The Reading Room

An Expensive Place to Die

Playboy’s serialisation of Len Deighton’s ‘An Expensive Place to Die’…

Fans of the spy fiction genre may not be aware of the regularity in which Playboy magazine featured new novels by some of the leading authors of the day. John Le Carré’s The Honourable Schoolboy was first featured in the magazine in 1977 with some interesting artwork to accompany it following earlier serialisations of Graham Greene, Ian Fleming and, as Playboy described him; Len ‘Ipcress File’ Deighton.

Deighton’s An Expensive Place to Die was first published by Playboy in their December 1966 issue (vol.13 no.12) and continued to be serialised through to the February 1967 issue making it the true first edition. Each one featured some great artwork, quite different from what one might expect of a Deighton storyline but very much a wonderful snapshot of the sixties and the artists of the period.

First published in hardback by Jonathan Cape in the UK in 1967 and by Putnam in the US, the original hardback featured a wallet of ‘top secret documents’ along with a particularly good cover by Raymond Hawkey. Like Deighton’s previous novels the agent/narrator is unnamed and the story is set around a web of intrigue featuring the French, Americans and Chinese and a plot by the British secret service to prove their nuclear deterrent capability to the Chinese. In true sixties spy style our unnamed agent gets involved with Maria, a French girl and daughter of Monsieur Datt who is working for the Chinese before ending up on a pirate radio ship near Ostend!

Playboy in the 1960s was a leading light in promoting literary fiction as well as journalism, civil rights and jazz music. Their choice of authors was broad and interviews were often very revealing. Ian Fleming’s later novels and short stories were also featured as well as Bond himself and of course, a number of Bond girls including Ursula Andress who was a favourite of the magazine for many years. It should be remembered that Playboy was averaging between three and five million copies per issue globally during the sixties and so the chance to be featured will have been well received by the likes of Deighton.

For the collector, Playboy often represented the true first edition of a book and therefore makes owning these something of a no-brainer. Regardless of publication date however, I do feel they add a quality addition to any collection and the accompanying artwork offers an interesting take compared to the books. Copies can still be found via the usual platforms, expect to pay between £9 and £20 per issue depending on quality.

Images copyright Playboy Magazine


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