I uncover the most fascinating books and then when researching them I find some more interesting stuff. This book was originally published in 1967 under the title Ace of Spies. It was written by the son of one of Reilly’s co-workers so he would have had access to his father’s papers and information and as he was also in the spy business would have had access to all the people in the know. So, why did this book get published and how much of it is actually real? I don’t know the answer to either question but I did a little research and found the answer to the second question is probably quite a lot.
Let me tell you a bit about Sidney Reilly.
Born in the Ukraine in 1874, the illegitimate son of a Jewish doctor. He studied some chemistry before taking off to Brazil where he was found and enlisted himself as a spy for the British government. From there he became the man of a thousand names, a master spy and a bigamist. He seems to have had a way with languages and a way with women, using them as he felt he needed to in order to further his cause.
I can’t find the quote but Ian Fleming is said to have talked about having written about a fictional spy, James Bond, not a real spy, Sidney Reilly.
A smidgeon of research
Seeing as I’m now a student and have access to resources I didn’t have before I took a slight tour of the archives at the Deakin University Library. I found that much of the information in the book is probably true. Reilly was indeed a spy and that he tried to topple the Bolshevik Government, he was discovered in 1918 and had to flee the country…somehow the Russians didn’t like him trying to oust them, I can’t think why.
I also found some rather interesting books written by Lockhart and his father. Here are some links so you can go look. Halfway to Heaven: The Hidden Life of the Carthusians and Scotch:The Whisky of Scotland in Fact and Story. Unfortunately, the book I’m discussing isn’t in print so I can’t send you to look and consider buying, as I don’t want to keep it I might put it in a giveaway soon.
It’s reasonably well written, I found it a bit dry in parts but maybe I’m expecting a spy story rather than the story of a spy. Inside the covers we get some details of some of the events while we also get a lot of gaps. I can’t help wondering if the book was originally longer but these gaps were caused by censorship. This is 252 pages of dense information, sometimes I lost track of who was who and what they were doing as Lockhart unfolded the story. Other times I held my breath as I read the derring do of a real spy.