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Favorite Authors/Books/Series > Len Deighton’s SAMSON series

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message 1: by Ess (new)

Ess | 9 comments Len Deighton & his books may have slipped from the limelight, but I for one appreciate their influence on my own writing & experience great delight every time I return to his magnificent ‘Samson series’ in particular.

For this reason I’d love to exchange views on his triple trilogy (Berlin Game, Mexico Set & London Match / Spy Hook, Spy Line & Spy Sinker / Faith, Hope & Charity) and their prequel, Winter.

To get the ball rolling then, I thought I’d share a little hypothesis … so grab your heavy specs, buff up your Berlinerisch sense of humour and I’ll look forward to reading your take on the series.


message 2: by Ess (new)

Ess | 9 comments Why would Deighton choose the name ‘Samson’?

Speaking personally, my only association is with the Bible story:

Strong man loses powers after having his hair shorn while asleep … his missis betraying him because … something to do with him continually beating up the Philistines … then there was this lion … and he goes blind (Samson, not the lion) yet still manages to push over a temple & kill heaps of baddies … and …

… and hopefully you paid more attention as a kid than I clearly did !

Nonetheless, don’t the trilogies catalogue Bernard Samson also effortlessly taking out his opposition - in his case striding around Cold War Europe while simultaneously stumbling around his emotional landscape, unable to experience normal relations with either his wife or the other women lured by his animal magnetism?

So what gives here?

Inspired by a guest post on the Deighton Dossier blog I’d like to pose you an initial challenge, which I’m calling The Samson & Delilah hypothesis, namely:

Vested interests combine to neutralise the
significant threat that is Bernard Samson.


Right, I’m off to re-read the original tale before posting the supporting evidence, but I’d love first to gauge the extent to which you believe there may be mileage in this hypothesis?


message 3: by Paul (new)

Paul  Perry (pezski) | 233 comments My memory is of the rather bleak TV series in the early 80s - and the Michael Caine movies in the 70s of some of his other books - but I read Berlin Game last year and found it much better than i expected; wittier, tenser, better written. I've not got around to the rest of the trilogy yet, but an very much looking forward to them.


message 4: by Bruce (new)

Bruce | 2448 comments I haven’t read the books in a while, but they stand out as better books than the ones that were adapted into the “Harry Palmer” series with Michael Caine (he was nameless in the novels). I still haven’t read Horse Under Water, as that was hard to find for many years. Most of the others I found at book sales. I enjoyed An Expensive Place to Die, the most of his novels, as well as the first two of the Samson trilogies. I still haven’t read the third, although I heard mixed things about it. After reading the second trilogy, it seems as though it should have ended there. I saw another thread in this group where it refers to the humor of the Samson books. I honestly don’t remember them being too humorous.


message 5: by Bruce (new)

Bruce | 2448 comments They were certainly disturbing, but great, towards the end. I don’t actually know the story of Samson and Delilah. I’m from a mixed background house, and am an Atheist, so I don’t know the Bible too well. I started reading it five years ago, but didn’t get very far. Only till around Noah. I may pick it up again soon just to know it.


message 6: by Bruce (new)

Bruce | 2448 comments I did love the Michael Caine films, especially Ipcress File and Billion Dollar Brain, and I think they’re one of the more rare examples of the movies being better than the book, except maybe Funeral in Berlin.


message 7: by Ess (new)

Ess | 9 comments After reading the second trilogy, it seems as though it should have ended there

Plotwise an argument could certainly be run that the author could have ended with Sinker however, well beforehand, he’d in fact mapped out a series of 4 trilogies !

And in practice, I think, there would have been a chorus of complaints had Deighton called it a day there, in no small part because of the very different approach he took in its drafting.

As things turned out he ended after Charity & is quoted as holding no regrets at not undertaking a final, planned trilogy in an era when the fall of The Wall, never mind the Cold War, risked being considered old news.


message 8: by Ess (new)

Ess | 9 comments My memory is of the rather bleak TV series in the early 80s

I’ve yet to watch all episodes on youtube. At the time, the author pulled the plug on the series being rescreened because of the physical casting of the characters & resultant, negative impact on what of course was a continuing book series.

Nevertheless I think they would be an alternate way of considering The Samson & Delilah hypothesis !


message 9: by Bruce (new)

Bruce | 2448 comments Yeah. I have seen who some of the cast is, although I haven’t seen the series. Not at all what I pictured. Overall, I’m not a fan of the casting in many British series. They tend to do a bad job and get people who are in many cases too old, or just physically wrong for the parts. Other series have been mangled in the same way when they’re supposed to continuous, but early on they cast the wrong way, and don’t bother to recast it, so they sometimes alter the story, or cut it off. They do a better job nowadays, but the casting wasn’t always accurate in the first 40-50 years or so of British tv. Also, much of it was boring, except for Doctor Who and some of the comedy series they had. British filmmaking, however, was much better, especially from about the 50’s-70’s. I don’t like to just see stories adapted. I like to see them adapted properly, but I also like to be entertained and see a work of art.


message 10: by Bruce (new)

Bruce | 2448 comments I didn’t realize that about it being 4 trilogies!


message 11: by Ess (new)

Ess | 9 comments I didn’t realize that about it being 4 trilogies!

In a transcript of a January 2014 interview Deighton is quoted as saying I had a firm plan for the first trilogy and a ghost plan for the next three trilogies

And even though the follow-up (the final one describing the collapse was ‘ghosted’ but never written) probably belongs to interviewer not author, given this was one of several conducted by the editor of the Deighton Dossier blog, in my view this lends that comment weight also


message 12: by Ess (new)

Ess | 9 comments What better place to begin a search for evidence supporting (or refuting!) the Samson & Delilah hypothesis than the words of the author himself – here in his Preface to the Game, Set & Match omnibus

I decided that I wanted to use the theme of domestic and professional betrayal at some length … I’d planned to begin my story after the betrayal … but as my planning continued it became obvious that more description of the betrayer was needed.

But which is ‘the’ betrayal Deighton refers to?

I mean, the books in their entirety pretty much revolve around this theme – and not simply the trope of treachery (who’s working for the enemy?), but key characters allowing the work of espionage to collide with all we’re supposed to hold dear. Usefully though, the writer goes on to pinpoint ‘the betrayal’ in question as occurring at what is now the beginning of Mexico Set. As you may be aware, Bernard & Dicky’s Central American jaunt centres on the prospective defection of KGB officer Erich Stinnes. Although, given this plot line doesn’t appear anywhere near as critical as others, can this really constitute ‘the betrayal’?

And who do you think ‘the betrayer’ is?

Other than Bernard himself all of Dicky, Werner, Zena, Bret, Fiona & Gloria are referenced at the start of Set, so which of them is it? Or could ‘the betrayer’ instead be another of the principal string-pullers, like the Director-General or Silas? Naturally, this all assumes that Len Deighton, the Disciple of Deception, hasn’t deliberately misled us by employing the singular despite creating multiple plotters …

Right, next up I’ll have a go at identifying those characters & locations appearing in the biblical Samson & Delilah story but – whether you’ve notched up the whole series or just one book – perhaps you have a view about the author’s main theme of domestic & professional betrayal?


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