A revealing biography of Sidney Reilly, the early twentieth-century virtuoso of espionage
“Mr. Morris’s dogged research . . . lends impressive rigor to this portrait of an often-cryptic figure.”—Diane Cole, Wall Street Journal
Sidney Reilly (c. 1873–1925) is one of the most colorful and best-known spies of the twentieth century. Emerging from humble beginnings in southern Russia, Reilly was an inventive multilingual businessman and conman who enjoyed espionage as a sideline. By the early twentieth century he was working as an agent for Scotland Yard, spying on émigré communities in Paris and London, with occasional sorties to Germany, Russia, and the Far East. He spent World War I in the United States, brokering major arms deals for tsarist Russia, and then decided to become a professional spy, joining the ranks of MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence service. He came close to overthrowing the Bolshevik regime in Moscow before eventually being lured back to Russia and executed. Said to have been the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s iconic James Bond character, Reilly was simultaneously married to three or four women and had mistresses galore. Sifting through the reality and the myth of Reilly’s life, historian Benny Morris offers a fascinating portrait of one of the most intriguing figures from the golden age of spies.
Benny Morris is an Israeli historian, formerly professor of history in the Department of Middle East Studies at Ben-Gurion University. He is the author of a dozen books, including 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War and Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881–2001.
“Mr. Morris’s dogged research—particularly into the shadowy intrigues that Reilly immersed himself in during the years surrounding World War I, the Russian Revolution and the founding of the Soviet Union—lends impressive rigor to this portrait of an often-cryptic figure.”—Diane Cole, Wall Street Journal
“Benny Morris recounts the stranger-than-fiction biography of the famous British spy who lied his way through the turmoil of the early twentieth century and introduces a new generation of readers to a character more compelling than James Bond.”—Matti Friedman, author of Spies of No Country
“Sidney Reilly adopted and shed identities as easily as he took and dropped wives, lovers, get-rich schemes, and plots. A remarkable book about a remarkable man, this will be the definitive biography of the early twentieth century’s preeminent spy.”—Gershom Gorenberg, author of War of Shadows: Codebreakers, Spies, and the Secret Struggle to Drive the Nazis from the Middle East
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