A last ten-foot drop that jarred his spine, a kick at the grating and he was out on the steel floor and running for the stairs, leaving a trail of red footprints and a spray of blood-drops from his raw shoulders.
The great deadly needle of the rocket might have been made of glass. Looking above him as he sweated and panted up the endless sweep of the iron stairway, it was difficult for him to see where its tapering nose ended and the sky began.
Behind the crouching silence that enveloped the shimmering missile, Bond could hear a quick, deadly ticking, the hasty tripping of tiny metal feet somewhere in the body of Moonraker. It filled the great steel chamber like the beating heart in Poe’s story and Bond knew that directly Drax at the firing point pressed the switch that sent the radio beam zinging over the two hundred yards to the waiting rocket, the ticking would suddenly cease. There would be the soft whine of the lighted pinwheel, a wisp of steam from the turbines, and then the howling jet of flame on which the rocket would rise and sweep majestically out on the start of its gigantic acceleration curve.
And then in front of him was the spidery arm of the gantry folded back against the wall and Bond’s hand was at the lever and the arm was slowly stretching down and out toward the square hairline on the glittering skin of the rocket that was the gyro chamber…
The Herald was, in those pre-Rupert days, the evening rag, large in format, usually in two thin sections which hardly more than gasped headlines of the day’s events in the front half and the sporting section and comics in the back. It was meant to be read on the train journey home. It was not a great newspaper and although it boasted the best comic strips and movie advertisements and did not trouble the intellect too deeply. But somehow, I suppose when the editor wasn’t looking, it remembered a lost tradition of Fleet Street and took to serialising books. With terrific illustrations. I discovered this immediately. It might have been the first time I ever actually read the small print. Certainly, there were family comments when I demanded my place in the family newspaper pecking order.
The first serial was called Moonraker and had a title illustration that was the thing that grabbed me—a steel-eyed man in a suit with an automatic in his hand, clutching a curvaceous female in a skimpy garment to his hip, while in the background a car (open roadster) going over a cliff, a pair of very evil villain characters glowered wickedly, and best of all, a space rocket blasting off in the background of the whole affair. I just had to find out all about this. It quickly emerged that the man with the gun was named James Bond.
The novel, possibly a condensed version, continued on for a week and it was the third of Fleming’s adventures, published some years earlier. Mostly I struggled—there was a lot of boring stuff about card games at first, but the illustrator kept the dramatic pictures coming and I persisted and was rewarded with a red hot climax. For some years after that, The Herald continued serialising contemporary works until they stopped doing it sometime in the 1960s. I have never found newspapers satisfying since.