MI6 looks back at how Ian Fleming gambled away his copies of Casino Royale, and his self-deprecating comments on his work...

Ian Fleming History - Casino Royale
28th March 2005

On October 28th 1953, six months since "Casino Royale" had been published in the UK, Ian Fleming wrote to his publisher, Jonathan Cape, about a gamble made over the author's copies.

"When I think how you fought against my suggestion that I should toss your firm double or quits for the author's copies of CASINO, I wonder you are not ashamed to accept those eight copies!

There is something mysterious about the way the law of average was set at naught in the office of Michael Howard, and the next time I come over to your gambling rooms in Bedford Square I shall bring my own coin".

Double or Quits
The letter proves that Ian Fleming gambled away his eight copies in an attempt to double his quota sent to him by the publisher.

Michael Howard, who is referred to in the letter, was the son of George Wren Howard, and was appointed to the Jonathan Cape board in 1950 to create a more aggressive marketing strategy and to select more modern and innovative authors.

Right: The letter Ian Fleming wrote to publisher Jonathan Cape in October 1953.


Above: An first edition copy of "Casino Royale" inscribed by Ian Fleming

Read & Burn
This rare first edition copy signed by the author (seen opposite) was inscribed to Clare Blanshard, the Kemsley Newspapers representative in New York and essentially Fleming’s secretary there (he was Foreign Manager).

According to John Pearson, the inspiration for "Casino Royale" was a baccarat game Fleming played in Lisbon during World War II against several Portuguese men. Fleming whispered at the gaming table to his friend John Godfrey: “Just suppose these fellows were German agents – what a coup it would be if we cleaned them out entirely!”

His note "read & burn" is a classic example of Fleming's self-deprecation of his early work.

In "Bloody Murder. From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel", author Julian Symons wrote "The books are blood and thunder thrillers, done at first in a strongly personal style and with a convincing appearance of expert knowledge...The first half-dozen Bond stories are extremely lively sensational entertainments. They are very much on a level, and to pick out Casino Royale and From Russia With Love (1957) is to state a personal preference”

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