Anthony Price, Author of Cold War Spy Thrillers, Dies at 90

Anthony Price, whose string of espionage novels, rich in historical references and complex characters, drew comparisons to the work of John le Carré, died on May 30 in South East London. He was 90.

His daughter, Katherine James, said the cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mr. Price, whose first spy novel, “The Labyrinth Makers,” came out in 1970, was among several thriller writers who moved the espionage genre beyond the slick shenanigans of early-period James Bond as the Cold War calcified.

“The Labyrinth Makers” was the first of 19 novels featuring David Audley, an analyst for the British secret service, who was often the protagonist but sometimes a secondary figure. Mr. Price was not content with simple linear plots; he loved to burden his characters with ghosts from the past and explore how long-ago actions influenced events years or even centuries later.

His stories ranged far and wide. “Other Paths to Glory” (1974), which The Daily Telegraph of London named one of the top 20 spy thrillers of all time, involves both a nuclear summit and the Battle of the Somme during World War I.

In “Sion Crossing” (1984), a character named Oliver Latimer, a sort of rival of Audley’s, travels to the United States and gets involved in a mystery in Georgia related to the Civil War. “A New Kind of War” (1988) begins in Greece in 1945, then shifts to the Teutoburg Forest in Germany and makes reference to a battle the Romans fought there 2,000 years earlier.

He gave the book and the author, who was of course J. R. R. Tolkien, a positive notice.

Mr. Price settled into a niche of reviewing crime fiction and military history, two areas of interest to him. After 10 or 12 years of this, an editor at the Victor Gollancz publishing house asked if he’d write a book about crime fiction. He declined but asked if he could try writing a thriller instead, and that was how he became a novelist.

“I suppose my books are simply a distillation of all that military history and crime fiction interbreeding,” he told the blog.

Mr. Price’s books were the basis of a 1983 British television series, “Chessgame,” with Terence Stamp as Audley. His feeling about the series?

“Dreadful,” he told the blog.

Mr. Price’s wife died in 2012. In addition to his daughter, he is survived by two sons, James and Simon, and five grandchildren.

Mr. Price’s last novel, “The Memory Trap,” appeared in 1989, as the Soviet Union and Communist systems in Eastern Europe were beginning to unravel — taking away the villain, essentially, in many of his books. He was, he admitted, surprised that the Soviet Union fell “with a whimper, not a bang,” as he put it; he had feared the Cold War would end cataclysmically.

“I always felt that the past is lying in wait for the present,” he said. “I’m not sure whether I’m right, ever since the Soviet Union collapsed in a way that I never expected. That was another thing that made me decide to retire, along with my health and other factors: It made me think that it was time to quit while I was ahead, because Audley was no longer as clever as he thought.”

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