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70 years: Ian Fleming publishes his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale

Authored by Alice Broome
Published on 13th April, 2023 3 min read

70 years: Ian Fleming publishes his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale

Today (13/04/2023) marks 70 years since the publication of Ian Fleming’s first novel Casino Royale, the first James Bond book, which subsequently lead to eleven more novels and two short stories written by Fleming. There have since also been numerous Bond novels written by other authors.

Casino Royale takes much of its inspiration from Fleming’s experience as a member of the Naval Intelligence Division. Bond, as seen by Fleming, was an amalgamation of all the secret agents he had met during the war, whilst also reflecting many of Fleming’s interests and behaviours. Initially, the lead character had been named James Secretan, before switching to James Bond, his explanation being “I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened: 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”.[1]

Because the novel was written after the Second World War, and during the Cold War, there’s an underlying theme throughout the novel, grappling with Britain’s position on the world stage. There is a particular focus on Britain’s relationship with the US, as the US increased its power in this time period, whilst simultaneously Britain’s power was dwindling, due to the decline of the British Empire. Fleming, through Bond, aims to convince the reader that Britain will once again be powerful and at the centre of world affairs.

Fleming had expressed interest for some time in writing a spy novel, but it wasn’t until 1952, whilst awaiting his marriage, that he put pen to paper. Whilst at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica, on the 17th February 1952, Fleming wrote the first 2,000 words of Casino Royale, straight from his imagination. The manuscript was subsequently finished in March 1952. Fleming was unsure of the novel’s success, but his friend and novelist William Plomer encouraged Fleming to seek publication and insisted that the novel had promise.

The most recent adaptation of Casino Royale came in 2006, with Daniel Craig as James Bond, Eva Green as Vesper Lynd, Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre, and Dame Judi Dench as Bond’s superior M. This was, however, a reboot of the original Casino Royale film, which was produced and released by Columbia Pictures in 1967.

To mark the 70th anniversary of James Bond, Ian Fleming Publications is rereleasing the Bond series of novels, with edits as part of a sensitivity review to remove or reword racial or ethnic descriptors.

[1] Lycett, Andrew (2004). "Fleming, Ian Lancaster (1908–1964)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 1 (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33168.

Authored by Alice Broome

Alice Broome

Alice Broome is an Editorial Assistant at British Online Archives. She is a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics graduate from the University of York.

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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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