Eric Ambler's novelistic career falls into two halves. In the first half belong the works he published between 1935–1940. These include the highly acclaimed Epitaph for a Spy (1938) and The Mask of Dimitrios (1939), both of which were made into successful films in 1944. The intrigue books of this period unfold in interwar Europe, a bitten-up, anxious place reeling between the extremes of fascism and Soviet communism. To reflect changes in the postwar world, Ambler set his later books in third-world countries where first-world financing collides with unstable, often revolutionary, politics—all within the shadow of large multinational corporations. These powerful firms with connections in high places take the same liberties as big governments have always done in works like Dr. Frigo (1974), the only Ambler book set in Latin America, and the best-selling The Care of Time (1981).
John le Carré is viewed by many critics as one of the best spy and espionage novel writers. His most famous works are The Spy Who Came in from the Cold; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; and The Little Drummer Girl.
Peter Wolfe has produced an informative study of le Carré’s works, showing how le Carré’s five years in the Service (British Intelligence) helped him become a keen observer, social historian, and expert in bureaucratic politics. He has supplanted the technological flair marking much of today's spy fiction with moral complexity and psychological depth. He shows us what spies are like, how they feel about spying, and how spying affects their minds and hearts.
The classic television show The Twilight Zone explored the possibilities inhering in the ordinary. A Twilight Zone episode moved us by being poignant and intimate, rambunctious or thought provoking. But whether it takes place on an asteroid, in a city pool room, or in the backwoods, it will usually convey both a folklorist’s eye for detail and the born raconteur’s sense of pace. Rod Serling, the show’s originator, main scriptwriter, and artistic director, knew how much burden he could place on his rhetorical and dramatic gifts. Deservedly celebrated as a pioneer fiction writer for television, Serling always grounded his work in the human condition: he wrote movingly about history and loyalty, the grip of everyday reality, and the dangers of both forgetting about one’s ghosts and giving them the upper hand.
Raymond Chandler’s eminence as a mystery writer is unchallenged. Somerset Maugham and George Grella both rate him above Dashiell Hammett; Eric Partridge deems him “a serious artist and a very considerable novelist,” while praising him as “one of the finest novelists of his time.” Peter Wolfe examines the many sides of Chandler and his work—his apparent will to self-destruct, his obsession with beautiful women, and his apparent brush with homosexuality—and casts much new and needed light on this major American author.