Anthony Price, whose string of espionage novels, rich in historical references and complex characters, drew comparisons to the work of John le Carré, died May 30 in South East London. He was 90.
His daughter, Katherine James, said the cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
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. 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.
If Price’s books never became blockbusters, they did garner critical praise.
“He does not yet enjoy the same degree of fame as John le Carré, Len Deighton or Frederick Forsyth,” John Gross wrote in The New York Times in 1986, reviewing “Here Be Monsters,” “but he can more than survive comparison with any of them. He is far more subtle than Mr. Forsyth and much less gimmicky than Mr. Deighton, and if he can’t quite match Mr. le Carré’s doomy intensity, he has the compensating virtues of (relatively speaking) greater directness and solid good sense.”
Anthony Price was born Aug. 16, 1928, in Hertfordshire, north of London, where his mother, Kathleen (Lawrence) Price, a commercial artist, had returned from India during her pregnancy while his father, Walter, remained there, working as an accountant. Anthony rarely saw his father during childhood, and after his mother died when he was a boy, he was raised by an aunt in Canterbury.