Thursday 24 October 2013

There's a lot of good books to choose from ….

An interesting article here in The Guardian online, posting what the author DJ Taylor posts as his top-ten counter-factual novels of all time.

With only ten, you've got to make choices, and some of them I agree with - Robert Harris' Fatherland is excellent, read it years ago; CJ Sansom's Dominion is pretty good, and I read it earlier this year. Both, of course, about an alternative fictional world in which the Nazis in Germany are triumphant, or near enough, in World War Two.

There are, shall we say, obvious omissions in my opinion!

Monday 14 October 2013

Archive round-up (2) - back when magazines were king....

In lieu of any significant news at the moment (that I can report at least) on Len's body of work, I've been looking through my collection of ephemera and magazine articles to bring to readers some items that add a little colour and background context to Len's work as both an author and, pre-1962, as an illustrator and artist.

I've collected over the years many magazines with articles about Len and pieces by him. It's always fun to flick through these magazines because you get a real sense of how people lived in that era, and the almost benign nature of the marketing and consumer world from the adverts:

  • Men's fashions were more about "knitted outerwear" than David Beckham in his underwear
  • The word "gay" was used in a Midland Bank advert to describe a "gay and cheerful girl" for whom a gift cheque is the most marvellous gift
  • Car adverts that were selling British car marques still made in Britain - the Triumph Spitfire, anyone
  • Rothman's King Size could still be advertised as "king size flavour that really satisfies"
  • Radio Rental Hi-Vantage Colour TVs could be rented for just 25 shillings a week
Also what's clear is the quality of the journalism and the investment editors and writers made in serious, extensive articles the likes of which are now rarely seen outside of specialist titles. Lilliput, a "man's magazine' from the 1950 (sans nudity and pull-outs - this was the 'fifties), contains wonderfully erudite and expansive articles on the likes of 'The Russians on Holiday' and 'A Psychiatrist on Psychiatrists'. Lilliput went out of business in the 'sixties, a victim perhaps of a changing trend in magazine readership as the youth audience was targeted more?

In August 1958, Len Deighton was still operating as a much in-demand freelance illustrator, and below is reproduced his illustration from an advertisement (more like advertorial) entitled 'The Secret of the Cellar', selling the wares of B. Seppelt & Sons, Cannon Street:

What went for "men's magazines" in the 'fifties
Moyston Claret at 8 shillings? Bargain!

The Sunday Times magazine is still going. It was a pioneering magazine in the 'sixties - the first sold with the Sunday Papers, providing a source for more in-depth journalism and - literally - colour. In the November 1969 edition of the magazine, writer Bernard Shaw (and photo journalist Davis Steen) - as part of a special feature on careers and work - talks to a range of famous Britons about the influence their teachers had on their lives. Alongside author Margaret Drabble, journalist Angus McGill and actor/director Bryan Forbes giving their experiences of influential teachers, Len shares his thoughts about being a student at St Martin's School of Art and the influence of lecturer Henry Collins:
"His method was to talk about a design problem in such a way that you realised there were a dozen or more ways of solving it"
Len talks about his time at St Martin's School of Art
Len Deighton and Henry Collins

Thursday 3 October 2013

Tom Clancy ... mission sadly over

The late Tom Clancy
Lots of media reaction in the last couple of days to the death of novelist Tom Clancy, often presented as the world's most popular thriller writer and the creator of the techno-thriller genre. The New Statesman has a nice profile of the author, who died this week aged 66. The BBC also has a nice summary of his career, highlighting the Jack Ryan character who, like Bond and other agents, made a seamless transition to the silver screen in films such as Hunt for Red October and The Sum of All Fears.

There's a good Guardian piece today evaluating his five most important stories.

His books are well-written and popular - a term that's often used by critics to denigrate the worth of an author, but in Clancy's case, it was true - his books were tremendously popular as they offered readers a rip-roaring story, presented fantastic detail about the mechanics of spying and military strategy, and had great characters to boot.

Be interested to hear readers' views of the the author.