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I have always remembered the TV series broadcast back in the 1980s, and have recently revisited them on YouTube. I bought this book to get some more background on Reilly and to see how far the TV series reflected actual events. I have to say I was somewhat disappointed, as the earlier episodes in Reilly's life are skated over in the book, and in fact there is more detail (albeit possibly conjecture) in the TV series.
A lot of the book is devoted to the events around the Bolshevik Revolution and afterwards, and here there is a lot of detail - so much in fact, that it was hard to really engage and understand the complex relationships between the various Russian exiles. Added to this is the fact that Reilly's eventual demise is very hazy - no-one really knows what happened to him in 1925, although the TV series presently the most likely outcome in a very powerful scheme. In the book, having struggled through the complexities of post revolutionary Russian politics, it is a disappointment to end with a question mark!
I saw Reilly, Ace of Spies, on TV some time ago and have been looking forward to reading the book. However, I am finding it a disappointing read. Reilly's exploits make fascinating reading, but Bruce Lockhart has packed them together as though he was filling a small suitcase for a long journey. Names, both English and Foreign, are thrown about like confetti, which means constant flicking backwards and forwards through the pages. An index containing a Who's Who would have been a useful addition.
I have wanted this book for a long time, being a fan of the TV series and it has not disappointed. The book was precisely as described and arrived promptly and well packed. It was ridiculously low priced and I was amazed that it was still available. It is a fascinating story of the early days of the Secret Services and the questionnable characters employed.
This is the original story of Sidney Reilly, on which the Sam Neill TV series was based on. It is of dubious historical accuracy (Lockhart believed some of Reilly's taller tales, and didn't have the access to Russian archives that more recent historians do), but is a very good introduction to the 'Sidney Reilly legend'.
Weak. Esentially just a mishmash of trivia and sometimes absurd speculation. The final chapter is especially ridiculous, being a facile attempt to imply that Reilly was not duped into Russia and killed, but somehow survived.
Re-released and revised in the 80's following a TV series of the same name which was supposedly based on the original version of this book. I had previously read the earlier version and was at that time somewhat familiar with the name and exploits of Sidney Reilly through other writers.
The author claims to remember meeting Reilly some 50 years prior to writing the original edition of this book and must have been quite elderly at the time of this revision by which time memories may have been coloured by subsequent wartime stories. Reilly was reputedly a British masterspy before 1900 but there is very little, other than from Reilly's own words, to support that claim. A proven braggart, liar, fraud and a possible multiple murderer, he was also a prolific philanderer with several concurrent wives and mistresses but there is insubstantial proof of his espionage. Portions of his tale were told to various of his 'wives' but there was no consistency and it always varied with ever-increasing self-glorification. He acted always for his own benefit and funding his lavish lifestyle was always his first priority after his sexual activities. His financial concerns may have helped cause his downfall.
To be a successful spy, one would need not only to obtain information but to quickly pass it to a principal and this author fails to show how Reilly did so in the decade or two before radio although he hints at coded messages. There are several basic historical and factual errors appearing in this edition which were possibly not included in the original edition of a decade and a half previously, not least a reference to 'taping' conversations 30 years or more before tape recording was possible and a reference to a 'flight' a decade or more before the first airline passenger services commenced. These and other fanciful claims by the author bring considerable doubt to much of this writer's efforts.
Many of this author's claims are routinely disputed by others and it is difficult to ascertain just how or from which sources he obtained his information when so little is officially recorded or to distinguish fact from supposition. Not the easiest book to read due its many flights of fancy and it is loaded with excess unsubstantiated information.