Drinks-man-ship, UK first edition, 1964
The subtitle of this book is 'Town's album of Fine Wines and High Spirits: Edited by Len Deighton. 'As a result, this is technically not a true Deighton-written book. But it has all the hallmarks of Deighton's sixties persona and the characters retelling the drink-related stories are the sort of people found in Len Deighton's London Dossier and around the dinner table at his Southward flat.
The contributors are friends and acquaintances of Deighton's who know good food and drink and know how to enjoy themselves. Articles by journalists, writers, experts and entertainers include the history of gin, a guide to the form of drinking abroad, single malts for whisky lovers and a tour through Europe's biggest vineyards. It contains some wonderful photos that are redolent of the colour and style of the era in London.
Why it's interesting
The front cover image of Len Deighton with a 'dolly bird' reflects his position in the 'sixties as very much London's man about town - writer, raconteur, gourmand and party host. Len was known for hosting in-demand dinner parties at his south London home at which people like Mick Jagger, Michael Caine and Paul McCartney would participate. The writing is vivid and evokes a period when bacchinalian revelry was not frowned upon and the pub was the domain of the bloke.
'There is a popular fallacy - much encouraged by Francophiles - that only recently have the British been initiated into the mysteries of wine. This is nowhere near true. Admittedly, we produce no wine - let's not quibble about cottage wines, ginger wine or the ancient vineyards of Gloucestershire. But this was no handicap. Britannia, after all, ruled the waves. Nor should we forget that Henry II's marriage gained us the vineyards in Bourdeaux, and we kept them for three centuries. Claret is, in effect, and Empire wine, like South African Sherry or New York State Champagne.' - Anthony Haden Guest.
Town was a successor to Man about Town magazine which ran in the early sixties, published by Cornmarket; the success of the magazine led to the company becoming Haymarket publishers, owned by Michael Heseltine. The magazine became a glossy monthly for men. In one sense it was ahead of the time. Men's fashion was at the margin of acceptability and men's magazines relied almost entirely upon their willingness to peddle soft porn.
The magazine relied for revenue on the advertising industry, and on the wish of art directors and copywriters to see their work displayed in this pace-setting publication.
The front cover of the book comes from an article in Town magazine in which Deighton and the cover model - Patti Boyd - are shot from both the front and the back of the Christmas issue, for a feature on seasonal drinking.