Book Preview: Maxwell Knight
16th May 2017
MI6 previews Henry Hemming's biography of the MI5 chief, Maxwell Knight, out this month
By MI6 Staff
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.
About The Author
Henry Hemming is the author of 'Misadventure in the Middle East', 'In Search of the English Eccentric', 'Together' and most recently 'Churchill's Iceman', published in the US and Canada as 'The Ingenious Mr Pyke'. For more visit: henryhemming.com.
Hemming has announced a book tour to accompany the book's release. The following dates and locations are confirmed:
- 24 May – Sohemian Society
- 25 May – Hungerford Bookshop
- 5 June – Village Books, Dulwich
- 13 June – Ealing Local History Centre
- 14 June – Surrey Heath Local History Club
- 20 June – Kibworth Bookshop
- 29 June – Chalke Valley History Festival
- 1 July – Felixstowe Literary Festival
- 2 July – Buckingham Literary Festival
Release Date: 4th May 2017 (US)
Publisher:Preface Publishing (Penguin Imprint)
Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.7 x 24 cm
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