Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas to all the Deighton Dossier readers ...

Not much fun on Christmas Eve
Thank you to everyone who has visited the Deighton Dossier blog and website in 2015 - I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

For fans of Len Deighton's fiction, 2016 should be an exciting year with the completion of the BBC adaptation of SS-GB. Fingers crossed it proves to be a smash-hit.

I hope that your Christmas is a lot better than Bernard Samson's in London Match:
"And so it was that, on Christmas Eve, when Gloria was with my children, preparing them for early bed so that Santa Claus could operate undisturbed, I was standing watching the Berlin police trying to winch a wrecked car out of the water."

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Did Oh! What a Lovely War shape our view of WWI - the BBC investigates ....

Very interesting piece up on the BBC's iWonder section of its website, linked to a piece about great British war films and their influence, which considers how the OWALW narrative has shaped our collective view of the Great War.

This article with short audio pieces by journalist Joan Bakewell is an interactive look at the original stage production of the play and the film produced by Len Deighton in 1969, which adapted the original theatre production from the London stage to the English coast at Brighton, and their continued influence on our understanding of the war.

Joan Bakewell explores a number of familiar tropes that are linked to the play and film, such as the controversy associated with both version at the time of their release, the influence of Charles Chilton's The Long, Long Tail on the film production, and the boost the film gave to reviving numerous stage productions of the original play.

Even 101 years after its start, the Great War still plays upon our understanding of the nature of war and its impact on all our lives.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Caine: "Ipcress File always my favourite ..."

Michael Caine is out and about - this time in New Zealand - doing the promotional tour for the new he stars in, Youth.

In this interview in the New Zealand Herald News, Caine looks back at his film career, and confirms that he has always had fond memories of starring in The Ipcress File. in which he played Harry Palmer or "...James Bond Three-and-a-half".

Nice interview, and great to see Caine still supremely active in cinema at 82, showing no signs of slowing down!

Friday, 30 October 2015

Battle of Britain ... images from a unique copy of the book

Still a brilliant depiction of the battle
A reader of this blog, [we'll call him RR], is one of the world's top Ian Fleming collectors but is also a serious collector of the works of Len Deighton.

Recently, he shared with the Deighton Dossier images from his latest acquisition - a first edition of Battle of Britain by Len Deighton, but with some unique additions. His new US first edition contains the signatures of twenty-one World War 2 air aces, most of whom had fought in the Battle of Britain.

It includes: 15 Luftwaffe aces (including the top 3 aces of all time), 5 RAF aces including the top British ace, and, randomly a top Japanese ace! Many of these were interviewed by Deighton in the course of writing the book originally; all have now, of course, passed on.

The first 20 were collected by the dealer from whom the books was purchased at the first flyers' reunion (Fliegertreffen) in 1981 in Germany, just after Douglas Bader started the Luftwaffe/RAF rapprochement with Adolf Galland around the 40th anniversary of the battle in 1980. The top German ace, Erich Hartmann, scored about 350 kills (mostly Soviet) and the leading British ace, Johnnie Johnson, only 38. Against against each signature is their full military titles, honours and the numbers of kills made in battle.

What a tremendously interesting historical document with the imprints of the brave flyers from both sides. Photos are reproduced below:

Thursday, 15 October 2015

London filming starts soon on SS-GB ... with a surprise for residents

The Holly Lodge Estate, near the Highgate Cemetery
Very interesting little story in today's Evening Standard, here.

The good burghers of Highgate, with the famous cemetery, are warned about waking up and walking around their neighbourhood next week and being confronted by Nazi stormtroopers and guards. This is to do with planned filming of a number of scenes from the book. Not immediately clear which ones.

The article refers to an effortlessly polite note to local residents from the production company working for the BBC, which states: "There will be actors dressed in German Army, SS and Russian military uniform, some will be armed – please do not be alarmed." Quite.

Unlike the Game, Set & Match ennealogy, which is still sitting in pre-production with Clerkenwell Films, who've shed very little light on what's happening, at least this is evidence that when the BBC says we'll get SS-GB in 2016, that's likely to be the case.

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 Boyd 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?

Well, I've recently had clarification from James Pepper, the US antiquarian bookseller and friend of Len Deighton, who advised:
"The original of the postcard is in my personal collection, and for fun and in friendship, knowing that Len was keenly interested in that period of Germany and in airships, I had my printer in the 1980s make an exact facsimile of the front of the postcard, and then had the verso blank except for Len's name. I presented Len with a whole box of them as a gift and he was delighted with them. Since back then Len had especially tiny handwriting, I told him he could use them to write notes to fans or friends, or give them away to people. I see that they have appeared out into the world, so perhaps Len gave some to his publisher or the publisher’s publicist and they got distributed that way."
This lagniappe has become much sought after and reasonably rare, much like other ephemera associated with Len Deighton's works.

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.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Happy Birthday Ipcress File the film ....

Fifty years ago today the film of Len Deighton's The Ipcress File was premiered in Leicester Square. To celebrate, Deighton's biographer - and friend of the Deighton Dossier - Edward Milward-Oliver has, together with designer Brillo, created a lovely movie infographic about the film including some new insights never before shared.

Check out the moviegraphic here and share your thoughts on Twitter using the #ipcress50 hashtag.

Brillo's also produced some little postcards which can be shared on Twitter and are reproduced below.

Tell us - why does The Ipcress File stand the test of time?

Sunday, 8 March 2015

On the trail of the Funeral in Berlin ...

I was contacted this week by a correspondent who has discovered some items that are going into the Penguin archives relating to the marketing of Funeral in Berlin. We're hoping at some point to meet up in London so I can take a full set of photos of the marketing material and examine it more fully. 

It's a set of ephemera produce for booksellers and reviews to market the sale of Funeral in Berlin (in much the say way that ephemera was set out to publicise the fourth book in the series). This is extremely rare but an item I've been trying to track down for a while, as a fascinating piece of collateral associated with this third book in the series, following the standout success of the first two Harry Palmer novels.

Authenticity and a 'secret dossier' feel look to be the hallmarks of this. Has anyone else seen a copy or this or own one? These two initial photos are intriguing and leave me keen to learn more...

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Happy Birthday, Mr Deighton .....

Today is Len Deighton's 86th birthday. On behalf of readers of this blog and fans of his spy and other fiction, we wish him an enjoyable birthday with his family and many more birthdays to come.

I understand from Len he'll be celebrating with a cheesecake from his local bakery. Well deserved.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

A certain Mr L.C. Deighton makes an appearance in a new detective novel ....

Author and friend of the Deighton Dossier Mike Ripley - editor of the Getting Away with Murder column on Shotsmag, the online resource for fans of crime and thriller fiction - has paid tribute to his friend and fellow author Len Deighton in his new novel.

Mike, the author of the Angel series of detective novels and supremo behind Ostara Publishing - which is resurrecting lost thrillers and spy novels, book by book - has written the new Albert Campion novel - Mr Campion's Fox - starring the detective character created by Margery Allingham.

The first novel in this new series, Mr Campion's Farewell, was based on a fragment of a manuscript started by the author's widower, Youngman Carter, which Ripley completed to resurrect this detective.

This new novel, the second in the revamped series, Mr Campion's Fox, is a new story created by Ripley for the character.

The crime fiction in thebook takes place in the fictional Suffolk coastal village of Gapton.  Here's the summary of the plot from the book's publicity material:
'The Danish Ambassador has requested Albert Campion's help on 'a delicate family matter'. He's very concerned about his eighteen-year-old daughter, who has formed an attachment to an unsuitable young man. Recruiting his unemployed actor son, Rupert, to keep an eye on Frank Tate, the young man in question, Mr Campion notes some decidedly odd behaviour on the part of the up-and-coming photographer. 
Before he can act on the matter, however, both the Ambassador's daughter and her beau disappear without trace. Then a body is discovered in a lagoon. With appearances from all of Margery Allingham's regular characters, from Campion's former manservant Lugg, to his wife Lady Amanda Fitton and others, this witty and elegant mystery is sure to delight Allingham's many fans. The dialogue is sharp and witty, the observation keen, and the climax is thrilling and eerily atmospheric.'
In the Campion books, Albert Campion worked on and off for British Intelligence, usually just referred to as ‘Security’. The Head of Security (capital S, nothing to do with Sandyman’s Brewery...), who retired in one of the Youngman Carter books, was L. C. Corkran, known as “Elsie” from his initials “L.C.”

In Ripley's new book, as it involves East German spies, he sought a replacement “Elsie” and the thought came to him: who did he know with those initials? So, Ripley invented “Major” L.C. Deighton as the new “Elsie”. Here's an excerpt from the text:
"My name’s not Corkran, though – that would be rather incestuous – it’s Deighton, actually.’

‘Like the writer of those clever spy stories?’ Campion asked innocently.


‘Never mind.’ Campion turned to the man closer to his own age and took his proffered hand. ‘Delighted to meet you, Mr Sandyman; speaking as a grateful customer.’"
Len's initials are, of course, L.C - Leonard Cyril Deighton. Nice tribute! The book is available on Amazon here.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Heir to the throne?.....

Insufficiently posh
This review in The Guardian of the new Matthew Vaughn film Kingsman draws a line between this modern spy action movie and the spies of past decades of British cinema, including, of course, Harry Palmer.

This being The Guardian, the article is all about class - are we still obsessed by 'posh' spies, given that one of the main characters in this new movie wears Savile Row seats, speaks RP and is part of an elite?

Spy fiction on film has been the preserve of the heroic posh Brit (Harry Palmer aside), writes Stuart Jeffries, but in reality many of the UK's poshest spies have proved their worst, such as Donald McLean and of course Kim Philly.

You can read too much into one movie, of course. The main lesson from the trailer seems to be that the film (like the graphic novel) should be a lot of fun. And that's the point.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Pinterest page set up

I've now created a PINTEREST page for the Deighton Dossier, on which I'll feature some of the images from the main website and link to some other interesting images relating to Len Deighton, his works and other connected items of interest.

You'll find the page here. If you want to pin anything to it, go ahead.

Monday, 19 January 2015

How to save money on your film production .... part 1

A short anecdote from my recent lunch with Len in London.

We had discussed the production of The Ipcress File and how it was kept to budget.

He recalled that on the call sheets for each days production that the white MGB that Nigel Greene drives in the film was his own; the Jaguar that Gordon Jackson drives was his own too; the Zodiac driven by Michael Caine was owned by a ‘Mrs Moss’; and the limo in which Dr Radcliffe is driven to Marylebone Station at the beginning of the film was Alex Paal’s Bentley (Alex Paal was a Hungarian producer and former stills photographer once married to Eva Bartok, a friend of Alex Korda and of Harry Saltzman)

That's a good trick for budding producers to learn. Don't money wasted on hired ‘action vehicles’ - use the cast's or friends'.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Whole load of videos now up on the main site

I've linked to embedded YouTube videos where they are available for all the film pages on the film section of the main Deighton Dossier website. Thought it was worthwhile collating these all together on the website so that interested readers could check them out. They include:

  • A Yorkshire TV promo for Game, Set & Match
  • Ray Hawkey's title sequence for Oh! What a Lovely War
  • The trailer for The Ipcress File and opening sequence for same
  • The trailer for Billion Dollar Brain
  • A trailer for Only When I Larf, among others
Enjoy. If you know of any others which should be linked to, add them in the comments. Hope to be adding soon snippets from 'The Truth About Len Deighton' and maybe some key scenes from G, S & M.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New additions to the main Deighton Dossier website

Hawkey's SS-GB stamps
I've been busy over the Christmas period adding new information and galleries of pictures to the main Deighton Dossier website which I hope will interest readers. Do check out:

There's plenty more that's been updated and improved - hope readers find it interesting.