The Spy Paramount: A British Library Spy Classic

The Spy Paramount: A British Library Spy Classic

Rome, 1934. Martin Fawley leaves the American secret service and is recruited by General Berati, the most feared man in fascist Italy, as a spy. After a brief encounter with ...

About The Author

E. Phillips Oppenheim

E. Phillips Oppenheim (1866–1946) was one of the most popular and successful writers of spy fiction in the early twentieth ...

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Chapter I

Martin Fawley glanced irritably at the man stretched flat in the chair he coveted—the man whose cheeks were partly concealed by lather, and whose mass of dark hair was wildly disarranged. One of his hands—delicate white hands they were although the fingers were long and forceful—reposed in a silver bowl of hot water. The other one was being treated by the manicurist seated on a stool by his side, the young woman whose services Fawley also coveted. He had entered the establishment a little abruptly and he stood with his watch in his hand. Even Fawley’s friends did not claim for him that he was a good-tempered person.

“Monsieur is ten minutes en retard,” the coiffeur announced with a reproachful gesture.

“Nearly a quarter of an hour,” the manicurist echoed with a sigh.

The new-comer replaced his watch. The two statements were incontrovertible. Nevertheless, the ill humour which he felt was eloquently reflected in his face. The man in the chair looked at him expressionless, indifferent. The inconvenience of a stranger meant nothing to him.

“If Monsieur will seat himself,” Henri, the coiffeur, suggested, “this will not be a long affair.”

Fawley glanced once more at his watch. He really had nothing whatever to do at the moment, but he possessed all the impatience of the man of energy at being asked to wait at any time. While he seemed to be considering the situation the man in the chair spoke. His French was good enough, but it was not the French of a native.

“It would be a pity,” he said, “that Monsieur should be misled. I require ensuite a face massage, and I am not satisfied with the hands which Mademoiselle thinks she has finished. Furthermore, there is the trimming of my eyebrows—a delicate task which needs great care.”

Martin Fawley stared at the speaker rudely.

“So you mean to spend the morning here,” he observed. The man in the chair glanced at Fawley nonchalantly and remained silent. Fawley turned his back upon him, upon Henri, and Mathilde, the white painted furniture, the glit- tering mirrors, and walked out into the street…. He did not see again this man to whom he had taken so unreasonable a dislike until he was ushered, a few days later, with much ceremony into his very magnificent official apartment in the Plaza Margaretta at Rome.

Reviews of

The Spy Paramount: A British Library Spy Classic

This breathless novel of international intrigue, first published in 1935 and now available as a British Library Spy Classic, follows the adventures of Anglo-American freelance spy Maj. Martin Fawley. A little squabble in a swanky barbershop in Nice leads Fawley to Paris, then to Rome for a meeting in a magnificent apartment in the Plaza Margaretta. That’s just chapter one. By the end of chapter two he has presented himself to General Berati, a sinister spymaster, received a platinum cigarette case with a secret compartment, and wound up in an attractive woman’s bedroom. Fawley subsequently zips along in high-powered automobiles, sips cocktails and chilled champagne, sups on caviar sandwiches, visits heads of state, and plays golf on the Riviera, all while saving the world from another war in Europe. If all of the above sounds vaguely familiar, it comes as no surprise that Oppenheim’s oeuvre was a favorite with the young Ian Fleming. All that’s missing is the racy sex.

Publishers Weekly

Readers who first came in from the cold with Ian Fleming and John le Carré will find Fawley a fascinating transitional figure between the old order and the contemporary freelance spies who serve no interests but their own.

Kirkus Reviews