Thursday, August 11, 2011

Kim Philby, Book Glutton

There is an interesting piece in the August 6, 2011 issue of the Spectator which details the discovery of some correspondence between the spy Kim Philby and his Cambridge bookseller.  Writer Jeffrey Meyers has obtained several letters Philby wrote in the mid 1980s from Moscow to Bowes & Bowes in Cambridge.  Apparently Philby was unable to borrow books from any of the American and British lending libraries in the Soviet Union and he had to order books directly from the UK. 

It should be no surprise that Philby was an avid reader of thrillers and spy novels.  From the list of his orders published in the Spectator:

Thrillers and spy fiction: Agatha Christie (21), Francis Iles (1), Dashiell Hammett (2), Margery Allingham (4), Julian Symons (3), Michael Gilbert (3), Edmund Crispin (1), Dick Francis (1), P.D. James (1), Patricia Highsmith (12), Ed McBain (15), Nicolas Freeling (2), Anthony Price (1), John le Carré (1), Robert Parker (3).

 Twelve Patricia Highsmith novels!  And an Anthony PriceLook at all that Ed McBain, too.  Only one le Carre - I gather Philby and le Carre did not get along.  Meyers also writes that Graham Greene always sent Philby a copy of each new book he wrote.


OlmanFeelyus said...

Nice to see Michael Gilbert in there!

Louis XIV, 'The Sun King' (Nick Jones) said...

Great minds think alike, BG. I spotted that Spectator article last week (and posted about it today). I was struck by the number of Highsmiths in there as well, but that might be down to the Graham Greene connection: Philby and Greene were friends, and Greene was a huge Highsmith fan.

Michael Gilbert's someone I've become interested in recently, Olman. Picked up a couple of cheap firsts locally, and have my eye on something else a bit pricier. Anything you'd recommend?

Book Glutton said...

OF: I just did some searching and you have blogged about several Michael Gilbert books. I like what you've written. I am definitely interested in Gilbert now. Thanks. And if we're lucky, maybe we will get to see some pretty pictures of nice MG first editions on EE in the future.

There's an arts program I listen to on the BBC World Service called the Strand - and it turns out the host, Harriet Gilbert, is Michael's daughter.

L14: I hope Jeffrey Meyers sees your post and we can find out which titles he got. If Philby were still alive, he could start a book club - like Oprah or Richard & Judy.

Louis XIV, 'The Sun King' (Nick Jones) said...

Ha! Philby's Book Club. That would be utterly sublime.

Book Glutton said...

The Philby Book Club would be fun at first. But eventually the members would begin to defect to rival book clubs. We cannot escape history.