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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0891902139, Hardcover)
Fact is a poor story-teller as Maugham reminds us. Fact starts a story at random, rambles on inconsequently and tails off , leaving loose ends, without a conclusion. It works up to an interesting situation, has no sense of climax and whittles away its dramatic effects in irrelevance. While some novelists believe this is a proper model for fiction, Maugham believes that fiction should not seek to copy life, but instead choose from life what is curious, telling, and dramatic, but keep to it closely enough not to shock the reader into disbelief. In short, fiction should excite, interest, and absorb the reader.
Ashenden: The British Agent is founded on Maugham's experiences in the English Intelligence Department during World War I, but rearranged for the purposes of fiction. This fascinating book contains 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 secret service.
The plot follows the imaginary John Ashenden who during World War I is a spy for British Intelligence. He is sent first to Geneva and later to Russia. Instead of one story from start to finish, the chapters contain individual stories involving many different characters. All of the people whom Ashenden meet during his travels have their own reason for being involved in the spy game, and each are more complex than they first look.
W. Somerset Maugham (1874–1965) wrote over 100 short stories in a long, multifaceted, successful and controversial career. His work has remained widely anthologied, and is, by any measure of commerce or canon, successful. Within Maugham’s large output, the stories published in Ashenden: The British Agent are of particular interest. They are seen as important in the development of the genre of espionage fiction, influencing writers such as Eric Ambler, John le Carré, and Len Deighton. The protagonist breaks with the tradition of the gentleman crime sleuth in order to cope with modern crimes no less than ungentlemanly criminals.
(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 01 Dec 2010 12:33:26 -0500)
A celebrated writer by the time the war broke out in 1914, Somerset Maugham 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.
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