The Making of a Spy: A Political Odyssey


295 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-895854-47-4
DDC 327.12'092




Reviewed by Barbara Robertson

Barbara Robertson is the author of Wilfrid Laurier: The Great
Conciliator and co-author of The Well-Filled Cupboard.


The centrepiece of this autobiography is the Gouzenko affair, which in
1946 revealed that some members of the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa had been
busy setting up a spy network. A number of Canadians were involved, not
all of them realizing what they were involved in, and practically none
having any secrets to reveal. Eventually 18 were brought to trial, and
eight were convicted. In this last group was Gordon Lunan, who at the
time was serving as a captain in the army and editing Canadian Affairs
for the Wartime Information Board.

Lunan describes his Scottish family and English education, making clear
that his anti-authoritarianism began early. As a schoolboy, he found
himself sympathizing with the strikers during the British General
Strike: “My instinct was to side with the underdog, not because I felt
myself to be an underdog, but rather an outsider, distrustful of
authority in all its forms, skeptical of its motives and jargon.” The
Spanish Civil War defined his anti-fascism, and when he came to Canada
in 1938, he soon discovered a group that was organizing the return from
Spain of the remnants of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. He was
pleased to help, and so became a communist, although he never formally
joined the party. It seemed to him the party “that best worked for
social justice, the one with the best track record in fighting
fascism.” He combined this conviction with an off-hand attitude to the
Soviet Union: he didn’t want to live there and didn’t seem
particularly curious about it.

Fellow traveling led ultimately to six years in the Kingston
penitentiary. Although never condoning their crimes, Lunan writes about
his fellow inmates with an interest and sympathy he would never have
dreamed of extending, say, to Mackenzie King.

The Making of a Spy does leave some questions unanswered, among them
Lunan’s failure to adopt lawyer Henry Cartwright’s “honest, decent
and civilized defence.” To do so, he writes, would have meant
explaining “my motives, misguided as [Cartwright] believed them to be,
and throwing myself on the mercy of the court.” But in the long run,
and to a wider audience, that is what he has done.


Lunan, Gordon., “The Making of a Spy: A Political Odyssey,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,