Saturday 28 July 2012

What Raymond Chandler didn't say

The other day I picked up my copy of the Triad/Panther edition of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, first published in 1977, and glancing at the back cover read the familiar quotation: 'Bond is what every man would like to be, and what every woman would like to have between her sheets.' The author was Sunday Times book critic Raymond Mortimer.

I then picked up the later Penguin edition (showing the Richie Fahey design), and saw that the quotation was repeated. Except that it was attributed to Raymond Chandler. The same attribution, along with a reference to the Sunday Times source, was made on the Penguin 'abstract art' edition. And a shortened version of the quote and Chandler/Sunday Times attribution will be repeated again on the back of the Vintage 'There is only one Bond' edition.

So who does the quotation belong to? The only way to find out was to return to Raymond Mortimer's Sunday Times review of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, published on 30th March 1963. The phrase was indeed there, though not quite in the same form as that shown on the Triad and Penguin paperbacks. The actual line is:

'James Bond is what every man would like to be, and what every woman would like between her sheets.'

So what of Raymond Chandler? Chandler wrote two reviews of Bond books. The first, a review of Diamonds are Forever, was published in the Sunday Times on 25th March 1956. The second, reviewing Dr No, was published on 31st March 1958. In neither review did Chandler write anything that resembled Raymond Mortimer's line. It is possible that Chandler did say something similar, but it has been difficult to find its original source (and of course Chandler can't have written the line in connection with On Her Majesty's Secret Service, as he died in 1959).

I can't help feeling that Chandler never wrote a phrase on the lines of 'Bond is what is every man would like to be', and that the association between the author and phrase is apocryphal. I also wonder whether the error in attribution occurred simply from the confusion of both writers being called Raymond. What is interesting, though, is the fact that copying-errors in the attribution and words have been perpetuated through various editions of Bond paperbacks. The inaccurate quotation has become a meme in its own right, being spread and replicated without reference to the original source. 

On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Design copyright Triad/Panther Books 1977
On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Design copyright Penguin/Richie Fahey 2006 


  1. I'm currently putting together a light hearted A to Z of James Bond for my website, and was going to open with the Raymond Chandler quote! I thought I'd try and verify it, and stumbled across this post. Interesting stuff. I'll have to think of a different opening line now though!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks very much. I enjoyed looking into this business, though I don't think my article has made much difference - I still see the quote wrongly attributed to Chandler!

  3. Great little article here, Edward, as always. Yes, I think it's a case of the two Raymonds being confused by the blurb writers concerned and the mistaken attribution to Chandler gained legs therefrom. I too doubt that Chandler ever said or wrote this anyehere myself - but he is the more famous of the two and it's well-known he was linked with Ian Fleming through friendship, reviews and a 1958 BBC radio interview, so I guess that Chandler "won out" in the end. I don't know if you've noticed at all, but many blurbs are inaccurate (some don't even relate to the book they appear on!!!) and Simon Gardner (John's son) has confirmed this for me.


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