Ted Allbeury

Ted Allbeury is a favourite writer of mine. I have been reading his novels regularly for many years. Whenever my wife and I visited London, which we did frequently, an important Ted Allbeurytask was to buy his latest novels. In an odd way I have always been attracted to the special humane atmosphere in his stories.

Theodore Edward le Bouthillier Allbeury was born in Stockport, Cheshire, England 24 October 1917 and he died in Tunbridge Wells, Kent 4 December 2005. He was married five times (see footnote). He had one son and three daughters.

Early life

Ted Allbeury had an eventful but not an easy life. His father, an officer in the Black Watch, was killed in the First World War a few days before the Armistice in 1918. With his mother and sister Ted moved to Birmingham, where he was educated at King Edward’s grammar school in Aston, Birmingham. Ted AllbeuryHis first job on leaving school was in the drawing office of an iron foundry, his early talent for drawing having been recognised by a neighbour who worked for the company.

He attended evening classes to become a junior draughtsman, later a tool designer. In his spare time he also taught himself French and German. When war broke out he attempted to join the Royal Air Force but because he was in a reserved occupation he was barred from entry, prosecuted and fined. Without income he spotted an advertisement in the Personal Column of The Times for “linguists for work with the Army” and applied.

Becoming an intelligence officer

In a barber shop back-room in Trafalgar Square he went for an interview for – as it turned out to be – a job in army intelligence. He passed the test, and to avoid bureaucratic Ted Allbeurycomplications the Army put down his occupation as “labourer” and paid his fine.

He worked as an undercover intelligence officer with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) from 1940 to 1947 when he left with the rank of lieutenant-colonel having served in Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Italy and Germany.

On more than one occasion Ted’s life was nearly snuffed out, but fate intervened. Such events were to instil his work not only with a sense of foreboding but also of release – for in Allbeury’s world twists of fate can also turn people’s lives around. He was parachuted into Nazi Germany and remained there until the Allied armies arrived. He was appointed to a senior and played an important intelligence role for the occupying army.

During the cold war, Ted was running agents across the border that divided communist East Germany from the west. His luck ran out and the Russians left him nailed to a kitchen table in a farmhouse. Practised torturers, they made sure he had a chance to survive and take the story back to his fellow agents.

Other Jobs

After leaving SOE he took a number of jobs in sales management and advertising. He enjoyed a successful career, serving as creative director at Walter George in London from 1950 to 1957 and managing director of his own agency  W.J. Southcombe between 1957 and 1962. But in 1962 he gave it all up to farm chickens and breed Alsatian dogs for two years. However, this turned out to be too boring. Then he founded his own public relations and marketing firm, Allbeury, Coombs & Partners (where he worked part time until 1981).  By that time he had obtained a well-recognised ability as a copywriter and photographer, which he regarded as his lifeline if his books suddenly should fail to sell.

In 1965 Ted Allbeury also became involved in the blooming pirate-radio business. He became managing director of King Radio, which he renamed Radio 390 after its wavelength, broadcasting from one of the offshore forts (Red Sands) in the Thames estuary.Ted Allbeury His formula was middle-of-the-road music aimed at housewives and this was an instant success. He even had his own show, Red Sands Rendezvous, on Sunday nights. This ended only when an irritated government’s Marine Offences Act became law in August 1967.

Then Allbeury tried, but failed narrowly, to get into Parliament for the Liberal party. So he returned to advertising and PR.

Allbeury’s private life was often irregular, on occasion mildly chaotic – including more broken marriages. In 1970 a personal tragedy struck: his four-year-old daughter, who was carried off by her aggrieved mother, remained missing for years.

Becoming an author

It was in this period that Allbeury started writing. In his own words: “I didn’t start writing until I was fifty-five. I had never thought about being a writer nor particularly wanted to be one. My start didn’t come out of sudden inspiration but out of an entirely negative situation. Something happened in my private life that depressed me deeply. Enough to end up taking those green pills to get through the day and the purple ones to get through the night. I gave up work and the world and retreated into the lethargy and despair that go with depression. For some unknown reason I wrote four chapters of a book. Its central thrust was based on my experiences as an intelligence officer in Occupied Germany. The four chapters were shown by somebody to a literary agent who phoned me a few days later to say that he had sold my book to St Martin’s Press in New York and was selling it to a British publisher the next day. Would I get a move on and finish it? As all would-be writers know, it’s not this easy to get published – but that’s how it happened. It sure was a cure for my depression because the pretty Polish girl from the typing agency who came to type the manuscript is still around. We got married.

Since then I’ve written thirty-one novels, some short stories and a number of radio plays and serials for the BBC. And, naturally, you learn a few things in the course of all that writing. When I first started writing I worked out a plot and bolted on the characters, but by about book number seven I realised that what I liked writing about most was the people. Their problems and their relationships. It also dawned on me that nobody was stopping me from writing any way I wanted to. So I start now with the people and the plot allows them to work out their destinies. I think that I now write novels that just have espionage as their setting.” From the Introduction of “Other Kinds Of Treason” (1990).

The pretty Polish girl who came to type the manuscript was Grazyna Felinska. She became the love of his life and they were happily married until her death in 1999.

Throughout his years as an author Allbeury was able to keep in touch with the intelligence community.

Personal characteristics

Ted Allbeury was a tall, imposing man, with an alert mind and an ease with languages. He was not a renowned drinking companion and didn’t like social gatherings large or small. His life was given to his family and his work. Ted had a quick wit that did not match his hesitant and thoughtful responses. He had the easy confidence that comes with strength of mind and body, and could have been mistaken for the foundry worker he had once been.

He became so prolific – at one point producing four novels a year – that he also wrote under two pen names, Richard Butler and Patrick Kelly. Allbeury was consistently one of the authors most borrowed from public libraries, and always received the maximum payment under the public lending right.

His style was direct and fast-moving. Unlike other spy writers, his principal concern was with characters. The gadgets were there, but only ever in a supporting role. His descriptions of the countries in which the action took place always had the ring of authenticity, and readers were amazed to learn that he had never been to most of the places he wrote about.

His research technique was simple and effective. He studied in great detail the places he was intending to set a novel in, studying books, maps, diaries and memoirs. He used radio and satellite receivers to watch the domestic programmes of the countries concerned, and was helped in this by his ability to learn foreign languages readily. He could get by in French, German, Russian and Italian as well as Swahili and Amharic. He made few notes, committing his research to memory. He wrote all his novels in longhand using a pencil.

For his humanity and depth of characterisation Allbeury may be considered the spy-story writer’s spy-story writer. He could handle technology, hardware, introspection, excitement, convoluted plots, and his dry sense of humour shines through when least expected. He evidently viewed espionage as something of a cockeyed world, wryly noting at one point in his immensely entertaining, though all too brief “Memoirs of an Ex-Spy” (published in Murder Ink: the mystery reader’s companion, 1977) that when he was recruited he “went through the usual medical checks, the urine being examined for Communist infiltration”.

Like Somerset Maugham he asked the most uncomplicated, yet important of questions: To whom do I belong? Whom do I serve? At the end of No Place to Hide (1986), a tale of a state killer having second thoughts, the protagonist is asked: “Tell me what we have to do?” He simply replies: “We have to live our lives so that we are never tempted to do anyone any harm. We give up all forms of aggression as individuals. Greed, ambition, indifference are all kinds of personal aggression. We just have to live quietly and lovingly.” Ted did just that with his family and friends.

Many of his works were translated – to 23 different languages including Russian.

Ted Allbeury’s conclusion

Ted Allbeury should have the last word: “It’s obviously never too late to start writing. If I can start from scratch at age fifty-five so can anyone else. I strongly recommend that you write while you still have a full-time job. I did, and this meant writing until two in the morning and all day Saturdays and Sundays. I’m a strong believer that anyone can do anything if they want to do it enough. And it’s the last part that is the test. Do you really want to do it enough?

Every country has its own Intelligence services and certainly ours and the Americans’ do a good job of work. Sometimes things have to be done that are not “kosher” but if the nation wants protection from foreigners’ interference these things have to be done. The men who work in these services are, admittedly, specially trained to do their jobs. But they are perfectly ordinary men with mortgages, families and responsibilities. Like the rest of us they can be lonely and perhaps cynical, but on the whole they behave like you and I would behave doing their job. And what I have said about men applies equally to the women in the services.

It seems a terrible thing to say, but for young men like me from the less posh suburbs of  Birmingham the war was our university. A broadening of our vision and the exercise of our minds and imaginations far beyond what would have happened if we had not been involved. Henry V speech at AgincourtIrrational though it may be, I still feel an affinity with those men and women who were in the services rather than those who were not. Shakespeare’s Henry V’s speech at Agincourt about “gentlemen in England now a-bed” is still valid for me.” From the Introduction of “Other Kinds Of Treason” (1990).

Footnote:

Here is some detail on TA’s marriages obtained from the publicly available BMD (Births Marriages Deaths) indexes for the UK (e.g. Ancastry.co.uk or the LDS Family Research site):
– Josephine Grant, March 1940, Birmingham
– Katharine Bandinel, Sep 1945, Birmingham
– Kathleen Moss, Dec 1957, Surrey
– Susan E Halls, Jan 1971, Wandsworth
– Grazyna M Flenska, Jun 1972, Maidenhead
I thank Mr. Iain Noble, UK for providing this information.

References:

Obituary in The Independent, Thursday 15 December 2005 by Jack Adrian

Obituary in The Guardian, Tuesday 3 January 2006 by Michael Johnson and Len Deighton

Obituary in The Times (London) 07/12/05 and in the Independent 15 December 2005

Interview with Ted Allbeury

Radio interview with Ted Allbeury

Short Review of Ted Allbeury and his work

Said about Ted Allbeury:

A truly classic writer of espionage fiction. — Len Deighton

The best cold war espionage novels never really lose their punch: Allbeury, like le Carré, is a master of the genre. — Publishers Weekly

The most consistently inventive of our novelists of espionage, the one that other thriller writers point to as the finest craftsman among them. — Guardian

He is certainly the most skilled narrator of what goes on behind the scenes of the undercover spy world, and – what is so splendid and welcome – he does it all with a superb economy of words. — The Bookseller – Eric Hiscock

Allbeury’s novels have won a reputation not only for verisimilitude but for crisp, economical narration and high drama…there’s no better craftsman. — Chicago Sun

Mr Allbeury is a writer of espionage novels that soar far above the genre.  — New Yorker

Certain things are constants, and Ted Allbeury is one. Book after book, the prolific British writer of espionage tales has maintained a superior level. – New York Times

Ted Allbeury is one of the best half-dozen writers of adventure and spy fiction. — Ted Willis

One of the masters of espionage novels. — Sunday Telegraph

A writer of stylish, confident and convincingly detailed spy thrillers. — TLS

Ted Allbeury is one of our best spy thriller writers, quiet, thoughtful and menacingly compelling. — Nottingham Post

Works by Ted Allbeury

Many are available on electronic media. The links will bring you to Amazon, where you can buy the works in various formats (Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle or Audio Cassette).

A Choice of Enemies (1972). The book was set in occupied Germany and based directly on Allbeury’s wartime experiences  in the Allied military government. It was written at a time of great unhappiness in his personal life, almost as therapy and with no intention of seeking publication.

Snowball (1974) (featuring Tad Anders). The Polish/British agent Tad Anders investigates a clever Soviet propaganda ploy to show collusion between Hitler and the Americans.

Palomino Blonde (1975) (featuring Tad Anders) aka Omega-minus. The researcher named Hallett had come upon something of tremendous interest when he created what he called Omega-Minus. The interest that the Iron Curtain had in it was astounding and that made it very interesting to SIS who put agent Ed Farrow on the case to keep an eye on the scientist.

Where All the Girls Are Sweeter (1975) (writing as Richard Butler) aka Dangerous Arrivals. The boat was safely moored at Santa Margherita and Max Farne could relax. First was an unexpected arrival. The girl, blonde and stunningly beatiful, just invited herself on board. Then came the second unexpected arrival in the middle of the night carrying a gun.

The Special Collection (1975) aka The Networks. Germany, 1945. British agent Stephen Felinski is parachuted into Hitler’s fast-collapsing empire with orders to reorganize a group of Soviet agents abandoned by Moscow. Thirty years later, a top British politician defects to the Russians and Felinski is called out of retirement to help – because of a friendship formed among the ruins of Nazi Germany. The link is The Special Collection, a daring and meticulously planned Soviet attempt to bring social and industrial chaos to Britain. It has already been set in motion and only Stephen Felinski can stop it.

The Only Good German (1976) aka Mission Berlin. Maverick CIA killers loose in West Germany. Violent sabotage and subversion behind the Iron Curtain. A right-wing terror-organisation run from a Hamburg brothel, with connections stretching back to the Nazi era. David Mills had long since left behind his life as an Intelligence Officer, or so he thought. As the British and American Intelligence agencies struggle to combat the mounting fascist threat, Mills is pulled back into the murky world of International espionage by a figure from his past.

Moscow Quadrille (1976) aka Special Forces. A nation’s fate hangs in the balance as manipulators and victims swop partners – and secrets. ‘Remarkably credible…high rarity in espionage fiction, an original plot’.

Italian Assets (1976) (writing as Richard Butler) aka Deadly Departures. He knew the Italien Riviera. He knew the violence that lay close beneath the smiling, now tourist-rich surface. So he was not wholly surprised when the offer came – the unrefusable offer.

The Man with the President’s Mind (1977). In a building just like The White House, deep inside Russia, a man is provided with top-secret CIA briefing documents, American newspapers, radio and television programmes. His training will continue until he can think exactly like the President of the United States of America, and know how he will react in a crisis. A crisis the Kremlin has already set in motion…

The Lantern Network (1978). Routine surveillance, nothing special’ – Commander Bailey’s brief from Special Branch seems simple enough. But it leads to a sudden, bloody suicide. Piece-by-piece, Baily uncovers the history of a courageous special agent aiding the French Resistance during WWII. But the agent’s loyalties are fatally divided. Thirty years on, in a quiet flat in south London, the final, tragic act of the drama takes place…

The Alpha List (1979). A British intelligence agent is assigned the surveillance of a boyhood friend. Gradually he realizes that he’s a pawn in a Cold War game, which threatens the meaning of his life and career, as well as his survival.

Consequence of Fear (1979) aka Smokescreen. Curtain up on a captivating spy novel which begins with the terrors of World War II and ends with the horrors of a nuclear explosion in the ’50’s.

The Reaper (1980) aka The Stalking Angel. The hunting of old Nazis is taken up by a new generation in this solidly crafted page-turner about love and revenge across two continents.

The Twentieth Day of January (1980) aka Cold Tactics. Imagine that during the cold war the Russians through sleeper agents, financing and buying influence managed to get a President of the United States elected and therefore bringing about the downfall of the West.

Codeword Cromwell (1981) (writing as Patrick Kelly). Even at the height of Nazi Germany’s power there was one invasion Hitler will not risk – the invasion of England by his crack stormtroopers. But the sworn followers of Max von Bayer are a desperate group of seven men and women who are prepared to defy the Führer’s ultimate authority and face almost certain death.

The Lonely Margins (1981) (writing as Patrick Kelly). The French Resistance brought James Harmer and Jane Frazer together. The Gestapo broke them apart. But it was something else that shattered their love and left them haunted by a sense of betrayal and a thirst for revenge.

The Other Side of Silence (1981). After years behind the Iron Curtain, Britain’s most notorious traitor wants to return to the homeland he betrayed as part of the Cambridge Five spy ring.

Secret Whispers (1981). Richter’s wartime mission in England was dangerous, but he survived. After the war he returned to Germany to start a new life, safe from every threat except one, the cruelest of all; coincidence.

Shadow of Shadows (1982). The debriefing of Russian defector Colonel Petrov is nearly over, when suddenly he dries up. SIS agent James Lawler has to find out why, but Petrov will only say he is scared of being killed – like British double-agent George Blake. But Blake had escaped to Russia, alive. Or had he? To uncover the deadly truth, Lawler has to delve into the murky, intricate past of a traitor and learn the explosive truth behind what could lead a man to betray his country.

All Our Tomorrows (1982). A lazy, divided, decadent and very weak Britain is forced into a “Treaty of Neutrality and Cooperation” with Russia, effectively making the U.K. an occupied country.

Pay Any Price (1983). We are exposed to a couple of CIA hypnosis experts, Symons and Peterson, both of whom have more involvement than we care to know about in the two Kennedy assasinations.

The Judas Factor (1984) featuring Tad Anders.  The Western intelligence service is shown to be anything but simple, united, immensely proficient, and morally radiant. You can hear Allbeury’s frustration with poorly planned operations, lack of support, internal bickering, egos, unprofessionalism.

The Girl From Addis (1984). Ted Allbeury writes with great knowledge about Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea, and his tale of a British secret agent tracking a Russian spy operation in Addis Ababa is gripping

No Place to Hide (1984) aka Hostage. An excellent story, of a MI6 former agent, looking to restart his life after a disastrous mission. The hero searches for freedom from, not only his inner demons, but the harrasment from his former employers.

Children of Tender Years (1985). Like so much intelligence work, the assignment seemed routine. Malik knew what was required of him: go through the motions, make no political waves, wrap it all up in a nothing-to-worry-about report. This time, however, things weren’t so simple.

The Choice (1986) aka Never Look Back. He had been born and brought up poor. Still poor, he had married–a wartime wedding. Quiet. Mary his wife came from the same street and was quietly happy. There was her ambition: to be quietly happy, and live where they’d always lived. But then he started doing rather well. A job turned into a career and the career demanded a move, and another. Mary, more and more unhappy, watched as he grew away from her and the background they shared. Where he saw new interests, she saw pretensions, where he saw opportunity, she saw upheaval. Physically together, they were splitting apart. And then he met Sally…..The Choice.

The Seeds of Treason (1986). I could not put this book down! It’s about a likeable but isolated British spy, who threads his way through the seamy spy-world in Berlin, Paris and London.

The Crossing (1987) aka Berlin Exchange. Woven around a real-life incident, this novel produces an intriguing explanation to a mystery. In 1960 an American pilot was shot down while on a spying mission over the Soviet Union. Later he was exchanged for a high-powered Soviet agent – an exchange never explained, until now.

A Wilderness of Mirrors (1988). This book weaves together the worlds of the spy and the psychic, of the CIA, British Intelligence and the kidnap of the daughter of an East German research neurologist.

Deep Purple (1989). This suspense novel involves two Russian defectors who tell remarkably similar stories each proving that the other is a fraud. Recommended to those liking the more cerebral type of espionage book.

A Time Without Shadows (1990) aka Rules of the Game. An opposition MP demands to know whether Winston Churchill betrayed the SOE network codenamed Scorpio to appease Joseph Stalin. They find out that the key is a long-dead pilot, who either betrayed the network or was betrayed himself.

Other Kinds of Treason (1990). Short story collection. The book includes stories of love, war and betrayal.

The Dangerous Edge (1991).  The author gives a sense of insider expertise and knowledge that will leave you with the view that our Intelligence community is imbued with “realpolitik” and expediency at the expense of morality. Quietly gripping and well characterised by an still under-rated author.

Show Me A Hero (1992). Based on a true story, this is the tale of a man who was Stalin’s most successful spy, acting as a resident New York undercover agent for several decades – and who, for the last two of those decades, was actually reporting what he knew to the President of the US.

The Line-Crosser (1993). A dispute with his masters sees Foster leaving SIS headquarters in West Germany and starting work for the East Germans. The British must find him, fast. He has a directory of West Germans collaborators with the brutal East German intelligence service. As the Wall comes down, it becomes priceless.

As Time Goes By (1994). A story of three women and their secret war. Paulette, Vi and Jenny all volunteers, all parachuted in to the Dordogne in 1942, working for Harry Bailey’s SOE network. The secretive life they lead, isolated behind enemy lines, the danger and violence they have to face, will change them all.

Beyond the Silence (1995) aka The Spirit of Liberty. Lord Carling is one of the great and the good now, but once he was just George Carling, a privileged young idealist who wrote a letter to the Soviet Embassy to say how much he admired the way the Russians were resisting the Nazis. And later he was an intelligence officer for the SIS. A very good officer with very accurate information about the Soviet Union and a cordial relationship with the Americans. Now, the whisper has gone round that Carling’s information was too good to be honest. That he was too close to Philby and the other legendary traitors of his era and that he might have been working for the wrong people.

The Long Run (1996). In this thriller three groups of men in England, America and Germany challenge the irresponsible power of popular journalists, and unleash instead a more sinister enemy of freedom.

Aid and Comfort (1997). The story of a disaffected CIA agent who, over a period of nine years, passes top-secret information to the Russians in return for large sums of cash. Larry Getz is the senior CIA officer assigned to hunt down the traitor, but how dirty is he prepared to play in order to get his man?

Shadow of a Doubt (1998). The happily retired director of MI6, Sir James Frazer, is appalled to discover he is the subject of an unauthorised muck-racking biography. He takes out a libel action against the author and publishers. In the ensuing court case, it turns out that there are quite a few skeletons in Frazer’s closet.

The Reckoning (1999). Katya Felinska is a beautiful and talented photo-journalist, passionately committed to championing the rights of the oppressed. Max Inman is a brilliant and incisive political journalist. They have been lovers for almost twenty years. But Max is also an undercover agent, one of MI6’s most important sources on the real attitudes and thinking of Russian and German leaders in the tense months leading up to the disintegration of the Iron Curtain and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Inman’s source is a KGB officer. The two men trade information in the interests of world peace. Then things go wrong. Horribly wrong. And Katya must summon all the courage and ingenuity she possesses to try to save the man she loves.

The Assets (2000) aka Due Process. This novel concerns the topic of MK Ultra, the most secret operation in the CIA. MK Ultra is concerned with the use of mind-control under the influence of hypnosis and, sometimes, drugs. The central protagonist, Senator Joe Maguire, must pick up the pieces when things go wrong.

Essays:

1. “Memoirs of an Ex-Spy,” in Murder Ink: The Mystery Reader’s Companion, edited by Dilys Winn (New York: Workman, 1977), pp. 164–168.
2. “It’s the Real Thing,” New Statesman (1 July 1977): 27.

Supplementary Notes:

The movie Blue Ice with Michael Caine was based on Allbeury’s characters including Tad Anders who appeared in the novels Snowball, Palomino Blonde and The Judas Factor.

The book No Place to Hide was adapted as the movie Hostage starring Sam Neill.

BBC Radio 4 has adapted his novels The Other Side of Silence, Pay Any Price, No Place to Hide, The Lonely Margins, and Deep Purple for radio broadcast.

Despite being written decades ago, Allbeury’s bestselling book The Twentieth Day of January (from 1980), which has been reprinted, has received renewed major media attention since it deals with many of the controversies surrounding the 2016 election in USA.

A Choice Of Enemies by Ted Allbeury

Snowball by Ted Allbeury

Palomino Blonde by Ted Allbeury

Where All the Girls Are Sweeter by Ted Allbeury

The Special Collection by Ted Allbeury

The Only Good German by Ted Allbeury

Moscow Quadrille by Ted Allbeury

Italian Assets by Ted Allbeury

The Man with the President's Mind by Ted Allbeury

The Lantern Network by Ted Allbeury

The Alpha List by Ted Allbeury

Consequence of Fear by Ted Allbeury

The Reaper by Ted Allbeury

The Twentieth Day of Janury by Ted Allbeury

Codeword Cromwell by Ted Allbeury

The Lonely Margins by Ted Allbeury

The Other Side of Silence by Ted Allbeury

The Secret Whispers by Ted Allbeury

Shadow of Shadows by Ted Allbeury

All Our Tomorrows by Ted Allbeury

Pay Any Price by Ted Allbeury

The Judas Factor by Ted Allbeury

The Girl From Addis by Ted Allbeury

No Place to Hide by Ted Allbeury

Children of Tender Years by Ted Allbeury

The Choice  by Ted Allbeury

The Seeds of Treason  by Ted Allbeury

The Crossing by Ted Allbeury

A Wilderness of Mirrors by Ted Allbeury

Deep Purple by Ted Allbeury

A Time Without Shadows by Ted Allbeury

Other Kinds of Treason by Ted Allbeury

The Dangerous Edge by Ted Allbeury

Show Me A Hero by Ted Allbeury

The Line-Crosser by Ted Allbeury

As Time Goes By by Ted Allbeury

Beyond the Silence by Ted Allbeury

The Long Run by Ted Allbeury

Aid and Comfort by Ted Allbeury

Shadow of a Doubt by Ted Allbeury

The Reckoning by Ted Allbeury

The Assets by Ted Allbeury