Saturday 25 February 2012

Induction of psycho-neuroses by conditioned reflex under stress ...

.... or as it's better known, IPCRESS. This year is the fiftieth anniversary of The IPCRESS File, Len Deighton's first book, and this blog will be posting some articles through the year under the theme "Ipcress at 50".

But meanwhile, an eagle-eyed blog reader Craig Arthur spotted an interesting online interview in the blog Money into Light with Norman Wanstall, the sound editor on The Ipcress File film who was also extensively involved in sound production on the early Bond films.

Wanstall clearly had a good time creating those eerie spaced out sounds to which 'Harry Palmer' is subjected to when apparently captured by enemy agent Jay in Hungary (Albania in the film):
"Of all the films I’d worked on, IPCRESS FILE, was my favourite. It was a highly stylised spy drama, brilliantly directed by Sid Furie, and a film I would love to have watched as a normal filmgoer."

Join us on Facebook ...

A new page has been created on Facebook for any readers of this blog and the main website, who want to connect together on that platform to talk about Deighton, spy fiction more generally, the Cold War or anything else relevant.

Do check it out.

Saturday 18 February 2012

Another candle on the cake...

Today is Len Deighton's 83rd birthday! On behalf of all the fans of his novels and readers of this blog, we extend a warm "congratulations" to him!

2012 is also the 50th anniversary of the publication of The IPCRESS File, Len's first novel and the story which arguably gave a brand new twist to the spy novel as Fleming's Bond books had done in the previous decade.

This blog will publish a series of posts on 'Ipcress at 50' during the year.

Friday 10 February 2012

Internet flotsam and jetsam ...

(c) Len Deighton
So far in February there have been a number of Deighton-related items of interest which I'm gathering together for readers in this post.

First up, one of Len's contemporaries and close friends Ted Dicks died recently, and Len wrote a moving tribute to his friend in The Guardian on 3 February, describing Dicks (see Len's illustration, right) as having lived 'a life crammed with many separate talents.' The Guardian also carried a full obituary for Dicks, who among many accomplishments composed the classic Bernard Cribbins song, 'Right, said Fred'.

It's also sad to report that British character actor Frederick Treves has also passed on, as reported in The Guardian obituary column. The picture with the obituary (below) reports his role as Head of the Berlin Station Frank Harrington, who plays both political ally and father figure to lead character Bernard Samson. I think that of all the main characters in the TV adaptation - criticised and subsequently pulled by Deighton after one showing - Treves's Frank is closest to what I imagined having read the books first.

(c) ITV/Rex Features
On a different media - the radio - former BBC Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer wrote an excellent review of 70 years of Desert Island Discs in the Financial Times in late January; there is a reference there to the scheduling surprise in 1995 when Bomber was broadcast over a whole day.

With 2012 representing the fiftieth anniversary of The IPCRESS File's publication (more on that in subsequent blogs), I stumbled across an interesting article in the Kensington & Chelsea Today newspaper website about a local author who's written a novel based around the lives of a group of architects. The front covers is, apparently, an homage to the Ray Hawkey book covers for Len Deighton's first novels from the 'sixties. What do you think?

Saturday 4 February 2012

A new cold front in spy fiction: a review of The Coldest City

Is the Berlin Wall still relevant to modern spy fiction?

When die Berliner Mauer was still wrapped around West Berlin like a ligature and operating as the main stage for the murderous theatre of the Cold War, it was a physical, dangerous, moody presence. This was perfect for framing taut, action-packed fiction.

Now, 22 years after its collapse, little remains of the Wall in a united Berlin. A new paradigm in global power politics exists which has few of the certainties of the Cold War. So does the Berlin Wall remain relevant to writers and readers of spy fiction any more?

One way to recapture the reality of what the Wall represented is in pictures, not words. The new black & white graphic novel The Coldest City, by New York Times-bestselling author Antony Johnston and artist Sam Hart does just that, rebuilding the Wall and the representing the doubts and absurdities of operating in a divided Berlin in frame after frame of moody, sparse images. 

I've been lucky enough to receive a preview copy of this 176-page graphic novel. The black & white illustrations by veteran artist Hart are beautiful and his frequent use of shadow and blocks of black, with little intermediate shading, helps recreate the monochrome pallor of a divided Berlin split by the Wall, running through the city like a skewer.

Johnston sets his story just at the time when the East German regime is being challenged by its people and the Wall starts to crumble - a fascinating time in the Wall's history which has only recently started to be addressed in fiction. As the world turns toward a new, open future, the old rules of the spy game must be honored one last time if all the players are to get out alive.