The Gun Controversy with ‘From Russia With Love’

The  cover of From Russia, with Love (1957) was similarly in trompe l’oeil style, the imagery of rose and dew drop being specified by Fleming, the Smith & Wesson revolver lent by the author. Fleming asked Geoffrey Boothroyd, a firearms expert, if he could lend his illustrator, Richard Chopping, one of his guns to be painted for the cover of From Russia, With Love. Boothroyd lent Chopping a Smith & Wesson revolver that had the trigger guard removed for faster firing.

Ian Fleming writes in March 1962:

From Russia With Love Cover“Late summer is also the time when he and I get our heads together about the design of an appropriate jacket for the book. The volume I was working on at the time of my correspondence with Geoffrey Boothroyd was From Russia with Love, and, with the correspondence in mind and remembering the excellent trompe-l’oeil jacket for Raymond Chandler’s The Simple Art of Murder, published by Hamish Hamilton Ltd. in 1950, my idea for a jacket was a gun crossed with a rose. So I decided to approach Dickie Chopping, who is probably the finest trompe-l’oeil painter in the world and for whose work I have a great admiration.

Dickie Chopping having agreed in principle, the next requirement was a suitable gun. I at once thought of Geoffrey Boothroyd’s favourite—the S & W .38 Special M & P whose barrel he had sawn to 2 inches, and whose trigger guard he had cut away for quicker shooting, and I wrote asking for the loan of the gun.

Geoffrey Boothroyd agreed. His beautiful gun came down to me by registered post and was sent on to Dickie Chopping, who at once set to work, commenting in a letter around the middle of September, “It has been the very devil to paint, but fascinating.”

From Russia With Love Book Jacket

And then fate stepped in via an urgent trunk call from Geoffrey Boothroyd. Boothroyd later had to assist the police with their enquiries when a similar weapon was used in a triple murder in Glasgow explaining that his weapon had been posted to Ian Fleming for a book cover. Peter Manuel was later arrested for the murder, convicted and executed.

Fleming continues:

DOUBLE17“But of course I did not possess the suspect gun! This was in the hands of Dickie Chopping in his studio in Essex! My imagination boggled at the impact of a police visit on this sensitive person, who would, in any case, obviously be without a firearms certificate. Fortunately the sergeant from the C.I.D., having read through my correspondence with Geoffrey Boothroyd and Dickie Chopping and after making copious notes, accepted my plea not to descend upon poor Chopping so long as the suspect gun could be quickly returned to me and so back to its rightful owner.

As luck would have it, that same afternoon Dickie Chopping came to see me with his completed painting for the book jacket and with the gun, so a telephone call to Scotland Yard and the hasty despatch to Glasgow of the incriminating weapon closed the incident so far as we were concerned.”

Incidental Intelligence

From Russia With Love Dust Jacket

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