James Bond books edited to remove racist references

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James Bond Live and Let Die novels rewrite - Terry O’Neill/Iconic Images
James Bond Live and Let Die novels rewrite - Terry O’Neill/Iconic Images

James Bond novels have been rewritten to remove a number of racial references from Ian Fleming’s work, The Telegraph can reveal.

All of the author’s thrillers featuring 007 are set to be reissued in April to mark 70 years since Casino Royale, the first book in the series, was published.

Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, the company that owns the literary rights to the author’s work, commissioned a review by sensitivity readers of the classic texts under its control.

The Telegraph understands that a disclaimer accompanying the reissued texts will read: “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace.

“A number of updates have been made in this edition, while keeping as close as possible to the original text and the period in which it is set.”

The changes to Fleming’s books result in some depictions of black people being reworked or removed.

James Bond Live and Let Die Casino Royale 007 novels rewrite - Cover Images
James Bond Live and Let Die Casino Royale 007 novels rewrite - Cover Images

Dated references to other ethnicities remain, such as Bond’s racial terms for east Asian people and the spy’s disparaging views of Oddjob, Goldfinger’s Korean henchman.

References to the “sweet tang of rape”, “blithering women” failing to do a “man’s work”, and homosexuality being a “stubborn disability” also remain.

In the sensitivity reader-approved version of Live and Let Die, Bond’s assessment that would-be African criminals in the gold and diamond trades are “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they’ve drunk too much” becomes – “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought.”

Another altered scene features Bond visiting Harlem in New York, where a salacious strip tease at a nightclub makes the male crowd, including 007, increasingly agitated.

The original passage read: “Bond could hear the audience panting and grunting like pigs at the trough. He felt his own hands gripping the tablecloth. His mouth was dry.”

The revised section replaces the pigs reference with: “Bond could sense the electric tension in the room.”

Ian Fleming James Bond 007 novels books rewritten - Bradley Smith/Corbis
Ian Fleming James Bond 007 novels books rewritten - Bradley Smith/Corbis

A further lengthy passage describing Bond’s night out in Harlem, including an argument between a man and his girlfriend conducted largely in accented dialogue Fleming describes as “straight Harlem-Deep South with a lot of New York thrown in”, has been entirely removed.

The word “n-----”, which Fleming used to refer to black people when he was writing during the Fifties and Sixties, has been almost entirely expunged from the revised texts.

In most cases, this is replaced by “black person” or “black man”, but racial descriptors are entirely dropped in some instances.

In one example, some criminals escaping from Bond in Dr No become simply “gangsters”. In the same novel, the race of a doctor and an immigration officer now go unmentioned, as does that of a henchman shot by Bond.

The ethnicity of a barman in Thunderball is similarly omitted in new editions. In Quantum of Solace, a butler’s race now also goes unmentioned.

Detail is also removed from Goldfinger, where the race of the drivers in the Second World War logistics unit, the Red Ball Express – which had many black servicemen – is not mentioned, instead referring only to “ex-drivers”.

Ian Fleming James Bond 007 novels books rewritten - Allstar/United Artists
Ian Fleming James Bond 007 novels books rewritten - Allstar/United Artists

Bond literature has been tweaked before to suit different markets, and Fleming gave editor Al Hart his blessing to tone down sex scenes for American readers.

The author also permitted US publishers to tone down racial references in Live and Let Die.

Ian Fleming Publications said: “We at Ian Fleming Publications reviewed the text of the original Bond books and decided our best course of action was to follow Ian’s lead. We have made changes to Live and Let Die that he himself authorised.

“Following Ian’s approach, we looked at the instances of several racial terms across the books and removed a number of individual words or else swapped them for terms that are more accepted today but in keeping with the period in which the books were written.

“We encourage people to read the books for themselves when the new paperbacks are published in April.”

In the past, Fleming’s US publishers changed the title of Casino Royale to You Asked For It and 007 was even referred to in the blurb as Jimmy Bond.

In 1954, Live and Let Die was banned in the Republic of Ireland.

Roald Dahl novel controversy

It came after passages from Roald Dahl’s books were purged on the advice of cultural sensitivity experts hired by Puffin.

On Friday, the book publisher announced that it will reissue his books in their uncensored form following a backlash.

Dahl threatened to never write another word if his publishers ever changed his language, it emerged on Saturday.

In comments made 40 years ago, he promised to send his “enormous crocodile”, referencing the character in his eponymous novel, to gobble them up if they did so, The Guardian reported.