New exhibit highlights the history of Bond, James Bond, as well as Sherlock Holmes
For Ian Fleming, an Interpol conference in Istanbul was a natural place to meet up with Bond.
In 1955, the English author was covering the 23rd annual Interpol conference for the Sunday Times when he began to take notes for a new novel on a notepad provided by — or appropriated from — the Turkish police.
“Russian girls loves Englishman — what for,” he wrote at one point. “is tea brought into meetings? How do you go by underground by tram?”
This was the beginning of “From Russia With Love,” the fifth novel in the Bond series and, at the time, the one that Fleming thought might be the last.
Today, Fleming’s notebook is on display at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum as part of a new exhibit on detective fiction.
“We all like detective novels, and this exhibit looks at how writers approach those stories,” said Stephen J. White, executive director of the museum.
The exhibit arrives just two months before the latest James Bond movie, “Skyfall,” continues the longest-running film series in history. It holds that distinction for a reason.
Betsy Baker, an English instructor at the College of Charleston who has taught a detective fiction class, said the genre is one of the most popular in literature.
“It’s alive and well ... and it is a ridiculously varied genre,” Baker said. “Any time you can get a look at this kind of primary material, it potentially enhances your understanding of what the author was doing.”
That is largely the focus of the Karpeles exhibit, which is made up entirely of holdings by David and Marsha Karpeles, who established a dozen museums nationwide to share their manuscript collection to stimulate interest in learning.
Among the Fleming and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle material, which makes up much of the exhibit, there are also several manuscripts from British author Dorothy Sayers. Sayers not only wrote detective fiction but also penned academic studies of how mysteries are written.
In a draft of one work, Sayers notes that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — creator of Sherlock Holmes — adopted Edgar Allan Poe’s method of storytelling, a “domestic opening, arrival of client, narrative in first person, by a friend.”
It is a tradition that was carried on by Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane and John D. MacDonald, among hundreds of others.
The Doyle holdings on hand at Karpeles include the handwritten manuscript for chapter 13 of “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” one of the most famous Holmes stories.
Perhaps even more revealing is a short, handwritten note to Doyle from Dr. Joseph Bell, one of Doyle’s professors in medical school — and the basis for Holmes himself.
“I have the pleasure in granting you the permission you wish to republish your … interesting articles on handwriting. I read with much interest the Sherlock Holmes you refer to, and recognized your work.”
“It’s most interesting to see how these writers came up with their characters,” White said.
But it is the Fleming Bond material that best illustrates how an author incorporates the real world into his fictional ones.
While in Istanbul — which is where some of the action of “From Russia With Love” takes place — Fleming met a man named Nazim Kalkavan, an Oxford-educated ship owner.
Fleming bases the character of Darko Kerim in his novel on Kalkavan, and the notepad includes the character notes he jotted down while studying his new friend.
The exhibit includes a few Bond movie cards, a draft of the screenplay for the original “Casino Royale” movie and an early handwritten draft of the James Bond movie theme music from Monty Norman. The composer took a calypso number from a failed musical and turned it into the most famous music in the history of film.
As Baker points out, Doyle wrote traditional detective fiction while Fleming wrote spy novels, but there are connections evident in this exhibit.
“From Russia With Love” ended with what could be interpreted as Bond’s death — something Doyle attempted to do in a Holmes story. Ultimately both writers, overshadowed by their most famous creations, would bring their detectives back.
The lesson: you can’t kill a fictional detective. And there is no stopping this particularly literary genre.