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Collecting Mystery & Detective Fiction
Ian Fleming
The Promise of Goldeneye

by Pamela Palmer

#54, 24 October 2005

As the hype heats up about the next James Bond, readers recall that before Pierce Brosnan there were others - Timothy Dalton, Roger Moore, George Lazenby, and Sean Connery. But before any of them, there was Ian Fleming. Perhaps the most interesting of them all, Fleming scarcely rivaled Bond's secret agent skill set. His time with British Naval Intelligence rarely put him in the steamy world of spies and chicanery.

He grew up in another setting. Family status positioned him in moneyed company where he learned the sophisticated style he later gave Bond, but Fleming himself was not wealthy. Failure to pass the Foreign Service exam and a disappointing stint as a journalist overshadowed his success as amateur athlete and lady's man, but he never abandoned the latter avocations. As early as his late 30s, Fleming's health was declining, precipitated by sixty to seventy cigarettes and hefty quantities of gin consumed daily. All in all, life was a bit of a letdown.

Then one day while sitting in his Jamaican house called Goldeneye, Ian Fleming realized he had a choice. He could dwell on his frustrations or twist them into a potent fiction. That's when he created the suave, successful - and sexy 007.

Though Fleming and Bond are not the same, they share interests and inclinations. Fleming's wife Anne recalled their meeting, "I thought Ian original and entertaining," Pearson quotes her as saying, "He was immensely attractive and had enormous charm. But it was as a character that he really interested me. He was totally unlike anyone else I had ever met. There was something defensive and untamed about him, like a wild animal.... he never wanted to talk about himself. Of course, I found it a great challenge to get through this barrier and find out what lay behind." [179]

Fleming's writing showed a dark side. The first Bond novel, Casino Royale, was published in 1953, the same year Playboy was founded. Both Bond and Hefner's magazine featured a sexual freedom and an urbane lifestyle far removed from the typical 1950s sensibility. More Bond novels and short story collections followed Casino Royale. In addition, Fleming wrote the children's book Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang (1964-65) and several other titles.

The Bond movie phenomenon, starting with Dr. No in 1962, stripped much of the torture and ugliness from Fleming's novels and shaped the public image of 007. By the time Fleming died two years later, his legacy was centered on Bond, and he had been called everything from a dirty-minded schoolboy to a Renaissance man. Less-well known was his skill in collecting antiquarian books. Fleming's acumen as a collector is evident from the forty-four books from his collection included in the noted 1963 "Printing and the Modern Man" exhibition held in London.

The next year, Fleming was dead at age 56. Though several writers penned Bond novels later, they met with indifferent success.

Values & Points

If you collect or sell Fleming's books, you'll find an active market at both traditional auction houses and on eBay. Sales are brisk and garner substantial prices on both venues. American Book Prices Current (ABPC), 2002-2003, reports eight copies of Casino Royale were sold. They range from $40,000 (25,092 app.) down to 1,400 with six of the eight at or above 5,000. The highest price went for a first edition in a dust jacket with minor chipping. "Inscr to John Hayward: 'This pre-natal 1st Edition ...' with pencil corrections by Hayward. Rechler copy."

In August 2005, a Casino Royale first edition sold on eBay for $1,952.43 without a dust jacket. It had "bumps and rubbing to the edges, and the spine is slightly rolled."

But these auctions do not approach the prices set by two Abebooks sellers who each list a Casino Royale first edition for $67,979.98. Interestingly, both are boxed, inscribed presentation copies from Fleming to Ian Munro.

Though Casino Royale generally commands the top prices, other Fleming titles bring in high prices too. In August 2005, a copy of The Man with the Golden Gun sold on eBay for $2,282.57. It's described as "FIRST EDITION, FIRST IMPRESSION, FIRST STATE with proper points ('First Published 1965' at top of copyright page with no reference to subsequent printings or a month of printing, green & white patterned endpapers, list in front of book to "You Only Live Twice' and rear DJ flap to itself." The description states, "THIS IS THE TRUE ULTRA-RARE 1ST STATE OF THE 1ST PRINTING WITH THE 'GOLDEN GUN' IMPRINTED IN GOLD GILT INK ON THE FRONT BOARD." The seller writes that only 150 copies with this golden gun were printed making this "EASILY THE RAREST STATE OF ANY FLEMING BOOK...."

Two useful sources for points on Fleming first editions are readily available. Firsts: The Book Collector's Magazine for November 1998 (vol. 8, #11) focuses on Fleming and includes "The James Bond Books of Ian Fleming: A Descriptive Bibliography," by Lee Biondi and James M. Pickard. Including both the British and American first editions, the article contains pictures and many details. Casino Royale, for example, is shown with the highest value of the Bond books. For the 1953 first edition by Jonathan Cape of London, it notes in part, "Octavo. [1-4]5-6[7-8]9-218[219-220, blank]. [A]8 B-I8 K-N8 O6." The detailed description, says "The jacket is genuinely rare in fresh condition without general wear and tiredness and spine fading. The white back panel is easily subject to soiling. Near fine in near fine dust jacket, $10,000 Fine in fine dust jacket, $15,000" [p.40] The first printing in New York by Macmillan Company (1954) commands far less. Biondi and Pickard list its fine in fine dust jacket value at $2,000.

Another useful source for points is Goldeneye Rare Books' "Ian Fleming Bibliography: James Bond U.K. First Edition Books." The site includes color pictures of dust jackets and descriptions, as well as the size of the first print runs.

Fleming memorabilia sells too. In October 2005, a handwritten letter from Fleming to Jane (or Janet) Coats sold on eBay for $1,771.01. It was found at a Sussex England estate sale, and the eBay seller notes it had been with other Janet Coats papers and that a named U.K. expert authenticated it. The contents are rather mundane, dealing with a job she is considering with the British Council, but the seller notes it is unusual in being handwritten rather than typed. Other types of related merchandise includes movie and theatre posters, autographs, and facsimiles.

ABPC 2002-2003 reports the sale of the Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang typescript for 22,000 and a transcript carbon copy typescript of Diamonds are Forever sold for 32,000.

Fleming's Publications

Casino Royale: London, 1953; New York, 1954; republished in paperback as You Asked for It: New York, 1955.

Live and Let Die: London, 1954; New York, 1955.

Moonraker: London, 1955; New York, 1955; republished as Too Hot to Handle: New York, 1957.

Diamonds Are Forever: London, 1956; New York, 1956.

From Russia, with Love: London, 1957; New York, 1957.

The Diamond Smugglers: London, 1957; New York, 1958.

Dr. No: London, 1958; republished as Doctor No: New York, 1958.

Goldfinger: London, 1959; New York, 1959.

For Your Eyes Only: Five Secret Occasions in the Life of James Bond: London, 1960; republished as For Your Eyes Only: Five Secret Exploits of James Bond: New York, 1960.

Thunderball: London, 1961; New York, 1961.

The Spy Who Loved Me: London, 1962; New York, 1962.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service: London, 1963; New York, 1963.

Thrilling Cities: London, 1963; New York, 1964.

You Only Live Twice: London, 1964; New York, 1964.

Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: 3 volumes, London, 1964-1965; 1 volume, New York, 1964.

The Man with the Golden Gun: London, 1965; New York, 1965.

Octopussy, and The Living Daylights: London, 1966; republished as Octopussy: New York, 1966.

In addition, Fleming authored several book introductions, articles, and other brief works.

About Fleming and Bond

To learn more about Ian Fleming's life and writing, start with Andrew Lycett's Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond (Turner, 1995) or John Pearson's The Life of Ian Fleming (Cape, 1966). Selected other titles about Fleming and Bond include:

Ian Fleming: A Catalogue of a Collection, by Iain Campbell. (the author, 1978).

"Interview: Ian Fleming," Playboy 11(Dec. 1964): 97-106.

The James Bond Dossier, by Kingsley Amis (New American Library, 1965).

Ian Fleming: The Spy Who Came In With the Gold, by Henry Zeigler (Duell, Sloan, Pearce, 1965.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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