Saturday, April 13, 2013

60 Years of James Bond

We couldn't possibly let the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of the first James Bond novel pass without mention.  Casino Royale was published by Jonathan Cape on April 13th 1953 with this very uninspiring cover which was, nevertheless, designed by Ian Fleming himself.  Originally priced at 10s 6d only 4,728 copies were published and first editions in good condition can now fetch up to £50,000 each.

The first copy which the Legatus owned was the 1977 re-issue by Panther books which had striking covers featuring a specially commissioned giant 9mm automatic and were photographed by Beverley Le Barrow, who shot a lot of book covers in the seventies.  As a seventeen year old we were very choosy about which girls we liked but on these covers, I am afarid to say, that Casino Royale's big haired blonde never did anything for me.  I preferred, at the time, the slutty obviousness of the Diamonds are Forever girl.

In 1955 the first paperback version of the book was published by Pan Macmillan and it featured the first pictorial representation of James Bond which is, incidentally, nothing like his description in the novel!

When the book was first published in the US in 1958 they changed the title to You Asked For It; probably because Casino Royale sounded too foreign.

The 1960 edition of the paperback has a Bond looking much more like Fleming's description of him in the book, particularly down to the errant quiff of hair over his forehead.  This is an illustration by top London illustrator Sam Peffer (or Peff as he signed his work).  The model for Vesper was his wife Kit.

Here we have (above) the 1963 paperback cover which is almost identical to the 1961 (top) cover with the exception of the removal of a small portrait of Bond from the bottom left corner, presumably done because by this time Sean Connery had been cast in Doctor No. 

This is the very dull 1965 version which is sadly totally lacking in any artistic interpretation of Vesper Lynd.

This is the film tie-in version for the entertainingly strange film version from 1967.  The illustration is by Robert McGinnis who did so many of the classic posters for the Salzman-Broccoli film series.

Only a small glimpse of Vesper in the 1974 edition but lots of props mentioned in the book are included in this one.  

The next UK edition would be the one with the golden gun pictured above. This is the Dutch version which uses the same prop and girl but in a different pose.

By 1988 the girls had gone and we had these rather tedious covers instead.

Eight years later and it's back to the casino theme.

After the 1978 golden gun covers (and sadly the Casino Royale one is one of the less appealing ones) my favourites are the retro ones from 2002.  This one features a particularly seductive Vesper.  

Here is the 2006 film tie-in version featuring Daniel Craig with Vesper just appearing as a silhouette, which is a tragic waste of Eva Green.

This is the 2009 reissue with cover illustration by Michael Gillette.  They are sixties rather than fifties retro in style, going back to the birth of the cinematic rather than the literary Bond. My friend Bill gave me complete set of these for Christmas a few years ago.

I have never wanted to wargame James Bond, despite the rather good figures available, largely because the elements of Bond I respond to are the drinks, the women and the glossy hotels (I can't think why).  The actual action sequences are less interesting; its the brand name fluff, which Fleming essentially created, that is more appealing.

Anyway, happy birthday James Bond!  

1 comment:

  1. Happy Birthday James! (Agree massively about Eva Green-absolutely stunning young lady!).