Agent Jack: The True Story of MI5's Secret Nazi Hunter

Agent Jack: The True Story of MI5's Secret Nazi Hunter

by Robert Hutton

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"An appealing mix of accessibility and research. [Hutton] has illuminated a fascinating and often appalling side of the war at home." — Wall Street Journal

The never-before-told story of Eric Roberts, who infiltrated a network of Nazi sympathizers in Great Britain in order to protect the country from the grips of fascism

June 1940: Europe has fallen to Adolf Hitler’s army, and Britain is his next target. Winston Churchill exhorts the country to resist the Nazis, and the nation seems to rally behind him. But in secret, some British citizens are plotting to hasten an invasion.

Agent Jack tells the incredible true story of Eric Roberts, a seemingly inconsequential bank clerk who, in the guise of “Jack King”, helped uncover and neutralize the invisible threat of fascism on British shores. Gifted with an extraordinary ability to make people trust him, Eric Roberts penetrated the Communist Party and the British Union of Fascists before playing his greatest role for MI5: Hitler's man in London. Pretending to be an agent of the Gestapo, Roberts single-handedly built a network of hundreds of British Nazi sympathizers—factory workers, office clerks, shopkeepers —who shared their secrets with him. It was work so secret and so sensitive that it was kept out of the reports MI5 sent to Winston Churchill.

In a gripping real-world thriller, Robert Hutton tells the fascinating story of an operation whose existence has only recently come to light with the opening of MI5’s World War II files. Drawing on these newly declassified documents and private family archives, Agent Jack shatters the comforting notion that Britain could never have succumbed to fascism and, consequently, that the world could never have fallen to Hitler. Agent Jack is the story of one man who loved his country so much that he risked everything to stand against a rising tide of hate.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250221773
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/12/2019
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 19,203
File size: 38 MB
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About the Author

Robert Hutton has been Bloomberg’s UK Political Correspondent since 2004. Before that he was a reporter on the Daily Mirror, and before that he built robots and taught computers to play Bridge at Edinburgh University. He’s married with two sons, and lives in South East London.

Hutton's previous books include Would They Lie to You? and Romps, Tots and Boffins: The Strange Language of News.

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Agent Jack: The True Story of MI5's Secret Nazi Hunter 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Jolie 28 days ago
I have been an avid reader of anything to do with WWII and the Holocaust. There are very few things that could shock me about that era. Then I read Agent Jack and had my mind blown. I don’t know why I was so surprised to read that there were Nazi sympathizers in England. I shouldn’t have been. Considering that Germany is a little over an hour (flying time) from England, it should have made sense. I will admit, it threw me off the book for a little bit. Once I was able to wrap my mind around that, I was able to get somewhat get into Agent Jack. Agent Jack took me six days to read. Four of those six days were spent traveling. Ever travel with three kids? Then you understand why it took me so long to read. The other reason why it took me so long was that I had to force myself to read and finish the book. Which, if you have done it, isn’t a good thing. I also found it extremely dry. There was a lot of information to process. There were parts of the book that I found interesting. It involved the MI5, which is England’s equivalent to the US’s CIA. I found it fascinating the politics that went into everything. I haven’t read a lot of books on the MI5, but what I have read caught my interest. Agent Jack had a wide assortment of people as main characters. But the main guy, the bank clerk who was essential to everything, was fascinating. He kept tabs on 500 people without blowing his cover. Which, to me, is impressive. I can’t even keep tabs on three people without running into issues. I liked that the author chose to portray the Nazi sympathizers in a way that explains why they felt that way. A lot of these sympathizers were refugees from WWI and harbored anger towards England. They would do anything to help Germany, which included betraying the country that took them in. The author did a fantastic job of showing what happened to all the key players, good and bad, at the end of the book. I will say that I was inscensed over how Eric Roberts was treated. That poor man gave years and to get treated like that!! Shameful.
gaele 30 days ago
I don’t know if I would instantly have grabbed this title to read had it not been based on a man, and a story, that helped to inspire Kate Atkinson’s book, Transcription. While I read that and found the story gripping, I had issues with the main character’s choices and repeated ‘missteps’, and while I know that much of the information was based in fact, I had only a passing interest in the “story behind the inspiration” until I was told of this book. Essentially what Hutton has done is pull information and followed trails, taking documents that are researched and footnoted extensively, and presented a story of Britain during the War that isn’t the “widespread” one – tales of the growth of Fascism through the oft-mentioned yet never fully explored British Union of Fascists (shortened to British Union), and the unease with which a segment of the British population found the second war, and the privations and hardships encountered and to come were too reminiscent of the feeling that returning soldiers from the first World War weren’t particularly well-cared for, as promised. And, if we are honest, the worldwide depression in the 30’s and the appearance of Germany’s economic recovery, far earlier than most countries, under this new regime provided a sort of ‘guidepost’ to the people that were so tired of privations and shortages. Enter Eric Roberts, a bank clerk with no discernable skills or outstanding talents (especially not seen by his bosses of fifteen years) and his mission to infiltrate the ‘suspicious at home’, making connections, sharing information of plots to undermine the British determination to withstand Hitler’s forward progress, and then see that plots and plans are foiled, either through his own direct actions or by passing on said information. He posed as a Gestapo spy, drawing in those encouraged or outright supportive of the plans Hitler made, providing a gripping read and asking the question – just how far would (or could) this man, codename Agent Jack, go with plans to sabotage – and would (or could) he participate. Several “German Friendly” citizens were named and discovered – from the already “known” Duke of Windsor (Prince Edward, later Edward VIII before the abdication) to others who were never brought forward with charges as the work Agent Jack was doing was far too important and his cover and story would have been exposed. What emerges is the sort of expected in a situation of war – some are for, some are against, most are simply just trying to survive in whatever means possible. Although we do meet several “Pro British” agents and see the work they did in and out of country – the best example is Victor Rothschild who, as a Jew was invested in many bomb disposal operations and clearly determined to stop Hitler, and the horrible way in which he was treated by the establishment, despite his work and the dangers he faced. The story is equally disheartening and hopeful because of the truths uncovered, and Hutton’s style allows the reader to absorb these details as they build on one another, leaving just as much impact as one might expect the ‘players’ had as events unfolded. While this was very clearly not a read in one sitting sort of book for me, the information revealed from papers buried deep showed the war effort by MI-5 as far more intricate or involved than any ever thought, and leave a series of names and people who, for their own reasons, made choices that were, at best, selfish and short-sighted
Anonymous 11 days ago
Very interesting read laid out in chronological order. An in-depth look at the spying strategies entertwined with the main events of the true story. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an ARC copy of the book. The opinions expressed above are my own.
sjillis 20 days ago
Agent Jack tells the true story of Eric Roberts, a seemingly forgettable bank clerk who worked undercover investigating Nazi sympathizers in England during World War II. Impeccably researched using newly released records and family papers, this biography tells not only the story of Roberts’ (a.k.a., Jack King’s) life, but also the stories of his associates—both true Fascists and those who pretended to be. The three-page list of characters and their associations at the beginning of the book is daunting, but it’s surprisingly easy to keep everyone straight. And it’s disturbingly easy to like some of these German sympathizers. What is confusing, though, is the ways in which some of these individuals are double and even triple crossed. Sadly, Roberts died in relative obscurity (and poverty) in Western Canada, his heroic actions unrecognized and unknown. Fascinating though the story is, it is non-fiction, so it may not appeal to all readers. #NetGalley #AgentJack
Foxlady99 28 days ago
This books is very well written with an amazing amount of detail. I really struggled finishing this book as I had trouble keeping the people straight. I will re-read this book again to see if I can better understand it, and also so I can give a more detailed review Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
nfam 29 days ago
A Hidden Story of WWII Espionage During WWII a number of individuals in Great Britain sympathized with the Nazis and were eager to supply secret information to them. This is the story of Eric Roberts, a bank clerk, who as Jack King formed these traitors into a network that supplied him with information that he passed to MI5. Roberts was known a something of a daredevil, but was very personable and able to attract people to him. He had done some spy work for MI5 before the war and wanted to get back into the game. He got his chance and was able to infiltrate Fascist and Nazi groups. He became a leader, Hitler’s man in Britain, and was able pass on information that the traitors were trying to send to Germany. Information on Bletchley Park, a secret radar named Windows, and other to secret plans that would have severely hampered Britain’s war effort were among those Jack intercepted. The book is exceptionally well researched. The author did an excellent job of digging deep into the past and bringing to life episodes that were classified until 2014. Sometimes the book reads like a thriller. At other times it gets bogged down in a tremendous amount of detail. Even minor characters are introduced with their full histories. If you love history, you enjoy these excursions. However, it does interfere with the flow of the narrative. I received this book from St. Martin’s Press for this review.
JeanK 29 days ago
One of the major battles of WWII that started before the declaration of war and continued to the end of hostilities and beyond was fought by those in Intelligence. Robert Hutton presents the story of Eric Roberts, an operative of MI5 who infiltrated the British Union of Fascists and later posed as a Gestapo agent operating on British soil. He was responsible for recruiting British citizens who supported Germany and offered their assistance in paving the way for Germany’s invasion of England. Using the alias of Jack King, he built a network and offered his services as a conduit to pass on information, diverting it to MI5 instead. Roberts was a bank clerk prior to the war who had an ability to relate to people. Before the rise of the British Union he had done similar work, infiltrating communist groups and relished the opportunity to once again work with MI5. Despite his experience and abilities, he was looked down on by many of his colleagues, gentlemen who came from wealthy backgrounds and had attended the top schools. Nonetheless he was considered the ideal agent for this undertaking. Hutton explains a number of the operations, both successes and failures, run by MI5. At times it reads like a thriller, but is a tribute to the unsung heroes who worked in the shadows to protect their country. While historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, Agent Jack: the True Story of MI5’s Secret Nazi Hunter provides all of the suspense of a novel while exposing the reader to the actual history of England at war. I would like to thank NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing this book in exchange for my honest review.