The Secret Lives Of A Secret Agent: The Mysterious Life and Times of Alexander Wilson

Crook, Tim. 2010. The Secret Lives Of A Secret Agent: The Mysterious Life and Times of Alexander Wilson. Essex, UK: Kultura Press. ISBN 978-0954289980 [Book]

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Abstract or Description

Spring 1941. An seven-year-old boy says goodbye to his father, Alexander Wilson, a lieutenant colonel in the Indian Army, at a Yorkshire railway station for the last time and grieves more than a year later when told of his death at the Battle of El Alamein. 64 years later actor and poet Mike Shannon asks his friend Tim Crook to help unlock the secrets of his father's life. In a five-year odyssey Tim embarks on a remarkable investigation of family history, espionage and spy writing. Mike hands over a single copy of the spy novel 'Wallace Intervenes' that his father wrote in 1939. Tim discovers that Alexander Wilson wrote and published 20 more novels and three academic books, had been a popular and highly acclaimed espionage and thriller author of the 1920s and 30s and bridged the style and significance of John Buchan, Somerset Maugham, Eric Ambler, Ian Fleming, Graham Greene and John Le Carre. But he disappears without trace after 1940. Wilson encodes real life spying and 'The Great Game' of intelligence into his novels. He creates a chief of a fictional British Secret Service, Sir Leonard Wallace, who is substantially based on the first real 'C' of MI6, Captain Mansfield Smith-Cumming. Alexander Douglas Gordon Chesney Wilson is an army officer and father without any trace of birth, marriage or death, or tangible link to any reference in army records. He is a man without a beginning or end. This is the story of how Tim Crook unravelled the intelligence legend that masked a double life more dramatic, complex, romantic and tragic than any character or plot conjured by the world of spy fiction. This is an investigation that has changed lives and revealed the career of an intelligence officer, agent, and espionage writer 'lost to history'. The journey spans the globe and involves the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, the Security Service, MI5, Indian Political Intelligence and its Bureau in New Delhi during the British Empire, and two World Wars. In the mysterious life and times of Alexander Wilson we encounter Winston Churchill, Lawrence of Arabia, Hitler's foreign minister, Joachim Ribbentrop, and Mahatma Gandhi. It is a story of love, betrayal, broken hearts, terrorism, patriotism, and a triumph of human dignity. In 'Wallace Intervenes' Alexander Wilson wrote 'nothing can be underhand that is performed in the service of country'. The implications of that maxim for his surviving family are unimaginable. Quotation from the book: 'Wilson was tripping the same haunts of all these famous literary catholic converts: Muggeridge, Waugh and Greene. They may well have passed small talk, tipped their hats to each other, or brushed shoulders, one leaving a taxi, the other getting in at SIS Broadway, the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Information and the Authors' Club in Whitehall. Little did they know that the charming and affable creator of Sir Leonard Wallace secret service stories in the Indian Army uniform was a true-life human character of Shakespearean proportions whose internal and external being would be way beyond any of their imaginations and in all probability psychological and spiritual understanding'.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies



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Date Deposited:

13 Oct 2015 12:46

Last Modified:

27 Jun 2017 13:51


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