Somerset Maugham–Writer of Spy Fiction!

I recently read Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil.  It’s not terribly deep, but much of it is engaging, which is more than I can say for a lot of current literary fiction.  More engaging though, is a book of his (long) short stories. The Betty Davis movie, The Letter, was based on his short story of the same name.  Hollywood changed the ending of course; it couldn’t let a murderess get away with her crime as Maugham did in the story.

Now, though I’m reading other stories in that book–a number of them about a British World War I spy named Ashenden, apparently loosely based on time Maugham spent as a member of British Intelligence.  These stories are sometimes a bit slow, but each builds to reveal an aspect of human nature.  In some ways, I think these stories could be considered a predecessor to John Le Carré’s works.

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