Eric Ambler: Where to Start?

Eric Ambler is often credited with the invention of the modern political thriller. He introduced a new realism to the genre, providing it with a depth and originality that hadn’t before been seen in thriller writing, and John le Carre has described him as ‘the source upon which we all draw.’

With an incredible career spanning sixty years, and a variety of works covering fiction and non-fiction, we thought an introductory guide might be helpful in knowing where to start. The following selection should give you an overall feel for Ambler’s style and will leave you wanting to read more.

ambler dark frontierambler the mask of dimitrios

1. The Dark Frontier (1936)

Where better to start than at the beginning? The Dark Frontier is Ambler’s exciting debut, written as a result of Ambler’s varied and eclectic career moves and travels. With a gripping and insightful plot, The Dark Frontier was one of the first novels to posit the invention of the nuclear bomb and its disastrous consequences within international politics.

2. The Mask of Dimitrios (1939)

Although The Dark Frontier is Ambler’s first novel, The Mask of Dimitrios can take the credit for the novel that brought him into the public eye, adapted into a film noir in 1944 starring Zachary Scott and Sydney Greenstreet. The title character of the novel is loosely based on the early career movements of Greek arms dealer Sir Basil Zaharoff.

3. Judgment on Deltchev (1952)

Next on our list is Judgment on Deltchev. The narrative follows a playwright, hired by an American newspaper to investigate the high-profile trial of Russian politician Yordan Deltchev, who has been accused of treason.  A gripping tale filled with deceit and double agents, Ambler keeps his revelations close to his chest, leaving you guessing until its final moments.

4. The Light of Day (1962)

The Light of Day, also known as Topkapi, is narrated by Arthur Simpson, a character who will later reappear in Dirty Story. Simpson is a small-time thief who finds himself pulled into a political conspiracy that escalates wildly out of his control. The Light of Day won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1964, and is among Ambler most prolific works.

5. Here Lies (1985)

The last on our list deviates from its predecessors; Here Lies is Ambler’s autobiographical account of the childhood and early career moves that resulted in his life as a writer of spy thrillers. A compelling portrait of a fascinating life, the autobiography won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Critical/Biographical Work in 1987.

We hope this introduction to Ambler has increased the length of your To Be Read list! Keep an eye out for special offers, news and new releases, and follow our twitter account @CrimeClassics to stay up to date with the world of classic crime.