MI6 looks back at how America was introduced to
James Bond back when Ian Fleming's debut
novel Casino Royale was unleashed upon the masses...
Time Tunnel: You Asked For It - America Is
Introduced To 007
19th November 2006
The year is 1954: America is testing The Bomb,
Hitchcock made the incredibly successful thriller ‘Rear
Window’, Tolkien is writing his 2nd of three fantasy
novels ‘The Two Towers’... but where is 007?
Fleming is beginning to
make his mark at this time, and after the UK success of
Royale", America gets a dose of 007.
On March the 23rd 1954, the publishers Macmillan introduce
the US to Ian Fleming’s James Bond, the card playing,
smoking and drinking hard man.
With the film boom just under a decade away, who are Fleming’s
rivals? Who is popular on the literary scene and
what does Bond have that his spy-fiction rivals don’t?
MI6 unravels the mystery by looking back at the press
reviews from 1954...
“Good writing is a mystery to most mystery
writers. But the borderline between a good mystery and
good novel is occasionally crossed, and two new yarns get
well over the border. In ‘The Long Goodbye’,
Old Mystery Hand Raymond Chandler brings back his private
eye, Philip Marlowe, for his first stint in more than four
years. Casino Royale introduces a brand-new mystery writer,
Briton Ian Fleming, and a hard-shelled British secret-service
operative, James Bond, who should be prowling the international
underground for some books to come" - Time Magazine
1st edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK)
007 is not only pitted against Le Chiffre, the
evil SMERSH agent, but against the pen of popular crime novelist,
Raymond Chandler. Already established in the writing scene,
takes the front seat in the coverage, but Fleming is never
without his dues:
poses an unlikely sounding situation and makes it hum with tension.
[…] Author Fleming keeps his incidents and characters
spinning through their paces like juggling balls. As for Bond,
be Marlowe's younger brother except that he never takes coffee
for a bracer, just one large Martini laced with vodka.”
Casino Royale Timeline
- 1953 - UK hardback first edition published by
- 1954 - USA hardback first edition published by
- 1955 - UK paperback first edition published by
- 1955 - USA paperback first edition published by
Popular Library under the title "You Asked
So what does Bond have that Marlowe
lacks? Both have talented creators who intertwine their
with broad description and interesting metaphor. But what
gives 007 his break is now commonly his trademark, sophistication
and ruthless trickery are indulged in.
Fleming dares to
take his secret agent where no author has gone before.
Some critics in 1954 picked up on this from word
go, comparing Marlowe’s coffee to 007’s Martini.
The times are changing, the public view of sex
and violence has greatened and one critic notes that Chandler’s
fiction is not what it used to be:
“Bitter Coffee. Once regarded as
a very tough character. Private Eye Philip Marlowe seems a
rather mellow and gentlemanly sleuth these days, especially when
against Mickey Spillane's neo-Neanderthal Mike Hammer. For
one thing, the years have been kind to Marlowe.”
Above: US paperback Popular Library edition 1955,
US paperback Penguin edition (2002)
Whilst the press picked up
on the unique and appealing nature of 007, the general American
public were not
as pleased. A little over a year since its first publication
in the US, on April 1st 1955, Casino Royale was re-branded as
a popular library paperback entitled, "You Asked For It",
in a hope to spark popularity in American crime-fiction
Meanwhile, back in Jamaica, and probably mostly
out of personal pleasure, Fleming pens the second Bond adventure,
And Let Die". The future of 007 hangs in the balance,
yet one long forgotten journalist gave the world a glimpse
into the phenomenon that
was heading their way...
Stay tuned to MI6 for more Time Tunnel features
- looking back at past reactions to James Bond and his world.
Casino Royale - Literary