The Bodley Head has acquired a biography of spy Donald Maclean, written by John Murray publisher Roland Philipps.
Publishing director Stuart Williams bought UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, to A Spy Named Orphan: The Lives of Donald Maclean, from Natasha Fairweather at United Agents.
Maclean was part of the ‘Cambridge Five’ spy circle, although he is less well known than his colleagues Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt.
The secrets Maclean gave away from Paris and Washington before, during and after the Second World War, and later from Cairo and London, “undermined the trust and mutual information-sharing between the British and the American intelligence agencies, changed Soviet attitudes to the West and engendered much of the climate of the later freeze”.
The Bodley Head said Philipps has “spent a lifetime preparing for writing this book, which will elucidate Maclean’s rich and complex life: a background and upbringing full of strictures, an adult life full of repressions, deceptions and binges, a context at Cambridge of fashionable Communist sympathies rewritten when he joins the Foreign Office as youthful indiscretion, a complicated marriage to an equally complex character and a looming sense of his fate closing in on him”.
Williams said: "This is a fantastic union of a writer who brings the perfect sensibility to a uniquely gripping story of great popular appeal. Of all our many traitors, Maclean is the most fascinating and this book will finally propel him out of the shadows.”
Philipps said: “Donald Maclean has always fascinated me through family connections and thoughts about the nature of espionage and treachery gathered through my personal and publishing life, and with the release of new material later this year it felt like exactly the right time to start writing A Spy Named Orphan.”
US rights were acquired by John Glusman at W.W. Norton & Co. from Elyse Cheney.
The Bodley Head will publish in 2018.