The Next Best Thing to a Len Deighton Biography

Len Deighton Biography

Ever found yourself bingeing on Len Deighton's books and then wishing you could get your hands on a Len Deighton biography or memoir to get inside the head of the author who I consider the best spy writer of all time?

Yeah, me too. But, let's face it, with the man himself hitting the grand age of 95 this week (happy belated, Len!), the chances of a memoir popping up now are looking pretty slim.

While we might not get the full-blown Len Deighton autobiography we're dreaming of, and a source close to Len shared that he is appalled by the idea of a Len Deighton biography there's a little treasure trove of Len Deighton TV interviews on YouTube. It's not the same, I know, but these interviews are gold for anyone trying to catch a glimpse into the mind of the master of espionage writing and military history himself.

These three interviews recorded in the late 1970s with Melvyn Bragg, the early 1980s and the mid-2000s are the closest thing we've got to a Len Deighton biography. Deighton talks candidly about his life, from growing up in a London workhouse to life as a BOAC steward in the 1950s. Deighton also shares more about his lucky break with the IPCRESS File and we learn more about his politics and worldview. He rarely gives interviews so our door is always open to you Len if ever you want to share more with your army of fans on our Spybrary Podcast, heck I would even fly to the Channel Islands for that interview!

Readers can also track down the Len Deighton Companion written by Len's friend Edward Millward Oliver.

The Len Deighton Companion

The Companion is not a biography but does provide us with an excellent breakdown of characters, plot lines, and places in Deighton's books. A must-have for his fans, but in desperate need of an update. I believe the Len Deighton Companion was published in 1987.

Len Deighton Biography

There is a lot to unpack in these interviews though, so why not give them a watch and discuss in our Spybrary community with almost 4000 fellow spy book fans?

Here is a selection of other Len Deighton interviews and articles that offer insights into his life. (Some of these may be behind paywalls but journos got to eat and all that.) Please do send any that I am missing so I can add them to this list.

The Deighton Dossier – the only website about Len endorsed by the man himself.

Len Deighton on Desert Island Discs

Len Deighton: a taste for deception and self-delusion (Financial Times)

Len Deighton interview: ‘Nobody could have had a happier life than I've had' by Jake Kerridge (Telegraph)

Len Deighton Collects Outdated Travel Guides (New York Times)

Why Len Deighton’s spy stories are set to thrill a new generation – The author’s son explains why the working-class heroes of his father’s soon-to-be-reissued novels will resonate today. (The Guardian)

Len Deighton and the mundanity of spies. (The New Statesman)

Len Deighton reveals how he wrote SS-GB, the bestseller that imagines Hitler had won the war. (Radio Times.)

The Power of the Pen – and its successors. (The Guardian)

A taste of the action: Len Deighton's cult Sixties' cookbook is back

Listen to All about Len Deighton with Deighton Dossier’s Rob Mallows on the Spybrary Podcast.

Did you know a group of Spybrary listeners met up in Berlin to walk in the footsteps of Bernard Samson, Werner Volkmann, et al? Listen to our report from Berlin on this episode of Spybrary: Len Deighton and Bernard Samson’s Berlin. We also received this message from Len Deighton himself who was tickled that a group of us planned to find Bernie's Berlin.

Len Deighton – The Berlin of the Game, Set and Match ennealogy

Berlin in the years of the Cold War was a defeated, divided and dangerous arena where the vast resources of the East faced those of the West in a poisonous life or death struggle that ended withe the collapse of the Berlin Wall. It was a pivotal time in modern history and I was a privileged spectator with friends on both sides of the divided city.

Here they are: Lisl Hennig, who saved Werner from the nightmare horrors of the Holocaust, now living in Berlin's distant twenties and enjoying its comforts; Dicky Cruyer, fearless and foolish, with promotion his main concern and major occupation; Frank Harrington, the time-serving ‘Berlin Resident' becomes Benard's surrogate father; Bret Renselaar, the wealthy American workaholic; Werner Volkmann, Bernard's plain-speaking life-long friend who is love with the wrong woman, and knows it; Fiona Samson, Bernard's unyielding, intellectual wife; Erich Stinnes, the unsentimental KGB officer and David Bernard's rich and pompous father-in-law determined to get custody of Bernard's two young children  And our sardonic commentator Bernard himself; the puritanical male chauvinist, who falls deeply in love with the irresistible Gloria, but feels guilty at doing so.     

It's a long story; nine books; ten if you include the prequel  “Winter” with its revelations. That was enough space and enough time to watch them as they grow older, more jaded more weary and wary. We share their joys and their disappointments; their love affairs and their rejections; their tragedies and their triumphs. But, as the Ancient Greeks taught us, pitiless inevitability is key to drama as it is of life.. 

Their ghosts walk the streets of Berlin waiting for you to open the book and have them spring back to life again.

Leonard Cyril Deighton – July, 2018.

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