In the Mouth of the Tiger is a novel that is very personal to authors Derek Emerson -Elliott and military historian Lynette Silver. It is based on real people and events and the central character is based on Derek’s own father, Denis Emerson-Elliott, who worked for British intelligence before, during and after the Second World War. He is also the MI6 spy that Lynette Silver met on Central Railway station in Sydney, one wet winter’s day in 1996 and is referred to in her book Deadly Secrets.
In the mouth of the Tiger is an amazing story of love, mystery and intrigue.
The title of the book has been taken from an old Malayan saying that ‘The safest place in the jungle is in the mouth of the tiger’.
At the time of the story, Britain ruled the whole of the Malayan Peninsula as part of her Empire. Security Intelligence Far East (SIFE) was a special British Intelligence organisation set up in Singapore to combat the spread of Communism. It comprised agents from both MI5 and MI6.
“My father was always reluctant to the point of obsession to respond to any questions by his family about his life in the secret service until just before he died in 1997. He did, however, open up to Lynette, who I think he admired and trusted because she had such a deep knowledge of secret matters. He would often say to Lynette ‘How on Earth do you know that?’ in a tone of absolute wonder. It was almost a standing joke between them, and I think he thought of her as being 'within the fold,” explains Derek Emerson-Elliott.
In the Mouth of the Tiger is also a love story between Derek’s father and his mother, Nona Orlov, a very beautiful young White Russian, the heroine of the story and her early life was as depicted in the book and their family home was Whitelawns, near Changi. In real life, Nona (Norma Emerson-Elliot) died tragically young. Derek and his brother and sister never knew their mother was Russian until after her death.
The final scenes in the story are pure fiction but the setting for these events are based on facts. The Emerson-Elliotts did live at Almer Manor, Dorset, in 1949, where they entertained senior intelligence personalities including Ian Fleming and Admiral Sir Reginald Drax, their neighbour (Fleming cheekily ‘borrowed’ Drax’s name for the villain of the James Bond novel Moonraker).
Denis Emerson-Elliott (the name given to him by British intelligence) was a most engaging figure. There has been much speculation over the years on the identity of the wartime naval intelligence officer, on whom Fleming is said to have based his famous character James Bond.