Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Len Deighton

I'm enjoying reading what I can only see as one of Len Deighton's worst books, his fifth, An Expensive Place to Die (1967). It almost makes it more interesting that it appears one of his worst, I mean the guy has written millions of words, and much of them very good, so when it's bad, it's got to be for good reason.
In fact 'Bomber' (and the accompanying 'Fighter' and so on) Berlin Game (plus of course Mexico Set and London Match) and Spy Hook ( followed by Line and Sinker- you are getting the idea here) are all excellent bed time reading. Then there's the cookbooks ('Ou est Le Garlic?') and reportage (London Dossier) which are all staples. The guy is a late twentieth century renaissance man, starting off as an air steward, getting ahead in advertising ('go to work on an egg' was his) then writing all this stuff, none of it heavy at all, just breezing along, making everybody happy with his tales of intrigue, romance, betrayal; just right for people in their trains planes, beds and sun loungers. I mean, respect!
Of course his big and initial hit was The Ipcress File which made Michael Cane and Harry Salzman (co- producer of the Bond films with Cubby Broccoli) and that was followed by the good Horse under Water, excellent Funeral in Berlin, slightly mad Billion Dollar Brain and this one, I guess strange fifth, a kind of spy story meeting bedroom farce where Deighton could be taking the piss, having a laugh, but I'm not sure. That of course shows us the importance of context. If I didn't know all the other stuff, I couldn't be intrigued by the mindset of 'Expensive Place to Die', I wouldn't be able to value it properly.
Proust thought some of Ruskin's writing so bad it was good, and he had a point. However it's a well worn path, that of contrariness, both Owen Hatherley and Jonathan Meades share it, so did Robert Hughes, who I've just read in his book on Rome, enjoys Bernini over Borromini, and has a soft spot for Mussolini! All something to bare in mind when you are writing essays.

No comments:

Post a Comment