Good Spies Always Have a Good Cover Story.
Lucky for us, the cover story for a lot of spies has been “writer,” leading to some excellent literature.
In anticipation of the Second Annual Lit Up Ball, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite true life spy stories featuring famous authors:
The creator of our man James Bond worked for the British Naval Intelligence during World War II. Undoubtedly he drew upon his experiences to craft his legendary character. He may even have drawn on his personal experiences for Bond’s love scenes: Fleming carried on a long-lasting affair with a married woman.
Maugham was approached by the British Secret Intelligence Service for two reasons: he spoke English, French, and German fluently, and he had just published “Of Human Bondage” and could use his career as a writer for his cover. Maugham did just that, passing codes and messages through his manuscript while living in Switzerland.
Born Aline Griffiths in Pearl River, N.Y., in 1923, she was recruited by the OSS and spent part of World War II as a spy and cipher clerk in Spain and other parts of Europe. Beautiful and seemingly innocent, she blended easily with the aristocracy and socialite world. Lucky for us, in the 1980s and 90s she penned three highly entertaining memoirs based on her work during World War II.
Before she started cooking and writing cookbooks, Julia Child secretly served in the OSS in the Far East during World War II. In addition, she and her husband were hounded during the McCarthy witch hunts, remaining loyal to a best friend accused of being a spy and eventually leaving government service.
After being deemed unfit to fly following a stellar military career in the Royal Air Force, Roald Dahl was recrutied to the British Security Coordination, an intelligence outfit based in the United States. While there, he was commissioned to take a page out of James Bond’s book and woo high society women in Washington, DC to get the inside scoop on what was really going on behind closed American doors (and in their bedrooms).
John le Carré, the pseudonym for David Cornwel, was a member of the British Foreign Service from 1959 – 1964. The author of the George Smiley novels including “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” he calls “A Perfect Spy” his most autobiographical story.
Stationed as a young writer in Paris, Peter Matthiessen was charged with reporting on Communist activities to the CIA during the Cold War. After starting The Paris Review, Matthiessen soon quit his clandestine work, becoming put off by growing McCarthyism in the U.S. Good thing he did too – he moved back to the States and wrote some of his most famous work after leaving the service.