Upon discovering at the impressionable age of seven that my home in sleepy Hampshire was once the childhood home of the charming spy Guy Burgess, I embarked on a rather unhealthy fascination with the none too salubrious world of spooks, spies, and spy writers - I mean, it's pretty normal to pretend to be a KGB spy infiltrating your school at 7 isn't it? A fascination that continues to this very day.

Decoding the world around them, breaking through the surface to get to the truth beneath, the worlds of Writers and Spies are all too alike. Both study characters and types, they observe and record; a turn of phrase here means something else there, and of course the creation of narrative (or throwing people off the scent of a narrative) is above all the name of the game for both.

Below I look at writers and spies from the 20th century, 19th-century players in The Great Game, as well as some truly classic spy stories.

Ian FLEMING

Live and Let Die

London, 1954

£11,750

First edition, first issue

No spy write-up could ever be complete without the incomparable Ian Fleming and of course his creation James Bond.

As the tale goes, the inspiration for Bond came from Fleming’s time in Naval Intelligence during the Second World War. Whilst playing a baccarat game in Lisbon, the author is alleged to have whispered to his friend ‘just suppose these fellows were German agents—what a coup it would be if we cleaned them out entirely!’

Ian FLEMING

You Only Live Twice

London, 1964

£1,250

First edition, first impression

Ian FLEMING

From Russia, with Love

London, 1957

£4,750

First edition

The end of the war saw Fleming demobbed and working in a dreary job for a newspaper in London. Holidaying every winter at his beloved home of Goldeneye in Jamaica, it is here that he wrote all of the Bond stories, starting with Casino Royale in 1952. Fleming later claimed that he wrote the novel to distract himself from his forthcoming wedding, and called the work his ‘dreadful oafish opus’!

For the main character, in many ways an alter ego to the author, he sought to choose a name as boring and nondescript as possible.

Looking around his library, the author’s eyes alighted on a book entitled Birds of the West Indies by an ornithologist named James Bond…

As a lovely bit of trivia, the publishers Jonathan Cape were highly unenthusiastic about Casino Royale, with even Fleming’s friend, the writer and literary editor William Polmer remarking ‘so far as I can see the element of suspense is completely absent’! Fourteen books and 24 films later, Fleming definitely had the last laugh!

Graham GREENE

England Made Me

London, 1954

£16,500

First edition

Both his established career as a writer, and his penchant for travel, made Graham Greene the perfect candidate for MI6. Recruited in 1941, he monitored the Vichy forces in Sierra Leone, searching ships for smuggled diamonds and documents.  Under the ruse of book research, he travelled widely across China and the USSR, observing and reporting.  Later he worked under the famous Soviet mole Kim Philby, the two became friends even after Philby’s unmasking as a traitor.

The Philby connection also gave Greene a rather dubious honour: whilst spying for MI6, he was himself the subject of an investigation by the FBI due to his links with the Cambridge Spy Ring. With wonderful irony, whilst the author was under investigation by the Bureau, the CIA was helping to turn one of his novels into a film.....

Ernest HEMINGWAY

In Our Time

New York, 1925

£15,750

An unexpected addition to this list, all the more surprising since Hemingway signed up as a spook not for his native America, but shockingly for the NKVD, a precursor to the KGB!

Code named Agent Argo by the Russians, apparently he was an absolutely god-awful spy and was dropped rather quickly after failing to 'give any political information' and was never 'verified in practical work' - more a spy in name than action.

Theories have been circulated as to why Hemingway would have worked with them, one is that he was merely a pseudo-spook, possibly seeing his clandestine dealings as potential literary material.

We couldn't wax lyrical about the exploits of the players in The Great Game, without including the book that arguably popularised the term.

Rudyard KIPLING

Kim

Lausanne, 1930

£9,500

An unexpected addition to this list, all the more surprising since Hemingway signed up as a spook not for his native America, but shockingly for the NKVD, a precursor to the KGB!

Code named Agent Argo by the Russians, apparently he was an absolutely god-awful spy and was dropped rather quickly after failing to 'give any political information' and was never 'verified in practical work' - more a spy in name than action.

Theories have been circulated as to why Hemingway would have worked with them, one is that he was merely a pseudo-spook, possibly seeing his clandestine dealings as potential literary material.

Kipling romanticised the idea of The Great Game in the minds of a Victorian public hungry for tales of adventure -  even the term invokes images of rugby on the playing fields of English public schools.

Inspiring, thrilling and best of all fun, we couldn't explore Writers and Spies without looking into a number of classics from the genre alongside a rather curious work (secret agents infiltrating a communist devil-worshiping cult.... Dennis Wheatley, I'm looking at you!)

Whilst the following writers can't be said to have been spies themselves, their impact and contribution to the Spy Fiction genre definitely earns them a seat at this table.

John BUCHAN

The Thirty-Nine Steps

Edinburgh & London, 1937

£220

The archetypal English Spy thriller, The Thirty-Nine Steps has gripped and enthralled readers since its publication - often earning a place in critics greatest lists.

With the stark landscape of Scotland serving as a backdrop, the narrative sees a man on the run accused of murder, all the while trying to uncover and stop an assassination plot. Ironically, with a plot dealing in an awful lot of running, Buchan penned the book from bed whilst recovering from a duodenal ulcer.

Liam O'Flaherty

Mr. Gilhooley

London, 1926

£550

Set in the 1920s and based on an actual event, Liam O'Flaherty's The Assassin provides a snapshot of Dublin life in a way that no other fiction writer has succeeded in doing. Michael McDara, the assassin, together with fanatical revolutionary Kitty Mellett, and Fetch, a brutal thug with a conscience, plan an execution and a daring escape.

Stemming from O’Flaherty’s own political-activist experiences, this novel is an investigation of the mind and motives of a political murderer.