Allbeury, Ted 1917–2005
Allbeury, Ted 1917–2005
(Theodore Edward le Bouthillier Allbeury, Richard Butler, Patrick Kelly)
PERSONAL: Born October 24, 1917, in Stockport, England; died December 4, 2005, in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England; son of Theo and Florence (Bailey) Al-lbeury; married third wife, Grazyna Felinska, May 13, 1971 (died, 1999); children: David, Kerry, Lisa, Sally. Education: Attended schools in Birmingham, England. Hobbies and other interests: Travel (visited Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the United States).
CAREER: E. Walter George Ltd. (advertising agency), London, England, creative director, 1950–57; W.J. Southcombe Ltd. (advertising agency), London, managing director, 1957–62; Allbeury, Coombs & Partners (public relations and marketing consultants), Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, cofounder and senior partner, beginning 1964. Radio 390 ("pirate" radio station), managing director, 1964–67; broadcaster for British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) Network 4 and BBC Radio Medway. Military service: British Intelligence Corps, 1939–47; became lieutenant colonel.
MEMBER: Society of Authors, Crime Writers Association, Special Forces Club, TVS Supervisory Board.
A Choice of Enemies, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1972.
Snowball, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1974.
The Special Collection, Mayflower (New York, NY), 1975.
Omega Minus, Viking (New York, NY), 1975, published as Palomino Blonde, P. Davies (London, England), 1975, Harper (New York, NY), 1983.
The Only Good German, P. Davies (London, England), 1976, published as Mission Berlin, Walker & Co. (New York, NY), 1986.
Moscow Quadrille, P. Davies (London, England), 1976, published as Special Forces, Severn House (Sutton, Surrey, England), 2002.
The Lantern Network, P. Davies (London, England), 1977, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1987.
The Man with the President's Mind, P. Davies (London, England), 1977, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1978.
The Alpha List, Methuen (New York, NY), 1979.
Consequence of Fear, Hart Davis, MacGibbon (London, England), 1979, published as Smokescreen, Medallion (New York, NY), 1986.
The Reaper, Mayflower (New York, NY), 1980, published as The Stalking Angel, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1988.
The Twentieth Day of January, Granada Publishing (London, England), 1980, published as Cold Tactics, Severn House (Sutton, Surrey, England), 2001.
The Other Side of Silence, Scribner (New York, NY), 1981.
The Secret Whispers, Granada Publishing (London, England), 1981.
Shadow of Shadows, Scribner (New York, NY), 1982.
All Our Tomorrows, Granada Publishing (London, England), 1982, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1989.
Pay Any Price, Granada Publishing (London, England), 1983.
The Judas Factor, New English Library (London, England), 1984, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1987.
The Girl from Addis, Granada Publishing (London, England), 1984.
No Place to Hide, New English Library (London, England), 1984, published as Hostage, Severn House (Sutton, Surrey, England), 2004.
Children of Tender Years, Beaufort Books (New York, NY), 1985.
The Seeds of Treason, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1986.
The Choice, New English Library (London, England), 1986, published as Never Look Back, Severn House (Sutton, Surrey, England), 2000.
The Crossing, New English Library (London, England), 1987, published as Berlin Exchange, Severn House (Sutton, Surrey, England), 2000.
A Wilderness of Mirrors, New English Library (London, England), 1988, published as Rules of the Game, Severn House (Sutton, Surrey, England), 2001.
Deep Purple, New English Library (London, England), 1989, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1990.
A Time without Shadows, New English Library (London, England), 1990, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1991.
Dangerous Edge, New English Library (London, England), 1991.
Show Me a Hero, New English Library (London, England), 1992, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1994.
The Line Crosser, New English Library (London, England), 1993.
As Time Goes By, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1994.
Beyond the Silence, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1995.
The Long Run, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1996.
Aid and Comfort, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1997.
Shadow of a Doubt, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1998.
The Reckoning, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1999.
The Assets, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2000.
NOVELS; UNDER PSEUDONYM PATRICK KELLY
Codeword Cromwell, Granada Publishing (London, England), 1980.
The Lonely Margins, Granada Publishing (London, England), 1981.
The Secret Whispers, Granada Publishing (London, England), 1981, Medallion (New York, NY), 1987.
(As Richard Butler) Where All the Girls Are Sweeter, P. Davies (London, England), 1975.
(As Richard Butler) Italian Assets, P. Davies (London, England), 1976.
Other Kinds of Treason (short stories), Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1990.
Contributor to Murder Ink: The Mystery Reader's Companion, edited by Dilys Winn, Workman, 1977. Contributor to anthologies, including The Mystery Guild Anthology, edited by John Waite, Book Club Associates, 1980, and Winter's Crimes 12, edited by Hilary Watson, Macmillan, 1980. Contributor to periodicals, including New Statesman, and to newspapers.
ADAPTATIONS: No Place to Hide was adapted as the film Hostage, 1992.
SIDELIGHTS: British thriller novelist Ted Allbeury was a highly regarded writer whose realistic espionage books have often been praised by critics. Allbeury had first-hand experience in the world of espionage as a member of the British Intelligence Corps from 1939 to 1947, but his personal knowledge of government intelligence operations is not what first inspired him to write. Rather, as he once told CA, he began writing novels in 1970 after the kidnapping of his four-year-old daughter. With his first book, A Choice of Enemies, the author said, "I wanted my daughter to know that I cared and tried to find her." This sad chapter in the author's life, along with his belief that all wars inevitably result in disaster for everyone concerned, strongly influenced his stories, many of which end in tragedy.
Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor Michael J. Tolley observed that Allbeury's stories feature "not the world of le Carré's Smiley, a top professional 'control' who makes the large decisions, but that of the subordinate agent, operating in the no-man's-land between the superpowers, as much exposed to betrayal by his masters as by his colleagues or the ever-deceitful enemy." The essayist explained that Allbeury "has produced some of the chilliest, most depressing endings since the Berlin Wall claimed its archetypal victim." "I have tried in my novels to show that people employed in espionage or in intelligence work have private lives, and that their work affects their lives," Allbeury said in the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers. "The man who is tough in his intelligence work may compensate by always picking lame ducks so far as his ladies are concerned. Although so far I have had the nicest of reviews in all countries, there is sometimes a comment that my books have sad endings. This, of course, is deliberate. I believe that all wars have sad endings for both losers and winners, and that those who are concerned with espionage and counterespionage tend to have sad endings even in peacetime."
A Choice of Enemies, Allbeury's first book, is about a British spy named Ted Bailey who defects to Poland after learning that his missing daughter is there under the control of a Belgian double-agent named Berger. Reasoning during his defection that personal loyalties are more important than national interests, he nonetheless makes one last attempt to thwart Berger's plans. In the novel's conclusion, Bailey is forced to leave his daughter in Poland under the protection of an American agent. Praised by Newgate Calendar in the New York Times Book Review as a first novel "handled with the skill of a veteran," A Choice of Enemies is similar to later Allbeury thrillers in several ways. Beginning with Ted Bailey, the author used autobiographical elements to create the background for a number of his main characters. Bailey's "background in working-class Birmingham, used here to set him against the typical 'Oxbridge' breed of spy, derives from Allbeury's own," Tolley reported.
Another feature of A Choice of Enemies and other thriller and suspense books by the author is the ruthless abilities of agents on both sides to torture or kill their enemies. There is also the common motif of the intelligence superior who puts national interests ahead of personal ones, usually to the detriment of the protagonist. In A Choice of Enemies, Tolley observed: "The master spies are the experts in cruel manipulation of the weaknesses of agents, whatever side they are on, though authorial bitterness about this does not obtrude as in some later Allbeury novels."
Cynical endings are the rule in Allbeury's The Only Good German, The Alpha List, The Lonely Margins, The Secret Whispers, Pay Any Price, and other works in which errors in judgment, betrayal, and the inhumanity of master spies (the novelist especially portrays the British Special Intelligence Service disparagingly) lead to torture, suicide, and murder. Books such as Omega Minus, The Special Collection, and The Girl from Addis also share the kidnapping motif first addressed in A Choice of Enemies.
Grimly realistic as they are, Allbeury's novels have drawn praise from critics for their uncompromising look at the emotional and physical dangers of espionage. To quote Greg Goode in the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, Allbeury "has become known as the spy writer's spy writer…. In humanity of tone, depth of character, and variety of plot, he is unmatched by any spy writer…. [His work] depicts the perils of the espionage profession for those who love."
Allbeury also wrote a mainstream novel, The Choice, that reviewers considered more optimistic than his earlier work. As with many of his spy thrillers, this book concerns a World War II veteran; but instead of becoming involved in espionage, the story simply details the protagonist's difficult private life. The title refers to the choice the main character, David, must make between his wife and another woman. Eventually, he ends up with neither, marrying instead a young journalist and living happily in his hometown. "With The Choice," Tolley remarked, "Allbeury may have effectively worked out of his system the characteristic life pattern which has informed so many of his novels. This pattern, reiterated so often, enabled him to express his anguish about the constrictions of modern life."
After The Choice, the author's The Seeds of Treason and The Crossing "convey a more affirmative mood," according to Tolley. However, the dark realism that became an Allbeury trademark did not entirely disappear. In his 1990 book, A Time without Shadows, as London Times critic Michael Hartland pointed out, a "wartime atmosphere of bitterness and mistrust pervades everything."
The theme of kidnapping also appears in Allbeury's later works, including Rules of the Game. In this title, set in the waning days of the Cold War, the British, American, and Soviet intelligence services have all begun experimenting with using psychics as spies. One particular young mind-reader, Ursula Jaeger, has caught the eye of the Soviet State Security Committee (KGB), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). Although she is under the control of the KGB as the novel opens, the CIA and the SIS are plotting to spirit her away. Agent David Fisher is assigned to kidnap her on a visit to Germany, but when things begin to go wrong and the Anglo-Americans decide that Ursi needs to be sent back to Russia, Fisher takes it upon himself to protect her. "Literate, intricately plotted, full of believable and appealing characters: Rules of the Game shows the impressive and still-underrated Allbeury … at the top of his game," concluded a Kirkus Reviews critic. Booklist contributor David Pitt also praised the title, calling it "well constructed and well researched."
Allbeury continued writing novels long past the time when other writers might have retired, and his plots kept up with the times. His novel No Place to Hide, republished in 2004 as Hostage, moves past the Cold War and into terrorist threats at the end of the twentieth century, with Arab terrorists replacing Communists as Britain's opponents. In this title SIS agent John Rennie is sent to retrieve Harry Mason, another SIS agent who has been kidnapped by a terrorist organization. He wants simply to storm the ship where Mason is be-ing held, but the higher-ups in the SIS convince him that it would be better to kidnap the children of Khalim Abu Said, who was involved in the kidnapping, and negotiate an exchange. Of course, this does not go as planned, and the tragic outcome leads Rennie to question his former blind loyalty to his employer. "A riveting plot, fast-paced action, and an author who makes his readers think make for a compelling must-read," Emily Melton wrote in a Booklist review of Hostage.
In a 1975 New York Times Book Review article, Callendar called Allbeury "a skilled practitioner of espionage and suspense novels," yet he was not widely known outside of his native England. In a Washington Post Book World review of The Judas Factor, Robin W. Winks hypothesized that Allbeury had not become as popular as Ian Fleming, John le Carré, and other luminaries in the genre because he "tells it as it is." Allbeury did not see the world in black and white, good versus evil; his stories are often sad, and "he does not rely on repetitive car chases, torture scenes, kinky sex, descriptions of mechanical wonders, cataclysmic countdowns, or excessive tradecraft to keep his story moving." Perhaps, Winks later added, the novelist merely lacks "that distinctive mark" that has brought other writers fame. But Callendar concluded in a 1983 New York Times Book Review article that Allbeury "deserves more attention than he has been getting."
Goode noted that while Allbeury's books are cited for their realism, "they do not sag with overwritten secrets about tradecraft. Instead, they penetrate the shadowy themes of espionage in a clean, lucid prose style reminiscent of Ross MacDonald. The earlier novels bristle with plot and high-tech background and the later ones focus on character and history, but with fluent writing and fascinating themes throughout." The critic concluded that, in the span of some three decades and dozens of novels, "Allbeury [became] one of the finest, most consistent, and most inventive modern espionage craftsmen in the English language."
After publishing some of the books most borrowed from British libraries, Allbeury died in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, on December 4, 2005.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 87: British Mystery and Thriller Writers since 1940, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.
St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Booklist, June 1, 2000, David Pitt, review of Berlin Exchange, p. 1862; September 1, 2000, David Pitt, review of Never Look Back, p. 63; May 1, 2001, David Pitt, review of Cold Tactics, p. 1618; November 15, 2001, David Pitt, review of Rules of the Game, p. 556; September 1, 2002, David Pitt, review of Special Forces, p. 61; February 15, 2004, Emily Melton, review of Hostage, p. 1040.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2001, review of Rules of the Game, p. 1500.
Library Journal, January, 2002, Patrick Wall, review of The Rules of the Game, p. 148; March 1, 2004, Michael J. Rogers, review of Due Process, p. 113.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 17, 1988, review of The Judas Factor, p. 10.
New Republic, November 25, 1981, Robin W. Winks, review of The Other Side of Silence, p. 38.
New York Times Book Review, March 18, 1973, Newgate Callendar, review of A Choice of Enemies, p. 41; June 2, 1974, review of Snowball, p. 20; June 15, 1975, Newgate Callendar, review of Omega Minus, p. 24; April 16, 1978, Newgate Callendar, review of The Man with the President's Mind, p. 1322; November 9, 1980, Newgate Callendar, review of The Alpha List, p. 26; January 24, 1982, review of The Other Side of Silence, p. 34; January 2, 1983, Newgate Callendar, review of Shadow of Shadows, p. 26; October 5, 1986, Newgate Callendar, review of Mission Berlin, p. 28; April 10, 1988, Newgate Callendar, review of The Judas Factor, p. 34; September 25, 1988, review of The Stalking Angel, p. 34; May 7, 1989, Newgate Callendar, review of The Lantern Network, p. 18; April 15, 1990, Newgate Callendar, review of Deep Purple, p. 19.
Publishers Weekly, May 7, 2001, review of Cold Tactics, p. 223.
Times (London, England), February 3, 1990, Michael Hartland, review of A Time without Shadows.
Times Literary Supplement, September 6, 1974, review of Snowball, p. 960; February 21, 1975, review of Palomino Blonde, p. 184; December 26, 1975, review of The Special Collection, p. 1544; May 28, 1976, review of The Only Good German, p. 656; August 26, 1977, review of The Man with the President's Mind, p. 1037; April 17, 1981, review of The Other Side of Silence, p. 446; April 16, 1982, review of Shadow of Shadows, p. 446; December 10, 1982, review of All Our Tomorrows, p. 1378.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), June 25, 1989, review of All Our Tomorrows, p. 10.
Washington Post Book World, September 13, 1987, review of The Seeds of Treason, p. 1; February 21, 1988, Robin W. Winks, review of The Judas Factor, p. 1.
Independent (London, England), December 15, 2005, p. 37.
Times (London, England), December 5, 2005, p. 54.