Apr 29, 2008

New Bond Books Out This Week

As we head into the actual month of the Ian Fleming Centenary, some important new James Bond books are popping up in stores and mailboxes. And what's the first thing I always do when I get a new Bond book? The very last thing one's supposed to do: I judge it by its cover. Can't help it! It's the collector in me.

Ben Macintyre's For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond is a beautifully put together volume. It's essentially a catalog of the Centenary exhibit of the same name currently on display at the Imperial War Museum in London, accompanied by essays by Macintyre. With a book of this nature, its design counts for a lot, and this one's very well designed. (Much better than the somewhat similar James Bond: The Man and His World.) For starters, the dust jacket evokes the author's previous espionage book, Agent Zigzag, in both color scheme and its use of matte and gloss. They look good together, and Agent Zigzag was a hit, so this makes sense. Take that dust jacket off, and enjoy the striking, effective artwork on the book's boards, which nicely literalizes the subtitle: "Ian Fleming and James Bond."

It looks great, and the book is sturdy and sewn. The design inside is just as good: profusely illustrated and well laid out with simple, eye-catching graphics illustrating each chapter break. Designwise inside and out, this is one of the best looking books on Bond in a long while. I can't wait to find out if the text itself lives up to the design!

The newly published British edition of Final Fling, Samantha Weinberg's resonant final volume in her Moneypenny Diaries trilogy (writing again as Kate Westbrook) is also graphically stunning. After two extremely lackluster jacket designs for the first two hardcovers (more likely to put off potential male readers than attract the female ones they're clearly intended to captivate), publisher John Murray has come through with a real winner thanks to the team behind the lovely paperback release of Volume 2, designer Madeline Meckliffe and illustrator Stina Persson. In my opinion, the pair have created the best cover for a Bond novel since the British edition of Raymond Benson's Doubleshot in 2000! I only hope that they design a new cover for the first volume, Secret Servant, so that we eventually have a uniform trilogy in paperback.

The somewhat flimsy construction of the book itself is not as impressive as that of For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond. Like its predecessors in the Moneypenny series, and like most novels printed in the UK today, it's glued instead of sewn, and printed on lightweight paper that feels cheap. All that's okay by me, though, when it's wrapped up in such a spectacular jacket. And even an obsessive collector can admit that it's what's inside that really matters, and I can't wait to plunge into Weinberg's novel and see if the words live up to her last, masterful Bond novel!

Read an interview with Moneypenny cover artist Stina Persson here.
Read my review of The Moneypenny Diaries: Secret Servant here.

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