Len Deighton is 90 today.
International man of mystery, no other author has had such a constant presence in my life, and not just for his works of fiction. The film adaptation of The IPCRESS File is high (sometimes at the top) of my top ten favourite films, with the book remaining in my top ten favourite books since the first time I read it a long, long time ago (I've re-read it numerous times).
His love of fine food has been a contributing factor to this presence – the books this spawned have not been uninfluential too. I have a number of his cookbooks, including his iconic Action Cookbook,
which I blogged about here way back in 2006.
His famous cook strips (below) expose both his interest in good food and his skill as an illustrator. The latter is another factor that makes the man so interesting.
After spending his National Service in the RAF, Len studied at Saint Martin's School of Art (now Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design) alongside the brilliant Raymond Hawkey, who would go on to design covers for Deighton. After graduating later from the Royal College of Art (for which he won a scholarship in 1952) Deighton worked (surprisingly) as an airline steward for BOAC and then (less surprisingly) as an Art Director in New York, before his writing career took off.
Clearly, a man of facetted talents and passions; Deighton's life story is littered with revealing anecdotes…
It is rumoured, for example, that his interest in spy stories began in 1940 when the 11-yr-old Len witnessed the arrest of his next-door neighbour Anna Wolkoff, a British subject of Russian descent who turned out to be a German spy.
The image above was taken during the filming of The IPCRESS File. The story goes that when Michael Caine came to do the omelette making scene he couldn't get the hang of cracking an egg with one hand (I've mastered the art now) so it's Deighton's hand doing it in the movie.
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