'In 1862, a young man from Australia arrives in England claiming inheritance of the Steede title, fortune and family estates. The Baronet's widow greets him as James, her long-lost son, missing ten years and believed dead. But is he really James Steede? Or is he a clever impostor with a remarkable likeness to the rightful heir?'
Source: Book jacket (Heinemann first edition).
In 1966 Maugham came to Australia with his friend, Sandy Pratt 'where I spent some of the happiest months of my life while I was searching for material for my novel, The Link...Later, I sailed to Mexico to continue with my research. Then I settled down in a small hacienda outside Taxco to write the novel itself.' Escape From the Shadows: An Autobiography (1972).
Maugham's novel is based on the Tichborne Case which obsessed public opinion in the late nineteenth century. There was a fascination with the notion of aristocratic heirs living in the Australian bush incognito. A Wagga Wagga butcher, Thomas Castro,claimed to be the Tichborne heir, Sir Roger, who left England and disappeared after unsuccessfully courting his cousin, Lady Doughty. It was presumed he was lost in a shipwreck off South America or on the Australian goldfields. Castro sued for the estate, lost and was sentenced to fourteen years gaol for perjury. Castro turned out to be Arthur Orton, a London butcher who had changed his name in Australia.
Patrick Morgan's 'The Fiction Reading Habits of the Tichborne Claimant', Margin no. 61 (2003): 13-17 argues that many nineteenth century Australian writers wrote works which addressed the main themes of the Tichborne case including Henry Kingsley, Marcus Clarke and Rolf Boldrewood. Helen Tiffin also sees parallels in Patrick White's The Twyborne Affair with its sexual impersonations in her article, ' The Tichborne Affair and Patrick White's The Twyborne Affair', 'And What Books Do You Read' : New Studies in Australian Literature (1996): pp.126-139.