On Her Majesty's Secret Service Background

On Her Majesty's Secret Service Background

Ian Flemming published his tenth James Bond novel in 1963. First published by Jonathan Cape in the United Kingdom on April 1, the novel was then released in America in August of 1963 by the New American Library. Fleming also signed 250 copies to be printed and distributed. Richard Chopping, who designed previous Bond novel covers, was responsible for the hardcover first edition's cover art. After selling over 40,000 advance copies in the U.K., On Her Majesty's Secret Service sold an additional 75,000 copies within a year. It also remained at the top of The New York Times' Best Seller List for half a year after its release in America.

Fleming wrote On Her Majesty's Secret Service while living on his estate in Jamaica. A film adaption of his original Bond novel, Dr. No, was being filmed in the area during that time. On Her Majesty's Secret Service was Fleming's second of three novels featuring Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Thunderball was the first, and You Only Live Twice concludes the Blofeld triology. On Her Majesty's Secret Service, however, is the novel that features Bond and Blofeld meeting one another for the first time. Fleming incorporated many characters and themes from previous books in the series into this one, including mention of Bond's tragic lover Vesper Lynd.

As typical for Fleming, he wrote about events, people, and places from his own life. The original title for the book was The Belles of Hell, but he changed it after a friend mentioned seeing a century-old sailing novel called On Her Majesty's Secret Service. In the book, Bond is caught in an avalanche at Piz Gloria, reflecting Fleming's own skiing disaster. In his twenties, Fleming had frequented the mountains of Austria for ski vacations. Once he ignored the notice of closure of a certain slope in Kitzbuhel and set off down the unsafe slope. He wasn't fortunate enough to descend before the snow and ice cracked and chased him downhill. Fleming appropriated the family motto of the Bonds of Peckham, "The World is Not Enough," for his character. He discovered this while researching the College of Arms with the help of reknowned researcher Robin de la Lanne-Mirrlees. Interesting to note, Lanne-Mirrlees was of Spanish ancestry, among whom it is common to discover a lack of earlobes. Fleming borrowed this unsual physical trait for his character Blofeld. Another connection between reality and fiction is M's featured ship's bell. Fleming based the character of M upon his superior officer in Naval Intelligence during the war, John Godfrey. Godfrey served upon HMS Repulse during WWII.

Although published in the 60s, this book is strongly influenced by the war. Fleming served in Naval Intelligence during WWII. Doubtless his experiences during the service left lasting impressions. He alludes to the war subtly by including the bell of HMS Repulse and giving Marc-Ange Draco a King's medal for resistance fighters, a mark of distinction for foreigners who selflessly aided the British military efforts during the war. Another reference to the war is seen in Blofeld's research facility at Piz Gloria in Switzerland. During the war, the Nazis closed a sports club in the Alps which Fleming used to visit. They converted the facility into a research facility dedicated to the study of Asian genetics. In much the same way, Blofeld creates his Swiss facility under the loose guise of scientific research into allergies and genetic mutation.

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