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th Anniversary Edition with a New Foreword by Sunday Times Bestselling Author Simon Sebag Montefiore A classic Observer A legend Washington Post The best book you will read this year Colonel Tim Collins Posted to Moscow as a young diplomat before the Second World War, Fitzroy Maclean travelled widely, with or without permission, in some of the wildest and remotest parts of the Soviet Union, then virtually closed to foreigners Inhe fought as a founder member of the SAS in North Africa There Maclean specialised in hair raising commando raids behind enemy lines, including the daring and outrageous kidnapping of the German Consul in Axis controlled Iraq Inhe parachuted into German occupied Yugoslavia as Winston Churchill s personal representative to Josip Broz Tito and remained there until , all enemy attempts to capture him proving unsuccessful Eastern Approaches is Maclean s classic, gripping account of the sybaritic delights of diplomatic life, the thrill of remote travel in the then forbidden zones of Central Asia, and the violence and adventure of world changing tours in North Africa and Yugoslavia Maclean is the original British action hero and this is blistering reading This book literally changed my life Simon Sebag Montefiore A man of daring character Winston Churchill An absorbing mixture of military adventure, political judgement, urbane wit, cool humour and surprising incident Financial Times One of the bravest men in the British army, and one of the funniest Ben Macintyre Entertaining, important, the model for James Bond New York Times


6 thoughts on “Eastern Approaches: The Memoirs of the Original British Action Hero (Penguin World War II Collection)

  1. A. Callow A. Callow says:

    It has been claimed that Fitzroy Maclean was one of the real life inspirations for Ian Fleming s character of James Bond According to his obituary in The Independent Fitzroy Maclean owes his place in history to the extraordinary 18 months he spent as Winston Churchill s special envoy to the Yugoslav leader Josip Tito in 1943 45 He sometimes expressed regret that, as with his hero Bonnie Prince Charlie, the historically significant portion of his life was compressed into 18 months at a comparatively young age More dispassionate commentators would say that he packed an unbelievable amount into his 85 years Indeed, whilst this autobiography covers, roughly the 10 years between 1935 45 MacLean was to go on to serve in Government, briefly, and Parliament, at length, achieving much beyond these years for which he is famous.First published in 1949, this autobiography is broken into 3 parts each of which would qualify in its own right as worthy of a book Part One tells of the author s years in the Soviet Union from 1937 to 1939 Having spent a couple of years as a diplomat at the Paris Embassy, a plumb posting, MacLean asked to go to the USSR, as no one else wanted to go this was an easy assignment to get Arriving in Moscow at the height of Stalin s purges and witness to one of the most famous trial that of Bukharin and co the story of which is told here with great insight the young polyglot was determined to see as much of the country as possible and to get away from the cloying paranoia of Moscow where for a Soviet National to be seen talking, even in passing, to a foreigner could lead to torture, imprisonment or even death.MacLean s travel hobby was a pastime highly discouraged by the Soviet Government Nevertheless, he was determined to see as much of the fabled silk road as possible and in a series of journeys, recounted here superbly, and with an ever increasing posse of NKVD watchers he was to visit the Caucasus, Samarkand, Chinese Turkestan from where he was deported and Bukhara and Kabul the latter then much peaceful than today IN reading of these adventures I was struck by the realisation of just what a different place the world is today from the time when MacLean was travelling which of course is now the best part of a century ago Places that were then difficult to visit are now relatively easy to get to and vice versa of course.As a career diplomat, MacLean was not allowed to join the armed forces nor to resign his post at the start of the 2nd World War Determined to join the army he announced his intention to run for Parliament thus barring him from remaining in the Foreign office, ran and was elected as Conservative MP for Lancaster and promptly joined the Army as a Private soldier thereby prompting Churchill to comment that he had used the House of Commons as a Public Convenience Family connections meant that he was commissioned son after basic training and his friend David Stirling got him into the SAS in the North African campaign where he served with distinction on several raids and reconnaissance s notably of Benghazi With the threat to Iran where there were plenty of Nazi sympathisers, in 1942, of the German s breaking through in the Caucuses and thereby threatening Britain s main oil supply he was seconded to the theatre to set up an irregular group of SAS to work as they had in the Western Desert and it was here that he was also tasked with, and successfully succeeded in kidnapping a pro German Iranian General a tale he also recounts in his appearance in the early 1980s on Desert Island Discs This period as an irregular soldier in North Africa and the Middle East makes up the 2nd part of the bookPart three tells the tale of the Balkan War, where MacLean now a Brigadier I think as he never really mentions his promotions in the book though he was eventually to rise to the rank of Major General is parachuted into Yugoslavia at Churchill s specific request to identify which group of Partisans the Chetniks or the communist partisans of whom little was known though a revelation in the desert island discs interview but not the book is that Ultra Intercepts of German Traffic was indicating the Germans were taking severe losses at the hands of the latter hence the reason for the mission As he was dropped into German Occupied Europe, neither MacLean nor anyone else in the west had any idea who Tito was Rumours abounded that it was codename that applied to different people, that Tito was a committee or that Tito was a woman What was known was that a full scale 3 way guerrilla war was in progress and that the partisans previously supported by the British the Chetniks were either quiescent or even allied to the Germans seeing Tito s communists as the main enemy Churchill personally gave MacLean the mission of finding out which group was killing most Germans regardless of political persuasion so that Allied resources would be allocated to the group doing most for the Allied War effort.MacLean quickly became a confidant to Tito and the 2 men obviously got on well though neither was in the pocket of the other MacLean s British mission to Tito eventually became a large one supported eventually by the RAF s Balkan Air Force operating from Italy and even setting up base with a full Commando Brigade and RN support on the island of Vis though none of this happened overnight and there were many nights spent in the woods of Bosnia on the run from German offensives At the end MacLean was in on the liberation of Belgrade and the negotiations between the Royal Jugoslav Government in exile and Tito s partisans for the setting up of an interim government which as we know was not to last The book ends with MacLean s flight out of Yugoslavia in early 1945 as the British Ambassador previously accredited to King Peter s court in exile arrives to normalise relations with the new government spelled throughout the book as Jugoslavia, another indication of the passing of time since the events recalled as is the punctuation where a surfeit of hyphenated words would not be used as they are here This older forms of spelling and grammar actually help to place this book in its time rather well and remind one that the events we are talking about are now long since passed so I am glad that in this Penguin World War II Collection edition, published in 2015, that the original text has been kept.Maclean s turn on BBC Desert Island Discs is well worth listening to its available as a podcast from the BBC s Desert Island Discs Archives 1981 85 Overall this is a cracking read at than 500 pages it could easily have formed 3 books but I am glad that for continuity MacLean chose to tell the story of this decade of his life in one.


  2. Lorrie Monaghan Lorrie Monaghan says:

    Fraser MacClean was an adventuring, Eton educated, aristocratic Scotsman who wrote an autobiography in 1949 covering his adventures in Central Asia whilst working as a junior British diplomat in the Russian Embassy before the second World War and his wartime exploits with the SAS in North Africa, the Middle East and Yugoslavia This effectively splits the book into uneven halves, the first third is a fascinating travelogue of Soviet Central Asia, in the grand tradition of Alexander Burke, whilst the remainder is a swashbuckling boys own wartime adventure story.This structure presents a problem as the two parts of this book will appeal to different kinds of people The first part is a most read for anyone with a passing interest in Central Asia and, or travelling However for those with an interest in military history, this may feel like a very long introduction indeed, perhaps too long to retain interest.Personally I fall into the former category and found Maclean s depiction of Soviet Central Asia as fascinating as his methods of getting there are riveting Maclean, always the adventurer, used his annual leave to explore parts of the Soviet Union which in all likelihood no western European had been to for 20 odd years Along the way he sleeps in parks, outwits border guards and encounters the wonders of Soviet bureaucracy The writing throughout is fluid and the pacing is fantastic If you have an interest in travelling to off the beaten track places definitely read the first third.This is then followed by a pace killing, lengthy, but nevertheless fascinating first hand account of Bukharin s show trial back in Moscow This section will appeal to those who have an interest in Soviet political history, but again this may be a long slog for those not familiar with the show trials and Stalin s internal machinations.Pretty soon after when war breaks out MacClean resigns from the Foreign Office using the remarkable get out clause of having himself elected as an MP so that he can enlist in the army The remainder of the book follows his time in the SAS This is not a horrors of war kind of book, in fact quite the opposite, as we follow MacClean on a series of adventures with the SAS buccaneering across North Africa, Iran and Yugoslavia These adventures include the remarkable kidnapping of an Iranian general and his time spent with Tito and the Partizans in Yugoslavia I suspect MacClean s experiences were not atypical of the average British soldier and he certainly plays up to the role of the jolly gentleman private school solider perhaps a little too well at times That is not to undermine his undoubted heroism and remarkable capacity for ingenuity at all, nor does it detract from what is overall a tremendous read.It s just a shame he didn t split these books into two, as by appealing to two different audiences some who will find either half fascinating may unfairly pass this book over or give up halfway through.


  3. colinr colinr says:

    I m not the first to point out that Eastern Approaches can be divided into two distinct sections I found the first section by far the most interesting as the author explored or possibly spied on huge tracts of Central Asia that non Soviets were deterred from visiting during the 1930s The second part of the book details MacLean s wartime activities, which came across as a bit gung ho to tell the truth, although it certainly provided an insight into Tito s nascent Yugoslavia Definitely worth a read.


  4. JACB JACB says:

    Extraordinary autobiographical story by a remarkable man This only covers his early work with the diplomatic service before being posted to Russia where he witnessed the infamous purge and trials of whom Stalin considered as potential threats Unable to resign from the service and join the British forces when war broke out he found a loophole in that an MP could resign He therefore stood for Parliament, was elected and was therefore able to join up as a private His talents were rapidly recognised, particularly his linguistic gifts and in no time was with the newly formed SAS forces in North Africa where they were active behind the German lines His talents were recognised by Churchill and he was sent to Yugoslavia to link up with the rebel forces there and formed a close link with Tito The book finishes with the German withdrawal from the Balkans and leaves much of his later life as a politician and author uncovered An inspirational story, would have liked to know about his early years and how he became such a polyglot Such an unselfish life compared with our current self focussed society.


  5. Jan Onderwater aus NL Jan Onderwater aus NL says:

    Das Buch ist sehr lesenswert Fitzroy Maclean beschreibt sehr unterhaltsam seine Junge und abenteuerliche Jahre Das buch besteht eigentlich aus 3 teilen Seine zeit in de Sovjet Union von Stalin vor den krieg, Seine Zeit in Nord Afrika bei der SAS im Kampf gegen Rommel und wie er in das Besetzte Jugoslawien geht und als Berater oder Kontaktoffizier bei Tito t tig ist Alle drei teilen sind sehr gut und lesen sich wie einen spannenden Roman von einen Bestsellerschreiber, flott geschrieben, hohes Tempo, spannend, unterhaltsam.Er war als Diplomat in die Britische Botschaft in Moskau und kriegt es hin in verbotene teile in Asien zu reisen Auch beschreibt er die Diktatur und wie die auftritt.In Nord Afrika angekommen beschreibt er seinen Einsatz bei der SAS und wie die den W stenkampf fuhren, aus erste Hand erfahren wir die Kampfeins tze.Danach geht es in Jugoslawien, wir erfahren ber den Alltag der Partisanen, lernen Tito kennen und wie der Tickt Auch hier kann man das Kordit fast riechen.Nicht um sonnst gilt der Autor als Inspiration f r James Bond wie brigens auch Bernhard zur Lippe Biesterfeld Ich liebe Thriller und Biografien von historisch wichtige Leute, dies ist so wohl wie auch.


  6. Ápumichael Ápumichael says:

    Ich finde den ersten Teil, der die Reisen in der Sowjetunion und die Beobachtung des Schauprozesses gegen Bucharin und andere wiedergibt, interessant und unangestrengt geschrieben Die kriegerischen Teile zwei Nordafrika und drei Balkan sind deutlich schw cher Nach meinem Geschmack gibt es dort zu viel unreflektiertes Soldatengeschw tz und viel zu viel Information ber die Ern hrung der Protagonisten Gut ist in dem dritten Kapitel lediglich die konzise Darstellung des Hintergrunds der balkanische Politik zu Beginn des zweiten Weltkriegs Vieles von dem dort Gesagten kann auch heute noch G ltigkeit beanspruchen.