The Second World War Chief of MI6 said Alexander Wilson had ‘remarkable gifts as a writer of fiction, and no sense of responsibility in using them!’
Wilson’s three year career in the Secret Intelligence Service ended when the country’s spy chiefs decided his creativity got the better of his grasp of reality.
His ‘secret lives’ extended to his private life.
Four wives and four families; not necessarily one after the other.
In this second Edition Tim Crook unravels more of the mysteries of this extraordinary story.
The first edition of his biography is the foundation, along with the memoir of Alexander Wilson’s third wife, Alison, of the BBC drama series ‘Mrs Wilson.’
The series is based on a dramatised interpretation of Alison’s viewpoint and has been executively produced by the award-winning actor Ruth Wilson who is Alexander and Alison Wilson’s granddaughter.
It is eight years since Tim first told the story of the life and times of the father of his friend Mike Shannon.
In the spring of 1941 Mike was only 7 years old when he said goodbye to his father, Alexander Wilson, dressed as a lieutenant colonel in the Indian Army.
As the steam train pulled away from the Yorkshire railway station platform that would be the last time he ever saw him.
More than six decades later Tim Crook would help unlock the secrets of his father’s life.
The biography was published in October 2010 shortly before Mike passed away.
Not only had he learned that his father had worked for MI6 during the Second World War, but that he had been one of the leading spy, crime and romance authors of the 1920s and 30s.
At first he seemed to be a man with no beginning and no end.
There was no record of his death in action in the North African desert, and there was no record of his birth in the identity his father had put on his son’s birth certificate.
Mike would have to come to terms with the fact that his father had faked his own death, had lived double, triple and quadruple lives.
He would be revealed as a multiple bigamist, but at the same time also a celebrated and successful author.
Details of crimes and imprisonment would be mixed with the discovery of relatives and a new family he had no idea existed.
The second edition includes more revelations about Wilson’s work in MI6, where his talent for invention is said to have done more harm than good, his role as a university chief in British India where he enjoyed great success despite getting the job with a fake CV, and more spy novels under a pseudonym that indicates that he must have loved the son he abandoned.
Fabulist and multiple bigamist, or patriotic author whose imagination blurred the lines between truth and fantasy?
The new edition gives focus to the four remarkable women in his life: Gladys, Dorothy, Alison and Elizabeth- each in a way representing and symbolising different epochs of the twentieth century.
Wilson created a chief of a fictional British Secret Service, Sir Leonard Wallace, who appears substantially based on the first real ‘C’ of MI6, Captain Mansfield Smith-Cumming.
The story involves the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, the Security Service, MI5, and two World Wars.
It is a story of love, betrayal, broken hearts, terrorism, espionage, patriotism, and a triumph of human dignity on the part of the women and children in his life.
Preface, Contents, Chapter One- A very unusual funeral, Chapter Two- Gladys and children, Chapter Three – Dorothy and son, Chapter Four – Alison and sons, Chapter Five – Elizabeth and son, Chapter Six – The Buddha of St James’s, Chapter Seven – `A Great Public Danger?’, Chapter Eight – `One of the best’ – Compton Mackenzie, Chapter Nine- Killing The Writer, Chapter Ten – Scoundrel or Sentimental Crook? Chapter Eleven- Discovery, forgiveness and reparation, Appendices – Timeline and literary output, Bibliography, Illustrations.
Publication of the second edition of The Secret Lives of a Secret Agent by Kultura Press took place Friday 30th November 2018.
The Second Edition can now be ordered from the print on demand service Blurb.co.uk on this link.
You can order through Waterstones- Britain’s leading chain of bookshops, RRP is £19.99
Tim Crook is Professor in Media & Communication at Goldsmiths, University of London and Visiting Professor of Broadcast Journalism at Birmingham City University. He is the author of many books on journalism, media law, and radio history.
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