Sunday, October 23, 2011

GIRLS ON GUNS - Ian Fleming in the 1970s

"I don't go for those paperback books with pictures of girls sitting on large guns, or even astride them."
- Q'ute to James Bond in Licence Renewed.
Last week I took a look back at the U.S. Ian Fleming paperbacks from the 1980s. Now, for my friends in the UK, here is a set of Fleming paperbacks from the 1970s, the "girls on guns" series, which seem to be the paperbacks that many UK fans most remember. Q'ute may not be a fan, but I certainly am!

These paperbacks were the first to be released by Triad/Panther, which took over the Bond paperback license from Pan Books in 1977. The first book released appears to have been Doctor No in 1977, and the last was Moonraker in 1982 (possibly delayed so it wouldn't be confused with Triad's James Bond and Moonraker novelization released in 1979). This set also includes the first continuation novel, Colonel Sun, by Kingsley Amis, which wouldn't see publication again until 1997. There is also a six title Box Set, which is now very hard to find.

These books would continue to be reissued until 1987 when Coronet would take over publication of the UK paperbacks.

Thanks to Luke Freeman for pointing out that terrific quote from John Gardner's Licence Renewed. As these were the books on store shelves when Gardner penned his first continuation novels, there's no doubt he was making an inside joke here.

For more on the history of these covers, check out Graham Rye's terrific article "Girls 'n' Guns? - must be James Bond!" in OO7 Magazine #42 from December 2003.


  1. BTW, that's not a star field on those black editions. Just my incredibly dusty scanner.

  2. Yep, my set is missing Moonraker. A couple of mine list the "available" titles on the inside cover, and Moonraker isn't there. Thanks for the info.

    Always loved the blurbs on the back of these. "The star of secret agents", terrific.

  3. Incredibly tacky, yes, but I really like those covers, too. When scouring used bookstores in America as a kid, they were pretty scarce, being British. But whenever I found one of those ones, I bought it. (And I remember I couldn't believe that DAF cover, for obvious reasons...) I like the spines of these ones, and I love the box set you mention! (It prints the YOLT cover on one side, and the GF cover on the other.)

    That said, looking back at them now and pushing aside the curtain of nostalgia, there's a lot to be critical of here, too. Is that the same model on most of those covers, or is it different girls who just look incredibly alike? In either case, they should have varied it up more. And those fashions are positively atrocious, even by 70s standards! It's astounding to think that those books were still on shelves in 1987, at which point they would have been hideously dated! (Not that the popular fashions of the day would have been much of an improvement.)

    It's also very interesting seeing them all laid out next to each other here. I don't think I've ever looked at them that way. I used to think that they'd changed out the grips for different photos, alternating between a pearl grip and a wooden one. Now, seeing them all together, it's clear that they didn't have to do that; there was just one model and it was pearl on one side and wood on the other.

    Interestingly, some of my editions credit the photographer and giant gun designer on the inside cover and others don't. I haven't tried to work out which printings do it. Could that have been an omission on earlier printings, corrected on later ones?

  4. I have that edition of Thunderball around here somewhere, bought new in 1987. Looks like I scored by a cat's whisker.

  5. Tanner - they are different girls. Graham in his OO7 article identified some of them -- some were well-known models of their day, in fact. The prop gun was displayed in a London bookstore for a time. Agree about some of the fashions. But the girls on OHMSS, TB, and Colonel Sun are okay in my book! And DAF, of course. :)

    Melbo - good to see you over here. :)

  6. Love these covers - they're not as common in the UK as you might think, but something about the sparse concept and quality of execution is great. Interestingly the Dutch editions of the time used similar photos from the same sessions (except CS which is identical), with similar typography. You'll find some if you wade through here from page 4:

  7. Triad/Panther UK Paperbacks 1977-1985


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