Creator / Len Deighton

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British spy writer (1926-), Len Deighton is considered one of the Three Great British Spy Writers, along with Ian Fleming and John le Carré. His work lies roughly between the two on the Spy Fiction scale, though closer to the "stale beer" end - grounded in the complications of politics, intrigue and loyalty like le Carré, but with a touch of Fleming-esque zip to the pacing, some exotic globetrotting, and (in the Unnamed Spy) a sarky, main character who's good with women and can get by in a fight.

His most famous series, beginning with The Ipcress File, features an unnamed spy (who was named Harry Palmer when three of the novels were adapted into films starring Michael Caine).

His seminal work is considered to be Bomber, a meticulously researched and detailed account of a fictional British air raid during World War II and the devastation it causes.

Another well known series of his is the Bernard Samson Series, best described as a Trilogy of Trilogies with an epic thrown in for good measure. It's set around Berlin near the end of the Cold War. Famously, this series popularized the story of JFK accidentally saying he was a jelly doughnut, although since the protagonist is an Unreliable Narrator, it should be taken with more than a grain of salt.

In his SS-GB Alternate History book, Hitler has invaded England and defeated the British. The book also features Mayhew, one of the most subtle and formidable Chessmasters in literature of any kind.

Deighton's also written some non-fiction works, most notably Fighter and Blitzkrieg, the first two instalments in an Orphaned Series on WWII battles.

Still alive, but has not written a full novel since 1996.


Works by Len Deighton with their own trope pages include:

Other works by Len Deighton provide examples of:

  • Alternate History: SS-GB
  • Chessmaster: Mayhew in SS-GB
  • Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story: In SS-GB the hero finds a fake ID on a member of La Résistance, listing as his birthplace a town that had its records office destroyed in the war. The hero notes that lots of fake IDs use that town.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Many of his protagonists, particularly the unnamed narrator of The Ipcress File and its sequels, are foodies and tend to lovingly describe their meals. Deighton himself got a start in writing by penning a food column for the Observer. As of 2014, he's taken this up again.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Unnamed Spy especially, and (to a lesser extent) Bernard Sampson. Reading Deighton's history non-fiction shows it's something they get from the writer himself.
  • No Name Given: The narrator-protagonist of The Ipcress File and sequels never gives a name, pointing out that as a secret agent he changes names frequently and none of them are his real name anyway.
  • Orphaned Series: Unusually for this trope, a non-fiction example. Fighter and Blitzkrieg were two books in a planned twelve-volume set of WWII's most famous battles. Sadly this project was dropped.
  • Success Symbiosis: The No Name Given spy once remarks to someone that he's well known to be a loose cannon who the boss can barely keep under control. He mentions that this is his boss's protection, and the government's protection, as they can disown him if needed. Everyone's happy with this, he gets to do what he has to to get the job done and they can pretend to be Shocked, Shocked!, if he gets in trouble.

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