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Eric Ambler Biography

(1909–1998), The Cruel Sea, The Dark Frontier, Uncommon Danger, Background to Danger, Cause for Alarm

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British thriller writer, born in London; he studied engineering at London University, and later worked in advertising. Ambler served in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel and becoming assistant director of Army Kinematography; later he produced films for the J. Arthur Rank Organisation and wrote numerous screenplays, his adaptation of Nicholas Monsarrat's The Cruel Sea (1953) being nominated for an Academy Award. Ambler's early thrillers—The Dark Frontier (1936) is the first—are usually set in Central Europe or the Levant, and are written, as a conscious reaction against Buchan and Sapper, from a left-wing political point of view, illustrated, for example, by the sympathetic portrait of Zaleshoff, a Soviet agent, who appears in Uncommon Danger (1937; US title Background to Danger) and Cause for Alarm (1938). The best of the pre-war novels are Epitaph for a Spy (1938) and The Mask of Dimitrios (1939; US title A Coffin for Dimitrios). Ambler's post-war work is less homogeneous: he has experimented in a number of directions, mingling comedy with suspense, for example, in The Light of Day (1962; also published in the USA as Topkapi) and Dirty Story (1967). The best of the later novels is perhaps Doctor Frigo (1974), set in the French Antilles, but The Night-Comers (1956; US title State of Siege), The Intercom Conspiracy (1969), Send No More Roses (1977; US title The Siege of the Villa Lipp), and The Care of Time (1981) are also worthy of mention. An autobiography, Here Lies Eric Ambler, appeared in 1985.

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