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5.0 out of 5 stars The Entrepreneurial Journalist Comes to Life!, 25 Jun 2004
This review is from: A Kind of Anger (Hardcover)
To read or not to read the great spy novels of Eric Ambler? That is the question most people ignore because they are not familiar with Mr. Ambler and his particularly talent.
Mr. Ambler has always had this problem. As Alfred Hitchcock noted in his introduction to Intrigue (an omnibus volume containing Journey into Fear, A Coffin for Dimitrios, Cause for Alarm and Background to Danger), "Perhaps this was the volume that brought Mr. Ambler to the attention of the public that make best-sellers. They had been singularly inattentive until its appearance -- I suppose only God knows why." He goes on to say, "They had not even heeded the critics, who had said, from the very first, that Mr. Ambler had given new life and fresh viewpoint to the art of the spy novel -- an art supposedly threadbare and certainly cliché-infested."
So what's new and different about Eric Ambler writing? His heroes are ordinary people with whom almost any reader can identify, which puts you in the middle of a turmoil of emotions. His bad guys are characteristic of those who did the type of dirty deeds described in the book. His angels on the sidelines are equally realistic to the historical context. The backgrounds, histories and plot lines are finely nuanced into the actual evolution of the areas and events described during that time. In a way, these books are like historical fiction, except they describe deceit and betrayal rather than love and affection. From a distance of over 60 years, we read these books today as a way to step back into the darkest days of the past and relive them vividly. You can almost see and feel a dark hand raised to strike you in the back as you read one of his book's later pages. In a way, these stories are like a more realistic version of what Dashiell Hammett wrote as applied to European and Middle Eastern espionage.
Since Mr. Ambler wrote, the thrillers have gotten much bigger in scope . . . and moved beyond reality. Usually, the future of the human race is at stake. The heroes make Superman look like a wimp in terms of their prowess and knowledge. There's usually a love interest who exceeds your vision of the ideal woman. Fast-paced violence and killing dominate most pages. There are lots of toys to describe and use in imaginative ways. The villains combine the worst faults of the 45 most undesirable people in world history and have gained enormous wealth and power while being totally crazy. The plot twists and turns like cruise missile every few seconds in unexpected directions. If you want a book like that, please do not read Mr. Ambler's work. You won't like it.
If you want to taste, touch, smell, see and hear evil from close range and move through fear to defeat it, Mr. Ambler's your man.
In A Kind of Anger, Piet Maas, a barely hanging on journalist is given a tough assignment -- to find a mysterious witness to a murder in Switzerland whom no one else can find. But he is given a clue . . . a connection who may know the blonde, bikinied woman. Using his knowledge of French property registration methods, he finds the connection and blackmails him into finding the woman. In the process, he turns down a bribe . . . one that would be enough to start another publication like the one he ran into bankruptcy earlier.
The woman intrigues him with her story, which he duly reports to his publisher. She has kept the documents about a secret Kurdish organization that her former lover was killed for. Then he disappears so he can join her to see how much they can seize for themselves in selling these documents. Suddenly, they are trying to sell dangerous goods to even more dangerous people . . . Kurdish revolutionaries, the Iraqi government and a mysterious oil consortium. They have to arrange for secret meetings, negotiate for large payments and avoid being killed in the process. How will they do?
An important aspect of this story is that Maas has once tried to commit suicide and feels he has little to live for as the book begins. In the process of taking on large risks with Lucia Bernardi, the blonde, he regains his desire to live. You'll find yourself pulling for the two scammers as they hold their document auction.
After you finish this story, I suggest that you think about what would inspire you to attempt more . . . accomplish more . . . and extend yourself beyond what you think you can achieve. Then, get busy!
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