The online resource about writer Len Deighton


For a serious collector of Len Deighton's work, one of the prize items to bag is a copy of the first UK edition of Horse Under Water.

But, a pristine edition of the book itself isn't the ultimate prize. No, it's only really a complete - and genuine - first edition (of which 15,000 were printed) if it has two things:

  • Black end boards on a red binding, with on the left facing page an empty crossword puzzle, and on the right facing page, the 30 clues - down and across - linked to the puzzle
  • A laid-in piece of ephemera - a facsimile of the same puzzle - entitled 'Horse Under Water: Crossword Competition'.

This was part of the marketing ploy by Deighton's new publisher for this book, Jonathan Cape, to capitalise on the success of The Ipcress File and encourage booksellers to stock the novel.

The crossword puzzle links to the fact that in both The Ipcress File and Horse Under Water, the central character of the narrator - unnamed in the novels, but subsequently known as Harry Palmer in the movies - enjoys completing crossword puzzles as a diversion from his work as an agent employed by W.O.O.C.(P)., woking for his boss, Dawlish. For example, when he's on a train journey to Wales, the narrator adds the word STURGEON into the crossword he's completing, allowing him then to finish 23 down - MULGA - and 2 across, SISTRUM.

Each chapter heading reads like a crossword clue - so, the first chapter is 'Sweet talk', the second is 'Old solution'. Answers to each of these clues ('Parley', 'nostrum') are listed in the beginning papers of the book. So, straightaway, the reader is given to understand that crosswords, and puzzle solving, hint at something in the character and the challenge he faces in the novel.

The puzzle competition

The competition offered a prize of £50 worth of book tokens for the first ten solutions received by the publishers, by post, adding the name of the bookseller who sold them the book. Because the answer sheet was only laid in - and not affixed in any way to the book - naturally most of them were either completed and sent in, or thrown away, or otherwise lost. To find one - especially, an uncompleted one - is rare indeed.

The crossword itself is fairly cryptic and would have been something of a challenge to the average reader. The answers to each of the clues, when completed, form an additional table of contents for the book.

Sample clues included 12 across - 'followed by black Anglia?' (5 letters) - and 24 down - 'Made Alice clinch one?' (1, 4 words). Each of the cryptic clues relates to a character or situation revealed in the book. The questions are not easy and I've been unable to find any record information as to the completion rate and number of entries received by Jonathan Cape.

But, as a curious piece of sixties marketing ephemera, the crossword competition is notable, and undoubtedly played its part in the subsequent sales success of the first and subsequent editions of the book.

Naturally, my copies of the crossword remain uncompleted!

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Like many top authors, the books and collected works of Len Deighton offer significant opportunities for serious book collectors.

His output is prodigious: not just the 200 plus books he's written or contributed to, but also the book covers he's designed, the ephemera associated with the marketing and launching of his books, and the associated posters and other material linked to the film versions of his works.

It is relatively easy to build a great collection of Len Deighton's books; once he gained popularity, first editions of his works were published in increasing numbers. But like any popular author - John Le Carré, Ian Fleming or Desmond Bagley, say - collectors are also interested in the rarities, the hard-to-track-down oddities which can be part of any collection alongside the books.

In time, more information will be added to this section about collecting his non-fiction works and the real rarities for Deighton collectors: the ephemera items such as the Hindenburg postcard, pictured right.

Find out below the information you need to build your collection of Deighton books.

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Book value guide - the novels

Roll the cursor over each of the books below to read useful information on first editions of Deighton's novels and a guide to their value.

Book value guide - the Samson series of books

Roll the cursor over each of the books below to read useful information on all the editions of Deighton's Samson novels and their value.


Len Deighton has written and published over sixty books on his own or with a writing partner, and contributed to many more.

This bibliography lists in chronological order every first edition book by Len Deighton, including some special and rare editions and information about collected editions, including the most recent paperback reissues by Harper Collins in 2009.

Also included are his first published works which, while not strictly books, are still regarded as part of the Deighton canon by collectors.

Click below to uncover a popup and comprehensive list of everything he's written, from 1954 up to the present day.

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In the summer of 2020 it was announced by Penguin - world-famous publisher of paperbacks - that the company would be reissuing all of Len Deighton's fiction works - in addition to his histories - in 2021, under its Modern Classics imprint.

With over thirty books being released during 2021, this is the largest refresh of Deighton's canon since the Harper Collins paperbacks issued in 2009, with cover designs by his friend, designer Arnold Schwartzman, to mark the author's 80th birthday.

This time - quite deliberately - there is across all of the reissued books a graphic theme that harks back to the first Deighton books published by Penguin back in the 1960s. These were the first UK paperbacks to Horse Under Water, Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain, each of which had the now legendary film tie-in covers designed by Deighton's friend, Ray Hawkey, depicting Michael Caine as 'Harry Palmer', the main character in the novels who - thanks for the success of the Harry Saltzman films - now had a name and a look. They were some of Penguin's biggest sellers of the decade.

Penguin's art director Tony Stoddart , over fifty years on, took inspiration in his overall theme for the look of the new reissues. Each of the new volumes has a black & white photo image, reproduced in newspaper style dot-matrix offset print style, set against a background of coloured chevrons, harking back to the same design idea which featured on the early Hawkey Penguin editions.

The company explicitly acknowledged this connection with their past when announcing the launch, and also subsequently on the blurb on the back of many of the novels, which reference the inspiration provided by Raymond Hawkey's groundbreaking 'sixties covers.

The fiction works all use this chevron motif against a white background, creating an overall design continuity of all the fiction works, from The Ipcress File right up to Violent Ward (which at time of writing has still to be published). The histories - including Fighter and Blitzkrieg - have coloured covers and pictures of military hardware, but retaining the chevron motif, creating a subtle distinction with the fiction works.

The nine books in the Bernard Samson novels - from Berlin Game right through to Charity - have all now been published and on each there is a character, in black & white. Now, it's not made clear on any of the covers who each character is; the reader is asked to guess. However, it's clear that all the main characters are featured - or, at least, suggested - on the covers, a throw back to earlier editions of the novels.

They are a triumph of the book designers' art and unquestionably worthy of standing alongside other covers by Raymond Hawkey and other designers who've tackled Deighton's books in the past. Put together, they represent a strong body of work which Penguin clearly believes - with the right design and the right marketing - can still appeal to readers across the country, many decades after their initial releases.

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