Sky

& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.

 

With reviews of books that cover these topics

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Soldier Spy

Tom Marcus

Penguin, October 6, 2016

This autobiography is firmly aimed at the Bravo Two Zero  market: a pacey, accessible tale of the life of ‘Tom Marcus’ whilst working for MI5. He claims to have been recruited whilst working for an (unnamed) undercover unit of the British Army in Ulster. This was probably 14th Intel Company; a friend I knew who had served in this unit was as oddball as ‘Tom’ clearly is. Oddball, yet one who can blur into any street scene. Indeed the tales of particular operations on the streets of GB are the nub of this book.

 

The book was approved for publication by MI5, and one can see why: it underlines the excitement of the life of an operative for a certain type of alpha male, and will act as a useful recruiting tool at a time when the service has started openly advertising in the broadsheet press. There is probably little that is anywhere near operationally sensitive in it. It also fulfils a valuable role in demonstrating to the British public the very hard work carried out behind the scenes to keep them safe, and to protect the nation’s wider interests. Soldier Spy also sets out the strain an operative’s working life can impose on his family. In Tom’s case this appears to be exacerbated by a long-standing inability to manage his finances.

 

The prose style is typical of the genre – overwrought at times, loads of capital letters and four-letter words. There is repetition, and a more aggressive editor would have produced a tighter book.

 

It will no doubt appeal hugely to those who like to live life dangerously – in front of the TV, with a pint of lager in hand!