Tuesday 3 March 2009

Who's laughing now?

Only When I Larf was Deighton's six book, and the first to depart from the spy fiction genre. It deals with the tale of three con artists - Bob, Silas and Liz - who make their way in life scamming the naive and the innocent and build their way up from financial scams to unsuccessfully ripping off the arms minister of a failed African state before trying one last blag on an unscrupulous banker financier, with unforeseen results.

This book came out in the UK in 1968, but didn't come out in the USA until 1986. Deighton decided to pursue the film version of the book - which starred Richard Attenborough - in 1968 as his production company - set up to film Oh! What a Lovely War - had a pause in the production schedule and, frankly, needed some money coming in! The film itself is fine, but the book didn't find a publisher in the US at the time of the film's release - despite great efforts by Len, he writes in the foreword to the US edition (marketed as Only When I Laugh for US audiences), which didn't appear until 18 years later.

I've just managed to get hold of one copy of only 150 special trade editions produced to mark this belated US publication, and it's signed by Len himself, so it's quite a find. In the new foreword to this edition, Len recounts how the serialisation rights were turned down by Playboy as they had an editorial policy of not running stories "where women outwit men". Couldn't get away with that now!

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