Monday, 8 June 2015

Faith by Len Deighton


Bernard Samson, book 7


published 1994



Faith


[Bernard Samson is off on a mission concerning a possible KGB defector]

I’d caught sight of the signal [Bret] sent to London Central telling them that I was no longer suited to field work, particularly in East Germany. He’d asked them to chain me to a desk until pension time rolled round. It sounded considerate, but I wasn’t pleased. I needed to do something that would put me back in Operations; that was my only chance of being promoted and getting a senior staff position in London. Unless my position improved I would wind up with a premature retirement and a pension that wouldn’t pay for a cardboard box to live in….

I smiled mirthlessly. The airline girl ripped my boarding pass in half and before I went down the jetty I turned back to wave to them…At this moment Fiona looked like a photo from some English society magazine. Her old Burberry coat, its collar turned up to frame her head, and a colourful Hermès scarf knotted at the point of her chin, made her look like an English upper-class mum watching her children at a gymkhana. She held a handkerchief to her face as if about to cry, but it was probably the head cold she’d had for a week and couldn’t shake off.
 
observations: This is the mysterious Fiona, wife to Bernard Samson, in the seventh book in the series. The small print of the picture shows that this particular combo of Hermes scarf and Burberry coat would set you back more than $1100.

I’m still anxious about spoilers, no matter what Deighton himself says, so need to be careful what I say about the plot – so I am offering double value today, with another picture and another excerpt from the book: this is possibly the funniest and best clothes moment in all nine books:


Faith 2

He tugged his coat so it fitted more snugly upon his shoulders. I’d always wanted to wear an overcoat like these Germans and Frenchmen do it; without putting my arms through the sleeves. But when I tried it once, coming out of the Schiller Theatre with Gloria, it fell off and Frank Harrington’s wife tripped over it and fell full-length in the street.

I’m happy to say that the photo shows Emilio Largo from the film Thunderball, and comes from a quite splendid website called The Suits of James Bond.

There is yet another wonderfully awful dinner party in this one, including this priceless exchange:
‘And this is your family home?’ Bret asked, pointing at a colour photo of an extensive neo-Gothic mansion, framed by oak trees and with a well-kept front lawn.  
‘No,’ said Dicky. ‘That’s my son’s boarding school.' 
‘Is that so,’ said Bret, looking at it with even more interest. ‘Yes, I can see the kids now – quite a lot of them.’

Len Deighton wrote introductions for the editions of the books I am reading, and they are fascinating – you wish they were longer. He tells us that he was certain, in the early 1980s, that the Berlin Wall would not last much longer, and he wrote the books predicated on that. Many people thought he was wrong, and that the books would go haywire, but of course history proved him right.
 
 
Faith Wall


This is one of the modern-day memorials of the Wall - picture taken in Berlin last year by Audrey Stafford.

And on to the next book….












16 comments:

  1. Moira, I liked the second excerpt about the coat. You're right, it is very funny. I have, in fact, wondered how one could wear an overcoat without putting their arms through the sleeves. How does it stay up? I suppose you'd have to stand or walk very stiffly to keep it in place. German characters in WWII movies are often seen wearing them in that fashion.

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    1. It's always powerful people I think Prashant isn't it - perhaps their powers include special shoulders. I don't think most people can keep the coat in place....

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  2. Oh, you chose some great snippets to share, Moira! They really show Deighton's witty and compelling style. And what a great mental picture that second one offers! And today, just the Hermes scarf would be almost US$500...

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    1. Margot, I can never quite imagine a time when I think that would be a sensible amount to spend on a headscarf. It doesn't make sense to me, no matter how rich a person is...

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  3. $1100 for two items of clothing, even if one is a coat! Amazing. The picture is perfect, though. I have a hard time doing any kind of review of these books too. For the same reasons... spoilers. I finished Hope a week ago, but who knows when I will get to reviewing it. Still far behind. Lovely lovely book. All of my copies of the last three are the hardbacks, so no intro. I could buy one of course and I may someday, but it seems silly.

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    1. I wonder if his intro is anywhere online Tracy? Also - if you get a free sample of a book on a kindle, you usually get the introduction. Normally that's quite annoying (because you want the proper book) but in this case could be useful. Yes, great books. I know that some time in the future I will read all nine again. Please review Hope, would love to hear your thoughts.

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    2. Both are good suggestions for getting the intro, Moira. I think I have looked on line before, but should try again. I will be reviewing the book soonish.

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  4. Great stuff Moira - and yes, I've never been able to carry off the coat on the shoulders thing convincingly either - but nice to see Adolfo Celi managing it!

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    1. Deighton is so good at both the big picture (the whole future of the Western world) and the small (who *can* manage that shoulder-robe thing, and how?) and makes you laugh too - what more could you ask for from a writer....

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  5. I can more or less do the coat on shoulders thing, but I think that's because I have the sort of shoulders that mean I have to sit diagonally in seats on the Underground when I've got people sitting on either side.

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    1. That's such a visual phrase, Daniel, it really summoned up a picture and made me laugh!

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  6. Hmm.....only 7 books behind you then. I don't think I have located the first yet..off to check!

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    1. I know where numbers 2 and 4 in the series currently reside, can't start catching up yet!

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    2. I like these books so much, and I really do think they are on the cusp where our tastes overlap, so I will encourage you to start on this series!

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  7. I can't even do the casual-cardigan-shrugged-on-the-shoulders thing, let alone a heavy coat. I wonder if one needs to practice, sort of like posture training with books on the head. Hmmm. Can think of better uses for books.

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    1. Cardigans slip off my shoulders even when I have my arms in the sleeves, so there is no hope for me. I don't know what it is about my shape, but I'm guessing it's something to do with being proudly low-rent and of peasant stock. Good peasant stock, mind.

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