Eric Ambler (1909-1998) is a British writer known for his thrillers and spy novels. Last year I read him for the first time when I read his most famous book A Coffin for Dimitrios, a book that almost inevitably features in top mystery lists.
In 1962, Ambler created the character of Arthur Abdel Simpson, a British-Egyptian, living in Greece, who appears in two of his books: The Light of Day, and Dirty Story.
Arthur Abdel Simpson, is a small-time crook who has only been arrested 10 to 12 times. When the novel opens, Simpson is down on his luck and needs cash rather badly. Driving a car, he takes unsuspecting visitors to a hotel, from their to various entertainment spots, and while they are busy over there he goes back to the hotels and burgles their rooms. When he sees a man who looks like an American tourist come out of Athens airport, he puts his plan in action by offering the man his services. After getting the tourist, Harper (that is what the man claims his name is) busy with some girls at Madame Irma, Simpson hurries back to the hotel and starts rifling through Harper's possessions. But this time he has made a fatal error because Harper too returns, catches him in the act, beats him up, and then blackmails him to take a car across the border to Turkey.
Suspecting, quite correctly, that there might be illegal stuff in the car, Simpson checks the car thoroughly but is unable to find anything. But, of course, the Turkish border force is more vigilant than him and finds stuff in the car that they believe is for rebel groups in Turkey which is going through a period of political instability. They agree to let Simpson go, if he'd report back to them about the actions of Harper and his friends. Caught between the devil and the deep sea, Simpson agrees but he hasn't encountered Miss Elizabeth Lipp as yet...
|Love this cover|
In Dirty Story, we meet Simpson after a period of five years. He is back in Athens and continuing with his nefarious activities. This time round, he gets into a tangle with the law when he assists a film company that is making a porno. Trying to escape the clutches of the law, he joins a mining company in Central Africa. Only the mining company is just a front and the real aim is to acquire a land rich with minerals and if a few Africans get cheated or killed, how does it matter?
The Light of Day is pretty entertaining but Dirty Story is a bit of a drag at times. Simpson is an engaging rogue but I missed Colonol Haki of the Turkish Secret Service. There are references to him in the first book but he never makes an appearance. I simply can't get over his smile in Dimitrios:
Colonel Haki was slowly turning the pages inside the folder, and on his way was a look that Latimer had not seen there before. It was the look of the expert attending to the business he understands perfectly. There was a sort of watchful repose in his face that reminded Latimer of a very old and experienced cat contemplating a very young and inexperienced mouse.
First Line: It came down to this: if I had not been arrested by the Turkish police, I would have been arrested by the Greek police.
Title: The Light of Day
Author: Eric Ambler
Publication Details: Glasgow: Fontana, 1979.
First Published: 1962
Trivia: The book was made into a movie Topkapi in 1964.
Opening Lines: WRITE IT on the walls.
H. Carter Gavin, Her Brittanic Majesty's Vice-Consul in Athens, is a shit.
Title: Dirty Story: A Further Account of the Life and Adventures of Arthur Abdel Simpson.
Author: Eric Ambler
Publication Details: London: The Bodley Head, 1967.
First Published: 1967
The books might be available in libraries, I borrowed them from H.M Library at Fountain. [F.A 113C & F.A 87].
Entry for Friday's Forgotten Books @ Pattinase. Please head over there for the other entries.
Submitted for various challenges.