Field Report: Ben Williams from Mi6 Confidential

1. What is your favorite chopping cover and why?

My favorite cover by chopping has to be his first for Ian Fleming, “From Russia, With Love. I genuinely love this cover. The combination of the revolver and the rose are symbolic of beauty and death, man and nature, and they give a tantalizing glimpse into the world that lies beneath the dust jacket.

In “From Russia, With Love” we first encounter Red Grant – SMERSH’s chief executioner – enclosed in a walled garden of roses. And roses also seem to be a fitting metaphor for the trap laid out for Bond, lured in by beauty but with many sharp thorns.

The gun painted by chopping was Geoffrey Boothroyd’s own Smith & Wesson .38 and was, according to Chopping, “the very devil to paint”.

Although Fleming suggested the cover, the arrangement and composition are all Chopping’s work and, ultimately, this remains one of the best examples of his trompe-l’oeil paintings.

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2. Do you own any first editions?

Unfortunately, I do not. I have for many years dreamed of owning a collection of Fleming first editions, but I will have to make do with my battered Book Club editions instead.

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3. What is on your literary 007 wish list?

Well, I must confess that when I was young I removed all of the dust jackets from my Bond novels for fear of damaging them. However, as is often the way when you are young and foolish, I lost them all, and I now have only the books themselves. It is something I deeply regret to this day and if I could go back and change that, I would.

4. When did you read your first bond novel and what was it?

I must have been very young when I read my first bond novel. I suppose I would have been about eight or nine years old. My mother came home one day with a collection of the Book Club editions of the novels that she’d picked up in an antiques market for a pound each. That too was when I caught my first glimpse of the wonderful covers by Chopping. To my mind, the Fleming Bond novels and Richard Chopping’s dust jackets are intrinsically linked with one another and affected the whole experience of reading Bond books.

The first bond novel I read, I think, was “Dr. No”, but I honestly can’t be certain. I do know that I read them out of sequence, which I do regret now. For instance, it took me quite a while to get around to reading “Moonraker”, which is a shame because it’s really one of the best of the series.

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5. What is your favourite Fleming Bond novel?

This is a tough question. I enjoy them all, in different ways and for different reasons. Fleming littered his various novels with memorable chapters and passages, so it is hard to pick just one. However, three stand out above the others for me: “Moonraker”, “Thunderball”, and “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. Of these, “Thunderball” is perhaps the best in terms of narrative, but “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” has the edge because it shows a depth to Bond as a character that we had not seen before. So, On Her Majesty’s Secret Serviceit is.

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6. Do you have any favourite dust jackets in paperback or by continuation authors?

1 - Croatian Moonraker CoverBill Botten and Trevor Scobie did some rather nice covers that paid homage to Chopping’s previous artwork. I particularly like Botten’s “For Special Services” and Scobie’s “Nobody Lives Forever”.

Recently, I wrote an article on the Croatian publisher’s translations of the Fleming novels and was able to interview the photographers and models that participated in them. Most importantly, I got to meet the man behind these covers, Vladimir Sever, who not only translated the novels, but also was responsible for the entire imprint, including the cover art.

His concept was to take a portrait of the Bond girl from each novel, capturing a moment from the book like a snapshot. My favourite of these is for “Moonraker”, where Gala Brand stands at the base of the launch tube, looking up towards the unseen top of the Moonraker rocket itself.

Incidental Intelligence

366bfbcBen is a freelance journalist, screenwriter, and Bond aficionado, living in London. He has written short films and documentaries for clients such as the United Nations and the Jane Goodall Institute.

He is also a regular contributor to MI6 Magazine and freelance writer and wrote a fine piece on Richard Chopping’s dust jackets and career for Mi6 Magazine.

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MI6 Confidential Magazine

Ben’s blog: Double Or Nothing

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