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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Ashenden suffered from that distressing malady known as train fever : an hour
before his train was due he began to have apprehensions lest he should miss it ;
he was impatient with the porters who would never bring his luggage down from
Good God , man , hurry up or we shall miss the train . ' ' I never miss a traiņ . Have
you got good seats ? The chef de gare has gone for the night ; this is his assistant
. ' The man in the bowler - hat took it off when Ashenden nodded to him .
We ' ve got you a place on the train tonight . ' Ashenden ' s spirits went up . They
landed . The little Jew looked after his luggage and had his passport examined
and then , getting into a car that waited for them , they drove off to the Consulate .