Len Deighton Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Len Deighton’s espionage novels, with those of John le Carré, sounded a new and sustained note in fiction in the 1960’s just as the vogue for Ian Fleming’s James Bond series of spy fantasies was growing in international scope. Indeed, Deighton’s anonymous spy plays himself off against his flashy fictional colleague by referring to Bond by name. Like le Carré, Deighton depicts the Cold War in highly realistic detail and portrays both the complex plots and plans necessary to the world of espionage and the minutiae of everyday life. Among Deighton’s many gifts is his ability to probe the rivalries and insecurities of his characters as they move their own front lines forward in the secret war. Another is his skill in creating engagingly flippant and shrewd but self-deprecatory spies who tell their stories with a mordancy that reminds one of the hard-boiled detectives of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Ross Macdonald.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Atkins, John. “Len Deighton: An Enigma.” In The British Spy Novel: Styles in Treachery. New York: Riverrun Press, 1984. Atkins identifies Deighton’s strengths—his mastery of detail, his gift for imagery, his verbal facility—but finds that in every case he overplays his hand. Atkins declares that Bomber is better than any of Deighton’s spy novels.

Bloom, Harold, ed. “Len Deighton.” In Modern Crime and Suspense Writers. New York: Chelsea House, 1995. Scholarly study of Deighton, emphasizing both his place in relation to crime fiction and the genre’s place in relation to cultural studies.

Jones, Dudley. “The Great Game? The Spy Fiction of Len Deighton.” In Spy Thrillers: From Buchan to Le Carré, edited by Clive Bloom. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990. Places Deighton within the lineage of the most significant and influential authors of the espionage thriller.

Kamm, Jürgen. “Berlin Wall and Cold-War Espionage: Visions of a Divided Germany in the Novels of Len Deighton.” In The Berlin Wall. New York: P. Lang, 1996. This entry on Deighton’s Cold War fiction is part of a larger study of the cultural significance of the Cold War. Places him in a larger context than studies focused merely on spy stories.

Merry, Bruce. The Special Branch: The British Spy Novel, 1890-1980. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1981.

Milward-Oliver, Edward. The Len Deighton Companion. London: Grafton, 1987. A substantial reference work containing annotated entries for titles, characters, places, institutions, and themes as well as detailed bibliographies of British and American editions. Written with the novelist’s cooperation and incorporating a rare interview, the volume is essential to anyone studying Deighton.

Panek, LeRoy L. “Len Deighton.” In The Special Branch: The British Spy Novel, 1890-1980. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1981. Panek praises Deighton as a representative of the golden age of spy fiction, finding that he deals with serious issues, that he has an abiding interest in his craft, and that his central character has grown and developed. Nevertheless, Panek concludes that Deighton has not transcended the genre.

Powers, Alan. Front Cover: Great Book Jackets and Cover Design. London: Mitchell Beazley, 2001. Looks at the cover design of Deighton’s novels and what goes into the effective marketing of espionage thrillers, among many other types of book. Bibliographic references and index.