The Oxford Book of Spy Stories - 1996

Miscelleana

Summary

This is a collection of spy stories edited by Michael Cox for the Oxford Press.

Len Deighton provides a short story entitled 'Paper Casualty', which was originally published in the collection of short war stories Declarations of War. In the story, British Army General Parkstone and his armoured troops set up a communications post in an abandoned house in the English countryside, getting ready to face the German armoured invasion of London, closing in on them in Kent. Then, the gardener turns up carrying a surprise package and the plot develops from there.

Why it's enjoyable

The story is a clever 'twist in the tail' confection. Part of a collection of stories by some of the most famous spy writers around; Deighton's contribution is alongside a short story 'Risico' by Bond author Alexander Fleming.

Sample dialogue

'"But good God Almighty," said Parkstone, "you can't kill a man with a sheet of paper." He had the red paper in his hand and he kept examining it as though some new information might appear there.

"It's ridiculous," agreed Colonel Joyce. "I've been on to Command, but it seems our move this morning has rather outstripped the referees."

"He was searched?" Parkstone asked for the fifth time.

"He was, sir, very thoroughly, by Sergeant Albany."

"If he'd really had a bomb we would have found it."

"Exactly, sir."

"After all," said Parkstone, forcing a smile, "I could have sent the whole staff a postcard with 'bullet' written on it. What then?"'

OxfordSpy

The Oxford Book of Spy Stories
UK first edition, 1996

Double crossed

Editor Michael Cox quotes G.K. Chesterton in his introduction:

'I wonder if a man is less a traitor when he is twice a traitor?'