Dear Goldprick: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters

Many fans of Ian Fleming's James Bond books wrote to the author. Some correspondents offered advice, other criticism. He often replied...

“This, dear boy, not to put too fine a point on it, is a f***ing lie. When it is 11am in Jamaica, it is 4pm in dear old England and it is carelessness of this kind that makes my eyes steel slits of blue.”

– Letter to James Bond author Ian Fleming


James bond, Ian Fleming


Many fans of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books wrote to the author. Some correspondents offered advice, such as this letter from Geoffrey Boothroyd, who admonished Fleming for the ‘deplorable taste in firearm” and identified a Walter PPK gun as more effective than the 25 Beretta pistol Bond’s creator had given him. A selection of the letters appear in The Man With the Golden Typewriter, published by Bloomsbury.

I Am Mrs James Bond

To Mrs James Bond

Your husband has every reason to sue me for practically every kind of libel in the book, for I will now confess the damnable truth. I have a small house which I built in Jamaica just after the war and some 10 years ago, a confirmed bachelor on the eve of marriage, I decided to take my mind off the dreadful prospect by writing a thriller.

I was determined that my secret agent should be as anonymous as possible – even his name should be the very reverse of the kind of “Peregrine Carruthers” one meets in this type of fiction. At that time one of my bibles was, and still is, Birds of the West Indies by James Bond, and it struck me that this name – brief, unromantic and yet very masculine – was just what I needed. So there is my dreadful confession together with thanks for the fun and fame I have had from the most extraordinary chance choice. In return, I can only offer your James Bond unlimited use of the name Ian Fleming. Perhaps one day he will discover some particularly horrible species of bird which he would like to christen in an insulting fashion that might be a way of getting his own back.

Golden Balls

From William Plomer, reader at Jonathan Cape:

I have just finished Goldfinger. I think it well up to your best, but I don’t much like the circular saw business. It doesn’t (for me) create alarm or suspense – it is too wildly unreal. Surely a circular saw makes far too much noise for any talk to be heard? And anatomically, I am a little worried. Whizz goes a fly-button. But didn’t other objects get in the way first, or does Bond have undescended testicles?


Daniela Bianchi pictured in London with Sean Connery with whom she will make her international film debut in 'From Russia, With Love'- an Ian Fleming spy thriller again featuring British Secret Service agent James Bond 007.

Daniela Bianchi pictured in London with Sean Connery with whom she will make her international film debut in ‘From Russia, With Love’- an Ian Fleming spy thriller again featuring British Secret Service agent James Bond 007.

Sex On Scrambled Eggs

To the editor of the Manchester Guardian newspaper, following an article examining sex, violence and lapsed morals decay in Bond books and his “advertising agency world, where the man of distinction sits secure in the knowledge that his is the very best butter”:

I am most grateful for the scholarly examination. It is true that sex plays an important part in James Bond’s life and that his profession requires him to be more or less constantly involved in violent action. It is also true that, as in real spy life, when the villain gets hold of Bond, Bond is made to suffer painfully. What other punishment for failure would be appropriate – that Bond should receive an extra heavy demand from the Inland Revenue?

But as you, sir, put it: “What is more sinister is the cult of luxury for its own sake – and the kind of luxury held up for the reader’s emulation. The idea that anyone should smoke a brand of cigarette not because they enjoy them but because they are ‘exclusive’ (that is, because they cost more) is pernicious and it is implicit in all Mr Fleming’s glib descriptions of food, drink and clothes.”

I accept the rebuke, but more on the score of vulgarity. I have this to say in my extenuation: one of the reasons why I chose the pseudonym of James Bond was that I wished him to be unobtrusive. Exotic things would happen to and around him but he would be a neutral figure – an anonymous blunt instrument wielded by a government department.

But to create an illusion of depth, I had to fit Bond out with some theatrical props and, while I kept his wardrobe as discreet as his personality, I did equip him with a distinctive gun and, though they are a security hazard, distinctive cigarettes. This latter touch unfortunately went to my head. I proceeded to invent a cocktail for Bond (which I sampled several months later and found unpalatable), and a rather precious though basically simple meal ordered by Bond proved so popular with my readers, still suffering from wartime restrictions, that expensive (though I think not ostentatious) meals have been eaten in subsequent books.

The gimmickry grew like bindweed and now, while it still amuses me, it has become an unfortunate trademark. I myself abhor wine-and-foodmanship. My own favourite food is scrambled eggs (with Live and Let Die, a proofreader pointed out that Bond’s addiction to scrambled eggs was becoming a security risk and I had to go through the book changing menus) and I smoke your own, Mancunian, brand of Virginia tobacco. However, now that Bond is irretrievably saddled with these vulgar foibles, I can only plead that his Morland cigarettes are less expensive than the Balkan Sobranies of countless other heroes.

Perhaps these are superficial excuses. Perhaps Bond’s blatant hetero-sexuality is a subconscious protest against the current fashion for sexual confusion. Perhaps the violence springs from a psychosomatic rejection of Welfare wigs, teeth and spectacles – and Bond’s luxury meals are simply saying “no” to toad-in-the-hole and tele-bickies.

Who can say? Who can say whether or not Dr Fu Manchu was a traumatic image of Sax Rohmer’s father? Who, for the matter of that, cares?


Royal St Marks Disapproves

To Bernard Darwin, Dormy House Club, Rye, Sussex:

Thank you very much for your kindly letter and I will now confess that a lot of my cronies at the Royal St Marks golf club say they would have given the match to Goldfinger because he ended the match with the ball he had started with. It is clearly a matter for the Rules of Golf.


margaret nolan naked nude Goldfingers James Bond 1964 pin up sexy pose

Margaret Nolan poses in Goldfinger – see more at : Goldfinger: Pin-Up Model Margaret Nolan’s Uncensored Film Sequence Photos


Dear Goldprick

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

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.


A timely reminder from Noël Coward

This is just to inform you that I have read Dr No from cover to cover and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. But as the gentleman in Oklahoma! sings about Kansas City: “You’ve gone about as fur as you ken go.” I am willing to accept the centipede, the tarantulas, the land crabs, the giant squid. I am even willing to forgive your reckless use of invented verbs – “I inch, Thou inch, He snakes, I snake, We palp, They palp, etc. But what I will neither accept nor forgive is the highly inaccurate statement that when it is 11am in Jamaica, it is 6am in dear old England.

This, dear boy, not to put too fine a point on it, is a fucking lie. When it is 11am in Jamaica, it is 4pm in dear old England and it is carelessness of this kind that makes my eyes steel slits of blue. I was also slightly shocked by the lascivious announcement that Honeychile’s bottom was like a boy’s! I know that we are all becoming progressively more broadminded nowadays, but really old chap, what could you have been thinking of?

I am snaking off to New York on Thursday where I shall be for two weeks, and then I inch to Cannes.


John Richardson drinking during James Bond auditions, 1967

Dear Shannon

To John G Ryan, commercial manager of Shannon Airport, Ireland, who objected to Diamonds Are Forever saying the airport shops sold “junk”

I am greatly impressed that Shannon should have taken cognisance of my lighthearted thriller. I often come through Shannon and it will certainly be a great pleasure to meet you on my next visit and apologise in person for my happy-go-lucky references to the goods on offer in your shops. Perhaps by then all the Bog Oak Irish Harps and Brass Leprechauns will have been bought up by the GIs!


Wrong brakes on the Orient Express

To Miss M Marshall, Edinburgh

I am delighted that you enjoy the adventures of James Bond. Alas, attributing Vent Vert to Dior [as opposed to Balmain] was nearly as bad as when, in one of my books, I made Bond eat asparagus with sauce bearnaise instead of mousseline. I have also been severely reprimanded for having provided, in my last book, the Orient Express with hydraulic brakes instead of vacuum ones. If I go on like this, I shall one day find myself giving my heroine green hair.


James Bond, Ian Fleming, Raymond Chandler, Philip Marlowe, fiction, crime fiction, spy fiction, books, literature, films

President Kennedy’s choice of Ian Fleming as one of his favourite authors spurred film producers into making the first James Bond movie ‘Dr. No’ in 1961.’

Somewhere a cock crowed

From Daniel George, reader at Cape, on From Russia With Love

You can afford not to use worn-out phrases. If you must go in for mannerisms, let them be new mannerisms. On some pages the sentences all begin with “And”. Presumably, you are aiming at producing an effect of panting continuity. Take out all the “Ands” and see if it makes any difference.

I once wrote that while for ordinary novelists “Far off a dog barked” was good enough, Galsworthy had to have “In the distance a peacock shrieked”. You, I see, have “Somewhere a horse neighed” and “Somewhere a cock crowed”. Congratulations! Congratulations also on having only one instance of knuckle-whitening. Shoulder-shrugging, I regret to say, is too much in evidence. There’s no lip-biting, though.

Bond could see Fleming’s face as he read this letter. There was a sudden snapping together of his jaws, and his brows shot up into a corrugation. Then he threw the letter from him. “Man must be mad,” he muttered under his breath.


The Anti-Bond

To The Reverend Leslie Paxton, Great George Street Congregational Church, Liverpool

I see that the Sunday before last you preached a sermon against the leading character in my books, James Bond, and presumably by association against myself. Now, having had a Scottish nonconformist upbringing and considering myself at least some kind of sub-species of a Christian, I am naturally very upset if it is thought that I am seriously doing harm to the world with my thrillers.

Would you be very kind and let me have a copy of your sermon, so that I may see the burden of your criticisms and perhaps find means of mending my ways if I feel that your arguments have real weight.

See more James Bond stories here.

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