The Ipcress Dossier: The Rebel Spy Who Is The Anti-James Bond

It was a success and was subsequently included in a British Film Institute list of the 100 best British films of the 20th century (although its two hastily produced sequels, 1966’s Funeral in Berlin and 1967’s Billion Dollar Brain, fell short). And all of Deighton’s novels were reissued as Penguin Modern Classics last year, with his spy fiction now recognized as a pinnacle of the genre.

Simon Winder, publishing director at Penguin Press, says: “The Ipcress File has suddenly made spy history new – hip, disheveled, patched. It is as essential in the early 60s as Mary Quant or A Hard Day’s Night. Until Harry Palmer wanders off. on the stage, the traditions of the English spy novel were essentially those of the upper class, with John Buchan, Ian Fleming and John le Carré the masters of the genre. Deighton transformed this assumption.

His work has broad appeal. Fans have included Lemmy, the hellish frontman of the rock band Motörhead, who said he never traveled without a Len Deighton novel, and military historian Max Hastings, who calls Deighton’s Second World novel World War Bomber “probably the best thing ever written about the wartime air campaign against Germany”.

And now the TV series, which also stars Lucy Boynton and Tom Hollander, is set to bring Palmer and Deighton to a whole new audience. With six episodes, there’s more room than there was in the film to develop characters and fill in the background. Agent Jean Courtney (Boynton), for example, is now much more complete and is at least Palmer’s professional equal. Neither the series nor the film slavishly adhere to the novel, but both are true to its spirit. Fans will be delighted to see that TV Harry is still a good cook and a connoisseur of a great cup of coffee.

Director James Watkins says: “In our modern world where the social mobility promised in the 60s seems to have vanished, Harry is perhaps more relevant than ever: a true working-class hero.”

The Ipcress file begins on ITV in the UK in March and will soon air on AMC+ in the US.

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