Field Report: David Craggs

1. What is your favorite Chopping cover and why?

From Russia With Love (FRWL) because it is completely iconic and Richard Chopping’s painting is the greatest piece of art ever to grace a dust jacket. Coincidently it also happens to enrobe Fleming’s best Bond book and payed an extremely significant part in elevating him from pulp writer to author of seriously good contemporary thrillers.

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Prior to the publication of FRWL in 1957, the Bond books had been selling progressively well but it was this, Fleming’s fifth that turned him into an international bestseller and brought him to the attention of JFK who’s endorsement heralded a break through in the US. Nobody should underestimate the role that Chopping’s fabulous Tromp L’Oeil style painting of the Smith & Wesson juxtaposed with the Rose played. It at once portrayed danger and glamour in the most qualitative and innovative way and in one swoop elevated literary Bond into a luxury brand that broadened Fleming’s readership enormously.Furthermore, it set the standard for book art and was a hugely positive influence on artists and designers.

I well remember that five years would pass before Len Deighton‘s “Ipcress File” burst on the scene swathed in a very innovative cover designed by the late great. When I looked at the late, great Raymond Hawkey‘s work, good and innovative as it was I couldn’t help but see Chopping’s influence. This time, Hawkey used his design in an iconic photograph that juxtaposed danger — again a Smith & Wesson revolver — with boredom and normality — the coffee cup, cigarette stubs and office items — to signal the arrival of a new down to earth, working class hero. Bond’s complete opposite. Interestingly, Hawkey would go on to design the second best Bond covers ever when he did his series for PAN books in the ’60s and early ’70s.

ipcress-file-hawkey

goldfinger bond kindle caseAlthough Chopping would go on to design another nine Bond covers he never surpassed FRWL and having recently gone digital, I commissioned Klevercase to bespoke me a cover for my Kindle Paperwhite using this design and to say that it is a show stopper on boats, trains and planes would be an understatement. People adore it and more importantly, so do I.

It’s my way of remembering Richard Chopping’s great work every day.

2. Do you own any 1st editions?

Yes. Colonel Son and the first five Gardner continuation novels.

I also have a full set of Fleming’s Bond in leather bound Eaton Press. First editions of a sort and very beautiful books.

Fleming's Bond in leather bound Eaton Press

Fleming’s James Bond Collection leather bound by Eaton Press

Unfortunately I also own first editions of Devil May Care, Carte Blanche and the thoroughly awful Solo.

3. What is on your literary 007 wishlist?

That IFP would have the good sense to move away from this disastrous celebrity author strategy and commission Charlie Higson to write a series of Bond books taking Bond through the war and up to Casino Royale.

young bond charlie higgson new paperback art

After their disastrous celebrity trilogy adventure it’s one of the sure fire ways to save the adult Bond literary franchise.

4. When did you read your first Bond novel and which is your favorite?

1962 – Dr.No but my favourite two are FRWL and OHMSS,

5. Do you have any favorite Bond dust jackets in paperback or by continuation authors? 

Yes, Raymond Hawkey‘s series for PAN books and Trevor Scobie‘s fabulous design for John Gardner’s “Role Of Honour” ( in itself a great homage to Richard Chopping.

Raymond Hawkey's series for PAN books

Raymond Hawkey’s series for PAN books

Incidental Intelligence

David CraggsDavid Craggs is a former President of the world’s largest cosmetic company. He has lived and worked all over the world and describes reading espionage fiction as one of his great pleasures. David discovered literary Bond at the tender age of ten whilst he was incarcerated at a particularly unpleasant English boarding school and has long attributed his sanity to the escapism provided by one Ian Lancaster Fleming.

Today, he has retired back to his Surrey cottage where he spends his time working on various projects that he loves and reading copious amounts of fiction. He remains a huge Bond fan and is awaiting the publication of Trigger Mortis with bated breath

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