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Following my return to the world of James Bond with Live and Let Die--a spectacularly entertaining fantasy thriller with dubiously researched spycraft and troubling racist undertones--I turned to a book about Ian Fleming for a bit of context. Published in 2015, The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Flemings James Bond Letters is edited by historian Fergus Fleming, the authors nephew. Flemings correspondence reveals a professional author whose research and work ethic afforded him little of the extravagance of his fiction, despite Fleming being based at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica. A chapter is devoted to each Bond novel, which I appreciated from a chronological standpoint. Fleming was 44 with a postwar career in journalism and publishing when he began writing his first novel Casino Royale and rather than focus on creative writing or the fame he would be swept up in with the film adaptation of his work ten years later, Flemings letters are devoted to very mundane details that might be of interest to Bond enthusiasts only: royalties, marketing, cover design, constructive criticism from colleagues, alternate titles, etc. I flipped through much of the book, neither ferociously engaged or numbingly bored.Theres a chapter devoted to Flemings correspondence with Geoffrey Boothroyd, a 31-year-old firearms expert from Glasgow who in 1956 wrote Fleming as a James Bond fan who found the secret agents taste in guns pitiful (Boothroyd ultimately dismisses silencers as being impractical as well). Boothroyd became Flemings armorer and ended up outfitting all his characters with weaponry. The author was a veteran of Naval Intelligence and obsessed with detail, but was hardly a globetrotter, and as his thrillers gained in popularity, I was amused by how many men (and women) like Boothroyd wrote to Fleming to call him out on his errors. I have, by now got rather fond of Mr. James Bond. I like most of the things about him, with the exception of his rather deplorable taste in firearms. In particular I dislike a man who comes in contact with all sorts of formidable people using a .25 Beretta. This sort of gun is really a ladys gun, and not a really nice lady at that. If Mr. Bond has to use a light gun he would be better off with a .22 rim fire and the lead bullet would cause more shocking effect than the jacketed type of the .25. May I suggest that Mr. Bond is armed with a revolver? This has many advantages for the type of shooting that he is called upon to perform and I am certain that Mr. Leiter would agree with this recommendation. The Beretta will weigh, after it has been doctored, somewhere under one pound. If Mr. Bond gets himself a S & W .38 Special Centennial Airweight he will have a real man-stopper weighing only 13 ozs.A librarian at Yale University named Herman W. Liebert was also a 007 fan but likewise appalled, by Flemings dusty American dialogue in Live and Let Die. Theres a chapter devoted to Lieberts correspondence with the author, who took constructive criticism exceptionally well and despite periods of artistic temperament, kept cranking out fiction until his death at age 56 of heart failure. That said, I mostly flipped through this book. The two Bond movies that were released during Flemings lifetime--Dr. No and From Russia With Love--are barely touched on and the creative genesis of Flemings stories or his thoughts on craft are not covered.In terms of the racist and sexist undertones in Live and Let Die, there is no indication that Fleming was a bigot. His American friend Ernie Cuneo, a publisher and veteran of the OSS who met Fleming during the war, believed that the author was as detached from Bond as a scientist who has created a robot, and indeed, there were a considerable number of times when I thought Bond bored Fleming to tears. The author considered his books to be adult thrillers and was disquieted to learn that children might be reading them or view 007 as a role model. Seeing a bit how James Bond took on a life of its own independent from his creator was intriguing.

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