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  • 10/20/2004

Eric Ambler

(June 28,1909 - October 22, 1998)

English author widely regarded with Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene as one of the pioneers 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.

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 aLondon ad agency. After resigning he moved toParis 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 Istanbul he finds himself in the middle of a nightmare. Unknown pursuers are threatening his life for unknown reasons.

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 inItaly, 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 Checkmate and The Most Deadly Game.

From 1969 Ambler lived 16 years in Switzerland and then returned to England. His memoirsHERE 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 the Edgar Award of The Mystery Writers of America in 1964 and was named as Grand Master in 1975 by the same organization. He also received literary awards from Sweden and France. In 1981 Ambler was named an Officer of the Order of theBritish Empire. Eric Amber died inLondon on October 22, 1998.

Selected bibliography:


UNCOMMON DANGER, 1937 -film "Background to Danger" in 1943, dir. by Raoul Walsh



THE MASK OF DIMITROS / THE COFFIN OF DIMITROS, 1939 -film 1944, dir. by Jean Negulesco

JOURNEY INTO FEAR, 1940 -film 1942, dir. by Norman Foster


SKYTIP, 1950 (as Eliot Reed, in collaboration with Charles Rodda)


The Way Ahead, 1944

United States, 1945

The October Man, 1947

The Passionate Friends (One Woman's Story), 1949

Highly Dangerous, 1950

The Magic Box, 1951

Gogolo and Gigolette, 1951

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