(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Elleston Trevor wrote approximately one novel per year from 1943 to the late 1980’s, under many pseudonyms. It was, however, the best seller The Berlin Memorandum (as Adam Hall, 1965; also known as The Quiller Memorandum) that brought him international acclaim. It won for him the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1966 and the French Grand Prix Littérature Policière, was filmed by Twentieth Century Fox (1966), and was later made into a British Broadcasting Corporation television series; it has been cited as a definitive example of the realistic Cold War espionage novel. Trevor made psychoanalysis a central concern of his detective and espionage fiction, and he explored deep-seated motives, needs, and compulsions that compel action at odds with the rational and conscious mind. He preferred to investigate people under pressure, driven by external and internal forces, and to focus on the animal instincts of the pursued.

The espionage novels, in the tradition of John le Carré and Len Deighton, explore double agentry—the motives, the tensions, the psychological complexities, and the fears of the clandestine life. They focus on the professional agent as a highly competent expert at survival, a tough-minded antihero beset by secret conspiracies within his own organization. At its best, the detail in Trevor’s novels creates the illusion of documentary, while the attitudes of the heroes—at times flippant, at times downright bitter and irreverent toward authority—reflect the Weltanschauung of the Cold War period.

Elleston Trevor Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Cawelti, John G., and Bruce A. Rosenberg. The Spy Story. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987. Scholarly study of British espionage fiction; sheds light on Trevor’s works.

East, Andy. The Cold War File. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1983. Examines the representations of espionage in Cold War fiction and of the Cold War in espionage stories; provides context for understanding Trevor’s novels.

Hitz, Frederick P. The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. Hitz, the former inspector general of the Central Intelligence Agency, compares famous fictional spies and spy stories to real espionage agents and case studies to demonstrate that truth is stranger than fiction. Helps place Trevor’s work within the genre.

Panek, LeRoy. “Adam Hall.” In The Special Branch: The British Spy Novel, 1890-1980. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1981. Scholarly study of British espionage thrillers written by a major critic in the academic study of mystery and detective fiction look at Trevor, writing as Adam Hall.

Penzler, Otto, ed. “Quiller.” In The Great Detectives. Boston: Little, Brown, 1978. Argues for including Trevor’s mysterious Quiller among the espionage genre’s “great detectives.”