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The Ipcress File

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Overview

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 ...

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The Ipcress File

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
‘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

From the Publisher

‘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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780586026199
  • Publisher: HarperCollins UK
  • Publication date: 12/16/2014
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,052,054
  • Product dimensions: 4.30 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet 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

Average Rating 3.5
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 19, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The Ipcress File is one of those novels that, burnished by the p

    The Ipcress File is one of those novels that, burnished by the passage of time and forgetfulness, is now considered to be a classic in its genre. It was supposedly quite the trendsetter back in 1962, taking on the themes of organizational betrayal using the voice of a working-class spy who has a chip on his shoulder regarding his betters. In the cold light of reappraisal, however, it doesn’t live up to its reputation.

    The setup: a semi-unnamed civil servant/spy (referred to once as “Harry”) has to chase down the disappearances of several British defense scientists, an investigation that quickly turns into a hairball that spans half the world and sees Our Hero framed for treason. Along the way, Our Hero discomfits a number of upper-class twits, crosses paths with what we’d now call a “fixer” who works multiple sides at once, and puts the moves on his comely assistant (who happens to be as useful as she is decorative).

    Deighton was never a spy, but rather a 1950s illustrator and ad man. As a result, his settings and descriptions of characters are more involved and painterly than is usually the case; you’ll never want for knowing what his cast and sets look like. The dialog is very of-the-moment, and Our Hero has a smart mouth on him. This is the good part.

    The not-so-good? This was Deighton’s first novel – the one that launched him into the top ranks of spy- and war-thriller writers – and it shows. The plot wanders off into side streets and gets distracted by shiny things, usually with no real urgency behind it. A long detour to a Pacific atoll destined to be an American atomic testing site feels more like a bid to grab onto a trendy exotic setting (as it would’ve been back then) rather than something that actually needed to happen there. For something billed as a thriller, there are (as usual for thrillers of the period) remarkably few thrills, while the spycraft, atmosphere and intrigue aren’t up to LeCarre standards. Even Our Hero’s relentless smart-assery wears after a while. One further caution, especially for American readers: if you’re not deeply steeped in late-1950s/early-1960s British popular culture, you’re going to be reading this with Wikipedia permanently open by your side. All these issues together left me wondering one thing upon re-reading this novel after [mumble] years: Is that it? This is the “classic” spy novel? Really?

    These days, our reactions to the novel The Ipcress File are most likely colored by the classic film The Ipcress File and Michael Caine’s emblematic star turn as Harry Palmer. This may be a case of the film being better than the book that inspired it. If you choose to read The Ipcress File today, especially if you’re drunk deeply from the well of LeCarre, be prepared to be let down. It’s like taking a time machine ride and instead of attending the Battle of Gettysburg or MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech, you wind up at a dinner party with Millard Fillmore. Interesting, no doubt, but not at all what you were hoping for.

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