A Deadly Game: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global Plot
By Giles Milton
1917, post-Russian Revolution, an unlikely and eccentric band of British spies are smuggled into newly Soviet Russia to thwart Lenin's plan to destroy British rule in India, as a precursor to toppling the democracies of the West. The spies, under Mansfield Cumming, were the unsung founders of the present-day MI6.
'It reads like fiction, but it is, astonishingly, history' The Times
Russian Roulette tells the story of the first global plot and the British spies who were sent to thwart it.
The Soviet plot was breathtaking in scale: its aim was to destroy British rule in India, as a precursor to toppling the democracies of the West. It was to bring together two deadly forces - Soviet revolutionaries and Islamic jihadis - to form a highly toxic threat.
Unbeknownst to Moscow, a small band of British spies had been secretly smuggled into Russia in the aftermath of the 1917 revolution. They were an unlikely group of men: self taught and highly educated. Their boss was endearingly eccentric. Mansfield Cumming was a monocled, one-legged sea captain with a passion for secret inks and homemade explosives. Cumming gave his agents free range to do whatever they wanted once they were inside Soviet Russia: 'Just don't get yourself killed,' was his only injunction.
Over the course of the next three years, his spies would be involved in murder, deception and duplicity on a grand scale. Living in disguise - and constantly switching identities - they would infiltrate Soviet commissariats, the Red Army and Cheka (secret police), and would come within a whisker of assassinating Lenin.
The pinnacle of their achievement was to unmask Lenin's plan for global revolution. It would reach its denouement in the Central Asian city of Tashkent. Lenin's global plot would be spectacularly unravelled.
Britain's spies proved brilliantly successful in saving the Western world from catastrophe. They found a wholly new way in which to deal with enemies, one that relied on espionage and dirty tricks rather than warfare. As such, they were the unsung founders of today's modern, highly professional secret services and, in their way, inspiration for fictional heroes to follow, from James Bond to Jason Bourne.
Russian Roulette draws on little known records from India Political Intelligence that have only recently been released into the public domain, including rare duplicated copies of reports from MI6's closed archives.
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- Publication date:
29 Aug 2013
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Giles Milton's fast-packed account of Britain's attempts to sabotage Lenin's revolution reads like a madcap thriller... Milton has synthesised and filleted a mass of material - old memoirs, official archives and newly released intelligence files - to produce a rollicking tale... which explains the long war against Russia with verve, wit and colour. It reads like fiction, but it is, astonishingly, history. — The Times
This gripping history of derring-do and invisible ink brings to life the exploits of the British spies who waged war against Russia during the Cold War ... Full of novelistic flourishes ... [readers] will find themselves as gripped as they would be by the very best of Fleming or le Carré. — The Sunday Times
A terrific story, told with Milton's customary fluency and eye for detail. — Mail on Sunday
Milton is a compulsive storyteller whose rattling style ensures this is the antithesis of a dry treatise on espionage. And unlike 007, it's all true. — Daily Express
This chronicle of British undercover push back against Bolshevik world conspiracy proves to be an exciting ringside seat at the Russian Revolution... accomplished British author Milton does a fine job of keeping order without sparing suspense... A beguiling ride through a riotous time by a historian and able storyteller who knows his facts and his audience. — Kirkus (starred review)
With this marvelous, meticulously researched and truly ground-breaking account of British spies working in Lenin's stripling Soviet Union, Giles Milton - with his best book so far - reminds us of a time when the spying game was dangerous, fun and even, dare one say it cool. — Simon Winchester, author of THE MAN WHO UNITED THE STATES