"International business may conduct its operations with scraps of paper, but the ink it uses is human blood." -- Eric Ambler
Eric Clifford Ambler OBE (28 June 1909 — 22 October 1998) was an influential British author of spy novels who introduced a new realism to the genre. Ambler also used the pseudonym Eliot Reed for books co-written with Charles Rodda.
Ambler was born in London into a family of entertainers who ran a puppet show, with which he helped in his early years. Both parents also worked as music hall artists. Later he studied engineering at Northampton Polytechnic in Islington (now City University, London), and served an apprenticeship with an engineering company. However, his upbringing as an entertainer proved dominant and he soon moved to writing plays and other works. By 1937 he was a copywriter at an advertising agency in London. After resigning he moved to Paris, where he met and married Louise Crombie, an American fashion correspondent.
At that time, Ambler was politically a staunch anti-Fascist and like many others tended to regard the Soviet Union as the only real counterweight - which was reflected in the fact that some of his early books include Soviet agents depicted as positive and sympathetic characters, the undoubted allies of the main protagonist.And like numerous like-minded people in different countries, Ambler was shocked and disillusioned by the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939. His post-war anti-Communist novel Judgment on Deltchev (1951), based on the Stalinist purge-trials in Eastern Europe, caused him to be reviled by many former Communist Party and other progressive associates.
When World War II broke out, Ambler entered the army as a common soldier. He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1941. He was soon re-assigned to photographic units, where his talents were better employed. He ended the war as a Lieutenant-Colonel and assistant director of the army film unit. After the war, he worked in the civilian film industry as a screen-writer, receiving an Academy Award nomination in 1953 for his work on the film The Cruel Sea, adapted from the novel by Nicholas Monsarrat. He did not resume writing under his own name until 1951, entering the second of the two distinct periods in his writing. Five of his six early works are regarded as classic thrillers.
Ambler divorced Louise in 1958, marrying Joan Harrison the same year. The couple moved to Switzerland in 1969 and back to Britain 16 years later. Joan died in 1994 in London. Ambler died in Switzerland.
In 2008, his estate transferred all of Ambler's copyrights and other legal and commercial rights to a subsidiary company of London-based Owatonna Media.
Ambler's best known works are probably The Mask of Dimitrios (1939) (originally published under the title A Coffin for Demitrios), which was made into a film in 1944, and The Light of Day (1962), filmed in 1964 as Topkapi and also lampooned in The Pink Panther (1963). He was also a successful screenwriter and lived in Los Angeles in his later years. Amongst other classic movies based on his work are Journey Into Fear (1943), starring Joseph Cotten, and an original screenplay, The October Man (1947). He wrote the screenplay for A Night To Remember about the sinking of the Titanic, along with many other screenplays, particularly those concerning stories and adventures at sea. He published his autobiography in 1985, Here Lies Eric Ambler.
A recurring theme in Ambler's books is the amateur who finds himself unwillingly in the company of hardened criminals or spies. Typically, the protagonist is out of his depth and often seems for much of the book a bumbling anti-hero, yet eventually manages to surprise himself as well as the professionals by a decisive action that outwits his far more experienced opponents. This plot is used, for example, in Journey into Fear, The Light of Day and Dirty Story. In Ambler's books, unlike most other spy novels, the protagonist is rarely a professional spy, or a policeman or counter-intelligence operative.