Anthony Price (born 1928) is an English writer of Stale Beer espionage novels
. The novels' hallmarks include fiendishly but satisfyingly twisty plots (generally featuring at least one moment where the protagonists realise that they've all been completely wrong about some key point of what's going on), complex and sharply-observed characterisation, and a tendency for each novel to somehow involve an artifact or site of archaeological interest.
The central character of the novels is Dr David Audley, historian (specialising in the Middle East) turned analyst for an unnamed branch of the British secret service. He is not usually the point-of-view character, however; after the first novel, The Labyrinth Makers
, the point of view passes around among his colleagues, with the result that by the end of the series the reader has seen most of the recurring cast from the inside as well as multiple external viewpoints. It also means that in most of the novels Audley gets to indulge his famously irritating tendency to be one step ahead of everybody else and refuse to tell anyone what's going on, without ruining the suspense for the reader.
The first three novels in the series were adapted for television in the 1980s, with Terence Stamp as Audley.
The novels provide examples of:
- Badass Israeli: Colonel Jake Shapiro of Israeli military intelligence
- Becoming the Mask: Happens to the Russian deep cover agent in Colonel Butler's Wolf. At the beginning of the novel he attempts a Heel Face Turn and winds up dead, leaving our heroes knowing that he existed but having to figure out what his mission was.
- Black and Gray Morality
- A Bloody Mess: In War Game, a Civil War re-enactment is interrupted when somebody finds a genuine corpse lying in a pool of red. It turns out his neck was broken; the red is from a dye pack he was wearing for his big death scene in the re-enactment, which broke while his killer was hiding the body.
- The Chessmaster: Professor Nikolai Panin, Audley's recurring opponent in the KGB, has a knack for tricking his enemies into doing his work for him while trying to prevent what they think he's up to.
- Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story: The Russian deep cover agent in Colonel Butler's Wolf is using the identity of a real person whose relatives are all dead or conveniently distant.
- Cut Short: The series ended abruptly after 1989, as the author's planned conclusion had rather depended on the continued existence of the Soviet Union.
- Deep Cover Agent: A Russian deep cover agent features in Colonel Butler's Wolf.
- Fiery Coverup: The bad guys attempt one in Other Paths to Glory, but don't carry it off well enough to prevent the firefighters recognising it for what it is.
- Genius Bruiser: Audley is a former rugby player, with the build to match; people who don't know him sometimes underestimate his intelligence on first sight. (It's noted, though, that as a desk officer by inclination and training, he's not much good in an actual fight.)
- Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Occurs in The Labyrinth Makers, between Audley and Faith; a Relationship Upgrade results.
- Insufferable Genius: Audley has this reputation, and has done much to deserve it.
- Original Position Fallacy: Discussed in Colonel Butler's Wolf. Butler compares himself to one of his more liberal-minded colleagues, noting that the colleague makes the usual error of believing he'd have been one of the masters in the old days but prefers modern society anyway, while Butler himself thinks the old ways were better even though he knows perfectly well he'd have been one of the servants.
- Proscenium Reveal: War Game opens with a battle in the English Civil War, which goes on for a couple of pages before one of the dead bodies leans over to make a snarky comment to his neighbour, and it turns out to be a modern-day re-enactment.
- Rotating Protagonist
- Spy Fiction, Stale Beer variety
- The Spymaster: Sir Frederick Clinton, Audley's superior
- War Reenactors: Featured in War Game.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Gunshot wounds are treated realistically, and are generally messy and often fatal. One of Audley's offsiders gets shot in the climax of one novel, and not only isn't up and about in time for the next one, but is explicitly mentioned in each of the next few novels as still recuperating.