Maugham’s set of stories about his wartime spy John Ashenden, who prefigured James Bond with his exploits with exotic enemies and exotic women
A celebrated writer by the time the war broke out in 1914, Maugham had the perfect cover for living in Switzerland. Multilingual and knowledgeable about many European countries, he was dispatched by the Secret Service to Lucerne - under the guise of completing a play. An assignment whose danger and drama appealed both to his sense of romance and of the ridiculous. The stories collected in ASHENDEN are rooted in Maugham's own experiences as an agent, reflecting the ruthlessness and brutality of espionage, its intrigue and treachery, as well as absurdity.
“The most persuasive espionage fiction”
New York Times
“The first spy story written by someone who had been there and done that. A humane and compassionate antidote to two-fisted, square-jawed heroes battling dastardly foreigners. The head of British Intelligence is known only as "R", anticipating James Bond's "M" by a quarter of a century”
“Thoughtful spy novels began with Somerset Maugham's Ashenden, featuring a detached hero on a journey to disillusion, a process brought to its apotheosis by le Carre via Greene”
“A collection of stories so accurate that Churchill ordered the destruction of 14 of them, while Russian intelligence immediately set up a special unit to read British spy novels for clues”