It seems heretical to suggest that a book by Len Deighton might be 'forgotten' so as to qualify for inclusion in Patti Abbott's series. But I think Close Up does qualify, and given that Deighton has just celebrated his 80th birthday, it seems timely to remember this foray into the movie world. I covered the book as my contribution to an extensive Deighton appreciation for Shots, that excellent online magazine, and I thought I'd include in a blog post a few of my thoughts about it.
Inevitably, Deighton will always be associated with the spy novel. I have long been a fan of books like Bilion Dollar Brain and Horse Under Water. There was one nice little trick connected in a way with the concealment of identity in Billion Dollar Brain which I was cheeky enough to adapt and then utilise in a very different book of my own - I Remember You.The Ipcress File made an especially good film, benefiting from a soundtrack by the brilliant John Barry that includes the spooky main theme, often heard today as background for all kinds of television programmes.
But there is much more to Deighton than Harry Palmer (the name given to his central character when the books were filmed). To my mind, some of other work is equally appealing. I’m definitely not qualified to judge his cookery books, or his travel guides, but I enjoyed Only When I Larf, which is quirky and unusual. Close-Up is even better.
Close-Up was published in 1972, and I read it a couple of years later. I haven't read it from cover to cover since then, but still it sticks in the memory. It’s set in the film world and presents the story of a fading star called Marshall Stone. Deighton spent some time working in the movie business, and he put his experience of the business to good use.
What impressed me most was the way in which Deighton focused on the gap between image and reality. The material offers tremendous scope for Deighton’s sardonic humour. A typical example comes right at the end when the mogul Koolman says: ‘Close-Up. I’d never buy a title like that. It’ll mean nothing on a marquee in Omaha.’
I met Len Deighton once, about fifteen years ago, when he was over in Britain (he spends most of his time in the States.) He struck me as modest and unassuming. It was one of those conversations that lasts only a few minutes, and which one wishes had gone on much longer. Had it done so, I would have mentioned how much I enjoyed not only his celebrated novels, but also Close Up.