‘He has a stolid face and solid musculature, which we know because he goes topless more than his leading ladies do. He has vigorous skirmishes on roofs, in cars and in hotel rooms. He takes as severe a beating – and shows as much emotion – as a crash-test dummy. He’s a government spy whom his government wants dead, and he’s mourning the violent death of his girlfriend. He so resembles another famous agent that you half-expect him to say, “The name is Bourne. Jason Bourne.”’
Robert Ludlum was a fan of Ian Fleming. In 1992, he wrote the following in an article for Entertainment Weekly on the 30th anniversary of the Bond films:
This many correspondences seem unlikely to be coincidence, especially as Ian Fleming was both a keen thriller-reader and, as a journalist and former intelligence officer, something of a magpie. In his book on Operation Mincemeat, Ben Macintyre quotes a document written in September 1939 that, although signed by the Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiral John Godfrey, bore the hallmarks of having been written by Fleming, who was his personal assistant. The ‘Trout Memo’ was circulated to other wartime intelligence chiefs, and was a list of ideas for deceiving the Germans. Number 28 on the list was headed ‘A Suggestion (not a very nice one)’:
‘The following suggestion is used in a book by Basil Thomson: a corpse dressed as an airman, with despatches in his pockets, could be dropped on the coast, supposedly from a parachute that had failed. I understand there is no difficulty in obtaining corpses at the Naval Hospital, but, of course, it would have to be a fresh one.’The idea stemmed from Thomson’s 1937 novel The Milliners’ Hat Mystery (10). Fleming was also interested in the fictional potential of amnesia: it featured in two of his other novels. The villain of Casino Royale was a displaced person at the end of the Second World War who feigned amnesia until being transferred to Strasbourg and adopting the name ‘Le Chiffre’. And in Moonraker, renowned British industrialist Hugo Drax is revealed to be the villainous Graf Hugo von der Drache, a former Nazi commando who in the latter stages of the war is captured while wearing a British uniform. Like Le Chiffre, he also pretends to have amnesia; he is nursed back to health as a missing British soldier by the name of Hugo Drax. This is somewhat similar to Pray Silence: Hambledon is the hero and genuinely has amnesia, but he is also nursed back to health by his enemies after being mistaken for one of them, and rebuilds his new life under a false identity he has adopted.
Pray Silence and Faked Passports were published just six months apart, and even in the fast-moving publishing schedule of the war it seems unlikely that they influenced each other. It is more likely that some earlier source triggered the thought in the minds of Dennis Wheatley and ‘Manning Coles’ that led to both their novels featuring British secret agents losing their memory: perhaps an earlier novel (although I haven’t found any), or a news item about a soldier returning from war with amnesia, or something similar. In Pray Silence, the idea has a pleasing neatness to it: what if a secret agent were under cover on a mission, somehow lost their memory, and ended up believing that they were their cover identity? In Faked Passports, the idea is a strangely ineffective digression that misses the idea’s potential: Gregory Sallust is not under cover and so does not believe he is anyone else.