“We have had the opportunity of reading this through and I must confess it seems to me the most unutterable trash. Literary criticism is, however, not within our province of officiality. Apart from that there are quite a number of points which it is undesirable to see published … and I very much doubt if descriptions such as that of General Gubbins acting as a horse in a sham bullfight would be sanctioned by those concerned.” Thus starts a correspondence from the War Office to Paddy on the subject of a draft of Stanley Moss’ book.
In April 1945 the War Office were in receipt of a draft Moss’ book Ill Met by Moonlight. Paddy’s recently released SOE file shows that not only were they sensitive to the security aspects of the book, but these Staff Officers thought very little of its literary style.
It appears that Moss had given Paddy ‘full powers’ to deal with the publication of the book. This seems to have dragged Paddy into some degree of trouble.
In a letter dated 29 March 1945 an officer says “LEIGH-FERMOR does not submit willingly to discipline, and I think, requires firm handling.”
The correspondence is quite amusing “Good taste and discretion are hardly attributes of the writer as illustrated by his description of one of his lady friends as an “over-sexed mongoose”. It is clear that the final version was quite severely edited, but some of the missing parts are quoted at length by Staff Officers who clearly had too much time on their hands .. or were they merely jealous that they had missed out on all the fun in Cairo?
Paddy himself in a covering letter to Colonel Talbot Rice with the submission of the draft for clearance says; “It is not a very good book – too much is made of too little” But he did think it would “sell like blazes”.