MI6 has exclusive access to the newly republished James Bond novels, featuring an insightful and historical look back at how Ian Fleming created a legend...

Unwrapping The New Fleming Hardbacks (1)
23rd May 2008

On 28th May 2008, new editions of all of Ian Fleming’s classic James Bond books are published by Penguin to mark the centenary of his birth and to coincide with publication of the brand new Bond book Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks. The fourteen original books will be published in hardback priced at £14.99 with eye catching new covers created by the designers Michael Gillette and Jon Gray. This incredibly desirable series of books is just part of an exciting programme of events and publications celebrating the life of the creator the world’s most famous spy. Since the publication of Casino Royale in 1953, over 100 million Bond books have been sold.
Unwrapping The New Fleming Hardbacks (2)

Casino Royale
Ian Fleming stated that Casino Royale was inspired by certain incidents that took place during his career at the Naval Intelligence Division of the Admiralty, particularly a wartime incident at the casino in Estoril in Portugal. He wrote the book at Goldeneye – where he went on to write all the other Bond books – in the run-up to his marriage to Ann Rothermere. Fleming maintained that he wrote it to take his mind off getting married, but he must have been thinking about it for some time since when a friend asked what he was going to do when the War was over he’d replied ‘write the spy story to end all spy stories’. He may also have been spurred into it by the fact that his brother Peter had written a satirical novel about the security services the year before.

Live And Let Die
To make Live And Let Die’s investigation into the American criminal underworld as authentic as possible, Ian Fleming spent time with detectives in New York’s Harlem and then, together with his wife Ann, undertook the journey to Florida on the Silver Phantom Pullman train in January 1953; a trip that Bond embarks on with Solitaire in the novel. Live and Let Die’s working title was ‘The Undertaker’s Wind’, which reflected Fleming’s intention of putting to good use his familiarity with caribbean life and history.


In writing Moonraker, Ian Fleming did extensive research on rockets, via the British Interplanetary Society and his friend Joan Bright’s writers’ research agency, and even consulted a psychiatrist about the characteristics of megalomaniacs for the character of Hugo Drax. Above all, though, it was the Bond creator’s opportunity to write beautifully about the England he loved. Alternative titles for the novel were The Infernal Machine, Wide of the Mark and The Inhuman Element.

Diamonds Are Forever
Ian Fleming spent time in Saratoga Springs researching Diamonds Are Forever in 1954 and it was during this trip that he first came across the ‘Studillac’ – the car Felix Leiter drives in the novel. (It was owned by Billy Woodward, millionaire racehorse owner whose later accidental shooting by his wife Ann was the basis of the Truman Capote novella Answered Prayer.) On a later trip Fleming drove one himself, and got pulled over for speeding. Fleming also crossed the US by train later the same year, from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles, and then flew to Las Vegas. The slot machine selling oxygen that Bond sees at the airport was actually there – one of many authentic details from research trips that made their way into the books.


From Russia With Love
From Russia With Love was very nearly the last James Bond novel. In a letter to friend and admirer Raymond Chandler, Ian Fleming worried that he was running out of ideas; it can’t have helped that while the books were popular he had yet to break the key American market. It is no surprise therefore that he spent more time writing and polishing this novel than any other Bond book. He even took the unusual step of leaving the survival of his hero in doubt at the end. Fleming went to Istanbul for the Sunday Times to cover the Interpol Conference in September 1955 and used this opportunity to scope out a new location for Bond. He left Istanbul on the Orient Express, of which he had a romantic but very outdated view – the train had no restaurant car and he had to take a basket of provisions for the three-day trip. Truman Capote stayed at Goldeneye during the writing of From Russia With Love while President John F Kennedy later put it in his top ten favourite books in Life magazine.

Dr No
In May 1956, Ian Fleming received a letter from gun expert Geoffery Boothroyd, who described Bond’s beretta as a ‘ladies gun’. The two struck up a correspondence which was to last throughout Fleming’s lifetime, and in Dr No, Bond is duly equipped with a Walther PPK by the secret service’s armourer – one Major Boothroyd. That winter, the Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden and his wife stayed at Goldeneye in the aftermath of Suez. Fleming took inspiration for the story from a trip to Inagua – an isolated island between Jamaica and Haiti, which is home to a flamingo colony.

Part of Ian Fleming’s extensive research for Goldfinger included a questionnaire sent to an expert at the livery Goldsmiths’ Company in the City of London asking questions about every aspect of gold, including whether or not it has a smell. Since the Bond novels are chock full of the author’s own obsessions and interests, Fleming made Bond and his villain cross clubs on the golf course. A friend, John Blackwell, provided tips on how both players bend the rules in order to win and Fleming repaid the favour by using Blackwell’s name for a character involved in the heroin trade.


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All images and text courtesy Penguin Books.