Author: Alan Judd
Judd, Alan (2001). Legacy. New York: Knopf
- Intelligence officers–Fiction.
- Russians–Great Britain–Fiction.
- Fathers and sons–Fiction.
- Cold War–Fiction.
Date Updated: January 24, 2013
A still-serving MI6 officer [when the book was written] describes an authentic double agent case in fictional terms. Nigel West rates this as one of the Best Spy Novels written.
Rumor has it that Alan Judd served for more than 20 years in British foreign intelligence, ending up as the personal secretary of ‘C’, the head of M16. In other words, he knows the details of espionage, both British and foreign, as well as the secrets of the Western intelligence community in general, better than anyone else in the UK. He has the profound knowledge and deep understanding of the craft of intelligence to write books about spying, a background that cannot be matched by any other British or, for that matter, American writer on the subject. Every page of his Legacy testifies to the competence of its author, who has skillfully used his awareness of particular cases connected with the operations against the KGB and the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) from the end of the 1960s up to the end of the 1980s.
We are in John le Carrè territory in this Cold War spy story set in 1970s London. Charles Thoroughgood, whose name describes his character, has left the British army and joined the Secret Service as a trainee. By coincidence, a Russian acquaintance from university days shows up as a Soviet diplomat with a weakness for a particular London prostitute. Charles is taken out of his training course and told to approach his former classmate. When he does so, the Russian turns the tables on him by revealing that Charles’s own father, now deceased, was a long-standing Soviet agent.
The author clearly knows what he’s talking about, and includes valid descriptions of interesting. We also meet some quirky British characters in the best tradition of the cast of eccentrics created by le Carrè.
Judd differs from le Carrè in that he sees no more equivalence between the British and the Soviets. Whereas Le Carrè regards his characters as players in a game in which both sides observe the same rules more or less. Judd has no such scruples. He clearly sees the Brits as morally superior and the Soviets as utterly evil.
There are some surprises in this book which are not altogether surprising and the depiction of England circa 1970 seems more like the 1950s. Judd clearly brings out the upper class nature of the secret service, still the realm of public school boys and a few women from the “right” families and universities. His women are not convincing and the subject of sexual desire is handled as if it were an embarrassing social faux pas.