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Biteback scoops St Ermin's Hotel award
13.06.12 | Katie Allen
Vadim Birstein’s SMERSH: Stalin’s Secret Weapon (Biteback) has won the inaugural St Ermin’s Hotel Intelligence Book of the Year Award 2012.
The £3,000 prize was set up by the hotel, located in London’s St James’s Park, in recognition of its long connection with the British intelligence community, particularly its proximity to the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, or M16) during the 1930s and 40s.
The award is open to all non-fiction titles concerned with the world of intelligence and espionage, published in English during the previous year.
Birstein’s title is “a very absorbing, thoroughly readable, extraordinarily detailed account of an organisation that many people thought was a figment of Ian Fleming’s imagination” according to the judges. “SMERSH had a terrible, bloody history and the author tells us every compelling detail.”
The judges also gave special mention to 99-year-old journalist Harry Pincher, known as Chapman Pincher, whose writing focused on espionage-related matters including Their Trade is Treachery in 1981.
The other shortlisted titles were: The Queen’s Agent by John Cooper (Faber); The Art of Betrayal by Gordon Corera (W&N); Second to None by Peer Hansen (Republic of Letters); Intelligence and US Foreign Policy by Paul Pillar (Columbia University Press); and Tiger Trap by David Wise (Houghton Mifflin).