The Reading Room

Colonel Sun

The first James Bond novel after Ian Fleming’s death…

Kingsley Amis (1922-1995) wrote some of the best-loved satirical novels of the second half of the last century. From his classic Lucky Jim  to One Fat Englishman, Ending Up, The Old Devils  and Jake’s Thing  he wouldn’t seem the first choice to carry on the James Bond legacy after Ian Fleming’s death in 1964 at the age of fifty six. Like Fleming, Amis enjoyed the finer things in life and like Fleming he used his socialising to create his characters and settings for the novel.

Colonel Sun was Amis’ third Bond-related book, written under his real name, The James Bond Dossier was published by Jonathan Cape in 1965 with The Book of Bond  published the same year under the pseudonym Lt-Col William (Bill) Tanner. Writing as Robert Markham,  Colonel Sun was the first of the continuity Bond novels with John Gardner, Raymond Benson, Jeffrey Deaver, William Boyd and Anthony Horowitz  following suit.

This post concentrates on the editions rather than a synopsis of the novel, there are numerous reviews and plot summaries to be found online so I thought I would share my collection and give some detail for James Bond collectors who perhaps have not seen these before.

I have three editions; the first UK edition (opposite) the Companion Book Club edition and the Pan paperback. The first edition was published by Jonathan Cape who published all of Fleming’s novels. The intriguing Dali-esque  cover and a total shift in style from the Richard Chopping era  was painted by Tom Adams, perhaps best known for his work on the Agatha Christie paperback reissues of the early 1960s.

The Companion Book Club edition at the top of the page features an equally striking cover by Barry Wilkinson whose work could be seen on Puffin children’s books amongst many others. Released the same year as the first edition it also features the map of the island of Vrakonisi  and priced at eight shillings. I am a fan of the Book Club series, often dismissed by collectors I feel they provided a quality, cheaper alternative for those unable to afford the new original edition. Some of the artwork is really very good indeed and certainly a worthwhile addition to a collectors bookshelf.

Lastly, the paperback edition published by Pan  Books Ltd in 1970 and its cover is familiar to their Fleming reissues of the same period. Personally, I preferred the earlier paperback editions of the Bond novels, the photograph style which came in towards the end of the 1960s and ‘retired’ many cover artists leaves me cold. This is particularly the case with the paperback editions of Leslie Charteris’ The Saint where the wonderful art styles which characterised each previous decade came to a dull halt by the 1970s and the publishers penchant to use movie and television stills for front covers.

So these are from my collection, I do not have the American editions or later paperback versions. The first edition is still available at varying prices depending on quality and as a Cape first edition it deserves its place alongside the classic Fleming firsts.

 

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