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Eric Ambler: The Law did not think killing for money was insane

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Eric Ambler: It is not good for those who fight to know too much. Speeches, yes. The truth, no!

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Eric Ambler
From Journey into Fear

Watching the full self-conscious lips enunciating these absurdities, Graham wondered if an English jury, trying the man for murder, would find him insane. Probably not: he killed for money; and the Law did not think that a man who killed for money was insane. And yet he was insane. His was the insanity of the sub-conscious mind running naked, of the “throw back,” of the mind which could discover the majesty of God in thunder and lightning, the roar of bombing planes, or the firing of a five hundred pound shell; the awe-inspiring insanity of the primeval swamp.

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“When a ruling class wishes a people to do something which that people does not want to do, it appeals to patriotism. And, of course, one of the things people most dislike is allowing themselves to be killed….”

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“The instinct for self-preservation is a wonderful thing. It is so easy for people to be heroic about laying down their lives for the sake of principles when they do not expect to be called upon to do so. When, however, the smell of danger is in their nostrils they are more practical. They see alternatives not in terms of honour or dishonour, but in terms of greater or lesser evils….:

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