Tuesday, 1 July 2014

London Match by Len Deighton

published 1985






[An important and highly-secret spy meeting is taking place, with the Director-General of the department being informed of progress in a vital defection case]

It was while Bret was in full flow that a man came in through the door with a bundle of cloth under his arm. The D-G stood up, solemnly removed his jacket, and gave it to the newcomer who hung it on a hanger and put it into the wardrobe that was built into one wall… ‘Don’t worry about Bony,’ said the D-G, indicating the stranger. ‘He was with me in the war. He’s vetted.’

‘It’s rather delicate, sir,’ said Bret.

‘I’ll be gone in three minutes,’ said Bony, a short man in a tight-fitting grey worsted three-piece suit. He hung a partly-made jacket onto the D-G and, apparently oblivious to us all, stood back to inspect the D-G’s appearance. Then he made some chalk marks on the jacket and began to rip pieces off it the way tailors do…

Bret said, ‘We have excellent prospects, Sir Henry. It would be criminal to throw away a chance like this.’

‘How long do you want?’ said the D-G.

Bony looked at him to see if he was asking about the delivery time of the suit, decided it wasn’t a question for him, and said, ‘I want you to look at the wool, Sir Henry.’


observations: This scene is a tour de force, as the spies and the tailor fight for the D-G’s attention, and try to work out which of them his responses are aimed at: ‘I’m not very keen on that’, Sir Henry says – a sample of cloth, or a decision about interrogation? The tailor speaks to the bossman - ‘Keep still, sir!’ – in a way none of his work underlings would. The whole section is hilarious.

Can’t say much about the plot of this one, as it follows on from, and spoilers, Berlin Game and Mexico Set. But it is a worthy follow-up to them, full of excitement, tension and interest. Bernard Samson and the rest of his department are trying to work out what is going on with a defector, and head off to the outpost where he is being held. As they go through security:
‘They’re rude bastards,’ said Bret as if his definition was something I should write down and consult at future visits.
There is also a rather splendid shootout in a dismal launderette, and yet more detail of Berlin life – why Berliners are different from other Germans, and why other Germans hate the city and its residents.

There is a young woman called Gloria, who is described in the previous book like this:
If Botticelli had painted the box top for a Barbie doll the picture would have looked like Gloria Kent
One of the great things about Deighton (well from this blog’s point of view anyway) is that he tells you all the time what the characters are wearing – but it has to be said, Gloria has more different nighties than seems likely for a young woman of her age in the 1980s.

The picture, from the NY Public Library, is a publicity still for One-Two-Three, a play by Ferenc Molnar, performed in New York in 1930.

For previous entries on this series, click on Deighton’s name below.

Rich Westwood, over at Past Offences, is also working his way through this series – you can find his review of London Match here.

14 comments:

  1. Moira - That combination of wit and suspense - classic! And I like Deighton's evocative narrative style. What's more, you couldn't have that scene with the tailor without being able to write really good dialogue. Thanks for highlighting this one. :-)

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    1. Deighton is very good at inserting these funny scenes without holding up the action or distracting the reader - such a clever writer!

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  2. Moira: I have been getting suits made for me for over 40 years from the same men's shop. Elwood does not make the suits but gives advice on style, cloth and colour. What has impressed me is his ability to look at a man and know his size and what would look good. When my older son at 18 went to get his first real suit Elwood looked at him for a few moments and then went and picked a suit off the rack that my son loved and needed but one minor alteration.

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    1. Lucky you to have such a resource and such history - I bet you look very dapper. I'm glad your son is following in your footsteps. Not everyone does suits these days...

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  3. I love the progression of these books. I thought I would not like them because I don't like dialog heavy books, but that did not bother me at all. I have got to get back to the world of Bernard Samson.

    I was trying to remember if there was a scene like this in the movie One, Two Three with Jimmy Cagney. Have you seen that movie?

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    1. Never heard of the Cagney movie - you are such a film buff Tracy!

      That's funny about your not being a dialogue fan - I'm the opposite, I love that in a book.

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    2. I will have to ask my husband about that film, he is the real film buff... and then maybe watch it again. It was Cagney's last film in a starring role... He did do Ragtime 20 years later but not the same. I would say Cagney is my favorite male film star from those years (because he tap dances also), although Cary Grant is strong competition.

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  4. You're on a roll now Moira. Definitely my kind of book as soon as the reading bug returns!

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    1. I hope you are noting all these down on your list - and searching for them in the bookstacks of Criminal Library Towers.

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    2. I am sorting and found a couple of his other series books, so the hunt continues. Are you going through until number 9?

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    3. Yes I certainly intend to - I have embarked on the 2nd trilogy now. Deighton claims they are written so you can read them separately - well he may be the author, but that is a terrible idea! You definitely need to start at Book 1 and go on....

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  5. This is so good, Moira. And the photo! How do you find them!? Not very relevant, but I have always loved the opening of the film of The Ipcress File. The way Harry Palmer makes coffee tell you so much about him.

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    1. Thanks Christine - I really enjoy finding the images, and it's great that they're appreciated. I have come late in life to Len Deighton, but I think he's brilliant, and has such an ability to create character - which then shines through in scenes like the one you mention in the film.

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