Len Deighton launches attack on Ian Fleming`s heirs
As centenary of James Bond's creator approaches, a new book detailing his 1963 plagiarism case is itself the subject of a legal dispute, reports The Indepedent
The author Len Deighton has condemned the family of James Bond author Ian Fleming, accusing them of censorship and "bad taste".
The Fleming family, one of the richest in Britain thanks to its merchant banking history, is gearing up for the centenary of Fleming's birth on Wednesday with the publication of Devil May Care, the much-anticipated new Bond novel by Sebastian Faulks.
Three weeks later, however, family members will be bracing themselves for the publication of the new edition of The Battle for Bond, a book about the now infamous 1963 plagiarism trial over the authorship of Thunderball.
The book was scheduled for publication last year, but the Fleming family forced publishers to pulp the first edition. In the foreword to the reprinted book, seen by The Independent on Sunday, Deighton delivers a damning verdict on the beneficiaries of the James Bond author's estate.
Deighton, most famous for The Ipcress File, writes: "How Ian Fleming would have hated to know that this book had been censored ... As a gentleman he would have felt that harassing a fellow author to be the ultimate demonstration of bad taste."
The Battle for Bond, published by the small imprint Tomahawk, tells the story of how, in 1959, Fleming worked with two screenwriters called Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham on an original film script based on the Bond character.
When the plan came to nothing, Fleming took the scripts they had worked on and used them as the basis for his Bond novel Thunderball in 1961. McClory and Whittingham sued successfully and won the film rights for the novel.
Since then, James Bond films have been a separate enterprise to the novels, and Ian Fleming Publications, run by the surviving members of Fleming's family, has no control over or copyright of the movies.
Fleming died shortly after the Thunderball trial, in August 1964. He was famously unhappy with the Bond character in the films, which are considered the creation of Whittingham, and go against the ruthless spy portrayed in the books.
The first copies of The Battle for Bond contained reprinted court documents, which the Fleming Family Will Trust said infringed their copyright. Tomahawk claimed they were public documents but was forced to pulp the book.
Family members are on the board of Ian Fleming Publications, which looks after the Fleming literary estate and licenses Bond books, such as Charlie Higson's Young Bond series and The Moneypenny Diaries by Samantha Weinberg.
According to the Sunday Times Rich List, the Fleming family is worth around Â£1.9bn.
A spokesperson for the family said: "It's not a matter of censorship. It was a clear breach of copyright, which, of course, is completely unacceptable."
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