Spy Story by Len Deighton….
A recent holiday gave me the opportunity to revisit two of Len Deighton’s novels from the Seventies, his work which bridged the gap between the Harry Palmer years of the mid Sixties to the stunning nine part Bernard Samson novels of the eighties onwards often divides readers between two camps; those who love him regardless and those who read him as a spy fiction author like any other. But any other he is not. Deighton’s style is unique, it has been copied but the humour and understanding of the internal workings of the intelligence community has never been equalled.
Spy Story was first published in 1974 and Patrick Armstrong is the book’s Harry Palmer and there are enough traits to remind you of the original hero and keep you entertained. It’s not an epic but it does enough to satisfy spy fiction fans with Deighton’s usual mastery of prose and detail when it matters. Who then, can resist the lure of nuclear submarines, beer and whisky drinking in a remote Scottish pub with a landlord on the books, 1970s computers and talks of German reunification? Throw in an American Colonel and the infamous Soviet Colonel Stok and Deighton gives his fans enough to remember the Palmer years and a taste of things to come.
The plot is not as complex as his best but his description of the Scottish Highlands, the burden of weeks at sea and the in-depth knowledge of operating under the Polar ice-cap are riveting. This is a real taste of the 1970s, it makes you want to don a thick coat and head off to a remote pub with a log fire, a good whisky and whispered conversations.
If you have read the Bernard Samson books and the Palmer trilogy then pick this one up too but perhaps not before..
Categories: The Reading Room