In 1953, Fleming published his first novel, Casino Royale, through Johnathan Cape Publishing House and it was moderately successful in England. More novels were published, but soon Fleming faced harsh reviews including this one from Paul Johnson of the New Statesmen about Dr. No: "Mr. Fleming has no literary skill, the construction of the book is chaotic, and entire incidents and situations are inserted, and then forgotten, in a haphazard manner." Fleming was also frequently criticized for his use of sex, snobbery, and sadism in his stories. According to Fleming's biographer, the spy novelist "went into personal and creative decline after marital problems and attacks on his work."
Despite self-doubt, Fleming persisted and wrote: For Your Eyes Only, Thunderball, and Goldfinger. Then came his big break. On March 17, 1961, an article in Life Magazine listed From Russia, with Love as one of President John F. Kennedy's ten favorite books. In one moment Ian Fleming's life changed. According to Wikipedia, "This accolade and the associated publicity led to a surge in sales that made Fleming the biggest-selling crime writer in the United States.
We all know what happened from there. At least one hundred million James Bond books have been sold since that article appeared and the films have grossed $4,910,000,000 (over $12,360,000,000 when adjusted for inflation). It's the second highest grossing film series behind Harry Potter.
So when you're celebrating the Patron Saint of Ireland with shamrock balloons, parades and green beer this St. Patrick's Day, also pay tribute to our first Irish President, John F. Kennedy who gave Ian Fleming the boost he needed on March 17 fifty-two years ago.
Lesson to be learned: If you wrote a book and want some publicity, forget about mailing a copy to Oprah. The President of the U.S. might be a better choice. Hmm...I wonder what Barack Obama likes to read.
A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA:
During Casino Royale's final draft stages, Fleming allowed his friend William Plomer to see a copy. Plomer remarked, "So far as I can see the element of suspense is completely absent."
In honor of James Bond, we need a video. Let's go with Goldeneye starring an Irish Bond, Pierce Brosnan, with Tina Turner singing the theme song:
What's your favorite Bond movie? Better yet, who's your favorite Bond? Mine: Pierce Brosnan!