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The Ipcress file [Unknown Binding]

Len Dei.ghton
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description


Len Deighton’s classic first novel, whose
protagonist is a nameless spy – later christened Harry Palmer and made famous worldwide in the iconic 1960s film starring Michael Caine.

The Ipcress File was not only Len Deighton’s first novel, it was his first bestseller and the book that broke the mould of thriller writing.

For the working class narrator, an apparently straightforward mission to find a missing biochemist becomes a journey to the heart of a dark and deadly conspiracy.

The film of The Ipcress File gave Michael Caine one of his first and still most celebrated starring roles, while the novel itself has become a classic.

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (1962)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0000CLKDX
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,371,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in London, Len Deighton served in the RAF before graduating from the Royal College of Art (which recently elected him a Senior Fellow). While in New York City working as a magazine illustrator he began writing his first novel, The Ipcress File, which was published in 1962. He is now the author of more than thirty books of fiction and non-fiction. At present living in Europe, he has, over the years, lived with his family in ten different countries from Austria to Portugal.

Product Description


‘A spy story with a difference.’ Observer

‘A master of fictional espionage.’ Daily Mail

‘The poet of the spy story.’ Sunday Times

‘The Ipcress File helped change the shape of the espionage thriller…the prose is still as crisp and fresh as ever…there is an infectious energy about this book which makes it a joy to read, or re-read.’ Daily Telegraph

‘The self-conscious cool of Deighton’s writing has dated in the best way possible…a stone-cold cold war classic.’ Guardian

‘Deighton is so far in the front of other writers in the field that they are not even in sight’ Sunday Times

‘Nobody now seriously doubts that Deighton is the most credible of all the spysmiths’ The Scotsman

‘Regarded as the cold war spy thriller that made all subsequent examples of the genre possible…however much of a classic the film is, the book is a completely different proposition. It’s more intricate and far superior…a must for anyone who likes this kind of fiction.’ Loaded

About the Author

Born in London, he served in the RAF before graduating from the Royal College of Art (which recently elected him a Senior Fellow). While in New York City working as a magazine illustrator he began writing his first novel, ‘The Ipcress File’, which was published in 1962. He is now the author of more than thirty books of fiction and non-fiction. At present living in Europe, he has, over the years, lived with his family in ten different countries from Austria to Portugal.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A late debut with great impact 19 Feb 2010
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The movie inspired by Len Deighton (LD)'s The Ipcress File (TIF), first published in 1962, starred a very young Michael Caine as the nameless hero, modelled to some extent in the image of his creator. TIF is written in the I-form (first person singular) and readers are therefore drawn into his universe. Early in the book he is transferred from the UK War Office to an undercover counter-intelligence unit. His preferred consumables (Blue Mountain coffee, Gauloises cigarettes) suggest he has been abroad during and after WW II. Despite his lack of a classical upbringing (Eton, Oxbridge), he stands his ground against colleagues who did. At times he is insolent, flippant, ironic, even, sarcastic, then gradually, scared.
Because strange things are happening: UK scientists are disappearing and moved across the Iron Curtain. In the US, sensitive research data are leaked at an alarming speed and magnitude. What is going on? That is for the reader to find out. The book's venues are London and its periphery, Lebanon and the Tokwe atoll in the Pacific, a nuclear test site.
TIF was LDs debut. He has published some 40 books since, mostly on espionage during WW II and the Cold War (with 3 trilogies about spy Bernard Samson). His main interests in life show up in this debut: (1) its hero is a military history buff: LD later published a number of acclaimed books on WW II; (2) reflecting the hero's fondness for good food, LD wrote several cookbooks; (3) the nameless hero being a technology fan, LD's later books have always been at the forefront of espionage writing.
But fortunately, with LD technology never dominates, not now, not ever. TIF was prescient on the use of computers, ultra-high speed transmission, new uses of B-52 bombers and submarines, etc. TIF was a wonderful debut of a man who equals Le Carré impact on the genre in terms of atmosphere and English class issues, but sweeps him briskly aside on modern technology and its uses. A very influential debut.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Now listen to me ... 10 May 2009
By Melmoth
Format:Mass Market Paperback
When Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were looking for a spy to contrast with James Bond, they couldn't have hit on a better one than Len Deighton's creation. Known in the film version as Harry Palmer and played with youthful cheek and a cocky, Cockney swagger by Michael Caine, in the book our spy is older, from the North and nameless - though he may once have been a "Harry" in one of the many guises he has adopted in his life as a secret agent. Nonetheless, in both guises the hero remains witty (in all senses of the word) and endowed with both a half-easy charm and a gift for medium-rare-to-overdone insubordination that makes him easy to warm to.

The events of the novel may be even lower key than in the film of the same name - no swirling, technicolour lights and spinning hypnotic discs, no "Now listen to me" - but they are just as gripping, if not more so. This is the Cold War game as played by men already hardened by their participation in the hot war that preceded it, mildly bemused by the webs of intrigue that surround them at the same time as they are embittered by the grey pettiness of the form-filling and chit-obtaining that form the rituals of civil service life. With this base for his dish, Deighton throws in neutron bombs, brainwashing and betrayal to create a fine novelistic dish, which feels real in a way Bond - even in Fleming's original novels - never managed and is suffused with moments of real humour and humanity Fleming's tales never possessed.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spivs not spys 8 April 2009
By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the grimy antidote to Bond where the lead character has the Burnley accent. Deighton's espionage world is full of crooks rather than spys on both sides. He portrays a world where the driving force is not a simple Left/Right ideology but rather out and out greed.

It has a Chandleresque prose style fitted into a UK setting; actually a very London-centric setting.It has an odd feeling of being written as a reaction to something and I can only assume it is Ian Fleming's stuff. It is very anti-Establishment and early 60's referring to Harry as 'he could have been a John Osborne hero'. This feeling goes with a general world weariness.

He gives a knowing wink at the real-life UK traitors but unfortunately he didn't quite know the whole story in 1962. This is not Mr Deighton's fault and does not weaken his valid premise that the spy world may have more to it than duffing up the Russkies.

Without giving away the plot there is also some prescient stuff on brain-washing and industrial espionage for which the author deserves credit.

Enjoyed this more than I expected. It has a curiosity value to see early 60's political attitudes, it offers a different kind of espionage raison d'etre typified by the 'Ipcress' concept and it keeps you turning the pages.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fresh and readable fifty year old 14 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you liked the film and are now looking to read the same story, then this isn't the book for you as the plot is very different. If however, you are looking for an espionage story with a very good and believable story, then this is a book for you. The first person written style gives it a distinct feel and, barring one or two 'leaps of faith', the plot flows well throughout. Despite being over fifty years old this book remains fresh and readable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The name's Osborne, John Osborne 18 Nov 2013
By Paul T Horgan VINE VOICE
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This novel was published 51 years ago. But it still seems fresh today and despite its subject matter it is not dated. The film version widely diverges from the written plot.

'The Ipcress File' was the début work by Deighton and appeared right in the middle of the burgeoning East-West confrontations of Berlin and Cuba. There were also ongoing spy scandals, the defection of Philby and the Portland Spy Ring kept espionage centre-stage.

It does appear to be the work of an Angry Young Man, trying to create a kitchen-sink antithesis to James Bond or Bulldog Drummond, someone for whom Queen and Country is not a near-spiritual experience but a day job with bureaucracy and salary arrears. So instead of the suave lantern-jawed, dinner-jacketed martini-swiller we have an antihero, a veteran of various dubious escapades who so distrusts his own service that he keeps a series of false identities in circulation. We never know his name and it is likely that he is employed in his main job using a false one.

There are several strands to the plot, but the main one revolves around the growing realisation that an increasing number of high-achievers are behaving oddly and could be endangering the security of the state. The plot weaves through pre-swinging 1960s London, The Lebanon, a Pacific Atoll used for weapons tests (a fictionalised version of Johnston Island?) and 'Communist Hungary'. The good guys win and the bad guys lose, but there is compromise and the world of espionage is depicted as not having very concrete values. There are shades of grey, but then in the 21st century we are accustomed to this to the point of cliché. Betrayal by the state against a protagonist is normal. In the early 1960s, the dying days of deference, this was not so clear.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprised to find that this was Len Deighton's first spy novel
I was surprised to find that this was Len Deighton's first spy novel, and that it was every bit as enthralling as his later 'Triple Trilogy' of Spy stories. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ginger Lee
4.0 out of 5 stars A good, in depth spy story; a real page-turner.
$ stare, not 5, because it requires a lot of concentration to follow; however, well worth the effort and an absorbing read nontheless.
Published 6 months ago by Christopher Huddleston
4.0 out of 5 stars A Classic, but Hard Going
This is a very good book, but not easy to follow.
It's dated, obviously, but that adds to its charm. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mark Rawsthorne
4.0 out of 5 stars Reading on kindle
As expected from Len Deighton but now rather outdated for the speed technology has moved on but does give an insight into how things used to be before the mobile phone internet... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Maddy
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about 60's London
This is one of my favourite books, I've read it four times now. In fairness I think you need to read it more than once as the plot takes a bit of working out. Read more
Published on 14 Jan 2012 by A. Stanhope
3.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy read
I found this book very heavy going but stuck with it and in the end it quite rewarding. A fact driven plot which was difficult to follow and to me written in a jerky sort of way. Read more
Published on 4 Jan 2012 by Luck on the brightside
3.0 out of 5 stars Not like the film. Shame!
The first thing I have to say is that I was disappointed - it was nothing like the film. Normally that would be a compliment because, more often than not, films tend to be the... Read more
Published on 24 Oct 2011 by Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
4.0 out of 5 stars Kindle users denied cover
This is an excellent thriller that is more demanding on the reader than the average page turner. I enjoyed it immensely. Read more
Published on 8 Sep 2011 by Mr. J. S. Whitehead
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as I remember
I first read this book when it came out in the early sixties. Re-reading it now reminded me what a good spy writer Len Deighton is. Read more
Published on 7 Jan 2010 by Derek Watkins
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