"I write, unashamedly, for pleasure and money. I say unashamedly because writing for money was once a respectable profession. Balzac did it, and so did Dickens. In fact, when Dickens found that reading his works aloud brought in more money than writing, he more or less gave up writing."
- Ian Fleming, "How to Write a Thriller," 1962

This is a general overview of the Bond books. If you want something more detailed, read them yourself. This ain't Cliffs Notes...

Casino Royale (1953)

"Good writing is a mystery to most mystery writers. But the borderline between a good mystery and a 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

"I always have a very fond memory for Casino Royale. That's the first book. It's probably the one that's most evocative of Bond because it was the one in which he was setting out Bond himself."
- Timothy Dalton, Bondage #15

"Most ingenious in detail, on the surface as tough as they are made and charmingly well-bred beneath, nicely written and except for a too-ingeniously sadistic bout of brutality -- very entertaining reading."
- R.D. Charques, "The Spectator"

"Fleming... pads the book out to novel length, leading to an ending which surprises no one but Bond himself."
- Anthony Boucher, New York Times Book Review

"You do not dedicate a book like this to anyone!"
- Anne Fleming, wife of Ian, after learning he planned to dedicate the book to her.

NOTE: The first edition hardcover was so unpopular in the US that the paperback was retitled "YOU ASKED FOR IT" (pictured above) and Bond was called "Jimmy."

"Ian Fleming's writing is hard, racy, direct, vivid stuff . . . I often wish that I had Ian's virtues . . . I enjoyed all his books. The one I liked most is Casino Royale."
- Raymond Chandler

Live and Let Die (1954)

"Ian Fleming is probably the most forceful and driving writer of what I suppose still must be called thrillers in England."
- Raymond Chandler, 1955

"Slightly sadistic."
- The London Times

"How wincingly well Mr. Fleming writes."
- The Sunday Times

"Contains passages which for sheer excitement have not been surpassed by any modern writer of this kind."
- Times Literary Supplement

"Pretty clearly intended as a comic strip for the upper middle classes."
- News Chronicle

Moonraker (1955)

"In my opinion it isn't much of a book, but it should make a good film."
- Ian Fleming to Curtis Brown: June,1954

NOTE: Once again, the US paperback was retitled (this time "Too Hot to Handle," pictured ar left).

Diamonds Are Forever (1956)

"About the nicest piece of book-making in this type of literature which I have seen for a long time."
- Raymond Chandler

Listen to Fleming and Chandler discuss thriller writing here.

From Russia, With Love (1957)

"Mr. Fleming's tautest, most exciting and most brilliant tale."
- The London Times

"A half-guinea dreadful."
- Anthony Boucher, "New York Times"

Doctor No (1958)

"The most artfully bold, dizzyingly poised thriller of the decade."
- James Sandoe, "New York Herald Tribune Book Review"

"The nastiest book I have ever read."
- Paul Johnson, "New Statesman," March, 1958

"Sex, snobbery, and sadism... a total lack of any ethical frame of reference."
- Bernard Bergonzi in "The Twentieth Century," March, 1958

"I vividly remember the first one I read. I had the flu, and my wife had borrowed some books from the library. I read Dr. No, and within twelve hours she was sent out to scour the library for any book by Ian Fleming."
- John Gardner, Bondage #11

Goldfinger (1959)

"As for sex, well one of the girls is normal. Snobbery? Just the usual good living. Sadism? Let's call it blood and thunder."
- Ian Fleming

NOTES: The name of the villain was based on architect Erno Goldfinger -- like Auric, he was a British-naturalised foreigner and a Marxist who spent much of World War II raising money for the Soviet cause. Otherwise there were large differences between the two, according to Dr Nigel Warburton, of Britain's Open University, in his book, Erno Goldfinger: The Life of an Architect. Erno Goldfinger was one of the 20th century's prime advocates of London tower blocks. One story explaining Fleming's animosity is that he lived for a time in Hampstead, north London and disliked Erno's design for terraced houses in neighbouring Willow Road. (Fleming knew of Erno through a golfing friend who was related to Erno's wife.)

Erno somehow heard about the novel when it was in the publisher Jonathan Cape's presses in 1959. When Erno's business associate Jacob Blacker was asked for his opinion of a proof copy of the Bond story, he told Erno ironically that he could find only one substantial difference: "You're called Erno and he's called Auric." Erno's response was, "Shall we sue?"

After hearing Blacker's view, Erno ordered lawyers to act. Cape agreed to pay his costs and agreed out of court to make clear in advertising and in future editions that all characters were fictitious. Fleming, in turn, was livid. He asked Cape to insert an erratum slip in the first edition changing the character's name to Goldprick, a name suggested by the critic Cyril Connolly. Cape declined, obviously.

For Your Eyes Only (1960)

"Though I may be able to think up some episodes for him in the future, I shall never be able to give him 70,000 words again."
-Fleming to William Plommer.

Thunderball (1961)

"That is a silly plan. It is the sort of melodramatic nonsense people write about in thrillers."
- Domino, when Bond tells her to read Leiter's Geiger counter and signal by flicking her cabin lights if the bombs are on board Largo's boat.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1962)

"Blatant transvestism."
- Vernon Scannell, "The Listener"

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963)

"Anti-humanist and anti-Christian."
- Raymond Mortimer, "Sunday Times"

See special edition here.

You Only Live Twice (1964)

"I'm grinding away at Bond's latest but the going gets harder and harder and duller and duller and I don't really know what I'm going to do with him. He's become a personal -- if not a public -- nuisance. Anyway he's had a good run, which is more than most of us can say. Everything seems a lot of trouble these days -- too much trouble. Keep alive."

The Man With The Golden Gun (1965)

(Unfinished novel) "I strongly suspect -- on deduction alone, let it be said -- that these unanswered questions represent traces of an earlier draft, perhaps never committed to paper, wherein Scaramanga hires Bond because he's sexually interested in him. A supposition of this kind would also take care of other difficulties or deficiencies in the book as it stands, the insubstantiality of Scaramanga, just referred to, and the feeling of suppressed emotion, at any rate the build-up to and the space for some kind of climax of emotion, in the final confrontation of the two men." -- Kingsley Amis, offering a theory in "The New Statesman"

Thrilling Cities (1965)

"Join the creator of JAMES BOND on an adventure-charged visit to the world's most EXCITING, EXOTIC and SINFUL CITIES."
- From the first printing Signet paperback.

(The New York chapter features a short story called 007 in New York.)

Octopussy (1966)

The original hardcover edition featured two short stories. Octopussy was a short story written by Fleming in the early sixties. The Living Daylights was originally published in the Sunday Times in 1962. The paperback edition included a third story: The Property of a Lady was first published in a book called The Ivory Hammer: The Year at Sotheby's. Fleming had been commisioned to write an article concerning an auction. For this reason the detail is overdone and the premise is a bit of a stretch.


Here are snippets from a couple of unfinished short stories by Fleming. They are reproduced from John Pearson's biography, The Life of Ian Fleming. The first selection deals with Bond contemplating the horrors of marriage:

"In the early morning, at about 7:30, the stringy whimperings of the piped radio brought visions of a million homes waking up all over Britain... of him, or perhaps her, getting up to make the early morning tea, to put the dog out, to stoke the boiler. And then will this shirt do for another day? The socks, the pants? The Ever-ready, the Gillette shave, the Brylcreem on the hair, the bowler hat or the homburg, the umbrella and the briefcase or the sample case? Then 'Dodo', the family saloon out on the concrete arterial, probably with her driving. The red-brick station, the other husbands, the other wives, the clickety-click of the 8:15 round the curve by the golf course. Hullo Sidney! Hullo Arthur! After you Mr. Shacker... and the drab life picking up speed and flicking on up the rails between the conifers and the damp evergreens.

Bond switched on his electric blanket and waited for his hot water with a slice of lemon and contemplated the world with horror and disgust."

The next selection was from a short story based on a real person - a casino dealer for the Greek Syndicate that Fleming met in 1938. He taught Fleming about Gambling in casinos -- and later he taught Bond:

"... 'It was like this, Mr. Bond.' Zographos had a precise way of speaking with the thin tips of his lips while his half-hard, half-soft Greek eyes measured the reaction of his words on the listener... 'The Russians are chess players. They are mathematicians. Cold machines. But they are also mad. The mad ones forsake the chess and the mathematics and become gamblers. Now, Mr. Bond.' Zographos laid a hand on Bond's sleeve and quickly withdrew it because he knew Englishmen, just as he knew the characteristics of every race, every race with money, in the world. 'There are two gamblers... the man who lays the odds and the man who accepts them. The bookmaker and the punter. The casino and, if you like' -- Mr. Zographos' smile was sly with the 'shared secret' and proud of the right word -- 'the suckers.'"


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