TO TENS of millions of fans James Bond is a suave, invincible Hollywood spy with a cultured British accent, an eye for a beautiful woman and an unerring ability to hunt out anyone who threatens the security of the West. Well before the arrival of the big-screen version, however, Bond was born in print.
A new compilation of correspondence both to and by intelligence-operative-turned-writer Ian Fleming traces this evolution from the unveiling of the first of his eventual 14 Bond books through the negotiation of several Bond film deals and concludes shortly after Fleming’s death, aged 56, 12 years later. It reveals the insecurities, frustrations and embarrassment of the author, despite his growing stature as one of the greatest ever espionage novelists, and provides an insight into a man who valued accuracy of detail so intensely that no feedback, no matter how trifling, was brushed aside.
Writing frantically over a few weeks each January-February while on retreat from deep-winter Britain to his Jamaican property, “Goldeneye”, Fleming produced a new Bond best-seller every year; two, in fact, had been completed in his final months and were published posthumously. In addition, he created children’s tale Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang and wrote non-fiction works The Diamond Smugglers and Thrilling Cities.
The “golden typewriter” of anthology editor Fergus Fleming’s title is simultaneously a reference to the extravagant purchase made by his Uncle Ian as reward for having completed his first full manuscript – Casino Royale – in the northern spring of 1952 and a play on the name of one of the later Bond books.
If there is any slight fault in this collection it is that the correspondence is arranged by project rather than chronologically, producing an at-times disjointed and occasionally repetitive read; this, though, is more than offset by the intimacy of the conversations between Fleming and his publishing colleagues, readers, friends and wife Ann.