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].



  1. 'Across the bed lay a body... smothered in raw egg' It's been a few years since I read Billion Dollar Brain, and I don't remember this, but it strikes me that this pullquote is both reminiscent of the famous scene in the Bond film Goldfinger, and simultaneously completely parodic in that context. No doubt The Express were hoping for the former, but I wonder if Len Deighton wasn't intending the latter.

  2. I do not have the book, hence I used the Google, to look for this quoted sentence, and this is what I got from chapter2: "“His mouth was open enough to reveal his uneven upper teeth and from it blood had run along his nose and into his eyes, His body was sprawled across the unmade bed with one shoe trapped in the bed-head, which prevented him sliding to the Boor. Kaarna was fully dressed. His polka-dot bow tie was twisted up under his collar and his white nylon laboratory coat was smothered in raw egg, still slimy and fresh”

    He was shot obviously, and that makes it different from the the famous scene In Goldfinger.