John Allan Anthony Price|
16 August 1928
Life and work
Price attended The King's School, Canterbury and served in the British Army from 1947 to 1949, reaching the rank of Captain. He read History at Merton College, Oxford from 1949 to 1952, and was awarded an MA in 1956. Price was a journalist with the Westminster Press from 1952 to 1988, as well as an editor with the Oxford Times from 1972 to 1988.
He is the author of nineteen novels in the Dr David Audley/Colonel Jack Butler series. These books focus on a group of counter-intelligence agents who work for an organization loosely based on the real MI5. They usually refer to their employer obscurely as "the Ministry of Defence", though it becomes clear in Our Man in Camelot that their specific department is rather like MI5. Other Paths to Glory mentions that the secret agency's budget is hidden under "Research and Development". The agency is headed by Sir Frederick Clinton and then by Colonel Jack Butler. Its best agent is David Audley, a historian turned spy. Audley is known for his unorthodox tactics, interest in history and his fondness for quoting Kipling, especially Stalky & Co..
Audley appears in each of the novels, but is not always the "point of view" character. In the first novel, The Labyrinth Makers, in which Audley meets his future wife, he is the central character, but other operatives are introduced and later have books of their own, including Jack Butler (Colonel Butler's Wolf), Squadron Leader Hugh Roskill (The Alamut Ambush), and historian Paul Mitchell, whom Audley first recruits in Other Paths to Glory. As in John le Carré's Smiley novels, there are rivalries and enmities within the department, but Price takes this further by telling whole books through the eyes of those who oppose or dislike Audley: notably Sion Crossing, in the voice of Oliver St. John Latimer. Price's fictional spy service belongs to a more recent Britain than le Carré's, and includes women among its active agents: first Frances Fitzgibbon and later Elizabeth Loftus. Audley's Russian opponent, Professor Panin, also makes repeated appearances, and a recurring plot in the later novels concerns the "Debrecen List" of people who may, or may not, have attended a spy school in Debrecen, a city in eastern Hungary.
The novels traverse "real time", in that the characters change and evolve with each novel, with approximately twenty years elapsing between the first and last novel. A few titles cut away from this time-line by showing the youthful exploits of Audley and Butler during and after the Second World War. An unusual feature of the plots is that they are all somehow connected with one or more important events in military history, with most containing a strong element of archaeology.
Chessgame, a six-part television series based on his first three novels appeared on British independent television in late 1983, and was re-shown in 1986 as three TV movies. Audley and Roskill are given the central roles, with the character of Butler replaced and renamed in order that he could appear in all three stories. The Labyrinth Makers and Other Paths To Glory have also been produced as one-off mystery dramas by BBC Radio, the latter featuring Martin Jarvis as Paul Mitchell.
- The Labyrinth Makers (1970) UK; (1971) US; winner of Silver Dagger Award.
- The Alamut Ambush (1971) UK; (1972) US
- Colonel Butler's Wolf (1972) UK; (1973) US
- October Men (1973) UK; (1974) US
- Other Paths to Glory (1974) UK; (1975) US; winner of Gold Dagger Award, and shortlisted for the Dagger of Daggers, a special award given in 2005 by the Crime Writers' Association(CWA) to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
- Our Man in Camelot (1975) UK; (1976) US
- War Game (1976) UK; (1977) US
- 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) UK; (1988) US
- A Prospect of Vengeance (1988)
- The Memory Trap (1989)
- The Road to Suez – first published in The Rigby File (1989), ed. Tim Heald
- The Eyes of the Fleet: A Popular History of Frigates and Frigate Captains 1793–1815 (1990)
- Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900-1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 407.