Leonard Cyril Deighton (born February 18, 1929, Marylebone, London) is a British historian, cookery expert and novelist, perhaps most famous for his spy novel The IPCRESS File, which was made into a famous film starring Michael Caine.
Deighton was born in Marylebone
, London, in 1929. His father was a chauffeur
and mechanic, and his mother was a cook. At the time they lived in a mews
near Baker Street.
Deighton's interest in spy stories may have been partially inspired by the arrest of Anna Wolkoff, which he witnessed as an 11-year-old boy. Wolkoff was a British citizen of Russian descent who was a Nazi spy. She was detained on May 20, 1940, and charged with violating the Official Secrets Act for attempting to pass secret documents to the Nazis.
After leaving school, Deighton worked as a railway clerk before performing his National Service
, which he spent as a photograper for the Royal Air Force
's Special Investigation Branch
. After discharge from the RAF, he studied at St Martin's School of Art
in 1949, and in 1952 won a scholarship
to the Royal College of Art
, graduating in 1955. While he was at the RCA he became a "lifelong friend of fellow designer Raymond Hawkey
, who later designed covers for his early books. Deighton then worked as an airline steward
. Before he began his writing career he worked as an illustrator in New York
and, in 1960, as an art director in a London advertising agency
. He is credited with creating the first British cover for Kerouac's On the Road
. He has since used his drawing skills to illustrate a number of his own military history
Following the success of his first novels, Deighton became The Observer's cookery writer and produced illustrated cookbooks. He also wrote travel guides and became travel editor of Playboy, before becoming a film producer. After producing a film adaption of his 1968 novel Only When I Larf, Deighton and photographer Brian Duffy bought the film rights to Joan Littlewood's Oh! What a Lovely War. However, he had his name removed from the credits of the film as producer, a move which he later described as "stupid and infantile". This was his last involvement with films.
Deighton left Britain in 1969 and has not since returned, apart from some personal visits and a very few media appearances, his last one since 1985 being a 2006 interview which formed part of a "Len Deighton Night" on BBC Four. He now resides in southern California.
Several of his novels have been adapted as films
. His first four novels featured an anonymous anti-hero, named "Harry Palmer
" in the films, and portrayed by Michael Caine
. The first trilogy of his Bernard Samson
novel series was made into a 12-part television series
by Granada Television
in 1988, shown only once, and withdrawn on instructions from Mr Deighton. He wrote the screenplay
and was an uncredited producer for the 1969 film of the play Oh! What a Lovely War
. His 1970 World War II
historical novel Bomber
about an RAF Bomber Command
raid over Germany
often is considered his masterpiece.
He reportedly began an unfinished Vietnam novel, a portion of which appeared as the story First Base in his short story collection Declarations of War.
Deighton also published a series of cookery books and wrote and drew a weekly strip cartoon-style illustrated cooking guide in London
's The Observer
newspaper – Len Deighton's Cookstrip
. At least one of the strips is pinned up in Deighton's spy hero's kitchen in the 1965 film of his novel The IPCRESS File
To exploit the success of Deighton's first four "Unnamed Hero" novels, he wrote Len Deighton's London Dossier (1967), a guide book to Swinging Sixties London with a "secret agent" theme — contributions from other writers are described as "surveillance reports".
Deighton's 1977 "The Battle of Britain
" was said by Albert Speer
(once Hitler's Minister of Armaments) to be "an excellent, most thorough examination. I read page after page with fascination". The piece was furnished with a comment by A.J.P. Taylor
simply saying: "Brilliant analysis...".