Len Deighton, (blogs passim) is eighty this week. Read an interview here. I discovered his books in 1965, three years after The Ipcress File was published, and I immediately went in search of Horse Under Water and Funeral in Berlin. First I just ogled the brilliant dust jackets by Deighton's RCA mate Raymond Hawkey (two of his best shown here, look closely inside the bag) but soon I was absorbed in Deighton's terse text and the seedy world of War Office canteen crockery, rubber-stamped manila files, Smith & Wesson revolvers and stubbed-out Gauloises. Two of my earliest and greatest influences: Hawkey design, Deighton copy. Still with teenage spots I started to make covert trips down to London, lurking suspiciously in train corridors and sitting smoking Disque Bleu in Soho cafes, staring out at black cabs in the rain with narrowed eyes whilst mini-skirted girls sniggered at me from adjacent tables. Later we cooked from his Action Cookbook (the compilation of the unique Observer Cookstrips that you can see pinned to Michael Caine's kitchen wall in The Ipcress File), gazing in wonder at his drawings of cook's knives and Bialetti coffee makers and learning to always light a cigar with a match held away from the end. I had the immense pleasure (can you imagine it) of meeting him in 1993, foregoing the opening hours of a Test Match at Lords. Merv Hughes or Len Deighton? Tough call. Thank God he was as friendly and pleasant as I'd hoped. We talked for two hours about design and on joining my pals for the Test I don't think I spoke until the champagne and samosas came out. Happy Birthday Mr. Deighton.
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