Sunday, January 22, 2023

Ace of spies

I've read one biography of Sidney Reilly and probably won't also read this one, but a review of that book reminds me how very much I enjoyed a very good television series starring Sam Neill loosely based on Reilly's life.
'James Bond is just a piece of nonsense I dreamt up,’ the former naval intelligence officer Ian Fleming once said. ‘He’s not a Sidney Reilly you know.’ ....

...Reilly’s colourful life was spent against the changing backdrop of Shanghai, Tokyo, Manila, Rio, Paris, London and various parts of Russia, although little feeling for these glamorous locations is evoked in Benny Morris’s book. But there is plenty of action. For starters, Reilly may have murdered several men. He certainly oiled the wheels of the war industry trade between Russia, Germany and Britain, making a fortune on the side, and chalking up a string of significant intelligence successes involving √©migr√© Russian revolutionaries, German armaments producers and the Tsarist army and navy.

What Reilly failed to do, but had a good stab at, was overthrow the Bolshevik regime. If they were not executed immediately, Reilly favoured parading Lenin and Trotsky through the Moscow streets ‘with their nether garments missing’. As he would discover some years later, when a midlife crisis contributed to send him back to Russia, their plans for him would not be so forgiving. ....

...[M]ost characters in this book have significant agency, and what a cast there is. Remarkable intelligence officers Bruce Lockhart and Boris Savinov; Trotsky – who may have been related to Reilly; and MI6’s ‘C’, Mansfield Cumming, are just a few of those who play significant roles. Walk-on parts go to, among others, Winston Churchill at the Paris Peace conference, the author and spy Somerset Maugham, and Lenin’s would-be assassin Fanny Kaplan, ‘leaning her chin upon her hand… apparently resigned to her fate’. ....
Reilly Ace of Spies can be watched streaming at Amazon Prime (PBS Masterpiece) and perhaps elsewhere. It can also be found on DVD, although rather expensive.

Clare Mulley, "Sidney Reilly, Ace of Spies, remains an enigma," The Spectator, Jan. 21, 2023.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. I will gladly approve any comment that responds directly and politely to what has been posted.