This week we welcome world class Bond collector Brad Frank in from the cold. Brad has been one of literary Bond’s main curators of rare Bondiana and was instrumental in the completion of Jon Gilbert’s indispensable Ian Fleming Bibliography.
How did your lifelong involvement with Bond begin, particularly on the literary side?
The school I attended growing up in the 1960s and 70s always held an annual book fair. Being a reader and book collector, I often volunteered to help organize that. One year, I saw a batch of the old Signet James Bond paperbacks published in the US throughout the 1960s.
The name Ian Fleming was familiar from having seen several of the films (mostly on TV) but I had never made the connection between the films and the books – I don’t think I was even aware that the books existed prior to the films. I wasn’t yet a Bond fan per se, but since I enjoyed the films, I bought the stack of books. It was only after reading them, discovering how different they were from the films, and becoming enamoured with Fleming’s writing style that my passion for Fleming and Bond began.
Tell us a little about your relationship with the late Peter Janson-Smith
I first met Peter about 20 years ago, when several members of The Ian Fleming Foundation visited the offices of Glidrose Publications (now Ian Fleming Publications) to assist them in organizing their archive of Fleming papers. Peter was still chairman of Glidrose at that time. He was very charming, and open to any suggestions we made. After that, I would meet with him socially during my almost annual visits to London.
I also became very close to his long-time partner, Lili Pohlmann, who is a Holocaust survivor. My father was very supportive of Holocaust memorial causes, so she and I have another level of friendship aside from Bond.
Could you tell us about your involvement in Jon Gilbert’s Ian Fleming Bibliography?
As a major Fleming / Bond collector, I’ve been dealing with Jon for many years. A year or two before it was published, I asked him about textual variations in different editions of the Fleming books. Not just UK vs US, but revisions / corrections made for later editions. That was the first I learned that he was working on the bibliography, in which most of these variations are documented. Since I had collected many different copies over the years, I offered to send him any data I had that might supplement his own research. He began sending me draft chapters, which I compared to my collection, trying to fill in any gaps.
Whenever I’m reading, especially in manuscript form, I automatically notice typos, so as I began sending him data, I also included minor corrections of this type. Before long, I found myself making suggestions for minor textual changes, and even rearranging whole sections. I spent about 6 months reading the manuscript, sitting in my library next to my collection, with red pencil in hand, and emailing Jon my suggestions. He accepted and incorporated about 90% of them into the manuscript.
When it was done, I thought I would be listed as a consulting editor or editorial assistant, but he felt that my contributions were major enough to list me as Editor. I’m very proud to have been involved – it justified all the years of collecting! To this day, I still send him additional information as I come across it, which may end up in an eventual second edition.
Could you tell us more about Talk of the Devil for the many who are unable to buy a copy?
Talk of the Devil contains numerous articles and essays by Fleming, collected together for the first time. Most of them had been published previously in numerous books and magazines, but finding all of those obviously requires a massive effort. In many cases, the texts follow Fleming’s original manuscripts, which may differ from the earlier published versions
It also contains several early short stories (not featuring Bond) which had never been published in any form. I don’t know if it will ever be published in a stand-alone trade edition, so for now, the only way to obtain it is within the limited Centenary Edition of the works of Fleming, published by Queen Anne Press. That set also includes Fleming’s own never-before-published introductions to many of his books, which he had jotted down in his personal copies.
What unpublished works by Fleming are worth reading?
There are a handful of Bond story outlines which he drafted for a proposed TV series, which I saw many years ago during the Glidrose archiving trip. Some of these became stories in For Your Eyes Only, but many of them were set aside and never developed. A portion of Trigger Mortis, by Anthony Horowitz, published last year, is based upon one of these. The result was quite satisfying, so I hope future Bond novels will continue to draw upon this untapped source of original Fleming material.
The most fascinating unpublished work of Fleming’s that I’ve ever read is State of Excitement, a non-fiction book about Kuwait, written in 1960 at the request of the Kuwait Oil Company. Kuwait was about to become independent of British rule, and they wanted a modern survey of the state. Unfortunately, they did not like what he wrote, feeling that some of his candid comments might be considered offensive
Fleming was paid off, and the copyright still remains with the Kuwait government, so the Fleming Family does not have the right to publish it. It’s a fascinating document, which I find arguably better than The Diamond Smugglers and Thrilling Cities. Many of his descriptive passages read like something out of a Bond novel! It’s almost impossible to obtain a copy of this for yourself, however anyone can read it at The Lilly Library, Indiana University, which owns most of Fleming’s original manuscripts. For those unable to make the pilgrimage to Indiana, I wrote a detailed summary of the manuscript, published in KKBB Magazine, Issue 6, 2008.
What are some of your favourite works by Fleming including his novels, journalism, non-fiction, short stories and beyond?
State of Excitement, mentioned above, is obviously one of my favourites. Among the novels, I would say Casino Royale, Doctor No, and OHMSS. But in all honesty, there isn’t a single bit of Fleming’s writing that I don’t like.
Are there any collectible literary Bond items you are still searching for?
I own inscribed first editions of most of the original novels. Several of these are inscribed to people who actually appear as characters in the books, such as Geoffrey Boothroyd, the gun expert who advised Fleming, and was the model for “Q” in the films. So top of my list is to find other inscribed copies with that level of association.
Besides that, I collect Fleming books in as many different foreign languages as I can find. Although I can’t actually read them, I love the different styles of artwork that appear on the covers. (I provided most of the foreign cover images reproduced in Bond Bound – Ian Fleming and the Art of Cover Design.)
I’m currently trying to catalog every different printing from Signet, so lately I’ve been buying up any that I can find. The Bibliography covers Signet only nominally, unlike the meticulous detail it gives to the Pan (UK) editions. Once I finish my research, this will hopefully appear in the second edition.
Brad has been involved with various science fiction fan clubs and conventions and ran a sci-fi book store in the early 1990s. He is best known as a James Bond / Ian Fleming collector and scholar as well as a board Member of The Ian Fleming Foundation.
Brad lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.