a gun in the james bond library

It’s a short stretch from Chapman’s gung-ho safaris to deep-sea fishing, and Foster puts Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea in Bond’s hands. “Hemingway fits in because he’s very blokey. Bond would be interested in all upper-middle-class activities, including golf. So golf books written by big names in the sport in the 1950s, like Ben Hogan’s practical guides, would be there.

Raymond Chandler, the English public schoolboy who emigrated to Los Angeles and created another immortal fictional hero in Philip Marlowe, became a literary confidant of Fleming. Bolstering Fleming’s ego after the lackluster reception that greeted the early Bond books, Chandler advised the less-established author to add some layers to the Bond persona.

We see Marlowe’s world through taut prose and Fleming, derided as a cheap writer in his day, penned memorable scenes that sit alongside Chandler’s urban poetry. Sets such as the assassination of the MI6 man Strangways in Dr No stand up to anything Chandler or Hemingway have produced in terms of gripping, muscular writing.

Chandler posed as a literary agony uncle to Fleming who repaid the debt by asking Bond to pick up “the last Raymond Chandler” en route to London from Goldfinger. Published in 1959, the year Chandler died, Goldfinger proves that the smart and tough private eye Marlowe can be found leaning against other volumes in the Bond library.

Bond himself attempted a job as a Secret Service night officer by writing a self-defense guide for his fellow agents. This scene takes place between action episodes in Goldfinger, with 007 engaged in “a project he had been playing with for over a year – a manual of all the secret methods of unarmed combat”.

With the planned title of Stay Alive! it would borrow from manuals issued to friendly and hostile secret services. This goes right back to the street training the 30 UA commandos received. But reading the succession of violent movements such as headlocks and forearm locks described in a Russian textbook exhausts Bond. The reader knows that Stay Alive! will never be finished.

Real-life authors, contemporaries of Fleming, and friends like Chandler all add literary dimension to the most famous spy of them all. He may not have finished his list of international fighting tips, but the books belong to the world of Bond just as much as a Walther PPK, beautiful women or the quick instructions of Mr.

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