Bond is born in Ian Fleming's 1953 Cold War thriller.
We've read a few Bond novels, but not his debut in 1953's Casino Royale. When it comes to secondhand bookstores and yard sales you read what you find. But we decided to finally made a deliberate effort to go back to the beginning with an edition from Signet, which appeared in 1960 with Barye Phillips cover art. The debuts of franchise characters leave room for continuing adventures by design but we've never read a book that was so deliberately a prequel as Casino Royale. It's the essential novel for understanding Bond. You know the basics already: Cold War intrigue, opposing teams taking the field for a long struggle, a Soviet spy named La Chiffre who's dipped into funds not his and who hatches a desperate plan to restore them via the baccarat tables of a famous French casino, Bond dispatched to outplay him, break him, and ensure his downfall for stealing the money.
The book is fantastic from its opening, through its tremendously tense middle sections, and on to its brutal punchline of an ending. Bond is imperfect as both a spy and a man. He's sometimes kind, prone to sentiment, and philosophical about his work; he's also sexist, racist, and generally regressive. Casino Royale is designed to explain how the first three qualities were destroyed, making him a perfect spy. The latter three qualities remain. While in serious fiction many authors of the period were writing about racial equality and the essential sameness of people, Ian Fleming was declaring that Asians are terrible gamblers because as a race they lack resolve. None of this is a surprise because much is known about Fleming's personal views. Bond is an icon, but of a less enlightened era. We're readers, of ours. Yet we can meet on the page, and—with a tolerance Fleming never showed others—still manage to have a little fun.
When there's serious killing to be done.
We're reading a James Bond novel at the moment and it reminded us that a long while back we downloaded these shots of an amazing 1966 Aurora Plastics Co. model of Goldfinger bad man Odd Job. While the product is nice, as you see below, the box art is of astounding quality, the equal of what you'd see on most paperback covers. There's a reason for that—it was painted by Mort Kunstler. You can see his signature on the lower right. According to the back of the box Odd Job is suitable for ages eight to adult, so if you want to buy one of these—and we do—there's no shame. Aurora says it's fine! Not like they were trying to increase sales or anything. They also increase sales by failing to mention prominently that the model is plain white plastic. You have to paint it if you want the results you see below. But that at least offers the opportunity to customize. Blue hair? Sure. Whimsical curlicue mustache? His first name is Odd, after all. Unfortunately, the one we saw ran $150, which is quite a bit, but having it on our website is almost like owning it.
It's a big gun, but she's hunting big game.
Italian actress Luciana Paluzzi looks convincingly lethal sporting a Remington 1000 shotgun in this promo shot from the James Bond thriller Thunderball—though she's so small we suspect if she fired it she'd somersault backward into the ocean. But in the film she handles the gun just fine as Fiona Volpe, a member of the murderous spy cartel S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Most Bond aficionados consider her one of the top femmes fatales of the series, and we agree. The image dates from 1965.
Last one there is a rotten ama.
If you visit Pulp Intl. regularly you know that ama movies, which focus on the tradition of female free divers who scour bay bottoms for valuable items such as abalone, clams, and pearls, are very popular in Japan. The divers, who in the past traditionally worked topless, occupy a place in Japanese culture similar to that of rollerskating female carhops in U.S. culture. Both are unusual and physical forms of work with mildly sexual components (at least in the male mind), both are steeped in nostalgia for a simpler past, and both are widely appreciated by men even though most have never seen one outside a movie.
The ama tradition is ancient. The first written mention of them dates from the year 927, but ama artifacts have been found on the sea floor and carbon dated to suggest the practice is something like 3,000 years old. It's difficult to know when the tradition peaked, but according to most accounts that would have happened during the early- to mid-20th century. Movies on the subject began appearing frequently from the mid-1960s through the 1980s, with the high water mark—ahem—of western interest occurring with the appearance of an ama (played by Mie Hama) in the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.
We've talked about eight different Japanese ama movies on Pulp Intl. over the years, including two earlier this month, so we thought you might be interested in seeing a few historical photos. We have a collection of fifteen above and below, shot between the 1940s and 1980s. Sadly, like so many interesting cultural practices, ama diving is in danger of fading away. Most pratictioners are in their forties and older, with very little likelihood of being succeeded by younger women, who have moved on to less traditional occupations. And people say civilization is making progress.
Follow the links below to read about the ama movies we've discussed, and to see their beautiful promotional posters.
Zoku kindan no suna Ama bune yori: Kindan no suna
Manatsu no joji
When he was in med school we all called him Resident Yes. Time really changes people.
We ran across this interesting dust jacket for Ian Fleming's Doctor No, from a hardback edition published by U.K. based Macmillan in 1958. There have been so many James Bond covers over the decades it's almost impossible to find one that is less known, but we think this example is just a bit more obscure than others. The prominent octopus in the art by H. Lawrence Hoffman, in case you haven't read the book, represents a component of a diabolical torture Dr. No puts Bond through at one point. That didn't make it into the movie.
Always wear proper safety gear when handling firearms.
This is an irresistible little treasure, an image from a West German lobby card for Man lebt nur zweimal, aka You Only Live Twice, with Karin Dor in character as Helga Brandt. We like the helmet. Dor's focus on safety is admirable. But since she's eaten by piranha it does her no good at all. Side note: also appearing in the film is former Pulp femme fatale Mie Hama. Double side note: she also gets killed. These Bond girls never learn.
What lies underneath.
British actress Shirley Eaton appeared in about twenty films before her role as the ill-fated Jill Masterson in 1964’s Goldfinger made her one of the most iconic guest stars of the Bond series. Her turn as a woman who is murdered by being covered in gold paint is in fact so central to the 007 universe that it’s arguably the single most known moment from the series. These days you see many more photos of Eaton painted gold than in her own skin, so we thought we’d rectify that a bit with the above shot. It was made to promote The Girl Hunters and it dates from 1963. See a few more Goldfinger images here and here.
Bond set to return to bookstores along with all-time favorite supporting character.
Author Anthony Horowitz has unveiled details concerning a new James Bond novel to be entitled Trigger Mortis. Any addition to the Bond pantheon is news in the adventure fiction community, but people are particularly abuzz this time around for two reasons. The first is that Horowitz has announced the return of iconic Bond character Pussy Galore. Apparently, the story picks up two weeks after the events of Goldfinger.
Many authors have taken Ian Fleming’s enduring property for literary spins—among them the respectful John Gardner, Raymond Benson, and Charlie Higson—but Horowitz is mixing in original Ian Fleming material drawn from Murder on Wheels, an episode from a never-produced television series. This is the second reason Bond fans are excited, though of course there's no way to know how the material will be used, and it's perhaps too much to hope it will survive in anything resembling recognizable form.
Regardless, there’s no question Trigger Mortis will be a worldwide success—even the Young Bond series sold 5 million copies. And since Bond is one of the longest running film characters in history, we also know the new novel will be bought with an eye toward movie production. The only thing we don’t know is if the book will be good. Horowitz’s résumé does not scintillate—he authored a series of young adult spy novels, and wrote two Sherlock Holmes piggybacks, so we’re not expecting strong style or risky choices. But with a Cold War setting, Pussy Galore, and some original Fleming material, at least he has good elements with which to work. Trigger Mortis will be out in September.
Change is inevitable—especially if you're dealing with Ian Fleming.
Ian Fleming was not an author to be trifled with. We talked about how he shifted the rights for Casino Royale from Popular Library to Signet. Well, here we go again. The above 1957 Perma paperback of Diamonds Are Forever with excellent William Rose cover art is rare because Fleming shifted the publishing to Signet after Perma changed the title of Moonraker to Too Hot to Handle. Since this happened after the Casino Royale fiasco you’d think the editors would have known better.
Perma: Ian, Moonraker is a terrible title. It sounds like a sci-fi novel.
Fleming: You listen here, you sniveling little pup—
Perma: This is my job, okay. I’m telling you a bad title hurts your whole brand.
Fleming: Well, I have an idea for a book called Goldfinger. I suppose you think that’s a bad title too?
Perma: Well, yeah...
Fleming: Why you rotten eel. And Octopussy? You don’t like that either?
Perma: Sounds pornographic. It’s ludicrous.
Fleming: You have two tin fucking ears is what’s ludicrous! And Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang?
Perma: The worst of the bunch, and pornographic. I’m sorry, Ian—
Fleming: Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang? Pornographic? That’s the last goddamned straw, you pimply little Yank!
Bond—James Bond. But Jimmy is fine. Some people call me Jim, Jimbo, J-Man, J.B. My mom calls me Jimminy Cricket. I’m cool with whatever.
The story is well known—Popular Library insisted upon changing the title of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale to what you see above. They even went so far as to call 007 “Jimmy Bond” on the rear cover blurb. Fleming retaliated by selling the U.S. publishing rights to Signet at first opportunity, leaving only a small run of very collectible copies of You Asked For It on the market. Fleming must have learned from the episode, though, that titles don’t really matter, because he later wrote Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car. Anyway, You Asked for It appeared in 1955, with unsigned and uncredited cover art. The blog Killer Covers has a bit more info about the book here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
1923—Yankee Stadium Opens
In New York City, Yankee Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, opens with the Yankees beating their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox 4 to 1. The stadium, which is nicknamed The House that Ruth Built, sees the Yankees become the most successful franchise in baseball history. It is eventually replaced by a new Yankee Stadium and closes in September 2008.
1961—Bay of Pigs Invasion Is Launched
A group of CIA financed and trained Cuban refugees lands at the Bay of Pigs in southern Cuba with the aim of ousting Fidel Castro. However, the invasion fails badly and the result is embarrassment for U.S. president John F. Kennedy and a major boost in popularity for Fidel Castro, and also has the effect of pushing him toward the Soviet Union for protection.
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