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Eric Ambler

Eric Ambler
Born Eric Clifford Ambler
June 28, 1909(1909-06-28)
London, England, Great Britain
Died October 22, 1998(1998-10-22) (aged 89)
Nationality British
Occupation Author (Thrillers and Spy novels)

Eric Clifford Ambler OBE (28 June 1909 ' 22 October 1998) was an influential British author of spy novels who introduced a new realism to the genre. Ambler also used the pseudonym Eliot Reed for books co-written with Charles Rodda.


[edit] Life

Ambler was born in London into a family of entertainers who ran a puppet show, with which he helped in his early years. Both parents also worked as music hall artists.[1] Later he studied engineering at Northampton Polytechnic in Islington (now City University, London), and served an apprenticeship with an engineering company. However, his upbringing as an entertainer proved dominant and he soon moved to writing plays and other works. By 1937 he was a copywriter at an advertising agency in London. After resigning he moved to Paris, where he met and married Louise Crombie, an American fashion correspondent.

At that time, Ambler was politically a staunch anti-Fascist and like many others tended to regard the Soviet Union as the only real counterweight - which was reflected in the fact that some of his early books include Soviet agents depicted as positive and sympathetic characters, the undoubted allies of the main protagonist. And like numerous like-minded people in different countries, Ambler was shocked and disillusioned by the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939. His post-war anti-Communist novel Judgment on Deltchev (1951), based on the Stalinist purge-trials in Eastern Europe, caused him to be reviled by many former Communist Party and other progressive associates.

When World War II broke out, Ambler entered the army as a common soldier. He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1941. He was soon re-assigned to photographic units, where his talents were better employed. He ended the war as a Lieutenant-Colonel and assistant director of the army film unit. After the war, he worked in the civilian film industry as a screen-writer, receiving an Academy Award nomination in 1953 for his work on the film The Cruel Sea, adapted from the novel by Nicholas Monsarrat. He did not resume writing under his own name until 1951, entering the second of the two distinct periods in his writing. Five of his six early works are regarded as classic thrillers.

Ambler divorced Louise in 1958, marrying Joan Harrison the same year. The couple moved to Switzerland in 1969 and back to Britain 16 years later. Joan died in 1994 in London. Ambler died in Switzerland in 1998.

In 2008, his estate transferred all of Ambler's copyrights and other legal and commercial rights to a subsidiary company of London-based Owatonna Media.

[edit] Writing career

Ambler's best known works are probably The Mask of Dimitrios (1939) (originally published under the title A Coffin for Dimitrios), which was made into a film in 1944, and The Light of Day (1962), filmed in 1964 as Topkapi and also lampooned in The Pink Panther (1963). He was also a successful screenwriter and lived in Los Angeles in his later years. Amongst other classic movies based on his work are Journey Into Fear (1943), starring Joseph Cotten, and an original screenplay, The October Man (1947). He wrote the screenplay for A Night To Remember about the sinking of the Titanic, along with many other screenplays, particularly those concerning stories and adventures at sea. He published his autobiography in 1985, Here Lies Eric Ambler.

A recurring theme in Ambler's books is the amateur who finds himself unwillingly in the company of hardened criminals or spies. Typically, the protagonist is out of his depth and often seems for much of the book a bumbling anti-hero, yet eventually manages to surprise himself as well as the professionals by a decisive action that outwits his far more experienced opponents. This plot is used, for example, in Journey into Fear, The Light of Day and Dirty Story. In Ambler's books, unlike most other spy novels[2], the protagonist is rarely a professional spy, or a policeman or counter-intelligence operative.

[edit] Works

[edit] Novels

[edit] Collections

  • The Ability to Kill: and Other Pieces (1963), Published with a chapter on John Bodkin Adams removed because of libel concerns[citation needed]
  • Here Lies: An Autobiography (1985); Edgar Award for Best Critical/Biographical Work, 1987
  • Waiting for Orders (1991), also published as The Story so Far
    1. The Intrusions of Dr. Czissar
    2. The Army of Shadows
    3. The Blood Bargain
  • Intrigue: Four Great Spy Novels of Eric Ambler, NY, Alfred A. Knopf, 1952
    1. Journey into Fear
    2. A Coffin for Dimitrios
    3. Cause fo Alarm
    4. Background to Danger

[edit] Short stories

[edit] as Eliot Reed (with Charles Rhodda)

  • Skytip (1950)
  • Tender to Danger (1951), also pulished as Tender to Moonlight
  • The Maras Affair (1953)
  • Charter to Danger (1954)
  • Passport to Panic (1958)

[edit] Footnotes

  1. ^ Eric Ambler: "Here Lies Eric Ambler"
  2. ^ See, for example, his own introduction to the anthology To Catch a Spy.

[edit] External links

[edit] Literature

  • Eric Ambler, edited by the Filmkritiker-Kooperative. München: Verlag Filmkritik 1982. (= Filmkritik; Jg. 26, 1982, H. 12 = Gesamtfolge; 312).
  • Gerd Haffmans (ed.): Über Eric Ambler. Zeugnisse von Alfred Hitchcock bis Helmut Heissenbüttel. Zürich: Diogenes 1989. (= Diogenes-TB; 20607) ISBN 3-257-20607-0.
  • Ronald J. Ambrosetti: Eric Ambler. New York: Twayne Publ. u.a. 1994. (= Twayne's English authors series; 507) ISBN 0-8057-8369-5.
  • Stefan Howald: Eric Ambler. Eine Biographie. Zürich: Diogenes 2002. ISBN 3-257-06325-3
  • Peter Lewis: Eric Ambler. New York: Continuum 1990. ISBN 0-8264-0444-8

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