The Ingenious Mr. Pyke (Hardcover)

Inventor, Fugitive, Spy

By Henry Hemming

PublicAffairs, 9781610395779, 512pp.

Publication Date: May 5, 2015

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (9/13/2016)
Compact Disc (7/28/2015)
MP3 CD (7/28/2015)

List Price: 26.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


The untold story of an enigmatic genius who changed warfare forever

In the World War II era, Geoffrey Pyke was described as one of the world's great minds—to rank alongside Einstein. Pyke was an inventor, adventurer, polymath, and unlikely hero of both world wars. He earned a fortune on the stock market, founded an influential pre-school, wrote a bestseller, and came up with the idea for the US and Canadian Special Forces. In 1942, he convinced Winston Churchill to build an aircraft carrier out of reinforced ice.

Pyke escaped from a German WWI prison camp, devised an ingenious plan to help the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, and launched a private attempt to avert the outbreak of the Second World War by sending into Nazi Germany a group
of pollsters disguised as golfers.

And he may have been a Russian spy.

In 2009, long after Pyke's death, MI5 released a mass of material suggesting that Pyke was in fact a senior official in the Soviet Comintern. In 1951, papers relating to Pyke were found in the flat of “Cambridge Spy” Guy Burgess after his defection to Moscow. MI5 had “watchers” follow Pyke through the bombed-out streets of London, his letters were opened, and listening devices picked up clues to his real identity. Convinced he was a Soviet agent codenamed Professor P, MI5 helped to bring his career to an end.

Henry Hemming is the first reporter to sift through this extraordinary new information and finally tell Pyke's astonishing story in full: his brilliance, his flaws, and his life of adventures, ideas, and secrets.

About the Author

Henry Hemming is the author of four previous works of nonfiction, including Misadventure in the Middle East. He has written for the Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Times, Economist, FT Magazine, and the Washington Post, and appeared on Radio 4's “Today” programme and NBC's “Today” show. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.

Praise For The Ingenious Mr. Pyke: Inventor, Fugitive, Spy

“It is as if [Geoffrey Pyke] had been invented by G. K. Chesterton and given posthumous fame by John le Carré - which underlines the extraordinary accomplishment of his actual biographer Henry Hemming.”—Sir Michael Holroyd

“Reads wonderfully like an adventure story…Hemming…turn[s] the story of a nerdish chameleon into a page-turner.”—Guardian

“[Pyke's] was not a lucky life but, in his biographer, he has gained a little bit of posthumous luck. This admirable and thoroughly enjoyable book should rescue a weirdly original and innovative talent from oblivion.”—The Sunday Times (London)

"Well-written…throws fascinating light on a forgotten hero of the Second World War."—The Independent (UK)

“[A] masterful biography…Hemming's superlative text is nearly as nimble as Pyke's mind, and he reveals who this remarkable innovator really was.”—Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“An unlikely tale of true espionage… Fans of Graham Greene and Alan Furst will revel in this well-told true-life story.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Biographer Henry Hemming makes Geoffrey Pyke a fascinating object of study.”—Columbus Post Dispatch