Sunday, 19 April 2015

Choose your theme....

I had lunch with Len yesterday, who was on good form. No major news regarding the various film projects where rights have been obtained and development is, supposedly starting - Horse Under Water, SS-GB, Bomber (16 years of rights held, no progress) and the Game, Set and Match triple trilogy. However, interesting hints from Len around the production of SS-GB.

More broadly, he's agreed to do another QandA session with questions from readers and members of the Deighton Dossier blog and Facebook page.

As readers will know, over the years Len's been kind enough to do four online interviews, answering readers' questions. This will be the fifth of these.

What I want to do this time is run a QandA with a theme, and ask members to come up with questions around that theme.

So, first thought - what would be a good overall theme for the next QandA?

Please share your ideas below. I'll then put out a request for questions, and we'll go from there. 

Some first ideas from me:

  • Characters - inspirations, favourites, approach
  • Technology - influence on story ideas, details, plot usage
  • The writing process - approach, tricks, failures
  • Making movies - the directors, behind the scenes, the stars

Sunday, 12 April 2015

[Reader contribution] Spies to the left and right

Raymond Chandler had a clear picture of a hero
Who are the heroes of Deighton’s spy novels?

Are they the same men displaced in time by 25 years? In a sense they are. Certainly both are true to what could be the definitive template of a hero. This one, prepared by Raymond Chandler:

Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.

“He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.

“The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in

But Bernard Samson and Harry Palmer differ in one important aspect and it’s an aspect that is essential given the dates that the two stories are set. In reality, the uniformed forces, the police and the military are staffed by people of conservative political views. As well they might be. The police and the military are there to preserve society, and not just from outsider. They will resist change to society in all aspects.

These men are the descendants of the tribal sentries who’s task was to protect the tribe from external AND internal threats. They enforce the status quo and they don’t much care for change.

This almost makes Harry Palmer an anomaly. But he occupies a time when there were enough Nazis and Nazi artifacts still around to maintain a continuity with the Second World War. In wartime Britain’s Left and Right had been united against fascism. Harry Palmer is from that earlier time. He’s a war veteran and his war had been fought against a capitalist ideology.

To Harry Palmer, capitalism had no inherent advantages and in Horse Under Water we get a look at an establishment villain who carries all the baggage of the complex relationship the British ruling class had had with its wartime enemy. Henry Smith would have been a key man in occupied Britain working for the Nazis. Yet post war he’s remained a part of the establishment! Harry is expected to protect him despite the fact that he made his money in a way that Harry Palmer disapproves.

There’s a wonderful scene where Harry has his ‘chin wag’ with Smith. A parody of the bit where James Bond comes head to head with the sinister mastermind. Smith wants to put Harry in his place and Harry responds in a fashion appropriate to the sort of hero that Raymond Chandler defined.

One cannot find such a scene, villain or sentiment in the Samson stories. In fact, Bernard’s comments on the fate of Rosa Luxemberg are informative. Luxemberg was a leader of the communist Spartacus League who campaigned to stop Germany fighting in the first world war. She was beaten up, tortured and shot by members of the German cavalry. Bernard expresses dismay that, ‘Now they name streets after her.’

It’s tempting to imagine that the protagonist speaks with the same voice as the author. But such a view does not, I think, reflect the view of the man who produced ‘Oh what a lovely war.’ So I take Samson as a realistic characterization for the type of person who would then occupy Bernard’s profession. By the period of Bernard Samson the cold war had become competition between two different ideologies. Moreover, the populist socialism of the 1960s had been replaced by the free-market fundamentalism of the Thatcher era. And the men who had participated in the Second World War had passed on. Len Deighton had perhaps concluded that there was really no longer a place for such a man as Harry Palmer in the security services of Mrs Thatcher.

Of course, we do get a few hints that Bernard’s life might have gone a different way. There are a few suggestions of an interest in design and architecture but Bernard followed in his father’s footsteps. And adopted the ideology of the profession, perhaps as much out of love for his father as anything else.

At the end, of course, Bernard and Harry are still genuine heroes, incorruptible and loyal. And, I know many men like Bernard, ex-military types, and I like them and admire their work ethic, sense of duty and loyalty. But somehow I can’t like Bernard quite as much as I like Harry Palmer. Which is why I still find myself going back to the 1960s.

Terry Kidd

Friday, 27 March 2015

Pick this up along with the milk and bread if you're in Waitrose this weekend ...

Waitrose supermarket's Waitrose Weekend newsletter (circ. 400,000) has gone into the shops this weekend featuring a nice two page feature on The Ipcress File film, focusing particular on the food themes in that film and Len's other life as a cook and food writer.

Worth checking out (hat-tip to Edward Milward-Oliver).



Overseas readers - I've three spare copies I picked up. Happy to send them overseas to readers who want them, and can pay the post.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Happy Birthday Ipcress File the film ....

Fifty years ago today the film of Len Deighton's The Ipcress File was premiered in Leicester Square. To celebrate, Deighton's biographer - and friend of the Deighton Dossier - Edward Milward-Oliver has, together with designer Brillo, created a lovely movie infographic about the film including some new insights never before shared.

Check out the moviegraphic here and share your thoughts on Twitter using the #ipcress50 hashtag.

Brillo's also produced some little postcards which can be shared on Twitter and are reproduced below.

Tell us - why does The Ipcress File stand the test of time?

Sunday, 8 March 2015

On the trail of the Funeral in Berlin ...

I was contacted this week by a correspondent who has discovered some items that are going into the Penguin archives relating to the marketing of Funeral in Berlin. We're hoping at some point to meet up in London so I can take a full set of photos of the marketing material and examine it more fully. 

It's a set of ephemera produce for booksellers and reviews to market the sale of Funeral in Berlin (in much the say way that ephemera was set out to publicise the fourth book in the series). This is extremely rare but an item I've been trying to track down for a while, as a fascinating piece of collateral associated with this third book in the series, following the standout success of the first two Harry Palmer novels.

Authenticity and a 'secret dossier' feel look to be the hallmarks of this. Has anyone else seen a copy or this or own one? These two initial photos are intriguing and leave me keen to learn more...

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Happy Birthday, Mr Deighton .....

Today is Len Deighton's 86th birthday. On behalf of readers of this blog and fans of his spy and other fiction, we wish him an enjoyable birthday with his family and many more birthdays to come.

I understand from Len he'll be celebrating with a cheesecake from his local bakery. Well deserved.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

A certain Mr L.C. Deighton makes an appearance in a new detective novel ....

Author and friend of the Deighton Dossier Mike Ripley - editor of the Getting Away with Murder column on Shotsmag, the online resource for fans of crime and thriller fiction - has paid tribute to his friend and fellow author Len Deighton in his new novel.

Mike, the author of the Angel series of detective novels and supremo behind Ostara Publishing - which is resurrecting lost thrillers and spy novels, book by book - has written the new Albert Campion novel - Mr Campion's Fox - starring the detective character created by Margery Allingham.

The first novel in this new series, Mr Campion's Farewell, was based on a fragment of a manuscript started by the author's widower, Youngman Carter, which Ripley completed to resurrect this detective.

This new novel, the second in the revamped series, Mr Campion's Fox, is a new story created by Ripley for the character.

The crime fiction in thebook takes place in the fictional Suffolk coastal village of Gapton.  Here's the summary of the plot from the book's publicity material:
'The Danish Ambassador has requested Albert Campion's help on 'a delicate family matter'. He's very concerned about his eighteen-year-old daughter, who has formed an attachment to an unsuitable young man. Recruiting his unemployed actor son, Rupert, to keep an eye on Frank Tate, the young man in question, Mr Campion notes some decidedly odd behaviour on the part of the up-and-coming photographer. 
Before he can act on the matter, however, both the Ambassador's daughter and her beau disappear without trace. Then a body is discovered in a lagoon. With appearances from all of Margery Allingham's regular characters, from Campion's former manservant Lugg, to his wife Lady Amanda Fitton and others, this witty and elegant mystery is sure to delight Allingham's many fans. The dialogue is sharp and witty, the observation keen, and the climax is thrilling and eerily atmospheric.'
In the Campion books, Albert Campion worked on and off for British Intelligence, usually just referred to as ‘Security’. The Head of Security (capital S, nothing to do with Sandyman’s Brewery...), who retired in one of the Youngman Carter books, was L. C. Corkran, known as “Elsie” from his initials “L.C.”

In Ripley's new book, as it involves East German spies, he sought a replacement “Elsie” and the thought came to him: who did he know with those initials? So, Ripley invented “Major” L.C. Deighton as the new “Elsie”. Here's an excerpt from the text:
"My name’s not Corkran, though – that would be rather incestuous – it’s Deighton, actually.’

‘Like the writer of those clever spy stories?’ Campion asked innocently.


‘Never mind.’ Campion turned to the man closer to his own age and took his proffered hand. ‘Delighted to meet you, Mr Sandyman; speaking as a grateful customer.’"
Len's initials are, of course, L.C - Leonard Cyril Deighton. Nice tribute! The book is available on Amazon here.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Heir to the throne?.....

Insufficiently posh
This review in The Guardian of the new Matthew Vaughn film Kingsman draws a line between this modern spy action movie and the spies of past decades of British cinema, including, of course, Harry Palmer.

This being The Guardian, the article is all about class - are we still obsessed by 'posh' spies, given that one of the main characters in this new movie wears Savile Row seats, speaks RP and is part of an elite?

Spy fiction on film has been the preserve of the heroic posh Brit (Harry Palmer aside), writes Stuart Jeffries, but in reality many of the UK's poshest spies have proved their worst, such as Donald McLean and of course Kim Philly.

You can read too much into one movie, of course. The main lesson from the trailer seems to be that the film (like the graphic novel) should be a lot of fun. And that's the point.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Pinterest page set up

I've now created a PINTEREST page for the Deighton Dossier, on which I'll feature some of the images from the main website and link to some other interesting images relating to Len Deighton, his works and other connected items of interest.

You'll find the page here. If you want to pin anything to it, go ahead.

Monday, 19 January 2015

How to save money on your film production .... part 1

A short anecdote from my recent lunch with Len in London.

We had discussed the production of The Ipcress File and how it was kept to budget.

He recalled that on the call sheets for each days production that the white MGB that Nigel Greene drives in the film was his own; the Jaguar that Gordon Jackson drives was his own too; the Zodiac driven by Michael Caine was owned by a ‘Mrs Moss’; and the limo in which Dr Radcliffe is driven to Marylebone Station at the beginning of the film was Alex Paal’s Bentley (Alex Paal was a Hungarian producer and former stills photographer once married to Eva Bartok, a friend of Alex Korda and of Harry Saltzman)

That's a good trick for budding producers to learn. Don't money wasted on hired ‘action vehicles’ - use the cast's or friends'.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Whole load of videos now up on the main site

I've linked to embedded YouTube videos where they are available for all the film pages on the film section of the main Deighton Dossier website. Thought it was worthwhile collating these all together on the website so that interested readers could check them out. They include:

  • A Yorkshire TV promo for Game, Set & Match
  • Ray Hawkey's title sequence for Oh! What a Lovely War
  • The trailer for The Ipcress File and opening sequence for same
  • The trailer for Billion Dollar Brain
  • A trailer for Only When I Larf, among others
Enjoy. If you know of any others which should be linked to, add them in the comments. Hope to be adding soon snippets from 'The Truth About Len Deighton' and maybe some key scenes from G, S & M.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New additions to the main Deighton Dossier website

Hawkey's SS-GB stamps
I've been busy over the Christmas period adding new information and galleries of pictures to the main Deighton Dossier website which I hope will interest readers. Do check out:

There's plenty more that's been updated and improved - hope readers find it interesting.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

New interview with Len Deighton on the web ... and Happy New Year!

I've just been emailed by Remy Dean, co-editor of Scrawl, the literary website, who's advised that he has just put up a short interview with Len Deighton up on their website, which covers a range of themes about the authors career.

You can catch the interview here.

To anyone's who's read the Deighton Dossier blog and website in 2014, a Happy New Year!

Friday, 26 December 2014

Suited and booted ...

On my wanderings across the Internet I found this very interesting - and specific - site relating to James Bond and the different suits he has worn in the cinema since the sixties.

As well as fulsome identification of the styles, cut and cloth associated with each different James Bond, the site - run by US designer Matt Speiser - has a fun blog post about the suits that Michael Caine wore as Harry Palmer. If you want to know the cuff style, suit fabric and pocket designs that make up the Harry Palmer look, this is the page to check out.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Wonderful images: the Berlin Wall Then & Now, courtesy of The Guardian

The way things were
I've just discovered on The Guardian's website this lovely photographic essay of the Berlin Wall, looking at classic images and then superimposing on them the exact same view as it exists today. Very interesting and well-designed piece, with commentaries, which shows just how utterly transformed the city is from its days as the fulcrum of the Cold War.

Really worth investigating.