James Bond’s Beginnings

This week marks 70 years since the start of a literary career that has produced more than great books.

Ian Fleming had dreamed for years of writing a spy book. Ian Fleming was a successful writer and editor, with extensive experience working in British Naval Intelligence. He thought he could write an espionage novel.

In early 1952, he began to write his novel in his Jamaican estate named Goldeneye. He claimed at one time that he wrote to distract himself from his impending wedding to pregnant socialite Ann Charteris. Charteris believed that he began writing because he became bored, while she painted on the beach for several hours each day.

In just seven weeks Fleming wrote just three hours per day.

John Walsh, a writer at Spectator World explains that Walsh did not outline a plot nor a cast of characters. He simply typed like a man on a mission to create. “At lunchtime, he would sunbathe, have lunch, go to sleep and then, at five o’clock, read the work he had written before putting it into a blue file.” “At 6:30, cocktails would be served.”

Fleming asked his secretary Joan Howe, the inspiration for Miss Moneypenny, to shape his typewritten manuscript. He then gave a friend who is a novelist a copy of it to read. He told his friend that, “as far as I can tell, the suspense element is completely missing,” but the novelist friend saw potential and sent the manuscript to a publishing house.

The audiobooks of Fleming James Bond novels are very well written. Although the plots of some films are very different, and others are completely unlike the film versions, there are still many elements that filmgoers expect from 007, such as action, sex, and romance.

The things that the movies left out are rich and rewarding for readers. James Bond is a philosopher. You wouldn’t imagine Sean Connery or Daniel Craig saying the things Bond says. Fleming also added more depth to the characterizations, but his descriptions were the most impressive.

The first two sentences in Casino Royale show how vivid Fleming could make his writing: “The smell, smoke, and sweat of the casino are nauseating when it’s three in the morning.” The soul erosion caused by excessive gambling — a mixture of fear, greed and nervous tension — is unbearable. And the senses revolt.

Casino Royale was published in the UK in 1953. It became an instant bestseller, but sales were not as good when it came out in the U.S. in 1954. The book’s popularity created a need for more. Fleming went on to write eleven more novels, and two collections of short stories featuring his trademark spy before his 1964 death.

Fleming’s novels inspired the legendary film series. Casino Royale has been adapted three times by producers. Climax!, an anthology series on television, adapted Casino Royale in 1954. The novel was adapted into an episode of the anthology television series Climax! David Niven starred in the 1967 adaptation of Casino Royale, a parodic and jokey take on spy life. Casino Royale is remembered by most as the 2006 film, which marked Daniel Craig’s first appearance as Bond.

The road to the amazing industry James Bond has created was long, and many of us 007 enthusiasts are thankful that Ian Fleming laid the foundation for it.