The James Bond Bedside Companion (6 page)

BOOK: The James Bond Bedside Companion
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I
n early January 1955, LIVE AND LET DIE was published in the United States by Macmillan. Again, the critics did nothing to increase Fleming's success. Anthony Boucher wrote that the "high spots are all effectively described. . . but the narrative is loose and jerky. . ." There were
a few publications that caught on early, such as the
Springfield Republican.
Its reviewer wrote, "The narrative moves at a headlong pace, there is sheer terror enough for a month of comic books, and a climax that is truly exciting. Don't read it unless your nerves are in pretty good shape." But the book sold hardly better than its predecessor.

The American editions of Fleming's books rarely differ from their British counterparts. It is interesting to note, however, one specific change that was made in LIVE AND LET DIE. The title of Chapter Five was changed from "Nigger Heaven" to "Seventh Avenue" for obvious reasons.

In January and February of 1955, Ian Fleming wrote DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER at Goldeneye. The original manuscript, 183 pages long, went through a few changes as well. The most important one, perhaps, was that the two Spangled Mob killers were originally named Wint and Gore. One of Anne Fleming's cousins was familiarly known as "Boofy" Gore and he had objected to the use of the name. Fleming reportedly apologized and changed the name Gore to Kidd.

In March, film producer Gregory Ratoff offered to buy the film rights to CASINO ROYALE for $6,000. At this point, perhaps Fleming was a little discouraged over James Bond's poor performance. He was disappointed in the American sales, though there was still a small, but appreciative, English audience. Fleming sold the rights and promptly bought a Thunderbird. Ratoff died before he ever did anything with the property, and his widow sold it to producer/agent Charles K. Feldman. Feldman eventually made the film, as discussed later.

In April 1955, MOONRAKER was published by Jonathan Cape. The jacket, designed by Kenneth Lewis from suggestions by the author, featured an orange, white, and yellow "flame" pattern. This time, the reviews were mixed. MOONRAKER was a little different from the previous two novels, concentrating more on character than plot. The
Times
called it a "disappointment," and
The Spectator's
John Metcalf called it "not one of Mr. Fleming's best" and said it was "further marred by a series of improbabilities." But the book received favorable reviews from
The New Statesman
,
the
Daily Telegraph
,
and the
Observer.
A few weeks later, when the book was published in the United States, there was a similar reaction. Anthony Boucher wrote in the
New York Times:
"I don't know anyone who writes about gambling more vividly than Fleming and I only wish the other parts of his books lived up to their gambling sequences." But Karl Brown in
Library Journal
highly recommended the book, saying that "Fleming tells his story with both ease and grace, making the cloak and dagger episodes most plausible. When the book was published in paperback by Perma Books in the United States a year later, the title was curiously changed to TOO HOT TO HANDLE. This rare paperback edition is significant because it is the only English-language Bond novel that was "Americanized." Throughout the book, all British idioms were changed to American ones, for example, "lift" to "elevator," "knave of hearts" to "jack of hearts," "zebra" to "pedestrian crossing." There were also significant paragraph deletions, particularly descriptions of Eng lish customs or history. Fleming also added certain explanations in the form of footnotes, such as the value of the English pound in American money at the time.

The first American paperback edition of
MOONRAKER,
published in
1956.
Both front and back covers are shown. (© Copyright
1956
by Perma Books, Inc. Photo courtesy of collection of Michael Van Blaricum.)

In June, something happened that lifted Fleming's spirits. He had recently become friends with Raymond Chandler, and Fleming had given the writer copies of the Bond novels to read. Chandler liked Fleming's work, and offered to endorse one of the books for the benefit of Fleming's publishers. As a result, Chandler commented on LIVE AND LET DIE, saying that "Ian Fleming is probably the most forceful and driving writer of what I suppose still must be called thrillers in England." Chandler's praise greatly encouraged Fleming. When Ian Hunter, representing the Rank Organization, offered to buy film rights to MOONRAKER, Fleming asked for £10,000, which was a little over three times what was paid for CASINO ROYALE. The Rank Organization sat with the property until the spring of 1959, when Fleming bought
it back.

In July, Fleming heard through his friend at Scotland Yard, Sir Ronald Howe, that an Interpol conference was being held in Istanbul. It was arranged for Fleming to attend the conference as a journalist, and in September, he journeyed with Howe to that famed city in Turkey. The trip provided experiences which went into his next book, FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE. In Istanbul, Fleming met an Oxford-educated shipowner named Nazim Kalkavan, who gave the author an inside view of the city. Kalkavan became the model for the character of Darko Kerim, the head of the Secret Service station in Turkey. From Istanbul, Fleming took the Simplon-Orient Express to Paris, finding it to be less romantic than he had envisioned. From there he rejoined his family at their house at St Margaret's Bay, near Dover.

That autumn, CASINO ROYALE was published in England in paperback by Pan Books, Ltd. But Ian Fleming was tiring of James Bond, and felt that he was running out of ideas. So for his next novel, he decided to try something different and began to think about how, on the advice of Raymond Chandler, to elevate the literary merits of the Bond books.

 

I
n January and February of 1956, Ian Fleming labored with what might have been James Bond's swan song. In the front of his own copy of FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE, he wrote that he "took great trouble" over this particular novel. It is clearly one of the author's best. The original manuscript, 228 pages long, was heavily corrected. At the end of Chapter Nine, in which Rosa Klebb attempts to seduce Tatiana Romanova in her office/apartment, Tatiana does
not
run out of the room in a panic. Instead, the chapter ends as Klebb sits on the sofa and gestures for Tatiana to sit beside her, saying they should become better acquainted! And the final scene is altered, as Bond is
not
kicked by the poisoned blade in Rosa Klebb's shoe. Instead, he succeeds in pinning the woman down with a chair. After she is taken away by Mathis' men, Bond tells Mathis he has a date with the "most beautiful woman in SMERSH" (Tatiana). Therefore, it was after Fleming returned from Goldeneye that he decided to "kill" Bond at the end of the book.

About the time he was finishing the manuscript of his fifth novel, Fleming received a telegram invitation from Ivar Bryce to join Dr. Robert C. Murphy (American Museum of Natural History), Arthur Vemay (Bahamas Flamingo Protection Society), and Bryce in the first scientific expedition since 1916 to a flamingo colony on the island of Inagua. He couldn't resist such an invitation, and on March 15, he flew with the party to the small island in the Bahamas. The men lived in tents and roughed it as Fleming gathered material for what would be his next James Bond adventure. Inagua became the model for Dr. No's island fortress, Crab Key, and the marsh buggy on which the party rode was the germ for the "dragon" tank. It was pure adventure for Fleming.

The party stayed part of the time at the house of a family called Ericson—three brothers who were virtually "The Lords of Inagua." Inagua had a small population of about 1,000, and the Ericsons employed them all in their salt works, salt being the family's (and island's) only export. The Ericsons were originally from Boston, two brothers graduates of Harvard, the other having done graduate work at MIT. The two Audubon wardens who guided the party around the island were Bahamian brothers, Jim and Sam Nixon. The center of activity on Inagua was Matthewtown, which consisted of a few fairly solid shacks and one communal store. Fleming wrote about his experience for the
Sun
day
Times.
Just before dawn on the first day, the group rode out in the buggy to the flamingo colony. Fleming, Bryce, and Dr. Murphy sat in garden chairs placed on a platform of the truck. Dr. Murphy wrote in his journal that as they rode through the hot wind, "stinging particles" began hurting their faces. The truck was moving through a swarm of tiny flies. Jim Nixon warned them that if one got in an eye, it would "burn like fire." The threesome immediately donned sunglasses. Arriving at the flamingo colony, Fleming wrote that everywhere one looked there was nothing but pink He began to appreciate even more the purpose of the expedition. The group had a good laugh as the marsh buggy rode over swarms of "wonderfully grotesque land crabs" that had been brought by the rain. Although Jim Nixon did his best to avoid hitting them, invariably one would "explode with a
plop
"
under a wheel. Eventually, the party, organized by Dr. Murphy, made an approximate count of the flamingoes on the island. Fleming reported that the final estimate was 15,000; but if hurricanes (the season concurred with the mating season) happened to miss the island that year, another 5,000 would be added.

The Inagua expedition party of 1956. Left to right: Ian Fleming, Ivar Bryce, Sam Nixon, Arthur Vernay, and Jim Nixon. Inagua served as the model for Crab Key Island in DOCTOR NO. (Photo by Dr. Robert C. Murphy, courtesy of American Philosophical Society.)

Fleming also reported that a very aged fisherman lived on the island. Two or three times each year, he would go to the local bank, which was the commissioner's office, and lay on the table a "neat pile of Spanish doubloons of the sixteenth century." After the old man received his pound notes in exchange for the treasure, he would leave as discreetly as possible. The old man died the year Fleming visited the island, and no one had ever discovered where the fisherman was getting his gold coins. Fleming presumed that perhaps Inagua held something else besides salt and flamingoes.

It is easy to see how Ian Fleming could embellish an exciting but tame adventure such as this into the background of a James Bond story. In DOCTOR NO, the flamingoes became spoonbills as Bond travels to a mysterious island to investigate an Audubon Society complaint. Fleming imaginatively turned Inagua into the dreadful island of Crab Key.

On April 4, 1956, Jonathan Cape published DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, and the
Daily
Express
bought the serial rights to the novel. The jacket was the first to be designed by Pat Marriott, who would later revise some of the earlier jackets. DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER featured the neck and shoulders of a girl in a V-neck dress, painted in orange, pink, and black. Around her neck is a pearl-shaped diamond pendant.

BOOK: The James Bond Bedside Companion
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