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"An exemplary biography... it is full of perceptive intimacies and plenty of tradecraft, subterfuge, deception and revelation. I cannot think of a better biography of a spy chief." (Richard Davenport-Hines The Spectator)
"a frank and clear-eyed, if affectionate, biography of a great public servant, cruelly traduced" (Matthew Parris Spectator, Books of the Year 2016)
"An intriguing portrait of a brilliant man" (Mail on Sunday)
"Gripping and candid." (The Times)
"A welcome biography of a man able to combine warm family and personal relationships with hard-headed intellectual analysis, taking the cold decisions needed to succeed in the most unaccountable and secret of government agencies." (Richard Norton-Taylor Guardian)
"[Maurice Oldfield] was the first professional intelligence officer to make it all the way to the top and become Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service and he was a seminal figure in the creation of the modern MI6. An invisible legend, but a legend nevertheless." (Frederick Forsyth)
"A lively, readable and delightful portrait of one of the most charming men to emerge from the shadows." (Sunday Telegraph)
"This is the finest biography of a British Spymaster ever written. From Oldfield’s Derbyshire roots to the peaks and valleys of his MI6 career, the insights are revealing, the judgements are fair and the well-wrought narrative makes a compelling read. This is a marvellous addition to the historical literature of the secret world." (Jonathan Aitken)
"Denied access to the official files but with the co-operation of former intelligence officers, Oldfield's nephew has produced an immensely enjoyable biography of the most important post-war spy chief of Britain's still very, very secret Secret Intelligence Service, revealing the previously unknown private person and the man who kept the British government informed during the Cold War." (Stephen Dorril, author of MI6: Fifty Years of Special Operations)
"A revealing study of this most unlikely of spy chiefs, the clever farmer’s son from Derbyshire who reached the top of the most class-bound of professions. Pearce paints a rounded portrait of an enigmatic personality, but one whose skilful reading of human nature and empathy with colleagues made him a popular ‘Chief’ of the Secret Intelligence Service in the dangerous days of the Cold War." (Roger Hermiston, author of The Greatest Traitor)
'I cannot think of a better biography of a spy chief'
Richard Davenport-Hines, The Spectator
The extraordinary story of the most highly decorated British spymaster of the Cold War, Sir Maurice Oldfield. Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (commonly known as the SIS or MI6), he was the first Chief to be named and pictured in the press, and often alleged by them to be the model for the screen versions of both Ian Fleming’s M and John Le Carré’s George Smiley.
This major study of Oldfield’s life portrays one of the UK’s most important and complex spies of the Cold War era. He was the first Chief of MI6 that hadn’t come from an upper-class background or studied at Eton or Oxbridge. Rather, he was a farmer’s son from a provincial grammar school who found himself accidentally plunged into the world of espionage by the outbreak of the Second World War. Oldfield was our man in Washington at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of JFK, and was largely responsible for keeping Britain out of the Vietnam War.
This is the fascinating life story of Maurice Oldfield, written by his nephew Martin Pearce, who remembers asking his uncle what he did for a job. 'Oh it’s quite boring really, dear boy. I’m a kind of security guard at embassies,' was the reply...
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