At a time when spy stories still clung to cloak-and-dagger melodrama, Eric Ambler called his 1937 classic Epitaph for a Spy “a mild attempt at realism.” From 1936 to 1940, between world wars, he wrote six such novels which portrayed the world as morally ambiguous and filled with deception and danger. Epitaph for a Spy and A Coffin for Dimitrius are notable examples of the first modern suspense novel. Journey into Fear, which was turned into a movie by Orson Welles, has recently been re-issued by Penguin Modern Classics.
Worth a look:
- “Why Eric Ambler’s A Coffin for Dimitrios is a Masterpiece” by Sarah Weinman [WSJ 5/23/09]
- “Eric Ambler and the invention of the spy novel” by Stephen Metcalf [Slate 5/25/06]
- Beyond the Balkans – Eric Ambler and the British Espionage Novel, 1936-1940 by Brett F. Woods [California Literary Review 3/26/07]