Top 10 Books on Ian Fleming and James Bond: Part 1

There are literally hundreds of books about Ian Fleming and James Bond, so here at Artistic Licence Renewed, we have made life easier for you and winnowed it down to the pick of the litter. There are of course some great books out there, so please leave a comment at the end of the post if you want to make a case for a title not on this list!

10. For Your Eyes Only Ian Fleming + James Bond – Ben Macintyre, 2008

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 7.39.17 PMA riveting look into the world of James Bond and his creator, published on the centenary of Ian Fleming’s birth. In For Your Eyes Only, Ben Macintyre reveals where the world of Ian Fleming ends and the world of James Bond begins. Macintyre looks at the actual people on whom the writer based his fictional creations—friends, colleagues, lovers, and, of course, the notorious villains. Exploring the tradition of spy fiction past and present, with specific attention to the Cold War, Macintyre explains how Bond was based on the realities—and fantasies—of Fleming’s life as a wartime spymaster and peacetime bon vivant. Stylishly illustrated, For Your Eyes Only features a collector’s dream of gadgets, costumes, props, and storyboards from the films—Daniel Craig’s bloodstained shirt from Casino Royale, the Aston Martin DB5, complete with weaponry—as well as memorabilia from Fleming’s personal archive: his smoking jacket, the manuscript for Casino Royale, his golden typewriter, his guns, and much more.

9. James Bond: The Man And His World – Henry Chancellor, 2005

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 7.58.48 PMFor over half a century, the Bond novels have entertained millions around the world. 007 has been a cultural phenomenon since the first publication of Casino Royale in 1953. But no book has celebrated Fleming’s literary Bond in his own right. This is an authoritative and entertaining journey through the world of the original James Bond, from Moscow to Mayfair, the bedroom to the war-room, the casino to the villain’s lair. Ian Fleming’s archive has released never-before seen documents and material to create this book. Sources include research notes and diaries to annotated manuscripts and ephemera from Fleming’s files. Illustrated with classy, contemporary images, the book is a visual feast, but it is also engaging, with a rigorous and satisfying text. It recaptures the glamour of an age, and offers a new insight into the twentieth century’s most thrilling literary hero.

8. Double O Seven James Bond: A Report – O.F. Snelling, 1965

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 8.30.00 PMThis was  the first book-length, critical analysis of the James Bond novels, and the only such study Ian Fleming approved. It was published in August 1964, the month when Fleming died, a coincidence that earned the book’s first edition a wide readership. A lifelong devotee of British thriller writers, Snelling was a professional antiquarian working in the Hodgson auction house, where he met Ian Fleming, who had gone there to do research. In the course of writing James Bond, A Report, he learned that novelist Kingsley Amis also was writing a like study, so, Snelling worked quickly to ensure that his book would be published first. He succeeded; Amis’s scholarly, literary, critical study, The James Bond Dossier (1965), was published in late 1965. Since then, the books are compared; some aficionados consider Snelling’s book the superior contribution to the field of critical literary studies of James Bond.

7. The Life of Ian FlemingJohn Pearson, 1966

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 8.26.10 PMJohn Pearson’s famous biography remains the definitive account of how only Ian Fleming could have dreamed up James Bond, for he led a life as colourful as anything in his fiction, which in turn became a covert autobiography. Charming, debonair and a ruthless womaniser, globetrotting from wartime Algiers to beachside Jamaica, Fleming was as elusive and opaque as his imaginary creation. In his new introduction, John Pearson examines the extent to which Fleming’s character informs even the most recent movie portrayals of his hero, and how Bond himself has achieved immortality beyond his creator’s wildest dreams.

6. Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond – Andrew Lycett, 1995

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 8.12.19 PMIn this full-length biography, author Andrew Lycett tells the story of Ian Fleming’s life proving that it was just as dramatic as that of his fictional creation. Educated at Eaton and Sandhurst, he joined Naval Intelligence in 1939 participating in both Operation Mincemeat and Operation Golden Eye. After the war, he became a journalist and, in 1953, wrote Casino Royale thereby introducing the world to an English spy named James Bond. Set in London, Switzerland and Fleming’s Jamaican estate Goldeneye, his life was peopled with luminaries like Noel Coward, Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Bond film producer “Cubby” Broccoli and others. With direct access to Fleming’s family and friends, Lycett goes behind the complicated façade of this enigmatic and remarkable man. Ian Fleming by Andrew Lycett is biography at its best—a glittering portrait of the brilliant and enigmatic man who created Agent 007.

5. The James Bond Bedside CompanionRaymond Benson, 1984

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 8.34.36 PMAn encyclopedic celebration of 007, the world’s most popular secret agent, The James Bond Bedside Companion is the most comprehensive single-volume guide to the James Bond phenomenon available. In addition to an intimate portrait of Ian Fleming as remembered by his friends and colleagues and a detailed analysis of every one of Fleming’s James Bond titles, this indispensable collection includes: An in-depth character study of James Bond, including a sketch of his background and early life, detailed descriptions of his trademarked clothing and other personal habits, including his preferences in food and drink, and a portrait of his famous (or infamous) attitudes toward women and marriage.

4. The James Bond Dossier  Kingsley Amis, 1965

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 8.10.44 PMPrior to the death of Ian Fleming, he set out to write a modestly-sized essay of about 5,000 words that critically analyzed Ian Fleming’s James Bond works. This modestly-sized essay ballooned into a full length non-fiction book and was finally released on May 27, 1965, one month after the release of Fleming’s posthumous James Bond novel, The Man with the Golden Gun. This book is altogether quite an intellectual read, stuffed with literary references and well-thought out arguments. You could argue, never since repeated to such a degree. It’s the kind of book you can read a few times and catch something new. He also had a lot to say about the perceived sexism of Bond and treated the issue fairly.

3. Bond Bound: Ian Fleming and the Art of Cover Design – Bill Smith; Henry Chancellor; Alan Powers; Kate Grimond; Selina S, 2008

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 8.06.04 PMThis rare and exclusive book looks at all Ian Fleming’s books including the children’s story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Thrilling Cities – his collected travel journalism. However much of the exhibition charts the the role of artists and designers in creating and defining the Bond look. The covers of Bond novels stretching back more than half a century provide a fascinating snapshot of society’s changes attitudes to sex, feminism and the changing international political climate. Each of the Bond books carries a visual interpretation of the world created by Ian Fleming on its cover, and this publication dips its toe into that incredibly diverse aspect of the Bond canon. From the very first British hardback covers (some of which were designed by Fleming himself), through the subsequent years of reprints and international editions, up to the special Centenary volumes published in 2008, Bond Bound charts the role of artists in creating and defining the Bond look and features book covers, film posters, letters and previously unseen archive material.

2. Ian Fleming – The Complete Works – Queen Anne Press, 2008

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 8.20.37 PMThe first ever edition of Ian Fleming’s complete works comprises 18 volumes in all. There are the 14 James Bond adventures starting with Casino Royale and ending with Octopussy, and including in between all the legendary titles such as From Russia with LoveGoldfinger, and Dr No. To these famous titles are added Fleming’s account of the diamond trade,The Diamond Smugglers, first published in 1957, and his book of collected travel journalism, Thrilling Cities, 1963, which presents a rather Bondian take on cities such as Tokyo and Los Angeles. Milton Glaser, world-renowned designer and graphic artist, supplied drawings for the original American edition of 1964, and these once again decorate the chapter headings. Fleming’s one children’s book, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, the story of the much-loved magical flying car, is included. He wrote the story for his youngson, Caspar, while recuperating from a heart attack. The final volume, Talk of the Devil, is a compendium of some of Fleming’s other writing – articles, reviews, journalism and two early short stories – much of it containing pointers to events or places described in the Bond books. The title is taken from a list of alternatives that Fleming kept in his notebook.

1.  Ian Fleming: The Bibliography – Jon Gilbert, 2012

bibspinesA comprehensive description of Ian Fleming’s literary oeuvre that ranges from the first draft of Casino Royale in 1952 to editions still being published sixty years later. Unparalleled in scope and scholarship, this is a critical reference book for fans of one of the twentieth century’s greatest thriller writers. Much has been written about Fleming and his legendary creation, but until now there has been no serious bibliographical account of his published work. Ian Fleming: The Bibliography is not only an indispensable source of information for collectors, enthusiasts, libraries and booksellers alike, but an entertaining and informative volume that will appeal to anyone interested in the James Bond phenomenon. It covers every aspect of Fleming’s writing, from the manuscript stage, through typescripts, uncorrected proofs, advance and review copies, first and subsequent impressions, paperback printings, omnibus and collected editions, as well as periodical appearances, comic strip adaptations, young reader and large print editions published in Britain and America. There are sections covering Fleming’s more obscure literary endeavours, as well as his published reviews and interviews. Each main entry includes an engaging narrative on the conception, editorial process and marketing of the novel, complemented by a full list of source books. Biographies of Fleming’s closest confidants are provided, and a detailed chronology of the author’s life completes this bibliographical masterpiece. The work has been compiled with the approval of Ian Fleming’s literary estate and the assistance of the Ian Fleming Foundation.

Incidental Intelligence

The Most Valuable Literary Bond Items of all Time

Double O Seven James Bond: A Report – O.F. Snelling

Ian Fleming: The Bibliography

Bond Bound: Ian Fleming and the Art of Cover Design

Literary Talk of the Devil

John Pearson and the James Bond Authorized Biography


2 thoughts on “Top 10 Books on Ian Fleming and James Bond: Part 1

  1. Shaken & Stirred: The Feminism of James Bond, while not exclusively about Ian Fleming, nevertheless contributes significantly to his literary development of the “Bond Girl,” exploring Fleming’s relationships with women and how they influenced (or tainted) his impression of the opposite sex.

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