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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic spy drama
`The Iprcess File' is all a reader of spy novels might expect - an insubordinate, wise cracking hero with a chip on his shoulder, a plot so impenetrable that it defies putting into synopsis and an exotic but well drawn crew of characters whose motives and allegiances are not all they seem. Add of course the use of location -mixing far-flung atolls with grimy backstreet...
Published 1 month ago by os

versus
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spivs not spys
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...
Published on 8 April 2009 by Officer Dibble


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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic spy drama, 15 Aug 2014
By 
os - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
`The Iprcess File' is all a reader of spy novels might expect - an insubordinate, wise cracking hero with a chip on his shoulder, a plot so impenetrable that it defies putting into synopsis and an exotic but well drawn crew of characters whose motives and allegiances are not all they seem. Add of course the use of location -mixing far-flung atolls with grimy backstreet offices and night clubs, the sudden twists and turns in the narrative and some interesting diversions on atomic bomb testing, interrogation methods and a little bit of science ,the recipe is made perfect.

Deighton is a master of tightly written prose and even tighter tension creation. His plots do not depend on the crude use of violence, sexual explicitness or extra ordinary co-incidence. The book works because the main driver of the story sounds like the sort of Cold-War stunt that either the West or East could happily have tried to perpetrate on one another.
Recommended: an excellent, page turning read
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spivs not spys, 8 April 2009
By 
Officer Dibble (Zummerzet) - See all my reviews
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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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Now listen to me ..., 10 May 2009
By 
Melmoth (London, England) - See all my reviews
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Good but a little disappointing, 18 July 2014
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This review is from: The Ipcress File (Kindle Edition)
I've not seen the film, but I know it's a classic. Therefore, I thought I'd have a read of this as it has some prominence. The first few chapters of the book were very promising and it had hope, but after that, I was dying to get to the end to finish it. I was expecting a fast paced spy thriller, but I was disappointed.

The style of writing took some getting used to. I often had to re-read paragraphs and some pages to follow the story - so, not the easiest book to read.

I've given this book 3 stars as the beginning and the end were up to what I expected, but the middle does lose it's way.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A late debut with great impact, 19 Feb 2010
By 
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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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, 13 July 2014
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This review is from: The Ipcress File (Kindle Edition)
It's very rare that I prefer the film over the book but this case I actually do. I have read other books by this author which were more compelling. I just didn't feel in touch with the characters and the plot didn't work for me.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Classic, 17 May 2014
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This review is from: The Ipcress File (Kindle Edition)
Having seen the film many years before, I was rather reluctant to dip into 'Harry Palmer' territory. But, being a recent convert to later Deighton books, I was curious about his early work. I found a slightly different style, but the detail, picture building and increase of pace was as captivating as his later work.
All in all, a great read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars I spy, 6 May 2014
By 
Jeremy Walton (Sidmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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Published more than fifty years ago, this was Len Deighton's first novel, and the debut of his anonymous secret agent anti-hero (named Harry Palmer in the film adaptions, which starred Michael Caine). He stands in contrast to the more glamorous James Bond (whose first film, Dr. No, appeared in the same year as this book), in that he's working class, shops in supermarkets, wears glasses and is hindered by bureaucracy. He also has a sharp eye (e.g. "The barman - a tall ex-pug with a tan out of a bottle and a tie-knot the size of a large garden pea - was rubbing an old duster around spotless unused ashtrays and taking sly sips at a half-pint of Guinness." [p72]), and a memorable turn of phrase. Here, for example, is his way of describing his discovery of the true nature of the man in the next seat on a flight to Rome, after he's picked his pocket and leafed through his wallet, discovering some photos [p30]:

"[They were of] a dark-haired, round-faced character; deep sunk eyes with bags under horn-rimmed glasses, chin jutting and cleft. On the back of the photos was written '5ft 11in; muscular, inclined to overweight, No visible scar tissue; hair dark brown, eyes blue'. I looked at the familiar face again. I knew the eyes were blue, even though the photograph was in black and white. I'd seen the face before; most mornings I shaved it."

I've read this a few times over a period of many years, and greatly enjoy scenes like this in the story, most of which has a timeless quality (the outsider tackling an unseen enemy in a confusing and misleading world), although some aspects - for example, the way in which his female companion is employed mainly to ask questions so that he can provide the explanation of the labyrinthine plot in the denouement - haven't dated well. There are also many fascinating reminders of how long ago this all was sprinkled throughout the text - thus, in the very first sentence, a footnote is used to explain what the (then) neologism "hot line" means. And, in my edition (published in 1965), exotic words like 'aubergine' are printed in italics, as if to introduce them to the inhabitants of an age of innocence and unsophistication.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fresh and readable fifty year old, 14 Mar 2014
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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 (UK) - See all my reviews
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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. When the book came out MacMillan was in Downing Street, Kennedy was in the White House, Khrushchev was in the Kremlin and change to this state of affairs seemed unlikely. Three years later they had all gone as the world as a whole became more uncertain as the atmosphere of this novel.

The novel was widely acclaimed on publication as a breath of fresh air in a genre that was apparently highly formulaic. Its cover was new. Other novels usually had a painting depicting some action point featuring the hero and, in all probability, a pneumatic female sidekick in a provocative situation. The cover, of which the one here is a homage featured smoked cigarettes, a cup of coffee, paperclips, bullets and a revolver. The public went wild. Deighton was made.

In updating the genre, Deighton had to make allowances for readers accustomed to the traditional form of the genre. Thus there is a lengthy exposition after the denouement. But this did encourage me to re-read the novel to see how this all fitted in.

There is also mention of a 'neutron bomb', which pre-dates the enhanced radiation weapon of the Carter era. This was confusing to me as the weapon described is not explosive. Rather it 'showers' the target with neutrons. This is one area where hindsight can cause confusion, in my opinion.

The style of writing is in places reminiscent of William Gibson and as such the 'Ipcress File' has the potential to be described as the first Atompunk novel. It certainly will reward reading and re-reading. Espionage today is less about human intelligence than data capture and analysis and the modern defectors appear to work in that area. This book will transport you back to a time where there were agents outside of democratic scrutiny who worked for a cause, but also worked for themselves and did not have the consciences which seem to be highly developed today.
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The Ipcress File by Len Deighton
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