The Man With The Golden Typewriter


Title:                      The Man With The Golden Typewriter

Author:                  Ian Fleming

Fleming, Ian (2015), Fergus Fleming, ed. The Man With The Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters. New York: Bloomsbury,

LCCN:    2015298100

PR6056.L4 Z48 2015

Summary

  • A collection of letters by the creator of James Bond includes correspondences written on his gold typewriter to such recipients as his wife, publisher, editors, fans, and friends, including Raymond Chandler and Noël Coward.

Contents

  • Casino Royale — Live and let die — Moonraker — Notes from America — Diamonds are forever — From Russia with love — Conversations with the Armourer — Dr No — Goldfinger — For your eyes only — The Chandler letters — Thunderball — The spy who loved me — The Liebert letters — On her majesty’s secret service — You only live twice –The man with the golden gun — Afterword — The works of Ian Fleming — The James Bond films.

Subjects

Date Updated:  April 6, 2017

Complied and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

When Ian Fleming finished his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale[2], he ordered “a gold-plated typewriter—a Royal Quiet deluxe, $174.00—from New York.” Ian Fleming, then a few hundred thousand dollars shy of being a millionaire, asked a diplomat friend to send it on as part of his luggage to avoid customs duty. (p. 13) But as author-editor Fergus Fleming reveals, his famous uncle almost didn’t submit his book to a publisher. (p. 3) These and other insights about Ian make reading The Man with the Golden Typewriter an enjoyable and informative experience.

Readers should not be misled, however, by the subtitle: there are no letters from Bond. The book concerns Ian Fleming’s correspondence with friends and notables in the James Bond era. As a bonus, Fergus Fleming adds a “potted biography” (p. 3) that outlines his uncle’s early life at Eton and Sandhurst— the latter did not go well—and subsequent events that led to his writing career. He adds further personal details throughout the book, for example, Ian’s serious book collecting—an admirable hobby that led to acquisitions of first editions such as The Communist Manifesto—and his purchase of a bibliophile’s magazine, The Book Collector. (p. 11)

The book is roughly arranged with a chapter for each Bond novel, which quotes the associated letters. Fergus intersperses ancillary material that deals with Ian’s sometimes awkward relationship with his wife, his battles with his publisher and movie producers, his extensive correspondence with friends and other writers, and his often precarious health. In the chapter entitled “Notes From America,” Fergus provides a fascinating account of Ian’s friendship with Ernest Cuneo, a wartime friend and intellectual colossus who was the wartime liaison between OSS, BSC (MI6 in New York), and the White House. In a curious comment in the chapter on You Only Live Twice[3], Ian writes: “Just off to lunch with Allen Dulles! Perhaps he will inspire me. Ever seen him? I doubt his powers to enthuse.” (p. 351)

Ian Fleming’s extensive research efforts, after writing Casino Royale from memory, are described in the chapter, “Conversations with the Armourer.” While discussing Diamonds Are Forever, Fergus includes an account of how his uncle came to write his nonfiction book, The Diamond Smugglers. After completing The Spy Who Loved Me, Ian suffered a major heart attack and spent his convalescence writing the children’s novel, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Ian’s Fleming’s Bond books have sold more than 100 million copies in English. (p. 378) He truly was The Man with the Golden Typewriter.

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[4]

On August 16,1952, in a period of doldrums while living in his Jamaican retreat “Goldeneye,” Ian Fleming wrote to his wife, Ann, “My love, This is only a tiny letter to try out my new typewriter and to see if it will write golden words since it is made of gold.” He had bought the golden typewriter as a present to himself for finishing his first novel, Casino Royale[5]. It marked the arrival of James Bond, Agent 007, and the start of a career that saw Fleming become one the world’s most celebrated thriller-writers.

On it he banged out a stream of letters that touched on various aspects of publishing, royalty payments, and the jousting relationship between Fleming and his editor, William Plomer; Fleming’s private passions of scuba diving, fast cars, golf, cards, “along with women, tobacco, martinis, and scrambled eggs,” and the dissolution of his marriage and impact of fame and fortune on his life.

Before his death in 1964 he produced fourteen best-selling Bond books, two works of non-fiction and the famous children’s story Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. The correspondence ranged from badgering Jonathan Cape about his quota of free copies, to apologizing for equipping Bond with the wrong kind of gun. His letters also reflect his friendship with such contemporaries as Raymond Chandler, Noel Coward, and Somerset Maugham.

[1] Hayden Peake in The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016, p. 131).  Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. Other reviews and articles may be found online at  www.cia.gov.

[2] See footnote 5

[3] Fleming, Ian (1964). You Only Live Twice. London: Cape

[4] The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (21, 3, Fall/Winter 2015, p. 139).

[5] Fleming, Ian (1954). Casino Royale. New York, Macmillan

 

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