This fascinating book contains probably the most expert stories of espionage ever written. For a period of time after it was first published, the book became official required reading for persons entering the British Secret Service.
During World War I, Maugham enlisted with an ambulance unit, but was soon shifted to the Intelligence Department. Although these stories were based on the author's own experiences as a British agent during the war, he emphasized that they were written purely as entertainment, at which, indeed, Ashenden succeeds. Maugham's clarity of style, the perfection of his form, the subtlety of his thought, veiled thinly behind a worldly cynicism, has made him an international figure.
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answered Ashenden . ' It is like asking me if I like poetry . I like Keats and
Wordsworth and Verlaine and Goethe . When you say macaroni , do you mean
spaghetti , tagliatelli , vermicelli , fettuccini , tufali , farfalli , or just macaroni ? ' '
I answered her . I wanted to make sure . One after the other , with infinite cunning
, between her kisses she cajoled me into giving every detail of the plot , and now I
was certain , as certain as I am that you sit before me , that she was a spy .
He telephoned from the station to R . and asked how Aunt Maggie was . ' I ' m
glad to see that your affection for her was great enough to allow you to waste no
time in getting here , ' answered R . , with the ghost of a chuckle in his voice .