Monday, 24 August 2015

Charity by Len Deighton


9th in the triple trilogy of Bernard Samson books

published 1996



Charity 1




The theme of the party, as stated on the printed invitations, was ‘The Golden Twenties’. Its ambivalence had left the German guests uncertain of whether to respond with a fancy dress suited to Berlin in the Weimar years, or simply to wear gold. Many had done both. There were plenty of gold lame gowns, and gold jewellery was in abundance, for this was Berlin and flamboyant ostentation was de rigueur. There was even a gold lame evening jacket – although that was worn by a tenor from the opera and so didn’t count as a surprise of any kind – and there was a glittering outfit of gold pyjamas worn by a skinny old lady who did cooking lessons on TV. Gold wire and gold foil and gold ornaments of many kinds were liberally arranged on the walls. Gold ceiling hangings echoed in shape the antique glass chandelier that Werner had bought in an auction, so that it could become the centre-piece of the room. The moving beams from clusters of spotlights were directed upwards to patch the false ceiling with their light, and create golden clouds that floated overhead.


observations: And so to book number 9 of the triple trilogy. It’s 1988 and Bernard Samson is trying to pick up the threads of his life, but is thwarted all the way by stuff like being dragged off a Polish train by Secret Police and beaten up. He is worried about his children, and wondering which of the women he knows is his real true love. More regular features: There is a hilarious and dreadful dinner party. Nothing but the best for Dicky Cruyer:
‘We haven’t used these caterers before. They sent six packets of frozen bite-sized pizzas without asking if we had a microwave. I was hoping they would thaw but they are rock-hard.’
Even in 1988 you would sack those caterers.

There is the grand party in Berlin, above, reminiscent of the one at the end of Spy Line. And there are the usual inter-departmental meetings to remind us that spy organizations are just like any other workplace, and to give us the witty Deighton details:
Bret waved away the biscuits, poured cream into his coffee and drank some. His offhand self-assurance in respect of digestive biscuits revealed his transatlantic origins.
Len Deighton’s introduction to this edition is as riveting as ever. He talks about the importance of the church in the fall of communism – that contribution has been devalued and played down, he says. He tells us that in his view:
surely the Bernard Samson stories are comedy thrillers – boardroom dramas perhaps – about a man in love with two women.
He talks about his love for Berlin, and says the city
is like an ever-present character in all my Bernard Samson books.
-- so room for one more of Audrey Stafford’s pictures of Berlin – this is  a historically-preserved checkpoint, part of the history and remembrance of the Wall in the city.


Berlin checkpoint

The books are an amazing achievement: I am sad to have finished them, and look forward to reading all of them again at some time in the future.

The top picture is from the German Federal Archives, and shows young women getting ready for a ball in Berlin in 1934 – it’s from the same series as the one illustrating Kerry Jamieson’s Forgotten Lies here.










10 comments:

  1. Like you Moira, I remain in awe of Deighton's ability to keep control of a series of 10 books - what an amazing way to cap such a distinguished career!

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  2. Moira, you and Tracy, who reviewed this book recently, have piqued my interest in Len Deighton's fiction. I will be reading some of his earliest novels.

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    1. I do recommend them, and I'm sure you will enjoy them. And also - when Tracy and I are both on the case, resistance is futile!

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  3. Deighton's ability to weave wit into a good story is phenomenal, I think, Moira. And I've always liked his way with words. It is a very sad feeling when you've come to the end of a beloved series. At least the books are there for you to re-read whenever you want.

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    1. Yes indeed Margot, and I will read them again. But also, he wrote so much, there's still plenty by him to sample.

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  4. So nice that we finished reading this series about the same time. I loved the dinner party in this one. Dickie Cruyer always irritates me to the extreme when they are in the office or working, but his dinner parties are fun to read about. I now have two copies of the last three books so that I have a copy of the introductions and I will eventually get them for all I hope. I have gotten to like Deighton almost as much as Rex Stout and thus like having multiple copies of his books anyway.

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    1. Great description of Dickie, Tracy. Deighton does such good characters. We'll read them again one day, whichever of us succumbs first can alert the other....

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  5. Well done on completing, maybe next year I'll start...

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    1. Tracy and I are waiting for you to do it. If you wait long enough, Tracy and I will have embarked on our re-read, and you can join in....

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