- File Size: 1590 KB
- Print Length: 119 pages
- Publisher: Endeavour Press (August 11, 2016)
- Publication Date: August 11, 2016
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01KAHQLVO
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #229,638 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Print List Price:||$9.99|
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In Too Deep (A Kindle Single) Kindle Edition
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This is a quick, highly entertaining read and will appeal to different audiences. For those who know nothing or little of the background to the true story of Buster Crabb, it’s a short, fast-moving combination of spying, crime, adventure and political power games, told in an unadorned, muscular vernacular. The characters are skilfully drawn, express their opinions in a no-holds-barred way and, with few exceptions, somehow conspire to let the whole adventure go ahead without doing too much to prevent it.
However, those familiar with the history of 20th century Britain and particularly with this embarrassing episode, which occurred back in the time of Anthony Eden, will enjoy the greater complexity Needle achieves. His take on the story and his insertion of characters such as Bond creator Ian Fleming, Eden himself, Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt and others into it gives him scope for plenty of tongue in cheek descriptions of meetings, conversations and examples of the incompetence of those overtly in control. There’s nothing gratuitous about it; those people were around, actually occupying the positions of authority and power he describes. But his hindsight and sense of humour gives him plenty of scope for satire, which he uses to great effect. Anthony Blunt’s predilections earn him the title of ‘Queen Mother’, the little cameo of Ian Fleming reveals him to be an unpleasant writer of ‘penny dreadfuls’, and I hope very sincerely that the source Needle identifies for the title of his story for children, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, is true.
Beyond all this, though, the timing of this publication must be deliberate. Back then, as now, Old Etonians were in charge and the British class system was solidly entrenched. The strange assumption that an Etonian education prepares one for high office is subtly questioned here as all those responsible for the disaster of the whole Crabb episode show themselves as ill-informed incompetents who hurry to shift the blame onto others, who, naturally, are further down the pecking order. Needle is too subtle a writer to make any direct comparisons or references, but the parallels between this escapade and events of the past few months are blatant.
So it’s a good, lively read but at its centre there’s the bitter and still relevant truth that those at the top play their little games and care little for the victims who have to live, and die, with the consequences.
This novella, a work of creative non-fiction, details the events surrounding the disappearance and presumed death of British frogman Lionel “Buster” Crabb in 1956. The most startling fact related by the British author Jan Needle, is the egregious security breach by the London station chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, (MI 6 to you spy novel fans) when he tells Kim Philby of all people, of his plan to send a diver to spy on Soviet naval ships docked in Portsmouth Harbor. The vessels were carrying Nikita Khrushchev and Nicolai Bulganin on an official state visit to Britain. Philby was of course, a Soviet mole planted on the British many years before, but by 1956 no longer had official status with the government. MI 5 (the internal security service) suspected him of espionage but the nabobs in “6” would not hear of it. The SIS officer had no idea of the depth of Philby’s treachery but in any event security protocol forbids divulging operational plans with anyone no longer authorized to have them. Perhaps I’m giving too much away about this short but riveting book but I couldn’t restrain my horror at the smugness and superciliousness of someone like a high-ranking officer in MI 6 so deeply entrusted with people’s lives and national security.
This is a gritty and absorbing tale wherein the dialogue among the characters is recreated from the author’s research and fertile imagination. Crabb, a WWII frogman well past his prime and in poor health, is cynically chivvied into a mission no one should have been asked to perform and doomed from the start since Agent Peach (Philby) alerted the Russians in advance. The ill-fated Commander Crabb was cajoled into the mission despite the express orders of the Prime Minister forbidding it. There’s no surprise ending to the plot. I recommend it just for the hard-boiled dialogue and insight into the devious machinations of an espionage service gone rogue.
Author Jan Needle’s meticulous research coupled with his personalization of Buster Crabb paints a tragic and informative account of the death of a decorated World War II hero, an imperfect man who served his country…or did he? Was he just a pawn who lost his life caught up in the British Intelligence Services’ intramural one-ups-man-ship follies in the fifties?
In the background are those we read about in history books…Anthony Eden, Ian Fleming, Nikita Khrushchev among others. Then there is Buster Crabb, an aging frogman who had been booted out of the service for health reasons. However, for nefarious purposes conjured my MI6, Crabb is miraculously deemed fit for a job only he could do.
I found myself alternately angry with and saddened by both the aristocratic and coldblooded puppet masters in the spy services, and Buster for his self-destructive behavior.
This book is a must read for those interested in rather obscure but fascinating pieces of history. It could be a novel written by a creative and imaginative author, but it’s not. It’s real…real things happening to real people. All the more reason to read Needle’s unique piece.