Roland Philipps

Oct 23, 2018

A Spy Named Orphan

The Enigma of Donald Maclean

W.W. Norton 2018

purchase at Donald Maclean was one of the most treacherous and productive - for Moscow spies of the Cold War era and a key member of the infamous "Cambridge Five" spy ring, yet the complete extent of this shy, intelligent, and secretive man’s betrayal of his country and his friends, family and colleagues, has never been explored—until now. Drawing on a wealth of previously classified files and unseen family papers, A Spy Named Orphan: the Enigma of Donald Maclean (W.W. Norton, 2018) meticulously documents this extraordinary story. In the first full biography of Maclean, author and publisher, Roland Philipps unravels Maclean’s character and contradictions. Like many members of his generation, Maclean became infatuated with Communism during his school days, even before his time at Cambridge. The very model of a perfect diplomat, he rose through the ranks of the diplomatic service rapidly, never arousing suspicion of his treasonous double life. He married an American woman despite his sexual ambivalence and increasing antipathy to the United States. He was prone to alcoholic binges and general erratic behavior, that should have blown his cover, yet they never found their way onto his record. A sworn enemy of capitalism, he had access to some of the greatest secrets of the time, transmitting invaluable intelligence to his Soviet handlers on the atom bomb and the shape of the postwar world. In a brazen escapade, he successfully eluded the British authorities to defect to the Soviet Union, where he worked and lived unrepentantly for the next thirty years. Philipps offers memorable portraits of Maclean’s and his coconspirators—Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, and Anthony Blunt—as well as the gifted Russian spymasters of the period. A gripping tale of blind faith and fierce loyalty alongside dangerous duplicity and human vulnerability, Philipps’s narrative will stand as the definitive account of the mysterious and elusive man first codenamed "Orphan” for many years to come. A must read for anyone interested in this tales of spying, intrigue and treason.
Charles Coutinho holds a doctorate in history from New York University. Where he studied with Tony Judt, Stewart Stehlin and McGeorge Bundy. His Ph. D. dissertation was on Anglo-American relations in the run-up to the Suez Crisis of 1956. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. It you have a recent title to suggest for a podcast, please send an e-mail to

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Charles Coutinho

Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written for Chatham House’s International Affairs, the Institute of Historical Research's Reviews in History and the University of Rouen's online periodical Cercles.

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