Saturday, 19 March 2016

Just like the denouement in Spy Story - sub crashes through the arctic ice ...

This is a fascinating video released by the US Navy of one if its submarines, the USS Hartford, emerging from underneath the flat Arctic ice.

The Deighton connection of course is that this sort of manoeuvre is exactly that which happens at the end of Spy Story, although in the case of the book it's a Soviet underwater submarine, rather than a US one.

In the book, Patrick Armstrong is a specialist in Soviet nuclear submarine tactics, employed at the Studies Centre in London. It's the book which has always created discussion among readers, as to whether it's one of the 'spy with no name' original series written by Deighton.

There are clues that suggest he might be the same man: he meets Dawlish with whom he worked previously. Dawlish says: "New name, new job, the past gone forever...But you can't wipe the slate clean. You can't forget half your life." The character is described as in his late thirties.

However, in the introduction to the Jubilee edition, Deighton confirms that: "Patrick Armstrong is not the man from The Ipcress File, although he's obviously a close relative."

The story involves possible scenarios of Soviet agression involving their Arctic submarine fleet and the deliberate discrediting of a Soviet submarine commander. Colonel Stok, Soviet colonel from the first Harry Palmer books, makes a reappearance, which has no doubt contributed to the believe that Patrick Armstrong 'is' Harry Palmer.

The final scene plays out on the Arctic ice, when the planned mission does not turn out as everyone on the US and UK sides was hoping. The 1976 film of the story - not altogether one of the best adaptations of Deighton's works - includes this famous surfacing scene, and its reproduction in the film (check out the images on this page) aren't totally unlike the images scene in the US video. Amazing to see how the sub's conning tower in the video breaks through without disturbing the integrity of the ice cap.

1 comment:

  1. This was a great return to espionage for Len Deighton and for me the real star was not the sub but the Studies centre with its computer system running simulations of various cold war scenarios. (It was here, although I'd forgotten it, that mention of simulating the Battle of Britain with Luftwaffe 109s with drop tanks gets a mention.)

    Of course, the kind of wargame simulation that was possible in 1973 would have made for pretty dull stuff visually. Remade today we'd get a real-time graphic depiction to add a few fireworks to the story. It would be another ten years before the movie War Games introduced the idea to the public consciousness.

    Full marks to Len for bringing wargaming and simulation into the genre long before the PC and the game console appeared.