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, How Literature became Word Perfect, the title a play on words around one of the more famous software packages. 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.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas to all the Deighton Dossier readers ...

Not much fun on Christmas Eve
Thank you to everyone who has visited the Deighton Dossier blog and website in 2015 - I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

For fans of Len Deighton's fiction, 2016 should be an exciting year with the completion of the BBC adaptation of SS-GB. Fingers crossed it proves to be a smash-hit.

I hope that your Christmas is a lot better than Bernard Samson's in London Match:
"And so it was that, on Christmas Eve, when Gloria was with my children, preparing them for early bed so that Santa Claus could operate undisturbed, I was standing watching the Berlin police trying to winch a wrecked car out of the water."

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Did Oh! What a Lovely War shape our view of WWI - the BBC investigates ....

Very interesting piece up on the BBC's iWonder section of its website, linked to a piece about great British war films and their influence, which considers how the OWALW narrative has shaped our collective view of the Great War.

This article with short audio pieces by journalist Joan Bakewell is an interactive look at the original stage production of the play and the film produced by Len Deighton in 1969, which adapted the original theatre production from the London stage to the English coast at Brighton, and their continued influence on our understanding of the war.

Joan Bakewell explores a number of familiar tropes that are linked to the play and film, such as the controversy associated with both version at the time of their release, the influence of Charles Chilton's The Long, Long Tail on the film production, and the boost the film gave to reviving numerous stage productions of the original play.

Even 101 years after its start, the Great War still plays upon our understanding of the nature of war and its impact on all our lives.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Caine: "Ipcress File always my favourite ..."

Michael Caine is out and about - this time in New Zealand - doing the promotional tour for the new he stars in, Youth.

In this interview in the New Zealand Herald News, Caine looks back at his film career, and confirms that he has always had fond memories of starring in The Ipcress File. in which he played Harry Palmer or "...James Bond Three-and-a-half".

Nice interview, and great to see Caine still supremely active in cinema at 82, showing no signs of slowing down!

Friday, 30 October 2015

Battle of Britain ... images from a unique copy of the book

Still a brilliant depiction of the battle
A reader of this blog, [we'll call him RR], is one of the world's top Ian Fleming collectors but is also a serious collector of the works of Len Deighton.

Recently, he shared with the Deighton Dossier images from his latest acquisition - a first edition of Battle of Britain by Len Deighton, but with some unique additions. His new US first edition contains the signatures of twenty-one World War 2 air aces, most of whom had fought in the Battle of Britain.

It includes: 15 Luftwaffe aces (including the top 3 aces of all time), 5 RAF aces including the top British ace, and, randomly a top Japanese ace! Many of these were interviewed by Deighton in the course of writing the book originally; all have now, of course, passed on.

The first 20 were collected by the dealer from whom the books was purchased at the first flyers' reunion (Fliegertreffen) in 1981 in Germany, just after Douglas Bader started the Luftwaffe/RAF rapprochement with Adolf Galland around the 40th anniversary of the battle in 1980. The top German ace, Erich Hartmann, scored about 350 kills (mostly Soviet) and the leading British ace, Johnnie Johnson, only 38. Against against each signature is their full military titles, honours and the numbers of kills made in battle.

What a tremendously interesting historical document with the imprints of the brave flyers from both sides. Photos are reproduced below:

Thursday, 15 October 2015

London filming starts soon on SS-GB ... with a surprise for residents

The Holly Lodge Estate, near the Highgate Cemetery
Very interesting little story in today's Evening Standard, here.

The good burghers of Highgate, with the famous cemetery, are warned about waking up and walking around their neighbourhood next week and being confronted by Nazi stormtroopers and guards. This is to do with planned filming of a number of scenes from the book. Not immediately clear which ones.

The article refers to an effortlessly polite note to local residents from the production company working for the BBC, which states: "There will be actors dressed in German Army, SS and Russian military uniform, some will be armed – please do not be alarmed." Quite.

Unlike the Game, Set & Match ennealogy, which is still sitting in pre-production with Clerkenwell Films, who've shed very little light on what's happening, at least this is evidence that when the BBC says we'll get SS-GB in 2016, that's likely to be the case.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Game, Set ... but not Match? A reader invites answers on perplexing questions about the Samson series

Adrian Bailey's illustration for the Game, Set and Match series. Can you recognise each character?
The Samson series of ten novels is, in my opinion, the apogee of Deighton's fiction writing. Over these novels he creates such a web of well-developed who all have some part to play in their respective futures.

But opinions on the novel and the characters are not uniform. Canadian blog reader Milan Stolarik got in touch with the Deighton Dossier to offer his views on this series of books having just read the novels in sequence.

He had some questions about the characters and the books, and I thought it would be best to encourage blog readers to read his thoughts and respond. Here's Milan's contribution:

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

More info on the coming SS-GB adaptation ...

1980's paperback cover art
...courtesy of the Radio Times.

In this piece online, the magazine confirms the appointment of Sam Riley to play the lead character in Len Deighton's famous alternative timeline history of a Nazi-occupied Britain.

The producers and writers aim to "think the unthinkable". Sounds like it will be fascinating stuff.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Spies are cool again ... says the Guardian

Great article in this week's Guardian newspaper about the fact that spies and agents are de riguer again in Television.

TV critic Mark Lawson, who's often on the Newsnight review show, identifies the plethora of spy-related shows that UK TV viewers can look forward to this autumn: the new season of Homeland, a new five-parter called London Spy which - as Lawson notes - immediately draws comparisons perhaps with London Match, the first Bernard Samson novel; plus there's a new adaptation of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent.

The future BBC SS-GB adaption is also referenced but is incorrect, in that filming is starting this year but it is not scheduled for broadcast in 2015. Sadly, we have to wait a little longer!