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Beyond the Balkans – Eric Ambler and the British Espionage Novel, 1936-1940

Eric Ambler (1909-1998) was one of the foremost architects of espionage fiction as it exists today. Like his predecessor Somerset Maugham, Ambler sought to transform the genre from the verbal banality and minimal characterizations of authors William Le Queux and Edward Oppenheim to a more sophisticated, morally ambiguous world of deception and danger.

The Last Victorian: John Buchan and the Hannay Quartet

But, even more importantly, he also struck the first modern note in the evolution of the genre with respect to the degree of personal doubt and insecurity that over-shadows the mission – the same note, albeit greatly amplified, that is found in the novels of such well-known successors as Eric Ambler, Graham Greene, and John Le Carré, whose spy stories may be correctly seen, in part at least, as a continuance of John Buchan and the Hannay Quartet.

A Long Day’s Day with James Dickey

“Ah yes,” he whispered to me, ”I spent one helluva long night wrassling all over the floor of a room there with one terrific Jew gal. You know Susan Sontag?” “Personally, no, I never met her, though I’ve read her.” “Well, that novel,” he chortled, “that opening … in the abandoned railway tunnel? That was me! That shadow man; that spook; that brute. None other than Jim Dickey! One helluva a long night that was, boy, lemmee tell you!”

A Toast to Tristan Egolf

He would furiously lead anti-war marches weekly on our courthouse steps. He improvised chants and picket lines in key Lancaster spots for maximum visibility…Soon he began to organize and conduct clandestine parties with bands and full-on amateur boxing bouts in obscure downtown rooms, rural homes and barns. He posed many local dignitaries against each other brawling with full pads on in the ring (often for his own comic purposes). They were brilliant extravaganzas for the aware.

Goethe and Tagore – Unexpected Interests

Goethe and Tagore, separated by time and contexts, but joined in their great felicity over the literary idiom, show similar quests in the understanding of the sciences. It is alluring to jump to the conclusion of a phony and fashionable unity; that science and arts are the same after all; and literature, music, mathematics, and the physical sciences are all manifestations of the common muse.