Exactly thirty years after the publication of his fifth novel, temporarily resurrecting Latimer in The Intercom Conspiracy, Ambler updates us on the fate that evasion and denial of this kind can expect in the Cold War era.
In his autobiography Ambler admits that after his first six novels, while working for the British military's cinematography unit, he lost "the habit of a concentrated and solitary writing routine." Something else also required adjustment: "[T]he internal world which had so readily produced the early books had been extensively modified and had to be re-explored" (Here Lies 226).
Several of the post-war novels that Ambler published before The Intercom Conspiracy indicate how his thematic compass changed.
And toward that end Ambler begins by bracketing, or playfully putting out of play, the whole notion of authorship.
As if to put under erasure the attribution on his novel's title page, Ambler's "Foreword" casts him as signatory in purveying an unedited and unabridged first manuscript draft.
Ambler's labyrinthine novel is divided into two sections, "The Consortium" and "Sellers' Market," followed by Carter's concluding "Obit and Envoy." From a transcribed dictation tape we first hear the feisty Canadian journalist responding with scorn to Latimer's letter seeking his cooperation in "preparing for publication in book form a full and authentic account of the 'so-called' Intercom affair" (13).
Ambler's next installment complicates this plot by introducing an intratextual critique regarding portions of the manuscript comprising The Intercom Conspiracy.
Before all this transpires, however, Ambler explores how the consortium's untraceable scheme generates a chain reaction of confusion and suspicion among those whom it entangles.
The second category of textuality comprising Ambler's ninth chapter, except for a short addendum by the former editor, consists of another "narrative reconstruction" by Latimer that chronicles Carter's arrest under Article 301 of the Swiss Criminal Code and smugly dismisses his "wild allegations about a CIA-KGB terrorist plot" even though "bits of it were true" (206).
Writing the first critical essay on Ambler, Paxton Davis maintains that this elliptical narrative is "an autumnal work of extraordinary virtuosity" (10).
Partly because of his decision to embrace the thriller, one suspects, scholarly attention to Ambler's work has been limited.
Latent in both points is the implication that, by immersing us in a shadowy world of encrypted signification, fiction of the kind that Ambler wrote mirrors, stages, or reenacts the reading process itself--one wherein we become accomplices in a metatextual drama of interpretation.
Acknowledging the transitional hybridity of these and other novels, one commentator has written that "In the case of Eric Ambler, the static and timeworn classifications of historical criticism must surrender a parochial point of view [...] to a larger, more encompassing critique" (Ambrosetti ix).
Waiting for Orders: The Complete Short Stories of Eric Ambler. New York: Warner-Mysterious, 1991.
"The World We Live In: The Novels of Eric Ambler." The Hollins Critic 8.1 (1971): 1-11.