Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Game, Set ... but not Match? A reader invites answers on perplexing questions about the Samson series

Adrian Bailey's illustration for the Game, Set and Match series. Can you recognise each character?
The Samson series of ten novels is, in my opinion, the apogee of Deighton's fiction writing. Over these novels he creates such a web of well-developed who all have some part to play in their respective futures.

But opinions on the novel and the characters are not uniform. Canadian blog reader Milan Stolarik got in touch with the Deighton Dossier to offer his views on this series of books having just read the novels in sequence.

He had some questions about the characters and the books, and I thought it would be best to encourage blog readers to read his thoughts and respond. Here's Milan's contribution:

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

More info on the coming SS-GB adaptation ...

1980's paperback cover art
...courtesy of the Radio Times.

In this piece online, the magazine confirms the appointment of Sam Riley to play the lead character in Len Deighton's famous alternative timeline history of a Nazi-occupied Britain.

The producers and writers aim to "think the unthinkable". Sounds like it will be fascinating stuff.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Spies are cool again ... says the Guardian

Great article in this week's Guardian newspaper about the fact that spies and agents are de riguer again in Television.

TV critic Mark Lawson, who's often on the Newsnight review show, identifies the plethora of spy-related shows that UK TV viewers can look forward to this autumn: the new season of Homeland, a new five-parter called London Spy which - as Lawson notes - immediately draws comparisons perhaps with London Match, the first Bernard Samson novel; plus there's a new adaptation of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent.

The future BBC SS-GB adaption is also referenced but is incorrect, in that filming is starting this year but it is not scheduled for broadcast in 2015. Sadly, we have to wait a little longer!

Monday, 24 August 2015

James Bond is 85 tomorrow - happy birthday!

That's Sean Connery, of course, who's 85th birthday is on 25 August. Great actor as Bond but also in so many other films that are too numerous to mention. Here's a nice summary on the BBC website of his career and how he moved on from the 007 character to star in some great roles.

The Bond blogs and discussion forums will I'm sure be alive with debates about whether he's the best Bond or not.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Riley ... ace of spies

News from the film world about the planned SS:GB film production, being written by Bond writers Neil Purvis and Robert Wade.

Actor Sam Riley is in talks to become the lead character in the upcoming film adaptation of SS:GB, playing British cop Douglas Archer, in this much anticipated BBC-backed film. This article in Deadline, the movie industry magazine, confirms that German director Philipp Kadelbach is on board to direct.

Interesting news.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Food for thought: Deighton on Radio 4 in August

When last in London, Len Deighton recorded an interview with Radio 4, which will be broadcast at 1230h on 9 August.

The theme is food heroes. Presenter Tim Hayward examines Deighton's qualities for this heroic role by looking at the way he changed people's understanding of food and cooking in the 'sixties through his Action Cookbook, and the wider influence food has had on his life, from his time as a pastry chef in a London hotel through to the present day.

Sounds interesting.

You can access the programme online here, after the original broadcast next week.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Fifth Q&A with the author ...

The author, 2013
As promised, Len Deighton has kindly responded to the request of the blog editor and readers and provided a fifth edition of our Q&A series which, over the years now, he's been kind enough to provide to the blog to give readers some further insights into this books and his process as an author.

This time, again, there are a mixture of questions from me, the editor, together with questions from readers of the blog or the main Deighton Dossier website.

Full Q&A below the fold. Some further updates may be added in due course.


Monday, 8 June 2015

Another file on Ipcress ....

Friend of the blog and Deighton biographer Edward Milward-Oliver has written a nice new blog post on The Ipcress File on the Picturehouse blog, which looks at how the decisions made by the Columbia film studio led to the film we know and love today.

Find it here.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Off hunting

The ultimate 1st edition?
Expecting tomorrow to be at the Rare Books London fair hosted by the ABA and PBF at Olympia. It's regarded as one of the rare book world's premier market places, and I - along with thousands of other readers and collectors - will be there looking for interesting items for our respective collections.

What's the best bargain you've ever picked up at a book fair, Deighton or indeed any other author?

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Choose ... wisely

[Just dropped in a little Indian Jones and the Last Crusade reference, did you see?]

Readers, I put up a recent post about ideas for the next Q&A for Deighton Dossier readers which Len Deighton has kindly agreed to do.

I've had some questions through. I'm not going to propose a single theme, but am keen instead to post up interesting - and new questions (check the other interviews here to see what we've already asked as a readership).

Couple of possible themes emerging are FILMS and THE WRITING PROCESS.

However, post up questions on any relevant theme that you'd like to add to the Q&A and, within reason, I'll aim to include them on the Q&A, share it with Len and then, at some point, post it on this blog and the main Deighton Dossier website.

Not an app, but a lagniappe .....

A mysterious lagniappe

I've recently purchased a US first edition of XPD, Len Deighton's 1981 novel which, following in the SS-GB style of alternative history builds a story around a fictitious meeting between Churchill and Hitler early in the war, the discovery of papers of which must be prevented at all costs by the hero of the story, agent Boy Stuart.

The story itself is good but what's interesting about the US first edition is this lagniappe - or laid-in gift, often used by booksellers and publishers - of a postcard of the German Hindenburg airship, which frequently made the transatlantic trip between Germany and New Jersey, USA.

It's an interesting card in and of itself, and on the back contains the simple message: 'From: Len Deighton". But why is it there and what marketing purpose did it have? I'm not sure - there's no reference to the Hindenburg in the novel, so there's no obvious connection with the subject matter.

Nevertheless, to collectors, this lagniappe is much sought after and reasonably rare, much like other ephemera associated with Len Deighton's works.

Any readers have suggestions about the connection?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Further on the trail of Funeral in Berlin .....

A recent post highlighted a rare discovery of a Funeral in Berlin paperback release press kit from Penguin (posts passim).  Today I met up with Caroline Maddison, one of the trustees of the Penguin Collectors Society, who is writing an article for the society's magazine on the press junket and the impact it had on the company and the book.

The full story will be linked to here when completed, but in chatting to Caroline it's clear that Penguin effectively bet the house on the success of the paperback of Funeral in Berlin, judging by the scale of the expenditure and the enormity of the marketing programme.

Tony Godwin was appointed as fiction editor of Penguin to boost the brand, which was coming under pressure from companies like Pan. He was to invigorate Penguin - not just the covers, but the marketing too. One of this first ideas - hire two planes to take journalists, reps and booksellers over to Berlin and see the city and film being made, having been met on the tarmac by none other than Harry Palmer himself, Michael Caine.

The stunt cost the company £15,000 - a massive sum at the time - but it undoubtedly helped sales to associated the paperback with the new film and the brand already building behind Len Deighton's name on the shelves.

As well as the press kit featured already on the Deighton Dossier website, Caroline shared with me other ephemera from this whole press event which gives a guide to the push behind the book and the cachet associated with both the film and Michael Caine, at the height of the 'sixties spy thriller trend.

Check the photos out below:

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Choose your theme....

I had lunch with Len yesterday, who was on good form. No major news regarding the various film projects where rights have been obtained and development is, supposedly starting - Horse Under Water, SS-GB, Bomber (16 years of rights held, no progress) and the Game, Set and Match triple trilogy. However, interesting hints from Len around the production of SS-GB.

More broadly, he's agreed to do another QandA session with questions from readers and members of the Deighton Dossier blog and Facebook page.

As readers will know, over the years Len's been kind enough to do four online interviews, answering readers' questions. This will be the fifth of these.

What I want to do this time is run a QandA with a theme, and ask members to come up with questions around that theme.

So, first thought - what would be a good overall theme for the next QandA?

Please share your ideas below. I'll then put out a request for questions, and we'll go from there. 

Some first ideas from me:

  • Characters - inspirations, favourites, approach
  • Technology - influence on story ideas, details, plot usage
  • The writing process - approach, tricks, failures
  • Making movies - the directors, behind the scenes, the stars

Sunday, 12 April 2015

[Reader contribution] Spies to the left and right

Raymond Chandler had a clear picture of a hero
Who are the heroes of Deighton’s spy novels?

Are they the same men displaced in time by 25 years? In a sense they are. Certainly both are true to what could be the definitive template of a hero. This one, prepared by Raymond Chandler:

Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.

“He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.

“The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in

But Bernard Samson and Harry Palmer differ in one important aspect and it’s an aspect that is essential given the dates that the two stories are set. In reality, the uniformed forces, the police and the military are staffed by people of conservative political views. As well they might be. The police and the military are there to preserve society, and not just from outsider. They will resist change to society in all aspects.

These men are the descendants of the tribal sentries who’s task was to protect the tribe from external AND internal threats. They enforce the status quo and they don’t much care for change.

This almost makes Harry Palmer an anomaly. But he occupies a time when there were enough Nazis and Nazi artifacts still around to maintain a continuity with the Second World War. In wartime Britain’s Left and Right had been united against fascism. Harry Palmer is from that earlier time. He’s a war veteran and his war had been fought against a capitalist ideology.

To Harry Palmer, capitalism had no inherent advantages and in Horse Under Water we get a look at an establishment villain who carries all the baggage of the complex relationship the British ruling class had had with its wartime enemy. Henry Smith would have been a key man in occupied Britain working for the Nazis. Yet post war he’s remained a part of the establishment! Harry is expected to protect him despite the fact that he made his money in a way that Harry Palmer disapproves.

There’s a wonderful scene where Harry has his ‘chin wag’ with Smith. A parody of the bit where James Bond comes head to head with the sinister mastermind. Smith wants to put Harry in his place and Harry responds in a fashion appropriate to the sort of hero that Raymond Chandler defined.

One cannot find such a scene, villain or sentiment in the Samson stories. In fact, Bernard’s comments on the fate of Rosa Luxemberg are informative. Luxemberg was a leader of the communist Spartacus League who campaigned to stop Germany fighting in the first world war. She was beaten up, tortured and shot by members of the German cavalry. Bernard expresses dismay that, ‘Now they name streets after her.’

It’s tempting to imagine that the protagonist speaks with the same voice as the author. But such a view does not, I think, reflect the view of the man who produced ‘Oh what a lovely war.’ So I take Samson as a realistic characterization for the type of person who would then occupy Bernard’s profession. By the period of Bernard Samson the cold war had become competition between two different ideologies. Moreover, the populist socialism of the 1960s had been replaced by the free-market fundamentalism of the Thatcher era. And the men who had participated in the Second World War had passed on. Len Deighton had perhaps concluded that there was really no longer a place for such a man as Harry Palmer in the security services of Mrs Thatcher.

Of course, we do get a few hints that Bernard’s life might have gone a different way. There are a few suggestions of an interest in design and architecture but Bernard followed in his father’s footsteps. And adopted the ideology of the profession, perhaps as much out of love for his father as anything else.

At the end, of course, Bernard and Harry are still genuine heroes, incorruptible and loyal. And, I know many men like Bernard, ex-military types, and I like them and admire their work ethic, sense of duty and loyalty. But somehow I can’t like Bernard quite as much as I like Harry Palmer. Which is why I still find myself going back to the 1960s.

Terry Kidd

Friday, 27 March 2015

Pick this up along with the milk and bread if you're in Waitrose this weekend ...

Waitrose supermarket's Waitrose Weekend newsletter (circ. 400,000) has gone into the shops this weekend featuring a nice two page feature on The Ipcress File film, focusing particular on the food themes in that film and Len's other life as a cook and food writer.

Worth checking out (hat-tip to Edward Milward-Oliver).



Overseas readers - I've three spare copies I picked up. Happy to send them overseas to readers who want them, and can pay the post.