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|Elleston Trevor (1920-95) - born Trevor Dudley Smith - wrote also as Mansell Black, Trevor Burgess, T. Dudley-Smith, Roger Fitzalan, Adam Hall, Howard North, Simon Rattray, Warwick Scott, Caesar Smith, Lesley Stone|
Prolific English thriller and mystery writer, who also published plays, juvenile novels, and short stories. Trevor's best-known characters are the indestructible British agent Quiller from his novels as Adam Hall, and Hugo Bishop from novels as Simon Rattray. Among Trevor's most powerful novels is The Flight of the Phoenix (1964), a study of men driven to breaking point in their struggle to survive.
"Here was a plane half-built and it could save their lives; but they stood bickering. This was the desert, out to kill in one of its countless ways: reducing a man in its heat, shriveling him and taking away his dignity, giving him water again to send him in search of what he had lost: his pride." (from The Flight of the Phoenix)
After the book was reviewed in Life, several agents tried to buy it. The director Robert Aldrich was in the bidding very early, and signed the contract. James Stewart's agent then called and said that he had tried to buy it for the actor. Stewart decided to take the role he was offered and the book was made into a film in 1965. In the story a plane crash leaves a group of men stranded in the Libyan desert. Soon the water runs out, but refusing to die, the men began to build from the wreckage an aircraft that could fly them out. The second film version from 2004, set somewhere in the Gobi desert with Mongolian bandits, was directed by John Moore.
Elleston Trevor was born Trevor-Dudley Smith in Bromley, Kent. Trevor's childhood was miserable, though his parents loved him. His father, a stockbroker, was an alcoholic, as was Trevor's mother, who died when he was 30.
Trevor was educated at Yardley Court Preparatory School, where he was beaten every Monday morning for bad Latin, and Sevenoaks School (1932-38). Upon leaving the school, he was apprenticed as a racing driver, but when World War II broke out, he joined the Royal Air Force, serving as a flight engineer. During the war, he wrote under the name T. Dudley-Smith juvenile stories and novels, which were published by Swan. In 1947 he married Jonquil Burgess, an author of children's books; they had one son who become a painter. From 1958 to 1973 they lived in France, and then in the United States, settling in Phoenix, Arizona. Trevor had first visited the Arizona desert while the shooting of The Flight of the Phoenix. After the death of his wife in 1986, Trevor married Chaille Anne Groom, an artist and horse-trainer. Elleston Trevor died of cancer on July 21, 1995, in Cave Creek, Arizona.
Trevor began to write professionally after the war was over. In 1965 he received the Edgar Allan Poe Award by Mystery Writers of America for The Quiller Memorandum. It also won the French Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection in the U.S., and a Book Club choice in England. Anthony Boucher praised it in the New York Times Book Review as "a grand exercise in ambivalence and intricacy, tense and suspenseful at every moment". Later Trevor said that he decided to write his own spy story after reading le Carré's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1963).
Several of Trevor's books have been filmed. The movie version of The Quiller Memorandum, starring George Segal as Quiller and Alec Guinness as his supervisor, was made in 1966. Richard Schickel wrote in Life (January 27, 1967), that "George Segal's Quiller, although a likable performance in a smart-alecky vein, lacks the hard center that should be at the spy's core." Quiller's character and his supersecret organization served in 1975 as the basis for a British television mini-series, Michael Jayston in the title role.
The Flight of the Phoenix, in which a cargo passenger plane full of date plums crashes in the desert, was filmed by Robert Aldrich, starring James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Ernest Borgine, Peter Finch, George Kennedy. The plot focused on the tension between the survivors and their project to construct a new plane and escape from the disaster. "It's much more than an adventure story," said Aldrich later, "but it has all the wonderful entertainment ingredients of an adventure story; superimposed on that is the survival dilemma of what men will and will not do to stay alive under pressurized conditions; third is the twist that I don't think has ever been done in film before, which makes the surprise ending not just a gimmick. It makes it a whole, almost reasonable, ending. There are no parallels. You can't say it's like some other kind of picture, and you hope it isn't." (Robert Aldrich in Who the Devil Made It by Peter Bogdanovich, 1998)
In The Warsaw Document (1970) Trevor moved the events of the 'Prague Spring' to Poland – Czechoslovakia was invaded in 1968 by the Warsaw Pact troops to crush the liberals. Now Quiller wrecks a Soviet plot to invade Warsaw and saves East-West détente from explosion. "'These people would be all right, you know, if they'd only get down to their work and show a bit of faith in those who are trying to create the new world. But they're too proud of their past, warrior nation and all that, it's old hat these days. Things have changed, and they're going to change a lot more. The past's all right but you won't get far if you spend your life in a museum.' He turned his face to me. 'There's such a lot of good in them, though, just as there is in everyone, and it's a shame to see it go to waste.'" (from The Warsaw Document, 1970)
Trevor's first books appeared under the name T. Dudley-Smith in the 1940s. He created the pseudonym Elleston Trevor in 1946 for a non-mystery book, and later adopted it as his legal name. His style varied depending on the pen name: Simon Rattray writes classic mystery novels, and Adam Hall fast moving, action-filled spy thrillers. In all Rattray novels the hero was Hugo Bishop. Nobody knows what he does for a living. He is not a private investigator or police detective, but more of a Hercule Poirot type thinker. Bishop solves crimes because they offer him an intellectual challenge. His secretary is Vera J. Corringe, M.A. from Oxford. Hugo Bishop appeared for the first time in Knight Sinister (1951), which was followed by other works involving chess, including Bishop in Check (1953) and Queen in Danger (1952), in which Bishop helps an artist, who has escaped from Broadmoor, an asylum for the criminally insane. The surname of hero and the titles in the series referred to chess game, also the chapters were the named "First Move," "Second Move," etc. Among Trevor's later works were The Sibling and its sequel The Sister (1993), in which the author broke away from his Quiller spy novels. In these books Trevor created a nightmarish story about two teenaged sisters, Madlen and Debra. They hope to find sanctuary from their abusive parents when they enter the convent. Instead they discover horror.The Flycatcher (1994) was a novel about the hunt for a serial killer.
Quiller is man with no real name, who works for a London Bureau that "doesn't exist". He has not much private life outside his intelligence missions. Despite all his complaining, in which he is similar to Len Deighton's Harry Palmer, he remains loyal to his country, to the Bureau, and is reliable even under torture. He is a martial arts expert, with knowledge of languages, skills at flying, driving, and diving. However, he refuses to carry a gun. Quiller was introduced in The Berlin Memorandum (1965, U.S. title The Quiller Memorandum), in which he fought against a lethal ring of Nazis determined to revive the Third Reich. Quiller novels take the reader all over the world, from Peking to the Sahara Desert. Among the few spy novelists, who prefer such commonplace European settings as London, Berlin or Warsaw, are John Le Carré and Len Deighton.
Sometimes Quiller's missions keep him busy in Europe, as in the novel The Scorpion Signal (1979). This time Quiller travels from a clinic in Berlin to the heart of Lubyanka Prison to track down the British agent who has vanished from Moscow. Euro-terrorism is the subject in The Quiller Solitaire (1992). But mostly, according to the tradition of the genre, starting from James Bond, top intelligent agents fight against evil powers in carefully depicted exotic locations. In The Mandarin Cypher (1975), the Bureau's top intelligence agent prowls the streets of Hong Kong, The Cobra Manifesto (1976) takes him from the French Riviera to Rome, Cambodia, New York, and Brazil. The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union are seen in the novels Quiller K.G.B. (1989), in which the lonely agent joins forces with the Soviet to stop the plan to assassinate Mikhail Gorbachev, and in Quiller Meridian (1993), also set in Russia. Now Quiller's mission is to stop a member of Podpolia, the hard-line underground, determined to seize control of the former Soviet Union. Quiller Salamander (1994) was sequel to Quiller Meridien and followed the agent into the Cambodian jungle as he attempts to prevent the notorious Pol Pot from maneuvering the dreaded Khmer Rouge back into power. Quiller's work is further complicated by an inexperienced young field director. Quiller Balalaika (1995) was Trevor's farewell to his character, after after over 30 years of service. The story was again set in Russia. This time Quiller fought against corruption and the mafia.
For further reading: Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection, ed. by Chris Steinbrunner and Otto Penzler (1976); Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers, ed. John M. Reilly (1985); 'Profile: Adam Hall,' in Espionage Magazine, September (1987); Encyclopedia Mysteriosa by William L. DeAndrea (1997) - Other famous spys: Ian Fleming's James Bond, Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm, John Le Carre's George Smiley, Len Deighton's Harry Palmer
Selected works as Adam Hall:
Selected works as Simon Rattray:
Selected other works under various names:
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