Fergus Fleming, the nephew of the late Ian Fleming, discusses editing The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming's James Bond Letters (Bloomsbury; Reviews, Oct. 2, pub month, Nov.), a collection of his uncle’s correspondence about the creation of one of fiction’s most famous characters—James Bond.
What effect did being related to Ian Fleming have on your life?
His books were on the shelves when I grew up (as were his brother Peter’s) so it was just an accepted part of life that there were writers in the family. But there was a certain fame attached. When I started writing my own books I made it a condition that the publishers not advertise the connection lest I be known simply as “nephew of.” Though I had to out myself in 2008 when I became co-publisher of Ian’s old company, Queen Anne Press.
This book is such a gift for Bond fans. Why did it take so long to appear?
I honestly don’t know. Perhaps it is because Ian’s letters don’t fit the gossipy/scurrilous/sensational mold that publishers sometimes expect of a volume of correspondence, nor do they fall into the category of high literature. Perhaps, too, it is because only recently has he achieved the same degree of fame as his creation. There is a tide to these things and now seems to have been the time.
Did you learn anything about your uncle that you didn’t know before?
Ian has garnered a reputation for being a flesh-and-blood version of James Bond. It came as a surprise to find he wasn’t like that at all. His letters show him as a nice man—courteous, considerate, occasionally plagued by self-doubt, but above all hard-working.
What do you think of the idea of keeping your uncle’s legacy alive by using new writers to continue the Bond saga?
It’s a good idea. So many readers enjoy Bond, so many writers enjoy the challenge.
They are excellent novels in their own right. The latest, Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz, is set in period and is a particularly good read.
To what do you attribute the continued appeal of James Bond 51 years after Ian Fleming’s death?
The books are well-written, evocative and – if you ignore the attitudes of the age – astonishingly fresh. But as Ian would have been the first to admit, the films have played a huge part.
Do you have a favorite James Bond novel?
My favorite is From Russia With Love. It is the best written, as Ian himself acknowledged. Come to that, I reckon it’s the best film too.