From one Penguin paperback edition of a Kingsley Amis book, to another – one which, like that copy of Lucky Jim, I again plucked from the dump bins outside Lewes secondhand bookshop A & Y Cumming (although rather more recently; just the other week as opposed to a couple of years ago):
Published in paperback by Penguin in 1965 under a Pop Art cover designed by Alan Aldridge (who became Penguin's art director that same year), My Enemy's Enemy was Amis's first collection of short stories, originally issued in hardback by Gollancz in 1962. All bar one of the stories had been published prior to appearing in this collection – mostly in the 1950s in the likes of The Spectator, Esquire and an anthology or three – and three of them form a sequence of sorts, all set within the ranks of the Royal Corps of Signals at the tail end of the Second World War: "My Enemy's Enemy", "Court of Inquiry" and the previously unpublished "I Spy Strangers".
It's these three tales that are the standouts of the collection; taken together they can be considered the equal of the best of Amis's novels, including my personal favourite, The Anti-Death League, for which they act as a kind of aperitif, tackling similar themes of prejudice, class and petty point-scoring in the British Army. (Amis served in the Royal Signals during the war; in 1975 he told Michael Barber of The Paris Review that "Court of Inquiry" was based on his own experiences.) "I Spy Strangers", where the politics of Westminster – and Europe – are played out in a mock parliament, is especially good, but for reasons to do with an ongoing situation at my place of work (don't ask), it was the title story that really struck home with me: a cautionary tale for anyone who's ever considered clambering up the greasy pole.
I wasn't quite so taken with the ensuing (unlinked) trio of tales of civilian life: "Moral Fibre", "Interesting Things" and "All the Blood Within Me"; of the three, I found the latter the most affecting, dealing as it does with regret, old age and the lies we tell ourselves (themes Amis would return to in later works). But perhaps most intriguing of all is the final story, "Something Strange", wherein Amis has a stab at writing science fiction. I've blogged about his interest in the genre before – he published a critical volume on SF (New Maps of Hell, 1960), edited a series of SF anthologies (Spectrum, with Robert Conquest), and some of his novels have elements of SF to them (alternate history tale The Alteration, for example). But "Something Strange" is one of the few – possibly only – pieces of "proper" science fiction Amis wrote, and while it pales in comparison to the better stories in My Enemy's Enemy, it's still not bad at all: a little stiff, and with a telegraphed "twist" that anyone familiar with, say, Ray Bradbury will see coming, but otherwise effective and thoughtful.
"Something Strange" had actually been published three times prior to appearing in My Enemy's Enemy: in 1960 in The Spectator; and in 1961 in Pick of Today's Short Stories 12, and here:
The November issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (Vol. II, No. 12, British edition). Which in fact is where I first read it: I found the copy seen here in, I think, the Lewes Antique Centre last year, and bought it expressly for Amis's tale. To my knowledge it was the only time Amis contributed fiction to the magazine (correct me if I'm wrong, SF fans); his story appeared alongside his friend Brian Aldiss's novelette "Undergrowth", which would become part of the full-length novel Hothouse the following year.