Friday 31 May 2013

The Americans are coming .....!

How about a bit of Cold War nostalgia on TV? Forgotten what things were like when two superpowers ruled the world? Then maybe new drama The Americans (co-produced by Fox TV) will bring back some memories.

This is debuting in the UK on the ITV network tomorrow evening. The story centres on an pair of Soviet spies living as a loving American family in Suburbia at the time of the Reagan election, whose cover is potentially blown by the arrival of an FBI agent in the area. Sounds fascinating, and I'm loving the ident for the drama (see picture) drawing on the classical design of sixties and seventies era Soviet propaganda posters.

Given the recent announcement of plans to film all nine of the Game, Set & Match books, is this the start of a period of Cold War nostalgia from programme planners? I'll be interested to see the results!

If any readers in the States have already seen it, what's the assessment?

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Competition - win a copy of a spy thriller classic - Tightrope

Fancy a chance to win a copy of a somewhat forgotten but now revived espionage thriller? If so, read on.

Resurrecting out-of-print classics of British thriller and espionage fiction is the job of Mike Ripley, author and series editor behind Ostara Publishing's "Top Notch Thrillers" series of paperbacks. Each title is selected not just for its plot or sense of adventure but the for distinctiveness and sheer quality of its writing. Mike's kindly donated some books to the Deighton Dossier and it's my pleasure to give away a brand new copy free.

Supporting the dissemination of good thriller and espionage writing should be one of the goals of any member of the C.O.B.R.A.S. community, and I'm pleased to do so again, having last year held a similar competition where the prize was The Pass Beyond Kashmir by Berkley Mather.

This time, the competition gives Deighton Dossier readers a chance to win a copy of Tightrope, by Anthony Melville-Ross.

It's got the lot. Bombs. Action. Agents. Conspiracies. Terrorists. The plot concerns a global plot holding the UK to ransom, with the "Department" of agent Al Trelawney under attack. The enemy turns out to be The Standard Bearer, a shadowy global organisation with bases all around the world. With the spies seemingly being spied on, smoking out the truth behind their agenda proves a tough ask for agent Trelawney. This being a rip-roaring thriller, the way he gets to grips with the threat and seeks its cause will keep the readers page-turning all evening. It's an easy read - the text flows well, the narrative is easy on the ear all the time and the plot is sufficient convoluted and twisted to keep the reader guessing throughout each chapter. Just over 200 pages, so definitely a weekend reader rather than a lifestyle choice.

Melville-Ross, who died in 1993, wrote only six novels. These he published between 1978 and 1985, drew on his experiences as a sub- mariner in the Second World War, in which he was awarded the DSC. He was, as many good espionage writers seem to be, also a Cold Warrior and former Secret Service officer. So, he wrote about what he knew! He's been compared Alastair Maclean and Desmond Bagley in style!

To win this copy - which I will make open to readers in Europe and North America only (to keep postage costs within reason), answer this question:

Name the famous French tightrope walker who crossed Niagara Falls many times in the 19th century

Closing date for entries: 15 June 2013
Entries via email: deightondossier [at] me [dot] com

Editor's decision is final. No correspondence will be entered into. Winner notified by email.



Competition winner: Lyndsay Williams, who has been notified.

The correct answer: Charles Blondin.

Thanks to all who entered. Do think about purchasing the book anyway; it's a good read, as are the others in the catalogue.

Monday 20 May 2013

From the bookshelf to the newsstand - the serialisation of Billion Dollar Brain

The serialisation of blockbuster books in daily and Sunday newspapers is a long-standing phenomenon in the publishing world. When Len Deighton's Billion Dollar Brain was published in 1966, it followed in the footsteps of The Ipcress File in being serialised in the Evening Standard in compressed versions over a series of weeks post publication in 1962.

Thanks - again - to regular blog correspondent "Pilgrim" from Iceland, who's been busy scouting through the archives of the Daily Express - I've reproduced below the first two pages of the ten-part compressed serialisation of Billion Dollar Brain in that paper, which started on 28 March 1966. Seeing the text of the book laid out in the traditional newspaper eight column format is certainly unfamiliar; it did mean that the book could be serialised (in an edited form) over a fortnight. Edward Milward-Oliver informs me that preceding this serialisation, there was an interview with Len by Peter Grosvenor, as a sort of curtain-raiser!

There are two fascinating aspects to this archived story: the excellent line illustrations of artist Richard Rosser and designer Robb (clearly inspired by the original cover), and the quote from Len, referencing his focus on detail in his research in his notebook which, subsequently, was reproduced in miniature form for a publicity push at publishers by the author and which can be seen here on the main Deighton Dossier website.

"Pilgrim" has shared numerous fascinating articles from newspaper archives with me, and I'll reproduce them up here as an when I can. Enjoy.

[Corrected thanks to information from Edward Milward-Oliver].