Times Literary Supplement

Spies, by definition, live in a world of grey, but the life of Bhagat Ram Talwar, alias Silver, seems to have been exceptionally shadowy. Born a Hindu Pathan in the North-West Frontier Province of undivided India, of nondescript appearance, armed with broken English but with a limitless talent for deception, Silver ranks with Garbo (Allies), Sorge (Soviet Union) and Cicero (Nazi Germany) in the pantheon of the great spies of the Second World War. Even among them he is unique: he belonged to a colony involved in a freedom struggle of its own; his theatre was not Europe but the tribal badlands through which he would make twelve hazardous journeys between Peshawar and Kabul; and he spied, with varying degrees of loyalty, for five powers ­– Italy, Germany, Britain, the Soviet Union and Japan – and survived.

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