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His father was a chauffeur and mechanic and his mother a part-time cook. They lived near the famous Baker Street where Sir Artur Conan Doyle placed the boarding house in which Sherlock Holmes lived with Dr. Watson. Leonard worked as a railroad employee before serving in the British Army, specifically in the Royal Air Force, and later studied art at Saint Martin’s School of Art (1949); he later obtained a scholarship to continue in the Royal College of Art (1952), where he graduated in 1955. In New York he was an illustrator. Then he was artistic director in a London advertising agency and a journalist for The Observer and Playboy. He wrote several travel guides.
Deighton’s interest in spy stories seems to come in part from witnessing the arrest of his neighbor Anna Wolkoff (20-V-1940), a British citizen of Russian origin spying on the eleven-year-old girl. for the Nazis and was condemned for stealing secret documents in violation of the Official Secrets Law. His first novel, The Ipcress file (1962), achieved great success and served as the beginning of a series of espionage novels around his central character without a name, the spy who in the film adaptations appears with Harry Palmer’s, in Certainly an antiheroic counterfigure of Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Palmer is a young worker from Burnley, an enemy of any kind of authority. He has no interest in anyone unless he belongs to his own class and equally distrusts everyone; he moves in a complex world, where nobody is what he seems to be.Your anonymous spy is a kind of junior official fond of military history and allergic to all forms of violence whose cardinal qualities are patience and sagacity. Len Deighton gives an almost lyrical accent to the recreation of the ephemeral and transitory lives of secret agents and is close to John Le Carré for the subject and Raymond Chandler for the style. From Ipcress, a great homonymous film was made, starring Michael Caine and later others. Then another cycle of espionage novels began around the main character of agent Bernard Samson.
Deighton’s literary quality is evident and his stories are deliberately cynical and elliptical. But he also wrote novels with a war theme, such as Adiós Mickey Mouse (1984), for which he used his military experience. In this novel he narrates the life of the members of a squadron of American fighters. Other books about military history and cooking are also owed to him.
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