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Journey Into Fear by Eric Ambler
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Journey Into Fear (1940)

by Eric Ambler

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Very 1940s; reasonable suspense; main character a bit thin but what we saw of him was interesting. ( )
  TadAD | Sep 12, 2014 |
A British engineer, Graham, finds his life on the line as he travels home from Turkey during WWII. His head holds crucial information for some powerful war machinery which is being sold to Turkey. Nazi agents do not want him to reach home. Turkish secret intelligence are trying to keep him alive. The problem is, Graham isn't sure who is who, where the danger lies or even if there is danger. He is stuck on a ship with a cast of characters and the reader is left to sort through them and decide whether he is right or wrong when he places his trust in some and not others. A movie was made of this, staring Joseph Cotton as Mr. Graham, which is a perfect fit, although as I was reading I saw Cary Grant in that role, surrounded by Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Claude Rains among others.
The story had a few slow spots, but the suspense was upheld until the end. Although Mr. Graham was a bit of a non-entity, it worked well in the story of a man who knows nothing of intrigue suddenly having it thrust upon him. ( )
  MrsLee | May 7, 2013 |
[b:Journey into Fear|7745|Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream|Hunter S. Thompson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1165639648s/7745.jpg|1309111] is a classic novel of international intrigue set during the early months of World War II. It's my favorite type of "spy story," in which an ordinary man (or sometimes woman) gets caught up in unexpected events and discovers strengths he didn't know he had. [a:Helen MacInnes|54915|Helen MacInnes|http://www.goodreads.com/images/nophoto/nophoto-F-50x66.jpg] excelled at this sort of thing, and more recently, some of [a:Alan Furst|49941|Alan Furst|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1226085973p2/49941.jpg]'s novels fit the same profile.

The story opens with a description of protagonist Graham's rather dull but pleasant life. He is an ordnance engineer for a British armaments company, has a companionable but not passionate marriage, and the only excitement in his life is his occasional business trips to foreign parts -- which usually aren't all that exciting.

Shortly after the outbreak of war, Graham is sent to Turkey, a British ally, to consult on naval ordnance. On his last night in Istanbul, he surprises an intruder in his hotel room. The intruder fires several shots but only grazes the back of Graham's hand. But as Graham, surprisingly enough, has never himself fired a weapon, he is quite upset by this and calls his local liaison, Kopeikin (a Russian emigre). Graham is dismayed when Kopeikin takes him to meet Col. Haki, the head of the Turkish Secret Police, and even more dismayed (and disbelieving) when Haki informs him that it was no robber who shot him, but a killer in the pay of the Nazis. He is in danger because the Nazis want to prevent him from carrying out plans to upgrade Turkish naval vessels' ordnance.

Col. Haki insists that, instead of taking the Orient Express to Paris and then proceeding to London, Graham should go on a small steamer to Genoa, thence by train to Paris and on home. (This all takes place in January 1940; Italy did not declare war, nor France fall, until June of that year.) Graham reluctantly agrees. The small steamer carries only a few passengers, an international group, and we get the feeling quite early that none of them are exactly what they seem to be; some of their secrets are innocent, some less so. But all seems to be going well until another passenger embarks at Athens. Then Graham must make several decisions, each of which may lead to his death, before the thrilling climax on a mountain road in Italy.

The plot is a page-turner and the settings well-described, from the tawdry nightclub in Istanbul to the cheap steamer with its paper-thin cabin walls. But I think the best aspect of this book is the characters -- and especially the way the character of Graham develops during the book. It is as though he had been sleeping for 40 years and gradually is awakened to what lies under the surface of the world he knows.

[b:Journey into Fear|7745|Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream|Hunter S. Thompson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1165639648s/7745.jpg|1309111] was listed in the Crime section of the Guardian's 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read. I've been a little dubious about some of their selections, but must heartily concur with this one. Highly recommended. ( )
  auntieknickers | Apr 3, 2013 |
As I finish each of Ambler's books it's like saying goodbye to old friends. The great take-away from Journey Into Fear for me was the author's description of Graham's resolution of self-preservation as he found himself in an untenable position. A universal story of courage and fortitude told beautifully and simply. ( )
  Roycrofter | Feb 21, 2013 |
I had looked forward to reading this novel for quite some time, but found myself sadly disappointed. Unfortuantely some novels do not age well and this one seemed dreadfully dated. It was written in a rather detached and stilted manner and i found it difficult to find any shred of empathy for any of the characters at all. certainly the principal protagonist, Mr Graham, is conspicuous by his lack of any engaging characteristics at all, and Josette, the dancer and wannabe vamp, was one of the most plastic characters I have encountered for a long time.
The blurb on the cover, and the forewrod by Norman Stone tried to compare this book with the espionage-based works of Graham Greene, but that was a claim that proved to be stunning in its unsubstantiated bravado. Having enjoyed Ambler's "Intercom Conspiracy" (which struck me as representing the cutting edge of spy fiction back when I was a teenager), this more famous and more celebrated work was a crushing diapppointment. If I should fancy a future trip back to an older, more innocaent age of espionage, I will make do with excursions to Greeneland! ( )
  Eyejaybee | Feb 23, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Primarily set on a ship in the Mediterranean with a small number of passengers, Journey into Fear is a closed-world narrative. While building the requisite tension and suspense, Ambler also keeps the political dimension in the foreground. Finding himself in the psychological equivalent of a death cell, Graham [the protagonist] is forced to reassess his outlook on life and experiences enlightenment. The boat journey becomes a journey of self-discovery, with fear being the necessary stimulus. Graham finds within himself the strength to resist what seems inevitable – his murder. In this way, he personifies Britain’s need to take on the Nazi threat.
added by Roycrofter | editCalifornia Literary Review, Brett F. Woods (Mar 26, 2007)
 

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Eric Amblerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harris, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The steamer, Sestri Levante, stood high above the dockside, and watery sleet, carried on the wind blustering down from the Black Sea, had drenched even the small shelter deck.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375726721, Paperback)

Returning to his hotel room after a late-night flirtation with a cabaret dancer at an Istanbul b™ite, Graham is surprised by an intruder with a gun. What follows is a nightmare of intrigue for the English armaments engineer as he makes his way home aboard an Italian freighter. Among the passengers are a couple of Nazi assassins intent on preventing his returning to England with plans for a Turkish defense system, the seductive cabaret dancer and her manager husband, and a number of surprising allies. Thrilling, intense, and masterfully plotted, Journey Into Fear is a classic suspense tale from one of the founders of the genre.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:47 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

ESPIONAGE & SPY THRILLER. It is 1940 and Mr Graham, a quietly-spoken engineer and arms expert, has just finished high-level talks with the Turkish government. And now somebody wants him dead. The previous night three shots were fired at him as he stepped into his hotel room, so, terrified, he escapes in secret on a passenger steamer from Istanbul. As he journeys home - alongside, among others, an entrancing French dancer, an unkempt trader, a mysterious German doctor and a small, brutal man in a crumpled suit - he enters a nightmarish world where friend and foe are indistinguishable. Graham can try to run, but he may not be able to hide for much longer!… (more)

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