The Man with the Golden Typewriter
succeeds in showing an Ian Fleming much different from the one who narrates Bond. To his professional contacts and friends he was amusing and generous. To his fans he was the ideal author to receive a letter from: courteous, amusing and appreciative. Even as his health started to fail he kept up a breezy manner to amuse anyone who concerned about him. His style has the flair of his 007 novels. But the letters add a warm, conversational tone. The Fleming in these letters embodies the ideal qualities of the British gentleman.
Editor Fergus Fleming (Ian’s nephew) is a celebrated non-fiction author in his own right. He has tracked down a diverse range of letters and even obscure Sunday Times pieces. He arranges these with care. He also adds relevant biographical information and summaries of the Bond novels . This adds important context to the letters which are for the most part organized chronologically.
Each batch corresponding to the evolution and reception of a different Bond book. Maybe ordering all the letters by date would have made more sense? But Fergus’s order is easier for the lay reader to digest. The are a few exceptions to the novel-based groupings. These are chapters devoted to Fleming’s correspondence with
- Ernie Cuneo,
- Major Boothroyd,
- Raymond Chandler, and
- Yale Librarian Herman Liebert.
You get the impression that Fleming was a nice chap. Especially in his correspondence back to members of the public who have written to him. His replies always show courtesy and warmth.
In short, this is a book that is far more interesting and entertaining than you might have thought; you don’t have to be a Bond nut to enjoy it. The underlying story is sad: as Fleming’s health failed, his marriage disintegrated and the quality of the books dipped. But for much of the book we are revelling in Fleming’s success
So, all in all worth reading. Or even better get the audio book and listen to the excellent narration.