The Man Who... - 1992
Len Deighton makes a single contribution to this collection of spy and thriller stories, produced to mark the eightieth birthday of writer and critic Julian Symons. The book is published by the Detection Club and is edited by writer H.R.F. Keating.
Deighton's short story is called 'The Man Who Was A Coyote'. In it, a border guard on the US-Mexican border, Pete Lopez, has arrested a ‘coyote’ - someone who leads illegal immigrants across the border. But the guard has to change his arrest and charge plans when a rich lawyer enters his office; it's a lawyer with whom he has a history. Other writers contributing stories include Antonia Fraser, Reginald Hill and Ruth Rendell.
Why it's interesting
There’s little to the story, in truth. Compared with Deighton's full novels, readers may find it a bit lacklustre as - due to its length - there's little opportunity for character development. But you get a picture of how Deighton sees the daily struggle on the US-Mexico border; he of course lives for much of his time in southern California and he certainly feels at home writing about that country's many layers and social problems.
'The fly screen banged as the tall man went inside and the taxi driver drew in closer to the tall fence. The driver switched on the radio again and the same music came more softly. Having watched the lawyer going into the hut the three Patrolmen found tasks to keep them busy. Men in business suits usually meant trouble of one sort of another. It was better to leave it with Pete Lopez, the man down there at the desk in the trailer. He knew how to deal with outsiders.
"Hello, Mr Dawson." Lopez was thirty years old, and handsome, with a tanned face and large slightly greying moustache that made him look like the star of some old Hollywood Western.'
Julian Symons' quote about Len Deighton's work - he regarded him as 'the poet of the spy story' - has frequently been used on the dustjackets of Deighton's books.
The Man Who..., UK first edition, 1992
A list of legends
The contributor list to this book is a veritable 'who's who' of spy and thriller literature. It includes: Eric Ambler, Simon Brett, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, George Sims and Reginald Hill