Sunday 25 August 2013

Archive round-up - some lesser known discoveries ....

Posting on the blog has as readers will see been a bit slower than normal over the last couple of months with the summer, holidays and other things getting in the way.

Having had some contact with Len I'm hoping to catch up with him in the UK in October and this might well create another opportunity for a fourth Deighton Dossier interview, so welcome ideas now of questions and themes which readers might want me to explore this time with Len.

Until that, I've been going through some of the recent rarer items I've come across in recent months that have been added to my collection of ephemera related to Len's life and works, which I thought I'd share with blog readers through a series of photographs.

First up, a 1967 edition of what might be called a 1960's "lifestyle" magazine called Nova, which is a mix of fashion advice, serious articles - such as the cover story about sexual mores, featuring BBC TV character Alf Garnett on the cover - shopping advice and stories. In this edition, Len Deighton's fifth novel, An Expensive Place to Die, is serialised (which all four of his previous novels had been in various media). With an illustration by contemporary Roger Law (later of Spitting Image fame), showing the character of Kuang from the story, this is the second part of the serialisation in which the narrator seeks to understand the relationship between Inspector Loiseau's ex-wife Maria and the mysterious Datt, who own the mysterious clinic researching sexual behaviour.

Nova 1967

The illustration by Roger Law

Part two of the adaptation
Another serialisation of Len's books - this time, Catch a Falling Spy (the US name of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Spy) occurs in the US edition of Cosmopolitan from December 1976, whose female audience doesn't strike me as an obvious core market for spy thrillers. In the same style as the earlier adaptation, this feature provides a short introduction before giving readers seventeen pages of close-typed text, which is a significant amount of the magazine to give up to part of a novel. But, clearly serialisation is another way to reach a readership who might not normally have gone out and bought the novel. The most interesting thing about this serialisation is the illustration by Don Daily, which have a very clear seventies design ethic.

Not an obvious place for spy fiction

The design shrieks the 1970s
Having become one of the sixties' big literary names since the publication of The Ipcress File in 1962, Deighton was in big demand for interviews and features from a range of media. But it wasn't just Len whom media wished to speak with. In this September 1964 issue of Vogue magazine, such was Len's celebrity that the magazine saw interest for its readers in talking to Len's first wife, Shirley (as part of a feature called "Classified material: spy writers' wives", which also runs a profile of John Le Carré's wife, who's only referred to as "Mrs Le Carré").

This profile of Shirley Deighton, who was an artist in her own right, is cleverly written through interspersing the details of the first-person profile with relevant text from her husband's book Funeral in Berlin, published the same year. Here's an example as Shirley wrote about how Len was when writing a new book:
'If his book isn't going well, he's difficult to cope with. He tends to niggle about why there isn't any milk in the fridge. He'll fuss about things, get suspicious. ("I hope you haven't been giving him access to our records," I said ... "No,"said Jean, "I got it." "What do you mean you got it?" I said. "You climbed through the window of the Sureté Nationale at dead of night, do you mean?") I know when he comes through the door what mood he's going to be in, and I know how I should respond to get him in a good mood. But I won't pander to him. I never know what he's thinking. He's quite unpredictable, but I could never live with a man who did the same thing every day. In September, he's going to learn to fly.'
The magazine remains all about style

Shirley Deighton

The article has the same 'style' as her husband's book

On a different track, this summer I finally managed to source something I've been looking for for years: below is a picture of an 'original' Deighton, one of Len's well-received designs for the Andre Deutsch publishing house catalogue from Summer 1967, which is an excellent example of Len's design, developed at art school, as an illustrator, featuring his typical heavy outline and slightly unrealistic perspective. It's extremely rare, so it's a pleasing find.

One of six catalogues illustrated by Deighton


  1. I've sent a query to @DeightonDossier on Twitter, but perhaps I could expand on it here. I read Funeral In Berlin some time ago and was intrigued by the chess-related chapter headings, which, as I write here, read very much as if they were taken from another source, but one inexpertly translated into English.

    I would be very interested to know where they were in fact taken from, and if you (or Mr Deighton himself) can shed any light on the matter, I'd be very grateful for any information you can provide.


    Justin Horton

    Streatham and Brixton Chess Blog


    1. Justin,

      I got this response back from Len:

      "There was a chess club in a basement in Soho. In the Samson stories I used it to depict a Polish gathering place - which was another club elsewhere - and combined them into one. I am not a chess player but I was there frequently and got to know the members. It was close to St Martins Art School where I was every day and to Moor Street where I lived. From someone there I bought a book about chess for beginners and many of the quotes came from that book."

      I asked Len, but he didn't recall the book. Hope that helps.

  2. Thanks very much to you and Len for that, I appreciate it. (I wouldn't want to plague either of you with further questions, but what still puzzles me is the question of the language - it reads very much as a translation, so I find myself speculating as to whether it may have been a book that had been already translated into English, or maybe a book in a foreign language but Len himself translated the chapter headings into English! But of course recaliing that half a century later might not be so easy.)

  3. Hi Rob,

    regarding your next interview with Len, perhaps you would like to ask him a little about his childhood. (I think we both had an obsessive childhood interest in model aircraft, IIRC from seeing Len on that Melvin Bragg interview.) Of interest would be his growing up in wartime London and how, perhaps, his perceptions changed of the Germany that has featured in so much of his later work.

    Len is known for his interest in technology, car phones, word processors etc. Did he ever consider a career in engineering? Does he still keep up with the latest smart phones and such?

    I'm also intrigued, and this may be the most difficult question of the lot to ask diplomatically, how, if at all, his political views have changed over the years?

    And, what I suspect we all want to know, when can we read that history of aircraft engines that he's been promising us? :)

    best regards
    Terry Kidd

  4. Hi,

    Do you know if Shirley did some illustrations for Burberry advertising campaigns between 1958-1962 (and/or maybe earlier)?

    Some illustrations by Shirley Thompson were saved from being destroyed by someone working at the J Walter Thompson Company Limited in London.

    The current owner hasn't been able to trace the illustrator.


  5. Janey, frankly, I don't know! It would be interesting to see the illustrations.

  6. That was in Series 36, Episode 24 of Antique roadshow.

    1. John, can you clarify, what was in the roadshow?

  7. Rob.. The man who have saved 11 of her advertisement illustrations was on that episode of Antique's Roadshow

  8. Rob, reference a very old post and comments on the art of Shirley Deighton, I would be interested in seeing some her images which are near impossible to source through the usual searches. I like the art of that period and appreciate your collection of Len's, a great resource. Recently found an ad for this picture for auction 'Portugal' 1965. Kind regards