From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Quiller (disambiguation).
First appearance The Quiller Memorandum (1965)
Created by Elleston Trevor
Portrayed by

George Segal in The Quiller Memorandum (1966 film)

Michael Jayston in Quiller (TV series)
Gender Male
Nationality English

Quiller is a fictional character created by English novelist Elleston Trevor. Quiller, whose one-word name is a pseudonym,[1] works as a spy, and he is the hero of a series of Cold War thrillers written under the pseudonym "Adam Hall".

The books focus on a solitary, highly capable operative who works, usually on his own, for a British government organization, referred to as "The Bureau", which "doesn't exist". Quiller narrates his adventures in first person, addressing the reader in an informal tone. He was named for the real-life Cornish writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.[2]


Quiller is a highly skilled driver, pilot, diver, linguist and martial artist. In his choice of self-defense methods, he favors Shotokan karate, much like Trevor himself. Additionally, Quiller has knowledge of Chin Na - a related, complementary art focused on advanced joint manipulation. He does not carry a firearm "in peacetime". Indeed, this may mean that he has not carried one since World War II, reasoning that if he were caught, he would be able to explain anything he was carrying except a gun. He also believes that guns give their carriers a dangerously false sense of security, and dislikes the noise they make.

The lightning flashed and everything leapt sharply in it: trees, wire, posts, the rutted earth. He caught his breath and stumbled. The pathology of the gun-dependent is odd: once armed he loses his fear even of things against which a gun is of no use: spiders, heights, the elements. He carries a magic talisman. Conversely, deprived, his fears are exaggerated.[3]

His resistance to interrogation is exceptional and he has managed to keep the "suffix-nine" designation indicating he is "reliable under torture". He has a morbid dislike of dogs, especially guard dogs.

Quiller's narration of the tradecraft he routinely employs is one of the defining elements of the novels. Certain other common factors appear. First, he is almost always reluctant to take on a mission and he regularly tells the reader all Bureau operatives have an option to refuse. Manipulation to get him to agree to the mission is usually necessary.

There is a simple tradition in the Bureau that protects any given operation from failure. We can refuse a mission. There has to be a reason and we have to give it and it has to be a good one but in the final analysis we have a get-out if we want it. This is intelligent because it means that nobody is ever sent into the field with misgivings. Any operator taking up a mission has therefore a positive approach and is self-orientated toward success. There is only one thing London Control can do when a man wants to opt out; they have to give him an incentive that will make him opt in again.[4]

Second, there is nearly always an explosion somewhere in the novel. Third, at least one car chase can be expected. Fourth, in contrast to the glamorous lifestyles depicted in the James Bond canon, Quiller's operational locations are almost always unfriendly (Warsaw in winter, the Sahara Desert under the blazing sun, etc.) and he is aware his expenses will be scrutinised minutely. His missions are organised under the control of a director in the field, and a control operating from the bureau in London. A number of these characters recur in the books; some are heartily disliked by Quiller, and he comments on how much he doesn't want to work with them.

His creator summed up Quiller as follows:[5]

About his past there are various rumors: that he was someone in the professional category of lawyer or doctor, denied his license; that he once served a prison term, undeservedly (hence his bitterness, which is never far below the skin); that he is a man on the run who has found a perfect cover in the Bureau. In his forties, he is as fit as an alley cat and his whole makeup is tense, edgy and bitten-eared. Without the imagination to see that life is wide open to any man's need for self-expression, Quiller seems to have to synthesize drama for himself, to invite danger and privation and bitter challenge so that his life can have significance. He needs to live close to the crunch. Like bullfighters and racing drivers, he is a professional neurotic, half in love with death. Obviously antisocial, shy of people and human contact, he is wary of giving anything of himself to others. On rare occasions when the pressures of a mission have forced him into a position where he must consider other people — sometimes a deadly opponent — he reveals compassion, surprising himself. His last will and testament is revealing: "Nothing of value, no dependents, next of kin unknown."


The Berlin Memorandum, a.k.a. The Quiller Memorandum (1965)[edit]

In this book, Quiller is introduced as a serving British intelligence officer in a black organization called "the Bureau" and as a veteran of clandestine service during World War II. Quiller never states which service he worked in during wartime, and we are not told the year in which that organization was founded. It is, however, mentioned that the original explicit purpose of the Bureau was to prevent any possible resurgence of German militarism, any situation that might lead to something resembling a Fourth Reich.

Numerous governments offered him medals for his actions in the war, but he refused them all. During and after his wartime service, Quiller became a specialist in understanding Nazi clandestine organizations and their activities, particularly the so-called "ratlines" used by Nazis to escape from justice. Most of the book takes place in 1965, by which time Quiller has been seconded by the Bureau to secretly provide large amounts of useful intelligence information to West Germany's main war crimes investigation agency, the Z Commission. Quiller is tired and wants to return home, but the Bureau persuades him to investigate the plans of a Nazi secret society. He agrees to do so in part because that secret society has just assassinated a friend and colleague whom he had deeply respected.

Locale: Berlin

The 9th Directive (1966)[edit]

South-East Asia is in turmoil, and in an attempt to maintain good relations with Thailand, the British government arranges a visit from a high-ranking representative of the Queen. While it is not specifically stated, it is implied that this person is a member of the British Royal family. Prior to the arrival of the "Person" (as he is known in the novel) in Thailand, the Bureau uncovers rumours of an assassination plot against him. Quiller is sent to Bangkok to investigate how such an attempt might be made and then to ensure such an attempt is not successful.

Director in the field: Loman. "Loman was very high up in the Bureau echelon and he rarely left London to direct an operator in the field."[6] "When Loman wasn't talking like a governess he was talking like an official spokesman for the Junior Conservative Society."[7] Quiller states in the novel: "I have a dislike for men with small feet and bow ties and a dislike anyway for Loman. It has been mutual for years but has never affected our work, so that neither considers it important except when we find ourselves shut up together in the confines of a non-air-conditioned lapidarist’s back room in Bangkok and similar places where it is barely possible to breathe."[8]

Locale: Thailand

The Striker Portfolio (1968)[edit]

The Striker SK-6, of the novel's title, is a new British supersonic, swing-wing jet fighter in use by the West German airforce. At the start of the novel thirty-six planes have crashed in mysterious and unexplained circumstances within the previous 12 months. Quiller is manipulated by Bureau Control Parkis into investigating.

Bureau Control: Parkis. "The worst thing about Parkis is that he is the most anonymous-looking of all at the Bureau. His face is so ordinary that it could only be a mask and his eyes are like holes in it because they are colourless. He stands so still that you feel you could walk up to him and go on walking right through him and not notice anything but a slight chill on the skin. But you'd come out Rhesus-negative."[9]

Director in the field: Ferris. "Ferris was a thin man with hollow cheeks and horn-rimmed glasses and the remains of some straw-coloured hair that blew about when he walked. He looked like a clever young electronics engineer on the verge of a nervous breakdown, except for his steady eyes."[10] Quiller states in the novel: "Ferris was all right. I'd done two missions with him and he hadn't let me down."[11]

Locale: West Germany

Quiller novels[edit]

  • The Berlin Memorandum (1965)
  • The 9th Directive (1966)
  • The Striker Portfolio (1968)
  • The Warsaw Document (1971)
  • The Tango Briefing (1973)
  • The Mandarin Cypher (1975)
  • The Kobra Manifesto (1976)
  • The Sinkiang Executive (1978)
  • The Scorpion Signal (1979)
  • The Peking Target (1981)
  • Quiller/Northlight (1985)
  • Quiller's Run (1988)
  • Quiller KGB (1989)
  • Quiller Barracuda (1990)
  • Quiller Bamboo (1991)
  • Quiller Solitaire (1992)
  • Quiller Meridian (1993)
  • Quiller Salamander (1994)
  • Quiller Balalaika (1996)

Short story[edit]

  • Last Rites (Espionage Magazine, April 1986)



  1. ^ Under the pseudonym of Adam Hall, he created Quiller, the monomial secret-agent hero of The Quiller Memorandum ... Richard Schickel in the January 27, 1967 issue of LIFE
  2. ^ "The Man Who was Quiller"
  3. ^ The Striker Portfolio by Adam Hall, Fontana edition 1975, p114
  4. ^ The 9th Directive by Adam Hall, Fontana edition, 1975, p10
  5. ^ Elleston Trevor, quoted in Otto Penzler, The Great Detectives, 1978
  6. ^ The 9th Directive by Adam Hall, Fontana edition, 1975, p9
  7. ^ The 9th Directive by Adam Hall, Fontana edition, 1975, p33
  8. ^ The 9th Directive by Adam Hall, Fontana edition, 1975, p9
  9. ^ The Striker Portfolio by Adam Hall, Fontana edition, 1975, p12
  10. ^ The Striker Portfolio by Adam Hall, Fontana edition, 1975, p15
  11. ^ The Striker Portfolio by Adam Hall, Fontana edition, 1975, p18

External links[edit]