Spies have been with us from as long as one tribe, ruler, or nation was at war with another. In fiction the forerunners of James Bond were Richard Hannay (39 Steps) and Bulldog Drummond. John Buchan wrote about the former during the second year of World War I and “Sapper” wrote about the latter shortly after the war (there also were a lot of similarities between Drummond and The Saint). Ashenden is superb but, unfortunately for espionage lovers, Maugham only wrote a few Ashenden stories. These characters are a blend of spy, gentleman adventurer (Hannay) and private eye/adventurer (Drummond). Before and during World War II, various detective characters became involved in espionage (the Saint, Archie Goodwin) but they were not true spies or government assassins. The post-war years gave us Tommy Hambledon, Sam Durell, Matt Helm, Quiller and, of course, James Bond. Many others, more or less believable, followed.
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