Viking has signed two new books from author Ben Macintyre with the first revealing unpublished intelligence sources about the 20th century's "greatest woman spy" Ursula Kuczynski.
Venetia Butterfield, publisher of Penguin General Books, bought UK and Commonwealth rights to both from Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown.
The first title, Mrs Burton: The Most Important Female Spy in History, "tells the astonishing true story of Ursula Kuczynski – a dedicated communist, decorated colonel and veteran spy codenamed ‘Sonya’ who risked her life to keep the Soviet Union in the nuclear arms race". Macintyre gained access to unpublished intelligence sources in Russia, Germany and the UK in order to write this first full account of the 20th century's greatest woman spy, Viking said.
“In the quiet Cotswolds village of Great Rollright in 1944, a thin, and unusually elegant housewife emerged from her cottage to go on her usual bike ride,” the synopsis reads. “A devoted mother-of-three, attentive wife and friendly neighbour, Ursula Burton seemed to epitomise rural British domesticity. However, rather than pedalling towards the shops with her ration book, ‘Sonya’ was heading for the Oxfordshire countryside to gather scientific secrets from a nuclear physicist. Secrets that would enable the Soviet Union to build the atomic bomb.”
The second book is a currently untitled new account of Colditz.
Both books will be published in hardback, with Mrs Burton due to be released in autumn 2020 and the second title in autumn 2022.
“Sonya was not only the most effective woman spy of all time, but one who changed history,” Macintyre said. “Uniquely, she was a mother, wife, novelist, expert radio technician, spymaster, courier, and secret agent, all at the same time.”
Butterfield commented: “Ben has found a terrific subject in Ursula Kuczynski, whose military intelligence transformed the balance of power during the Cold War, and whose never-before-told story is sure to thrill hundreds of thousands of readers.”
Macintyre is the multimillion-copy bestselling author of books including The Spy and the Traitor, SAS: Rogue Heroes (both published by Viking), Agent Zigzag, Operation Mincemeat and A Spy Among Friends (all published by Bloomsbury). He is a columnist and associate editor at the Times and has worked as the newspaper's correspondent in New York, Paris and Washington. He regularly presents BBC series based on his books.
Macintyre’s last book, The Spy and the Traitor, was a top 10 Sunday Times bestseller and shortlisted for the 2018 Baillie Gifford Prize.