In June 1955 Raymond Chandler was visiting the poet Stephen Spender in London when he was introduced to Ian Fleming; Fleming subsequently sent Chandler a copy of Live and Let Die. He loved the book and offered to endorse it, which he often refused to do in the United States.
Chandler wrote to Fleming with his endorsement:
“Ian Fleming is probably the most forceful and driving writer of what I suppose still must be called thrillers in England. Peter Cheyney wrote one good book, I thought, called ‘Dark Duet’ and another fairly good one, but his pseudo-American tough guy stories always bored me. There was also James Hadley Chase, and I think the less said about him the better. Also, in spite of the fact that you have been everywhere and seen everything. I cannot help admiring your courage in tackling the American scene.”
Although readers usually associate Raymond Chandler with the mean streets of Los Angeles, the Chicago-born writer did, in fact, spend much of his early life in England. He attended Dulwich College in south-east London and later became a reporter for the Daily Express and Western Gazette newspapers before returning to the USA in 1912, aged 24.
In a conversation between the two, Fleming describes the differences between their respective creations:
“Your hero, Philip Marlowe, is a real hero — he behaves in a heroic fashion. My leading character, James Bond, I never intended to be a hero — I intended him to be a sort of blunt instrument wielded by a government department, who would get into bizarre, fantastic situations and more or less shoot his way out of them, get out of them one way or another. I find it … extremely difficult to write about villains, villains I find extremely difficult people to put my finger on. … The really good, solid villain is a very difficult person to build up, I think.”
Fleming also talked about how Chandler lauded his work despite Fleming’s low self-esteem:
“It’s true he wanted me to raise my sights. He seemed to think I had it in me to write proper novels and I was just being lazy about it. My talents were extended to their absolute limits in writing books like Diamonds are Forever and From Russia with Love. My books were nothing more in the end than straight pillow fantasies of the bang-bang, kiss-kiss variety. It’s what you would expect of an adolescent mind — which I happen to possess.”
Chandler believed that Casino Royale was Fleming’s best novel to which Fleming said:
“Yes, yes, I can see that. Yes, it probably was. But Live and Let Die was as serious a novel. Writing is an arduous process, you are constantly depressed by the progress of your opus and feel that it is all nonsense and that nobody will be interested. Those are the moments when you must all the more obstinately stick to your schedule and do your daily stint. I wasn’t the lazy Shakespeare that Chandler supposed.”
On the craft of writing, Fleming said:
“For all writers. Let’s not be snobbish and think only of novelists, dear boy. Writers should never be depressed if the first draft seems a bit raw, all first drafts. Try and remember the weather and smells and sensations and pile in every kind of contemporary detail. I’d say don’t let anyone see the manuscript — certainly not anyone who belongs to any kind of literary coterie — until you are well on with it and above all don’t allow anything to interfere with your routine. Don’t worry about what you put in, it can always be cut on re-reading; it’s the total package that matters.”
Chandler’s definitive quote on Bond:
“Bond is what every man would like to be and what every woman would like to have between her sheets”