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James Bond books are forever - a collectors guide

16-May-2008 • Literary

Joseph Connolly got hooked on 007 when he was 12 and has been busy collecting the novels - from paperbacks to first editions - ever since. He provides a bookworm's guide for The Telegraph.

I have yet to meet a man, certainly one of my vintage, who does not remember, with awe and a shiver of something not quite understood, the first time that - pop-eyed and with tingling fingers - he turned the pages of a James Bond novel. I used to gaze with longing at the racy paperback covers and inhale the very pages.

The joke is, I was about 12 and I didn't know what was going on, half the time. Why did 007 like his drink shaken, and why didn't it then spill all over the place? Why was that drink never ever Tizer, when he could obviously afford gallons of it? And why did he always seem so keen on sharing a room with a - huh! - girl, when he could easily have had one all to himself? And talking of girls… well, those two-and-sixpenny Pan paperback covers, they were more Mickey Spillane than anything, and the women, crumbs, they tended to look like Gina Lollobrigida, though with added pout. For a lad who had come direct from Jennings and Darbishire, this was indeed hot and perplexing stuff.

I soon gathered all of those paperbacks, envying from afar the latest unaffordable hardback with its classy Richard Chopping dust jacket. Years later, I began to amass a hardback set (Ian Fleming had died in 1964, so completeness was achievable) and then I hit on the idea of collecting them all in first editions - an idea that struck the rather staid rare-books world as at best futile, if not perverse. Even by the late 1970s one could gather all of the Bond titles, bar the first three, for only a few pounds each. Those first three - Casino Royale, Live and Let Die and Moonraker - were scarce for the simple reason that so few had been printed and in those days half the modest print run of 3,000 or 4,000 would go straight to public libraries and be lost to the future world of collecting.

These days Bond is about as collectable as you can get. Here, I give an indication of what a fine copy in its original dust jacket would fetch today. The jacket is all-important. That of Casino Royale is legendarily rare, and five years ago one fetched more than £13,000 at auction; that's just the jacket - there was no accompanying book. Caveat emptor, however: in the jargon of the book-collecting world, this was a 'first state' jacket. A 'second state' jacket, carrying a quote from a Sunday newspaper review on the front inside flap, sold in the same year for just £600. The values for all the books given here are slashed to shreds if there is no jacket. For instance: a fine, jacketed Goldfinger? Maybe £800. Without jacket? £30, and hard to sell.

I wonder sometimes whether the last generation or so, bludgeoned by the films, are even aware that these good-humoured (but never comical) novels exist. Well they do, and they are wonderful: read them.


The original, and in many ways the best: the raw secret agent, at his purest. James Bond, 37 years old - now, and (like diamonds) forever - is sent to the casino in Royale-les-Eaux to out-gamble a deadly Russian agent, Le Chiffre. To his fury, Bond is ordered to work with a female associate, who forms the dark subplot. The torture scene is hideously unforgettable, while the car is a battleship-grey supercharged Bentley. For Vesper Lynd, the beauty dressed in black velvet, 007 creates a cocktail, the Vesper; although Bourbon is his drink of choice, not vodka martinis.
# First edition: £20,000


Bond is up against the black gangster Mr Big, not just a top operative for SMERSH (a contraction of smyert spionam, Russian for 'death to spies') but also lord of a voodoo cult. He has a sadistic sidekick called Tee-Hee, who titters character-istically as he breaks Bond's finger. The action moves from Harlem to Jamaica's Shark Bay, by way of Florida Keys. Then there is Solitaire: 'One of the most beautiful women Bond had ever seen.' As well as destroying Mr Big, 007 must rescue Solitaire from his domination, though not before facing a barracuda.
# First edition: £7,000


The British Secret Service operates abroad, but here we have the only book set in England - Kent, to be precise. Sir Hugo Drax is apparently a public-spirited multi-millionaire eager to devote his stock of Columbite to building the ultimate nuclear rocket, The Moonraker, whose range will deter Britain's aggressors. But M is troubled: Drax is a member of his club, Blades … and he cheats at cards. Enter 007, who trounces Drax at the card table and discovers that Drax has other plans for The Moonraker. There is also the lovely Gala Brand, probably the most beautiful policewoman in the world, the swell of whose breasts was 'as splendid as Bond had guessed from the measurements on her record sheet'.
# First edition: £4,000


Our hero has to infiltrate a diamond-smuggling operation that stretches from its source in South Africa to America, and ultimately Las Vegas. The gangsters he has to deal with are ruthless killers, as exemplified by the pair of psychos, Wint and Kidd. To lighten the load there is Tiffany Case, whose deep red lips were full and soft and rather moody: 'a sinful mouth', thought Bond. 'Don't push it in. Screw it in,' says M impatiently to 007, when the jeweller's glass falls from his eye.
# First edition: £2,000


Here Bond himself is the target of SMERSH - the thoroughly disgusting Colonel Rosa Klebb seeking to seduce him with the twin lures of the Lector decoding device, which the Service is desperate to get its hands on, and the delectable Tatiana Romanova (bedwear: black ribbon around neck, black silk stockings) who believes she is working for her mother country, Russia. It is rumoured that Fleming had grown rather tired of his hero by this time, and at the book's close - when Bond is stabbed by the crazed Klebb's stilettos - his survival is left in doubt.
# First edition: £1,000

DR NO (1958)

James Bond lives! But he's still pretty shaken following the poisonous ministrations of la Klebb, and so M sends him on what is supposed to be an untaxing mission - to discover the whereabouts or fate of a missing British agent in Jamaica. The murky business is traced to the reclusive Dr No and his highly protected island, on the shores of which we encounter the memorable Honeychile Rider, wearing a good deal less in the novel than she does in the film. World domination is Dr No's thing. As he proudly admits, 'I am, as you say correctly, a maniac - a maniac, Mr Bond, with a mania for power.'
# First edition: £1,000


The most ingenious novel, with every conceivable extra, starring Auric Goldfinger, who is convinced his hoard of gold will ensure him dominance of the planet, and his mute and robotic heavy, Oddjob - he of the karate chop and the killer bowler. Bond drives an Aston Martin DB3 in good old battleship grey, with a few on-board gadgets exaggerated and reborn as the famous DB5 in the film (one of the few to follow the plot of the novel). There are girls galore, most of them under Pussy - a lesbian in the book, which the red-blooded 007 can only see as a stimulating challenge.
# First edition: £800


Five unlinked episodes in the life of James Bond, concerning variously the destruction of a Russian hide-out on the fringes of Paris, the attempted assassination of a Cuban villain in the United States, the cracking of a heroin ring in Rome, danger and death in the Seychelles?… and love and vengeance in Bermuda. For a long while, the titles have been the only authentic elements of the Bond films - one of the stories here is called From a View to a Kill, and another (the faintly ludicrous) Quantum of Solace, which is currently in production.
# First edition: £300


This opens with Bond's hangover - caused, he thinks, by that injudicious eleventh whisky and soda the night before. This is soon the least of his worries as he is pitted against Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the supremo of SPECTRE (The Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). Blofeld has very brilliantly captured two atomic weapons and is threatening to destroy a major city unless the combined governments of the world deliver him $100million. Bond has one week. He tracks down Blofeld's number two in the Bahamas - Emilio Largo, gambling and being vile to his beautiful 'niece', Domino. Before he conquers both sharks and Blofeld, Bond gets to share with Domino a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Rosé and $50 worth of Beluga caviar (this in 1961) because anything less 'would be no more than a spoonful'.
# First edition: £200


This is the nearest Fleming came to American pulp fiction. The book purports to be written not by him but by one 'Vivienne Michel': 'The spy who loved me was called James Bond and the night on which he loved me was a night of screaming terror in The Dreamy Pines.' The trouble is, in the course of a 220-page book, our hero does not make an appearance until page 136, whereupon things get creepy. 'All women,' Vivienne tells us, 'love semi-rape. They love to be taken. It was his sweet brutality against my bruised body that had made his act of love so piercingly wonderful'. You see?
# First edition: £250


Teresa di Vicenzo - or, more prosaically, Tracy - is Bond's kind of girl. He is fascinated by her beauty, her love of fast cars and danger, and even by her Guerlain scent. She becomes indispensable when Bond is, once more, up against Ernst Stavro Blofeld who, yet again, is threatening world security. The ski chases in the Alps are thrilling, but not quite as thrilling as this: 'Bond found his voice saying those words he had never said in his life before, never expected to say. ''Tracy. I love you. Will you marry me?".' The cynics, who might have prophesied that the marriage could never last, would sadly have been proved correct.
# First edition: £150
# (Uniquely, at the same time as the first edition was printed, a quarter vellum bound limited edition was issued - just 250 copies, each one signed by Fleming. Value today: £6,000)


This is the mission to Japan - M's desperate attempt to rehabilitate a great agent shattered by the death of his new wife. Bond is trained in the Ninja martial arts and is appreciative of the traditional attire of the beautiful young girls who dive for clams (a triangle of black cotton). At the urging of his accomplice, Tiger Tanaka, Bond - who is no reader, and certainly not a writer - has a bash at Basho. His haiku goes: 'You only live twice / Once when you are born / And once when you look death in the face.' A couple of syllables out, but not bad. Eventually he must infiltrate the terrifying Castle of Death and face Blofeld for the final time.
# First edition: £70


After a year, agent 007 - listed as missing, presumed dead - suddenly reappears at Headquarters. Brainwashed by the KGB, he actually attempts to assassinate M. He is sent off for treatment, and then on a mission that the Service regards as more or less suicidal: the elimination of Scaramanga, a KGB assassin who uses a gold-plated, long-barrelled Colt.45, the dum-dum bullets solid 24 carat gold, and silver-cased. Bond, of course, triumphs - and in the process enters into a fervid affair with his once untouchable secretary, Mary Goodnight. Fleming was not a well man when he wrote this final, posthumously published James Bond novel. The last chapter is entitled 'Endit'.
# First edition: £60


Two short stories written in 1961 and 1962, apparently intended for a volume of five as a follow-up to For Your Eyes Only. Bond pursues two old enemies of the Service, a traitor and a KGB assassin. The assassin is, in fact, a girl, and Bond pulls back from firing the fatal bullet, for which unprofessionalism he is to be reported. 'OK. With any luck it'll cost me my Double-O number. But tell Head of Station not to worry. That girl won't be doing any more sniping. Probably lost her left hand. Certainly broke her nerve for that kind of work. Scared the living daylights out of her.'
# First edition: £50



Bond drinks at least half a bottle of spirits a day, to say nothing of champagne. His chosen drink is most often Bourbon - Jack Daniel's or Old Grand-Dad, usually. Untypically for an Englishman of his day, he drinks it with lots of ice, sometimes soda, and as the key ingredient in an Old-Fashioned. Scotch comes up infrequently, though single malts are never mentioned. He famously enjoys a vodka martini (made with four parts true Russian vodka to one of dry vermouth, a large slice of lemon peel, shaken with ice). His invented cocktail, the Vesper, consists of Gordon's gin, vodka, Lillet vermouth, shaken well and served in a deep goblet with lemon peel. Champagne is Taittinger for preference, but also Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot, Krug and Pommery. Bond is not really into wine, brandy and liqueurs. Beer is a no-no. Strong black coffee often, tea absolutely never (he describes it as 'flat, soft, time-wasting opium of the masses').

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