Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Moneypenny Diaries and their cover designs

Pulling out the first editions of the Moneypenny Diaries by Kate Westbrook (the pseudonym of Samantha Weinberg) from my bookshelf, it struck me that the design of the dustjacket art for each volume has been influenced by different aspects of Bondian iconography. The Jonathan Cape editions of Ian Fleming's novels, the Pan paperbacks, and the films have all lent something to the artwork.

Let's take the first volume, sub-titled 'Guardian Angel' (2005). The cover is designed to resemble a buff-coloured document file or wallet of the sort that usually sits in filing cabinets. It is an HM Government file – there is a symbol of the Crown at the top – and it is secured by a (pink) ribbon. The file is rubber-stamped with the words, 'Intended for her eyes only'. This, of course, alludes to the phrase, 'For Your Eyes Only', which is so strongly associated with James Bond, but the cover designer (gray318) also appears have introduced a variant on the stamp used on the Pan paperback cover art of the For Your Eyes Only novel, published c 1963/4.

The second volume, 'Secret Servant' (2006), the designer (again gray318) has turned to the Richard Chopping covers of Fleming's novels for inspiration. The ribbon motif (now blue) has been carried through to this volume, but the file device has gone, and instead replaced by a central image of a small handgun with a handle faced with mother of pearl (Ladies' gun...no stopping power, as the Armourer in Dr No might say). A lipstick lies next to the gun. The composition of the image offers something of the style of Richard Chopping's artwork, notably for From Russia, with Love, The Spy Who Loved Me, and even John Gardner's Licence Renewed (which, though designed by Mon Mohan, was based on a watercolour by Chopping). The photograph is of real objects, and so mimics the trompe l'oeil three dimensional effect so characteristic of Chopping's work.

The cover art for the third volume, 'Final Fling' (2008), designed by Madeline Meckiffe, is inspired by film iconography. A drawing depicts a woman, who is presumably Moneypenny. She stands, with the lower part of her right leg crossing her left leg, and her gaze is directed at the reader. With her right hand she holds a gun, which points upwards and rests against her left shoulder. Her left hand is tucked behind her right arm. The figure is positioned in front of a white background, but is framed by a red-bordered circle. The circle is clearly an allusion to the gun-barrel sequence that (nearly) always introduces each Bond film, and the figure's pose could be taken from a number of Bond film posters, where Bond is depicted in a similar position, for example on the UK posters used for From Russia With Love, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and Octopussy.

Bond iconography, whether originating in the books or the films, continues to have an enduring influence on new Bond-related material, including the Moneypenny Diaries. The ideas or memes behind the iconography are sufficiently robust to be recognisable even when adapted to varying degrees, in some cases 50 or so years after they were first introduced.

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