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Leonard Cyril Deighton (born 18 February 1929, Marylebonemarker, Londonmarker) is a Britishmarker military historian, cookery writer, and novelist. He is perhaps most famous for his spy novel The IPCRESS File, which was made into a film starring Michael Caine.

Early years

Deighton was born in Marylebonemarker, London, in 1929. His father was a chauffeur and mechanic, and his mother was a part-time cook. At the time they lived in Gloucester Place Mews near Baker Streetmarker.

Deighton's interest in spy stories may have been partially inspired by the arrest of Anna Wolkoff, which he witnessed as an 11-year-old boy. Wolkoff was a British citizen of Russian descent who was a Nazi spy. She was detained on 20 May 1940, and convicted of violating the Official Secrets Act for attempting to pass secret documents to the Nazis.


After leaving school, Deighton worked as a railway clerk before performing his National Service, which he spent as a photographer for the Royal Air Force's Special Investigation Branch. After discharge from the RAF, he studied at St Martin's School of Artmarker in Londonmarker in 1949, and in 1952 won a scholarship to the Royal College of Artmarker, graduating in 1955. While he was at the RCA he became a "lifelong friend" of fellow designer Raymond Hawkey, who later designed covers for his early books. Deighton then worked as an airline steward with BOAC. Before he began his writing career he worked as an illustrator in New Yorkmarker and, in 1960, as an art director in a Londonmarker advertising agency. He is credited with creating the first British cover for Kerouac's On the Road. He has since used his drawing skills to illustrate a number of his own military history books.

Following the success of his first novels, Deighton became The Observer's cookery writer and produced illustrated cookbooks. He also wrote travel guides and became travel editor of Playboy, before becoming a film producer. After producing a film adaption of his 1968 novel Only When I Larf, Deighton and photographer Brian Duffy bought the film rights to Joan Littlewood and Theatre Workshop's stage musical Oh, What a Lovely War!. He had his name removed from the credits of the film, however, which was a move that he later described as "stupid and infantile". That was his last involvement with the cinema.

Deighton left Britain in 1969. He briefly resided in Blackrock, Co.Louth in Ireland and drove an Aston Martin DB5. He has not returned to Britain apart from some personal visits and very few media appearances, his last one since 1985 being a 2006 interview which formed part of a "Len Deighton Night" on BBC Four. He now resides in southern California.



Several of his novels have been adapted as films. His first four novels featured an anonymous anti-hero, named "Harry Palmer" in the films, and portrayed by Michael Caine. The first trilogy of his Bernard Samson novel series was made into a 12-part television series by Granada Television in 1988, shown only once, and withdrawn on instructions from Mr Deighton. Quentin Tarantino has expressed interest in filming the trilogy. [8649] He wrote the screenplay and was an uncredited producer
of the 1969 film of the stage musical Oh, What a Lovely War!. His 1970 World War II historical novel Bomber about an RAF Bomber Command raid over Germanymarker often is considered his masterpiece.

He reportedly began an unfinished Vietnammarker novel, a portion of which appeared as the story First Base in his short story collection Declarations of War.

Cookery books

Deighton also published a series of cookery books and wrote and drew a weekly strip cartoon-style illustrated cooking guide in Londonmarker's The Observer newspaper – Len Deighton's Cookstrip. At least one of the strips is pinned up in Deighton's spy hero's kitchen in the 1965 film of his novel The IPCRESS File.[8650]

To exploit the success of Deighton's first four "Unnamed Hero" novels, he wrote Len Deighton's London Dossier (1967), a guide book to Swinging Sixties London with a "secret agent" theme — contributions from other writers are described as "surveillance reports".

History books

Deighton's 1977 "Fighter: The True Story of the Battle of Britain" was said by Albert Speer (once Hitler's Minister of Armaments) to be "an excellent, most thorough examination. I read page after page with fascination". The piece was furnished with a comment by A. J. P. Taylor simply saying: "Brilliant analysis...".

Deighton is currently writing a history of aero engines and also a history of the fountain pen.


Further literature

  • Sauerberg, Lars Ole (1984) Secret Agents in Fiction: Ian Fleming, John le Carré, and Len Deighton
  • Milward-Oliver, Edward (1985) Len Deighton: An Annotated Bibliography 1954-85
  • Milward-Oliver, Edward (1987) The Len Deighton Companion


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