1. What is your favorite Chopping cover and why?
It’s a hard one to call but I do like the Octopussy and the Living Daylights cover for a few reasons. Of course Chopping’s trademark flies are in abundance over the shell, but this is a cover that doesn’t leap off the page as a Bond cover (likewise Chopping’s 1960 work on For Your Eyes Only). The best Bond covers in any era don’t look like Bond covers. OCTOPUSSY has an era specific (1966) sort of illustrative sea-life reference book vibe about it – which is apt of course for the OCTOPUSSY story and Chopping’s own work as a nature and natural history illustrator. And like all the Chopping Bond covers, the layers of thinking and narrative start to pile up as you ponder the imagery. The fish has a dead, almost zoological and murder trophy quality to it, it is a very non-English graphic suggesting at best a travelogue yarn, the grain of Chopping’s signature wood has never looked richer and the font is so Chopping/Bond that the 1987 film of THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS all but borrows the same typeface.
2. Do you own any 1st editions?
I am the proud and very careful owner of OCTOPUSSY & THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. I happened to be at a collectors fair in Horsham with my parents and saw the pristine copy. In fact, I saw a few pristine Ian Fleming first editions but chronology made OCTOPUSSY & THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS the [just about] affordable one. I bartered some early released pocket money from my parents to secure it and proudly adopted my one and only first edition of any book (apart from my own). It has been barely touched ever since and has somewhat grown in value.
3. What is on your literary 007 wishlist?
It is more fantasy than ‘wish list’, but I would love to have seen Chopping have a go at The Hildebrand Rarity, Risico, Quantum of Solace or From A View To A Kill. Or perhaps the new literary Bonds – Devil May Care, Carte Blanche and Solo – could have echoed his work but then again the print Bonds were never just Chopping and continue to evolve to good [and sometimes bad] effect.
4. When did you read your first Bond novel and which is your favorite and non-Bond favorite?
The first Bond novel I read was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in the week before my eleventh birthday. The film version was about to be on British television and my burgeoning Bond fan self thought it wise to read up on the story. As Bond film adaptations go it is of course not as removed from the novels as some of the filmic entries can be but I do remember enjoying reading all about the women of the book but not having a clue what Fleming was really nudging at. Still don’t (…not true!). It was and still is Fleming sacrilege I know but I remember mentally casting all the film version characters in my head whilst reading. I sort of still do that now when reading Bond. Or indeed anything.
Casino Royale. My partner and I went back to it again around the 2006 release of the Daniel Craig version and both of us were enamoured all over again with the precision, narrative through-line and sense of intent to what Fleming wrote. Market forces and hindsight tend to hide the reality of such a literary vision as Fleming’s here, but the wider project of the author (to suggest Bond has had and will have more adventures) is so apparent in the first 007 novel. It also felt a vividly contemporary tale which Eon Productions clearly had their eye on when adapting it for the big screen. As for the non-fiction work I need to get back to Thrilling Cities. I have only ever read snippets and the whole project of that one – a time capsule of a certain man’s take on the city edifices of a Cold War world – intrigues me.
5. Do you have any favorite Bond dust jackets in paperback or by continuation authors?
I am liking the distressed colours, Saul Bass nods and late 1960s airport pulp fiction stylings of Suzanne Dean’s SOLO cover. It is a graphic and font very aware of its era and setting whereas the cover art for, say, 2008’s Devil May Care was very striking and I loved the fiery poppy hair motif but the cover did not say “1960s” to me. Designing Bond covers is such a fine line between pastiche, homage and doing something new. I have always like the British Pan paperbacks of the 1960s with their shared font and BOAC-skewed reference points.
As someone who came to Bond through the films these Pan/Hawkey designed paperbacks were sourced at jumble sales, book stalls and charity shops. They were all the more special because they were a bit battered but always contemporary. And I used them as my starting points when Catching Bullets was thinking about its design.
As a kid I remember thinking the Triad/Granada ones were a tad saucy and should be kept from my parents gaze. Ultimately the cover that always stands out in my mind is the 1963 Thunderball Pan by Hawkey. The bullet holes were a revelation to an eleven year old! I wanted some for Catching Bullets but it was going to be too costly.
Mark O’Connell is an award winning comedy writer, cultural pundit and author of CATCHING BULLETS – MEMOIRS OF A BOND FAN.
With a Foreword by Mark Gatiss, Prelude by Barbara Broccoli and Afterword by Maud Adams, CATCHING BULLETS is available from Splendid Books and all stockists / Amazon
Mark can be found at: