When I was about 14 years old, James Bond came into my life. I had read good things about the Ian Fleming novels; even the President liked them. And one spring day in New York City I found them all in paperback, 50 cents each, at the Scribner’s bookstore on Fifth Avenue. I took the series, in a neat stack, to the cash register, where a very attractive woman smiled at me and said, “You’re going to have fun with these.”
I did, reading them after my bedtime, under the covers with a flashlight; I distinctly remember finishing one “after hours,” and quietly getting out of bed, sneaking to the bookshelf for the next one in the series, and just as quietly slipping back into the bed, and opening to the first page, all in about 15 seconds, which was all the suspense I could stand.
Years later, I replaced my Bonds with hardcover editions; but I could not part with the softcovers that had been such a bright spot in my youth. So I kept both sets, one on the shelf and the paperbacks in a closet like an heirloom.
Only this week did I get around to wondering who did the cover art. It was Barye Winchell Phillips (1924-1969) who began doing paperback cover work in 1943. His art usually filled the cover, but the designer at Signet chose to use it more as an accent, with the color and typography being dominant.
Phillips worked quickly – he could do four paintings in a week – and in a variety of styles, which made him a favorite of publishers. And also of boys gazing upon the cover of Casino Royale, opening to page one and beginning a great adventure.