NEW, November 2018: The Secret Lives Of A Secret Agent - Second Edition: The Mysterious Life and Times of Alexander Wilson by Tim Crook [Illustrated Paperback] 248 pages, ISBN-9781908842060, Language: English. Intelligence & family history, literary biography. 15.99.

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Secret Lives of a Secret Agent - Cover


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.’

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.

About the Revised Second Edition

More revelations about the intelligence officer and spy author Alexander Wilson in a second edition: his work in MI6, his role as a university chief in British India, and more spy novels under another pseudonym. Fabulist and multiple bigamist, or patriotic author whose imagination blurred the lines between truth and fantasy?

It is eight years since Tim Crook first told the story of how he sought to investigate 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 first edition of 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 had existed.

The second edition includes more revelations about Wilson's work in MI6 between 1939 and 1942, 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 bearing the forenames of the son he abandoned.

Wilson was a writer whose style bridged that of John Buchan, Somerset Maugham, Eric Ambler, Ian Fleming, Graham Greene and John Le Carre. But disappeared without trace after 1940. Wilson encoded real life spying and 'The Great Game' of intelligence into his novels. He 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 investigation changed lives and revealed the career of an intelligence officer and espionage writer whose journey spanned the globe. The story involves the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, the Security Service, MI5, Indian Political Intelligence and its Bureau in New Delhi during the British Empire, and two World Wars. In the mysterious life and times of Alexander Wilson we encounter Winston Churchill, Lawrence of Arabia, Hitler's foreign minister, Joachim Ribbentrop, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin and Mahatma Gandhi. It is a story of love, betrayal, broken hearts, terrorism, patriotism, and a triumph of human dignity on the part of the women and children in his life. In "Wallace Intervenes" Alexander Wilson wrote 'nothing can be underhand that is performed in the service of country'. The implications of that maxim for his surviving family are unimaginable.



About the Author

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.