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Novelist E.L. Doctorow dies - Ian Fleming's U.S. editor

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#1 glidrose


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Posted 23 July 2015 - 08:53 PM



Doctorow was Fleming's editor at New American Library during those final years. Andrew Lycett's Ian Fleming biography says,

"Further revision to You Only Live Twice was enlivened by the comments of Ed (E.L.) Doctorow, a new editor at new American Library and later a best-selling novelist. He had mixed opinions: the first half (with all its scene-setting) was too slow and Bond's character was not skillfully developed. 'It is as if Bond's sadness and apathy had affected Fleming,' wrote Doctorow in a sentence that might have been more insightful if the two names had been inter-changed. On the other hand, he felt 'Fleming is constitutionally unable to write a dull sentence' and the book could easily be improved by some changes in construction. He particularly recommended the introduction of Blofeld, the villain, at a much earlier stage. Fleming was interested to read Doctorow's comments, but was not prepared to do the radical rewriting required: 'Apart from detailed corrections, I have never had the stomach to go back to one of my books once I have got it off my chest.'"

Doctorow soon turned to writing novels himself. "Ragtime" and "Billy Bathgate" are two of his most critically acclaimed novels and were subsequently filmed.

Doctorow often wrote intellectual & ambitiously literary genre fiction covering an eclectic range. It has been said that he never wrote the same book twice.

If one good thing can come from this, perhaps his literary executors will finally allow his second novel "Big as Life" (1966) back into print. Doctorow disowned this work and has never allowed it to be republished. This quasi science-fiction novel - about giants who wash up on the shore of New York City - is very difficult to find and very expensive! If you ever happen across a copy, grab it! Your bank account will thank me.


#2 Fairbanks



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Posted 24 July 2015 - 05:41 AM

Wow, I had no idea that Doctorow was Fleming's editor. I love his novels "The March" and "Homer and Langley", and heard him speak several times in person. I never even vaguely associated him with Ian Fleming or James Bond. He's a fabulous writer, and I encourage everybody to check out his work. He's a modern master. 

#3 Dustin



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Posted 24 July 2015 - 07:06 AM

Same here, thanks for pointing this out, glidrose. Never got around to reading Doctorow - yet. It's interesting that you mention something I, too, often felt, that by refusing to rework on a larger scale Fleming opened up his books for various criticisms he could easily have avoided.

But in this specific case, You Only Live Twice, I don't really agree with Doctorow. I think the strange structure of the book and the time it takes to (re-)introduce Blofeld are actually two of the main appeals for me. Bond starts out as an 'ordinary' human being, cut back to seize by failure and tragic loss. His mission is for once a realistic one - could well be picked from today's headlines even, after what we've learned about the state of affairs between states - and we realise that here Bond is living and breathing in our world, that he is bogged down by the same petty problems and irks each of us are so frequently.

The return of the plot to the - for Bond - more familiar realm of bizzare terrors happens like a transition into a King-like parallel universe, where Bond is once more the dragon slayer and fate grants him revenge on his enemy. Introducing Blofeld earlier might have given the book more thrilling potential from the go, but it would also have been more conventional in my view, maybe even forgettable. For me it's the contrast that makes You Only Live Twice stand out.

#4 glidrose


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Posted 10 September 2015 - 10:29 PM

Trivia: Doctorow published a 2011 collection of short fiction titled "All the Time in the World".


#5 glidrose


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Posted 28 June 2016 - 12:46 AM

More trivia. Tiffany Case tells Bond about Dutch Schultz's accountant and adviser Otto "Abbadabba" Berman. He appears throughout Doctorow's award winning 1989 novel "Billy Bathgate".