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First appearance The Quiller Memorandum (1965)
Created by Elleston Trevor
Portrayed by Michael Jayston
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.

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 he dislikes the noise they make. 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 skills 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 that all Bureau operatives have an option to refuse. Manipulation to get him to agree to the mission is usually necessary. 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 that his expenses will be scrutinised minutely. His missions are organised under the control of a handler 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:[2]

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."

He was named for the real-life Cornish writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.[3]


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.

Other novels[edit]

  • 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 he January 27, 1967 issue of LIFE
  2. ^ Elleston Trevor, quoted in Otto Penzler, The Great Detectives, 1978
  3. ^ "The Man Who was Quiller"

External links[edit]