If you missed the post that got us to this point, click here.
Having decided to take the opportunity to obtain a signed copy of Forever And A Day, we waited for the long queue to gradually work its way down before joining it. I’d guess around 20 minutes passed as we alternated between sitting down and wandering around – all in aid of preserving our aching backs. Eventually, the last few were at the bottom of the steps leading up to the stage, all ready to purchase copies of the book. It was time to head down.
At the very back of the queue was a bloke who was probably in his late 60s or 70s, an apparent oddity in a room full of couples and parents with children. Not that I was paying much attention to him at this stage.
At the bookseller’s table, we were asked if we wanted an inscription and, creatives that we are, we gave our names so he could address it to us both. A Post-It was written on with our imaginative request, and it was stuck to the front cover. £18.99 lighter, we moved on. Ahead of us were only five people. A couple in the process of having their book signed, a father and his young boy, and the older chap.
The couple had photos taken with Horowitz, then moved on and he was presented with the young lad and his father. Seeing the boy, he turned to the rest of us and suggested he deal with us first. It appeared they were to have a longer chat than he would normally allow. The boy had asked a question earlier and it had been agreed they’d talk about it in more detail afterwards.
With father and son stepping to one side, the chap in front of us moved forward. I didn’t hear what he said, but the reaction from Horowitz was significant. Leaping to his feet, he shook the man’s hand and started making references to Bond movies, turning to us and apologising for keeping us waiting as he did so. And then he explained: “This is the man who edited the ski jump on The Spy Who Loved Me.”
John Grover was Assistant Editor on that film, but also worked on the editing of five other Bond movies. Having been an avid movie-goer for years, I’ve come to appreciate how important film editing is. There have been times in the past where I’ve watched very good actors doing a great job, and not quite understood why I didn’t have much of a reaction to their performance. These days, I take a bit more notice of how the scene is cut together, and very often that’s where the damage is done.
Ask any Bond fan to list their favourite scenes and seeing this will almost certainly be in their top 5:
It was a game-changer for the series, setting a totally new bar for pre-title sequences. And this quietly spoken man made it work on the screen.
Clearly wanting to spend a little more time with Grover, Horowitz turned to us and offered to sign our book so we could get on. I pointed out that I was quite happy to stand and listen (who wouldn’t be?), so they carried on, making comparisons of various Bond movies – editing, screenwriters, budgets.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Grover was not impressed with the budgets on movies today. “We made Moonraker for £17 million,” he said at one point. “SPECTRE cost over £200 million.”
Even allowing for inflation, that is a ridiculous difference in costs and, given a choice between the two movies, I’d go for Moonraker every time. SPECTRE was a classic example of poor editing. All the components were there to make a great film, but it repeatedly fell short.
The conversation probably only lasted a few minutes, but I felt privileged to witness it. I’d never heard of John Grover before that evening, but I feel like I want to know more about him now.
Unfortunately, by the time we’d had our book signed and exchanged a few words with Horowitz, Grover had gone, so I didn’t get another chance to speak to him. Then again, my brain turns to mush when such opportunities are presented, so I probably wouldn’t have known what to say anyway. Still, it added an extra special edge to the event, and I have yet another happy memory to add to my growing list.
We shook hands with Anthony (apparently, he doesn’t like being called Tony), and headed off into the now dark evening and walked back along the riverside to the car.
I don’t think we stopped talking about the day until well after we got home. The hours spent at Henley had been filled with experiences that would stay with us. We were enthused about what we wanted to read, and inspired about our own writing. You can’t get much more from a day out. We’ll definitely be going to more literary festivals.