A Look Inside Ian Fleming's 'Talk Of The Devil'
Anyone who was a James Bond fan in 2008 knows that last year was a never-ending celebration of Ian Fleming and the literary 007.
There was the centenary of Bond’s creator and all the related events to mark it, the publication of Sebastian Faulks’ Devil May Care, Samantha Weinberg’s The Moneypenny Diaries: Final Fling and Charlie Higson’s By Royal Command, related literary 007 releases, Fleming reprints and so much more.
One of the most eagerly anticipated releases for collectors and Fleming fanatics was the centenary special edition collection published by Queen Anne Press. Priced between £2,000 and £18,000 per set, each encompassed all 14 of Fleming’s Bond adventures, The Diamond Smugglers, Thrilling Cities, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and a truly special gift in Talk of the Devil: a never-before-published volume of some of Fleming’s journalism and other writings.
CommanderBond.net now gives readers a brief glimpse into what exactly is featured in the Talk of the Devil volume:
TALK OF THE DEVIL
Ian Fleming’s Talk of the Devil
Talk of the Devil is a collection of rarely-seen journalism and other writing by Ian Fleming. It belongs to a special edition of his complete works published in 2008 by Queen Anne Press to commemorate the centenary of his birth. The edition is intended to celebrate Fleming not only as the creator of Bond but as an accomplished and vivid journalist, distinguished bibliophile and literary publisher. No uniform edition of Fleming’s complete works has appeared before. Talk of the Devil, the last of eighteen volumes, is edited by his niece Kate Grimond and nephew Fergus Fleming.
From the Preface:
“In preparing this volume our goal has not been to assemble every overlooked scrap of Ian Fleming’s writing, far less to make a definitive collection of his journalism. Instead we have tried to create a book that does justice to its author. The contents have been selected for their rarity, their historical and biographical value and the glimpses they give of his opinions and enthusiasms. Our overriding policy has been that they should be of interest and entertainment.
A few items have never been published, others have already appeared in print – as, for example, the articles that Ian Fleming wrote during his long association with the Sunday Times. In the latter case we have followed the original typescript rather than the published version, and where good lines were edited out we have put them back in. The title is taken from a notebook in which Fleming listed names and phrases that caught his fancy. Talk of the Devil, which was an early contender for Diamonds are Forever, caught our fancy too.”
At more than 400 pages Talk of the Devil is the longest work ever to bear Ian Fleming’s name. Its contents are divided into six sections:
- Two Stories
- On World War Two
- On Crime and Espionage
- On Writing
- On Travel and Treasure
- On Other Matters
Among the unpublished items are two short stories: A Poor Man Escapes, and The Shameful Dream.
The former is one of Fleming’s earliest attempts at fiction, written in 1927 at the age of nineteen while under the tutelage of Ernan Forbes-Dennis and Phyllis Bottome in Kitzbühel, Austria. It seems to have been influenced by the reportage of Berlin-based author and journalist Joseph Roth.
The latter was written in 1951 but never published for legal reasons – one character bore too close a resemblance to Fleming’s employer, Lord Kemsley. The “hero” is a journalist, possibly based on Fleming himself. Intriguingly, he is called Bone. A year and a letter-change later Fleming’s new hero would be Bond.
Other notable entries pre-dating Bond include an eye-witness account of the 1942 Dieppe Raid; Fleming’s “Memorandum to Colonel Donovan” which laid down administrative practice for the Office of Strategic Studies (O.S.S.), predecessor to the C.I.A.; his contribution as Foreign Editor to the Kemsley Manual of Journalism; and a lyrical description of Jamaica in 1947.
Taken together the contents but act almost as a glossary to the Bond novels. Here, in embryo, are Dr. No’s island, Goldfinger’s smuggling methods, Kerim Bey’s Istanbul, Mr. Big’s Florida fish-tanks, the armament of Bond, the octopus of Octopussy and more. There is even an early (if faintly alarming) version of “shaken not stirred”, written in 1956 for the American market:
“It is extremely difficult to get a good Martini anywhere in England…The way to get one in any pub is to walk very calmly and confidently up to the counter and, speaking very distinctly, ask the man or girl behind it to put plenty of ice in the shaker (they nearly all have a shaker), pour in six gins and one dry vermouth (enunciate ‘dry’ carefully) and shake until I tell them to stop.
You then point to a suitably large glass and ask them to pour the mixture in. Your behaviour will create a certain amount of astonishment, not unmixed with fear, but you will have achieved a very large and fairly good Martini.”
The volume traces Fleming’s delight in gambling, fast cars, espionage and exotic climes. His fascination with buried treasure is evident: one article, describing a hunt for pirate gold in the Seychelles, rates almost as a short story. A rare foray into politics, the 1959 “If I Were Prime Minister,” shows him to have been a man of foresight and liberal tendencies who supported a minimum wage, open immigration and freedom of information, railed against bad diet, City bonuses and conspicuous expenditure, and took a surprisingly modern approach to global warming. “The petrol engine,” he wrote, “is obviously a noxious and noisy machine and I would gradually abolish it and replace it by some form of electric motor.” Fleming also pays tribute to contemporary writers such as Graham Greene, Noel Coward and Herb Caen, columnist supreme of the San Francisco Chronicle.
What comes across most strongly is his insistence on excitement. Whether directly or indirectly, he rails against boredom. Title after title contains the word “adventure.” In “Six Questions,” 1961, he predicts the following:
“Life will become more comfortable and much duller and basically uglier, though people will be healthier and live longer. Boredom with and distaste for this kind of broiler existence may attract an atomic disaster of one sort or another, and then some of us will start again in caves, and life on this planet will become an adventure again.”
The volume concludes with an Envoi taken from an interview in February 1964.
“One can only be grateful to the talent that came out of the air, and to one’s capacity for hard, concentrated effort… I don’t want yachts, race-horses or a Rolls Royce. I want my family and my friends and good health and to have a small treadmill with a temperature of 80 degrees in the shade and in the sea to come to every year for two months. And to be able to work there and look at the flowers and fish, and somehow to give pleasure, whether innocent or illicit, to people in their millions. Well you can’t ask for more.”
Seven months later, on 12 August 1964, Ian Fleming died of a heart attack.
Talk of the Devil is his final legacy.
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