Spy Story

Spy Story

by Len Deighton

An attempted murder, the defection of a highly placed KGB official, and an explosive nuclear submarine chase beneath the Arctic Ocean seem to have little connection to one another. But they are the sparks that propel Pat Armstrong also known as Harry Palmer into the heart of a brutal East-West power play. And when Armstrong returns to his own apartment where someone who looks and dresses just like him has taken up his identity we are drawn into the world of spies and counterspies, plots and counterplots, that is Len Deighton's unbeatable trademark.

  • Series: Secret File
  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.80
  • Pages: 291
  • Publish Date: September 1st 1991 by HarperPrism
  • Isbn10: 0061002658
  • Isbn13: 9780061002656

What People Think about "Spy Story"

The pleasure in reading Deighton is the nimbleness of his prose; the occasional tiny flash of insight or cultural commentary. He will poke gentle fun at a crass new 'plastic thatched' farmhouse roof, or the way the wealthy serve sherry, or housing projects, or vegetarianism, or any number of other quirks in the setting around his characters. The main character--is he really Harry Palmer?--is maddeningly low-energy, tepid, stolid. I am not to the end yet but so far I can't label this one of Deighton's best conceptions; though of course--as I say above--the prose is supple.

The story opens with Armstrong and Foxwell returning from a six week trip on a nuclear sub gathering intel on Soviet communications in the Arctic Ocean for use in the war game tactical scenarios. Armstrong is caught in a complex web of deceit and, in the final third, of the novel the action moves to a remote Scottish Island and then on to a nuclear sub which is to rendezvous with the defecting Admiral.

I dont know if I missed something, having not read any of the previous books but it felt like a lot of exposition was left out or very poorly explained.

Its purely an attempt at getting a character out of retirement, who was only put there in this novel anyway.

A wrap up, or reprise?

The book is written in first person, which is, to my mind, a better way to tell a spy story in many respects. In this way, this kind of spy story is more akin to a mystery than a thriller, though sharing elements of both, a trait forgotten it seems these days. Pat Armstrong, our narrator, also known as Harry Palmer, the protagonist of Deightons first four novels, has basically quit the life and is now clock punching at an intelligence examination division of British counterintelligence doing historical analysis of previous battles and engagements to learn as much as possible from computer modeling. We only grasp one small piece of the story, one tiny perspective in a fragmented multi-level world, and the first person narrative drives that home in a way that is particular and intimate without feeling cluelessly adrift.

After a sequence of novels which are each in some way different from everything else he had written, Spy Story is Len Deighton's return to basics. Spy Story is more subtle than most spy thrillers; Deighton's interest isn't in staging stunts but in the relationships between agents of various types and the politics of the interactions between different agencies, British and American, which is perhaps a slight shift from his earlier writing in the genre.

The protagonist of the story is a spy, that uses the pseudonym of Pat Armstrong and the novels plot is about various events that occur in the spy world and in Armstrongs life after he returns from a submarine mission. This novel is a great literary work due to the fact that Deighton portrays an incredible idea through the use of literary elements and a well organized writing structure.

His father was a chauffeur and mechanic, and his mother was a part-time cook.After leaving school, Deighton worked as a railway clerk before performing his National Service, which he spent as a photographer for the Royal Air Force's Special Investigation Branch. Before he began his writing career he worked as an illustrator in New York and, in 1960, as an art director in a London advertising agency. Following the success of his first novels, Deighton became The Observer's cookery writer and produced illustrated cookbooks.