1958: Time writes about Ian Fleming and Dr. No

Here’s another trip back in time courtesty of Time magazine’s Web site. It’s 1958. Dwight Eisenhower is president. A car called the Edsel isn’t doing that well at dealerships. And Time decies to write about a new thriller that is about to hit U.S. bookstores and its author.

The article begins thusly:

In literary London, where the vogue in controversy runs to turtlenecked highbrows and Angry Young Men, the latest brouhaha is whirling around an unlikely book by an unlikelier author: a mystery shocker called Dr. No, by an uppercrust Tory named Ian Fleming. The book marks the sixth appearance of James Bond, 007 by code number, a deadpan British secret-service agent with high tastes and low instincts. With the help of an estimated 1,250,000 British readers, Bond has boosted Creator Fleming high on the bestseller lists and into the gunsights of outraged critics. They blast him as a kind of Mickey Spillane in gentleman’s clothing, his books as “a cunning mixture of sex, sadism and money snobbery” and “a bad symptom of the present state of civilization in this country.”

Time noted that Fleming had his defenders:

His critics find his shockers all the more unspeakable because he is so much a member of The Establishment. Yet Fleming is no Spillane. His closest U.S. opposite number, Raymond (The Big Sleep) Chandler calls him “masterly.” And Novelist Elizabeth Bowen says: “Here’s magnificent writing.”

Not all readers will agree that Dr. No, which Macmillan will publish in the U.S. in July, is magnificent writing, but pages of it, at least, qualify for Ezra Pound’s classic comment on Tropic of Cancer: “At last, an unprintable book that is readable.”

Time also gave Fleming the last word:

Says Fleming equably: “I am not an entrant in the Shakespeare stakes. I began writing these books because my mental hands were empty and as an antibody to my hysterical alarm at getting married at the age of 43.” As for the harsher critics, “they have so many chips on their shoulders they should go into the timber business. I do however apologize for once making Bond order asparagus with bearnaise, instead of mousseline sauce. A writer should acknowledge his shortcomings.”

To read the entire article, just CLICK HERE.

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