Predating superagent Peter Ashton & Co., an entertaining tale by the veteran thrillmeister—first published in 1974 in England—deals with a quixotic attempt to shorten WWII.
October 1944: though the plot to blow up Hitler has fizzled, it’s had its ramifications. One involves Major-General Paul Heinrich Gerhardt, plotter, who escapes to England with an adjunctive plan to promote. His idea is to blow up a Hitler henchman so loftily placed that the German high command will be left in disarray. Kill Martin Bormann, Gerhardt maintains to a series of British debriefers, and you strike a crippling blow at the diminishing coterie of Nazi hawks. Few take him seriously, and most regard him as an opportunist, squirming to earn points toward redemption if ever war-criminal courts should be convened. Enter acting Lieutenant Colonel Michael Ashby, another not taken seriously—neither by his colleagues, his wife, nor, for that matter, himself. But Gerhardt and Ashby do take each other seriously, and thus Force 272 is born. In a remote Welsh village, the nucleus of a team goes into training. Among those recruited are six ill-assorted Germans, a Brit who hates all Germans, and an accidental American—that is, a US Army officer whose plans did not include becoming part of the mission until he sort of stumbled into it. Still, Ashby refuses to contemplate failure as a possibility. Having spent most of his life being underrated, Ashby is now, in his self-effacing way, consumed with ambition. They will, he tells his men, successfully sneak into Germany. They will receive promised help from German co-conspirators. And they will, on schedule, assassinate Martin Bormann. Little by little, and against their better judgment, they convert to believers.
Egleton (Cry Havoc, 2003, etc.) has always been able to make quiet heroism engrossing. In Ashby, close kin to le Carré’s Smiley, we see an early and interesting example.