Ian Fleming and the original novels
The Man with the Golden Typewriter
In late 1942, as the Second World War raged, Ian Fleming found himself at an Anglo-American naval conference in the Jamaican capital, Kingston. It was his first time visiting the Caribbean island and the November weather was typically miserable, with little excitement at the conference either. He stayed with his friend Ivar Bryce, who had a home up in the Blue Mountains, and Bryce was certain that Fleming would return to London with grim memories of his inclement visit. He could not have been more wrong.
"When we have won this blasted war, I am going to live in Jamaica," Fleming announced to Bryce at the end of the trip. "Just live in Jamaica and lap it up, and swim in the sea and write books."
The post-war plan had already been forming in Fleming's mind, and he had admitted to a friend in naval intelligence that "I want to write the spy story to end all spy stories."
Ian Lancaster Fleming (28 May 1908 – 12 August 1964) was a son of Valentine Fleming, a wealthy banker and the Conservative MP for Henley, who died in action on the Western Front in May 1917.
Educated at Eton, Sandhurst and, briefly, the universities of Munich and Geneva, Fleming moved through several jobs before he was recruited by Rear Admiral John Godfrey, the Director of Naval Intelligence, to become his personal assistant. Fleming joined the organisation full-time in August 1939, with the codename "17F", and worked for them throughout the war.
Early in 1939, he began an affair with Ann O'Neill (née Charteris), who was married to the 3rd Baron O'Neill.
After the naval conference in Jamaica, and his stated desire to make a home in the Caribbean, Ivar Bryce helped Fleming find a plot of land in St Mary Parish where, in 1945, Fleming built Goldeneye. The name of the house and estate has many possible sources. Fleming mentioned both his wartime Operation Goldeneye, and Carson McCullers' 1941 novel Reflections in a Golden Eye, which described the use of British naval bases in the Caribbean by the US Navy.
Upon Fleming's demobilisation in May 1945, he became the Foreign Manager in the Kemsley newspaper group, which at the time owned The Sunday Times. In this role he oversaw the paper's worldwide network of correspondents. His contract allowed him to take two months holiday every winter in Jamaica.
In 1948 Charteris gave birth to Fleming's daughter, Mary, who was stillborn; Charteris and Fleming became engaged shortly after in 1951.
By his own admission, he started writing Casino Royale in early 1952 to distract himself from the forthcoming wedding to Ann. He typed out 2,000 words on the morning of February 17th, directly from his own experiences and imagination, and finished work on the manuscript in March. It was a pattern he retained for future Bond books. In May 1963 he wrote a piece for Books and Bookmen magazine in which he said: "I write for about three hours in the morning ... and I do another hour's work between six and seven in the evening. I never correct anything and I never go back to see what I have written ... By following my formula, you write 2,000 words a day."
Back in London, Fleming had his manuscript—which he described as his "dreadful oafish opus"—retyped by Joan Howe, his red-haired secretary at The Times on whom the character Miss Moneypenny was partly based. Clare Blanchard, a former girlfriend, advised him not to publish the book, or at least to do so under a pseudonym. During the book's final draft stages, Fleming allowed his friend, and later editor, William Plomer to see a copy, and remarked "I really am thoroughly ashamed of it ... after rifling through this muck you will probably never speak to me again, but I have got to take that chance."
Despite this, Plomer thought the book had sufficient promise and sent a copy to the publishing house Jonathan Cape. At first they were unenthusiastic, but were persuaded to publish on the recommendation of Fleming's older brother, Peter, an established travel writer whose books they managed. On 13 April 1953, Casino Royale was released in the UK in hardcover, priced at 10s 6d, with a cover designed by Fleming. It was a success and three print runs were needed to cope with the demand.
After the publication of Casino Royale, Fleming used his annual holiday at Goldeneye to write another Bond story, Live and Let Die.
Twelve Bond novels and two short-story collections were published between 1953 and 1966, the last two (The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy and The Living Daylights) posthumously.
Much of the background to the stories came from Fleming's previous work in the Naval Intelligence Division or from events he knew of from the Cold War. The plot of From Russia, With Love uses a fictional Soviet Spektor decoding machine as a lure to trap Bond; the Spektor had its roots in the wartime German Enigma machine. The novel's plot device of spies on the Orient Express was based on the story of Eugene Karp, a US naval attaché and intelligence agent based in Budapest who took the Orient Express from Budapest to Paris in February 1950, carrying papers about blown US spy networks in the Eastern Bloc. Soviet assassins already on the train drugged the conductor, and Karp's body was found shortly afterwards in a railway tunnel south of Saltzburg.
Many of the names used in the Bond works came from people Fleming knew: Scaramanga, the principal villain in The Man with the Golden Gun, was named after a fellow Eton schoolboy with whom Fleming fought; Goldfinger, from the eponymous novel, was named after British architect Ernő Goldfinger, whose work Fleming abhorred; Sir Hugo Drax, the antagonist of Moonraker, was named after Fleming's acquaintance Admiral Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax; Drax's assistant, Krebs, bears the same name as Hitler's last Chief of Staff; and one of the homosexual villains from Diamonds Are Forever, "Boofy" Kidd, was named after one of Fleming's close friends—and a relative of his wife—Arthur Gore, 8th Earl of Arran, known as Boofy to his friends.
Fleming's first work of non-fiction, The Diamond Smugglers, was published in 1957 and was partly based on background research for his fourth Bond novel, Diamonds Are Forever. Much of the material had appeared in The Sunday Times and was based on Fleming's interviews with John Collard, a member of the International Diamond Security Organisation who had previously worked in MI5. The book received mixed reviews in the UK and US.
For the first five books, Fleming received broadly positive reviews. That began to change in March 1958 when Bernard Bergonzi, in the journal Twentieth Century, attacked Fleming's work as containing "a strongly marked streak of voyeurism and sado-masochism" and wrote that the books showed "the total lack of any ethical frame of reference". The article compared Fleming unfavourably with John Buchan and Raymond Chandler on both moral and literary criteria.
A month later, Dr. No was published, and Fleming received harsh criticism from reviewers who, in the words of Ben Macintyre, "rounded on Fleming, almost as a pack". The most strongly worded of the critiques came from Paul Johnson of the New Statesman, who, in his review "Sex, Snobbery and Sadism", called the novel "without doubt, the nastiest book I have ever read". Johnson went on to say that "by the time I was a third of the way through, I had to suppress a strong impulse to throw the thing away". Johnson recognised that in Bond there "was a social phenomenon of some importance", but this was seen as a negative element, as the phenomenon concerned "three basic ingredients in Dr No, all unhealthy, all thoroughly English: the sadism of a schoolboy bully, the mechanical, two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult." Johnson saw no positives in Dr. No, and said, "Mr Fleming has no literary skill, the construction of the book is chaotic, and entire incidents and situations are inserted, and then forgotten, in a haphazard manner."
Biographer Andrew Lycett notes that Fleming "went into a personal and creative decline" after marital problems and the attacks on his work. Goldfinger had been written before the publication of Dr. No; the next book Fleming produced after the criticism was For Your Eyes Only, a collection of short stories derived from outlines written for a television series that did not come to fruition. Lycett noted that, as Fleming was writing the television scripts and the short stories, "Ian's mood of weariness and self-doubt was beginning to affect his writing", which can be seen in Bond's thoughts.
Fleming followed the disappointment of For Your Eyes Only with Thunderball, the novelisation of a film script on which he had worked with others. The work had started in 1958 when Ivar Bryce introduced him to a young Irish writer and director, Kevin McClory, and the three, together with Fleming and Bryce's friend Ernest Cuneo, worked on a script. In October, McClory introduced experienced screenwriter Jack Whittingham to the newly formed team, and by December 1959 McClory and Whittingham sent Fleming a script. Fleming had been having second thoughts on McClory's involvement and, in January 1960, explained his intention of delivering the screenplay to MCA, with a recommendation from him and Bryce that McClory act as producer.
Working at Goldeneye between January and March 1960, Fleming wrote the novel Thunderball, based on the screenplay written by himself, Whittingham and McClory. In March 1961 McClory read an advance copy, and he and Whittingham immediately petitioned the High Court in London for an injunction to stop publication. After two court actions, Fleming offered McClory a deal, settling out of court. McClory gained the literary and film rights for the screenplay, while Fleming was given the rights to the novel.
Fleming's books had always sold well, but in 1961 sales increased dramatically. On 17 March 1961, four years after its publication and three years after the heavy criticism of Dr. No, an article in Life listed From Russia, with Love as one of US President John F. Kennedy's ten favourite books. Kennedy and Fleming had previously met in Washington. This accolade and the associated publicity led to a surge in sales that made Fleming the biggest-selling crime writer in the US.
In April 1961, shortly before the second court case on Thunderball, Fleming had a heart attack during a regular weekly meeting at The Sunday Times. While he was convalescing, one of his friends suggested that he take the time to write up the bedtime story that Fleming used to tell to his son Caspar each evening. The result was Fleming's only children's novel, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, which was published in October 1964, two months after his death.
In June 1961 Fleming sold a six-month option on the film rights to his published and future James Bond novels and short stories to Harry Saltzman. Saltzman formed the production vehicle Eon Productions along with Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli, and after an extensive search, they hired Sean Connery. Connery's depiction of Bond affected the literary character; in You Only Live Twice, the first book written after Dr. No was released, Fleming gave Bond a sense of humour that was not present in the previous stories.
Fleming's second non-fiction book was published in November 1963: Thrilling Cities, a reprint of a series of Sunday Times articles based on Fleming's impressions of world cities in trips taken during 1959 and 1960.
In January 1964 Fleming went to Goldeneye for what proved to be his last holiday and wrote the first draft of The Man with the Golden Gun. He was dissatisfied with it and wrote to William Plomer, the copy editor of his novels, asking for it to be rewritten. Fleming became increasingly unhappy with the book and considered rewriting it, but was dissuaded by Plomer, who considered it viable for publication.
Fleming was a heavy drinker and smoker throughout his adult life, and suffered from heart disease. On 11 August 1964, while staying at a hotel in Canterbury, Fleming went for lunch and later dined at his hotel with friends. The day had been tiring for him, and he collapsed with another heart attack shortly after the meal. Fleming died at age 56 in the early morning of 12 August 1964 — his son Caspar's twelfth birthday. His last recorded words were an apology to the ambulance drivers for having inconvenienced them, saying "I am sorry to trouble you chaps. I don't know how you get along so fast with the traffic on the roads these days."
Fleming's last two books, The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy and The Living Daylights, were published posthumously. The Man with the Golden Gun was published eight months after Fleming's death and had not been through the full editing process by Fleming. As a result, the novel was thought by publishing company Jonathan Cape to be thin and "feeble". The publishers had passed the manuscript to Kingsley Amis to read on holiday, but did not use his suggestions. The final Bond book, containing two short stories, Octopussy and The Living Daylights, was published in Britain on 23 June 1966.
In October 1975 Fleming's son Caspar, aged 23, committed suicide by drug overdose and was buried with his father at Sevenhampton, near Swindon. Fleming's widow, Ann, died in 1981 and was buried with her husband and their son.
A Whisper of Love, a Whisper of Hate
From "the scent and smoke and sweat" of a casino at three in the morning, to "scared the living daylights out of her", nobody did it better than Ian Fleming.
Casino Royale (1953)
A high-stakes game of baccarat with Le Chiffre at Royale-les-Eaux, introduces secret agent James Bond 007 to the world.
Bond learns about love and betrayal from the enigmatic Vesper Lynd, finds life-long allies in Felix Leiter and Rene Mathis, and discovers that his trade can put him in close contact with the wrong end of a carpet beater.
Live and Let Die (1954)
Fleming's debut was a hit, and he followed up with an exciting romp through New York and his beloved Jamaica.
Political-correctness is non-existent as Bond grapples with Mr Big and his goons, falls all too easily for the mysterious Solitaire, and Felix bites off more than he can chew and disagrees with something that eats him.
The action returns to England and we get an insight into Bond's more dreary routine in Moonraker.
Gala Brand is the rather forgettable heroine, and none of the set piece scenes live long in the memory.
Luckily things liven up when Bond hits the vodka and benzedrine at Blades, and disfigured maniac Hugo Drax threatens to nuke London in a tense final third.
Diamonds are Forever (1956)
A convoluted plot, dull action scenes, location-hopping and the mediocre Spang brothers let down the fourth entry in the series.
However, Fleming is more comfortable with Bond by now, and spends time exploring his world views and developing his relationships with Felix and the ultra-sassy Tiffany Case.
The lack of a super villain is somewhat tempered by everyone's favourite hand-holding hitmen, Wint and Kidd.
From Russia, with Love (1957)
The best in the series? It got JFK's presidential seal of approval, and confirmed Bond as an international phenomenon.
Our hero only appears midway through the book, giving plenty of time to develop Rosa Klebb, Red Grant and Tatiana Romanova as they plot the SMERSH assassination attempt.
Bond takes centre stage, though, at the famous gypsy camp scene and the fight on the Orient Express.
Doctor No (1958)
It was back to Jamaica next for a rather violent entry that had one sensitive critic wailing about "sex, snobbery and sadism".
Honeychile Rider is the stuff of boyhood fantasies, and Doctor Julius No is a worthy adversary, despite the flimsy missile interference plot.
The centipede scene will have you checking the bed covers for a while, but was wisely upgraded to a tarantula for the movie.
A rare example of the movie being better than the novel.
It ambles along at a humdrum pace as the implausible plot to physically steal all the gold from Fort Knox unfolds.
The characters are the saviour. The eponymous villain and his bowler-hatted henchmen are iconic, and Pussy Galore needs no introduction.
Bond's views on homosexuality would not go down well today.
For Your Eyes Only (1960)
The start of the 1960s saw Fleming's first collection of short stories, a mixed bag that are worth a second reading.
From a View to a Kill is a punchy opener about motorcycle dispatch riders being murdered.
For Your Eyes Only is the standout as Judy Havelock avenges the death of her parents.
Quantum of Solace is a dinner party anecdote that manages to keep you hooked.
Risico is a smuggling yarn that sees Bond teaming up with Colombo to stop Kristatos peddling drugs.
The Hildebrand Rarity ensures the anthology ends on a high. Bond's intense dislike of the abrasive, wife-beating Milton Krest is entirely personal, and Liz Krest is a three-dimensional survivor who merits a bigger part.
The first novel in the SPECTRE trilogy is a cracker, that was only marred by the legal battles with Kevin McClory that plagued Fleming's remaining years.
Emilio Largo is an enigmatic frontline foe, with the now legendary Ernst Stavro Blofeld pulling the strings and threatening nuclear destruction.
Domino Vitali is pure "Bond Girl", and Fleming revels in writing the underwater scenes.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1962)
Riding high after the success of Thunderball, Fleming sprung a surprise with his ninth book.
Told in the first person by young Canadian Vivienne Michel, the narrator recounts her life of struggle, sex and survival, culminating in an attack by a couple of goons (Horror and Sluggsy, seriously) at a motel.
Bond rocks up in the third act and saves the day, but fans and critics alike gave Fleming's experimental novel a mauling.
Licking his wounds, Fleming retreated to Goldeneye and picked up the Blofeld story in his most emotional novel to date.
With Dr No being filmed nearby, Fleming penned an action-packed thriller that pitted Bond against his arch nemesis for a second time.
But the mission and the action are all secondary to Bond's love affair with Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, which culminates in a heartbreaking finale.
You Only Live Twice (1964)
Bond is a wreck after the murder of Tracey. Fleming's own decline was obvious, and his personal demons are inflicted on his fictional creation.
M offers 007 one last chance at redemption with a diplomatic mission to Japan. Depression turns to revenge as Bond discovers Blofeld marching around a Garden of Death in a samurai costume.
After their epic duel, Bond is presumed dead and M writes a detailed obituary. He has in fact got amnesia, and is living with a pregnant Kissy Suzuki.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1965)
Unfinished and published posthumously, Fleming's final novel is understandably lacklustre.
It could be argued that Bond's empty character is a symptom of his amnesia and subsequent brainwashing by the Russians, but really this is a story written by a man who knew he was dying.
It's good to see Felix get a final outing, but Scaramanga and Goodnight are two-dimensional, and there is precious little action or suspense.
The two titular short stories were again published posthumously, with The Property of a Lady and 007 in New York added to later editions.
Fleming wrote Octopussy in 1962. The anecdotal story sees war hero Major Dexter Smythe confess to Bond about stolen gold and murder.
The Living Daylights sees a moody and disobedient Bond refusing to shoot a Cold War sniper because she is a woman.
In The Property of a Lady, Bond flushes out a KGB spy by going to the auction of a Faberge egg at Sotheby's.
007 in New York isn't really a story at all. It's Fleming's decadent recipe for scrambled eggs, dressed up with Bond travelling to the Big Apple to tell an MI6 agent that her new boyfriend works for the KGB.
Fleming's non-Bond books
As well as the Bond series, Fleming published two non-fiction and one children's book during his writing career.
The Diamond Smugglers (1957)
Thrilling Cities (1963)