(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.