Papa Spy, By Jimmy Burns

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The Independent Culture

For anyone fascinated by the Cambridge spies, this book is an unexpected bonus.

The author's Anglo-Chilean father Tom Burns was a Franco-supporting publisher dispatched to Madrid in 1940 as British press attaché to encourage Spanish neutrality. His main enemy was not Hitler but Kim Philby, head of MI6's Iberian section.

Dark machinations are punctuated by lighter moments such as the visit of Leslie Howard. Expected to "fly the British flag", he shuttled between Hollywood actress Conchita Montenegro, Gloria von Furstenberg ("glamorous Mexican wife of a German count") and a hotel beautician.

A bit part is played by Evelyn Waugh, who scorned the author's Spanish mother. She found him "repugnant, snobbish and rude".