The first James Bond novel ‘Casino Royale’ turns 70 today. Here are (00)7 facts about Ian Fleming’s first novel
Seventy years ago today, a journalist and naval intelligence officer released “the spy story to end all spy stories.”
We’re of course talking about Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel 'Casino Royale', which hit shelves on 13 April 1953.
Fleming wrote it at the age of 44 and the novel went on to launch the 007 literary universe – with a further 13 novels, which have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide – as well as kickstart the longest running cinematic franchise.
To celebrate the 70th anniversary, Ian Fleming Publications – the company that administers all of Fleming’s literary works – has had the Bond books edited as part of a sensitivity review to remove words or phrases to accommodate 21st century sensitivities, a move that smacks of historical revisionism and which Ian Fleming’s biographer Andrew Lycett described as “a form of censorship.”
However, instead of dwelling on recent controversies and the depressing thought that those who own the original copies of the Bond novels are now in possession of treasure, let’s delve into some facts you may not know about Ian Fleming’s first 007 book.
Origins in Goldeneye
No, not the 1995 film starring Pierce Brosnan, but Fleming’s Jamaican beachfront house, which was named Goldeneye. It’s there that the aspiring novelist sat at his desk in February 1952 to write the world’s introduction to James Bond. Located on Oracabessa Bay on the northern coastline of Jamaica, Goldeneye became Fleming’s writing retreat for the entirety of his career.
The name stems from Operation Goldeneye, a World War II-era contingency plan Fleming helped develop while working for Britain’s intelligence services in the event of a Nazi invasion of Gibraltar through Spain.
In 1976, the estate was purchased by Bob Marley who sold it on to Island Records founder Chris Blackwell the following year. Blackwell has developed the estate and surrounding lands into a luxury resort.
The Police hit ‘Every Breath You Take’ was penned by Sting whilst sitting at the same desk at which Fleming wrote his Bond Novels.
Fleming’s process for composing the first draft of the novel, which he completed in March of 1952, was simple: he had scrambled eggs in the morning, worked for three hours, had break in the afternoon to wander about the island, and then returned for another hour of work in the evening.
He wrote 2,000 words per day, typing away on a gold-plated typewriter. He also smoked. A lot. Fleming puffed through about 60 cigarettes a day, a known fact that meant that when the character of James Bond became a household name, the cigarette company Morland and Co made a deal with Fleming to make a James Bond Special cigarette with gold bands. Two versions of the cigarettes were made, one with the name James Bond on each cigarette and one without, and each box came with matches advertising the cigarettes.
What’s in a name?
“My name is Secretan… James Secretan.”
Doesn’t sound good, right?
However, that was the original name of Fleming’s famous spy. What’s worse is that the name sounds like the French “C’est crétin”, meaning “That’s stupid.”
In the end, Bond was favoured. The name originates from Fleming’s hobby of birdwatching. The real James Bond was a leading American ornithologist, author of the 'Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies', which was written in 1947. Fleming had a copy of the book, and admitted he just took the name because he found the name quite boring.
In an April 1962 issue of The New Yorker, Fleming is quoted as saying: “I wanted him to be a blunt instrument... When I was casting around for a name for my protagonist I thought by God, (James Bond) is the dullest name I ever heard."
What’s in a look?
Despite the changing faces on James Bond in the films, the original look for the character was quite precise.
Fleming initially wrote that Bond’s physical appearance was based on two real-life individuals: himself and American singer / songwriter Hoagy Carmichael, finding in Carmichael’s steely facial expression the perfect blueprint for his jet setting spy.
For the uninitiated, Carmichael wrote and performed American standards including 'Georgia On My Mind' and 'Heart and Soul'.
One of the main characters in 'Casino Royale' is the first-ever “Bond girl” Vesper Lynd, the woman who steals Bond’s heart and breaks it by betraying him.
She was not named after an evening prayer or a motorbike, but rather a cocktail - a mix of frozen gin, fruit and herbs. Fleming was also quite a heavy drinker and the cocktail was one of his Jamaican favourites.
The 2006 film Casino Royale, Daniel Craig’s first go with the Walther PPK, paid homage to this origin story, as Bond names his signature vodka-martini drink a 'Vesper'.
What goes around…
As the title suggests, the mythical Casino Royale is where the action takes place, where a high stakes game of Baccarat (changed to poker in the 2006 film) is held to bankrupt LeChiffre, an agent of SMERSH who heads the communist-sympathising trade unions in northern France.
In the novel, the casino is located in Royale-les-Eaux, a fictional town in Northern France, while the film set the action in Montenegro. But the original inspiration for the casino was a Portuguese one, the Casino Estoril, located near the southern coastal town of Cascais.
Apparently, German secret operatives regularly congregated in the casino during World War II. The casino is still one of the largest working casinos in Europe.
Not a fan
Fleming wanted to become a novelist for many years, inspired by his time as a naval officer during the war. However, some of his confidants asserted that his actual motivation for writing was to distract himself from his impending marriage to Ann Charteris, a woman with whom Fleming had a long affair.
When they met in the mid-40s, Charteris was married to Esmond Harmsworth, a conservative British politician and owner of several major British news publications, including The Daily Mail. Their divorce was highly publicized and those close to Fleming say his stays in Goldeneye and the writing of 'Casino Royale' was something of a respite from the chaos of his relationship with Charteris.
When he had finished 'Casino Royale', he gave a copy to his new wife, who he had married in Jamaica just after completing the book. She wasn’t a fan. Fleming asked if his wife would mind if he dedicated the novel to her. She replied: “Surely, Ian, it’s not the sort of book one dedicates to anyone?”