I love Len Deighton. SS GB was one of the first popular adult novels that I was excited to buy on first release, many centuries ago when I was in my early teens. I then proceeded to work my way through his back catalogue in the local Repository of Record, Cheso library. What would I have done without that place? Sneaking into the adult section to find war books with colour plates of dead German soldiers; finding the answers to school assignments back when people read books; using the photocopier so I had my own “file” copies of grainy UFO photographs; reading all the yellow Gollancz SF books … . One of my earliest memories is visiting there with my Dad, wearing rubber thongs (aka flip flops or whatever by barbarians), and I know that because they made a good squeaky noise when walked in just so on the library linoleum, and so that was exactly what I did, my Dad had to shush me because as he said, that’s what they do in libraries, they shush you. And then the excitement of my own first library card being sent to me. I remember bawling my eyes out over some story of a boy whose dog had died, and every page or so I would leave my room to declare how sad I was, and my Mum quite rightly said, well stop reading it then, but I didn’t, it was many many years before I gave myself permission to stop reading a book.
Any ways …
I love Len Deighton, and it was cool that my grandfather visited the library and borrowed the same books too, he must have read everything in that library in his retirement. I recommended SS GB as a Christmas present for him when I saw the hardback on sale. I have my own copy of that hardback now, but it is not his, someone else took all of his books when he died. I recall catching the train from Sydney to the NSW Central Coast on a day off from my first job after university to visit him in hospital. The book I read on the train that day was Winter, a companion novel to the trilogy of Bernard Samson trilogies. He seemed upset that I would not visit him on the weekend with my family, but I said I would be up again the weekend after that. He passed away on the Monday, of course.
Years later, I was fortunate enough to have a short holiday in Berlin with my son when I was working in the Netherlands, and it was wonderful to spend that time with him and wander about that fascinating city. One of the consequences was that he picked up Berlin Game at a second hand bookstore, and is slowly working his way through the Samson books.
Bookshops always had rows of Deightons, and then rows of Deightons republished in special covers for the 25th anniversary of The Ipcress File. I thought to check him out at a bookshop yesterday, and they had only two books. Which is why I was delighted at the coincidence of also yesterday just happening across a Guardian article announcing that Deighton’s books are to be reissued (yes, stealing from the Guardian again). Good. So they should be. And I am going to celebrate by making a trifle according to Deighton’s recipe. And maybe buy a few books.