As Bond fever hits the cinema this week, excitement is also growing in the auction room with nine first edition copies of the 007 series going under the hammer tomorrow.

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And in a twist to the tale the book covers were designed by the late Norfolk-educated artist, Richard Chopping, who started producing the artwork in 1957.

Mr Chopping attended Gresham’s School in Holt, from 1928-1935, and studied there at the same time as Suffolk composer Benjamin Britten.

He worked on the covers for a nine-year period, starting with From Russia With Love and ending with Octopussy and The Living Daylights in 1966. But even though his James Bond artwork made him famous, Mr Chopping confessed in 2003 he hated the books and disliked Ian Fleming.

In an interview with our sister newspaper, the East Anglian Daily Times, he said: “Mr Fleming was not a nice man to work for – he was mean. I could not like him because he got me into a job which made it very difficult to accept commissions from anybody else.

“He said to me ‘I want to commission you to paint me a picture which afterwards can be used as a cover for one of my books’. It was very subtle. I have been swindled all the way along the line.”

Mr Chopping added that he was fond of doing the early work but that it became “a bore” and that he hated the books. “I don’t like the violence. I don’t mind a bit of sex, but there is enough violence without needing to make it glamorous.”

The 007 first editions will go on sale at Bloomsbury Auctions in London tomorrow. They originally cost between 18 shillings and sixpence, which at the time would have been about 53p for Octopussy in 1966 and around 90p for The Man With The Golden Gun, also published in 1966.

Included in this week’s auction will be a first edition copy of Goldfinger (originally costing 15 shillings, around 75p, new in 1959) and is set to fetch between £800 and £1200. There will also be a first edition copy of For Your Eyes Only – costing the same as Octopussy in 1960 – and is expected to sell for between £600 and £800.

All nine 007 titles are among around 400 modern first editions, many signed by their authors, put up for sale by newspaper theatre critic and showbusiness writer, Clive Hirschhorn.

The books are expected to fetch between £3,000 and £4,000 at the auction and the total lot is expected to sell for between £750,000 and £1m.

Mr Chopping lived at Wivenhoe, near Colchester, for 60 years and died in April 2008 – just three days after his 91st birthday.

With his partner, artist Denis Wirth-Miller, they were affectionately known as “Dickie and Denis” and were the first couple to register a civil partnership in Colchester, Essex.

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