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The Dark Frontier

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  148 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
The Dark Frontier launched Eric Ambler’s five-decade career as one of the most influential thriller writers of our time.

England, 1935. Physicist Henry Barstow is on holiday when he meets the mysterious Simon Groom, a representative for an armaments manufacturer. Groom invites the professor to Ixania, a small nation-state in Eastern Europe whose growing weapons program thre
ebook, 256 pages
Published December 11th 2012 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published 1936)
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Jun 12, 2016 Darwin8u rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
“...when you have been nourishing your soul on expectation, reality is apt to be disappointing.”
― Eric Ambler, The Dark Frontier


Eric Ambler's first novel is fun, playful, energetic and absolutely revolutionary. This is the first brick in Ambler's wall of reinvention/creation for the espionage thriller. In this novel he predicted the might and seductory qualities of nuclear weapons (in the early 1930s) and parodies the entire thriller genre at the same time. 'The Dark Frontier' also plays with t
Apr 06, 2009 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by: A character in an Alan Furst novel.
This was a pleasant read for a number of reasons.

First, Eric Ambler is apparently considered by many espionage writers to be the founding father of the field. John le Carré (The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) described him as "the source on which we all draw."

Second, in 1935 he somehow took what little was publicly known about atomic theory and realized that E=Mc^2 indicated that a hypothetical "atomic bomb" would be massively destructive and politically destabiliz
I read this because it appears that Ambler's Epitaph for a Spy may be an upcoming BYT group read. My library branch had this one and I thought I'd see how I like Eric Ambler's writing. I remember--very vaguely--reading A Coffin for Dimitrios back in high school, during a summer spent with Helen MacInnes, Dorothy L Sayers, and others.

Dark Frontier was an enjoyable read that I raced through in an afternoon. I feel a little guilty giving it 3 stars, the same rating I just gave Lady Chatterley's Lov
Feb 23, 2013 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ambler's first novel was a parody of sorts and featured an odd but super-competent protagonist. It wasn't until he flipped the scenario upside down and portrayed a ordinary character trapped in extraordinary circumstances that he stumbled upon a formula that changed, and arguably pioneered, espionage fiction. This is not as smooth and satisfying of a read; fortunately, virtually all over his other novels fare better.
L Fleisig
Nov 02, 2013 L Fleisig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Long before le Carre's George Smiley and Deighton's Harry Palmer there were Eric Ambler's accidental spies. In the 1930's the loosely defined adventure/spy genre was not much advanced from the earlier works of Erskine Childers and John Buchan Typically, Ambler would take an unassuming, unsuspecting spectator and immerse him in a world of mystery and intrigue in pre-World War II Europe. The result was a series of highly entertaining and satisfying books that many believe set the stage for the lik ...more
James Love
Oct 25, 2015 James Love rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves thrillers
There are certain names synonymous with the term Thriller. Craig Thomas the creator of the Techno-thriller. Tom Clancy perfected the Techno-thriller. Robert Ludlum, David Morrell and Eric Van Lustbader the Masters of the Spy Thriller. But if it hadn't been for Eric Ambler the bar would have been set very low.

The Dark Frontier is Eric Ambler's debut. It was published in 1936. The novel follows Dr. Henry Barstow as he heads to the fictional Eastern European country of Ixania. He is the only man ab
Ed Kohinke sr.
Sep 04, 2014 Ed Kohinke sr. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ambler is credited by some as the father of the modern thriller, so I wanted to go way back and read this, his very first book. It is superb! It was published in 1936--several years before the dawning of nuclear warfare--and I was amazed not only at how knowledgeable Ambler was on the science and technology of a nuclear bomb, but also at how well he wove the moral, ethical, and political sides of having The Bomb into the story. The book was such a good read that I want to read the rest of his bo ...more
Procyon Lotor
Professore di fisica si crede James Bond e si comporta come tale. Una spy-story col sapore del bianco e nero alla domenica pomeriggio con arachidi, lupini e patatine. Troppo fumettistico per e coi consueti Balcani d'epoca dove non mancano mai i Nanisha i Poveromovi? o i Stralounatou esperti delle classiche attivit balcaniche: il cialtroning il complotting ed il velleitaring. Nonostante un corretto trattamento del traffico d'armi e la doverosa comparsa della misteriosa duchessa, vero mostro nicci ...more
False Millennium
The first Ambler spy thriller? Written in the 1930's and anticipating nuclear destruction, set in a fictitious Eastern Europe country, the pace is slow and more character study. There's a delicious passage where he describes the protagonist making his way through the hills and forests, following power lines, to find the hidden laboratory. The Countess could be played by anyone resembling Dita Von Teese or Bebe Neuwirth. I'll be reading more.
Oct 11, 2015 Pat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always like to read an authors first novel. This one is interesting, as it has many elements Ambler carries into later books, but is so obviously a young man's attempt. Almost funny, but also prescient and a hint of what is to come when Ambler comes into his own. The dramatic finish is just a hoot!
Nader Elhefnawy
Jun 21, 2013 Nader Elhefnawy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eric Ambler's career, famous for its reinvention of the spy genre, appropriately began with a spoof of the field. In this one, a physicist in need of a good vacation reads a bad thriller and after hitting his head in the course of a car accident, believes himself to be superspy Conway Carruthers – just before he is swept up in a genuine intrigue surrounding a nuclear weapons program in a small Balkan country.

The premise is hokey, and a bit after the midpoint the story seemed to me to read more l
Feb 02, 2015 Heep rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I started and gave up because it is just silly. The beginning is so promising that the bump on the head trip to Zovgorad quickly descends into the goofy. No amount of nostalgia could persuade me to go on with it.
Dec 03, 2013 Al rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I like Eric Ambler's pre-WW II espionage novels, so when I saw this at the local library book sale, I picked it up. It turns out to be his first novel, which he describes as a parody. In it, a mild-mannered professor has a car accident and is mysteriously, and temporarily, transformed into a dashing international adventurer intent on saving the world. The book reads like a standard action thriller, albeit a not very interesting one. Don't bother.
Jun 16, 2012 Elalma rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chi cerca un thriller d'azione dai ritmi concitati di quelli che balzano in testa alle classiche di vendita non legga questo libro. Quello che si trova qui un'affascinante atmosfera anni '30, un po' mitteleuropea e un po' stile "orient express", una scrittura elegante e ricercata forse anche grazie alla traduzione di Manganelli. ...more
Thomas Oberbichler
Apr 15, 2013 Thomas Oberbichler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thrilling-fun
I really liked it. I've got to say that it wasn't the first book by Eric Ambler I read and still, it was very entertaining.

I love the psychological approach the author used in playing with different perceptions and roles in life.

For me the ending was a bit too violent, so only 4 out of 5 from me.

Still a very good read!
Jack Goodstein
Jan 08, 2013 Jack Goodstein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Thriller parody as a professor type imagining himself a secret agent tries to stop the development of atomic bomb technology in a small eastern european country.
James M
May 10, 2016 James M rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-war
Written before the end of WW2 this book eerily predicted the development of nuclear warfare and the implications of such weaponry.
Thomas Burchfield
Jan 18, 2011 Thomas Burchfield rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
See my review at: my link text
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SSG: Spy/Spec-Ops...: M.J. is reading...Eric Ambler! 5 10 Apr 03, 2015 09:39AM  
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Eric Ambler began his writing career in the early 1930s, and quickly established a reputation as a thriller writer of extraordinary depth and originality. He is often credited as the inventor of the modern political thriller and John Le Carre once described him as 'the source on which we all draw.'

Ambler began his working life at an engineering firm, then as a copywriter at an advertising agency,
More about Eric Ambler...

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“but when you have been nourishing your soul on expectation, reality is apt to be disappointing.” 0 likes
“Tweeds, he soon found, are not in warm weather the ideal clothes for mountain climbing, for that was what his progress soon became. The track grew almost precipitous and he was still further hindered by the loose surface and his package of food and wine. He had been climbing for half an hour when he stopped, ate his lunch, drank his wine and smoked a pipe. Some forty minutes later, much refreshed and free of encumbrance, he continued the ascent in better style.” 0 likes
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