Sunday, July 13, 2008

08.13 Funeral In Berlin by Len Deighton

Funeral In Berlin (1964) by Len Deighton
Pbk, Penguin, 265p.

I've had this book kicking around the shelves for awhile now I think because I had read Billion Dollar Brain somewhat recently. So I recently read a blog post from someone saying Funeral was an overlooked classic - therefore I dove right in.

I'm glad I did. Funeral In Berlin is one of Deighton's unnamed spy novels (Ipcress File, BDB, An Expensive Place To Die among others) many of which have been made into films starring Michael Caine as a spy named Harry Palmer. In this story our spy hero travels back and forth between London, Prague and Berlin shaping and organizing the defection of a Soviet scientist to the West. He has to work with a Russian security man named Colonel Stok and a German playboy/hustler, Johnny Vulcan. In addition he has to contend with an Israeli agent called Samantha Steel and a Home Office man back in London who may be compromised because of his homosexuality. The plot is pretty complex but the author manages to keep all the balls in the air fairly deftly.

Deighton's writing is taut and funny although he has a tendency to be overly descriptive and rely on simile. Mostly, though, it works well:

"I walked into the lounge. It was about thirty foot of ankle-high carpeting from silk wall to silk wall. The cocktail cabinet was in the corner. I opened it and was socked in the head by pink neon. I groped inside the cabinet among a platoon of bottles, mixed a martini and slammed ice into it.
The bathroom was all mosaics and radiant heating. A low marble table held three dozen bottles of lotion and salts and above that there was a huge pink mirror and a complexity of stainless steel shower fittings.
The bathtub was made of some sort of black stone. Samantha was in it. She was wearing a half dozen bracelets and a string of pearls."


Buzby said...

This sounds cool. Did you know that Len Deighton and Michael Cain were lovers for a time.

Olman Feelyus said...

I want to be the kind of guy who slams his ice into a martini.

At the time, I think these books were fairly popular, so I'm not sure we could call them overlooked. Len Deighton also had a series of very popular cookbooks. My mom still has one. The Harry Palmer movies also put Caine on the map, or at least solidified his stardom.

Is that really true, Buzby?

Crumbolst said...

"It was about thirty foot of ankle-high carpeting from silk wall to silk wall."
Groovy pad, man.