It is 1950 and Kim Il Sung, the leader of North Korea, has ordered his troops to invade the South. Can they be stopped?
It sounds like a job for Captain Thomas Fletcher, RAF pilot and unwilling member of the Secret Intelligence Service.
When he isn't chasing the beautiful agent, Lee Ji-min, or passing the time with seductive Japanese waitresses, he is offering advice to presidents and prime ministers alike.
Thrown into the heat of battle, can our reluctant hero survive his adventures?
“I don’t know what Stalin does to British spies when they get caught, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t just offer his commiserations and wish them a safe trip home. He’s met me before, you know, or has that slipped your mind?” I asked, panic rising in the back of my throat.
“Don’t worry, you won’t have to go anywhere near him,” said Biggins, trying to reassure me.
“If that’s the case, then how am I supposed to find out about his meeting with this Korean chap?”
“You’re going to have to get close to this secretary who works at the Kremlin,” he explained, and he dropped a photograph of a most fetching piece on to the desk.
I examined the picture more closely. She was a stunner, no doubt about it, and all of a sudden the mission didn’t look quite so dangerous.
“How close?” I asked, trying to sound indifferent.
“That’ll depend on you. The prime minister needs to know what’s going on as soon as possible, so you won’t have long.”
Biggins was clearly trying to put the pressure on, but his warnings had the opposite effect. The less time I spent in harm’s way, the more I liked it. When it comes to the spy game, I’ve always been of the opinion that ‘in and out quick’ is the best policy. Mind you, I’ve found that the same goes for dangerous and beautiful females too, and on that thought I put on a brave face and sealed my fate.
“When do I go?”
* * *
If you’ve been fortunate enough to have read my previous memoirs, you’ll know that due to a misunderstanding with an irate farmer, I was coerced into working for Biggins and his band of spies in the Secret Intelligence Service.
I’d been unceremoniously shipped off to Berlin to stop the Soviets getting hold of our latest plans on how to build a hydrogen bomb and, in spite of my best efforts to be relieved of duty, I’d managed to retrieve the damn things and thwart the diabolical schemes of the evil Major Kutuzov.
If that weren’t enough, I’d also helped expose Lord Haversham as the traitor that he was and played my gallant part in delivering life-giving supplies to the good people of Berlin during the infamous airlift. Oh, and I’d seduced the beautiful double agent Louise Schoneberg (or Louise May, or whatever her name was) into the bargain.
In spite of being a bit of a Cato, Biggins was no doubt hoping that I’d be able to use the same talents I’d displayed in Germany with the Muscovite lovely smiling in the eight by ten on the desk. After all, he was the one calling the shots, so to speak, now that Haversham was languishing at His Majesty’s Pleasure - having narrowly escaped the hangman’s noose.
So there I was in ’50, having barely escaped with my life in the Berlin debacle and facing the lion’s den once more. But what was so damned important about this Korean gentleman that I should be risking my precious neck all over again, I hear you ask? Well, you can rest assured that I was asking myself the same question and I’ll tell you as much as I knew back then, which wasn’t a fat lot.
You see, Korea had been getting along quite happily all on its own until the Japanese had the bad taste to invade the place. Of course when the Japs were given a damn good thrashing by the Americans, the Soviets started taking a keen interest in their easterly neighbour.
So our Russian allies decided to conveniently declare war on Japan only a day before the Yanks dropped their atom bomb on Nagasaki - when all the fighting was over bar the shouting. They promptly marched through Manchuria and invaded Korea and that’s when the halfwits in the American government finally woke up.
“Why don’t we share Korea?” they suggested helpfully.
“OK,” said the Russkies, rather obligingly. “Where shall we meet up?”
“How about the 38th Parallel – that’s more or less through the middle of the country,” came the answer.
And so, like umpteen times before, a straight line was drawn across a map and the rest of us have had to live with the consequences ever since.
Of course there was the small matter of how to run the country, and the American in charge, General Hodge, tried to get the ball rolling by using the swarm of Japanese administrators already there - but that didn’t go down too well with the local populace, to say the least.
Eventually the Yanks found a suitable exile to manage the shop by the name of Syngman Rhee. He immediately began a campaign to remove communism, which I’m sure pleased our American cousins no end, but they soon found out that Rhee equated any political opponent with communism and was arresting or killing his opponents all over the place.
In North Korea the Soviets were up to the same tricks as their American counterparts and Stalin promptly chose his own communist puppet, Kim Il Sung. Then, in ’49, the Soviets and the Americans both pulled out to let the Koreans get on with things, and that would have been that, if it hadn’t been for some disquieting developments elsewhere and certain gaffes of the highest order.