Spies and Traitors: Kim Philby, James Angleton and the Friendship and Betrayal That would Shape MI6, the CIA, and the Cold War

Michael Holzman. Pegasus, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-64313-807-7
Historian and novelist Holzman (Donald and Melinda Maclean) delivers a comprehensive yet tedious chronicle of the relationship between British double agent Kim Philby and CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton. Aiming to deepen the standard depictions of Angleton and Philby “as two-dimensional exemplars of their ideologies: the anti-communist Cold Warrior and the traitorous communist spy,” Holzman oversaturates the book with biographical and historical details. He delves into the work Philby’s father, Indian civil service officer St. John Philby, did to further the cause of Arab independence after WWI, and scrupulously documents the younger Philby’s activities as a “young communist activist” in Vienna in the 1930s. Angleton, meanwhile, grew up in Milan, Italy, where his father was an executive with the National Cash Register company, and joined the OSS after graduating from Yale University. After WWII, the two men developed a mentor/mentee relationship as Angleton sought Philby’s advice on counterintelligence matters. The revelation, in 1964, that Philby had been moonlighting for 30 years as a KGB spy would forever scar the CIA officer, Holzman argues, making Angleton obsessed with rooting out communist double agents in the U.S. foreign intelligence services. It’s a likely hypothesis, but Holzman buries his analysis in minutiae and long discourses on complex international affairs. Readers will have a tough time following the thread. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 08/18/2021
Release date: 10/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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