Maxwell Knight may have been the inspiration for M in James Bond. His career as a spy handler before and during the Second World War provides a revealing a... READ MORE
Richard Watson