Maugham opens the novel—at least in this combined edition—with a preface. He talks about where the idea for the novel came from (a line from Inferno, back when he was learning Italian in Italy) and what kind of immediate response it had—lawsuits. Amid all Maugham’s posturing and bragging is the somewhat interesting, if ominous, note about the novel being his only one where he started with the situation and not a character. So Maugham, who turns to melodrama to get things over with, is starting out with it instead. Should be an interesting read.