For years I’d known that a scathing review of Dr No, the first James Bond film, had been published in Russia. But where? No one could tell me. It was not until I took over the editorship of The Book Collector and made contact with James Bond book dealers that I discovered. The piece, by Yu Okov, had come out in Izvestiya at a period of extreme international tension. An article in Izvestiya was the equivalent of a statement by the Politburo. Someone at the top had decided to exploit the film antics of Bond as a way of mocking the West while at the same time deflecting the anger of the proletariat from their abysmal standard of living. (‘CUT KHRUSHCHEV UP FOR SAUSAGES’ read one home-made banner waved at a protest in June 1962.) Okov’s review soon reached Ian Fleming, who took it as a terrific compliment and persuaded Jonathan Cape, his publisher, to print it on the jacket of his new novel, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Jacket proofs were printed – and then, nothing. Until now only a handful of book collectors who got their hands on one of those early proofs have ever seen it. What had happened? This is what I explore in Bond Behind the Iron Curtain.
The answer is the Cuban Missile Crisis, which erupted barely two weeks after Dr No was released. Suddenly the possibility of a nuclear strike that would obliterate the world became all too real. Cape’s reps started to report hostile reactions to the jacket in bookshops. Why flaunt something from