AMBLER, Eric (1909–98) British novelist and screenwriter
Ambler worked in advertising, the film industry and the secret service before becoming a full-time novelist. The deadpan style of his thrillers lets him move easily from violence to farce, and he either sets his books in exotic places (the Levant, the Far East, tropical Africa), or makes familiar European locations seem exotic as the scene of sinister and unlikely goings-on. His central characters are minor crooks, conmen, or innocent bystanders trapped by circumstances or curiosity into a chain of bizarre and dangerous events. His supporting casts are crammed with improbable, unsavoury specimens, very few of whom are quite what they seem to be. Today these kinds of thriller are familiar, but Ambler was one of the first to write them, and his are still among the best in the genre.
THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS (1939)
Although later thrillers continued to be successful (The Light of Day, for instance, published in 1962, was made into the movie Topkapi), Ambler’s best and most characteristic thrillers belong to the low, dishonest decade of the 1930s. In The Mask of Dimitrios Charles Latimer, a bored writer, sets out to track down an elusive Levantine criminal and finds that his search for the truth about Dimitrios Makropolous leads him into dangerous territory. Propelled by chance and curiosity from his own comfortable world, Latimer is suddenly surrounded by endless deceits and random violence. Ambler’s other thrillers include Cause for Alarm, Epitaph for a Spy, Journey into Fear, Passage of Arms, The Schirmer Inheritance and To Catch a Spy.
to The Mask of Dimitrios: >> Graham Greene, Stamboul Train, >> John Le Carré, Single & Single. to Ambler’s work in general: >> Len Deighton, Horse Under Water; Lionel Davidson, The Night of Wenceslas; Richard Condon, The Manchurian Candidate.
Source Credits: Nick Rennison, Good Reading Guide: Discover Your Next Great Read, Bloomsbury Publishing, Seventh Edition