Tuesday 6 March 2012

Lunch with Len ...

Len Deighton, Koffman's London
March 2012
(c) Rob Mallows
Last Saturday I was fortunate to catch up with Len Deighton over lunch at Koffman's in London's Knightsbridge.

We covered a lot of bases in a conversation over lunch lasting four hours at which we were joined by Len's wife Ysabele and his friend and fellow author Mike Ripley, contributor to Shot's magazine.

Len's in semi-retirement and gave little indication of working on any new fiction; no news either sadly on his histories of the aero engine and the fountain pen, which were with his editor.

Our conversation covered a range of bases. We discussed The Ipcress File, and Len shared a couple of anecdotes: When it came out in 1962, due to his publisher's lack of foresight, the 4,000 first editions sold out so quickly that when Len himself went into a WH Smith to pick up a copy it was sold out! And, surprisingly I thought, he told me he doesn't currently own a first edition of the book himself!

The most interesting story came when Ysabele, Len's wife, confirmed that Erik van Hazelhof, was the famous Dutch agent, whose story was filmed as the film The Soldier of Orange (Len had written the foreword to his second biography). Ysabele says that he took part in the raid which was the inspiration for one of the most famous Bond scenes, in Goldfinger.

I made some notes during our discussion but rather than 'grill' Len over lunch with questions, he's agreed to respond via email to a series of questions I'll put, which I'll then publish on the blog in the same way I did last year (see menu options above). Given it's the 50th anniversary of it's publication, I'm going to ask him a number of Ipcress File questions. If you have any Ipcress File-related questions, do drop an email soon to me through the blog!


  1. I completely understand Len's reluctance to accept honours: “To allow someone to give you a knighthood is to admit that there is someone who is allowed to appraise you on a scale which you are going to agree with. The audacity of it!”

    But couldn't the Queen, in the feel-good spirit of her Diamond Jubilee, simply declare Deighton a National Treasure? Which he is. He practically invented "Cool Britannia."