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Biography & Autobiography Historical

The Greatest Spy

The True Story of the Secret Agent that Inspired James Bond 007

by (author) John Harte

Cune Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2022
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2022
    List Price

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Audacious, brilliant, chameleon. All these words could be used to describe the man that became Britain’s greatest spy, a man known by several names and who came from many places, depending on who was asking and when. Was he from Poland? Or was he the son of an Irish clergyman? Many believe he was born in Odessa, Ukraine, a place hot in today’s headlines. He certainly had the ability to be convincing to anyone he met, including the head of Britain’s intelligence services.

Sidney Reilly, one of many names he was known by, was the most successful spy in history. His adventures first came to light during the Russian Revolution in 1917 when he was tasked by Britain’s Secret Service with overthrowing the Bolsheviks after they had formed a new government. He had already succeeded in stealing the plans of the Kaiser’s new and modern fleet of battleships from Krupp, to help Britain and her allies win World War I, and was awarded the Military Cross in 1919.

In 1953, novelist Ian Fleming used Reilly’s secret Admiralty Intelligence file to write his novels about a fictional secret agent he called James Bond 007. But Reilly’s true exploits were even more thrilling and fantastic than those of the fictional James Bond. Reilly was Britain’s best spy—but was he also a Soviet double-agent?

Author John Harte retells Reilly’s story as it really was, in fast-moving prose with an eye for telling detail—and provides a twist: He tells us what really happened to Reilly after he vanished in Soviet Russia in 1925 and was assumed to have been murdered by Stalin’s secret police. Apparently not!

About the author

John Harte was born in London, England after World War 1, when he absorbed the controversies and lessons of that war which historians puzzled over for years afterwards. He then watched each milestone leading to World War 2, in which he served, and lived in England throughout. In postwar years he became an investigative journalist in England and South Africa, where he visited the battle zones of the Boer War. He was a director of companies in the UK, South Africa, and Canada. This is Harte’s second book about Sir Winston Churchill, after How Churchill Saved Civilization (Skyhorse, 2017). He lives and writes books on modern history in Ottawa, Canada. Visit his website at

John Harte's profile page

Editorial Reviews

...a true espionage mystery that reads like a detective story... timely reading, especially now when the world balance is at risk and forces of discontent are rising from every quarter.

—Arianna Dagnino, author of The Afrikaner

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