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

Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre

About the book

Eddie Chapman was a charming criminal, a con man, and a philanderer. He was also one of the most remarkable double agents Britain has ever produced. Inside the traitor was a man of loyalty; inside the villain was a hero. The problem for Chapman, his spymasters, and his lovers was to know where one persona ended and the other began.
In 1941, after training as a German spy in occupied France, Chapman was parachuted into Britain with a revolver, a wireless, and a cyanide pill, with orders from the Abwehr to blow up an airplane factory. Instead, he contacted MI5, the British Secret Service. For the next four years, Chapman worked as a double agent, a lone British spy at the heart of the German Secret Service who at one time volunteered to assassinate Hitler for his countrymen. Crisscrossing Europe under different names, all the while weaving plans, spreading disinformation, and, miraculously, keeping his stories straight under intense interrogation, he even managed to gain some profit and seduce beautiful women along the way.
The Nazis feted Chapman as a hero and awarded him the Iron Cross. In Britain, he was pardoned for his crimes, becoming the only wartime agent to be thus rewarded. Both countries provided for the mother of his child and his mistress. Sixty years after the end of the war, and ten years after Chapman’s death, MI5 has now declassified all of Chapman’s files, releasing more than 1,800 pages of top secret material and allowing the full story of Agent Zigzag to be told for the first time.

Reviewed by C C Readers:

Well-written, gripping story about a brave but unpleasant individual. Everyone enjoyed this straightfoward account.

Star rating : ***

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A Hostile Place by John Fullerton

About the book

For Thomas Morgan, the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington provide an opportunity to keep one step ahead of the law. With a broken marriage, two children and an overdraft, the former soldier, sometime spy and occasional thief finds a new market for his skills — in Afghanistan, tracking down Taliban and al Qaeda fugitives. And when the world’s most wanted man disappears, Morgan’s talents as a bounty hunter command a much higher premium…Washington offers USD25 million for its arch foe — dead or alive. But only one man knows how to find him, and only Morgan has the expertise and grit to get close enough to kill him. Trouble is, the two men are enemies…

Reviewed by U3A Reading Group 2 Reading Group:

A mans book? Realistic descriptions of culture and countryside of Afghanistan. Topical at this time.

Star rating: **

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Jackdaws by Ken Follett

About the book

Two weeks before D-Day, the French Resistance attacks a chateau containing a telephone exchange vital to German communications – but the building is heavily guarded and the attack fails disastrously. Flick Clairet, a young British secret agent, proposes a daring new plan: she will parachute into France with an all-woman team known as the ‘Jackdaws’ and they will penetrate the chateau in disguise. But, unknown to Flick, Rommel has assigned a brilliant, ruthless Intelligence colonel, Dieter Franck, to crush the Resistance. And Dieter is on Flick’s trail… From the master storyteller and best-selling author of Eye of the Needle and Code to Zero comes the new thriller, set against the menacing backdrop of the Second World War and crackling with suspense and action. Jackdaws is an irresistible novel of the Resistance and of love, courage and revenge.

Reviewed by Boarhunt WI Reading Group:

Thriller about espionage just before D Day. Exciting to the end, well written with realistic characters and had the ring of truth about it. All thoroughly enjoyed it and want to read more by this author.

Star rating: ****

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Restless by William Boyd

About the book

It is 1939. Eva Delectorskaya is a beautiful 28-year-old Russian emigree living in Paris. As war breaks out she is recruited for the British Secret Service by Lucas Romer, a mysterious Englishman, and under his tutelage she learns to become the perfect spy, to mask her emotions and trust no one, including those she loves most. Since the war, Eva has carefully rebuilt her life as a typically English wife and mother. But once a spy, always a spy. Now she must complete one final assignment, and this time Eva can’t do it alone: she needs her daughter’s help.

Reviewed by Kings Somborne Reading Group:

Fascinating insight into wartime spying. credible female characters and relationship between mother and daughter. Gripping, enjoyable, well-written thriller, atmospheric. Particularly enjoyed the Scottish scenes.

Star rating: ***
 

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