Oundle Festival of Literature: Alex Grant
- 13 Oct 2023
- The Glapthorn Room, Fletton House, Glapthorn Road, Oundle, PE8 4JA
Sex, Spies and Scandal is the story of John Vassall, a civil servant who was unmasked as a Soviet spy in 1962. Having been photographed in compromising positions while working at the British embassy in Moscow in 1954, Vassall was blackmailed into handing over secrets from the Admiralty to his Soviet handlers, both in Moscow and in London, for more than seven years.
With access to newly released MI5 files and interviews with people who knew Vassall from the 1950s until his death in 1996, this book sheds new light on the neglected spy scandal of the early 1960s. Despite having been drugged and then raped by the KGB in Moscow, as a gay man John Vassall was shown no mercy by the British press, or the courts. Sentenced to eighteen years in jail, he served ten years despite telling MI5 everything about his spying. Outside, he found that many of his old friends and lovers had been persecuted or dismissed from the civil service in Britain, the US and Australia. Unlike the Cambridge Five, who courted attention, on leaving prison Vassall had to change his name to avoid the press and lived quietly in London.
This is an explosive tale of sexual violence, betrayal, cover-up, homophobia and hypocrisy that blows open some of the British establishment’s darkest secrets. There is also an intriguing connection between John Vassall and Oundle.
Alex Grant is a writer, researcher and lecturer with extensive experience of politics, biography and modern history. After reading English at Oxford, he worked as a journalist in the United States and Britain. He was a Labour councillor in the London borough of Greenwich for sixteen years and worked in Parliament. He has lived in and around Oundle since 2014.
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