Authors: Len Deighton
ALLEN W. DULLES
(then director CIA):
‘You, Mr Chairman, may have seen some of my intelligence reports from time to time.’
‘I believe we get the same reports—and probably from the same people.’
‘Maybe we should pool our efforts.’
‘Yes. We should buy our intelligence data together and save money. We’d have to pay the people only once.’
News Item, September 1959
‘But what good came of it at last?’
Quoth little Peterkin,
‘Why, that I cannot tell,’ said he:—
‘But ‘twas a famous victory.’
‘If I am right the Germans will say I was a German and the French will say I was a Jew; if I am wrong the Germans will say I was a Jew and the French will say I was a German.’
Most of the people who engaged in this unsavoury work had very little interest in the cause which they were paid to promote. They did not take their parts too seriously, and one or the other would occasionally go over to the opposite side, for espionage is an international and artistic profession, in which opinions matter less than the art of perfidy.
DR R. LEWINSOHN,
The Career of Sir Basil Zaharoff
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 chessboard 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.
On reading a reference in the text to a Cinzano ashtray, I instantly recognized a visual analogy in its unique triangular shape to the triumvirate of
the Allied occupying forces and their zones in Berlin. The three lit cigarettes point at each other like the loaded barrels of guns. I then incorporated a spectrum of smokers’ accessories, including a packet of British Woodbine cigarettes and an American Camel Zippo cigarette lighter. To represent the Soviets, I included a KGB lighter and an identity pass, both of which I located in the Ukraine.
The ever-present pack of Gauloises cigarettes, belonging to the nameless protagonist of the book, along with a red pawn, is positioned behind the Iron Curtain on a map of Berlin.
A fallen bust of a German soldier lies over a list of names of concentration camp inmates, headed by that of Paul Louis Broum, the book’s ‘person of interest’.
The back of the jacket shows a US Army Berlin District patch, a DMR 5 Mark coin, a vintage Hotel Adlon baggage label, and a couple of story-related cigarette cards, the significance of all of which will become evident as you read this fine book.
I photographed the jacket set-up using natural daylight, with my Canon OS 5D digital camera.
Arnold Schwartzman OBE RDI
Standing at the bar of the National Film Theatre there was a plump balding man of about fifty. He was unmistakably German and despite his fluent command of the English language he was having some difficulty with the barman. I went to sort it out and found it was no more than a shortage of change in the till.
The man was Kurt Jung-Alsen and it was a film he had directed—
The Vengeance of Private Pooley
—that was showing that evening as part of a festival of films from communist East Germany. I had no idea of what a warm friendship would develop from this chance meeting and what a tremendous change in my life this mutual trust would bring.
It was rewarding to show Kurt around London because he was so knowledgeable and so appreciative. Like any self-respecting German he was prepared for everything and had a notebook listing the places he must see. The Sunday morning street market in Petticoat Lane was on his list. Today was
Sunday and here he was. Guessing that he would arrive on time I had coffee ready. ‘
You’d better see this, Herr Jung-Alsen.
’ I took him into the sitting room where I had been watching BBC TV carrying the alarming news that the communists were building a Wall right across Berlin.
Kurt went back there, of course. He was certainly no communist but his home and all his possessions were at stake. Kurt was a dedicated Berliner and had a successful pre-war career in theatre production before becoming a film director. The following summer I toured Czechoslovakia in my battered little VW Beetle car. Nearing the Ukraine border I had some difficulties with the local police there because I hadn’t stuck to my prearranged route and itinerary. In fact, I had written ‘camping’ into the blank space on the visa form and then wandered around stopping when and where I chose. From Prague I drove north to Berlin. In those days the Cold War was very chilly. I had been delayed in setting out and it was about 2.00am when I was flagged down by Russian army traffic police because I was on a road that led directly into East Berlin. They had spotted my British licence plate. There were very few Western vehicles coming north from Prague and the Russian military decreed that foreigners like me must approach Berlin only from the west. With a military escort I was taken to the local army barracks and held there. A young Russian officer decided it was an opportunity to try out his English language skills, which were on
a par with my command of Russian. It was after an hour or so of limited communication that I remembered that I had an unopened bottle of brandy in my baggage. It was soon opened and eventually the officer was telephoning some unknown person with the news that everything was all right after all. Accompanied by a Russian army jeep I was allowed to proceed up the forbidden road. I arrived at the Adlon Hotel in East Berlin just as they were mopping the lobby of this dilapidated remnant of the old luxury hotel.
It was a dramatic beginning to my stay in East Berlin. Kurt more than returned any favour I had done for him in London. He introduced me to many people and made me feel at home. As I said to him, not once but many times, that of all my friends he was the only one that enjoyed the bourgeois benefits of domestic servants and a valuable art collection. And this was communism? I made a few forays to West Berlin and came back with all manner of desirables for Kurt and his friends. A child’s wheelchair, asparagus and ladies fashion magazines such as
was one consignment. The wheelchair was a tight fit in my car and I was grilled about it but
magazine was the only thing confiscated that time; I suppose the border guards had fashion-conscious wives. But while I was feeling at home in East Berlin I was aware of the fact that I had no friends or acquaintances in West Berlin. On subsequent visits to the city, that gradually changed until I had very good and
generous friends in West Berlin, but that initial stay in East Berlin had a lasting effect upon the way I saw it all. And Kurt was kind enough to include me in the listed production staff for a film he made about the Spanish Civil War. This included journeys and long periods in East Germany, and the chance to visit towns such as Leipzig and Weimar; grim and grey under communist rule. In Weimar I was accommodated in the Elephant Hotel, which was a favourite stopover for Adolf Hitler. Kurt told me that the room I was given was the one Hitler always used. The bath was about six feet long; the biggest bath tub I have ever been in. Despite his earnest assurances, I always suspected that Kurt might have been joking. He was a droll fellow and he liked to counter what he said was my English sense of humour with japes of his own.
Berlin was soon a second home to me. I became obsessed by Berlin. I studied its history and collected old photographs of its streets, street life and architecture. I talked to many who had served and many who had suffered under the Third Reich. I still can wander through its streets and alleys and see the past, even when there is little evidence of the past remaining. I learned about its electricity, gas and sewage systems, much of which could not be divided and had to be shared; a fact kept secret by both sides. The whimsical way in which the town was split made it even more bizarre. It was a microcosm of a divided world.
In all my time behind the ‘iron curtain’ I made
no secret of my dislike of the repressive and regimented society that is essential to socialism. I had been advised by a very experienced English newspaperman to air my ‘capitalist’ beliefs. As far as I could tell, this procedure in no way impeded my life and my researches. I did have the occasional confrontation with cops and bureaucrats but I suffered no lasting damage.
My second book—
Horse Under Water
—had sidestepped the Cold War but now I was in the front line. The critics had been kind to my previous books and this encouragement helped me to discover what sort of books I wanted to write. I’d never had any childhood ambitions to be a writer, so I was not tempted to write ‘serious literature’. My feelings have never changed. This is not because I think that serious literature is too serious. It’s because I think most serious literature is not serious at all.
By some measures,
Funeral in Berlin
was my most successful book. The American edition spent six months on the New York bestseller list.
The New York Times, Life
magazine and the news magazines all gave the book a generous reception. To get away from it all, I went for a holiday in Paris and spent my days researching the town’s best restaurants. Perhaps I should have gone to New York instead but I had become a professional writer, and I decided that any writer’s fatal enemies were alcohol and praise.
Len Deighton, 2009