The James Bond Files ~
The O.F. Snelling 007 Archives
Introductory Notes by Wesley Britton
The original cover of 007 James Bond – A Report
by O.F. Snelling
According to an unpublished manuscript by O. F. Snelling, “It
was my agent and friend, Mr. Ronald Payne,” who suggested
that a new, revised hardcopy version of Double 0 Seven: James
Bond, A Report should be issued.
This book, originally published in Great Britain in 1964, within a
matter of days after Ian Fleming died, was “the very first
book-length study of the already world-famous James Bond character.
It did surprisingly well. In Britain it was reprinted in paperback by
Panther Books, it appeared in French, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese,
and Israeli editions and translations, and it came out in the United
States in 1965 under the imprint of the New American Library, Ian
Fleming’s own publishers. There, for a short time it topped
the best-seller lists. I have assessed that this book must have sold
well over one million copies throughout the world.”
Those readers of the original paperback experienced Oswald
Frederick Snelling’s literary critique of the Bond novels in
First, Snelling examined “His Predecessors”,
“those upper-crust fictional heroes who performed feats of
sexless derring-do long before the advent of the permissive society:
leftover puppets from the age of chivalry.”
“His Image” was a section which analyzed
“James Bond personally in the minutest detail, from the
black comma of hair which falls across his brow to the casual
shoes he wears on his feet.”
“His Women,” as the reviewers noticed,
“is the longest part. The girls are most certainly worth
examining, and this chapter attracted a lot of attention and comment.
Then comes ‘His Adversaries.’: these are villains
like LeChiffre, Dr. No, Mr. Big, and of course, the infamous Ernst
Stavro Blofeld. Finally, ‘His Future.’” In
Snelling’s view, this was bright indeed for 007.
The final page was a reproduction of a now famous watermark he
saw on his typing paper – “Bond-Extra Strong.”
Fifteen years after the first printing, Snelling added, “Since
the year 1964 a whole new generation of readers has grown up and
emerged. (Indeed, I still receive the occasional fan letter from the
states, and the writers of these letters are invariably between sixteen
and twenty years of age.) Many members of this particular generation
are first being introduced to James Bond by Cubby Broccoli’s
amazingly successful sequence of films about this character,
exemplified in the persons of Sean Connery, George Lazenby and Roger
Moore. Thrilled, titillated, and ‘influenced’ by the
exploits of Bond, by his opponents, and by the many lovely girls in the
films seen on the large screens of the drive-ins, the smaller screens of
the conventional movie-houses, and the domestic screens of home
television, they turn to and seek out the Ian Fleming books. Here, if they
are sufficiently fortunate to find them, they discover an entirely
‘new’ James Bond. I employ the quotation marks
advisedly. He is a new James Bond to them.”
Throughout his life, Snelling clearly preferred the literary 007 he
wrote about in his book to the film incarnations that had just begun
when Double O Seven was published.
“The Bond of the ‘sixties and ‘seventies
films is a handsome, swashbuckling, wisecracking secret agent
following in the same tradition of Douglas Fairbanks of the ‘twenties
and Errol Flynn of the ‘thirties and ‘forties. In a film of
something around two hours in length there is no time for subtle
character-drawing. Neither is there any need or intention of this. All
the original plots have been altered anyway. Now, practically all we
have left is the name of the protagonist, the title of the book which
has been adapted, and the man’s perennial occupation of
secret agent. But reading book after book, in the sequence in which
they were written, James Bond emerges to the youngsters as the
‘livingest’ hero in twentieth century sensational
fiction. We get to know his particular predilections, his habits, his
fads and his fancies, the sort of women he likes, and the many things
he most certainly dislikes.”
In these 1980 notes written long before Snelling died on January
31, 2001 in London, the writer concluded by describing his now classic
critical study: “‘Double 0 Seven’ set out to
examine and to analyze James Bond by treating him as a real person.
It was not a long book, and it made no attempt to be highbrow, abstruse,
or involved. It was deliberately written in a racy and easy-to-read style.
Certainly it is jokey and humorous, but it is both lighthearted and
serious at the same time.”
As it happened, Snelling’s book was released just after
Fleming’s 1964 You Only Live Twice appeared,
and references to this grim novel were added as footnotes.
Snelling’s study also preceded Fleming’s posthumous
Man With the Golden Gun and short story collection
So Snelling’s notes were intended to serve as a Preface
to an updated, revised publication based on the 1964 volume.
Naturally, describing what he hoped for in a new release, Snelling
said, “In the proposed new and revised edition I would deal to
some extent with the last two books and the characters therein. I
envisage the inclusion of a preface telling the story of the book’s
publishing history, which I think is rather amusing. I would also add
a further section, possibly, entitled ‘His Films.’ It is
a point worth remembering that practically the whole of Fleming’s
output has now reached the screen, if only in the broadest sense.
There is very little left to adapt, and very shortly Roger Moore, Sean
Connery, and any new and fortunate actor who might be chosen to
play this role will be faced with original titles and screen plays. The
moguls are not going to give up on so lucrative a property as James
Bond just because they have run out of Fleming books.”
Truer words were never spoken.
In subsequent years, Snelling’s literary executor, Ronald
Payne, has continued to hope a new edition will ultimately be
released and talks with potential publishers continue. Until then, Ron
Payne has generously permitted this electronic publication of these
“O. F. Snelling Archives”, which include:
► The first authorized full-text publication of
Snelling’s 1964 book in over 40 years, now with the title he
preferred – James Bond Under the Microscope.
Snelling’s 1981 preface has been added as an update to
this PDF publication.
► Excerpts and passages from letters exchanged
between Ron Payne and Snelling beginning in 1979. These letters,
edited especially for SpyWise.net, are introduced with notes by Ron
Payne. The passages show Snelling’s changing views on 007
over the years, share some of his views on spy films, television, and
writers, and perhaps include enough of Snelling’s life to give
perspective into the literary life of an extraordinary writer and thinker.
It’s important to note that this project is ongoing and organic.
For one matter, Ron has many more letters in his possession to sort
through. The first posting here (May 2007) includes material boiled
down from but a small portion of Ron’s files. Many years of
correspondence are not yet represented here.
In addition, many letters are now difficult to transcribe and work
with short of retyping them. So additions will appear as supplements
as Ron works through his collection.
And, while not directly related to Mr. Bond, we also offer the first
online publication of an essay Snelling wrote for the Antiquarian
Book Monthly Review in 1981. This discussion of
“Clubland” writer Dornford Yates was seen only by
subscribers to that magazine, and never available in America.
(Yates, as mentioned in James Bond Under the Microscope,
was very much a literary forbearer to Ian Fleming.)
Ron and I both hope the new edition of James Bond Under
the Microscope and the letters will be interesting reading on
their own – and will perhaps whet some publisher’s
appetite to bring out the long delayed re-issue of a unique and erudite
look into the world of 007.
For a detailed obituary of O. F. Snelling, refer to
The Independent Online Edition – 30