Weidenfeld & Nicolson is publishing Agent Jack: The True Story of MI5's Secret Nazi Hunter by political journalist Robert Hutton in 2018.
Alan Samson, publisher at Weidenfeld & Nicolson Non-Fiction, bought world English-language rights (excluding US and Canada) from Sally Holloway at Felicity Bryan Associates.
The book tells the story of "Operation Fifth Column", a Second World War MI5 operation so secret that its existence was only revealed by the National Archives for the first time in 2014. "Agent Jack", who in reality was a bank clerk named Eric Roberts, acted as a Gestapo agent during the war to whom hundreds of British-based Nazi sympathisers and informers passed their secrets, thinking that he was sending them back to Germany.
Characters explored in the book include Roberts, whose double life lasted decades; Maxwell Knight, who recruited Roberts; Victor, 3rd Baron Rothschild, a wealthy scientist who ran the operation alongside his other job, dismantling Nazi bombs; Theresa Clay, a distinguished biologist who worked at Rothschild's side directing Roberts; Marita Perigoe, classed "possibly the most dangerous of the fascists".
Hutton, the book's author and UK political correspondent for Bloomberg News, was one of the journalists who first reported the story in 2014, and the book benefits from the assistance of Roberts’s daughter, sharing both the family legend and her father’s papers from his secret life, in addition to the information released in 2014 and previously released MI5 archives.
Hutton is the author of Romps, Tots and Boffins: The Strange Language of News (Elliott & Thompson) and Would They Lie To You?: How To Spin Friends and Manipulate People (Elliott & Thompson) that were both shortlisted for the Paddy Power Political Book of the Year Awards.