It was Sunday morning. They were in West Berlin: Leuschner’s, a popular barn-like café, with gilt-framed mirrors on the whole of one wall and a long counter behind which one of the Leuschner brothers served. Coming from the jukebox there was a Beatles tune played by the Band of the Irish Guards. The jukebox used to have hard rock records but one of the Leuschners had decided to refill it with music of his own taste. Werner looked round at the familiar faces. On such Sunday mornings, this otherwise unfashionable place attracted a noisy crowd of off-duty gamblers, musicians, touts, cabbies, pimps and hookers who gathered at the bar. It was not a group much depleted by church-going. Thurkettle nodded his head to the music. With his bow tie, neatly trimmed beard and suit of distinctly American style, he looked like a tourist. But Thurkettle was here to commit a murder on the orders of London Central. He wondered how much Werner had been told.
observations: From WW2 and post-War books to the Cold War. This is number six in Deighton’s triple trilogy – see the summary of the books and my trail through them here - and in some ways a disappointment. So far we have seen events from the perspective of Bernard Samson – five books of his view of complex events involving spies, defectors, trust and betrayal, moving between Berlin and London, occasionally venturing farther afield.
This book switches to a third person narrative, and goes back to the beginning, and before: the events of the first five books are retold, and fleshed out with more detail than Bernard would have known. We find out a lot more about how certain things were planned and arranged.
This is entertaining and helpful, but not as much fun as when Bernard is giving us his deadpan and perhaps unreliable version of events. It’s a useful corrective, and probably very helpful to tidy up our vision of what’s going on, get us all in line for the final trilogy, Faith, Hope and Charity.
And of course Deighton is never less than entertaining. There is one of his trademark scenes where two conversations/events are going on at once – like this at a cricket match:
The D-G was still watching the match. ‘I like it,’ he said without turning round. Bret smiled grimly. It was an uphill struggle, but that was something of an accolade coming from Sir Henry Clevemore, although it could of course have been prompted by some cricketing accomplishment that Bret [who is American] had failed to understand.-- and plenty of 1980s clothes: ‘He was wearing a suede jacket and tan-coloured silk roll-neck.’
There’s an interesting comment on national differences by an American commenting on the English:
‘I don’t dislike them; I said I don’t trust them. London is a real nice place to live. But I don’t like their self-righteous attitude and their total disregard for other people’s feelings and for other people’s property. Do you know something, Bret, there is not an Englishman living who hasn’t at some time or other boasted of stealing something: at school or in the army, at their college or on a drunken spree. All of them, at some time or other, steal things and then tell about it, as if it was the biggest joke you ever heard.’In yesterday’s entry I was quite rude about a woman using national stereotypes about the British: here I just find if funny, does that show I am in favour of dishonesty? (No!)
I was glad I read Sinker: it was helpful, and satisfyingly cleared up what was going on in the earlier books. But it didn’t really take the story any further, and my main feeling was that I was pleased I wasn’t reading these books as they were published in the series – imagine waiting a year for the next book of Samson adventures and finding it was this one. And then you’d have had to wait another four years for Faith to arrive.
You can find entries on the other books in the series by clicking on the 'Len Deighton' label below.
The top picture is from the Federal German archives, and shows a café in Berlin in 1972. The lower one was taken by Willy Pragher and is on Wikimedia Commons: it was taken in the Kurfurstendamm in 1960. The third one was taken in the Wall Park in Berlin last year, by Audrey Stafford.