In my last three murder mystery novels, certain critics have noted a similarity between my writing style and that of one of Britain’s most successful spy thriller writers, the modest but famous wartime novelist, Eric Clifford Ambler OBE.
Born in 1909, it made him a natural contemporary of my parents and therefore it is little wonder that his books were crammed into my home bookshelves when, as a boy, I took up reading as an escape from UK post WW2 austerity, and provincial boredom. So now, you know the reason why!
Eric Ambler was the writer’s writer, and even Graham Green and Ian Fleming admired his style and of course his Hollywood success, with films starring such wartime greats as Orson Wells and Joseph Cotton. He was also famous for writing many of the post war film blockbusters, including: The Cruel Sea, A Night to Remember, Topkapi – a film starring Peter Ustinov – and my favourite story, Journey Into Fear.
The latter has been made and remade – originally with Joseph Cotton and Orson Wells, in 1943 – and later with Sam Waterston, and Donald Pleasance in 1973. A great film, because it also has in its cast, cockney Stanley Holloway, the wonderful Zero Mostel, and a rather dodgy Romanian killer, played by Ian McShane.
But it was the book which first caught my eye, and a story which opened up all sorts of wonder at the mysterious goings on in wartime South Eastern Europe, and the very secret, Turkish Levant. Now of course, this mysterious place is next door to where I live, and the secrets of the Turkish Levant are no longer a matter for conjecture. But this implies that Eric Amblers pedigree was rather similar to John Le Carre, and that he understood the profession of spying rather well.
In his 2010 Amazon review of Journey Into Fear, which incidentally is now a ‘Penguin Modern Classic,’ Mike Collins said-
‘I recently asked a colleague if he could recommend any lunchtime reading – something not too heavy, exciting, and with a dash of intelligence thrown in to stimulate my ageing brain cells. “Ambler’s your man,” he replied and lent me a battered old seventies paperback copy of ‘Journey into Fear’. Wow! What a choice. This is top edge-of-the-seat stuff, Graham Greene (who admired Ambler) pared down to a pacy plot and without all the Catholic angst gubbins that spoils GG for me. To the critic here who says it is “old-fashioned” because it’s pre-mobile phone, email, internet and so on I say ‘Yah boo sucks’, you won’t find any of those things in Shakespeare either and what we get with him is none the worse for it. Ambler deserves his elevation into Penguin Modern Classics because, first and foremost, he’s a great writer who knows how to entertain. Go on – become an Ambler gambler and see if you can spot the villains in this great title. You’ll be reading the rest of his books soon after, believe me.’
This rather confirms my personal view, that despite the passing years, people still have a taste for adventure and the mystery of old time deception, together with stories about people who know how to keep secrets. Standing next to this towering talent, as a fellow novelist, one necessarily feels quite humble, and I regard any similarity between my writing and his, as a great tribute.
Author Patrick Brigham
In many ways, and as a man, Ambler appears to have been a typical ‘Anti Fascist,’ as many of his contemporaries were at the rime, and even viewed The Soviet Union as the only real counterweight to Nazi aggression. During WW2, Ambler entered the British army as a private soldier, was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1941, and soon reassigned to photographic units worldwide. 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 screenwriter, receiving an Academy Award nomination in 1953 for his work on the film The Cruel Sea, which he 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, and five of his six early works are now regarded by Penguin as classic thrillers.
The two books for which I have received good reviews, are firstly Abduction: An Angel over Rimini – which received a 2014 award in the US from The Authors Show- and The Dance of Dimitrios, which has received five stars from Amazon, and Goodreads reviewers, all the way. Both Abduction: An Angel over Rimini, and The Dance of Dimitrios are set in The Balkans, and both deal with the duplicity of modern day human trafficking, murder mystery, money laundering, and spying.
In these books, I write about the realities of the present day Balkans and the way that Greece and Bulgaria have become, to some extent, victims of an ongoing Turkish conspiracy. This is clear by the way Turkey has fooled the West into believing that they actively care for their fellow NATO members – which they obviously do not – which their porous and profitable borders, can easily disprove.
Laced with conspiracy and the sordid remnants of Communism, in both books, I have tried to show how easy it was for some to redirect their skills into human trafficking, a modern day scourge, where the helpless peoples of Arabia have been turned into a basic commodity. Traded like slaves across Europe, whilst making their masters’ vast fortunes – leaving a trail of despondent victims, and corpses behind them – Al Qaeda and ISIS, are slowly throttling Western Europe, with further atrocities to come! As the inheritor of the flame, my books have a simple message, and are available on my website.
This year I moved on – no, I haven’t forgotten DCI Mike Lambert – but I have recently delved into the Literary Fiction genre, in order to help explain the Greek mentality, and because it is where I live. Goddess of The Rainbow is a very Greek story. Involving the rain, and how flooding changes us, moves the finger of fate, and causes us to reflect on our lives. A series of short stories, they all happen in the Greek town of Orestiada. Stories which simultaneously interlink and become a part of the whole, center around Iris – the local DHL courier – who in Greek mythology is not only Goddess of The Rainbow, but also the Messenger of The Gods, thereby connecting the individual tales of this 16 Chapter book.
In it there is a murderous estate agent, and his equally murderous wife, an aspiring artist looking for recognition in Athens, an estranged couple separated by time who rekindle their love, a Greek- Australian who is from Melbourne, and a visiting bus load of Russian women from Moscow. They have been invited by the mayor, in order that some of the winging local bachelors might find a suitable wife. There is an illegal Syrian immigrant, a disgruntled typically Greek mother who doesn’t want her son to marry at all, and a Greek Orthodox Priest who has lost his faith. All that and more; stories which come so beautifully together in the last chapter –fascinating and enchanting – which can be read and enjoyed individually, but put together, serve to make the whole novel greater than its component parts.