Young Philby

A Novel

Robert Littell

St. Martin's Griffin

When Kim Philby fled to Moscow in 1963, he became the most notorious double agent in the history of espionage. Recruited into His Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service at the beginning of World War II, he rose to become the chief liaison officer with the CIA in Washington after the war. The exposure of a group of British double agents known as the Cambridge Five led to the revelation that Philby had begun spying for the Soviet Union years before he joined the British intelligence service. He eventually fled to Moscow and spent the last twenty-five years of his life in Russia.

In Young Philby, Robert Littell recounts the little-known story of the spy’s early years, exploring the evolution of a mysteriously beguiling man who kept his masters on both sides of the Iron Curtain guessing about his ultimate loyalties. As each layer of ambiguity is exposed, the question surfaces: Who was the real Kim Philby?


Read an Excerpt


Where an Englishman Wanders into the Wrong Century
The Englishman came from another planet looking, no doubt, for adventure, a cause to believe in, comradeship, affection, love, sex. His luck, he found someone who dyed her hair so often she was no longer sure of the original color: me. We were roughly the same age—he was twenty-one and fresh from university when he made his way to my flat in the center of the city—but any resemblance between our life lines ended there. I was half Jewess and half not, with the two parts of my identity



  • Young Philby by Robert Littell Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to an excerpt from the audio book for Young Philby, the new novel by author Robert Littell, read by John Lee.



Praise for Young Philby

“A dizzying, 'what if' take on (in)famous British spy Kim Philby. … Littell shows particular skill at recreating pulse-quickening epic scenes of conflict—the Russian-backed uprising against Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, the war against fascist dictator Francisco Franco, and the horrors of Stalin’s kangaroo courts and of Moscow prisons. … A Cold-War spy novel for the top shelf.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A riveting read." —Frederick Forsyth

Praise for Robert Littell

“One of those writers, like Elmore Leonard, who have risen far above genre... One of the most talented, most original voices in American fiction today, period.”—The Washington Post

“If Robert Littell didn’t invent the spy novel, he should have.”—Tom Clancy

“Psychologically interesting thrillers that rival in their intensity and the delivery of their plots the best work of John le Carré.”—Chicago Tribune

“Along with Alan Furst, the best American spy writer currently at work.”—Daily Telegraph (UK)

“Arguably, along with le Carré and Alan Furst, one of the best three or four espionage writers alive.”
The Boston Globe

“One of the most original and authoritative writers of spy fiction of our time.” —The London Literary Review

“The American master of literary espionage.” —The Independent (UK)

In the Press

‘Young Philby,’ by Robert Littell, a spy novel that combines real and surreal - The Washington Post
A spy’s surreal early life is fertile ground for a master of the genre in Robert Littell’s “Young Philby.”
- The Washington Post

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Robert Littell

  • Robert Littell is the author of sixteen previous novels and the nonfiction book For the Future of Israel, written with Shimon Peres, president of Israel. He has been awarded both the English Gold Dagger and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for his fiction. His novel The Company was a New York Times bestseller and was adapted into a television miniseries. He lives in France.


Available Formats and Book Details

Young Philby

A Novel

Robert Littell

Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year


St. Martin's Griffin