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The extraordinary untold story of an enigmatic genius who changed warfare forever

From the author of the Sunday Times bestseller, M: Maxwell Knight, MI5's Greatest Spymaster
In the World War II era, Geoffrey Pyke was described as one of the world's great minds. An inventor, adventurer and polymath, he was an unlikely hero of both world wars. He earned a fortune on the stock market, founded an influential pre-school, and is seen as the father of the U.S. Special Forces.

In 1942, he convinced Winston Churchill to build an aircraft carrier out of reinforced ice. He escaped from a German WWI prison camp, wrote a bestseller, and aided Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. He even launched a private attempt to avert the outbreak of the Second World War by sending into Nazi Germany a group of pollsters disguised as golfers.

And he may have been a Russian spy.

70 years after his death, Henry Hemming reveals Pyke's astonishing story in full: his brilliance, his flaws, and his life of adventures, ideas, and secrets.


Hemming makes Geoffrey Pyke a fascinating object of study

Columbus Post Dispatch

This admirable and thoroughly enjoyable book should rescue a weirdly original and innovative talent from oblivion

Nick Rennison, Sunday Times

Hemming has told his story in a biography that reads wonderfully like an adventure story and looks set to restore to Pyke the fame he deserves

Lara Feigel, Guardian

This is a fascinating biography […] Hemming succeeds in celebrating the achievements of this true original

Mail on Sunday

It is as if he had been invented by G. K. Chesterton and given posthumous fame by John le Carré – which underlines the extraordinary accomplishment of his actual biographer Henry Hemming

Sir Michael Holroyd

They say truth is stranger than fiction – and never more so than in this riveting biography

Daily Mail

Throws fascinating light on a forgotten hero of the Second World War

Barry Forshaw, Independent

An unlikely tale of true espionage ... Fans of Graham Greene and Alan Furst will revel in this well-told true-life story

Kirkus Reviews

[A] masterful biography…Hemming's superlative text is nearly as nimble as Pyke's mind, and he reveals who this remarkable innovator really was

Publisher's Weekly

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    February 15, 2015


    560 pages

    RRP $22.99

    Online retailers

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    August 14, 2014

    Preface Digital

    560 pages

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