Nigel West dons his dark glasses and fedora and heads to the Hotel d'Angleterre in Geneva, where Somerset Maugham stayed as a spy in the First World War. Has Maugham's destroyed book been found?
THE EXPLOITS OF John Ashenden, Willie Somerset Maugham’s British agent in the First World War, were undoubtedly based on the author’s own experiences. The release of Ashenden in 1928 was a milestone, acknowledged as the very first spy novel of the modern genre. Quite simply, Maugham’s collection of short stories began a rich literary seam that would be followed by John Dickson Carr, John Bingham, Kenneth Benton, Graham Greene, John le Carré, and his old friend Ian Fleming, all of whom served as British intelligence officers and relied on their inside knowledge to lend their thrillers a certain verisimilitude.