MI6 travels back to 1963 for the release of Ian Fleming's epic novel "On Her Majesty's Secret Service” and the press reactions to Mrs. Bond...

Time Tunnel: Saved By The Bells
11th June 2007

By the early 1960s, Bond had firmly established himself as both a literary and cultural icon. Fleming had authored ten successful Bond titles and despite a few ups and downs, “Dr. No” had hit the big screen and Sean Connery was the face of 007.

After a spell on the set of "Dr. No", Fleming returned to GoldenEye to pen the 11th 007 publication, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". On its release, reporters and reviewers observed a few subtle changes to the super-spy - as well as some big ones.

A Time reporter observed, "When sobersided Britons belabored Author Ian Fleming for the consumer snobbery of his caddish hero, Fleming was unrepentant. He was sorry, he said, only for having once permitted Bond the unforgivable gaffe of ordering asparagus with bearnaise instead of mousseline sauce. But in Fleming's latest Bond bombshell, there are disquieting signs that he took the critics to heart. On page 152, sophisticated Secret Agent 007 cozies up to a blonde who smells of nothing more aristocratic than Mennen's baby powder."

Right: First edition cover by Richard Chopping


By this time, Fleming had a large dedicated following but in 1962 Fleming was risking his self-crafted genre somewhat. Today, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" has a classic-Bond ring to it, but in the '60s he was seen as breaking away from some tried and tested boundaries.

"For Fleming fans, who like 007 just as he is, worse is to come. Pitted once more against Ernst Blofeld, the fell master of the international crime syndicate called SPECTRE Bond at first displays his customary stocks in trade. He uses his own urine as invisible ink, and successfully escapes from Blofeld's Alpine retreat by a daredevil schuss down the snow-covered, moonlit slope—as patrols of goons with guns set an avalanche tumbling down after him. Then, suddenly, Bond is threatened with what, for an international cad, would clearly be a fate worse than death: matrimony."

Above: Author Ian Fleming

Reviewers sensed the bold move Fleming was making by marrying off his hero. But as present-day Bond fans know, the gamble pays off.

"The lady is a countess named Tracy She drives like Stirling Moss and reeks of Guerlain. So far so good. But — horrors — she sometimes sounds like Debbie Reynolds. Gushes Tracy to Bond: ‘I've got enough sheets and pillows for two and other exciting things to do with being married.’ The old Bond would ordinarily give this kind of chatter some suavely short shrift. The new Bond revels in it. ‘Togetherness,’ he reflects sententiously. ‘What a curiously valid cliché it was!’"

The final pages are some of the most heart-wrenching and - undoubtedly - some of the very best of Fleming's canon. Reporters may have looked down their noses of Mr. Bond’s choice of bride, but applauded the payoff.1

"Author Fleming, however, has never been without resources. He appears deus ex machina (the machine, reassuringly, is a lethal red Maserati) on page 299 and saves James Bond from his better self."

Related Articles
O.H.M.S.S. Literary Coverage