Audiobook - A Spy Like No Other

A Spy Like No Other

Steve Taylor-Bryant takes on an audiobook from our friends at Spokenworld that reaches the parts other audios can't reach...

A SPY LIKE NO OTHER - ROBERT HOLMES

Read by John Banks

Edited by Tanja Glittenberg

Produced by Neil Gardner

The Cuban missile crisis, the KGB, and the Kennedy assassination.

I have fallen in love with audio books as a medium, and I wish I'd come across Spokenworld Audio years ago. Running a media group, I have to read so many books, all of them fiction and, sometimes, my first love of non-fiction simply doesn't get a look in. However, with Audio books I can send emails, edit, approve art and drink coffee all whilst having my mind treated to some great political intrigue.

With the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK not that distant a memory, I decided an audio book review of a superb tale of murder, missiles and espionage was the best way to show you the new found power that audio books hold on me. So here's my ramblings on Robert Holmes A Spy Like No Other.

The arms race between the United States and Russia in the 1950's and 1960's was perhaps the most dangerous face-off of nations in world history, culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Nikita Khruschev moved his arsenal of ballistic missiles into Cuba and the young US President John F Kennedy called his bluff. Words like 'ego' and 'brinkmanship' do not belong in a nuclear age, but there went Khruschev, tail between his legs, back to Russia to plan future peace talks with Kennedy.

Robert Holmes, himself a diplomat in Moscow in the early 60's, wanted to tell the story of Oleg Penkovsky, an MI6/CIA mole within Russian intelligence but ,whilst researching, came across a list of characters and cohorts and, more importantly, a link to the Kennedy assassination, stemming from the ill-fated missile debacle.

It comes to light that hard-line Stalinists, embarrassed by the withdrawal of missiles from Cuba, sought revenge behind the back of a softening Khruschev.

'Cuba was a humiliation of the first order for these men. They believed in the Stalinist way of doing things: Hit your enemy - Hit them hard'

Serov, Andropov and Kryuchkov are quite famous spies if you know your 60's history. For those of you that don't, it doesn't matter, the descriptions and passages of explanation in Holmes book are superb and you will know them by the end. They deemed Kennedy "the Arch Enemy of Russia" and personally attended a Visa meeting in Mexico for a nobody called Lee Harvey Oswald.

Did this secret band of Russian hard-liners have Kennedy shot for revenge? Are we back to a single gunman way of thinking again?

What Holmes has done is add credence to otherwise fanciful conspiracy theories. Using the facts he has unearthed, it is difficult not fall to his way of thinking, even for me, who has his own theory when it comes to Kennedy, and even though the audiobook is over 9 hours long it is such a good listen I have just finished my second visit to it before I wrote these words.

The original Holmes hardback can be a handful to read. For those without a basic knowledge of espionage, dates and times, and life as a Russian in the Cold War, it can be tedious and take an age to get through. However when converted to audiobook it comes alive. Spokenworld Audio's team have done a great job, and the narration by John Banks brings the factual to life, with large parts sounding like a Le Carre novel.

9 hours is a commitment to anything you may not have tried before but this is seriously good. For the conspiracy nut it feeds fuel to an already large fire, for the history buff it has more dates, times and names than a phonebook and for people like me that are mixture of the two? It's perfect.

Image - Spokenworld.