For Ian’s Eyes Only: Fleming’s Early Short Stories

One of the rarest pieces of Fleming literature is possibly Ian Fleming’s 128-page scrapbook, in which he wrote down ideas, plot outlines, short sentences and even lengthy excerpts which he considered to feature in future Bond adventures.

Talk of the Devil

Talk of the Devil

The scrapbook was never published officially, the known excerpts were jotted down by a reporter of the Daily Express, who had the chance to take a look into it in February 1964. The reporter’s notes from Fleming’s notebook also revealed how Fleming had outlined prospective Bond works such as Bond as a double agent, a battle under Niagra Falls, a masquerade ball with a Russian killer.

Henry Ziegler noted in his book The Spy Who Came In With The Gold that,

‘There was a notation of the name Mr. Szasz, which Fleming thought would be ideal for a villain. He had somehow come across the Bulgar proverb ‘My Enemy’s Enemy (is my friend) and if he had lived, it would probably have turned up on the lips of some inscrutable villain.’

The notebook also contained character descriptions about villains and classic Fleming observations about life and death. Some of these works can be found in the 2008 publication Talk of the Devil.

Talk of the Devil is a collection of rarely seen material, some of it unpublished. The contents are mainly journalistic but they also include two short stories. One of them, A Poor Man Escapes, is Ian’s earliest known attempt at fiction. The other, The Shameful Dream, was written in 1951 and has as its hero a journalist named Bone – a year and a letter-change later the hero would be Bond.

Bondage MagazineSeveral short stories surfaced with permission in the 1980s in Bondage Magazine (the 007 version) in addition to the seminal “How To Write a Thriller”. In 1957, Fleming wrote the little known short story called “My Friend the Octopus“, which perhaps sowed the idea for ‘Octopussy‘. In 1958 Fleming wrote a short story trilogy entitled “Treasure Hunt in Eden” including Pirate Gold, Butterflies and Beachcombers and Gold or No Gold?.

In ‘The Life of Ian Fleming‘, John Pearson appeared two extracts of unfinished Bond short stories.

In one of them, James Bond met Zographos from a Greek Gambling Syndicate operated at Monte Carlo; he was the most famous ‘dealer’ at baccarat, an ex-shipping clerk with a gentle manner and an infallible memory for cards and faces. It never got beyond the first page and a half, but it managed to convey something of the excitement its author felt for the really great ice-cold gambler.

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 with the right word – ‘the suckers’.

In another extract from an opening of one of Fleming’s short stories, quoted in John Pearson’s biography, Fleming contemplates the idea of marriage and settling down, perhaps ruminating on his impending marriage to Anne Rothermere at the time.

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.

The scrapbook was owned by Fleming’s stepdaughter, Fionn O’Neill until December 1992, when she sold it at Sotheby’s in a charity auction which benefited the London Library. It was bought by the Fleming family for safe keeping.

Some of these stories and notes have recently been granted use for Anthony Horowitz for his two continuation novels, including: ‘Murder on Wheels’ for Trigger Mortis; and a treatment for a TV episode based on a true story about the ‘Aleksander Kolchak’ for Forever and a Day, to great effect.

One can only hope more of these ideas will see the light of day.

Incidental Intelligence

Literary Talk of the Devil

Ian Fleming’s Second Uncompleted Short Story Collection

6 thoughts on “For Ian’s Eyes Only: Fleming’s Early Short Stories

  1. Another great article! Man, you have too much here for me to read. I’m going to have to lock myself in a room with the iPad, three packets of cigarettes (if I still smoked) and a bottle of single malt just to get through it all. Love the new layout too, TC.
    Well done!

  2. I’m glad to hear that the Notebook remains accounted for. But I hope it won’t remain the the Fleming family vault forever. Surely many excerpts from it deserve publishing!

  3. Great article! I learn so much from coming to this site… love it.

    It would be nice if the new Folio publications would include some of this material in an expanded collection with say Octopussy. They said they’re going to do all his books, but that one is so short it screams for additions and it would make that book gold for fans.

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