Library Book Sale Finds: The Ipcress File by Len Deighton

Heyo, squiders. It’s that time again. And once again, I try to recapture what I was thinking when I stuck a particular book into my bag. Not sure. Maybe I just thought it would be cool?

Title: The Ipcress File
Author: Len Deighton
Genre: Spy/Thriller
Publication Year: 1962

Pros: Neat example of what’s probably the height of this genre
Cons: Incomprehensible in parts if you’re not genre savvy

This book was apparently made into a movie in 1965, but try as I might, I cannot find a copy to see if it makes more sense. Wikipedia tells me this is Len Deighton’s first novel, and that he’s considered one of the top three spy novelists of all time (Ian Fleming of James Bond fame and John le Carre are the other two).

We follow our unnamed narrator as he recalls the specifics of a mission to the Minister of Defence (British spelling intentional). The story is in first person throughout, and features a lot of what we probably now consider to be common in the spy genre: double crossings, questionable loyalties, sarcastic spies, etc.

When I could follow the story, I enjoyed it. I liked the narrator (whom I honestly didn’t realize was never named until I sat down to write this), I thought the female characters were handled better than in many contemporary stories (each shown as having her own strengths), and the dialogue was fun to read in many cases.

That being said, there were parts where I felt lost, where I couldn’t quite tell what was meant or what was happening, and whether or not it was important. I don’t necessarily think that’s a problem with the writing so much as that I am not the target audience and so do not have the necessary culture references/understanding to follow along.

All in all, very interesting, but I don’t know that I would pick up another similar book. Perhaps I’ll stick to the movie versions IF I CAN EVER FIND THEM.

Read anything by Len Deighton, squiders? Like ’60s-era spy novels?

(All things being said, I read John le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as a teenager and don’t remember being lost, so mileage may vary between authors.)

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