Monday 30 March 2009

Deighton returns to the airwaves...and the bookshelves

The 80th birthday of thriller writer Len Deighton is to be commemorated in a radio programme to be broadcast on Radio 4 on 26 May, I've just learned via the BookBrunch website. The programme is to be written and presented by Patrick Humphries. This good news for fans follows on from the news earlier in February that there is also to be a worldwide re-issue programme of Deighton's novels.

The notoriously reclusive Deighton, who turned 80 last month, talked to Humphries for two hours about his life, and a writing career stretching back to 1962 and the publication of The Ipcress File, which changed the face of spy fiction and went on to make a successful transfer to the big screen - the first and arguably best of Michael Caine's Harry Palmer outings. Contributors to the programme include food writer Henrietta Green, talking about Deighton’s Action Cook Book, which Fourth Estate will reissue in May with a new introduction, and historian Sir Max Hastings, who speaks about Deighton’s non-fiction work, such as Fighter and Blitzkrieg.

The story also suggests a TV remake of the Game, Set and Match Trilogy (not just a reissuing of the 1988 ITV series, which Deighton disliked) and a new book, The Anatomy of a Fountain Pen, which will be of a limited print run. The latter is interesting news, but all I have at the moment is an intriguing title.

More exciting, though, is the great news about Game Set and Match; it will be interesting to hear how the two compare, and also how the producers recreate cold war Berlin now that most of the wall has gone! Another factor will be the budget; will it allow for sufficient locations and CGI to recreate cold war Berlin. The timing is propitious, with November being the 20th anniversary of the fall of 'die Mauer'.

Of course, keep linking to this blog as more news arises.

Saturday 21 March 2009

The secret gourmet

This interesting restaurant review in The Evening Standard quotes Len Deighton as one of the verifiable sixties 'restaurant hounds' who were known for their love of good food an modern cuisine in the swinging sixties 'scene' in London.

Referring to the growth of Italian resturant chic in London in the sixties, the article says: "Len Deighton, in those days an illustrator, was an early customer [of La Trattoria Terazza], introduced by his agent, who organised a bill-signing facility for his client. Other artists and designers were also allowed accounts, photographers brought models, showbiz correspondents brought Hollywood stars and that sine qua non of a restaurant’s arrival, the presence of Princess Margaret, was achieved. Deighton makes the point that at the time London’s grand hotels were turning away a surplus of skilled applicants for kitchen and waiting duties who were anxious to improve their English."

Of course, one of the lesser-known (now, at least) aspects of Deighton's career is that in the sixties he was as known for his writing on food and gourmet cooking as he was for his thrillers, and was well known on the party circuit of the great and the good for his dinner parties. His Action Cook Book and his writing on French cuisine - as well as his innovative cookstrips for The Observer newspaper which were an entry point for many to the world of French cooking which, in sixties London with its Lyons Coffee Houses and its Brown Windsor Soup as the apogee of cooking, were a revelation.

Saturday 14 March 2009

Len Deighton Fan in Hammersmith Palais

Interesting little snippet from the rock and culture magazine Word.

The link here is to a photo on the magazine's website of the lock-up of Mick Jones, ertswhile guitarist with The Clash. You're challenged to find a number of things in the photograph, including..."A copy of Len Deighton's 1981 novel XPD". Good choice, that man.

Can you find it?

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!