W. Somerset Maugham

Popular British novelist, playwright, short-story writer and the highest-paid author in the world in the 1930s, Somerset Maugham graduated in 1897 from St. Thomas' Medical School and qualified as a doctor, but abandoned medicine after the success of his first novels and plays. During World War I he worked as a secret agent and in 1928 settled in Cap Ferrat in France, from where he made journeys all over the world. Maugham's spy novel "Ashenden; or The British Agent" (1928) is partly based on his own experiences in the secret service. In making the transition from secret agent to writer, Maugham carried on in the tradition of such classic writers as Christopher Marlowe, Ben Johnson and Daniel Defoe to such contemporary writers as Graham GreeneJohn le CarréJohn Dickson CarrAlec Waugh and Ted Allbeury. Maugham's skill in handling plot is compared by critics to that of Guy de Maupassant. In many of Maugham's novels the surroundings are international and the stories are told in a clear, economical style with a cynical or resigned undertone. Although Maugham was successful as an author he was never knighted and his relationship with Gerald Haxton, his secretary, has been subject to speculation.

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