Tag Archives: len deighton

Horse Under Water

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Horse Under Water by Len Deighton.

Deighton Horse Under Water

Horse Under Water was Deighton’s second novel and a sequel to his first, The Ipcress File. It continues with the same unnamed protagonist, told in his droll, often circumspect voice, singling out relevant details and allowing the reader to stitch the picture together. The plot involves a great deal of “frogman” action, largely off the coast of Portugal. But there is also intrigue in London, with a fair amount of travel back and forth. Chapters are short, often just one or two pages, and their titles all have the flavor of crossword clues, consistent with the obscurity of the facts as the man from W.O.O.C.(P) tries to discover the real narrative behind the malefactors he encounters.

Baix of the (Marrakech) Sûreté Nationale …: “In any narcotics investigation we are most enthusiastic that the criminal is apprehensive.”

“I know what you mean,” I said. (211)

The Ipcress File

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Ipcress File (Secret File #1) by Len Deighton.

Len Deighton's The Ipcress File

My cue to read this volume came from Charles Stross, who characterized his opening Laundry novel (The Atrocity Archive) as something of an homage to Deighton. By all accounts, Deighton’s first novel The Ipcress File was the place to start with this author. I’m not sure what similarities I expected to encounter, but I found a lot of what made Stross’s book enjoyable to me: the syncopated plot, sardonic attitude, and partial disclosure in first-person reportage to convey the tension felt by the speaker in the events described. As a newcomer to the genre, Deighton signals his willingness to chuck its conventions in the opening pages:

“Find him?” I said. “How would we start?”

“How would you start?” asked Dalby.

“Haven’t the faintest,” I said. “Go to laboratory, wife doesn’t know what’s got into him lately, discover dark almond-eyed woman. Bank manager wonders where he’s been getting all that money. Fist fight through darkened lab. Glass tubes that would blow the world to shreds. Mad scientist back to freedom holding phial—flying tackle by me. Up grams Rule Brittania.”

Dalby gave me a look calculated to have me feeling like an employee. (15)

Another similarity to Stross was the morass of au courant cultural and technological allusions—like the verb “grams” in the preceding quote. Some of these, set in the UK a little before I was born, were pretty opaque to me, though I didn’t bother to use the 21st-century Internet overmind to puzzle through them. In other cases, Deighton would provide explanation for things that were then cutting edge or semi-secret, but are now just common knowledge. It is certainly a book that has aged strangely. (Fault the world, not the text!)

The denouement and epilogue cleverly alternate silver linings with touches of gun-metal gray. I had thought to rush afterward to a viewing of the 1965 cinematic version of the story, but the fact that it’s not streaming on Netflix at the moment stayed my spectacles. I’d probably rather read one or two of the sequels without being constrained by the precedent of a screen interpretation anyhow. [via]

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

The Fuller Memorandum

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Fuller Memorandum (A Laundry Files Novel) by Charles Stross, from Ace:

Charles Stross' The Fuller Memorandum from Ace

 

In his third Laundry novel, Charles Stross performs an interesting piece of magic. He provides enough clues to allow the reader to accurately guess coming surprises about five-to-ten pages in advance, repeatedly throughout a 300-page book. When the actual details are revealed, it is done gracefully enough that a lazy reader won’t feel too stupid for not figuring it out. But it’s impressive how well the author caters to an attentive reader’s enjoyment of “figuring it out” before the protagonist did, even if the protagonist is also the narrator with informed hindsight (thus justifying the presence and noticeability of the clues). I’m not a routine reader of mystery novels, but it seems to me that this book should be satisfying for those who are—if they can stomach the elements of other genres, that is.

The other genres are Lovecraftian weird fiction, cyberpunk sf, “rational fantasy,” and espionage thriller. The hero “Bob Howard” (not his real name, of course) is a sort of glamorized “everygeek” working in Her Majesty’s Occult Service. In the course of this book, we get his usual droll assessments of civil service and managerial culture. We also get to seem him buy a new iPhone and tangle with cannibalistic death-cultists.

The two earlier Laundry books were each homages to a luminary of the espionage fiction genre: The Atrocity Archives to Len Deighton, and The Jennifer Morgue to Ian Fleming. They also included essays by Stross in which he discussed some literary underpinnings of “Bob’s” latest adventures. I was a little disappointed that this book has no such essay. It’s also just a single novel, without an additional novella or short story, as was the case for the earlier volumes. (The Wikipedia entry suggests that The Fuller Memorandum is a riff on Anthony Price’s Dr David Audley/Colonel Jack Butler series, while another reviewer indicates Adam Hall’s Quiller books. Having read neither of these, I don’t have an opinion on the matter.)

MINOR BUT IRRESISTABLE PLOT SPOILER: For the well-read Thelemites and historians of twentieth-century occultism out there, the “Fuller” of the title is that Fuller, as revealed in pages 87-90. And since he’s in the title, you know he’s significant to the story. I read this book pretty hot on the heels of Spence’s Secret Agent 666, and Stross’s imaginative fiction meshes just fine with Spence’s speculative fact. [via]

 

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.