Friday 18 September 2015

Two Bond-related spy-story anthologies

I came out of a secondhand bookshop recently clutching two copies of the same book: Great Spy Stories, published in 1978 by Marks and Spencer in association with William Heinemann and Martin Secker and Warburg. The volume is an anthology of spy novels, and includes Dr No, Eric Ambler's The Mask of Dimitrios (a book Bond himself reads in From Russia, with Love) and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carré. As far as I can establish, both copies of the book are the same edition, but they have different dustjacket designs. Both covers, however, reflect contemporaneous approaches to the artwork of spy fiction, containing tropes or memes of current at time.

One version has a relatively simple design, showing a gun packaged in brown paper postmarked Berlin on a black background. The artwork appears to owe much to the covers of Len Deighton's spy novels, such as Spy Story, published by Cape in 1974 (with a cover by Bond cover artist, Raymond Hawkey), and the paperback edition of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. This may have given prospective readers a sense that they were about to read stories from the murky, cynical end of the spy fiction spectrum; perhaps appropriately Dr No is placed last.

The second design displays a collection of gadgets and others tools of the spy trade, and has a something of an old-fashioned quality about it, and arguably Dr No fits more comfortably within this cover. Indeed the cover may have been inspired by the covers of the Pan paperbacks published in 1974. These show spy-related objects and motifs reflecting the story arranged in a form of still-life. That said, some of Len Deighton's books also take this approach, such as the cover of An Expensive Way to Die (Cape, 1967), also designed by Raymond Hawkey. This still-life-style of cover has remained closely associated with spy stories and Bond; Raymond Benson's The James Bond Bedside Companion (1984) has just that style of artwork. 

While in the bookshop, I spotted another spy-story anthology. This was Favourite Spy Stories, published in 1981 by Littlehampton Book Services  Alas, there was no place in it for Ian Fleming, but it did have one very Bondian aspect to its cover: an image of a a spy in a classic Bond pose. This image (excuse the poor quality) very closely copies a photograph of George Lazenby's James Bond leaning against a lamppost, but the image has its origins in the poster artwork of earlier Bond artwork, notably From Russia With Love.

Comparing the images, I've noticed that, curiously, George Lazenby is putting his weight on the 'wrong' leg; the photograph looks natural enough, but Lazenby must have felt uncomfortable posing in that manner (you may wish to have a try yourself). Since then, this classic-pose meme has been utilised many times, often in the posters of Bond and non-Bond films alike, to indicate espionage-themed adventures.

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