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 A Letter from Ian Fleming

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PostSubject: A Letter from Ian Fleming   Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:37 pm

The October 26, 1962 issue of The Spectator contains a charming letter to the editor from none other than Ian Fleming:

Quote :

BONDAGE

Sir, — Since James Bond has had the honour of being mentioned in three separate departments of your issue of October 12, and since Bond is at present away in Magnetogorsk, I hope you will allow me to comment on his behalf.

‘Spectator's Notebook’: Queequeg asks what happened to the crabs in the film Dr. No. Alas, they went the way of the giant squid, despite urgent representations from me and from one of the producers. The black crabs had not started ‘running’ in Jamaica last February when the Jamaican scenes were being shot, but on my return to London in March I received an excited invitation to visit Pinewood and inspect a consignment of spider crabs obtained from Guernsey. A large tank was unveiled. All the crabs were dead. I asked if they had been preserved in sea water and was told that, since none was available, they had been put in fresh water with plenty of salt added! After that the crab faction gave up.

Letters: Mr. Snell suggests that my serial biography of James Bond is ‘a barrier to international understanding.’ He seems not to have noticed that since Thunderball the international organisation ‘SPECTRE’ has taken over as enemy Number One from SMERSH, the murder apparat of the then MWD, dissolved, as I wrote in Thunderball, by Khrushchev. As the recently concluded spy trial in Karlsruhe, involving the liquidation of two Ukrainians by a Soviet assassin with a cyanide gas pistol, shows, the machinery of cold-blooded murder by the, now, KGB is again in business and I cannot promise that Bond may not be called upon in the line of duty to involve himself with these new ambassadors for ‘international understanding’ sent out into the world by Moscow.

Cinema: Mr. Ian Cameron, with a fastidious stamp of his grey suede winkle-pickers, scrunches the Dr. No film, while describing James Bond as ‘every intellectual's favourite fascist.’ James Bond's politics are, in fact, slightly left of centre.

IAN FLEMING
c /o Jonathan Cape Ltd.


Some notes:

* Besides giving another reason why Fleming's letters deserve to be collected and published, this letter also shows Fleming's eagerness to promote the Bond films and his concern for their reputation. The anecdote makes me wonder which producer (Brocolli or Saltzman?) was part of "the crab faction." I think the giant squid was a bigger loss than the crabs, but the special effects of 1962 would resulted in a rather hokey-looking sea monster.

* Magnetogorsk (actually spelled Magnitogorsk) is a city in Southwest Russia. Was Fleming already thinking forward to Bond's amnesiac Russian holiday in You Only Live Twice?

* True to his word, Fleming did indeed have Bond get back to fighting the Soviets. Post-TMWTGG Bond novels might have had him matching wits with more KGB operatives.

* One has to commend Fleming for his disarming way of responding to critics--"a fastidious stamp of his grey suede winkle-pickers" suggests the reviewer is a petulant dolt with bad taste (in shoes and, by extension, films).

* Fleming would repeat that Bond's politics were slightly left of center in his Playboy interview as well. I don't know if there's much evidence for this, mostly because Bond doesn't have many political opinions to begin with (though Fleming was a Tory). Bond likes Kennedy and has sympathy for Castro--that's about all I can think of. Some modern readers would probably place Bond more on the right, given his imperialist leanings.

* On second thought, perhaps I shouldn't wish for a book of Fleming's letters, since it would probably be published by Queen Anne's Press and retail for three hundred dollars.
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PostSubject: Re: A Letter from Ian Fleming   Wed Feb 27, 2013 1:26 pm

I would buy such a collection. Great letter!
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PostSubject: Re: A Letter from Ian Fleming   Wed Feb 27, 2013 1:57 pm

I'll field the bit about Bond's politics.

I think it's quite plain that, prior to JFK's plug for From Russia with Love, Bond's politics were solidly to the right, particularly on cultural matters. But after Kennedy boosted Fleming's literary career, Fleming, in somewhat obsequious fashion, moved Bond leftward and mentioned the president favorably on several occasions. The Spy Who Loved Me contained the most egregious example of Fleming's obsequies. Hence, Fleming has Vivienne Michel describe war and espionage as "stone age stuff" that has been rejected by her hip, young generation. Michel goes on to state that fresh young thinkers like JFK should evict the old guard and render the world a halcyon utopia.

Bond replies, "As a matter of fact, I agree with you. But don't spread those ideas of yours too far or I'll be out of a job!"

Regarding a published compendium of Fleming's letters, I think that is a capital idea. I'd plunk down some filthy lucre for the volume.
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PostSubject: Re: A Letter from Ian Fleming   Thu Feb 28, 2013 9:12 am

If that letter is anything to go by I'd surely go after a collection of Fleming letters.
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PostSubject: Re: A Letter from Ian Fleming   Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:23 am

Perilagu Khan wrote:
after Kennedy boosted Fleming's literary career, Fleming, in somewhat obsequious fashion, moved Bond leftward and mentioned the president favorably on several occasions. The Spy Who Loved Me contained the most egregious example of Fleming's obsequies.

That strikes me as a very plausible scenario--Fleming was nothing if not a great opportunist when it came to promoting his character. I think it's also true that Bond's politics are somewhat toward the right, like his creator's. On the other hand, like most people, Fleming was not an ideologue, and some of his attitudes--particularly on the environment and sexual permissiveness-- would not qualify as right-wing. (A user on another Bond message board points to Fleming's article "If I were Prime Minister, excerpted here and here.) And Fleming books were of course attacked in his own time for their supposed sexual excess and consumer materialism. Fleming and Bond could perhaps be called jet-set conservatives in that sense.
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PostSubject: Re: A Letter from Ian Fleming   Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:11 pm

Fleming had streaks of both libertarianism and libertinism. I'm sure he was a pretty complicated guy.
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PostSubject: Re: A Letter from Ian Fleming   Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:35 pm

I'd probably say that both Fleming and Bond had conservative and imperialist worldviews, but adopted a more live-and-let-live attitude to social affairs.

On Bond's sympathies towards the Cuban rebels, I always point out that Castro and Friends weren't openly Marxist until after they took power. A seasoned Cold Warrior like Bond would have little time for Fidel after he alligned himself with the Soviets.
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PostSubject: Re: A Letter from Ian Fleming   Fri Mar 01, 2013 1:08 am

Bond was hardly anybody's feminista, though. He had very firm ideas about sex roles, and they dam' sure didn't include women in combat and homos in the military. His ideas on race were slightly more ambiguous (Koreans excepted!), but would still hardly past muster in today's diversity-crazed romper room of a world.
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PostSubject: Re: A Letter from Ian Fleming   Fri Mar 01, 2013 1:25 am

CJB wrote:
I'd probably say that both Fleming and Bond had conservative and imperialist worldviews, but adopted a more live-and-let-live attitude to social affairs.

On Bond's sympathies towards the Cuban rebels, I always point out that Castro and Friends weren't openly Marxist until after they took power. A seasoned Cold Warrior like Bond would have little time for Fidel after he alligned himself with the Soviets.

In this case, I'd say Live and Let Die. ;)
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PostSubject: Re: A Letter from Ian Fleming   Thu Nov 05, 2015 3:11 am

Load more letters in The Man With the Golden Typewriter (Bloomsbury).

To Wren Howard, publisher at Jonathan Cape, after the architect Erno Goldfinger complained about the use of his name:

Quote :
Don’t stand any nonsense from this Golden-Finger. There may be few in the UK telephone directory but get your sec to ring up the US information people at the embassy and count the number in the New York directory. Ditto the German embassy. And sue his solicitors for the price of the copy you sent him. Tell him that if there’s any more nonsense, I’ll put in an erratum slip and change the name throughout to GOLDPRICK and give the reason why.

smile
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PostSubject: Re: A Letter from Ian Fleming   Thu Nov 05, 2015 9:15 am

Priceless. I saw the book in Waterstone's the other day. Might wait for the paperback but from what I read before, sounds a blast.
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PostSubject: Re: A Letter from Ian Fleming   Thu Nov 05, 2015 10:45 am

That would've been a fantastic name change.

*Auric G. gets squeezed through the plane window*

Pussy: "Where's Goldprick."

Bond: "The prick got a good suck."
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