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7: When McClory’s Bond project floundered, Fleming famously went off and wrote his novel THUNDERBALL based on the various screenplays, but without permission. When Fleming signed a contract with Jonathan Cape for the publication of the THUNDERBALL novel he warranted to the publishers that the book was an original work and was in no way whatever a violation of any existing copyright. It seemed inconceivable that an author of Fleming’s experience would have given this warranty in the face of what he knew about the copyright situation, and the fears he had already expressed in numerous letters about the possibility of McClory seeking an injunction. Ernest Cuneo had also warned his friend that McClory was bound to sue. Nevertheless, this is what Fleming did. The fact that Fleming sanctioned the publication of his novel THUNDERBALL well knowing there might be a claim for infringement of copyright and that an injunction might be sought was either an act of gross stupidity or plain arrogance. In the words of McClory’s lawyer, “From this might be inferred a motive sufficiently wrong to constitute malice.”

THUNDERBALL dust jacket design by Richard Chopping - Jonathan Cape 1961

It was also equally inconceivable in the circumstances that he did not inform his publishers of the situation. During the famous 1963 trial the publishers swore in an affidavit that they had no knowledge of any of the matters relating to the question of copyright. It was a fact they knew very well.

Months prior to the publication of THUNDERBALL, George Wren Howard, the director and chairman of Jonathan Cape, was alerted to McClory’s connection with the Bond story and that he claimed ownership of the material and intended to sue. But Jonathan Cape’s plans for publishing THUNDERBALL were so far advanced Howard saw it as nothing short of, “disastrous if anything occurred to oblige us to postpone publication.” In fact the decision to halt publication rested on the shoulders of only one man, Fleming himself. And he quickly made it plain that he had no intention of stopping THUNDERBALL from hitting bookshelves. In the view of Philip McNair, a lawyer at Fleming’s American agent MCA, it was a case now, with the threat of possible injunctions hanging over their heads, “of taking a calculated risk as to which way McClory can or will jump.” It was then a massive gamble publishing THUNDERBALL.

Of course McClory sued and at the trial Jonathan Cape’s George Wren Howard, in his sworn affidavit, said that he knew nothing of McClory’s claims of ownership in the THUNDERBALL story. Of course he knew. In other words, one of Britain’s biggest and most respected publishers of the time lied under oath.

8: Many people have claimed that Ivar Bryce, after days of wrestling with his conscience during the trial, finally decided to settle rather than watch his beloved friend Ian Fleming, already desperately ill, endure the days to come. There is evidence that Fleming’s health was in an even worse state than previously thought. In a family letter dated 1967 Jack Whittingham wrote that Bryce had revealed to him that, “…Fleming had two very bad heart attacks during the court case.”

Another and much more controversial, and previously never revealed, reason for the quick settlement is the revelation that McClory may have had in his personal possession an incriminating letter against his opponents. Bryce’s sudden decision to settle, so this theory goes, was to prevent the letter seeing daylight and causing public embarrassment both to Fleming and himself. Significantly, at the close of the trial, Bryce’s QC handed a letter to the judge saying, “I think it would be unwise for me to comment publicly on this letter.” After reading it the judge observed, “All I can say about this is that I am very surprised to see it.” The contents and author of the letter were never made public, and its whereabouts, if indeed it even still exists, is a mystery.

As a side-note to this mysterious letter, Bryce, when writing to Fleming, would sometimes begin his correspondence with the endearment “Dear Boy.” Even more strangely, in one letter to McClory, Bryce signed off with the words “love and kisses.” Hardly the language one would use in a letter to another man?


© Robert Sellers, 2007. All rights reserved.