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London bookseller scoops ILAB prize with Ian Fleming bibliography


Congratulations to Jon Gilbert, a bookseller with Adrian Harrington Rare Books in London, who has won the ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography with his book on Ian Fleming’s works. Gilbert’s Ian Fleming The Bibliography was published by Queen Anne Press last year. It contains a preface by Fergus Fleming, Ian’s nephew and co-publisher of Queen Anne Press, and a foreword by Michael L. Vanblaricum.

The ILAB Breslauer Prize is handed out every fourth year to the most outstanding scholarly book about books. Gilbert wins $10,000 (and you know he’ll spend it on books).  Jon was kind enough to answer some questions.

 AbeBooks – Why Ian Fleming? What about his writing career so fascinates you?

Jon Gilbert – The subject of Ian Fleming and James Bond has always been of interest to me, ever since I saw Moonraker in London’s Leicester Square as a child. Like most Bond fans, I was introduced to the character through the films rather than the books. When I did read them I was surprised how much they differed from the movies. Fleming’s writing is rather slick, with rich detail, and I was thrilled by his novels. I wanted to know more about the author and through his biographies I discovered he had enjoyed an incredibly full life, albeit a tragically short one (he died at the age of 56). I am particularly fond of his short stories, and he was a skilled journalist and travel writer. A little-known aspect of his career was publishing; he ran the Book Collector and the Queen Anne Press, who published works by Patrick Leigh Fermor, Evelyn Waugh and Cyril Connolly.

AbeBooks – How did the publishing deal with Queen Anne Press come about?

Jon Gilbert – “Our family bookselling firm Adrian Harrington Ltd specialise in the James Bond first editions and we have known Ian Fleming Publications [the literary copyright holders] for some time. Queen Anne Press was formerly run by Fleming and is now managed by his niece and nephew. As the author’s centenary year approached, we were consulted by both QAP and Ian Fleming Publications regarding a forthcoming celebratory edition of the collected works. During our discussions I had mentioned the need for a Fleming bibliography and was encouraged by the family to write one. It really was a simple as that; a classic example of finding oneself in the right place at the right time. The Fleming estate kindly granted me permission to study the archives, and with the financial backing of Adrian Harrington I set about assembling a comprehensive bibliographical collection. The book developed from there.

AbeBooks – Aside from the famous novels, how much other written material did Fleming produce?

Jon Gilbert – “A great deal. He was a journalist between the wars and ran the Foreign Desk of The Sunday Times from 1946. He embarked on many travel assignments, reported on leisure pursuits, gastronomy and sporting interests, wrote about espionage and was the ‘Atticus’ columnist during the ‘fifties. If creating James Bond was not achievement enough, he also wrote the evergreen children’s classic ‘Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang’. What a guy.

AbeBooks – Fleming died in 1964. Were you able to interview anyone who worked with him?

Jon Gilbert – “Yes, I am fortunate to have made the acquaintance of many friends, family and colleagues, including Peter Janson-Smith (Ian’s literary agent), Graham C. Greene (Sales Director at Cape, the publisher of Ian Fleming), Valerie Kettley (Cape’s Children’s Editor) and Ken Lewis (dust-jacket artist for Casino Royale, Live and Let Die and Moonraker).

 AbeBooks – Are you a fan of the subsequent 007 books from other authors?

Jon Gilbert – “Yes. Fleming is a hard act to follow, but the literary James Bond has attracted some stellar names including Kingsley Amis [as Robert Markham], Sebastian Faulks and now William Boyd. There has also been a hugely popular Young Bond series of books penned by the actor/writer Charlie Higson. We are rapidly approaching 50 years of the ‘continuation’ novels, so a large number of readers would appear to agree with me.

AbeBooks – Any more bibliographies planned?

Jon Gilbert – “I thoroughly enjoyed the process and the subsequent reception, so yes, I would like to write another. The Ian Fleming bibliography was five years in production so booksellers may want to prepare some shelf space for 2018…”

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Richard Davies

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