Books: Up Staircase


by Eric Ambler

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

234 pages; $16.95

To a generation raised on the novels of John le Carre, the name of Eric Ambler has assumed a legendary quality. Graham Greene generously called him "our greatest thriller writer," and in fact he and Greene invented the modern novel of intrigue, with its moral ambiguities and flawed, bone-weary protagonists. But the prolific Greene stayed in view. Ambler spent years between books and, like one of his characters, eventually slipped into the fog.

He has emerged at the age of 77 in a reflective mood prompted by a nearfatal...

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