The Spy Story to End All Spy Stories: The Success of Casino Royale

April 25, 2022

The Spy Story to End All Spy Stories: The Success of Casino Royale

Ian Fleming

On May 28, 1908, a man whose name would soon be known around the world, was born in London-Ian Fleming. With the outbreak of WWI, his father, Valentine Fleming, enlisted as a captain in the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars and was then promoted to major. Three years later, Valentine was killed in action and his good friend and comrade, Winston Churchill, wrote his obituary, which then hung in Fleming's bedroom. Ian Fleming was rebellious by nature, and was never in one place for very long. From Preparatory School, to College, to Military College, he never found quite the right fit for him. In 1927 he spent some time in Austria, where he was first encouraged to use his imagination to write fiction. It wasn't until Fleming's first trip to Jamaica in 1944 where he found the perfect fit, which led to him purchasing his own property, a house he named "Goldeneye". It was in this very home that the James Bond character was born.

Interestingly enough, the name James Bond came from the name of the author who wrote A Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies, the book which Fleming called is "Jamaican Bible" (Ian Fleming). When Fleming first sat down at his desk in his Jamaica home in January of 1952, he had no idea the impact his first novel would have on the world. He spent the first two months of every year, starting in 1952 until his death in 1964, writing books of the Bond series.

Much of his inspiration came from his own personal experiences, including his time as a journalist, going on "unofficial business" to Russia to report on military strength and morale, working with the 30 Assault Unit, and Room 39 to work with its various espionage missions. In 1939 Fleming was the assistant to Admiral John Godfrey and became a Lieutenant in the Special Branch of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, a rank that was then bestowed upon James Bond himself. Admiral Godfrey is also speculated to be the inspiration for the character "M", Bond's superior and head of M16 (Ian Fleming).

Casino Royale

Casino Royale was the first of Fleming's many Bond adventures. The inspiration for Casino Royale came from a 1941 visit to Casino Estoril in Portugal with Admiral John Godfrey. As they were leaving the casino, Fleming mentioned to Godfrey, "What if those men had been German secret service agents, and suppose we had cleaned them out of their money; now that would have been exciting." (Ian Fleming). And thus, the plot for Casino Royale was born. 

Within just two months, Casino Royale's story came to fruition, and a year later, on April 13, 1953, the book was first published by Jonathan Cape in London. Only 4,728 copies of Casino Royale were originally printed, which sold out in less than a month. Both the second and third print run also sold out, with more than 8,000 books published within the third run in May 1954. The sales figures for this book were strong enough for Jonathan Cape to offer Fleming a three-book deal. Such great success throughout the UK lead to raving reviews, including one from Time magazine stating, "Casino Royale introduces a brand new mystery writer, Briton Ian Fleming, and a hard-shelled British secret service operative, James Bond, who should be prowling the international underground for some books to come" (Ian Fleming).

Casino Royale took longer to gain popularity within the United States. Three publishers turned the book down before Macmillan Publishing Co. offered Fleming a deal. Casino Royale was published on March 23, 1954 in the US, but US book sales were poor, totaling only 4,000 copies sold across the entire US during the course of the year. It wasn't until 1961 when American sales of the series started to soar due to From Russia with Love being named one of President John F. Kennedy's top ten favorite books in Life magazine.

With so few copies of Casino Royale originally printed, true first editions are very rare and hard to come by. We have been fortunate enough to come across one ourselves. Our Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, First Edition, in Original Dust Jacket, 1953 is presented in its original black boards, with red titles to spine and heart motif to the front book cover, as well as the original striking dust jacket design. This is a stunning Bond collectible and is in excellent condition. The book is housed in a matching quarter Moroccan leather and black cloth clamshell case.  The front of the clamshell features an inlaid print of the original Casino Royale dust jacket art and the interior of the clamshell has an embossed facsimile Ian Fleming signature stamp.

Clamshell open showing red interior on left side with Ian Fleming facsimile signature and Casino Royale book on right side.

This rare collectors item has sold for upwards of $70,000 at auction-- those that feature an original Fleming signature have even sold for over $100,000. With Casino Royale being just the start of one of the most popular book series to date, with one of the most well-known fictional characters, the value and appreciation for such a rare find will only increase over time. Don't miss out on the chance to add this one to your collection! 

Before Casino Royale was even published, Fleming's next Bond adventurebooks lined up showing spines and one book in front showing the slipcase and book laying down showing cover. was under way. Live and Let Die arrived on bookshelves throughout UK on April 5, 1954, just a year after Casino Royale made its grand debut. Some Bond novels to follow that also gained major popularity include Diamonds are Forever, From Russia with Love, Dr No, Goldfinger, and Thunderball.


Our James Bond Series by Ian Fleming - Facsimile First Edition Library, in 14 Volumes features all James Bond novels written by Fleming, up until his death on August 11 1964. This rare, out-of-print collection includes exact facsimiles of the UK Jonathon Cape original hardcover first editions. Each book is housed in a decorative slipcase. Aside from the original first editions, which are exceedingly expensive and extremely hard to acquire, The First Edition Library 14-volume set is the most collectible complete set ever published. Each book is an exact replica of the original first edition, with faithful matching of size, typography, and dust jacket artwork.

To commemorate the overall success and popularity of Casino RoyaleVintage Classics partnered with Bentley Motors for the 60th anniversary celebration to create a luxury limited edition of the book that introduced Special Agent 007 to the world. The Bentley is James Bond’s car of choice in the original Fleming novels and Ian Fleming was a huge admirer of the Bentley Boys, seduced by their adventures on the racing track. This iconic edition aimed to capture that spirit of adventure and the glamour associated with these leading British brands. Its striking red, white, and black coloring is a nod to the gambling theme of Fleming’s first novel, where Bond famously takes on his adversary, Le Chiffre, over a game of baccarat. A special feature of this edition is the bespoke set of playing cards, hidden within a secret compartment in the case. 

Image to the right showing clamshell open with playing cards inside the case and book displayed above. Image to the right shows clamshell case closed with cards displayed to the side.

This edition book was published on November 1, 2013, exclusively from Random House. Just 500 editions were produced and this special printing features an exclusive introduction from racing legend, Sir Stirling Moss, making it a true collector’s item. This Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, 60th Anniversary Bentley Special Edition, 2013 is the perfect addition for any lover of the James Bond legacy created by the talented and inspiring Ian Fleming. 

Resource: Ian Fleming, 9 June 2020, https://www.ianfleming.com/ian-fleming/.






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