MI6 looks back to the year of 1962, and the press reaction to Ian Fleming’s surprising James Bond novel "The Spy Who Loved Me"...

Time Tunnel: Fleming Turns The Tables
5th March 2007

The year is 1962 and Bond is due to make his first big screen appearance in the form of Sean Connery. Ian Fleming has penned eight 007 adventures and a collection of short stories, all of which met praise from readers and critics alike. Bond is about to become a household name but simply months out from the release of “Dr. No”, Fleming makes a bold move and shocks avid followers with a change of perspective – the perspective of a woman.

The Spy Who Loved Me” hit the shelves on the 11th of April 1962, and in the same month Time Magazine published an exploration of Fleming's tenth Bond outing, and with it, the legacy of the character.

When Fleming juggles his much loved Bond formula, Time reported that fans will “look in vain for the familiar early scene in the eighth-floor office on Regent's Park where the taciturn M re-lights his pipe and hands Bond his latest assignation with Death and the Maiden.”

“And that is not all they will miss; unaccountably lacking in The Spy Who Loved Me are the High-Stake Gambling Scene, the Meal-Ordering Scene, the Torture Scene, the battleship-grey Bentley, and Blades Club.”

Does this signify that 007 is built entirely on the much loved formula? For most fans, it is the scenes and traditions some may describe as cliché that clinch favourite Bond novels: “Author Fleming calls this "the bang-bang kisskiss formula." But it takes more than this to account for the undisputed eminence of James Bond as the best-known wearer of a shoulder holster in print.”

  Above: 1st edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK)


But by watching his hero from another character's viewpoint, Fleming is able to explore him in ways previously impossible.

The Time reviewer observes: “One explanation is Bond's universal expertise. His man-of-thee-worldsmanship is so explicit that his fans' fantasies have a rich and varied diet to feed on. His cigarettes, with their three distinctive gold rings (a considerable security risk), are blended for him of a Balkan tobacco mixture by Morlands of Grosvenor Street.”

Left: Fleming chats to Bond actor Sean Connery on the set of "Dr. No" in 1962

And what of Fleming’s angle? At the time of the reviews Fleming remained vacant about his new creation, explicit only on the fact that Vivienne Michel was a one deal wonder: “Fleming made clear that the girl-narrated technique of Spy established no trend, nor was Vivienne Michel likely to unzip her way into any more of the saga. He was careful to send a complimentary copy to his famous fan in the White House. Copies will also circulate in another place where he has friends — the British secret service. ‘They tell me,’ says Fleming happily, that my books are remarkably good recruiting manuals.’”

Above: Modern cover art for "The Spy Who Loved Me".

All in all, the spring of ’62 proved only to be a short lull for fans of 007 – for a few months later, James Bond 007 burst onto the silver-screen in “Dr. No”. Fleming went on to write three more full length novels, all of which met with fans and reviewers approval. “The Spy Who Loved Me” was by no means the low point of the literary Bond, and to some fans, an interesting moment very well worth highlighting.

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