The Man with the Golden Typewriter
Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters
Edited by Fergus Fleming
“His literary acquaintances considered it the height of vulgarity.”
If you think The Man with the Golden Typewriter sounds like the title of a James Bond adventure you are on the right track. It’s a book of Bond author Ian Fleming’s correspondence during the period he wrote the James Bond novels.
Fleming’s letters make for entertaining reading; in them he often refers to himself as Bond’s biographer, as if his character had a life of his own. Both Bond and Fleming (1908–1964) had a penchant for interesting, fast cars, and had in common a number of traits; and do recall that Fleming had been an officer in the Royal Navy’s Naval Intelligence Department.
Fleming’s nephew Fergus, himself an author of several nonfiction books, put together this entertaining book which can only be purchased second-hand these days. This is not a motoring book per se, as it contains a wide range of letters to and from family; friends; fans; his publisher; and other writers including Raymond Chandler and Noel Coward, but as Fleming was a motoring enthusiast who enjoyed interesting cars, and because he had Bond drive interesting cars, the book contains some delightful correspondence on things motoring.
In Ian Fleming’s original novels James Bond drove a 1931 Bentley. A Doctor G.R.C.D. Gibson wrote to Fleming with the complaint that “Vintage Bentleys really are a bit vieux jeu these days,” along with a suggestion that Bond should drive an Aston Martin.
Fleming replied, “. . . As to James Bond’s motor car, he is in fact in the process of being re-equipped, and the body-builders are now at work on the chassis. For security reasons I’m sure you will appreciate that neither the make of the car nor its speed can at this date be revealed.”
To which Gibson replied, “Obviously the fellow can’t be making a large salary, which rules out the exotic stuff like Uhlenhaut’s special Merc on a 300SLR chassis—what about an Aston Martin DB 2 with a 3-litre engine?”
Two novels later Bond was indeed driving an Aston Martin, which delighted Dr. Gibson who again wrote to Fleming and enclosed a membership card for the Aston Martin Owners Club along with a note, “I’m sure he would enjoy being a member of the A.M.O.C. although I’m not sure that we would feel comfortable at having him around!” He went on to suggest that Fleming try writing an adventure about Formula 1 racing, “Nobody has yet written a good novel on the subject.”
Fleming responded, “. . . Since neither Bond nor his biographer are owners of an Aston Martin, I can do no more than pass your invitation on to the head of Admin. at the Secret Service from whose transport pool the DB III was drawn. Incidentally, I don’t agree that the car should be described as the ‘Mark III.’ That reads a bit too stuffily!” A later paragraph states, “I have in mind a story with motor racing as its background, but it isn’t quite along the lines you helpfully suggest. I will try and get around to it in due course and shall not be surprised if I then receive a sheaf of acid complaints from experts such as yourself.”
A footnote records that Fleming did use motor racing in an episode for an abortive Bond TV series.
An amusing non motoring comment made by Dr. Gibson is that he was disappointed that his local library had banned From Russia with Love as being pornographic.
Fleming was a motoring enthusiast who owned a number of interesting cars, among them a Studebaker Avanti. Raymond Loewy and Associates designed the fiberglass-bodied car which was powered by a 4.7L V8.
Loewy also designed another Fleming favorite that made an appearance in Diamonds are Forever, the Studillac—a Studebaker with a Cadillac V8 engine and numerous other improvements, produced by Bill Frick Motors. Betty Reese, who was a PR person for Raymond Loewy, wrote to Fleming to thank him for including the Studillac in Diamonds are Forever. He responded: “I must say that it was a sincere tribute to the prettiest and most practical design of any post-war American motor car.“ High praise but I can find no reference to him trying to purchase one.
Fleming’s ultimate motoring fantasy was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang–The Magical Car, the children’s book he wrote for his son Casper in the early sixties.
This is an absorbing read. I particularly enjoyed a series of letters between Fleming and a gun expert who Fleming came to refer to as Bond’s armorer. Anyone who has an interest in Ian Fleming, James Bond, or the creation of the Bond novels will certainly be entertained by The Man with the Golden Typewriter.
Copyright 2023, Peter Hill (speedreaders.info).