Literary Agents: The Novelist as Spy

Anthony Masters, Author Blackwell Publishers $19.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-631-14979-8
Masters's account of the secret-service experiences of 13 writers (all British except for E. Howard Hunt) is disappointing. There's a general lack of solid material and there are many trivial but not-insignificant mistakes: Somerset Maugham had a severe stutter, not a club foot; Buffalo is not quite ""a suburb of Hamburg to the west of New York.'' Aside from the thinness of the individual accounts, Masters's interpretive comments are too generalized and often undeveloped. Spying, in his view, is ``a useful means of escape from personal responsibilities.'' The author (The Man Who Was M, etc.) also opines that writers are ``a subversive crowd, nothing if not traitors''an intriguing concept that he leaves unexplained. The chapters on Maugham and Ian Fleming are the fullest, if only because both men seem to have been more active in their wartime careers than most of those dealt with here. Among the others are John Buchan, Compton Mackenzie, Malcolm Muggeridge, Graham Greene and John le Carre. Photos. (November)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1987
Release date: 10/01/1987
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