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Ambler, Eric

story london spy

(British, 1909–1998)

Born in London and educated at the University of London, Ambler became a full-time thriller writer in 1937. His downbeat realism and emphasis on the amoral expediencies of power have won him acknowledgement as a major influence on the modern spy story. Begin with The Mask of Dimitrios (1939), considered his masterpiece, in which an academic visiting Istanbul investigates the death of a politically powerful spy, assassin, and drug-runner. The Dark Frontier (1936), his first book, sets the pattern for much of his fiction in its taut narrative of an Englishman's inadvertent entanglement in a web of European espionage. His other thrillers include Dirty Story (1967), centring on conflicts of international interest over African mineral resources, and The Intercom Conspiracy (1969), evoking the 1960s as an era fraught with political disenchantment caused by the nuclear balance of terror.

John le Carré, Lionel Davidson.

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