Love & Depiction: Philby in Beirut - James Hanning

Join us in our library at 7pm on Wednesday 15th June, when guests can meet author James Hanning, in conversation with Roger Hermiston.

Kim Philby is perhaps the most famous name in 20th century espionage but, though there have been many books written about him, his years spent in Beirut in the 1950s and 1960s remain comparatively overlooked.

Following accusations of treachery against him - of which he was cleared - he returned to his original career as a journalist, arriving in Lebanon in 1956 and promptly falling madly in love with the American wife of a colleague. James Hanning's Love and Deception uses existing histories and many fresh interviews to shed new light both on a personality remarkably at odds with that of the man we think we know and on how the great love affair of his life reached its dramatic culmination. It also contains remarkable new evidence of the pressures that bore down on him as he came closer and closer to being exposed.

The book does not join in his denigration, though there is plenty to deplore, nor is it an attempt to excuse him, though his good points are not hidden. It is an attempt to offer a picture of the whole man. It is not designed exclusively for spy buffs, though they will find fresh material, nor is it just for those interested in the human and emotional aspects of the story, intriguing though those are. Philby, after all, was not just a spy. He wasn’t just anything. But he was one person, not two or more, and he remains an enigma to most. Certainly he is far more easily condemned than understood. But surely there can be no beginning of understanding without reference to his whole personality, and what happened in Beirut sheds more light than any other period.

James Hanning is a former Comment Editor of the London Evening Standard and former deputy editor of the Independent on Sunday. This is his third book. He co-wrote the first biography of former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and wrote an exposé of the phone hacking scandal when, uniquely, he collaborated with the News of the World's Glenn Mulcaire, who had been convicted of unlawful behaviour on the paper's behalf. He lives in Wales with his wife and two daughters.

Roger Hamiston is a journalist and was assistant editor on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. He is also an author of several books, including Two Minutes to Midnight, focusing on the year 1953, one of the most tense periods at the beginning of the Cold War, and The Greatest Traitor, about the spy George Blake.