Every moment in time has it’s own cultural lexicon. Each year we get a new wave of popular songs, movies, politicians, scandals, fads, fashions and trends. And while some of these things become well known, others pass into obscurity.
Four of Ian Fleming’s novels have passed the 50th anniversary since they were written, and what may have been a household name a half century ago can easily puzzle a reader from today. Cultural references that were common in Fleming’s time are in many cases no longer valid, or may have even changed meanings.
Thankfully, modern readers now have an annotated guide to Ian Fleming’s work that can help them better understand the author’s meaning and James Bond’s world as it existed in the 50s and 60s.
John Griswold’s Ian Fleming’s James Bond: Annotations and Chronologies is much more than just a cultural encyclopedia however, as he also provides translations of the foreign words spoken in the novels, complete timelines (down to the minute in some cases) of Bond’s adventures, maps (including a hole – by hole pictorial recreation of Goldfinger’s golf game), other illustrations, and descriptions of the differences between Fleming’s original manuscripts at the Lilly Library and the published novels. The book is 474 pages long, with 62 illustrations included.
For Bond’s card games, there are illustrated recreations of hands as well as inflationary adjustments of the monetary winnings (in both Pounds and Dollars), to put the figures in better context.
The chronologies are bound to be the most controversial part of the book, and Griswold has acknowledged that they are open to interpretation. Whether you agree with his timeline or not, it is the first time such an exercise has appeared in print (others have appeared online), and since Fleming would often contradict himself from book to book, it’s quite a challenge to even attempt such a feat.
John Griswold’s ‘Ian Fleming’s James Bond: Annotations and Chronologies’
20 years in the making, the book is full of gems on every page. I was delighted to see an illustration of Bond’s highest award, the Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George. I had always wondered what the medal looked like, and was intrigued to learn that it has a different design on each side. In the entry for Dom Perignon, I was amused to learn that Bond’s favorite “passion juice” was named after a monk.
My one quibble with the book is that some entries do not disclose information that might provide a clue as to why the Fleming used it. For instance the entry for The Daily Express states simply that it is “a British newspaper started in 1900.” Personally I would have mentioned that Fleming had a very good relationship with the paper and its owner Lord Beaverbrook, considering that it serialized the Bond adventures starting in 1956, and it created and syndicated the James Bond comic strip starting in 1958.
I suppose however, that to disclose Fleming links for every entry might easily double the size of the publication – and since it’s almost 500 pages already that would not be feasible.
Ian Fleming’s James Bond: Annotations and Chronologies is a landmark work, and it deserves to be on every Bond fan’s reference shelf.
For more information, visit Griswold’s page at Authorhouse.
Purchase from Amazon.com (U.S.)
Purchase from Amazon.co.uk (UK)