Friday, 9 July 2010

BIOGRAPHY, The Nine Lives of Otto Katz - Jonathan Miles


He was one of the most effective agents ever to work for Soviet Russia. For the first half of the twentieth century his fingerprints can be found on one world-changing event after another. But who was Otto Katz? To the FBI, he was 'an extremely dangerous man'. The British Secret Service wondered if he was the 'Director of all Communist policy in the West.' In Prague and Berlin he was a drinking companion with the likes of Franz Kafka and Bertolt Brecht. To Marlene Dietrich, he was one of her many lovers. But to others, Katz was a passionate anti-fascist who witnessed Hitler's rise to power and was among the first to alert the world to the Nazi threat. He was a staunch Communist, part of the Soviet infiltration of England during the period when the Cambridge spies were being recruited. In Hollywood, he was a playboy socialite, political mentor to director Fritz Lang and a star among stars. His example inspired the character of Victor Laszlo in Casablanca and Kurt Muller, the hero of the Academy Award Winning Watch on the Rhine. To Noel Coward, he was a potential double agent. In the Spanish Civil War, he did Stalin's dirty work. Years later, some even blamed him for the assassination of Trotsky. In a captivating detective story, Jonathan Miles goes in search of the real Otto Katz - a brilliant, daring charmer, a double-dealing man with an unquestionable taste for the finer things in life who, nonetheless, served one of history's darkest masters - Joseph Stalin. Using recently released FBI, MI5 and Czech files, Jonathan Miles has created an action-packed story of the life (or lives) of one of the world's most intriguing, influential and successful spies.


As a huge fan of books based on real larger than life characters, I was pretty surprised at this offering from Jonathan Miles who investigated the curious character known as Otto Katz, a soviet spy. It not only was fascinating but brought a real sense of a 007 to the modern day reader from the last century. Beautifully written and above all well researched this offering really did hit the spot to me as a reader and allowed a glimpse into a man who must have been an absolutely fascinating character at a dinner party. A real triumph and one that I hope that many will pick up if only to learn about a character that shouldn’t have met the grisly end.

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