He is someone who knows his food and reflects that in his writing. It is his cookstrips - little cartoons he created for himself to follow recipes without needing a cook book to hand - that ensure Len Deighton, the writer, a place in the annals of food writing and cooking, revolutionary as they were in providing a new take on the communication of cooking techniques to a wide public audience. His Action Cookbook and subsequent other books - all built to some extent upon this simple innovation - demonstrated not only his unique application of design and illustration to cooking but his impeccable taste and knowledge of gastronomy and the science of food. The books in this section reflect the contribution Deighton has made to food communications, something frequently reflected in the positive regard cooks and food writers have for his cook strips and their impact on the amateur chef. While many of them adapt the original cookstrip idea and develop it further with each subsequent edition, some of the later books Deighton wrote on food were broader appreciations of the French cooking culture with which he had developed his culinary skills in the nineteen-fifties in London and Paris.

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Deighton is famously publicity-shy, and I did wonder whether getting to interview him would be what the acronym-loving secret service bureaucrats of his early spy novels would call a high D of C Difficulty of Completion mission.

We are in the lobby of a London hotel, a mile or so from where he grew up in a mews at the back of Montagu Square. I played truant all the time and I usually went to the Marylebone Reference library and I would just sit there all day long and read. A terrible kind of sedentary childhood I had, when I think about it. The first edition cover of The IPCRESS File by Len Deighton His first four novels are a wonderful mixture of the exciting and the amusingly humdrum, narrated by an unnamed working-class intelligence officer from Burnley who spends as much time trying to reclaim his expenses as he does searching for kidnapped scientists.

Well, James Bond may be thinner, but so is his dialogue. People communicate by miscommunicating. Modern fiction is not so keen to guard the integrity of our heroes… When I started writing I had rules.

One was that violence must not solve the problem, and I cannot have the hero overcome violence with a counterweight of violence. Does he think other spy writers are too solemn? They are always saying something different from what they appear to be saying — but then we all do that, says Deighton.

The English are supreme at this. By this time Deighton was famous. He took his name off the credits and opted for a quiet life with family and typewriter. The audacity of it!


Len & Alex Deighton’s Mexican Cookstrips: Salsas

Action Cook Book, UK first edition, Action Cook Book - Summary Eighty original recipes from the series Deighton produced for The Observer newspaper between and are reproduced in this, his most famous - and revolutionary - cookbook. The strips cover a lot of English-sourced recipes that complement his later French recipe collection. Written in a simple step-by-step style, clearly aimed at an audience of men unskilled at knowing their way around the kitchen. Deighton demonstrates his knowledge as a gourmand; as well as being an accomplished chef, he grew up with a food background as his mother was a cook.


The Deighton Dossier


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