Fleming Fictions Find Fresh Facades

19 April, 2008

New james bond book covers

Ian Fleming (d. 1964) acclaimed creator and author of James bond would be celebrating his 100th birthday this year. In commemoration of this anniversary, Penguin UK is re-issuing his series of 14 books with newly designed hard covers created by Michael Gillette.

It may be difficult for me to criticize these designs, upon first glance, because they feature funky type and sexy women. And to be fair, as a series there is a nice cohesion and many variations of the theme. However, the ‘type on a person’ idea has been played out many times and these are certainly not the best examples. Maybe book jackets work better when they are obvious, but there just seems to be a lack of intelligence or whit here. Certainly not the precise, calculating, insight that Bond portrays. Besides, while the women are unmistakably key components to the series, there is much more than only them.I don’t know. I don’t know how much I approve or dislike these yet. But since the reinvigorating of the franchise with 2006’s Casino Royale, I have become a fan. Listening to the audio books while working on Vesper was a nice way to help pass the time too. But it would be good to see some real books in person sometime.

James Bond book coversJames Bond book covers 2James Bond book covers 3James Bond book covers 4James Bond book covers 5James Bond book covers 6James Bond book covers 7

Still with Bond book covers but now onto the original versions, the the British Royal Mail put out a collection of James Bond stamps last January. They feature images of each of the original book covers. Still don’t have my copy yet… You can see them in a bit more detail at the Royal Mail…

Royal Mail Bond Stamps

I have finally received my set of the Bond book cover stamps! Now I am a complete stamp novice, and know little of their general printing and production. But these are striking in their detail and super fine printing. With a loupe you can make out all the text on each book cover. Maybe this is common, but it is still amazing to me.

Royal Mail Stamps James Bond Casino Royale

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4 Responses to “Fleming Fictions Find Fresh Facades”

  • Chandra

    I’m a long-time fan of Fleming’s novels (NOT the movies – a personal prejudice) and I have all the books in the Pan edition that’s represented second from the left in the stamps, and battered and worn as they are, I treasure them.

    Fleming seems to have been a very aware person, with a keen sense of the present moment that translated his fantasy world into a striking and still immediate reality – you can still almost taste the meals, smell the scents of his heroines, and feel the cool of those sea island cotton shirts, or the tang of the cordite during some tense final gunplay.

    Given the relative shortness of each novel, he’s created an amazing legacy of communication, which despite being written almost in shorthand bears testament to the strength of his prose.

    Sebastian Faulks’s Devil May Care, although an honourable homage to Fleming’s works, took 320 pages in the larger size “B format” paperback edition (oh, and if you ask me, a major slide into becoming SF’s work, not Fleming’s as attributed, in the final third) yet enjoyable as it is, it leaves somewhat less of a visceral impact than Fleming achieved in just 208 pages, on the old standard-sized paperback edition of From Russia With Love.

    With that in mind, any new attempt to create an iconic and relevant cover for the books, which honours and echoes Fleming’s ability to reach into your imagination with very few, definitive, strokes of the brush, is to be welcomed, and I have to say: these aren’t bad.

    Women (in particular, slightly isolated, bruised, gutsy outsiders) are a key part of each and every novel, so while I don’t think these covers are in any way definitive, I’ve enjoyed their addition to the fold.

    I’ll stick with my Pan covers for now, as they were extremely well thought-out, but anything better than the senseless “chicks riding guns” cliché so many wrongly attribute to these books is welcome.

    Btw I found this post through googling Bond covers, as I’m planning to create a DIY slipcover for Devil May Care, based on the Pan edition’s æsthetics – an ambitious project given my high standards for the novels, and my enormous respect (as a woman, and a feminist, incidentally) for Fleming’s works. But I like the cut of your jib sir, so consider yourself bookmarked by one more reader!

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