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Len Deighton – London Dossier

Len Deighton in Soho, photographed by
Adrian Flowers in 1966

In 1967, Penguin paperbacks published the London Dossier by Len Deighton. The book comprised essays on London by people who knew the city well, including Adrian Bailey, Jane Wilson, Spike Hughes and, of course, Adrian Flowers. A brief biography, written by Deighton, introduces the chapter on photography written by Flowers, and also throws light on their friendship:

Born in the general depression, is still recovering. A typical cancerian who moves sideways out of trouble. His main occupation is advertising and editorial photography. He has taken food pictures for the Observer and took the cover photo of Twiggy for this book. His studio in Tite Street, Chelsea, is crammed full of equipment, all of which he insists is absolutely necessary. His home is in Kentish Town, where he keeps his wife, three sons, one daughter, a dog and a cat, and an au pair girl. He owns four old cars, which are shared by his assistants, and a launch for touring the Thames. Keeps fit by playing football every day with his faithful bitch, Sarah. His aim in life, apart from keeping his wife happy, is to take the picture of all time.

Twiggy portrait for the cover of Deighton London Dossier,
design by Raymond Hawkey, photograph by Adrian Flowers, October 1966

In his essay in London Dossier Flowers advises the aspiring photographer to first of all buy an umbrella, at James Smith & Son, 53 New Oxford Street. This landmark at the corner of New Oxford Street and Shaftesbury Avenue still sells—according to its tarnished and extravagant Edwardian window signage, dagger canes, swordsticks, tropical sunshades, Irish blackthorns and umbrellas. “Get a large one and on leaving take a picture of this changeless shop” wrote Flowers, adding that even the act of carrying an umbrella, for the superstitious, might prevent rain. Although Smith’s survives, all the independent specialist photography shops mentioned by Flowers are now gone; their place taken by chains such as Jessops and the recently-merged Wex and Calumet. Specialising in Flowers’ favourite camera, the Hasselblad, the Photo Centre in Piccadilly Arcade has long since given way to a shoe shop, while Dixons on Oxford Street is now home to a Carphone Warehouse.

At 93 Fleet Street, the venerable Wallace Heaton shop, notwithstanding its royal warrant, is now an outlet for mobile phones. Many of the early negatives in the Adrian Flowers Archive are preserved in distinctive green Wallace Heaton envelopes. The company, which also had a shop at 127 Bond Street and published the famous photographers “Blue Book”, was taken over in 1972 by Dixons.

Likewise, Pelling & Cross at 104 Baker Street, specialising in Voigtlander cameras, is gone, while Kafetz Cameras, down the road at 234 Baker Street, is now home to Vy’s Nails. Flowers identified the Kodak Instamatic and Voigtlander Bessy-K cameras as most suitable for beginners. For more serious photographers he recommended the Nikkormat, with 28, 50 and 105mm lenses, but for maximum versatility, he suggested the half-frame Olympus Pen D2 or Canon Dial. Agfa CT 18 film was good at capturing the grey London fogs, but Flowers warned that the colours red and green were inescapable, in a city full of buses, parks, guardsmen and pillar boxes. The budding photographer was invited to go to St. James’s Park at three in the afternoon, when the pelicans were fed with herring. Moving on from there, the top of Lambeth Palace would afford a panoramic view familiar to Canaletto. However if admittance to the palace proved difficult, Flowers suggested the landing stage by the river, where the Decca radar company had established its head office. Moving along, the photographer would head to the Beefeaters and ravens at the Tower of London—the latter best photographed from the top of the Port of London Authority, and from thence proceed to Tower Bridge. Flowers includes in his itinerary that ‘quarter mile of sordidness for the sinister-seeking’; the area of East London made infamous by Jack the Ripper, with Christchurch at its centre. “Ripper’s Corner in Mitre Square has only one wall remaining. This is where the body of Catherine Eddowes, his fourth victim, was found. I suppose it is like collecting pregnant silences on tape, but even so, if you are interested in Jack the Ripper and have read all about the rippings, the experience of photographing this bit of wall will have a strange effect on you. The wall is in the southerly corner and should be taken in the gloom of dusk with the aid of the gas lamps that are still there.” [Len Deighton’s London Dossier Penguin Books 1967, p. 150] After these dubious thrills, the reader was encouraged to explore Thrawl Street, and Flower and Dean Street (Flowery Dean). Commercial Road, Puma Court and Hanbury Street. Wilkes Street led to the Gilead Medical Mission, an organisation dedicated to bringing the Gospel to the Jews, not to be confused with present-day Gilead Science. Many Shoreditch slums had been cleared by then, the ‘Old Nichol’ being replaced by the splendid Arts and Crafts Boundary Estate. Flowers dwells on the area’s association with slaughter houses and butchers, singling out the Jolly Butchers pub (formerly the Turk and Slave) in Cabbage Court, 157 Brick Lane, as a good subject. The setting for an unofficial morning jewellery market in the 1960’s, the Jolly Butcher closed in 1987 and now houses a café, sandwiched between two bagel shops. “To round off the visit, not forgetting to visit some dark and sinister laneways, wend your way to the Cosy Café in Cheshire Street.” [p. 150] Famed for its egg, bacon and bubble, this establishment is also sadly no longer in business. The building survives, just about, in a boring modern streetscape utterly devoid of character. Beside the Cosy Café, an alley led to a footbridge over the railway lines.

Flowers recommended twilight as the best time of day for taking photographs in London, singling out the Victoria Embankment, and the promenade between Westminster and Lambeth bridges on the south side, as good for night shooting. “Trafalgar Square is worth taking at dusk. . . During the day Nelson can still look admirable without his column, apparently standing on a wooden box when viewed from Carlton House Terrace. At the end of this terrace is an unusually well-preserved example of bomb damage, contrasting strangely with the surroundings.” [p. 150] For explorations of Soho, Flowers recommended beginning in Compton Street, and that the photographer try to look like a tourist ‘to avoid being lynched’.

Terrazza “Trat” photographed by Adrian Flowers in 1966

Not long after opening in 1959, at the corner of Dean Street and Romilly Street in Soho, the Trattoria Terrazza had become one of London’s most popular eating places for people from the world of theatre and advertising. Run by Franco Lagattolla and Mario Cassandro, the “Trat” had genuine Italian friendliness and style, and served good Italian food. Less formal than Le Caprice or the Ivy, more exciting than other Soho eateries such as L’Epicerie or Wheelers, nothwithstanding Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud occasionally holding court in the latter, it was a fun place to meet, attracting regulars such as David Puttnam, Raymond Hawkey, Len Deighton and Adrian and Angela Flowers. Deighton wrote passages of The Ipcress File at the Trat, including mention of its cuisine, and it was here he met Michael Caine, before the novel and film brought both fame. While Cassandro was outgoing and charming, not a little of Lagatolla’s more reserved style is captured in the persona of Harry Palmer created by Caine. Other diners included David Niven, Brian Duffy, Julie Christie, Terence Stamp, David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton. The interior was remodelled in the 1960’s by Enzo Apicella, who created a spare, white Modernist space, while retaining a rustic flavour, with tiled floor, rush-covered seats and rough-plastered walls—a style emulated by countless other trattoria that sprang up in Britain over the following years, and is still exemplified in better restaurants such as Scalini’s in Chelsea. Flowers’ night snapshot of the exterior shows the cheerful neon sun motif that reflected the Trat’s legendary charm and style. No 19 Romilly St is today occupied by Le Relais de Venise, a dull steak and chips establishment with an exterior of gothic lettering and scumbled wood that caters mainly to tourists.

Flowers also suggested hiring a taxi to tour the streets slowly ‘you can get many fascinating shots this way’. Leicester Square was best photographed from Cranbourn Street, while Lower Regent Street provided the best view of Piccadilly Circus.

Even with fast film, the photographer would need a tripod to capture flashing neon lights at night. Battersea Park, with its Henry Moore sculpture, was on the itinerary, with the nearby power station chimneys still belching out smoke. The 29th of May, Oak Apple Day, saw pensioners of the Royal Hospital Chelsea on parade, while the Chelsea Flower Show, also held in May, was a treat, particularly at 4pm on the last day, when plants were sold off cheaply. ‘If you could get a hundred viewpoints at once, you’d have the film of the year.’ observed Flowers drily. Leather Market Street south of Guy’s Hospital on Friday mornings, and the Caledonian Market on Bermondsey Street, were charming to photograph, as were Portobello Road and Petticoat Lane. Flowers was less comfortable with Victorian architecture – ‘If wild monstrosities are your passion start with the Albert Memorial’. Berkeley Square, King’s Road, Chelsea – ‘If you want to see and not be seen, a good tip is to grab a window table in the pub called the Chelsea Potter about midday.’ Horse riding at Rotten Row, Hyde Park, every morning, and the dray horses still used by Whitbread Brewery in Chiswell Street and Watney’s Mortlake brewery. St. Paul’s Cathedral was a favourite. The viewing terrace of the Shell Building could be visited for two and sixpence, but closed at four in the afternoon, which was disappointing for photographers hoping to shoot at twilight. The GPO tower was also disappointing, due to haze, but the Monument provided a good view of Tower Bridge. Flowers recommended the Tudor houses at Holborn, Chancery Lane, and Lincoln Inn Old Buildings, where barristers in their regalia could be seen at lunchtime. Other sights included the Old Curiosity Shop, and men wearing bowler hats, still a common sight at London Bridge in the morning, and at Cornhill and Lombard Street.

Len Deighton on a London routemaster, photographed by
Adrian Flowers 1966

Photographers were advised to take the 214 bus from Tottenham Court Road to Highgate West Hill, and to go through Hampstead Heath, on to Kenwood House, and then to the Spaniard pub. They would then to take the 210 bus to Highgate Village, and from there walk down Swains Lane to the cemetery, for Flowers a place he held sacred as the burial place of the pioneer of photography William Friese-Greene. Regent’s Park Zoo and Tilbury Docks, the bridge on the River Thames, all received honourable mention, while Flowers recommended photographing the London Policeman ‘still proudly not carrying a gun’. The Roman wall at Cooper’s Row, off Trinity Square, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and London’s fire stations were all on the list. Flowers highlighted details such as cast iron railings, although many of these had been melted down during WWII. His final suggestion was to go to a theatre near Covent Garden, eat and drink into the early hours at one of the specially licenced pubs “Then, at 4 or 5 in the morning use stamina to judge, with an unjaundiced eye, the picture-making possibilities of the famous flower and fruit markets.” [p. 157]

Text: Peter Murray

Editor: Francesca Flowers

All images subject to copyright.

Adrian Flowers Archive ©

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Len Deighton – Action Man

DIVERS

While the first edition of Deighton’s spy novel Horse Under Water, published by Jonathan Cape in 1963, contains many action scenes centring on the discovery of a U-Boat sunk off the Portugese coast in the last days of WWII, it is in the paperback edition, published by Penguin, that the author introduced an additional early episode, in which the British agent trains as a scuba diver at the HMS Vernon base in Portsmouth. As always, Deighton carried out detailed research before writing, managing to get permission to go to Portsmouth and not only witness navy divers undergoing training, but to experience what it was like for himself:

Image for ‘Horse Under Water’, photograph by Adrian Flowers

Adrian Flowers accompanied Deighton on this trip to Portsmouth, photographing both the author and navy divers. For Flowers, it was in many ways a homecoming, as his mother’s uncle Alfred West, a photographer and pioneering cinematographer at the turn of the twentieth century, had specialised in photographing and filming the Royal Navy. In 1898, West had photographed torpedo practice in Portsmouth. He also filmed Charles Parsons’ experimental steamship Turbinia, and gave demonstrations of his films at Osborne House. In 1913 he sold his yachting negatives to Beken of Cowes (they are now with the Brett Gallery) but most of his films, made under the ‘Our Navy’ title, are now lost. Adrian’s childhood was spent at “Atherstone” on St. David’s Road, just ten minutes’ walk from Alfred West’s photography studios at Palmerston Road, Southsea.

Deighton put his brief training session at Portsmouth to good use. Descriptions of diving occupy much of the first half of Horse Under Water, as various characters compete to gain access to the treasures on the sunken vessel. The plot moves along at bewildering speed, and it is not revealed until the end of the novel that the race to retrieve items from the submarine wreck has been prompted by the existence of a list of people in the UK who were prepared to collaborate in a German occupation of Britain. This theme of betrayal, touched upon in many of Deighton’s novels and short stories, forms the basis of his later novel SS GB.  In Horse Under Water, it is revealed that the former Royal Navy officer ‘Fernie’, a dodgy character who gets involved in the submarine dives, had been earlier recruited into the ‘League of St. George’, influential people who hoped to form a Nazi Party in Britain. As always, Deighton brings his narrative to life with vivid descriptions of people and places, as befits his experience as an illustrator. He also introduces lively references to 1960’s music and consumer culture, including Miles Davis, Charlie Mingus, Tio Pepe Sherry, Omo washing powder etc. Although Adrian Flowers’ photograph of the actor Michael Caine is used in the Penguin edition cover, Horse Under Water was never made into a film.

Len Deighton looks on while divers help each other take off rubber wetsuits. Photograph: Adrian Flowers
Cover of Jonathan Cape 1963 hardback edition

BOMBERS AND FIGHTERS

On 3 Jan 1971, in The New York Times, Len Deighton reviewed an autobiographical account by Peter Townsend of the Battle of Britain and the events leading up to it, in which Townsend described an aerial duel between a Hurricane fighter and a Heinkel III bomber. Two years before, when working on Bomber, his own dramatised account of an RAF night attack during WWII, Deighton had carried out detailed research on aircraft of the period, particularly the Heinkel III. On August 15 1969, he was invited to join the crew in a restored Heinkel which was being flown from England to Siegerland airfield, near Cologne. The aircraft was in fact a post-war machine, one of several hundred built under license by CASA for the Spanish air force. Thirty or so of these Spanish Heinkels were used in the 1969 film The Battle of Britain. Although it was planned to fly the Heinkel over the city of Cologne as a promotion for the film, this publicity stunt was cancelled, not least because many of the inhabitants had died in air raids by the RAF during WWII. The following year, after a few demonstration flights, the Heinkel was grounded at Siegersland for safety reasons. It was subsequently acquired by the Deutsches Museum and is now fully restored and on display in the Flugwerft Schleissheim—but with Spanish air force rather than Luftwaffe livery.

Len Deighton in front of the Heinkel III in 1969, photograph by Adrian Flowers

Before the flight took off on August 15th, Adrian Flowers photographed Deighton, both standing in front of the Heinkel, and also inside the cockpit. The research undertaken by Deighton during this period informed his writing of Fighter, published in 1977. One of the chapters in Fighter is titled “Inside a Heinkel He III”.

While working on Bomber, Deighton leased from IBM a new device called an MT/ST (Magnetic Tape Selectric Typewriter)—an early word-processor—and had it installed in his home in Merrick Square, near Elephant and Castle. Adrian Flowers photographed Deighton in his home office, surrounded by typewriters, the IBM word processor and filing cabinets. Although he surrounded himself with high technology, some of the energy evident in Deighton’s prose style may derive from the down-to-earth fact that he liked to write while standing rather than sitting.

Len Deighton in his London office in 1968. Photograph by Adrian Flowers

Text: Peter Murray

Editor: Francesca Flowers

All images subject to copyright.

Adrian Flowers Archive ©

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Len Deighton – cooking

One of the shots taken for Len Deighton’s Action Cook Book, 1967
Photograph by Adrian Flowers

Among Len Deighton’s best-loved cookery books are Ou Est Le Garlic? (1966), Basic French Cooking (Jonathan Cape 1979), ABC of French Food and Basic French Cookery Course. However it is his Action Cook Book, first published in 1965 and later re-issued as French Cooking for Men, that best retains the fresh and breezy appeal of ‘sixties London. The Action Cook Book is a compilation of Deighton’s ‘Cookstrips’ published in the Observer between 1962 and 1966. The deceptively simple graphic style and hand-drawn fonts of the Action Cook Book remain innovative today, and have inspired a new generation of publications in which comic-book art and texts are combined. In 2015, celebrating the success of the 1960’s Cookstrips, Len Deighton and his son Alex began collaborating on a new series for the Observer Food Monthly Magazine. While retaining Len’s style of simple images and hand-drawn lettering, these new strips are drawn by Alex, and have introduced readers to a wide range of world cuisine.

Raymond Hawkey, April 1966, photograph by Adrian Flowers

With its cover designed by Raymond Hawkey and photography by Adrian Flowers, the Action Cook Book was stylish, modern and met a growing demand among readers for information on good food. Its success led to a second Deighton cookbook, Ou Est le Garlic? As a child, Deighton had learned inventive cuisine from his mother, Dorothy (née Fitzgerald), who occasionally cooked for a London nightclub. Using ingredients exempt from food rationing, she created dishes that were given colourful names in the menu, such as ‘sweet and sharp tongue’. In an interview with John Walsh in the Independent (23 Oct 2011), Deighton described how, during summer vacations from art college, he had worked as a kitchen porter at the restaurant in the Royal Festival Hall: “One day I was mopping the floor when the fish chef asked me if I would do some jobs for him, as his assistant hadn’t arrived. My first task was skinning Dover soles. I must have been a good student because he then showed me how to fillet them. From then onwards, my days were spent as unofficial assistant to the fish chef, though I was still paid only porter’s wages. I once asked my chef why he’d chosen me for this sudden elevation. He said everyone had noticed the way I ‘hung around watching the cooks’. He was right.” In addition to summer jobs in London and Paris, Deighton also attributed his culinary education to Philip Harben, television’s first celebrity chef.

The purple shirt, featured in Flowers’ photograph for the cover of The Action Cook Book, is mentioned in Len Deighton’s London Dossier, “I like the shirt department at Simpson’s where they’ll make you something wild in mauve or shocking pink for £5 10s. or £6 10s.
Photograph by Adrian Flowers for the cover of Ou est le garlic? in 1966

Following the success of his first spy thriller The Ipcress File, Deighton moved to Jonathan Cape, who in 1963 published his second novel, Horse Under Water. This was followed by Funeral in Berlin and three years later, The Billon Dollar Brain appeared, which, along with An Expensive Place to Die, published in 1967, confirmed his status as writer of gripping and complex stories, spy thrillers that were neither as melancholic as Le Carré’s, nor as simplistic as Fleming’s. In addition to the novels and cookbooks, he wrote non-fiction history books, mainly on WWII topics.

Photograph by Adrian Flowers for Funeral in Berlin, 1966
Michael Caine in 1966 photographed by Adrian Flowers
for the cover of Funeral in Berlin

However, even in his spy novels, food and cooking are a constant motif. In the opening pages of The Billion Dollar Brain, Alice runs up the stairs of the Charlotte Street offices with a tin of Nescafé, while the anonymous hero later has lunch in Trattoria Terrazza, enjoying ‘Tagliatelle alla carbonara, osso buco, coffee’ before being provided with a false passport that identifies him as one Liam Dempsey, born in Cork. In the first chapter of Funeral in Berlin, Hallam drinks his Darjeeling tea from an antique Meissen cup, and eats custard cream biscuits, while discussing the defection of a Soviet scientist. Later, in describing how to fry up breakfast, Deighton describes how the pan must cleaned with paper, not water, before cooking begins. However his self-description – ‘a supercilious anti-public-school technician’ wearing ‘mass-produced, off the peg clothes’ – is revealing. Much of Deighton’s success as a writer stemmed from these sharp barbs, in which few were spared. In Chapter 15, it may well be his friend Adrian Flowers who is referred to in a pub conversation:

A man with a paisley scarf tucked inside an open-necked shirt was saying, ‘He’s the best damn photographer in the country but he’s a thousand guineas a shot.’ A man with suede chukka boots said, ‘Our deep frozen fish-fingers nearly beat him. I said, “Make the beastly things out of plaster, old boy’ we’ll get the piping hot effect by burning incense.” We did too. Ha, ha! Put the sales up six and three-quarter per cent and he got some kind of Art Director’s award.’ He laughed a deep, manly laugh and sloshed down some beer.

Fish Fingers shot for Birds Eye by Adrian Flowers

In reality, Flowers prided himself on using real ingredients in his food photography, as in the above image of fish fingers, taken for Birds Eye. Although he had championed photography while a student at the Royal College of Art, Deighton in his novels sometimes seems to have had it in for photographers—part of the self-deprecating style that made his novels so attractive to readers tired of literary narcissism and improbable heroes.

In Chapter 18 of An Expensive Place to Die, the scene in Les Chiens bar—’hot, dark and squirming, like a can of live bait’—sums up something about Deighton’s attitude to both himself and the camera shutter. “On a staircase a wedge of people were embracing and laughing like advertising photos. At the bar a couple of English photographers were talking in cockney and an English writer was explaining James Bond.” A brawl then erupts when one of the photographers punches the writer, who is about to read a Baudelaire sonnet.

“There was a scuffle going on at the top of the staircase, and then violence travelled through the place like a flash flood. Everyone was punching everyone, girls were screaming and the music seemed to be even louder than before. A man hurried a girl along the corridor past me. ‘It’s those English that make the trouble,’ he complained.” When An Expensive Place to Die was ready for publishing, Hawkey produced a range of different cover designs, each of which incorporated photographs taken by Flowers.

An Expensive Place to Die photograph by Adrian Flowers

Deighton married twice; the first time to fellow Royal College of Art student, the illustrator Shirley Thompson. Len and Shirley divorced in the mid 1970’s. Len’s second marriage, in February 1980, at Holte in the Netherlands, was to Ysabele, daughter of Johan Antoni and Frederika de Ranitz. A career diplomat, in the late 1940’s, Johan de Ranitz served as first secretary at the Netherlands Embassy in Sydney, Australia. Born in 1941 in the Netherlands, Ysabele is also is also the niece of WWII hero Eric Haselhof Roelfzema, whose autobiographical Soldier of Orange in 1977 was made into a Paul Verhoeven-directed film. Over the years she has assisted Deighton in translations and research. They have two sons, Frederick Alexander and Antoni. Over the years, Flowers photographed the Deighton family on several occasions, including visiting Len when he lived in Ireland, in the seaside village of Blackrock, Co. Louth.

Len Deighton in his kitchen at Elephant & Castle. Photograph by Adrian Flowers

Text: Peter Murray

Editor: Francesca Flowers

All images subject to copyright

Adrian Flowers Archive ©