Len Deighton is one of the best writers in the English language. If you don’t believe me, read The IPCRESS File, a book so smart, so fresh, clipped, stylish and expressive you’ll think it was published yesterday – and not 1962. His unnamed hero (Harry Palmer in the films) became immortalised in Michael Caine’s brilliant performances in the series of adaptations. Deighton is acclaimed as a spy novelist and his work also came to the screen with the little-seen Spy Story (1976). The Bernard Samson series (Game, Set and Match) appeared on TV in 1988 – I never saw it because I lived in mainland Europe at the time and a dispute between Deighton and the producers means it has never seen the light of day since its original broadcast. Deighton also produced cookery books which are legendary to people of a certain vintage; and he is the military historian many World War 2 buffs seek out particularly in reference to the Battle of Britain. Lemmy and Motorhead named and dedicated Bomber to him after his titular novel. But how appropriate that a day after his 88th birthday (which was last Saturday) the BBC adaptation (by James Bond screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) of counterfactual/alternative history SS-GB (which commences 18th February 1941, when the author celebrated his 12th birthday!) should start its five-week run. So far, and aside from any quibble I might have with the casting of Sam Riley as Archer, it’s practically word for word, scene for scene pure. Which is just as well because for this fan Deighton can do no wrong. Fingers crossed that this fidelity remains throughout the series. Happy Birthday to one of the greats! What an extraordinary man.