The Labyrinth Makers (Dr. David Audley & Colonel Jack Butler, Book 1)
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Anthony Price – full name Alan Anthony Price – wrote twenty books from 1970 to 1990. Nineteen of those were spy novels (the twentieth, The Eyes of the Fleet: A Popular History of Frigates and Frigate Captains, a non-fiction title published in 1990, was his final work – at least, to date; Price is still with us), which, together, form one of the best espionage series ever penned by a single author, a brilliantly sustained, wonderfully interconnected, richly historical fictional – yet entirely plausible – universe starring operatives of a branch of Britain's Intelligence Services (later identified as the Research and Development Section).
Though written in the third person, each story is told from the perspective of one of a rotating cast of intelligence types. The series begins with 1970's The Labyrinth Makers and Dr. David Audley, a socially awkward, prematurely middle-aged Middle East expert with a fascination for archaeology and history – subjects that remain abiding concerns throughout the subsequent eighteen novels. We also meet Audley's fellow operatives, sensitive, dedicated Squadron Leader Hugh Roskill and hard-headed, carrot-topped military man Major – soon to become Colonel – Jack Butler, each of whom will take their turn in the limelight in later books.
Price's closest contemporary is probably John le Carré, but Price was well into his series by the time Le Carré's masterwork, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, arrived in 1974. And while there are similarities between the two writers in the way they have their characters examine evidence in order to arrive at conclusions, Price has little time for Le Carré's methodical digging through of old files; much of that sort of thing takes place off-page, leaving more room for the subsequent ruminations and discussions. The late H. R. F. Keating put it most appositely (and pithily) in a blurb reproduced on the back covers of some of the later editions of Price's books: "If think's your thing, here's richness in plot, dialogue, implications."
A Crime Writers' Association Silver and Gold Dagger Award winner, Price is rather overlooked these days, which is remarkable when you consider how terrific his stories are. There's scant information about him online; he has a Wikipedia entry – although the dates in the bibliography are inaccurate, possibly because they take the American publication dates rather than the original British ones; see below for a more accurate bibliography – and there are one or two good articles on the themes and chronology of his spy series (which ranges from 1944 to 1988); this one by Jo Walton and this one by David Dyer-Bennet (with its attendant booknotes) are the best of the bunch. But the odd individual review aside, that's about it.
David Audley - 1
1970 CWA Silver Dagger
"...Some critics have faulted Price for not producing more excitement in his novels. Their criticism seems to me to miss the mark: like Le Carré, this author’s aim is to produce exquisitely layered puzzles, in which the characterization is subtle, and the reader is challenged to match wits with the writer. A book such as Smiley's People can hardly be called exciting in terms of action; but it is nonetheless spellbinding on account of its layered and understated characters, and its subtle clues. The same may be said of The Labyrinth Makers: chock-full of ambiguous characters and replete with tantalizing red herrings and plausible theories, it more than holds its own with the best of spy fiction and deservedly earned for its author the Crime Writers’ Association’s 1971 Silver Dagger Award, presaging the Gold Dagger he was to win in 1974 for Other Paths to Glory. Indeed, Other Paths was subsequently shortlisted for the 2005 Dagger of Daggers Award."
Anthony Price Bibliography
The Labyrinth Makers (1970) (CWA Silver Dagger)
The Alamut Ambush (1971)
Colonel Butler's Wolf (1972)
October Men (1973)
Other Paths to Glory (1974) (CWA Gold Dagger)
Our Man in Camelot (1975)
War Game (1976)
The '44 Vintage (1978)
Tomorrow's Ghost (1979)
The Hour of the Donkey (1980)
Soldier No More (1981)
The Old Vengeful (1982)
Gunner Kelly (1983)
Sion Crossing (1984)
Here Be Monsters (1985)
For the Good of the State (1986)
A New Kind of War (1987)
A Prospect of Vengeance (1988)
The Memory Trap (1989)