Penguin’s Len Deighton covers are a twist on classic 60s book jackets

A new Modern Classics collection of the British writer’s spy novels reinterprets the chevron graphics of Raymond Hawkey’s original Penguin paperback covers

Deighton, who is perhaps best known for his 1962 novel The Ipcress File – which formed the basis for the 1965 film of the same name, starring Michael Caine – was himself a book jacket designer in the 50s. After studying at the RCA in London, he created several covers for Penguin, including for the original UK edition of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road.

The author has worked closely with Penguin Press art director Jim Stoddart on the publisher’s fresh set of jackets, which accompany the re-release of Deighton’s spy novels and non-fiction as Penguin Modern Classics.

The design harks back to the original paperbacks created by Raymond Hawkey – who also designed covers for Ian Fleming’s novels – and feature black and white photography together with a two-colour stripe.

“There is something superbly right about those 1960s Penguin covers and they felt like a beautiful starting point when planning the couple of dozen covers for Deighton’s Modern Classics,” Stoddart told CR. “It also allows us to create a styling that is completely unique and specifically tailored for Len Deighton, almost as a series within a series.

“Raymond Hawkey’s 60s covers use two very striking design motifs: the bold chevron graphics and the coarsely screened monochromatic photographs,” he adds. “It struck me that both these conceits were the gift that would allow us to create a distinctive Len Deighton look. Those two distinct graphic treatments also lend themselves to be extrapolated in countless different ways across Deighton’s canon, whether for his spy thrillers, his wartime cliff-hangers or his non-fiction history books.”

Six books from the Len Deighton Penguin Modern Classics series are released on April 29, priced £9.99;