Monday 19 December 2016

Christmas wishes to all the website readers ....

Hours of endless waiting ahead on a cold Christmas night ....
"'Cheer up, Werner. It will soon be Christmas,' I said.
I shook the bottle, dividing the last drips of whisky between the two white plastic cups that were balanced on the car radio. I pushed the empty bottle under the seat. The smell of the whisky was strong. I must have spilled some on the heater or on the warm leather that encased the radio. I thought Werner would decline it. He wasn't a drinker and he'd had far too much already, but Berlin winter nights are cold and Werner swallowed his whisky in one gulp and coughed. Then he crushed the cup in his big muscular hands and sorted through the bent and broken pieces so that he could fit them all into the ashtray. Werner's wife Zena was obsessionally tidy and this was her car."
Whether you're on a stake-out or, more likely, drinking (or not!) at home with your kith and kin, the Deighton Dossier wishes its readers and contributors good wishes for this Yuletide and good hope for a book-filled, interesting 2017.
Thanks for visiting this blog, the main website, the Twitter and Facebook pages and contributing to lively discussion.

Sunday 18 December 2016

New trial website now up ....

After much shenanigans and failed uploads, I'm now in a position to upload the new design for the Deighton Dossier website.

The new design supports:

  • Easier access from mobiles and tablets, alongside desktop PCs, as it's relational to the screen size now
  • Makes it easier to support galleries and video embedding
  • Has a cleaner overall look and feel to make working through the site easier
  • Makes it easier to link to other related social media through the site
I hope readers like it.

It's still a work in progress. For example, although there is a menu item for blog, I cannot get that to work right now so that will come out temporarily soon.

However, I'd welcome your feedback.

Well, have you ....?

Spotted this week in Waterstone's at London Wall in the City:

I'm sure that next Spring, when the TV series begins on BBC TV, then a lot of people who've been 'meaning to' read this Deighton classic will spot the paperback edition and think, why not now?

Thursday 8 December 2016

Bag a Bit of Bagley ...

Sorry for the slow posting recently on this blog ... usual reasons of work etc.

However, I thought I should do a quick shout out to the sterling work of fellow Blogger and spy thriller fan Phil Eastwood who runs the Desmond Bagley Running Blind website.

Checking on it recently I also took the opportunity to read his new(ish) blog covering the works of UK-thriller writer Bagley more extensively, beyond the single book covered in his main website.

It's definitely worth checking out that he's added a series of podcasts by his friend and fellow Bagley-ite Nigel Alefounder, who runs a Bagley fansite. They're pretty interesting - I finished a couple of months ago my copy of Running Blind, having not read it before, and it's a great story.

The podcasts look in some detail at all aspects of Bagley's life; others look at the research techniques employed (like Deighton famously did) by Bagley to provide real verisimilitude to his stories; and a look at the silver screen adaptations of Bagley's works. Worth checking them out; they're on iTunes on or the site linked to above.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

New video surfaces - Thames TV interview Deighton ...

Thanks to Deighton Dossier Facebook reader Jack Les Camela, a new video has surfaced on YouTube, showing an interview by Thames TV's Trevor Hyatt on the Afternoon Plus show.

Watch it here:

It's a good 25 minute long. As it's from 1983, it was part of the publicity drive for Berlin Game.

What we learn from it:

  • Len Deighton doesn't read his books again once they're published
  • The low budget of The Ipcress File made it a good film
  • He's not at all resentful of the fact he's never won the Booker Prize!

Saturday 8 October 2016

Deighton near the top of the charts, again

Some good news for readers of quality spy and thriller fiction.

Len Deighton's SS-GB has climbed to the top 10 of paperback sales in the UK, according to The Times.

My theory is that much of this is down to the Waterstone's push (see stories below) to its customers, making the book thriller of the month for September. Perhaps some of it's down to people curious about the upcoming BBC series?

Whatever it was, for fans of Deighton and this book in particular, it just goes to show that quality is persistent and rarely fades totally from view.

Thursday 6 October 2016

Worth a read - who is the ... 'anti-Bond'

A new article up this week on the Literary 007 blog looking at the literary legacy of James Bond writer Ian Fleming.

This two-page article by writer David Craggs asks the question: what was the impact of James Bond? Much like matter has anti-matter, his contention is that the creation of Bond enabled the creation of a number of 'anti-Bonds', including - famously - the unnamed spy created by Len Deighton.

Share your views in the comments below.

Tuesday 13 September 2016

SS-GB - Waterstone's 'crime' thriller of the month for September

As this image shows, Waterstone's is making a big push for the new paperback edition of SS-GB as their 'thriller' of the month (although this store got the location wrong, and put it in crime).

I was asked to write a short introductory piece about the book, and its link to Len's other 'historical' novels, for the Waterstone's customer e-update, which went out recently. They only used a short quote from it, so I'm sharing the full text below.

The book is likely to sell well again next year, when the BBC series is launched, in the early spring season on BBC 1. Front cover looks stunning on this new edition.

Read the full article below.

Sunday 4 September 2016

New Q&A .... the Cold War


Len's kindly agreed to do a Q&A interview via email with the Deighton Dossier, as he's done with us a number of times before.

I've suggested we do questions around a broad theme, and that theme is THE COLD WAR.

So, suggest questions either on the Facebook page or here on the blog; I'll collate the best and liaise with Len.

What do you want to ask one of the UK's premier spy thriller authors about the Cold War, and his writing?

I've now had a number of suggestions from readers for questions, and a Q - to which he'll provide the As - has gone to Mr Deighton. Let's see what his replies tell us.

Website back up

The main Deighton Dossier website is back up online.

I have experienced some issues with the site building software, which is no longer supported (Freeway 7), which has meant some of the existing galleries which were integrated into the site aren't available for now - not sure why.

I am working on a completely new website design over coming weeks which will replace this existing site.

Friday 2 September 2016

Website down - temporarily

The main Deighton Dossier website is currently out of action due to servicing issues and some resourcing problems, which I'm aiming to solve. My fault, essentially, moving some resource files.

Hope it's back up soon.

Sunday 14 August 2016

A serendipitous discovery ....

The undiscovered foreword
One of the nice things about creating and running the Deighton Dossier website and blog is the opportunity to communicate with readers and collectors of Len's works from around the globe. And every so often I'm grateful to those readers for highlighting something that I am not aware of.

Fellow collector 'Raki' recently purchased a copy of a book RAF Bomber Command in fact and fiction, by Jonathan Falconer. This 1996 book is not simply a history of the unit, but rather an examination of how its operations and legacy have been covered in the media, by historians and in popular fiction. Naturally, it references Deighton's Bomber book as one such example.

The book is fascinating enough in itself, but it includes a three-page foreword by Len. This was news to me; through many years of collecting, writing about and documenting works by and referencing Len Deighton, I hadn't come across this book at all. But there it was. Just goes to show how any collection, or any website, is never truly 'complete' because there's always more to find and document.

Serendipitous finds like this book are one of the pleasures of collecting any author's work, and I'm pleased that it came about through a connection made through this website. I'm always keen to hear from collectors who find really unusual items, and learn about the stories behind the finds, and would be happy to feature them on this blog!

Thursday 4 August 2016

Samson, not Palmer, wins out according to the Daily Telegraph

In last weekend's  (30 July) Daily Telegraph, journalist Jake Kerridge picks out his top twenty greatest spy novels of all time.

As is always the case with lists, it's a source of debate and discussion rather than a definitive, unchallengeable statement of fact. However, he includes some surprising inclusions as well as obvious choices.

Pleasingly, Deighton's contribution to the genre is acknowledged, but not in the way you might think. Rather than plumping for one of the five unnamed spy novels (i.e. Harry Palmer), Kerridge selects Berlin Game, and here I agree with him. If I had to make a choice, the scale of this book - which, he writes, "is a feast of plotting which out-le-Carré's-le-Carré" - makes it the superior choice, certainly in comparison to the other great spy novels on the list. Just like 83.2% of all Berlin Game reviews, Kerridge makes reference to the "sardonic and disillusioned" character of spy Bernard Samson as one of the reasons for the books inclusion.

Interestingly, Kerridge, when discussing Berlin Game, makes reference to an old story/rumour from about eight years ago that director Quentin Tarantino was going to make a film of the series. This was always only a throwaway remark from the director in one interview, but it seems to have gained traction over time.

Pointing towards the lack of detailed research which can often be shown in articles like this, Kerridge makes no reference to the recent rights sale to Clerkenwell Films of the rights to Berlin Game and the other eight novels in the series. That may be because since the announcement two years ago, and to the frustration of readers, there's been no smoke arising from camp Clerkenwell about when they're going to actually get around to filming the bloomin' thing.

What other novels could, or should, be included?

Thursday 23 June 2016

SS-GB transmission confirmed States-side

Interesting short news snippet in the Hollywood Reporter of interest to Len Deighton readers on the other side of the Atlantic from the UK.

It reports that broadcast and film mogul Harvey Weinstein's television company, Weinstein Television, has secured the US rights to distribute and present SS:GB, which is due to air as one of the BBC's summer blockbusters this year.

Interesting quote from Weinstein: "With Philipp Kadelbach's incredible depiction of the story, there's room for another series."

Presumably, that would require another script from Purvis and Wade or ... who knows ... another SS-GB book? We can only speculate!

Monday 20 June 2016

Mind the Gap ....

In response to a couple of enquiring emails from Deighton Dossier blog and website readers ....

Empty pages can be hard to fill, sometimes
Yes, posting up on the Deighton Dossier website and blog by me in the past few months has been slow .... very slow.

I can only apologise, particularly if it's deprived readers of the opportunity to share thoughts on Len Deighton and his numerous works.

My fault. I have been caught up with other things in my life related to work and suchlike that have demanded my attention, and still do. Having posted vociferously for the past eight years on the blog, hopefully readers will accept the (I hope temporary) slowing down of postings. There's still plenty that could be written about and news, as it arrives - such as the impending showing of SS-GB on BBC TV - will be covered.

However, if any readers have ideas of contributions/post they'd like to make and put up on the blog, website, do get in touch - there are plenty of interesting perspectives to hear anew on Len's works, which I haven't touched upon yet.

While I am caretaker of this website and blog, it should be a resource for the loyal, if small, online community of Len Deighton readers and collectors and I'm happy to support that in any way appropriate.

Thanks for your understanding!

Wednesday 4 May 2016

The technology of writing ...

Where's the USB port?
Technology has been something that's featured in many books written by Len Deighton, not least of course the computer 'brain' that was at the heart of General Widwinter's grand scheme to invade the USSR in Billion Dollar Brain.

While that book was written on a contemporary type-writer, Deighton's 1970 novel Bomber was the first novel fully written on the, then, new-fangled word-processor. This fact is confirmed in a new book by Matthew Kirschenbaum, Track Change: A Literary History of Word Processing. This book has just been released and a nice review can be found here on the New Republic website.

The author confirms that Bomber claims the title of first word-processed book, written by Deighton on an IBM MT/ST machine so large that he had to have the windows taken out of his south London home to get the machine into his office - compare that now of course with the size of the average tablet computer! The picture to the right shows said machine!

Tuesday 12 April 2016

The strange story of the submerged spy film ....

Unlike Funeral in Berlin, Spy Story barely surfaced in the
public's imagination
I've just purchased a DVD from eBay.

Nothing unusual in that. But what I bought was described by the seller as a "super super rare collectable."

This was, the seller said, "the only copy I've seen in 25 years." He exaggerates rather, but the point is valid.

It was a DVD copy - not even an original - of the film adaptation of Len Deighton's Spy Story. Released in 1976, the film barely troubled the film charts and went into DVD oblivion, never being commercially released.

The Australian seller - from whom I also purchased the Game, Set and Match TV series, similarly "super rare" - made a point in saying the film's copyright was never renewed, so it is out of Copyright control and can be copied.

[Separately, I have also, in recent years, purchased a Betamax copy of said film. I don't own a Betamax player so the only reason for purchasing is it's sheer rarity, and oddness.]

At a time when fans of Len Deighton's fiction can look forward to SS-GB later this year, and an adaption of all nine volumes of the Bernard Samson books by Clerkenwell Films (when they can pull their finger out) as well as a new film based on Bomber, I thought about this film based on Len's books which rather disappeared beneath the surface, and wondered why.

Spy Story is, in the end, not unlike 1988's Game, Set and Match. Both adaptations had fantastic source material to work but through odd casting choices never really struck home; both also then disappeared from the face of the cinematic earth, only to appear periodically on pirate DVDs.

I summarise the film's plot on the main Deighton Dossier website, here.

Saturday 19 March 2016

Just like the denouement in Spy Story - sub crashes through the arctic ice ...

This is a fascinating video released by the US Navy of one if its submarines, the USS Hartford, emerging from underneath the flat Arctic ice.

The Deighton connection of course is that this sort of manoeuvre is exactly that which happens at the end of Spy Story, although in the case of the book it's a Soviet underwater submarine, rather than a US one.

In the book, Patrick Armstrong is a specialist in Soviet nuclear submarine tactics, employed at the Studies Centre in London. It's the book which has always created discussion among readers, as to whether it's one of the 'spy with no name' original series written by Deighton.

There are clues that suggest he might be the same man: he meets Dawlish with whom he worked previously. Dawlish says: "New name, new job, the past gone forever...But you can't wipe the slate clean. You can't forget half your life." The character is described as in his late thirties.

However, in the introduction to the Jubilee edition, Deighton confirms that: "Patrick Armstrong is not the man from The Ipcress File, although he's obviously a close relative."

The story involves possible scenarios of Soviet agression involving their Arctic submarine fleet and the deliberate discrediting of a Soviet submarine commander. Colonel Stok, Soviet colonel from the first Harry Palmer books, makes a reappearance, which has no doubt contributed to the believe that Patrick Armstrong 'is' Harry Palmer.

The final scene plays out on the Arctic ice, when the planned mission does not turn out as everyone on the US and UK sides was hoping. The 1976 film of the story - not altogether one of the best adaptations of Deighton's works - includes this famous surfacing scene, and its reproduction in the film (check out the images on this page) aren't totally unlike the images scene in the US video. Amazing to see how the sub's conning tower in the video breaks through without disturbing the integrity of the ice cap.

Thursday 18 February 2016

Many Happy Returns to Len ....

Today is Len Deighton's 87th birthday. On behalf of all the readers of this blog, and readers around the world who still enjoy all his works, I say a heart "Happy Birthday" to Len and wish him well.

Though in retirement, Len's keeping very busy and still writing every day and enjoying life. Given Len's prolific output these last 50 years and more, that happy retirement is well deserved.

Friday 12 February 2016

"Thrilling tale of Nasty Nazis" ....

... is a very Daily Mail headline sub-editor sort of way to say that they think SS-GB is going to be quite good!

There's a nice piece in today's Daily Mail today about upcoming TV dramas this year, and it includes a short review of SS-GB, the Sid Gentle Films production of Deighton's great alternative history novels about Douglas Archer, London detective working for the SS in a Nazi-occupied Britain.

The preview highlights the Bond pedigree of the writers behind the script, Purvis and Wade. Expect more 'this summer's highlights' articles to come in coming months, as we look forward to the first Deighton TV adaptation since 1988's Granada TV production of Game, Set and Match.

Thursday 21 January 2016

There's a bloody Spitfire in the Mall ....

No royals were harmed in the production of this series
Ah. It's only a prop from the exterior filming associated with the Sid Gentle Films production of SS-GB, which is evidently making good progress and generating a little bit of good PR for the series. This article in a recent Daily Mail shows extras dressed as German troops and a Spitfire which has landed on the Mall. It has a new quote from the actor playing Douglas Archer, Sam Riley:
"Archer is a compelling and complex character. He is a good guy struggling to reconcile his job as a policeman within the repressive Nazi machine"

Saturday 2 January 2016

The Ipcress File is seventh best spy movie of all time, say spooks ....

"Only seventh? Who was sixth?"
That's according to a Channel 4 programme from this evening - available online for a limited time here - which identified the top ten spy movies of all time. That's quite a challenge.

Rather than using a public vote - which, I suspect, would have ended up with Bond 1-10 - Channel 4 instead talked to real-life former CIA, MI-5 and MI-6 and Stasi agents to draw on their experiences to determine which film was not just the best, but also the most accurate in portraying the world of espionage.

The Ipcress File came in as the seventh best spy film of all time, which seems a fair result. The programme highlighted not just the contrasting reality in the film as compared with its contemporary, the Bond series, but also the paranoia of the 'sixties which had led spy agencies to look into new ways to secure information. A former British soldier was interviewed. Unknown to him in the sixties, he was a guinea pig in experiments at Porton Down to try out LSD as a new type of 'truth serum' for interrogations. Links are drawn between these experiments and the brain-washing scenes Harry Palmer suffers.

Very pleasing to see that The Lives of Others was selected as the fourth best movie - I'd have put it at number one. That place went to the recent adaption of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.