Wallace Intervenes was published in 1939 shortly after people in Great Britain realised that the Munich agreement was not going to prevent another war with Germany.
With the striking dust-wrapper cover of the Nazi Swastika Alexander Wilson’s ‘Best Spy Story’ has the British Secret Service sending a male honeytrap to infiltrate the intimacy and heart of Germany’s leader.
The unfolding events offered a fantasy of wishful thinking.
The novel is significant for depicting a male intelligence officer in the technique of sexpionage.
Alexander Wilson also provides positive and courageous representation of Jewish characters- a decade after his first novels associated Jews with Bolshevism and negative stereotyping.
The plot includes the deployment of electronic microphone surveillance, and women front-line intelligence operatives being the equal of men.
This is how Herbert Jenkins marketed the book in ‘What This Story Is About’:
Foster, a British agent sent to Germany to obtain vital information, fell passionately in love with Baroness von Reudath, the beautiful confidante of the infamous Marshal von Strom. The Marshal, almost insane with jealousy and fearing betrayal of his plans, seized Foster and had him removed from the sight of prying eyes. The Baroness, after a travesty of a trial, was condemned to the headsman’s axe.
But Wallace, the famous Chief of Secret Service, discovered their plight. With the cool and calculating courage that had borne him through many a desperate enterprise he made his plans to free Foster and the Baroness.
This graphically told story, in which Wallace in a daring death-defying new role outwits his powerful adversaries in the grim fortress of Wannsee, is one of the most tensely-exciting that Alexander Wilson has ever achieved.
Allison and Busby republished the novel on April 21st 2016 in the Wallace of the Secret Service series, and described the story in these terms:
Foster, a British agent sent to Germany to obtain vital information, fell passionately in love with Baroness von Reudath, the beautiful confidante of the infamous Marshal von Strom. The Marshal, almost insane with jealousy and fearing betrayal of his plans, seized Foster and had him removed from the sight of prying eyes. The Baroness, after a travesty of a trial, was condemned to the headsman’s axe. But Wallace, the famous Chief of Secret Service, discovered their plight. With the cool and calculating courage that had borne him through many a desperate enterprise he made his plans to free Foster and the Baroness.
‘Wallace Intervenes’ was positively reviewed in the Scotsman and Observer newspapers.
In 1939 Scotsman said:
Wallace Intervenes is an espionage thriller. A young British agent falls in love with a German baroness, the confidant of a notorious Marshal, while he is engaged on a mission to Germany. Consumed with jealousy and apprehensive of the betrayal of the vital secrets, the Marshal seizes his young rival and has the baroness sentenced to death. Then Wallace, Chief of the Secret Service, intervenes, and rescues the lovers from their desperate plight, running colossal risks, and outwitting his opponents with characteristic coolness and courage.
There is plenty of adventure and exciting incidents in the story, and Mr Wilson shows his usual skill in rapid narration.
In January 1940 the Observer’s reviewer Maurice Richardson said of ‘Wallace Intervenes’:
Wallace Intervenes is another spy story featuring Hitler in person, if not name. This time he is kidnapped, put in a trunk, and successfully impersonated by Sir Leonard Wallace, Chief of the intelligence service. This comes at the end of an exciting love-duel in which one of our younger agents has to seduce a beautiful Austrian baroness, who fortunately turns out to be on our side all the time.
Pathe Gazette’s review of 1938- the year when Alexander Wilson wrote ‘Wallace Intervenes’
Extract from ‘Wallace Intervenes’ (pages 12-15 of the Allison and Busby edition)
The Chief of The British Secret Service, Sir Leonard Wallace, briefs a young intelligence officer on the art of falling in love for King, country and empire.
Feeling a sense of thrill throughout his whole being, Foster ascended to the floor whereon was situated the office of Sir Leonard Wallace. He stood for some moments outside the door attempting to gain complete control of himself, for the summons and Cousins’ remark that his time had come had filled him with such exultation that he was rather afraid he might make a fool of himself in his delight. However, nothing was more unlikely. The Secret Service training teaches a man to hide completely his feelings if necessary, and Foster had learnt his lesson very well. There was no sound from within the room, which was hardly to be wondered at, as it was soundproof. He knocked loudly. Almost at once the door was opened by Major Brien, who greeted him with a friendly by smile, and bade him enter. Sir Leonard Wallace sat at his desk, his favourite briar held firmly between his strong white teeth. His steel- grey eyes bored deeply into those of Foster as that young man approached. Apparently satisfied with his scrutiny, Sir Leonard nodded his head slightly, and smiled.
‘Cousins has told you that I have decided to give you a job of very great importance?’ he stated rather than asked.
‘Not exactly, sir,’ was, the reply. ‘He told me you wished to see me, and certainly gave me to understand that the time I have been longing for has come at last.’
‘You are keen to show us what you can really do?’
‘Keen sir!’ repeated Foster. ‘I have thought of nothing else since I joined the service.’
‘Very well, your chance has come. Sit down.’
Foster sat in the chair indicated, but declined the cigarette offered him. He was far too interested and inwardly excited to bother about smoking. Brien drew an armchair up to the other side of the great desk; threw himself into it. The manner of the two, particularly that of Sir Leonard, might have greatly disappointed a man who had not had Foster’s opportunities of observing them. There was no indication in the demeanour of Wallace that he was concerned with anything but the most casual and unimportant matter. His unruffled, easy-going, unexcitable temperament, his air of complete nonchalance, had at one time deceived Foster as it had done so many others, but he had learnt, like those who worked with the chief, to recognise the dynamic driving force behind the calm manner, the brilliant brain, the working of which was cloaked by that lazy, attractive smile. Sir Leonard tapped out the ashes of his pipe into a handy ashtray, sat back in his chair, and regarded Foster.
‘You get on very well with the ladies, don’t you?’ he asked surprisingly.
The young man started. Despite his efforts, his pale face coloured a trifle.
‘I – I suppose I do, sir,’ he returned slowly, ‘but I have never really considered the question.’
‘Well, I have,’ commented the chief dryly. ‘I have noticed that you attract them. Don’t think you have been spied upon for any ulterior purpose. It is all part of the observation it is necessary to make of men who join the service, in order that I shall have full knowledge of them and how they are likely to fit in. You get along very well with young girls. I am wondering if you are likely to appear as attractive to a lady, who, though young and handsome, is also a widow and an experienced woman of the world. But that will be up to you, Foster. You will have to go out of your way to make yourself attractive to her, though that does not matter so much as the necessity for you to appear utterly infatuated with her. Ever been in love?’
‘Several times, sir.’
Wallace and Brien laughed.
‘Then you’ll know how to appear in love again,’ observed the former, ‘but for goodness’ sake don’t let the real thing worm its way in. The lady in question is decidedly handsome, as I have already mentioned; in fact,’ he glanced at Brien, ‘she’s reputed to be beautiful, isn’t she?’
His second-in-command nodded.
‘I believe so,’ he replied. ‘I haven’t seen her, but she is certainly spoken of as one of the most beautiful women in Germany.’
‘Who is she, sir?’ ventured Foster.
‘The Baroness von Reudath,’ Sir Leonard told him. ‘Now listen carefully to me, Foster. I have been watching your work and weighing you up for a long time, and am quite satisfied that you have the making of a very good Secret Service man in you. Quite candidly, though, I did not anticipate starting you off on independent work with an affair of such great importance. It happens, however, that the German secret police are very much on the qui vive these days. Every man who enters Germany is compelled to undergo a rigid scrutiny and investigation into his antecedents. Under the circumstances, Major Brien and I came to the conclusion that we would be taking a greater risk in entrusting the present project to one of the experienced, tried men than to you. Germany’s espionage department is excellent. It is quite likely men like Shannon, Cousins, Carter, and perhaps Hill and Cartwright, who have been forced into the unwanted limelight on occasions, are known. They can all disguise themselves well enough to defy detection, I know, and their credentials can be made entirely fool-proof. Still there is always the unexpected element to contend with, no matter what precautions may be taken. Something unforeseen may arise which would cause betrayal. Once that had happened our plans would be ruined. It would become next to impossible for any of our agents to get a footing in the household with which we are concerned. You know quite well the drastic measures concerning everything and everybody the Gestapo is apt to take once it smells a rat.’