I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
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.
A collection of stories rooted in Maugham's own experiences as an agent, reflecting the ruthlessness and brutality of espionage, its intrigue and treachery, as well as its absurdity.
***2018 Summer of Spies***
Somerset Maugham was writing and living the life of the spy long before Ian Fleming or John Le Carré. His introduction to this novel lets the reader know that it is based on his own experiences, but shaped into a decent story arc, something that the author found lacking in real life.
If, as in another review, I compare Fleming to boxing and Le Carré to chess, then I would say that Maugham is more like solitaire. Much quieter and self-contained. He’s maybe flipped a few cards around to make things work more smoothly, but still at the end, with only a few cards left in play, finds himself unable to win the game.
Maugham spent time with Ian and Ann Fleming (as one of Ann’s circle, not Ian’s) and I can well imagine him needling Ian about the fantastical qualities of James Bond’s espionage. Ian was definitely not a fan of Maugham, but I have to say that I am.