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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In the course of his manipulations he had thrown out all the cards in the pack but
four , and these now lay in front of him face downwards and side by side . He
touched them one by one but did not turn them up . ' There is fate , ' he said , and
And how could such unreconcilable elements exist side by side and in harmony
within the same heart ? For one thing was clear , Caypor was disturbed by no
gnawing of conscience ; he did his mean and despicable work with gusto . He
... room three times a day for their meals , but they sat opposite to one another ; it
is true that the train stopped for an hour morning and afternoon so that they were
able to have a tramp up and down the platform , but they walked side by side .