Ambler & The Pink Thief
The talents of many 20th century writers were tempered in the heat of conflict. Aldiss, Asimov, Ballard, Heinlein, Heller, Vonnegut, Mailer and Nevil Shute were just a few of the novelists shaped by wartime experiences. Many were not adversely affected and produced fiction that was almost nostalgic for combat.
Eric Ambler came from a London music hall family (lucky man! What a home life he must have had!) and went on the touring circuit as a comic. His serious side surfaced in his thrillers. A committed anti-Fascist, his novels reflected the growing ideological complexity of his time, and his taut thrillers, like â€˜The Mask Of Demetriusâ€™ and â€˜Journey Into Fearâ€™ came early in his career.
Ambler’s heroes often get out of their depth in the cynical, murky world of European espionage. â€˜What else could you expect from a balance of power,â€™ asks one of his characters, â€˜adjusted in terms of land, of arms, of man-power and of materials: in terms, in other words, of money?â€™
Ambler inevitably moved to Hollywood and scripted â€˜The Cruel Seaâ€™, which secured an Oscar nomination, and â€˜A Night To Rememberâ€™, a rather better film about the sinking of the Titanic than that gaudy one with all the 3D CGI that now looks a bit dated.
His novel â€˜The Light Of Dayâ€™ adopted a lighter tone and concerned a petty thief who is discovered stealing from a hotel room. His victim turns out to be a criminal in a league above his own, and the petty thief is blackmailed into smuggling arms into Turkey for use in a major jewel robbery. The big set piece occurs when the jewel thieves try to rob the Istanbul museum. It was filmed as â€˜Topkapiâ€™ and was, of course, subsequently parodied to perfection in â€˜The Pink Pantherâ€™.