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Ashenden, or the British Agent


When you hear the phrase "spy fiction," two words slide into your mind: James Bond. Yet some of our very finest literary writers, such as Joseph Conrad, Norman Mailer and W. Somerset Maugham, also have been drawn to the moral ambiguity of the cloak-and-dagger world. Ashenden, or the British Agent is a 1928 collection of loosely linked stories. 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. In June 1917, Maugham was asked by Sir William Wiseman, an officer of the British Secret Intelligence Service, to undertake a special mission in Russia. It was part of an attempt to keep the Provisional Government in power and Russia in the war by countering German pacifist propaganda. 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. During WWI, a writer named Ashenden, introduced only by his last name, is enlisted as an agent through threats and promises by "R.", a Colonel with British Intelligence. He is sent to Switzerland where he becomes involved in a number of counter-intelligence operations; these he accomplishes by means of persuasion, bribery, blackmail, or coincidence. This character is considered to have influenced Ian Fleming's later series of James Bond novel. You can listen online to free English audiobook “Ashenden, or the British Agent” by William Somerset Maugham on our website.

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