Who better qualified to chronicle the experiences of an author-agent during the First World War than Somerset Maugham, a writer turned spy? His alter-ego is Ashenden, a calm observer with a cool head. From his almost casual recruitment into intelligence at the beginning of hostilities we follow his progress through a series of incidents. There is the fiasco of the Hairless Mexican, a ladies' man and thoroughly inept assassin. And the pathetic tale of Mr. Harrington, the touching and ridiculous American, clumsily feeling his way through the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. Most dreadful of all is the bleak story of the Traitor, whose fate reveals the real horror of the agent's profession.