He lived a double-life in the sixties Faked his own death in the seventies And retained his cover in the eighties
A period thriller with powerful political and espionage themes, Agent Twister is the remarkable story behind one of the greatest scandals of the 1970s, told in full for the first time. If you think you know the true story of John Stonehouse – think again.
It’s November 1974 and John Stonehouse MP, once a star in Harold Wilson’s Labour government, is missing in Miami, presumed drowned. His disappearance exposes the most lurid details of his life, including identity fraud, corporate corruption, a love triangle, blackmail, links with the Mafia and a decade-long career as a Soviet spy. The public are gripped by this story, happy to forget the strikes, IRA bombs and rising prices that are making daily life a misery.
On Christmas Eve, Stonehouse is tracked down in Melbourne, Australia, where he is suspected of being that other missing Englishman, Lord Lucan. The comic absurdity of the story is offset by claims of a mental breakdown and a refusal to resign as an MP, even when he is extradited back to the UK and up on charges at the Old Bailey. For the first time, Agent Twister reveals the corporate crimes at the heart of Stonehouse’s business empire, the true extent of his ten-year collusion with powerful Soviet proxies and the political consequences of his antics. It’s a scandal greater than Profumo that lay buried for thirty years, with three prime ministers – Wilson, Callaghan and Thatcher – covering it up for very different reasons.
Written by the makers of the Channel Four documentary The Spy Who Died Twice, Agent Twister is the first impartial account to put this extraordinary scandal in political context and reveal why John Stonehouse really disappeared.
Philip Augar is a former banker with a PhD in History. The author of four highly acclaimed books on business and economics, he contributes to the Financial Times, Sunday Times and the BBC. The Augar Report into post-18 education was published by the May government in 2019.
Keely Winstone is a writer and documentary-maker. The subjects of her documentaries range from the Gurkhas' summit of Everest and the D-Day landings, to Maradona’s early demise and the spying career of John Stonehouse. She has a background as a print journalist and dramatist. Agent Twister is her first book.
'A cracking account of the life of a man who managed to combine three kinds of betrayal. Agent Twister is a riveting read. It's a good tale, told well, and as a way to measure the mood swings of the 1970s, the book works as well as any.'
– Frances Cairncross, Literary Review
'In the pantheon of modern British political scandals, John Stonehouse is...arguably far more important than either [Profumo and Thorpe]. The Stonehouse story has sex, betrayal, a faked disappearance, widespread criminal fraud and above all, he is the only known case of a UK minister spying for a communist state. Agent Twister lovingly retells the story. Much of the joy of Agent Twister is the glimpse it affords into a different era.'