Introduction Biography Addresses Portraits
Books Short stories Stage plays Film and TV Radio and audio
Quotations Fishing Poetry Food Settings Dedications Canning in the OED Reading lists Articles on Canning
Centenary News Links Availability

You are a Spy

Short story (1,630 words)

Canning, while touring the island of Brijuni in Yugoslavia, photographs an old boatman as a favour, since the boatman wants the photographs sent to his brother in London. He then takes pictures of a splendid villa, but is arrested when it turns out that he has been photographing Tito's summer residence. He is interrogated and has to explain why he has pictures of the old man and an address in London. The captain of the guard eventually tells him to come outside "for the shooting". Fearing that he is about to be executed, he goes out and finds that the captain wants him to take photographs of him and his group of men in order to send the picture to a former girlfriend in London.

Evening Standard, 28 March, 1959.
Reprinted in The Saint Magazine (UK). January 1965.

Included in the collection Italy and the Balkans, ed. John Higgins, 2010.

A related piece of fiction is the short story "Dialogue behind a curtain". Canning's other contributions to the "Did it happen?" series were "Honorary Godfathers", "Wall of death", "Two good men" and "Hole in one".

This was Canning's fourth contribution to a long-running series "Did it happen?" by various authors which appeared in the Evening Standard and its sister papers. Readers were asked to guess if a story was truth or fiction. Canning's story describes an encounter he had in Yugoslavia while he was researching the background for A Forest of Eyes (published in 1950). In this case the answer was "fiction". When the story was reprinted in The Saint Magazine there was no indication of its previous incarnation or that it was not to be taken at face value. In fact it is likely that some of what Canning reports did take place, though not the theatrical dénouement.

Two views of Brijuni (also spelled Brioni), the island where these events did or did not take place:

View of Brijuni
Guard tower on Brijuni
(Photographs courtesy Robert and Catriona Brown)