Sex, spies and scandal : the John Vassall affair

Alex Grant’s new book Sex, Spies and Scandal The John Vassall Affair has everything: a honey trap, industrial-scale espionage, journalists jailed for not revealing their sources and the first modern tabloid witch-hunt, which resulted in a ministerial resignation and almost brought down Harold Macmillan’s government.

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With access to newly released MI5 files and interviews with people who knew Vassall from the 1950s until he died in 1996, this book sheds new light on a neglected spy scandal. Despite having been drugged and sexually assaulted 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. Once released, he found that many of his old friends and lovers had been persecuted or dismissed from the civil service in Britain, America and Australia.

Unlike the Cambridge Five, who courted attention, after leaving prison Vassall changed his name to avoid the media and lived quietly in London.

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