Sunday 17 May 2015

Not an app, but a lagniappe .....

A mysterious lagniappe

I've recently purchased a US first edition of XPD, Len Deighton's 1981 novel which, following in the SS-GB style of alternative history builds a story around a fictitious meeting between Churchill and Hitler early in the war, the discovery of papers of which must be prevented at all costs by the hero of the story, agent Boyd Stuart.

The story itself is good but what's interesting about the US first edition is this lagniappe - or laid-in gift, often used by booksellers and publishers - of a postcard of the German Hindenburg airship, which frequently made the transatlantic trip between Germany and New Jersey, USA.

It's an interesting card in and of itself, and on the back contains the simple message: 'From: Len Deighton". But why is it there and what marketing purpose did it have?

Well, I've recently had clarification from James Pepper, the US antiquarian bookseller and friend of Len Deighton, who advised:
"The original of the postcard is in my personal collection, and for fun and in friendship, knowing that Len was keenly interested in that period of Germany and in airships, I had my printer in the 1980s make an exact facsimile of the front of the postcard, and then had the verso blank except for Len's name. I presented Len with a whole box of them as a gift and he was delighted with them. Since back then Len had especially tiny handwriting, I told him he could use them to write notes to fans or friends, or give them away to people. I see that they have appeared out into the world, so perhaps Len gave some to his publisher or the publisher’s publicist and they got distributed that way."
This lagniappe has become much sought after and reasonably rare, much like other ephemera associated with Len Deighton's works.


  1. It should have been in the Yesterday's Spy novel. Someone used it as a book mark in XPD and didn't return it after reading.



  2. Richard, thanks for the comment - this might be right if there were only one example, but over the years I have seen for sale from various book dealers copies of the book with the laid-in card, so it seems to have been related to a number of copies. Who knows!