Agent Jack – The True Story of MI5’s Secret Nazi Hunter

My new book, Agent Jack, is in the shops now. It tells the astonishing true story of how, during World War II, MI5 fooled dozens of British fascists into thinking they were spying for Germany.

The story has inspired two novels: Kate Atkinson’s Transcription and Anthony Quinn’s Our Friends in Berlin. But the truth is as remarkable as any work of fiction.

In 1942, MI5 faced a puzzle. They’d spent the first three years of World War II convinced that Germany had a “fifth column” of British traitors, ready to rise up and assist in an invasion. But the spy-hunters hadn’t been able to find any trace of such an organisation. What they had kept finding was people who wanted to join it. So MI5 decided they might as well set the group up themselves. For the next three years, a small team within the Security Service patiently collected British Nazi sympathisers, keeping them busy but out of harm’s way. The team was made up of Victor Rothschild, peer of the realm, scientist and bomb-defuser; his “assistant” Theresa Clay, a famous biologist with a complicated personal life; and the star of the operation, Eric Roberts.

Eric Roberts

Roberts was apparently an ordinary clerk, commuting in every day to the Euston Road branch of the Westminster Bank. But he had another life, in which his astonishing skill as a secret agent was revealed.

As the war progressed, these three catalogued hundreds of British people who were willing to risk the noose to help Germany. But when peace came in 1945, MI5 faced a new problem: what to do with them all?

Get it at Waterstones, Amazon or your local bookshop.

“Well-researched, highly readable” – Ben Macintyre, The Times

“Often astounding” – Anthony Quinn, The Guardian

Eye-opening from start to finish. Pacy, original and frequently chilling, Hutton offers a fascinating new take on the story of the Home Front – Henry Hemming, author of M: Maxwell Knight, MI5’s Greatest Spymaster

A gripping book by a talented new spy-writer which illuminates a shocking episode in our wartime history. Fans of Ben Macintyre’s books will love this – Tim Shipman

I have never encountered a stranger or more touching picture of real-life treachery: the exciting and the humdrum, the venality and the idealism, the incompetence and the expertise … and all the while the cocktail of high-octane subversion and the low-octane muddle of workaday life. Robert Hutton is an ace researcher but, more than that, a keen and kindly student of real people – Matthew Parris

At a time when antisemitism is once more rearing its ugly head, this fascinating and well-researched book gives us a salutary reminder that Britain is not immune to homegrown fascist treachery – Tony Robinson

We think we know the story of the Second World War, in which Britons were unambiguously on the side of good against evil. But along comes Robert Hutton to show us that that narrative, while comforting, isn’t exactly true. We had our own fascists here, eager to do all they could to help the Nazi enemy. In thissurprising, even shocking book Hutton tells the extraordinary story of Hitler’s British friends – and the unlikely man who did so much to stop them. It’s a truly compelling tale – Jonathan Freedland

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Medals, Mice and a Naked German

A few stories from Agent Jack:

The Guardian reports on the medals that were given to the Fifth Column.

The Daily Mail adds the story of the naked German in the wardrobe.

The Sun reports on the role that mice played in keeping Winston Churchill safe.

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The first reviews

The first reviews of Agent Jack are in. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t quite chuffed.

Ben Macintyre in The Times says it’s “well-researched” and “highly readable”:

Anthony Quinn in The Guardian says it’s “often astounding”:

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Agent Jack – The Audiobook

Agent Jack is available on paper, e-book and in an audiobook, read by Roger Davis. Here’s a sample:

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The next book: Agent Jack

I’m very excited to announce my next book, Agent Jack: The True Story of MI5’s Secret Nazi Hunter.

In 1942, MI5 faced a puzzle. They’d spent the first three years of World War II convinced that Germany had a “fifth column” of British traitors, ready to rise up and assist in an invasion. But the spy-hunters hadn’t been able to find any trace of such an organisation. What they had kept finding was people who wanted to join it. So MI5 decided they might as well set the group up themselves. For the next three years, a small team within the Security Service patiently collected British Nazi sympathisers, keeping them busy but out of harm’s way. The team was made up of Victor Rothschild, peer of the realm, scientist and bomb-defuser; his “assistant” Theresa Clay, a famous biologist with a complicated personal life; and the star of the operation, Eric Roberts.

Eric Roberts

Eric Roberts

Roberts was apparently an ordinary clerk, commuting in every day to the Euston Road branch of the Westminster Bank. But he had another life, in which his astonishing skill as a secret agent was revealed.

As the war progressed, these three catalogued hundreds of British people who were willing to risk the noose to help Germany. But when peace came in 1945, MI5 faced a new problem: what to do with them all?

The book will be out on September 6 from Weidenfeld & Nicolson and is available to order from Amazon.

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Would They Lie To You? Free Extract

Cover

Want to get a flavour of the new book? Here’s a free extract…

Would They Lie To You preview

And there’s more here…

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In Defence of the Meaningless Speech

I went on the Today programme, to argue that when the news is bad, uncommunication is by far the best policy.

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Would They Lie To You? – on the Daily Politics

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The Journalese Row Scale

image

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Romps – The Radio Show

Radio 4’s Word of Mouth did a whole half hour on journalese, in which I barely plugged the book at all.

Listen here.

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