XPD, UK first edition, 1981
What if Churchill had met with Hitler and started talks about the terms of a British surrender in the war, but rejected the German proposals, and that subsequently anyone who learned of this meeting had been marked for XPD - the expedient demise of enemy agents?
That’s the starting point for this thriller which looks at what happens when a file of this meeting emerges and MI6, the KGB and the CIA are drawn into the hunt for those at the meeting. A group of former SS officers in West Germany seek to use papers about a meeting between Hitler and Churchill during the war as a pretext for seizing power; British agent Boy Stuart is tasked with keeping the documents under wraps. The denouement, on a film set of the Fuhrer's study under a Nazi eagle, is very well realised.
Why it's enjoyable
As with his SS-GB novel, Deighton’s great here at picking out the historical details you would expect if the scenario he plays out had really happened. Expedient demises are, of course, officially denied by the security services, but the way Deighton writes it you feel sure they happen....regularly.
The plot is developed with the sort of ineguity and plot details you come to expect from Deighton. It's also his contribution to the sub-genre of alternative history. Other novels, such as Fatherland, have taken on this idea of imagining Europe under a victorious Nazi regime.
'"What exaclty did you tell Dr Böttger?"
"They didn't need much economic persuasion. Those fat businessmen could see the economic consequences of rewriting the history books to make Hitler into a hero. They didn't want anyone saying that he'd been clever enough to make Winston Churchill come cringing."
"But Churchill changed his mind; Churchill turned down the peace terms."
"So Churchill becomes the warmonger who continued with the war that caused twenty million deaths. Any way you present the facts, Hitler comes out best."'
The novel was dramatised in eight parts by Michael Bakewell for BBC radio in 1985. However, unlike Bomber, it's never been released commercially as a recording.