Spymaster by Tennent H. Bagley. Biography of a senior KGB officer, Sergey A. Kondrashev, written by a former CIA officer.
Not as dramatic as I expected: Kondrashev was mostly a manager and it's more about bureaucratic infighting than secret missions. The book might be more targeted at serious spy buffs than casual browsers.
Does have some interesting material though. There are first accounts of life in the KGB under Stalin's purges, when nobody knew who might be next.
As ever the problem with spying is that the better the source, the less willing you are to expose them by using the information they give you. This led to elaborate games of counter-bluff. There's a discussion of a triple agent, who when instructed by the KGB to pretend to leak information to the Americans, went further and started giving them genuine information. Standard instructions from the KGB were that when a listening device was discovered, it should never be disturbed unless the KGB approved, since it was often more useful to use it for disinformation.
There's some interesting stuff about timings, in particular in relation to the Suez crisis which Kondrashev was involved with. Mole Guy Burgess had revealed the existence of a tunnel the West was using to tap into communication networks, but the KGB didn't want to expose their source by stopping it: they "accidentally" discovered it at a time when it was convenient to look outraged. Kondrashev believes that the timing of the Hungarian uprising soon after Suez partly led to the harsh repression: the Soviets feared imperialism was on the rise.
Overall, fairly interesting.
What I'm Watching
Saw Dunkirk at the cinema. Was a packed house which I've never seen midweek, with a mixture of young and old people. Had to tell a confused couple in their sixties that you buy tickets at the concession stands now.
I thought it lived up to the hype. Very intense and claustrophobic, it follows three sets of characters from their points of view in a confusing situation. I generally liked the way it eschewed much CGI, using practical effects and large set-pieces wherever possible. ((spoiler The scene where the down pilot is desperately attempting to open the canopy of the sinking plane was the most intense for me.
I wouldn't mind seeing it again, as it gets a bit confusing to follow which uniformed character is which, especially when splattered with oil or thrashing in the water.
One thing that I liked was that it was relatively short. I usually check out the various possiblities when I go to the cinema, and this was shorter than Spider-Man or War for the Planet of the Apes at a bit under two hours. Good to see someone realises that longer is not necessarily better.
Definitely worth watching, preferably on the big screen.
Weight loss going well, have reached my original goal which was the top of my old healthy range, and can fit comfortably in all my trousers again. I think I should keep going a bit though, still seem to have some excess baggage and not sure I've correctly adjusted for moving to different scales.
Socioeconomics. The rise and fall of the property-owning democracy. Unemployment in the UK is now so low it's in danger of exposing the lie used to create the numbers. No Laffer effect in UK corporation tax.
Politics. Why the Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming from Inside the White House. Why I'm a Remainer who accepts the EU referendum result. US Conservative case of universal healthcare. Price of stopping Brexit.
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