The Ipcress File


The Ipcress File

   The great challenge I faced when asked to produce the covers for new editions of Len Deighton’s books was the existence of the brilliant designs conceived by Ray Hawkey for the original editions.

   However, having arrived at a concept, part of the joy I derived in approaching this challenge was the quest to locate the various props which the author had so beautifully detailed in his texts. Deighton has likened a spy story to a game of chess, which led me to transpose the pieces on a chess board with some of the relevant objects specified in each book. I carried this notion throughout the entire quartet of books.

   Since smoking was so much part of our culture during the Cold War era, I also set about gathering tobacco-related paraphernalia.

   Each chapter of The Ipcress File opens with its Gauloises-smoking protagonist’s horoscope, so discovering an Aquarius cigarette lighter was a great coup. Finding a Gauloises cigarette packet, designed by Marcel Jacno in 1936, became a more difficult proposition. However, after much searching, I eventually found one via the Internet!

   Serendipity sometimes plays an important part in the design process. In seeking an appropriate ashtray, to carry through the ‘smoking’ theme, I accidentally came across a unique piece shaped like a hand gun, so I aimed it at a red chess pawn, which represents Ipcress’s ‘Red’ Cold War antagonist.

   The image of the gun pays homage to the original Hawkey-designed Ipcress jacket. I further retained the wooden type font logotype originated by him.

   One of my long-time hobbies has been collecting cigarette cards. I was fortunate to find some appropriate images among my personal trove to illustrate the back cover, and these are accompanied by examples of military insignia gathered during my National Service days served in Cold War Korea!

   Len Deighton and I shared a great affection for London’s Savoy Hotel. My father had served as a waiter there in the 1930s so I have a number of pieces of memorabilia from the Savoy, including the saucer and the cloakroom ticket depicted on the cover.

   I was thrilled to locate the ‘Made in GDR’ syringe in Latvia, of all places. Closer to home, I have kept all my past British passports, together with most of my boarding passes and baggage labels. The Chubb key and the CND badge – which today has become a fashion accessory – came from other locations around the UK. The 1960s postage stamp on the spine of the cover commemorates the former Soviet spy, Richard Sorge.

   During the 1970s, while designing a supplement series for the London Sunday Times, I needed a set of fingerprints to illustrate a specific article, so I persuaded the duty sergeant at my local police station to take mine, which are here given a new public airing!

   I photographed the cover set-up using natural daylight, with my Canon OS 5D digital camera.

   Arnold Schwartzman OBE RDI

LEN DEIGHTON The Ipcress File

   This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

   Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd.

   1 London Bridge Street

   London SE1 9GF


   First published in Great Britain by Hodder & Stoughton 1962

   Copyright © Pluriform Publishing Company BV 1962

   Introduction copyright © Pluriform Publishing Company BV 2009

   Cover designer’s note © Arnold Schwartzman 2009

   Cover design and photography © Arnold Schwartzman 2009

   Len Deighton asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work

   A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library

   All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this ebook on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins ebooks

   HarperCollinsPublishers has made every reasonable effort to ensure that any picture content and written content in this ebook has been included or removed in accordance with the contractual and technological constraints in operation at the time of publication

   Source ISBN: 9780586026199

   Ebook Edition © MARCH 2015 ISBN: 9780007343027

   Version: 2017-08-10

   And now I will unclasp a secret book, And to your quick-conceiving discontents, I’ll read you matter deep and dangerous.

   Henry IV

   Though it must be said that every species of birds has a manner peculiar to itself, yet there is somewhat in most genera at least that at first sight discriminates them, and enables a judicious observer to pronounce upon them with some certainty.

   Gilbert White, 1778



   Cover designer’s note





   The Ipcress File: Secret File No. 1


    Chapter 1

    Chapter 2

    Chapter 3

    Chapter 4

    Chapter 5

    Chapter 6

    Chapter 7

    Chapter 8

    Chapter 9

    Chapter 10

    Chapter 11

    Chapter 12

    Chapter 13

    Chapter 14

    Chapter 15

    Chapter 16

    Chapter 17

    Chapter 18

    Chapter 19

    Chapter 20

    Chapter 21

    Chapter 22

    Chapter 23

    Chapter 24

    Chapter 25

    Chapter 26

    Chapter 27

    Chapter 28

    Chapter 29

    Chapter 30

    Chapter 31

    Chapter 32





    About the Author

    By Len Deighton

    About the Publisher

   The Ipcress File was my first attempt to write a book. I was a commercial artist, or ‘illustrator’ as we are now called. I had never been a journalist or reporter of any kind so I was unaware of how long writing a book was likely to take. Knowing the size of the task is a deterrent for many professional writers, which is why they defer their ambitions often until it is too late. Being unaware of what’s ahead can be an advantage. It shines a green light for everything from enlisting in the Foreign Legion to getting married.

   So I stumbled into writing this book with a happy optimism that ignorance provides. Was it a depiction of myself? Well, who else did I have? After completing two and a half years of military service I had been, for three years, a student at St Martin’s School of Art in Charing Cross Road. I am a Londoner. I grew up in Marylebone and once art school started I rented a tiny grubby room around the corner from the art school. This cut my travelling time back to five minutes. I grew to know Soho very well indeed. I knew it by day and by night. I was on hello, how are you? terms with the ‘ladies’, the restaurateurs, the gangsters and the bent coppers. When, after some years as an illustrator, I wrote The Ipcress File much of its description of Soho was the observed life of an art student resident there.

   After three years postgraduate study at the Royal College of Art I celebrated by impulsively applying for a job as flight attendant with British Overseas Airways. In those days this provided three or four days stop-over at the end of each short leg. I spent enough time in Hong Kong, Cairo, Nairobi, Beirut and Tokyo to make good and lasting friendships there. When I became an author, these background experiences of foreign people and places proved of lasting benefit.

   I don’t know why or how I came to writing books. I had always been a dedicated reader; obsessional is perhaps the better word. At school, having proved to be a total dud at any form of sport – and most other things – I read every book in sight. There was no system to my reading, nor even a pattern of selection. I remember reading Plato’s The Republic with the same keen attention and superficial understanding as I read Chandler’s The Big Sleep and H.G. Wells’ The Outline of History and both volumes of The Letters of Gertrude Bell. I filled notebooks as I encountered ideas and opinions that were new to me, and I vividly remember how excited I was to discover that The Oxford Universal Dictionary incorporated thousands of quotations from the greatest of great writers.

   So I wasn’t taking myself too seriously when, as a holiday diversion, I took a school exercise book and a fountain pen, and started this story. Knowing no other style I did it as though I was writing a letter to an old, intimate and trusted friend. I immediately fell into the first person style without knowing much about the literary alternatives.

   My memory has always been unreliable, as my wife Ysabele regularly points out to me, but I am convinced that this first book was influenced by my time as the art director of an ultra-smart London advertising agency. I spent my days surrounded by highly educated, witty young men who had been at Eton together. We relaxed in leather armchairs in their exclusive Pall Mall clubs. We exchanged barbed compliments and jocular abuse. They were kind to me, and generous, and I enjoyed it immensely. Later, when I created WOOC(P), the intelligence service offices depicted here, I took the social atmosphere of that sleek and shiny agency and inserted it into some ramshackle offices that I once rented in Charlotte Street.

   Using the first person narrative enabled me to tell the story in the distorted way that subjective memory provides. The hero does not tell the exact truth; none of the characters tell the exact truth. I don’t mean that they tell the blatant self-serving lies that politicians do, I mean that their memory tilts towards justification and self-regard. What happens in The Ipcress File (and in all my other first-person stories) is found somewhere in the uncertainty of contradiction. In navigation, the triangle where three lines of reference fail to intersect is call a ‘cocked hat’. My stories are intended to offer no more precision than that. I want the books to provoke different reactions from different readers (as even history must do to some extent).

   Publication of The Ipcress File coincided with the arrival of the first of the James Bond films. My book was given very generous reviews and more than one of my friends was moved to confide that the critics were using me as a blunt instrument to batter Ian Fleming about the head. Even before publication day, I was taken by Godfrey Smith (a senior figure at The Daily Express newspaper) to lunch at the Savoy Grill. We discussed serial rights. The next day I went in my battered old VW Beetle to Pinewood Film Studios and lunch with the unforgettable and in every way astonishing Harry Saltzman. He had co-produced Dr No,which was getting widespread publicity, and had decided that The Ipcress File and its unnamed hero could provide a counterweight to the Bond series. On the way to Pinewood my car phone brought a request for an interview with Newsweek and there were similar requests from publications in Paris and New York. It was difficult to believe this was all really happening; illustrators were never treated like this. Never! I was nervously unbelieving, and constantly ready to wake up from this frantic dream. Between meetings and interviews I continued my work as a freelance illustrator. My friends delicately ignored my Jekyll and Hyde life, and so did the clients to whom I delivered my drawings. I didn’t feel like a writer, I felt like an impostor. I didn’t have those intense literary ambitions that writers are supposed to have while they languish in a cobwebbed garret.

   Publication proved that I wasn’t the only one surprised by the book’s success. Despite the serialization and the entire hullabaloo, Hodder and Stoughton resolutely restricted their print order to 4,000 books. These were sold out in a couple of days. Reprinting took weeks and much of the value of the publicity and serialization was lost.

   There was one question that remained unanswered. Why did I say that the hero was a northerner from Burnley? I truly have no idea. I had seen the destination ‘Burnley’ on parcels I had handled while on a Christmas vacation job at King’s Cross sorting office. I suppose that invention marked one tiny reluctance to depict myself exactly as I was.

   Perhaps this spy fellow is not me after all.

   Len Deighton, 2009