Nominees for the Southwark Blue Plate: Len Deighton, the spy fiction writer who typed the first book written on a word processor in Borough

Len Deighton, who wrote the IPCRESS file along with 26 other novels, is one of Britain’s most famous spy fiction writers.

Len Deighton is an author, journalist, cookbook writer and historian who is said to have written the first novel typed on a word processor from his home in the Borough.

Along with Graham Greene, Ian Fleming and John Le Carré, the 92-year-old Mr Deighton is often ranked among the foremost British authors of 20th century spy novels.

He wrote the IPCRESS dossier in 1962, which brought “a more insolent, wry and cynical style to spy history,” according to historian Alan Burton in his Recent History of British Spy Fiction – in contrast with the smooth and astonishing James Bond of Mr. Fleming. .

Mr Deighton told the BBC’s Desert Island Discs that the novel “is about spies on the surface, but it’s also actually about a high school boy among the boys in public schools and the hardships he faces. “. The book, Mr. Deighton’s first, is also perhaps his most famous and was adapted into a movie starring Michael Caine. Mr. Caine also played the role in three subsequent adaptations of the author’s works.

Mr. Deighton was born in 1929 in Marylebone, the son of a driver and mechanic and a cook. He went to high school and did his national service in the RAF. Aged in his twenties, he obtained a scholarship to study at the School of Fine Arts and later became an illustrator. Much of his work was in advertising and book covers – and he designed the cover for Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road in 1957.

He was commissioned to write “cookstrips” – graphic recipe illustrations with minimal words – for the Observer newspaper for four and a half years starting in 1962. It was during this time that he wrote the file. IPCRESS, which quickly became a success and made a name for itself. , helping him to launch a long literary career. He went on to write 26 other novels in 34 years, including Spy Story and Bomber.

Along with its literary merit, Bomber, a meticulously documented book about an RAF raid, has gone down in history for technical reasons.
The book is believed to have been the first novel written on a word processor. Mr Deighton typed it up on a first IBM computer from his home in Merrick Square, near Great Dover Street, from 1968. An IBM technician who worked on his typewriters had suggested he could use the enormous one. Magnetic Tape Selectric typewriter for writing the book. A window should have been removed from his house so that the 200-pound machine could be lifted.

He told Slate magazine in 2013: “Standing in the leafy plaza I lived in, watching all this activity, I had a moment of doubt. I was beginning to think that I had chosen a rather unusual way of writing books.

In addition to his novels, Mr. Deighton has written several cookbooks, including Len Deighton’s Action Cook Book, a collection of his cooking tapes “intended for an audience of men who don’t know how to cook themselves”, and Where is the garlic, a book on French cuisine.

Mr Deighton also organized the London Dossier of Len Deighton, a sardonic guide to the British capital who played on his reputation as a spy fiction writer and a staple of the ‘swinging sixties’ scene of the city. Each of the chapters has been written by other London writers, on general topics such as “the underworld” and “music”. Mr. Deighton wrote introductions to the book and to each chapter.

He has written several history books, including Fighter: The True Story of the Battle of Britain and Blitzkrieg: From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of Dunkirk. Other work included scripts for film and television. His production has been more sparse since the late 1990s and his last book was released in 2012.

Rob Mallows, the creator of Deighton Dossier, a fan site dedicated to Mr. Deighton, wrote that “in recent years Deighton’s profile in the UK and around the world has declined as he enjoys his retirement” .

Indeed, Mr. Deighton has not given many interviews in recent years and has declined through his agent to speak to News for this article. He said he didn’t like the job of writing, telling Desert Island Discs that “the best thing about writing books is being at a party and telling a pretty girl you’re writing. of books, the worst thing is to sit in front of a typewriter and actually write the book.

To vote for Len Deighton or one of the nominees for a Southwark Blue Plaque, please email [email protected] or [email protected] with the name of the person you wish to nominate .

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