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Len Deighton was born in Marylebone in London on 18 February 1929 in a workhouse. His father was a chauffeur and his mother a chef for a well-to-do London family. Anthony Master, in his book Literary Agents, writes that Deighton's interest in spy fiction may have been partially inspired by the arrest of Anna Wolkoff, which he witnessed as an 11-year-old boy; Deighton's family lived close by and his mother did cleaning jobs for Ms Wolkoff. Wolkoff was a British citizen of Russian descent who was in fact a Nazi spy. She was detained on 20 May 1940 and charged with violating the Official Secrets Act for attempting to pass secret documents to the Germans.

At the age of 17, Deighton was attached to the RAF Special Investigations Branch as it offered a chance to train as a photographer and an entrée to the world of secrets and investigations. In 1949 Deighton attended St Martin's Schools of Art in London, having completed his National Service. Three years later he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, graduating in 1955.

While he was at the RCA he became a lifelong friend of fellow designer Raymond Hawkey, who later designed the covers for many of his books. These include his famous original black and white covers for the ‘spy with no name novels’. Indeed Hawkey, who died in August 2010, played a pivotal role in pushing Deighton on to the road to literary fame and fortune.

Len Deighton worked as an airline steward with BOAC (later incorporated into British Airways) after leaving colleage, wrote for magazines and illustrated over two hundred book covers. He also worked as an illustrator in New York and, in 1960, as an art director in a London advertising agency. An avid gastronome, he wrote and illustrated in 1961 a number of popular diagrammatic cookery strips for the Daily Express, which developed into a series in The Observer newspaper in 1962 thanks to the initiative of Ray Hawkey.

....However, if you believe the bio on the flyleaf of the 1966 Penguin edition of Funeral in Berlin you have a different story:

Len Deighton. Born Marylebone 1929. Mother's name Fitzgerald.

Description - Fair complexion, nine stone, five feet six tall. Warm generous sense of humour. Small hands, long sensitive fingers used to emphasize slow lazy drawl. Complex tattoo - in doubtful taste - on back of his right hand. Chain smokes except when drinking heavily.

Background - Eldest son of a Governor-General of the Windward Isles. After an uneventful education at Eton and Worcester College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics and was President of the Union, he signed on as a deckhand on a Japanese whaler for four consecutive six-month voyages.

Experience - After working as translator for the B.B.C. Welsh service, clerk in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and manager of a chain of boutiques in Leeds, he became the Manchester stringer for The Times. He was unable to find a publisher for his first book which was lavishly praised by Kingsley Amis. Likes: being under the bonnet of a vintage motor car, public bars, ballroom dancing and cricket.

Believe what you will ;-)
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