A selection of Len Deighton's writing for the media
Over the years, particularly in the 1960s and 70s, Len Deighton was in demand as a contributor to newspapers and magazines in the UK and abroad. Of particular note was his two-year stint as travel editor of Playboy. A summary of key contributions as travel editor - together with, where available, a .pdf of the article - is set out below.
Why does my art go boom? Playboy, May 1966
Here, Deighton - who went on to become Playboy's travel editor - writes about the growth of the spy novel craze and in particular the move away from gentlemen spies. Deighton writes of The Ipcress File: "I wanted the characterisations and the dialogue to control the enigma, rather than the other way round as has been the case with the detective novels of the thirties."
Playboy's guide to a continental holiday, Playboy, May 1968
By-lined as 'the premier novelist of international intrigue', this is Deighton's first article as Playboy's travel editor, in which he proposes an itinerary for an independent travellor making their first trip to Europe. In a detailed table format, he picks the best hotels, restaurants, clubs and bargains for 25 cities in Europe. For example: "Traditional and usually petty prejudices nurtured by one nationality for another have not been swept away by satellite television, nor are they very likely to succumb to the age of the jumbo jet". How delightfully un-PC!
Hawaiian Aye! Playboy, June 1968
Replete with lavish illustrations of the island by George Suyeoka, in his role as travel editor Len Deighton looks beyond the clichés of the travel brochure to find the real Hawaii. He has a number of paragraphs on each of the main islands, and for each identifies the best hotels, sightseeing opportunity, the car hire and other features like local markets that make a trip special: "At sunset, surfers ride in on the big swells that start outside the harbor and subside just inside the entrance, their black silhouettes edged with gold against a purple sea."
Exploring a new city - a key to making the most of metropolitan vacationing, Playboy, August 1968
A guide for the US traveller to Europe on best to approach a new city. So, he offers his ideas on alternatives to hotel accommodation, finding the best restaurants and where best to find female companions: "There are guidebooks that will tell you where to get aid around the world; but don't count on getting it free anywhere. These experts deal with cardinal principle number three - money - and anyone with cash can find his way into a warm bed".
Skiing: from A to V, Playboy, November 1968
Deighton is in Aspen, then becoming the hip place to go skiing in the US. His report offers an insight into the facts a potential skier might need: travel, best bars, snow reports, theatres and banquetting halls. He writes: "An influx of hippies, if that word still has any meaning, has, inevitably, disturbed the town's conservative element, which is solidly entrenched in the local tourist industry".
Sardinia: Italy's alabaster isle, Playboy, December 1968
Here Deighton explores Italy's playgrounds of the rich, starting off with a trip on an 80-foot sloop owned by the Aga Khan. Deighton explores this secret world, the haunt of Bridget Bardo, Rex Harrison and the Rockerfellers. Sample quote: "The people who go to Costa Smerelda want to relax, swim, eat good food, go spearfishing, ride horses, fornicate and get quietly stoned".
Warship, contribution to a feature on The Pattern of Invention, Sunday Times magazine, 28 June 1970.
Deighton writes about the strategic impact of the cannon aboard a fighting ship on 16th century warfare, highlighting the key decision to place them near the waterline for stability, which led in turn to the broadside attack. Despite the problems with such design, as experienced with the ship the Mary Rose, he argues that lower gun ports led directly to the new carvel construction for strength, leading to clinker-built ships going out of favour. Here Deighton reveals early on his passion for the impact of machinery on battle that he later revealed in books like Blitzkrieg and Fighter. Sample quote: "Speed and seamanship became the deciding factors in naval war. The old notion of a floating fort was abandoned. No longer did ships need the absurd tall castles from which soldiers could shoot their arrows, although the word 'fore-castle' remains."
Supercar Motoring, The Sunday Times Colour magazine, 14 April 1963.
One year after the success of The Ipcress File, Len Deighton was a man in demand for interviews and magazine features. The financial rewards from his writing were clearly evident in this article by him on the benefits of the latest in-car technology for the busy writer on the move.
In this era of sat-nav and mobile phones, the desirability of short-wave radio phones and an in-car phonograph (!) is questionable, but back in the early sixties this was the cutting edge of technologyand Len Deighton was in the avant garde in his use of technology as he was in his writing style.
The world of Harry Saltzman, Sight and Sound, November 1994
When film producer Harry Saltzman died, Len Deighton paid tribute to the man who created the Harry Palmer films. He writes about how Saltzman wanted the Palmer films to be 'kitchen sink' spy dramas, in contrast to Bond, and shares anecdotes about Harry's advice when Deighton himself went into film producing.
Sand and Sea, Sight and Sound, January 1995
Obviously somewhat in demand after a good reaction to his article on Harry Saltzman, Deighton penned another four-page article on the film industry (which he'd experienced - with mixed results - at first hand in the nineteen sixties. This time, he looks at the Hollywood production of Lawrence of Arabia and compares it with the British-made The Cruel Sea, which he regards as a more authentic reflection of British film-making which was coming under increasing pressure from the demands of the Hollywood studios.
My Kind of Party, Good Housekeeping, June 1963
As part of a feature on being a good party hostess, Deighton writes about what makes his ideal dinner party: "Too much over-rich food, booze, politics, religion and sex - that's my kind of party."
Travel article for Playboy, 1968
Deighton on skiing in Aspen
"An influx of hippies, if that word still has any meaning, has, inevitably, disturbed the town's conservative element, which is solidly entrenched in the local tourist industry".