1. What is your favorite Chopping cover and why?
Easily “From Russia With Love“. For me, no other image captures the essence of a Bond story faster than Chopping’s painting of the modified Smith & Wesson revolver, with its cut-away trigger guard and shortened barrel, and the stem of a beautifully painted rose through it. The detail in the wooden grip of the pistol show just how great an artist Chopping was.
I bought a 1981 reprint off eBay earlier this year, but didn’t read the fine print in the seller’s listing. Turned out that the dust jacket was a ‘high quality facsimile’ of the original. Ah well, the hunt goes on. But the prices are murder.
2. Do you own any 1st editions?
I have a 1st edition of “Octopussy & The Living Daylights“, as well as “The James Bond Dossier” by Kingsley Amis. I don’t recall where I bought “Octopussy“, but I was working at a Borders bookstore in the late ’90s and I had a customer who was after the hardback edition of a George R. R. Martin book, which was out of stock. This lady said that she owned a second-hand bookstore nearby, so I took her details and kept an eye out for the Martin hardback. Which the store never restocked.
About three months later, we received a shipment of remaindered books from our Head Office in the US and, amazingly, there were three hardcover copies of the book that this lady had enquired about. This book was destined for our Bargain Table and had a five-dollar price sticker on it. So I bought it and took it over to her bookstore. I gave her the book and then refused the five dollars that she wanted to give me for the book. My staff discount meant that I had paid $3.50 for it. Hardly a fortune, and the ecstatic look on her face when I handed her the book was worth the $3.50. We said our goodbyes and, as I headed for the door, I noticed the Kingsley Amis Bond analysis on display in a glass cabinet.
“Whoa! The Bond Dossier. Can I ask, what’s the price on that?”
The lady unlocked the cabinet, took the book out, and opened the cover. She glanced down at it for a second and then closed it.
“It’s yours”, she said, handing the book out to me.
I was stunned, and I refused it.
“No, no, you followed up on my book for me after I’d given up on finding it, and then you wouldn’t take payment, so this one is yours”, she explained smiling.
That doesn’t happen every day.
Aside from the two Fleming titles, I have the 1st edition hardbacks of the first six John Gardner continuation novels. It was a real buzz getting “Licence Renewed” back in 1981 and seeing that Richard Chopping had done the cover art for it. Back then, I had a very, very vague idea of who he was and his part in the world of literary Bond, but I thought it was nice of Glidrose Publications to commission him to do the artwork for the book.
I even copied the Browning pistol for a (staggering 16 page) book report that I did on the book in high school, although I’m pretty sure I drew the barrel too long on my version.
3. What is on your literary 007 wish list?
William Boyd’s “Solo” is just around the corner, so that’s the next one to go for. There are a few books I’d like to get that deal with the Bond films, most notably the two Charles Helfenstein books on the making of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and “The Living Daylights“, respectively. And I’ve yet to get Mark O’Connell’s “Catching Bullets“, about his life growing up and how he became a Bond Fan.
4. When did you read your first Bond novel and what was it?
First Bond book was “Live And Let Die“. I went to see a Bond double-bill sometime in the mid 1970s with my Dad and my older brother. The films were “Live And Let Die” and “The Man With The Golden Gun“, so it must have been ’74-’75. My brother bought the film tie-in paperback edition of “LALD” and I can’t remember how many times I must have stared at the cover of that book before I finally got around to reading it. I must have been around twelve years old when I read it and was disappointed at how different it was to the Roger Moore film that I saw. A few years later, I saw “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love” on TV and then set about reading a few more of the books. I think “Dr. No” was the next one that I read.
5. What is your favorite Ian Fleming Bond novel and non-fiction?
I still have a soft-spot for “Casino Royale“, but I recently finished re-reading “From Russia With Love” and I thought it holds up rather well. I had a Penguin Classics edition in the car and would read a little of it every day while waiting for the kids to finish school. Started reading it in March. Finished it last week.
Regarding Fleming’s non-fiction, I’ve only read about ten pages of “Thrilling Cities” and it’s quite amusing. You almost expect to see Bond appear at any moment. Fleming writes travel very well.
As for other Bond non-fiction, Adrian Turner wrote a book on “Goldfinger” as part of a Bloomsbury series on movies and it is wonderful. It’s a small pocket-sized book where he goes through the film from A to Z. On page 228, Turner goes into Fleming mode and writes a short chapter where Bond has retired from the Service and is now living in Jamaica when he receives a letter from Pussy Galore. IT. IS. FANTASTIC!
6. Do you have any favorite Bond dust jackets in paperback or by continuation authors?
I really liked that photographic series that was done in the 1970s for the Pan paperback editions, which featured various props that appear in the novels themselves. Some of them were inspired and strongly echo an atmosphere of the world that Bond moved through. The “Thunderball” cover is great. There’s a Rolex Submariner wristwatch visible (although I’ll deduct a point because it’s a two-tone model instead of a steel one), a scuba diving mask with a shattered lens, and an open cigarette case with half a dozen smokes, with the three gold bands around them, in it. Beautifully done. And the new Vintage Paperback editions are nicely done as well.
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