This book, Deighton’s first, was published in 1962, just as Dr. No was released. That first Bond film stirred more interest in The Iprcress File. In fact, Harry Saltzman, who co-produced Dr. No, made a deal with Deighton to do a film of his book as a “counterweight to the Bond film.” The film made an unknown actor of 15-years, Michael Caine, an instant star.
As a side note, Ian Fleming wrote his first Bond story in 1952–Casino Royale. Book number seven became the first Bond film and book number 1 became film number 21. Go figure. (In fairness, there was a 1967 comedy starring David Niven called Casino Royale based loosely on the book.)
Unlike James Bond, the spy in Deighton’s seven novels with the same character was never named. In this first story, told in first-person, he has to report for new credentials and is given the pseudonym of Harry Plamer. That name was used as his real name in the four movies.
As to this story, I agree with many of the negative comments on Amazon. It is not easy to follow the plot. We are not given much information until the end where it is tied up neatly. Meanwhile, we read along and try to figure out why “Harry” is doing what he is doing.
If you survived the 60s, is it a great recall of those days. If you are younger, you might like to get a glimpse of what that decade was about in terms of the Cold War.
Before you read, it will help you to know that Deighton was an illustrator and decided to write a story for a lark. He, unlike Fleming, knew nothing about the spy business, so used his experiences as a struggling artist in Soho and a more successful artist in the leather-chaired environs of the advertisement world to flesh out the details of his imagined spy. While Bond was the product of the wealthy Fleming’s Eaton and Sandhurst background (not to mention WWII naval intelligence); Palmer was the product of a working-class self-made writer.
I read Berlin Game, the first of the Bernard Samson series and it is written much better; reviewed here.
Ipcress will not be your best read of the year, but 43% of Amazon readers gave it five stars.