Sunday 12 June 2022

Never a cross word

The crossword competition laid in the first edition

Earlier this month, the Guardian's crossword blog writer wrote a nice little piece about, well, crosswords, and their contribution to developing the reader's understanding of Len Deighton's famous 'unnamed spy' - later, of course, Harry Palmer.

The article looked in particular at Horse Under Water, the second book in the series but the only one of the four main books not turned into a film starring Michael Caine (the producer Harry Saltzman chose to film Funeral in Berlin first, because in the mid-60s the city had become the hot-spot of the Cold War, so to speak, and he thought it would make a better movie. While there were some early plans for a Horse Under Water film, nothing - sadly - ever materialised)

The piece recalls that, famously, the chapter headings in Horse Under Water are in the form of crossword puzzle clues, and that the crosswords on the endpapers of the original first edition drew on clues which in effect, when solved, created a sort of table of contents for the book.

I'm pleased - after getting in touch - that they used a couple of my images and provided a link to the page I have on the main Deighton Dossier website specifically to do with the crosswords in this book. In the Bernard Samson series, in London Game, Bernard Samson too is found toying with a crossword, using it to elicit a false answer from Giles Trent's sister to get to the bottom of the former's attempted suicide and his potential guilt as a London Central spy.


  1. As a crossword fan its use in 'Horse Under Water' was an amusing addition to the style of the Harry Palmer books that I immediately took to. It certainly complemented the public service scenery that the character inhabits- enduring the tedium of the job with the available distractions of the time. It is among my favourites of Deighton's with 'An Expensive Place to Die' and 'Funeral in Berlin'. As you have posted over the years many would love to see films of #2 and #5 and the comments from your last post refer to the question of 'Horse Under Water' after the latest, well shot and cast- 'Ipcress File'.
    At the risk of rehashing this as a topic do we know if the Saltzman company or whomever else may still have the rights/options and intentions on filming Secret Files #2 and #5?

  2. Interesting information, although very dated.
    Harry Saltzman, was a very shrewd producer, and a businessman, who had purchased the film rights of many Bond novels, well before Broccoli arrived on the scene. His influence was seen in the production of the first few Bond films. His gut reaction of picking the Ipcress File novel for a film version, although he was busy as a co-producer of the Bond film following the highly successful Dr No , demonstrated his timing and business acumen. He knew that John Barry, who rearranged Dr No's music, after the original music director failed to make it count, was looking for an opportunity to prove his expertise, a director who wanted to stamp his mark on a new film and above all, the fast developing Cold War subtle spy craft then. The film was a success. Salzman, then knew that he should quickly follow this with Funeral in Berlin, to capture the interest of the viewers, who like me at that time were reading about the Cold War setting in the divided Berlin. Picking Guy Hamilton as the director was a master stroke, as he was considered early for the Dr No film, ,but was not available then. Horse Under Water was not going to be filmed during that fast developing and intense Cold War scenarios in the divided Berlin. Timing was of the essence .
    Producers borrow money,, whether it is for a TV series or a full-length film., and pick what they want to produce at least to break even financially. It is like tech start up.. Difficult to predict the success. I have not heard about the financial success of the Ipcress File mini TV series. It was soun well for the viewing of the younger generation.
    I may be wrong, but I cannot see in what way Horse Under Water could be filmed , keeping in mind that it has to attract younger viewers.The Nazi theme had its days.