Monday, 29 August 2016

Searching for James Bond in New Zealand bookshops

There are some wonderful second-hand bookshops in New Zealand, and I was determined to visit a few during my recent holiday in the country. Naturally, I was looking for James Bond or Ian Fleming-related material, and while I didn't come out with the hoard I was hoping for, I did find one or two unexpected treats.

My first stop was in Whangarei about 160km north of Auckland. I was en route to Bay of Islands, and decided to stop in the town for a break. Lucky I did, because I spotted an impressive-looking bookshop called The Piggery. I quickly parked up and went in. As is often the case with second-hand bookshops, it took a short while to get my bearings, but I eventually found a stack of Fleming paperbacks. Alas, there was nothing there – interesting or unusual editions, say – to tempt me, although I was momentarily excited by what looked like a first edition of Thrilling Cities, locked away in a cabinet. I already own a copy, but this one appeared to be in better condition than mine. In the end, I decided against investigating further.

Some days later, I was back in Auckland. I've been to New Zealand several times, and I knew there was a great bookshop, called Evergreen Books, in Devonport. Last time I was there, I picked up a couple of first edition John Gardners, and just last year, it had a mouth-watering display of Bond-related material in its shop window. I was understandably very disappointed to discover that Evergreen Books no longer exists. Another bookshop has taken its place, but it's smaller and didn't have any of the treasures I was hoping for.

 
Last year's window display at the now defunct Evergreen Books
No matter; there were other bookshops to visit. In Rotorua, some 230km south of Auckland, I stumbled on Atlantis Books. There I bought an omnibus edition of James Bond comic strips, and talked to the shop owner about any other material he might have. He told me that he has a collector that bags a lot of Bondiana before it goes on the shelf, so that was the end of that.

A couple of days later, after returning to Auckland, I flew down to Wellington. I was in luck. My hotel, on Manners Street in the city centre, was almost next door to Arty Bees Books, a cavernous bookshop that boasted, I discovered as I began to explore the store, a James Bond section. While the section didn't have a lot in stock at that moment, I did find a curious James Bond parody – Kiss the Girls and Make Them Spy, by Mabel Maney (more about this in a later post, possibly) – that I'd never heard of. I quickly snapped the book up.




I thought that was it for Wellington bookshops, but walking down Cuba Street, I came across another shop that looked very promising. Pegasus Books was crammed with books, which overflowed on to the street and, inside, were stacked so high, one needed a ladder to browse the upper shelves. Once again, there were a few old Bond paperbacks, but I was more excited about a small pile of Peter Cheyney novels. Peter Cheyney was a British writer of fast-moving American-style thrillers featuring the FBI agent Lemmy Caution. Ian Fleming mentioned the author in his letters; he first aspired to the Cheyney class of thriller, but later was rather more dismissive of it. I bought one of the books on display, eager to find out whether Cheyney had any influence on Fleming's writing. More about this soon.



So no bounty of Bond books, but l enjoyed the prospect of discovery. It's true I could find almost any book I want online, but where's the fun in that?

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