Monday 30 January 2012

Straight out of the Ark ....

Deighton's cover for Ark 10
The last post on Deighton's cover art elicited not only some helpful emails but also a note from blog reader Caspar referencing the fantastic early illustrations Len produced for Ark magazine and expressing a desire to see someone dig them out and post them up. Well, never let it be said the Deighton Dossier doesn't listen to its readers!

Ark was - is - the in-house magazine for the Royal College of Art, produced by students as both a proving ground and showcase for the burgeoning British talents emerging in illustration, graphic design and production. Not only Deighton but contemporaries like friend and future cover designer Ray Hawkey, photographer Gordon Moore and designer Alan Fletcher were among the many students whose talents first became evident in Ark.

This explosion of British design talent - in contrast to the rather dull, everyday life of the fifties, a decade very much waiting for the sixties to arrive - is captured brilliantly in a book called Burning the Box of Beautiful Things by Alex Seago, which charts the "heady times" of the fifties and sixties in the UK's design scene as the postmodern moved from fringe to mainstream and conventional ideas about art and illustration were challenged the neo-Romantic, neo-Victorian sensibilities of the art establishment which students like David Hockney, Patrick Caulfield and Allen Jones railed against.

Thursday 19 January 2012

A cover story - tracking down Deighton's designs: can you help?

'The cover should bring a subtle and intimate promise of what the writer has contrived:
not a display of incoherent pyrotechnics' - Len Deighton

Len's cover for Free Love and Heavenly Sinners, 1956
As readers of this blog will know, before he became an internationally-renowned thriller writer and historian Len Deighton was a designer and illustrator during one of the purple patches of 20th Century British design during the fifties and early sixties.

Many of his designs are well known, but even Len himself isn't sure exactly how many book cover designs he produced. I've been in communication with Edward Milward-Oliver - author of The Len Deighton Companion - on the subject of Len's cover designs, which he's currently researching. While we think we have the definitive list of cover illustrations, there just might be more out there that neither of us is aware of. Indeed, I've received emails from blog readers on this very subject, so the definitive answer is, perhaps, still to be had.

Therefore, I thought I'd use the Deighton Dossier to both share a great collection of the known covers Len has produced, and crowd source the question:

Do you know of any 'missing' Len Deighton covers out there?

Find out more below...

Monday 2 January 2012

Board already? The curious case of The Ipcress File game

About now in households across the UK and beyond, a multiplicity of board games like Monopoly or Cluedo - purchased as Christmas gifts and played, sometimes reluctantly, on Boxing Day - are being put back on the top of the cupboard, to be played again only occasionally on future Boxing Days if the TV is no good.

In this electronic age, board games have become something of an anachronism. When a world of immersive 3D fun is available on the PlayStation or Wii, why resort to pushing a plastic character around a board?

The answer was always using your imagination and interacting and having fun with others in a way you cannot with electronic gaming. Until perhaps the 'nineties or thereabouts, when a character in a book, TV series or film, or the film/book itself was a hit, it was often made into a board game. In the marketing parlance, such a 'tie-in' was produced to maximise revenue for the rights holder and create a lucrative commercial bond with fans of a particular character or series.

I was prompted to blog about board games having come across recently - via eBay - a copy of The IPCRESS File board game, made by Milton Bradley.

The Harry Palmer character is not the only espionage fiction character to have his own board game. A little research shows that in the past, the board game's proved a popular route to market for some major characters in spy fiction, and indeed about the Cold War and spying in general.

And one can see why: the best board games encourage players to be tactical, to keep secrets, to bluff their opponents, to take on missions, to make (metaphorical) threats and, ultimately, to come out on top. The Cold War in cardboard.