Len Deighton—spy thrillers. Leiter Writing Tips
[writing as Ben Leiter]
This guy holds a top spot for being one of my favorite spy- thriller writers. Right up there with John LeCarré.
Not a writer. No training. Wrote like writing to a friend in 1st person. Read a lot before in his life. Made it all up. …likes the idea of making his readers “jump about: as they try to work out whether his characters are telling the truth, half-truths or downright lies.”
Excellent at building subtle conflict.
I really enjoy his first person point of view.
It’s easy to relate to his intelligence agent, series protagonist, Bernard Samson: middle-aged; worries about his job, his wife, the kids, and life. Knows there is something wrong in his marriage, but not quite sure what.
“Fiona was very beautiful, especially when she smiled that sort of smile that women save for men who have lost their woman.”
“Beside the bed, my photo stared back at me from its silver frame. Bernard Sampson, a serious young man with baby face, wavy hair and horn-rimmed glasses looked nothing like the wrinkled old fool I shaved every morning.”“…he kept his voice flat, and contrived the casual offhand tone in which Englishmen prefer to discuss matters of life and death.”
“He liked clichés. They were, he said, the best way to get simple ideas into the heads of idiots.”
“Brett had spent his life in swivel chairs, arguing with dictating machines and smiling for committees.”
“…where Hitler had fought his last battles against marriage and the Red Army and, defeated by both Venus and Mars, blew out his troubled brains…”
“I am beginning to think that Christianity has a lot in common with Marxist-Leninism…God is dialectical materialism; Christ is Karl Marx; the Church is the Party, the elect is the proletariat, and the Second Coming is the Revolution.”
“The truth was that I didn’t know whether I loved her or not; all I knew was that I missed her dreadfully when I wasn’t with her. If that wasn’t love, I’d settle for it until love arrived.”
“All around me there were the “over” people: overanxious, overweight, overbearing, overeducated, overrated, overweening, overachieving, overselling, overspending, and overproducing.”
Eastern Europe had not yet discovered orthodontistry. With no proper elections to contest, its leaders did not need teeth and hair.”
“Anyone who’d read a history book could see that Hitler gained power by wooing the German middle classes while the communists disdained them.”
“But love is like the measles; the later in life it afflicts you, the more severe the consequences.”
“Is there anything you can take for it?”
“Only wedding vows.”
“He was wearing gloves, I noticed. That was encouraging. Men wearing gloves are not quick on the trigger.”
He said in uncertain English, ‘We Germans are so very like you Americans! That is why there is this constant friction. Both our countrymen respond to ideology, both seek always to improve the world, and both often want to improve it by means of military crusades.’