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Eric Ambler biography




Eric Ambler

(1909 - 1998)

English author, widely regarded with Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene as one of the pionerers of stories of espionage and crime. Ambler published 19 novels under his own name and collaborated on four novels with Charles Rodda under the pseudonym Eliot Reed. Among Ambler's best works is THE MASK OF DIMITROS (1939), where a complex series of discoveries leads the hero, Charles Latimer, a British detective-story writer, to the realization that the man named Dimitrios is still alive and dangerous. During Latimer's search Ambler made allusions to the political situation in the Balkans, adding authenticity to the basic tale - topicality also played great role in Ambler's other works.

"Besides, here was real murder; not neat, tidy book-murder with corpse and clues and suspects and hangman, but murder over which a chief of police shrugged his shoulders, wiped his hands and consigned the stinking victim to a coffin. Yes, that was it. It was real. Dimitros was or had been real. Here were no strutting paper figures, but tangible evocative men and women, as real as Proudhon, Montesquieu and Rosa Luxemburg." (from The Mask of Dimitros)
Ambler was born in London. His parents had been entertainers and Ambler also toured himself in the late 1920s as a music-hall comedian and wrote plays. From 1924 to 1927 he studied engineering at London University and then took up an apprenticeship in engineering. Later he worked in advertising and by 1937 he was the director of a London ad agency. After resigning he moved to Paris for some time and devoted himself to writing.

Between the years 1936 and 1940 Ambler wrote six classic thriller novels: THE DARK FRONTIER (1936), UNCOMMON DANGER (1937), EPITAPH FOR A SPY (1938), CAUSE FOR ALARM (1938), The Mask of Dimitros (1939), and JOURNEY INTO FEAR (1940), in which an unwitting bystander, Mr Graham, ends up being hunted across wartime Europe. Graham is an engineer working for an arms company and on his business trip to Istambul he finds himself in the middle of a nightmare. Unknow pursuers are threatening his life for unknown reasons. "Death, he told himself, would not be so bad. A moment of astonishment, and it would be over. He had to die sooner or later, and a bullet through the base of the skull would be better than months of illness when he was old." (from Journey into Fear)

In these novels Ambler developed the succesful formula, where the main character, usually an ordinary Englishman, is drawn into a web of international espionage and intrigue. In his earlier works Ambler expressed leftitst sympathies, saying "it is not important who pulled the trigger but who paid for the bullets".

In 1938 Ambler became a script consultant for Alexander Korda. During World War II he joined the Royal Artillery as a private, but was then assigned to a combat photographic unit. Ambler served in Italy, and was made assistant director of army cinematography in the British War Office. By the end of the war, he was a lieutenant colonel and was awarded an American Bronze Star.

After the war Ambler went to work as a screenwriter for the Rank Organisation. Between the years 1940 and 1951 he wrote no thrillers, but after the silence he published a series of novels with Charles Rodda under the pseudonym Eliot Reed. In the 1960s Ambler moved to Hollywood, where he created the TV shows Checmate and The Most Deadly Game.

You might go to the end of your days believing that some things couldn't possibly happen to you, that death could only come to you with the sweet reason of disease or an 'act of God', but it was there just the same, waiting to make nonsense of all your comfortable ideas about your relations with time and chance, ready to remind you - in case you had forgotten - that civilization was a word and that you still lived in the jungle." (from Journey Into Fear, 1940)

From 1969 Ambler lived 16 years in Switzerland and then returned to England. His memoirs HERE LIES ERIC AMBLER, appeared in 1981. Many of his novels have been filmed. He married twice, the second time to Joan Harrison, who worked as an assistant to the film director Alfred Hitchcock, collaborating among others on screenplays for Jamaica Inn and Rebecca, both adapted from the novels by Daphne Du Maurier.

In 1959, 1962, 1967 and 1972 Ambler received the Gold Dagger award from the British Crime Writers Association and a Diamond Dagger for life achievement in 1986. He won Edgar Award of The Mystery Writers of America in 1964 and was named as Grand Master in 1975 by the same organisation. He also received literary awards from Sweden and France. In 1981 Ambler was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Eric Amber died in London on October 22, 1998.

Information source: wikipedia