Close-Up - 1972
A foray into the corrupt, cut-throat and competitive world of Hollywood filming, it tells the story of english actor Marshall Stone who, advancing in years, sees the parts dry up and is desperate to remain at the top; meanwhile, dark secrets are revealed as his ex-wife’s husband starts researching a no-holds barred biography.
Opening up to a biographer, the story Stone tells of a world where books are properties and stars and directors are bought and sold like slaves at an auction, and the truth is never likely to be revealed. This is Deighton's exposition of the 'star machine' of Hollywood at its most venal and ruinous.
Why it's enjoyable
This is the first time Deighton wrote a conventional thriller. Different again from Deighton’s usual work, it’s good at teasing out the mix of neurosis, alcohol and money that means a film star in the studio system was only ever one bad review from becoming a nobody.
You read about the money men, the back-stabbing, the hassles and inherent falseness of the movie-making world which, according to later interviews by Deighton and eye-witness accounts, led to his giving up on cinema production after his experiences on Oh! What a Lovely War in the 'sixties. You sense that Deighton has definitely drawn from his own knowledge of dealing with actors and their agents!
'"It's better the girl and the kid disappear. No more letters, no visits, no nothing."
"Yes, Mr Koolman." "An official adoption through a recognized society." "Can that be done without..."
"Sure, sure. The studio donates fifty grand a year to one of the adoption societies; I'm on the committee there. I'll just need your signature on some papers, right?"'
"Yes, Mr Koolman." "And this British actor..."
"Nicholson," supplied Bookbinder. "Edgar Nicholson."
"Edgar Nicholson, right. Will be the father. His blood group is compatible. He'll sign the paternity and we'll have it all kosher for you."'
The broken Moet et Chandon champagne bottle motif on the dustjacket was brought for the cover by designer Raymond Hawkey, who arguably produced the best book covers adorning Deighton's books. Hawkey was a fellow student of Deighton's at St Martin's College of Art & Design in Soho and subsequently a lifelong friend.
In an interview, Deighton confessed that Close-Up was one of the favourite novels that he'd written.
Close-Up, UK first edition, 1972
Did you know?
Len Deighton has been reported as saying that Close-Up is his favourite of all the novels he has written.