Remember, Remember

Posted on: 14/11/2013 with tags: backlist, BBC, Cold War, espionage, Len Deighton, Mulholland, spies, Ted Allbeury, thrillers

It is the season of remembrance, not just of the wars but also their aftermath. The shadowy world of Cold War espionage, characterised so memorably in the great British spy thriller tradition, is familiar territory to most of us but perhaps the time has come to take a fresh look.

BBC2 seems to think so. It is launching a season of drama and documentaries that look back to the time when Britain lived in the shadow of the Cold War. The highlight of the season is Legacy, an espionage thriller commissioned for the series, but it also includes documentaries about lesser known aspects of the Cold War such as the secret underwater game of cat and mouse played by US, UK and Soviet submarines in the second half of the twentieth century and the surprising, secret life of ‘psychic spy’ Uri Geller.         

Perhaps no author captures the brutal and chilling world of the Cold War as vividly as Ted Allbeury. It is a world he knew only too well, serving in the war as a lieutenant-colonel in the Special Operations Executive and experiencing first-hand the brutality he describes in his fiction.

Ted Allbeury

Although he retired from active service and eventually turned to fiction, Allbeury’s wartime experience was clearly a significant influence on his writing. Friend and fellow author Len Deighton describes how, after the war in a divided Germany, Allbeury, ‘made many illegal border crossings until things went wrong and Ted was left in a German farmhouse with his hands nailed to a kitchen table. His own people found him before bled to death; the other side know how to do these things. It was a warning and it worked.’

Allbeury became one of the most prolific of the internationally recognised spy writers of the genre’s Cold War heyday. His first novel A Choice of Enemies (1972) set the tone for much of what followed with a vulnerable, flawed protagonist, very different from the James Bond style heroes of spy fiction. In the author’s own words ‘Heroes are for the Marines; only the well-tuned coward can survive the world of espionage.’ But, despite the cold and violent world depicted in his fiction, Allbeury’s Cold War is more complex than the game of ‘us’ and ‘them’ sometimes associated with spy stories. In his world, human beings on both sides are caught up in a set of power relations more deadly even than the most dangerous agent.

Ted Allbeury’s A CHOICE OF ENEMIES is published today as an eBook by Mulholland Books, alongside THE JUDAS FACTOR, PALOMINO BLONDE, SNOWBALL and THE SPECIAL COLLECTION. The rest of his back catalogue will follow over the winter and spring 2013/14.

For more information on Ted Allbeury, visit

Amy Dolman

Post author: Amy Dolman

Amy is responsible for the smooth running of the H for History website, and enjoys reading history-based fantasy. She also like to photograph sites of historical interest in her spare time with a cup of bovril and a pork pie for company. Favourite period of history: Ancient; Favourite historical read: Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave; Upcoming book i'm most looking forward to: Mister Memory by Marcus Sedgwick

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