Wednesday 6 May 2015

Further on the trail of Funeral in Berlin .....

A recent post highlighted a rare discovery of a Funeral in Berlin paperback release press kit from Penguin (posts passim).  Today I met up with Caroline Maddison, one of the trustees of the Penguin Collectors Society, who is writing an article for the society's magazine on the press junket and the impact it had on the company and the book.

The full story will be linked to here when completed, but in chatting to Caroline it's clear that Penguin effectively bet the house on the success of the paperback of Funeral in Berlin, judging by the scale of the expenditure and the enormity of the marketing programme.

Tony Godwin was appointed as fiction editor of Penguin to boost the brand, which was coming under pressure from companies like Pan. He was to invigorate Penguin - not just the covers, but the marketing too. One of this first ideas - hire two planes to take journalists, reps and booksellers over to Berlin and see the city and film being made, having been met on the tarmac by none other than Harry Palmer himself, Michael Caine.

The stunt cost the company £15,000 - a massive sum at the time - but it undoubtedly helped sales to associated the paperback with the new film and the brand already building behind Len Deighton's name on the shelves.

As well as the press kit featured already on the Deighton Dossier website, Caroline shared with me other ephemera from this whole press event which gives a guide to the push behind the book and the cachet associated with both the film and Michael Caine, at the height of the 'sixties spy thriller trend.

Check the photos out below:

A German phrase book given to the journalists

Guests were flown out in two planes from Southend Airport

The invitation sent out to booksellers and journalists

The press kit background to the film


The cover of the press kit

A crossword competition which ran in shops at the same time

A film premiere tie-in


  1. Glorious!
    I still have the original book ('Funeral...'), but, alas, no kit.
    I love the fact that the helpful phrase book (given to journalists as part of the press kit) list 'Guide' in english as 'Führer' in german, probadly as a reference to the groups 'Reiseleiter'.
    While the 'F'-word in still in use in Germany, as in 'Führerschein' (drivers license), you ONLY use it as a compound word. Stand alone use, as here, was then (and still is) strongly associated with all things Nazi themed, and carries a certain stigma.
    Can't wait to read more about it. Keep up the good, good work! It is much appreciated.

  2. Interesting to read Penguin’s marketing effort in regards to The Funeral in Berlin paperback. I am puzzled about this, as Deighton’s first book, The Ipcress File published in 1962 made into film in 1965, the former a best seller then and the latter a very successful film. Deighton was unquestionably a top novelist in the thriller genre at that time, who even Ian Fleming admired.
    The Funeral in Berlin hardback publication in 1964 was highly successful, as the Cold War Spy adventure enactment of any kind in Berlin at that time if my memory serves me right, drew considerable interest. Lecarre’s book , The spy Who Came in from the Cold published in 1963 with the divided Berlins as the setting with focus on the Wall, the foray into East Berlin etc.. and the film version of it which came out in 1965, were both a considerable success. The Alec Leamas character played by Richard Burton pushed audience into film theatres. I hasten to add there were no better social activity than going to a theatre to watch a favourite film with friends. In my humble opinion, with the news of the filming of The Funeral in Berlin at that time in 1966 in Berlin , in the print media was eagerly read in Britain and in the USA ( I was for a time in the USA then) makes even more puzzling reading about Penguin’s considerable effort in marketing this paperback. Was the money spent by Penguin necessary I wonder.