Chapman Pincher

Pincher published his autobiography at the end of his life: Dangerous to Know -- A Life (2014). See Douglas Martin, "Chapman Pincher, Fleet St. Scoop Specialist Dies at 100," New York Times, 10 Aug. 2014, 20.

Pincher, Chapman. "Bugs in the Banquette." Spectator, 22 Aug. 1998, 14-15.

The author claims to have been learned that the banquettes at one of his favorite restaurants for meeting his sources had been bugged by both MI5 and the KGB.


Pincher, Chapman. Dangerous to Know -- A Life. London: Biteback Publishing, 2014.

Peake, Studies 58.3 (Sep. 2014), calls this "a delightful book both for its insights into society and the background it provides about Pincher's intelligence writings." For Levy, IJI&C 28.2 (Summer 2015), this "is a no-holds barred account of the life and times of a champion investigative reporter."

[UK/Biogs] [Though not officially an intelligence officer, Pincher's autobiography belongs among those he bedeviled over the years.]

Pincher, Chapman. The Secret Offensive. New York: St. Martin's, 1986. London: Penguin, 1986. [pb]

Kuhlman, Library Journal (via, says that Pincher's work "suffers from its focus on British examples and from digressions to complaints about the general state of society."


Pincher, Chapman.

1. Their Trade Is Treachery. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1981.

For Cram, Pincher's book is a "detailed exposition of the case against [Roger] Hollis and Graham Mitchell." It is an "example of 'mole mania.'" Angleton pointed Pincher toward the story, but the information came from Peter Wright. Rocca and Dziak comment that although some critics "maintain that he is careless with data, Pincher sheds light on such past activities as Soviet strategic deception operations during World War II ... and KGB defector Golitsyn's revelations."

Constantinides notes that, although he never gives them, Pincher clearly "had access to sources with highly privileged information." The book contains "a wealth of information," some of which must await further authoritative disclosures before it can be evaluated.

2.. Too Secret Too Long. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1984. New York: St. Martin's 1984.

Rocca and Dziak find that "Pincher makes a massive effort to demonstrate that ... Sir Roger Hollis[] was a Soviet 'mole'.... Pincher's evidence is incomplete and fractious.... Notwithstanding the controversy, the work surfaces numerous operations, cases and details ... never before or rarely aired in published literature."

3. Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders, and Cover-ups: Six Decades of Espionage against America and Great Britain. New York: Random House, 2009.

Goulden, Washington Times, 19 Jul. 2009, and Intelligencer 17.2 (Fall 2009), notes that the author has been telling the same story since 1981. Some of the "anomalies" in Hollis' career that Pincher points to are "thin gruel"; others, however, "are more disturbing." The reviewer notes that Pincher "does not burden readers with chapter notes, so one is expected to accept his text at face value.... More glaring, he is most selective in the evidence he chooses to present." Goulden concludes that Hollis may have been "[a]n ineffectual spymaster,... but treason remains unproven."

For King, NIPQ 26.1 (Jan.2010), Pincher "does not provide the 'smoking gun,' but does set out a strongly circumstantial case" against Hollis. Similarly, Jens, AIJ 28.2 (2010), suggests that Pincher's case against Hollis "is at once striking in its overwhelming mass of circumstantial evidence, and frustrating in its lack ... of any single evidentiary coup de grace."

Nicholson, Providence Journal, 26 Jul. 2009, calls this "a riveting account of duplicity and incompetence at the highest levels." The reviewer sees the author adding "compelling details to the charge" that the man who headed MI5 from 1956 to 1965, Sir Roger "Hollis (codenamed Elli)[,] was one of the most spectacularly successful Russian spies ever."

To Peake, Studies 53.4 (Dec. 2009), this "is a 600-page speculative treatise devoted to the conclusion that Hollis may have been a GRU agent throughout his MI5 career, or, at the very least, concealed his relationship with the Communist Party before he joined the service.... Despite its length and his detailed analysis, Treachery does not close the case on the Hollis saga. But it is a fascinating book and illustrates the challenges faced by counterespionage officers in every service."

West, IJI&C 23.3 (Fall 2010), finds that the author has created "only a very circumstantial case" against Hollis. He "has been highly selective in highlighting particular events and documents." In addition, "his case exhibits some fundamental flaws." The "evidence" is at times "deliberately skewed and can hardly be characterized as a fair presentation." West also offers counter-comments to Pincher's "Scroll of [52] Anomalies."

4. Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders and Cover-ups -- Six Decades of Espionage, The True History of MI5. Rev & updated. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing, 2011.

According to Peake, Studies 55.4 (Dec. 2011) and Intelligencer 19.1 (Winter-Spring 2012), in this revised edition, Pincher stresses the key omissions and contradictions in Christopher Andrew's authorized history of MI5, Defend the Realm (2009). Although this work "does not resolve the Hollis dilemma,... it does refine the arguments while providing considerable material for counterintelligence scholars. The many questions it raises and the interpretation Pincher provides need to be resolved."

Dylan, I&NS 27.3 (Jun. 2012), comments that "Treachery is no less persuasive than many accounts that vindicate Hollis. It is clear and enjoyable, and although it does not close the Hollis file it represents the better part of a lifetime's work and contains a wealth of evidence."


Pincher, Chapman. Traitors: The Labyrinths of Treason. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1987. London: New English Library, 1989. [pb]


Pincher, Chapman. A Web of Deception: The Spycatcher Affair. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1987. The Spycatcher Affair. New York: St. Martin's, 1988.

Pincher, Chapman. "Who Was the Fifth Man?" Unsolved 1, no. 7 (1984), 129-148.

This article includes an early reference to what we now know as Venona. Pincher rejects Cairncross as the fifth man, because he does not fit Golitsin's profile of the "Ring of Five." He offers Leonard Long and Alistair Watson as candidates for the fifth man, but does not mention the long-time object of his "affections," Roger Hollis.


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