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.
Earlier in the year we published a Top 10 Books on Ian Fleming and James Bond part 1, so it only seemed appropriate to publish a part 2 to this ever-growing list:
10. Duns on Bond: An Omnibus of Journalism on Ian Fleming and James Bond by Jeremy Duns, 2014 (Buy)
Rogue Royale: In the mid-Sixties, the James Bond films became a global phenomenon as the world thrilled to their spectacular action sequences and cool gadgets. But the films nearly went in a very different direction, with a much darker treatment of Ian Fleming’s first novel by Hollywood’s most acclaimed screenwriter. Journalist and spy novelist Jeremy Duns unearths Ben Hecht’s drafts of Casino Royale. Rogue Royale is around 11,000 words long, and builds on his ground-breaking 3,400-word article published in The Sunday Telegraph in 2011.
Diamonds In The Rough: So much has been written about James Bond that it seems scarcely imaginable there is any more territory to mine. But in Diamonds In The Rough, Jeremy Duns shares the fruits of several years of research into unexplored aspects of Ian Fleming and his universe, from lost novels and screenplays to hidden inspirations. This short book collects articles previously published in The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph and elsewhere.
9. The Devil with James Bond by Ann S. Boyd, 1967 (Buy)
This is one of the best of the early books seeking to analyse and find meanings behind Ian Fleming’s creation and it still stands up well 40 years after publication. In this 1967 book, Ann Boyd traces her way through the characters in the Bond stories, seeing Bond as Saint George vanquishing the Seven Deadly Sins.
This could easily have been done in a dull and scholarly manner, but Ms. Boyd has a faily light touch and it never gets bogged down in over-analysis. The acknowledgements at the end show the great depth of the author’s research (later commentators who have produced error-ridden offerings should take note) and the book comes highly recommended by this reviewer.
8. The Man Who Saved Britain: A Personal Journey into the Disturbing World of James Bond by Simon Winder, Allen Lane, 2007 (Buy)
Bond. James Bond. The ultimate British hero–suave, stoic, gadget-driven–was, more than anything, the necessary invention of a traumatized country whose self-image as a great power had just been shattered by the Second World War. By inventing the parallel world of secret British greatness and glamour, Ian Fleming fabricated an icon that has endured long past its maker’s death.
In The Man Who Saved Britain, Simon Winder lovingly and ruefully re-creates the nadirs of his own fandom while illuminating what Bond says about sex, the monarchy, food, class, attitudes toward America, and everything in between. The result is an insightful and, above all, entertaining exploration of postwar Britain under the influence of the legendary Agent 007.
In Ian Fleming’s Commandos, Nicholas Rankin tells the exciting story of a secret intelligence outfit conceived and organized by Fleming. Named 30 Assault Unit, the group was expected to seize enemy codebooks, cipher machines, and documents in high-stakes operations. Assault unit commandos fought in the North African campaign and the invasions of Sicily and Italy, poked over the bones of bombed Pantelleria, and liberated Capri. Rebranded ’30 Assault Unit’, they went ashore on D-Day, heading for rocket-sites and radar-stations.
They helped liberate Paris (including the Ritz Bar and the Rothschild mansion) and then set out to steal scientific and industrial secrets from the heart of Germany. Their final amazing coup was to seize the entire archives of the German Navy’s three hundred tons of documents. Ian Fleming flew out in person to accompany the loot back to Britain, where it was combed for evidence to use in the Nuremburg trials.
6. License to Thrill by James Chapman, I.B. Taurus, 2007 (Buy)
When James Chapman’s rip-roaring journey through the annals of celluloid Bond first appeared in 2000, the London Evening Standard said, “Chapman demonstrates that there is more to the 007 franchise than just girls, guns and globe trotting.” Stephen O’Brien, writing in SFX magazine called the book “Thoughtful, intelligent, ludicrous and a bit snobby. Bit like Bond, really.”
Licence to Thrill went on to establish itself as one of the best books on the subject, and one that has made readers think in new ways about 007. It follows James Bond from the 1962 Dr No, through all the subsequent films of the franchise–including Casino Royale–exploring them within the culture and politics of the times, as well as within film culture itself.
5. Ian Fleming and James Bond: The Cultural Politics of 007 by Skip Willman, Indiana University Press, 2005 (Buy)
The Cultural Politics of 007 is an entertaining and revealing examination of the many facets of Bond. Before Bond became a cinematic icon, he was the protagonist of a series of thrillers that appeared during the time of Britain’s decline as a major power and the heating up of the Cold War. Fleming’s character gave expression to biases and anxieties that continue to shape our political worldview in ways both obvious and covert.
Fifteen spirited and engaging essays—all new to this volume—cover topics including Bond’s Britishness, James Bond and JFK, homosexual panic and lesbian Bond-age, the James Bond lifestyle, and Bond’s brands. The contributors are Alexis Albion, Dennis W. Allen, James Chapman, Edward P. Comentale, Vivian Halloran, Jaime Hovey, Aaron Jaffe, Christoph Lindner, Andrew Lycett, Patrick O’Donnell, Craig N. Owens, Brian Patton, Judith Roof, Stephen Watt, and Skip Willman.
4. The Man Who Came In With The Gold, Henry Zieger, 1965 (Buy)
Henry A. Zeiger is a writer and playwright who analyzed the career of Ian Fleming, and wrote this 1965 biography. Zeiger tells how many of Fleming’s experiences in Naval Intelligence during the War were used in his fictional exploits about “James Bond”.
This book was published only a year after Ian Fleming’s death, so it is a collector’s item, with seemingly few copies available online. For those who are interested in Fleming’s Reuters days in particular, it’s a fascinating read, since it goes into some detail about the Metro-Vickers trial in Moscow that Fleming cut his journalistic teeth on. Ian’s wartime life is well documented including his 30AU commandos.
The book also spends a good bit of time on Valentine Fleming, who was a fascinating man as well. All in all, a good addition to the biographical canon.
3. Ian Fleming’s World of Intelligence: Fact and Fiction, by Nigel West, 2009 (Buy)
Everyone has an opinion on why 007 became so successful, but one possible explanation is the ingenious formula of fact, fiction, and sheer fantasy. Certainly the author drew on friends and places he knew well to provide the backdrop for his drama, but what proportion of his output is authentic, and what comes directly from the author’s imagination?
These questions and more are examined in the Historical Dictionary of Ian Fleming’s World of Intelligence: Fact and Fiction. This is done through a chronology, an introduction, a bibliography, and hundreds of cross-referenced dictionary entries on actual cases of espionage, real-life spies, MI5, SIS, CIA, KGB, and others. It also contains entries on Ian Fleming’s novels and short stories, family and friends, his employers and colleagues, and other notable characters
2. Ian Fleming’s James Bond: Annotations and Chronologies for Ian Fleming’s Bond Stories, by John Griswold (Buy)
This book is the result of analysis of each of Fleming’s James Bond novels. Within are glossaries of applicable terminology and references with detailed chronologies of events including annotations. Detailed chronologies of events are represented at a day-of-week, month, day, year, and time-of-day level.
Glossaries contain translations of foreign terms, annotations, and other information of interest such as detailed information on the origin of Saramanga’s name (The Man with the Golden Gun). Maps have been created for many of the novels along with in-depth information concerning specific topics such as, the Moonraker bridge game and the Goldfinger golf game.
1. Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming in Jamaica by Matthew Parker, 2014 (Buy)
This book explores the huge influence of Jamaica on the creation of Fleming’s iconic post-war hero. The island was for Fleming part retreat from the world, part tangible representation of his own values, and part exotic fantasy. It will examine his Jamaican friendships—his extraordinary circle included Errol Flynn, the Oliviers, international politicians and British royalty, as well as his close neighbor Noel Coward—and trace his changing relationship with Ann Charteris (and hers with Jamaica) and the emergence of Blanche Blackwell as his Jamaican soulmate.
Goldeneye also compares the real Jamaica of the 1950s during the build-up to independence with the island’s portrayal in the Bond books, to shine a light on the attitude of the likes of Fleming and Coward to the dramatic end of the British Empire.
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!