"THE PROTOTYPE OF REALISTIC SPY FICTION"
MAUGHAM, W. Somerset. Ashenden or The British Agent. London: William Heinemann, 1928. Octavo, original teal cloth, original dust jacket. $6800.
First edition of this landmark espionage novel, in the original dust jacket.
"Ashenden is accepted as the prototype of realistic spy fiction… Though Maugham's only significant contribution to mystery fiction consists of this one work, it is sufficiently innovative and good—comparing favorably with his best fiction—to deserve the place accorded it" (Reilly, 1031-32). "In 1915, [Maugham] was a popular 41-year-old writer living in Switzerland who wanted to do something to help his country's war efforts. Given Maugham's extensive contacts throughout the Swiss establishment… a new British War Office entity called M11(c)—later in the war to become MI6—recruited him to keep an eye on German agents and their assets operating in Switzerland. Maugham was successful in the assignment, and although it involved no real danger, he later embellished his experiences for the series of 'Ashenden' spy stories he wrote, with himself as the thinly disguised hero, a daring British agent" (Volkman, Spies, 277-78). "His emphasis is not on plot in the usual blood-and-thunder sense; Maugham is too crafty a craftsman to subordinate realism and depth of characterization to tricks and counter-tricks" (Queen's Quorum 78). Film director Alfred Hitchcock transformed Ashenden into his 1936 film The Secret Agent. Stott A38. Steinbrunner & Penzler, 283-84.
Book with slight foxing along edge of text block and paper residue removal to spine, scarce unrestored original dust jacket with a few spots of foxing and minor edge-wear. A near-fine copy.