Thursday 23 December 2021

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to Deighton Dossier readers

'"Cheer up, Werner. It will soon be Christmas," I said.'

Bernard Samson to Werner Volkmann, first line, Chapter 1, Mexico Set

Like Bernie and Werner in Werner's Audi in freezing West Berlin, we're all waiting for Christmas.

So it's an appropriate time to wish all readers of this blog - plus visitors to the main Deighton Dossier website or the Facebook group - Yuletide wishes. While blog posting this year has been rather light, on the Facebook group particularly there's still been plenty of good discussions among collectors and readers of Deighton's books.

And early in 2022 for viewers in the UK - and certainly later on in the US and likely other TV markets - we'll get to see another of Deighton's spy creations - 'Harry Palmer' (as he became) - who will be seen played by Joe Cole in the new ITV drama series The Ipcress File, broadcast 33 years after the last TV series (also on ITV) featuring Bernard Samson, Game, Set & Match.

Hopefully, the new series will bring renewed interest in the books, the character and, of course, the author.


  1. The ITV Press Centre gave details about this 6-part young Harry Palmer TV appearance:

    What is nonsensical is suggestion about ‘working class spy’, which was not relevant ( with respect to Deighton) in 1962 the Iprcess File novel, and later the film. What was relevant, and what made this novel highly readable was at a time of action-packed James Bond novels and films, this was a welcome anti-Bond distraction. Even in 1960s, the term ‘working class’ was only used by Labour party propaganda and yes, the trade unions. 1960S Britain was different from pre-WWII Britain, as the ‘landed gentry’ was disappearing fast. A new generation of Brits was emerging fast.

    Talking about ’working class ‘spy in 2021 sounds so bizarre, as not even Keir Starmer the |Labour leader mentions the term ‘working class’, as he knows well that every one these days, earns livelihood by working, even the rich hedge fund managers and Facebook Zuckerberg!

    Anyway, the suggested story line: “Harry’s links to the man suspected of kidnapping a missing British nuclear scientist result in him being conscripted for a dangerous undercover mission that takes him from the Beatles’ London to the Berlin Wall, from the back alleys of Beirut to the white hot sand of a Nuclear Atoll in the Pacific.”. Interesting, but would it capture the attention of young watchers of Marvel films and still strong attraction of action-packed James Bond new film?

    Although the original Ipcress File theme, and the Harry Palmer character were set in 1960s, it should not prevent creating a young Harry Palmer who deals with today’s international problems( as the latest Bond film touches on), of which there are many, and which can lead to many 6-part TV series. Fleming created Bond in the context of 1950s world, but the Bond Franchise, has made it relevant to current decade. If this is not done, the Altitude Media Group, will end up in the production of one-off 6-part young Palmer presence.

    Finally, when I read in the papers those days that Deighton ‘s new novel of Harry Palmer, titled: ‘The Billion Dollar Brain’, I was puzzled about the distraction from the Berlin cold war context. As some one interested in computers for my living as a software/hardware engineer, the multi-computer model of a supercomputer was decades away, and that the Cray machine, a monolith machine was coming up as a supercomputer. In my humble opinion, not following what Harry Palmer was good at-in the Berlin and Cold War Europe setting, Deighton totally missed the momentum. Harry Palmer film franchise would have been irresistible then if Deighton had stuck to Cold War Berlin. The resurrection of the Cold War theme in Bernard Samson series in 1980s was too late. That, coupled with the mergence of thriller writers like Frederick Forsyth and Robert Ludlum in 1970s, effectively shrank the Deighton readership by the time Bernard Samson series appeared.

  2. Correction: 'Billion Dollar Brain'

  3. Having said the above, one is tempted to ask the basic question: Why Young Harry Palmer?
    If this is meant to attract the younger viewers, then the Cold War setting is definitely a turn off, unless it involves locations in Germany, and actions involving these locations.

    For the younger generation, it is Marvel movies or NCIS series with some actions and intrigue.

    Hope there will be no more digging of more Ipcress File so called unexplored areas, as the 1960s film was about right in terms of its content. Frederick Forsyth for example, thought, the film versions of his novels did not do justice to his novels, and hence supervised the film script of his novel: The Fourth Protocol ,and this film became a massive flop!

    Some one who grew up in 1950s and 1960s, and went to USA for studies and work later, it was clear to me, that only Kennedy was interested in the Cold War setting of Berlins, as he having failed to remove Castro, wanted to engage the Soviets else where. His: ‘Ich Bin Ein Berliner’speech near the Wall, was cathartic for himself, more than anything to mean to the West Berliners. His successor Johnson was busy tackling the escalated Vietnam War under Kennedy, and the Civil Rights Bill. Nixon was mired in the Watergate scandal and was busy ending the Vietnam War. His successors Ford and Carter were busy in healing a divided and demoralised nation. Regan though evinced some interest in the divided Germany, his focus was his country mainly. Except Macmillan in Britain, Wilson, Heath and Thatcher were focused on the issues related to emerging EEC and the political imperative it presented. The West Germans under Brandt and Schmidt were more interested in working with the Soviets. Indeed, the East and West German governments (GDR and FRG) cooperated in the third countries like for example, India , where both governments were recognised and had embassies;they funded institutes of technology and SMEs. Again for the German Chancellors Schmidt and Kohl, the EEC and the path towards a political link up was far more important than the Cold War.

    In summary, the Cold War was given more weight by novelists, than what was the reality

    During 1980s, during my academic visits to the two Germanys, in the East particularly, the question of the ending of the divide, was more of ‘when’ than of ‘if’.
    The final thought. with the advent of the Young Palmer, the setting of the novel: Funeral in Berlin’ becomes 1980s? It makes no sense, as the Cold War was petering out with the emergence of Gorbachev. Deighton wrote it in the thick of that War in the first half of 1960s.

    Like The character James Bond, the TV series could have been a continuation of the Harry Palmer of the Ipcress File and his exploits in the world as we see today, with the problems it has.