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  • Published: 18 May 2017
  • ISBN: 9781409052524
  • Imprint: Preface Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 416


Maxwell Knight, MI5's Greatest Spymaster

Revealed in full for the first time, the extraordinary life of Maxwell Knight, MI5's greatest spymaster

*** The Sunday Times bestseller ***

'Vividly imagined and prodigiously researched' Helen Davies, Sunday Times, Books of the Year

'Such a rewarding read' John Preston, Daily Mail, Books of the Year

'This odd, secretive man is brought to life', Robbie Millen, The Times, Books of the Year

Maxwell Knight was a paradox. 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, 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. 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.

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. He was the first in MI5 to grasp the potential of training female agents.

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.

  • Published: 18 May 2017
  • ISBN: 9781409052524
  • Imprint: Preface Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 416

About the author

Henry Hemming

Henry Hemming is the author of five works of non-fiction, including the Sunday Times bestseller M, the Dolman Travel Award-shortlisted Misadventure in the Middle East and Churchill’s Iceman, a New York Times bestseller. He has written for the Economist, The Sunday Times, FT Magazine and the Washington Post, among many others. He lives in London with his two children.

Also by Henry Hemming

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Praise for M

Crammed with cracking stories and founded on sound research, Henry Hemming's biography of Maxwell Knight - 'M' - stands comparison with the bestselling books of Ben Macintyre.

Adam Sisman (Author of John Le Carré)

Absolute proof that assiduous digging in the archives can produce scoops. This is intelligence research at its best, especially in the identification of hitherto anonymous agents. Definitely a great contribution to the literature.

Nigel West (Author of MI5)

A fascinating portrait of a complex man. Espionage writing at its best.

Charles Cumming (Author of A Divided Spy)

I raced through Henry Hemming's book, constantly having to remind myself that it wasn't a work of fiction. It really has everything you'd want from a great espionage story: incredible agents risking their lives; the highest possible stakes, with the safety of the world hanging in the balance; and at its heart a complicated, mercurial spy master in Maxwell Knight spinning an ever more intricate web.

Matt Charman, Oscar-nominated screenwriter of 'Bridge of Spies'

A major new biography

Mail on Sunday

Hemming has written a very readable, thoughtful and comprehensive account

Alan Judd, Literary Review

Fascinating biography ... Hemming has done a superb job

Ben Macintyre, The Times, 'Book of the Week'

Engaging and suspenseful

Financial Times

Lively contribution to a maverick literature

The Observer

Henry Hemming has found a peach of a subject... Full of new material, fresh interpretations and uncompromising integrity... He has managed the great feat of producing a rattling good read that is also a major piece of revisionist history

Richard Davenport-Hines, Wall Street Journal

'Compelling new biography. Hemming has done a wonderful espionage job of his own, scouring obscure files to bring long-hidden agents and their exploits to light. It is also a gripping portrait of an era, now long gone, when the establishment could accommodate such extravagant oddness.

Daily Telegraph

Excellent biography. The author has done a terrific job of unscrambling Knight's muddled life

The Sunday Times

Jaw-droppingly revelatory biography. *****

Mail on Sunday

A cracking read, which both informs and entertains in equal measure.

Robin Handbury-Tenison, Country Life

Henry Hemming's excellent new life of Maxwell Knight [...] the most convincing, balanced and intricate biography of this extraordinary figure.

Alex Bughart, The Spectator

'A terrific life of the brilliant and eccentric spymaster'

The Sunday Times

A jaw-droppingly revelatory biography

EVENT magazine, Mail on Sunday

The odd chap is brought to life

The Times

This is a terrific book, well researched and superbly written

The Guardian

a fascinating biography

Keith Simpson MP's Summer Reading List

This is a terrific book, well researched and superbly written

The Guardian

Hemming tells a story of great interest, bringing to light the exploits of an eccentric and magnetic personality, a man able to keep his professional and private lives rigorously separate and who fully justifies his posthumous reputation

Catholic Herald

Hemming gives an engrossing account of the remarkable life of a great eccentric

Daily Mail

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