Fleming, Ian (1908 – 1964)

‘James Bond must emulate that exploit’

A fine typed letter signed by Ian Fleming (‘Yours ever, Ian’), Kemsley House letterhead, May 2nd 1957. Fleming writes to fellow author R. W. Thompson.

In full: ‘What an extraordinary kind thought to have written such a warm and splendid letter. I couldn’t have been more pleased, although there is surely a touch of the old Thompson hyperbole in your praise. Anyway it was intoxicating stuff to find on my same old desk in W.C.l. on a dull Thursday morning. I do hope all goes well with you and that being a writer in your own time and not a hireling has proved the right choice. I am sure it was. Your wine is far too new for the aged fiascos of Fleet Street. I shall never forget that bed of roses story about you — in Belgium I think it was — at the end of the war. One day James Bond must emulate that exploit. Again a thousand thanks for the wonderful letter.’ Fleming adds the salutation in his own hand: ‘My dear Tommy’. In fine condition, with a short tear, and paper loss, to the upper right corner.

A warm letter of reply from Fleming, who, true to his word, would revisit ‘that bed of roses story’ in From A View To A Kill, one of five short stories published in the 1960 book For Your Eyes Only. The referenced passages read as follows: ‘…there was a low mound, perhaps a tumulus, covered with brier roses…’ (p. 34), ‘…inside the mound, deep down in the earth, was the most professional spy unit that had ever been devised…a shiver of excitement and anticipation, almost of fear ran down Bond’s spine…’ (p. 38), and ‘Instead of the periscope, a rose-stalk aerial would rise up from the bush… deep down under the earth off would go the high-speed cipher’ (p. 40). Fleming letters referencing his iconic James Bond character are especially scarce, with this particular example all the more desirable given its creative connection to a well-known 007 short story.

Reginald William Thompson (1904-1977) was an Army officer, journalist, author and friend of Ian Fleming. He served in World War II and was promoted to Captain before being transferred to the Intelligence Corps for training. After demobilization, Thompson joined the Kemsley Newspaper Group, attending and reporting on the Nuremberg trials. He travelled extensively as a war correspondent for the Sunday Times. In 1951, Thompson settled in Suffolk to write full-time on military subjects.