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Spy fiction and history

The Wall Street Journal's Weekend Journal looks at two British literary efforts. One is spy fiction. The other is history.

The first is A Coffin for Dimitrios, Eric Ambler's 1939 spy story, which is set in Istanbul. Ambler influenced the writing of Ian Fleming, John Le Carré and Len Deighton. Reviewer Sarah Weinman has interesting things to say about him.

The second book is Robin Prior's Gallipoli: The End of the Myth. Prior describes Britain's World War One military attempt to force the Turkish defense of the Dardanelles, in order to bring World War One to a swifter conclusion. He tries to show that the effort was doomed from the start by faulty assumptions, some of them Winston Churchill's.

The reviewer finds Prior's book "definitive", but he ends with a startling point - "It may not be the very last word, as Mr. Prior himself is involved in a long-term project to discover what the Ottoman archives hold."

I should think at look at those might be valuable.

That the Brits, Aussies and Kiwis who fought at Gallipoli were brave almost beyond imagination has never been in doubt. I hope Prior describes their courage. Some historians, quoting Ottoman sources, believe that Brits were on the verge of victory.

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