Watching QIXL recently I learnt about a number of very famous spies. I don’t mean a spy like Kim Philby or Anthony Blunt, I mean a spy like Noel Coward, Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn or Josephine Baker. The advantage of these famous stars in espionage terms, was that they got to meet a lot of very important people in situations where the wine and cocktails were flowing freely and tongues were loosened. All they had to do was share some anecdotes and listen. Darrell Blocker was actually the CIA’s chief of Africa division as well as frontman for the Kampala Jazz All-Stars, one of Uganda’s most popular groups.

I decided that the spying superpowers of my ancestor, the Elizabethan spy, Sir Anthony Standen, were probably the surveillance, lock picking and combat skills we are more used to associating with a spy. It might have been fun having him touring with Shakespeare’s Lord Chamberlain’s Men theatre company, but his known history made no mention of it. I see him as more of a James Bond than Noel Coward. I suppose the other problem is that it might have been unbelievable. Truth really is stranger than fiction sometimes.

When talking about a spy in plain sight, Josephine Baker has to take the biscuit. No trench coat and Panama hat pulled down at the brim for her, just take all her clothes off! She carried secret messages written in invisible ink on her sheet music for French Intelligence during World War II, under the noses of the Nazis, and was awarded the Legion d’Honneur.

Since I am not planning to end the Sir Anthony Standen Adventures any time soon, I suppose there may be an opportunity for a playwright, striper, or pop star spy somewhere along the line. I’ll think about it. I can’t see it happening in my current work-in-progress, The Favourite Murder.