MI6 Comes in From the Cold

Authors Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham and Compton Mackenzie all worked for British spy organisation MI6, according to a new book on the organisation, the Guardian reports.

Keith Jeffery launched his history of MI6 yesterday with tales of James Bond-like antics. The Guardian retells the tale of a Dutch MI6 agent who “was put ashore on a beach near the casino at Schevening, The Hague, in evening dress, smelling of alcohol and wearing a specially designed rubber oversuit to keep him dry while landing.” He, of course, completed the mission shaken not stirred.

Amid the derring do, Jeffery is keen to point out that most spies were simply “‘ordinary men and women’ providing information on train or ship movements.” Press interest, however, continues to be on the more Bond-like adventures particularly the espionage of Wilfrid “Biffy” Dunderdale. A longtime friend of Bond author Ian Fleming, Dunderdale was MI6’s man in Paris and was known as “a man of great charm and savoir faire” with a “penchant for pretty women and fast cars”.

But Jeffery is keen to point out that he found no evidence of the famous “licenced to kill” status attributed to spies in the Bond books and films. Jeffrey’s unglamorous truth of spying is that much of it was done on a shoestring in an atmosphere that Jill Lawless from Associated Press characterised as “James Bond, with bureaucracy and cramped office space”.

The book will be published in Britain as MI6 and in the US as The Secret History of MI6 with no news on the Australian release or title.