Eric Ambler obituary

David McDonald dbmcdonald at
Tue Jul 15 08:41:13 MDT 2003

I know of three central characters in Ambler's opus that are carried over
from one novel to another.

First is the team of Russian spies, Alexander Prokovitch Zaleshoff and his
sister Tamara Prokovna. They are next-to central characters first in Cause
for Alarm, about an English engineer working temporarily in Italy who runs
afoul of fascist types and is aided by the Russians. They next appear in
Background to Danger, in which the hero, an unemployed writer, gets caught
up in a fascist gang's attempt provoke an incident that might lead to an
invasion of an oil-rich country. Really scary fascists, by the way.

Second is the beloved Arthur Abdul Simpson, half-British, by far the most
venal of Ambler's heroes, whose character was played by Peter Ustinov in the
movie "Topkapi," which is about robbing a museum in Istambul. Simpson also
appears in "Eric Ambler's Dirty Story."

To my mind it is a bit of an undertelling of Ambler's life story to say:

>Ambler's books introduced the destabilising forces of belief and betrayal,
moral doubt and disillusionment. Their implicit left-wing stance marked them

That would be true enough except for the two books featuring the Zaleshoff
brother-sister team: they are out there attempting to defend the Soviet
Union from its enemies, and are portrayed as sensitive, intelligent and
often funny people doing an important job. Andreas Zaleshoff, at one point
in Background to Danger, when he is trying to convince the hero to give him
some stolen Soviet State papers without admitting what is going on, pulls
out the Stalinist line on Trotsky and dutifully tries it out, without quite
rolling his eyes. He is a committed person; while his sister is, too, she
longs to return to her beloved Moscow

Andreas Prokovitch Zaleshoff was excrebly played by Peter Lorre in a horrid,
fundamentally unrecognizable Hollywood version of Background to Danger that
should be avoided. It must have been bought by Hollywood just before the
Hitler-Stalin Pact or something, there is just no excuse for it.

I believe Colonel Haki makes a small re-appearance in one or another of the
Ambler books that takes him again to Turkey.

But Lou, whence these occcasional postings on Ambler?

David McDonald

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-marxism at

Sent: Tuesday, July 15, 2003 6:44 AM
To: marxism at
Subject: Eric Ambler obituary

The Guardian (London)
October 26, 1998

The plot thickens;
Obituary: Eric Ambler

By Hugh Hebert


Eric Ambler, novelist, born June 28, 1909; died October 22, 1998

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