A collection of letters from the creator of Bond, James Bond.
In 1952, former intelligence officer, bibliomaniac, and drinking enthusiast Ian Fleming (1908-1964) acquired what he called a “golden typewriter” (which, he added, cost $174, a small fortune back then) and set out, in a period of doldrums while living in Jamaica, to write a book. On it, he banged out the first Bond novel, Casino Royale, along with a stream of letters that touched on various aspects of the thriller—not just its gestation as a manuscript, but also large details of royalty payments (to his publisher, Jonathan Cape: “If you are feeling in a more generous mood today, for symmetry’s sake you might care to include 12 1/2 percent on the 5,000 to 10,000 [copies sold], but I will not be exigent,” occasioning a decisive marginal “No” from the recipient). Fleming even wrote fine-tuning instructions on the cover art. As this collection of letters progresses, we see a friendly but jousting relationship developing between Fleming and his editor, William Plomer, who laments the death of Oddjob in Goldfinger (“what an exit!”), questions some of Fleming’s more outlandish plot twists, and, as an editor should, suggests better wordings and better titles (Fleming originally wanted to call Dr. No “The Wound Man”). In his letters, we also see the steady dissolution of a marriage and other effects of fame and fortune. The volume includes a few letters from outraged readers who, in those innocent days, objected to Fleming’s “ghastly filth.” Overall, the letters emphasize, as the volume editor observes, that Ian Fleming passed on numerous of his private passions to his creation, including scuba diving, fast cars, golf, and cards, “along with women, tobacco, Martinis, and scrambled eggs.” In that regard, the relationship of art to Fleming’s real life is fascinating.
Essential for fans of the James Bond books. And who isn’t a fan?