And the sad man is cock of all his jests.
-- George Herbert
Epigraph to Graham Greene's novel Our Man in Havana (1958). The protagonist -- an English widower living in pre-Castro Cuba -- is a vacuum-cleaning salesman named Wormwold, as unattractive a name as Greene could manage. In order to satisfy the demands of intelligence officers in a gray faceless London building, Wormwold dupes them; he creates "purely notional spies" and kill them off, "like a bad novelist preparing an effect." (Alec Guiness plays him in the movie.) The book is in a comic tenor but is less a spoof than a forcible statement of the extent to which military intelligence work and espionage fiction resemble one another.