Eric Ambler was a British author and screenwriter widely regarded as one of the most distinguished writers of espionage and crime. In contrast to earlier British spy stories, in which xenophobic, romantic heroes defeated vast conspiracies to dominate the world, Ambler wrote of ordinary, educated Englishmen thrust by chance or innocent curiosity into danger. Ambler’s villains, too, were realistically drawn and were frequently violent fascists and Nazis. His fiction was a major influence on such writers as Graham Greene, John Le Carré, and Len Deighton.

Ambler’s early novels, set in continental Europe, were permeated with the emotional atmosphere of the impending Second World War. His careful writing, intricate plots, and growing skill at creating vivid characterisations culminated in the sustained tension of The Mask of Dimitrios (1939; also published as A Coffin for Dimitrios) and Journey into Fear (1940), both later made into memorable films. Later novels were often set in the Middle East or East Asia, including The Light of Day (1962, also known as Topkapi in the USA; filmed 1964 and again as The Levanter in 1972), which centres around a terrorist plot against Israel. His autobiography, Here Lies, was published in 1985.

During WWII, Ambler wrote training films for the British army, a job that led to a post-war career as a screenwriter, adapting films from novels; he was nominated for an Academy Award for his script The Cruel Sea (1953).

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