From Russia With Love

Release and reception

Personally I think from Russia, with Love was, in many respects, my best book, but the great thing is that each one of the books seems to have been a favourite with one or other section of the public and none has yet been completely damned.

Ian Fleming[18]

From Russia, with Love was released on 8 April 1957 in the UK as a hardcover edition by publishers Jonathan Cape, priced at 13s 6d.[22] The American edition was published a few weeks later.[23] In August 1956, Fleming had commissioned Richard Chopping for fifty Guineas to provide the art for the cover, based on Fleming's design; the result won a number of prizes.[23][24] After Diamonds are Forever had been published, Fleming received a letter from a thirty-one-year-old Bond enthusiast and gun expert, Geoffrey Boothroyd, criticising the author's choice of firearm for Bond: his suggestions came too late to be included in From Russia, with Love, but one of Boothroyd's guns – a .38 Smith & Wesson snub-nosed revolver modified with one third of the trigger guard removed – was used as the model for Chopping's image.[25] Fleming later thanked Boothroyd for his suggestions by making him Major Boothroyd, the armourer in Dr. No.[26]

In 1956, Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden visited Fleming's Jamaican Goldeneye estate, to recuperate from a breakdown in his health. This was much reported in the British press,[26] and the publication of From Russia, with Love was accompanied by a promotional campaign that capitalised on this exposure.[27]

Continuation Bond author Raymond Benson analysed Fleming's writing style and identified what he described as the "Fleming Sweep", a stylistic point that sweeps the reader from one chapter to another using 'hooks' at the end of chapters to heighten tension and pull the reader into the next.[28] Benson felt that the "Fleming Sweep steadily propels the plot" of From Russia, with Love and, though it was the longest of Fleming's novels, "the Sweep makes it seem half as long."[29]

The serialisation of the story in the Daily Express in 1957 provided a boost in the sales of the book,[30] although the biggest jump in sales was to follow four years later. In an article in Life Magazine on 17 March 1961, US President John F. Kennedy listed From Russia, with Love as one of his ten favourite books.[31] This accolade, and its associated publicity, led to a surge in sales that made Fleming the biggest-selling crime writer in the US.[32][33]


From Russia, with Love received broadly positive reviews from the critics. Julian Symons, in The Times Literary Supplement, considered that it was Fleming's "tautest, most exciting and most brilliant tale", that the author "brings the thriller in line with modern emotional needs", and that Bond "is the intellectual's Mike Hammer: a killer with a keen eye and a soft heart for a woman".[34] The critic for The Times was less persuaded by the story, suggesting that "the general tautness and brutality of the story leave the reader uneasily hovering between fact and fiction".[35] Although the review compared Fleming in unflattering terms to the crime fiction writer of the 1930s and 1940s, Peter Cheyney, it concluded that From Russia, with Love was "exciting enough of its kind."[35]

The Observer‍ '​s critic, Maurice Richardson, thought that From Russia, with Love was a "stupendous plot to trap ... Bond, our deluxe cad-clubman agent" and wondered "Is this the end of Bond?"[22] The Oxford Mail declared that "Ian Fleming is in a class by himself",[18] while The Sunday Times opined that "If a psychiatrist and a thoroughly efficient copywriter got together to produce a fictional character who would be the mid-twentieth century subconscious male ambition, the result would inevitably be James Bond."[18]

Writing in The New York Times, Anthony Boucher – described by a Fleming biographer, John Pearson, as "throughout an avid anti-Bond and an anti-Fleming man"[36] – was damning in his review, saying that From Russia, with Love was Fleming's "longest and poorest book".[37] Boucher went on to write that the novel contained "as usual, sex-cum-sadism with a veneer of literacy but without the occasional brilliant setpieces".[37] The critic for the New York Herald Tribune, conversely, wrote that "Mr Fleming is intensely observant, acutely literate and can turn a cliché into a silk purse with astute alchemy".[18] Robert R Kirsch, writing in the Los Angeles Times, also disagreed with Boucher, saying that "the espionage novel has been brought up to date by a superb practitioner of that nearly lost art: Ian Fleming."[38] In Kirsch's opinion, From Russia, with Love "has everything of the traditional plus the most modern refinements in the sinister arts of spying."[38]

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