Author of the Month: Len Deighton

Leonard Cyril Deighton was born in London in 1929. His publications have included cookery books, history and military history, but he is best known for his spy novels. 

In 1940, at the age of eleven, Deighton witnessed the arrest of Anna Wolkoff, who was detained as a Nazi spy and charged with stealing correspondence between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Deighton later said that observing her arrest was “a major factor in my decision to write a spy story at my first attempt at fiction”

It was on an extended holiday in 1962 that Deighton wrote his first novel – The Ipcress File (short for the “Induction of Psychoneuroses by Conditioned Reflex under Stress”), which was a critical and commercial success.  

Several of Deighton’s novels have been adapted for the screen. In March 2022, ITV broadcast a new six-part adaption of The Ipcress File, starring Joe Cole as Harry Palmer. The new series had a big budget and big name stars, and plenty of overseas locations to capture the eye of the viewer. 

During 2021, Penguin Books reprinted all of Len Deighton’s fiction backlist, creating a range of fresh and vibrant cover designs that hark back to the 1960s, when designer Ray Hawkey did the covers for their first Deighton editions. 

‘The hallmarks of a Deighton novel are an intricate plot, an easy grasp of detail and a total mastery of storytelling technique.’ – Sunday Times

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

About the book

Paris, 1895: an army officer, Georges Picquart, watches a convicted spy, Alfred Dreyfus, being publicly humiliated in front of a baying crowd. Dreyfus is exiled for life to Devil’s Island; Picquart is promoted to run the intelligence unit that tracked him down. But when Picquart discovers that secrets are still being handed over to the Germans, he is drawn into a dangerous labyrinth of deceit and corruption that threatens not just his honour but his life…

Reviewed by Enjoying Books

“This erudite author writes beautifully. A true story of the Dreyfus Affair, told through the character of Picquart. It gathers momentum as you are drawn into the awful miscarriage of justice”

star rating ***

 

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Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett

About the book

His weapon is the stiletto, his codename: The Needle.

He is Hitler’s prize undercover agent – a cold and professional killer.

It is 1944 and weeks before D-Day. The Allies are disguising their invasion plans with a phoney armada of ships and planes. Their plan would be ruined if an enemy agent found out… and then The Needle does just that. Hunted by MI5, he leads a murderous trail across Britain to a waiting U-Boat. But he hasn’t planned for a storm-battered island, and the remarkable young woman who lives there . . .

Reviewed by Hordle WI

“Brilliant!!”

star rating ****

 

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Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd

About the book

Vienna, 1913. Lysander Rief, a young English actor, sits in the waiting room of the city’s preeminent psychiatrist as he anxiously ponders the particularly intimate nature of his neurosis. When the enigmatic, intensely beautiful Hettie Bull walks in, Lysander is immediately drawn to her, unaware of how destructive the consequences of their subsequent affair will be. One year later, home in London, Lysander finds himself entangled in the dangerous web of wartime intelligence – a world of sex, scandal and spies that is slowly, steadily, permeating every corner of his life…

Reviewed by Victoria Reading Group

“We thought the book an easy read and enjoyed the descriptions, but did not think that it was as good as Boyd’s other books. A littled contrived in places””

star rating **

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