Len Deighton was born in London in 1929. He worked as a railway clerk before doing his National Service as a photographer attached to the Special Investigation Branch. After his discharge in 1949, he went to art school- first to the St Martin's School of Art, and then to the Royal College of Art on a Scholarship.
It was a while working as a waiter in the evenings that he developed an interest in cookery - a subject he was later to make his own in an animated strip for the Observer and in two cookery books. He worked for a while as an illustrator in New York and as art director of an advertising agency in London.
Deciding it was time to settle down, Deighton moved to the Dordogne where he started work on his first book, The Ipcress file. Published in 1962, the book was an immediate and spectacular success.