DESIRABLE 1959 TYPED LETTER ADDRESSED, SIGNED, AND WITH AUTOGRAPH CORRECTIONS BY IAN FLEMING TO PLAYBOY EXECUTIVE EDITOR RAY RUSSELL DESCRIBING RISQUE PHOTOGRAPHS SHOT DURING A VISIT TO PLAYBOY OFFICES IN CHICAGO, MENTIONING NEW CHANGES TO THE PROOFS OF FOR YOUR EYES ONLY AFFECTING PLAYBOY'S PUBLICATION OF "THE HILDEBRAND RARITY," AND DISCUSSING HOW TO HANDLE PROBLEMS WITH THE BRITISH DISTRIBUTION OF PLAYBOY
FLEMING, Ian. Typed letter signed. London, December 7, 1959. Single sheet of letterhead, measuring 8 by 10 inches; pp. 2.
Fascinating 1959 typed signed letter with handwritten salutation and autograph corrections from Ian Fleming to Ray Russell, the executive editor of Playboy, thanking Russell for sending the "positively obscene" photos taken during Fleming's visit to the Playboy offices in Chicago; describing changes to the page proofs of "For Your Eyes Only" affecting the text of "The Hildebrand Rarity" slated for publication in Playboy; and discussing the complex problem of circulating Playboy in Britain given its reputation. Accompanied by the original telegram announcing Fleming's arrival in Chicago under an assumed name and Russell's typed preceding letter on newsprint expressing his pleasure at Fleming's visit to Playboy, noting the enclosure of the photos taken there and the permissions requirements for use, and setting a date for the publication of "The Hildebrand Rarity."
The letter, typed on "Kemsley House London, W.C. 1" letterhead and addressed, signed, and corrected by Fleming in blue ballpoint pen, reads: "7th December, 1959. [Autograph salutation] My dear Ray, A thousand thanks for the positively obscene pictures which, as I might have expected, do full justice to you and Charles but are less than fair to me. The one I really enjoyed is Russell going to the electric chair while ectoplasm dribbles from my lips and Charles does up his fly button[aut. corr.: 's.']. I have just finished correcting the page proofs of 'For Your Eyes Only', which is the book containing The Hildebrand Rarity and, partly with you in mind, I have included a pen [aut. corr.: hyphen crossed out] ultimate paragraph which you may or may not like and which might slightly enlighten the reader. About eight paragraphs from the end should read: 'you really think so?" A dew of sweat had sprung below her eyes.' Then, three paragraphs before the end, cut out 'a murderess' and begin new sentence. Then, after 'British Museum' new paragraph: 'James Bond noticed that the sweat dew had now gathered at her temples, but, after all, it was a desperately hot evening ….' paragraph 'The [aut. corr.: capitalizing "T"] thud', etc. Now, as to your circulation problems, I have only had a chance to go very briefly into these without really getting anywhere, because people don't really know enough about the magazine and it's vaguely classified in the 'Confidential' class, which is idiotic. Since I simply haven't got time to go deeper into it, I have the following alternative suggestions. 'Esquire' sells quite well here and, through underground channels in Esquire, I would be inclined to find out who distributes them and get in touch with that body. Alternatively, I would get in touch with British Publication, Inc. in New York—a Mr. Marsh runs it—and talk the problem over with him. He is largely concerned with distribution of English publications in the States but he would certainly quickly find out the answers for you and perhaps be of general help. Pray mention my name if you wish. Above all, don't despise the English and European markets. Once you get going, You'll go like the wind over here. Then push with a small and well chosen advertising scheme. These are inadequate, but my best words on the subject. They would be much better if I wasn't going round the bend with work. Thank you, particularly, and all the other enchanters and enchantresses at 'Playboy' for having chaperoned me so wonderfully in Chicago. When any of you come over here I will try and repay. Love to your private B.B. and appropriate embraces to the rest of you. [signed] Yours ever Ian." This letter mentions changes to the end of "The Hildebrand Rarity." The title of the story refers to a lethal pink and black fish found in the Indian Ocean. The story ends when James Bond is invited on an African cruise by Liz Krest, the beautiful but likely murderous wife of a millionaire. The proposed changes concern the story's famously ambiguous ending which rests on the question of whether Liz Krest is sweating due to nerves or the tropical heat. Fleming's letter is accompanied by the original telegraph to Russell announcing Fleming's arrival (under the assumed name "Phineas Phleming") in Chicago for the November trip that strengthened their friendship and sparked so much ensuing correspondence. The accompanying preceding letter from Russell, typed on a newsprint with a faint impression of the Playboy bunny stamp in the masthead, reads: "December 1, 1959. Dear Ian, I don't know about you, but I know the rest of us had a wonderful time with you during your short stay in Chicago. It was a pleasure meeting you in the flesh. Enclosed is a set of the photos that were snapped that afternoon in our offices. Some of them turned out very well, I think, and a few are amusing. The shot of Russell, Beaumont, and Fleming looks as if I have just confessed to some spine-chilling depravity, Beaumont is going 'tsk-tsk' in pity and loathing, and you are saying to my secretary, 'I hope you are taking all this down, miss.' Naturally, you may feel free to use any of these photos for publication purposes, on book jackets, etc., if you so desire, although our Permissions Department has reminded me to ask that any such appearances be accompanied by a credit line which reads 'Photograph courtesy of PLAYBOY.' Incidentally, I withdraw my previous suggestion that Orson Welles be persuaded to play the title role in DOCTOR NO. On the basis of some of these photographs, I think I should play it. I look something like an over fed Fu Manchu. Your story will lead off our March issue. Ada Beth sends fond regards. Don't be surprised if we descend upon you in London one day. In the meantime I look forward to getting from you that letter regarding British distribution of PLAYBOY. All the best, Ray Russell Executive Editor." The risque photographs mentioned in the letter were taken during Fleming's 1959 visit to the Playboy offices in Chicago. Russell also mentions "The Hildebrand Rarity," an original Bond caper published in the March 1960 issue of Playboy, for which Fleming was still submitting textual changes at the time of this letter. Fleming served as the Foreign Manager of the Kemsley newspaper group, parent company of the Sunday Times, between 1945 and 1959. In this capacity, he supervised and facilitated all of the newspaper's foreign correspondents—and occasionally interacted with his stateside counterparts like Ray Russell at Playboy. It was while working this day job that Fleming conceived of James Bond and wrote the first installment of the series, Casino Royale, while on vacation in Jamaica. In 1959, Fleming took a tour of the world's most cosmopolitan urban centers for serial feature in the Sunday Times. Fleming wrote to Ray Russell, the executive editor at Playboy, seeking out the "seamier side" of Chicago, and his ensuing discoveries doubtlessly informed his future spy stories. Russell, Fleming's Chicago contact, was a writer in the Gothic tradition and horror sub-genre, in addition to his work at Playboy. Russell's most famous short story, "Sardonicus," was published in Playboy in 1961. This letter is from the estate of Ray Russell.
Fleming letter near-fine and boldly signed, with corner staple, original folds, and small coffee stain to verso.