Christmas with Ian Fleming

Here's a section from the Atticus column of the Sunday Times dated December 20, 1959. If memory serves, Fleming was no longer writing the column, but it might have been in John Pearson's hands. This installment of Atticus asked several luminaries what they would be doing for Christmas and what they thought of the holiday. Here's what Fleming said:
Thriller-writer Ian Fleming has more positive ideas on Christmas: "Ideally, the only possible place to spent it is Monte Carlo. You don't have to eat turkey--a detestable bird. There aren't any people there you know at this time of year, and it's perfectly easy to play a little golf and avoid over-eating." But even for the creator of James Bond, the ideal is not always attainable, and Mr. Fleming will in fact be spending his Christmas near Belfast, reading three good American thrillers, including the latest Rex Stout, and "going to church in a long crocodile with the rest of the family" on Christmas morning. His one way of simplifying Christmas is to give the same present year after year to all and sundry. It consists of a dozen snuff handkerchiefs from Fribourg and Treyer.

The Irish location was Shane's Castle, which contained the estate of Ann Fleming's first husband Shane O'Neill, a wealthy Baron killed in World War II. The Flemings spent many Christmases there. Rex Stout was one of Fleming's favorite thriller writers and received a shout-out in OHMSS. According to the foreword to a Nero Wolfe anthology, "Stout considers the late Ian Fleming to have been a good storyteller too, but he turned down Fleming's suggestion that M, James Bond, Nero Wolfe, and Archie Goodwin should all appear together in the same novel. 'Bond would have gotten all the girls,' Stout admits ruefully."

Besides Fleming, the Atticus Christmas column also interviewed Bertrand Russell, John Betjeman, Christopher Fry, John Osborne, Alec Guinness, and C.S. Lewis. Let me know if you'd like to read any of their answers as well.

Oh, and let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a merry Christmas, with goodwill to all board members and secret agents.


  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CAModerator
    Posts: 26,269
    Thank you, @Revelator . I know that @Dragonpol is always interested din such information, as well.
  • Posts: 2,273
    Thanks for posting this. Anything Fleming has said interests me. Merry 007 Christmas and a Happy New Year!
  • 007InVT007InVT Classified
    Posts: 893
    Well done Rev and a happy Christmas to you Sir.

    A word from M:

    "'Fraid we've got to go through the turkey and plum pudding routine. Mrs. Hammond's been brooding over pots & pans for weeks. Damned sentimental rubbish."

    My favourite gift to give is calendars. Eminently useful, easy to wrap and fit in a suitcase!
  • edited December 2015 Posts: 1,365
    I'd definitely take a calendar over a dozen snuff handkerchiefs. No idea what use I'd have for the handkerchiefs, since I don't take snuff and have no plans to be in a snuff film...
    Bounine wrote: »
    Thanks for posting this. Anything Fleming has said interests me.

    You're in luck then, because next year I will be flooding the board with Fleming!
  • DragonpolDragonpol Schloss Drache ~ Defender of the Continuation.
    edited December 2015 Posts: 12,775
    Thanks for the tag dear @Birdleson.

    Thank you @Revelator. I've not read that before but I knew Fleming and his wife visited Shane's Castle in Antrim over Christmas. Funny enough I live in the same county of Northern Ireland. And a flood of Fleming is just what the doctor ordered, @Revelator!

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, good sir!
  • PropertyOfALadyPropertyOfALady Colders Federation CEO
    Posts: 3,291
    Fleming sounds like a man whom I would be very good friends with.
  • Posts: 12,081
    Fascinating stuff, thanks for the finding! I am happy to see Ian Fleming was a Rex Stout fan! It makes perfect sense.
  • RichardTheBruceRichardTheBruce I'm motivated by my Duty.
    edited December 2017 Posts: 4,883
    A Christmas description of Fleming, rather than by him.
    Royal Museums Greenwich
    21 December 2016

    What links Bond author Ian Fleming, a Norwegian spy on 'a night out in town' and a smuggled Christmas tree? (brought into the country we're told 'at some discomfort')

    The story unravels in a document from our Caird Library and Archive written by Sir Norman Egbert Denning. He had set up the Operational Intelligence Centre in 1936 which formed part of the Naval Intelligence Division in World War II. During the war Fleming worked in Naval Intelligence, invited to join in 1939 with no prior experience but the right mix of charm, connections and a talent for administration. Fleming was soon promoted to commander and was given access to the most secret of intelligence and had contacts with other secret services on behalf of his Director, Admiral J. H. Godfrey. In 1941 he even joined Admiral Godfrey on a trip to America to help write a blueprint for the Office of Co-Ordinator of Information which later formed the basis of the CIA.

    Our tale took place during the war close to Christmas when a Norwegian agent had recently arrived in London after 'an adventurous journey'. Due to the dangers he'd faced Fleming decided to treat him to a night on the town, including a luxurious meal in the Savoy - 'a dinner rarely come by in wartime London'. It was only after this meal that the group piled into jeeps to notice two Christmas trees among the agent's gear. The trees had been procured from King Haakon's Summer Palace in Oslo and brought all the way to London where the agent intended to present one to his exiled king.

    Sir Norman Egbert Denning on Ian Fleming and the Christmas tree. Repro ID F7983-001.
    Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree

    Some date before Christmas, during the war
    years, we had the occasion to bring back from Norway,
    a Norwegian agent operating there. He arrived
    after an adventurous journey, and in view of the
    risks and dangers he had been exposed to,
    Ian Fleming suggested it would be a nice thing
    to lash him up to a first class meal and night
    out in town. Ian organized it in the Savoy and,
    in fact, I believe provided some of the fair for
    the chef to cook, at all events it was a dinner
    very rarely come by in wartime London. Present
    were Ian, Commander Welsh, R.N.V.R., two or three
    Norwegians and myself, and it was a convivial evening.

    Afterwards we piled into two jeeps, only to
    discover that amongst the gear with the agent,
    were two Christmas trees. These apparently he
    had procured from King Haakon's Summer Palace
    Oslo and smuggled it over with him with at discomfort.
    intending to present one to the king, then living
    at Sunningdale. I think it was Ian who suggested
    that it would be a nice gesture to put up one in
    Trafalgar Square. This we did tying it to a
    Balustrade on the North Side. Of course there
    were no fairy lights but one or two aircraft
    flares provided illumination. But to us more
    welcome perhaps was a bottle of Aquavit the agent
    had brought back with him. So passing the bottle
    from mouth to mouth, we toasted the happy return
    the agent, King George, King Haakon, and to the
    liberation of Norway.

    Even on this occasion Ian showed his bon viveur
    attitude with the remark, "I'm not complaining, but
    nevertheless I still maintain Danish aquavit is the
    the best and moreover this bottle has only
    travelled in a small ship from Norway to Scotland
    and not round the world as it should have done
    as real Norwegian aquavit."
    On Fleming's suggestion they decided to put one up in Trafalgar Square with aircraft flares replacing fairy lights. Under the glow of their tree the group shared a bottle of Norwegian Aquavit and toasted to the liberation of Norway. Another document in our Denning collection gives some insight into the creation of James Bond. Fleming used his experiences in naval intelligence as a basis for the books but added the 'in the field' action which he had craved but never seen.

    It was at a dinner attended by Denning where we're told Fleming complained of the lack of glamour within the intelligence service. He then went on to recount adventures he would have had during the war if there'd been unlimited freedom, funds and bravery. Similar to the later adventures of James Bond, Fleming concluded 'Alas! I'm not a brave enough man'. Denning admits there was no way of knowing if Bond was already formed in Fleming's mind at the time but it is clear how his experiences led him to create the world's most famous spy.

    Aquavit, huh. Never had the pleasure.

    Flavoured spirit (caraway, dill) of Scandinavia since the 15th century. Usually 80 proof or so.
  • Posts: 1,365
    Many thanks Richard--a most charming story that shows off Mr. F's bon viveur and talent for high living. A Christmas tree decorated with aircraft flares sounds smashing, though best done outdoors. I've had Aquavit...and will never forget it. I bought some for a party held by a friend of Norwegian descent. After several shots the gathering took on a hallucinatory quality.
  • RichardTheBruceRichardTheBruce I'm motivated by my Duty.
    Posts: 4,883
    Nice remembrance, @Revelator. I may try some locally.

    With its 20 December publish date I'd like to include the earlier Atticus piece with an On This Day post. If I get anything wrong please suggest a correction.
  • BMW_with_missilesBMW_with_missiles All the usual refinements.
    Posts: 2,791
    That was fantastic @RichardTheBruce
  • edited December 2017 Posts: 405
    Thanks for posting that. Didn't know that connection. Shane's castle not that far away from me
  • RichardTheBruceRichardTheBruce I'm motivated by my Duty.
    Posts: 4,883

    An update of

    2016. James Bond hunting Santa.





  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CAModerator
    Posts: 26,269
    Where is the Bond Advent Calendar. @4EverBonded , don't you and the missing @0BradyM0Bondfanatic7 usually handle that?
  • Fire_and_Ice_ReturnsFire_and_Ice_Returns The Phantom Planet
    edited December 2018 Posts: 8,275
    Birdleson wrote: »
    Where is the Bond Advent Calendar. @4EverBonded , don't you and the missing @0BradyM0Bondfanatic7 usually handle that?

    I thought about it the other day, not sure if its worth doing for the remainder of the month. Though perhaps members could just post freely anything Christmas related?
  • DragonpolDragonpol Schloss Drache ~ Defender of the Continuation.
    edited December 2018 Posts: 12,775
    Birdleson wrote: »
    Where is the Bond Advent Calendar. @4EverBonded , don't you and the missing @0BradyM0Bondfanatic7 usually handle that?

    Ex-member @BondJasonBond006 started it and maintained it in the first year of its existence (2016) which maybe explains why it has fallen into abeyance this year. That, and the absence of @0BradyM0Bondfanatic7, who successfully ran it last year. I even contributed to it myself both years.
  • BMW_with_missilesBMW_with_missiles All the usual refinements.
    Posts: 2,791
    Dragonpol wrote: »
    Birdleson wrote: »
    Where is the Bond Advent Calendar. @4EverBonded , don't you and the missing @0BradyM0Bondfanatic7 usually handle that?

    Ex-member @BondJasonBond006 started it and maintained it in the first year of its existence (2016) which maybe explains why it has fallen into abeyance this year. That, and the absence of @0BradyM0Bondfanatic7, who successfully ran it last year. I even contributed to it myself both years.

    If anyone is interested @BondJasonBond006 runs a Bond Instagram page and has continued the advent tradition
  • RichardTheBruceRichardTheBruce I'm motivated by my Duty.
    edited December 2018 Posts: 4,883
    Ian Fleming, Andrew Lycott, 1995.
    As soon as he arrived [in Colombo, Ceylon] 23 September [1944], Ian struck up a close friendship
    with Clare [Blanshard] who was swept off her feet by the handsome, educated naval
    officer in his tropical uniform. In a letter to her brother Paul a month
    later, "Since I wrote last (and continuously, every day, but about to be
    lopped off at a moment's notice like Marlow's Faustas) a beauteous being
    has swum into my ken--on an official visit--and I like him very very very
    much indeed. As the Wrens say, whose letters I censor so very monotonously,
    he's absolutely it. It doesn't make any difference that I don't mean any-
    thing to him as he's so awfully nice--so that is why I haven't written.
    Next time I write he'll have gone for ever and ever and practically won't
    have existed. But, believe me, he's the right shape, size, and height, has the
    right sort of hair, the right sort of laugh, is 36 and beautiful. I wish I were
    more glamorous..."

    Ian had arrived at the height of the Christmas party season in Colombo.
    He invited Clare to a dance at the Septic Prawn, the nightclub in the
    Galleface Hotel where he was staying. She was impressed that he was "a
    plodder dancer: I dislike men who dance well". She wore a stunning long
    white silk dress, plugged with little pieces of real silver. Ian was fascinated
    with the garment and, seventeen years later, sent her a postcard of the
    ballroom of a Sussex hotel where he was recuperating from an illness. He
    marked the front with an X and wrote, "I'm behind the palm tree on the
    right, watching you in the white dress clearing the floor in the centre."
    Clare recalled, "He couldn't get over that dress. He really minded about
    materials and such things."

    He also expressed interest in exploring the Ceylon countryside. When
    Clare had told him about the jungle which straddled the railway on the
    way up to the hill-station of Kandy, he jumped at the opportunity to
    investigate. Enjoying the hear and mild humidity of the tropical island,
    he told Clare, "I'm never going to spend the winter in England again." He
    did not mention Jamaica, but his fantasy of his post-war experience was
    beginning to take shape.
  • RichardTheBruceRichardTheBruce I'm motivated by my Duty.
    Posts: 4,883
    December 24, 2012
    Why Ian Fleming’s YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE is So
    Important to Eric Van Lustbader

    Eric Van Lustbader is the author of the internationally bestselling Jason Bourne thrillers [after Robert Ludlom], as well as the Jack McClure series, the latest installment of which is FATHER NIGHT. Here, Eric discusses the Christmas gift that also gave him a valuable revelation he would use for years to come. Ian Fleming’s Bond novel, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, taught him that a thriller can be so much more than the conventions of the genre. If used creatively, a novel can become a doorway to many other worlds and realities, and it is only the beating heart of humanity that can truly reach readers.
    Christmas is always an odd time of year for me. My birthday is December 24th, so I rarely had a party (friends were at their respective families). It was also a lonely time, as Christmas was never a family affair either. On the other hand, my mother always made sure I got two presents: one for my birthday and one for Christmas.

    Often, because she knew I loved to read as much as I loved to write, those presents were books.

    Years before I wrote THE NINJA, my first thriller, I was a big James Bond fan. I was lucky enough to have come upon the series at the beginning, devouring CASINO ROYALE, reading the books as they came out: DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. But it wasn’t until I read YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE that a panoply of surprising new worlds opened up to me. (Looking back now, I’m startled at the level of racism of Fleming’s writing, but that’s another story and a significant marker for the era in which he wrote.)

    I was initially startled, then delighted to discover that the soul of Fleming’s novel was Japanese, a culture neither I nor Bond had ever explored before. From the first, I found myself spellbound in a way no previous Bond novel had been able to do. I was struck by the epigram at the beginning --- an almost-haiku Fleming devised after the 17th-century master poet, Matsuo Bash: You only live twice: once when you are born, And once when you look death in the face. That almost-haiku called to me almost as if it were alive. It set the stage for a story that made understandable a culture both exotic and concealed, a culture about which, not long after, I would write about myself.

    Fleming’s two-part titles, “It is better to travel hopefully...” “ ...than to arrive,” continued to haunt me for many years. There is an undercurrent of sorrow in the novel that, for me, made it both compassionate and merciful, two sentiments that, up until that moment, seemed impossible for a spy novel to incorporate. Years later, when my love for Japanese art and culture flowered, when I was in the midst of my research for THE NINJA, I came to realize that in a dazzling feat of literary legerdemain, Fleming had somehow captured the fragile duality of Japanese culture: violence and beauty.

    Today, I look out my office window at my Yoshino cherry tree and understand that there is only a single shining moment when its blossoms are at the peak of their yearning life. So, the Japanese believe, with life, itself fleeting, ephemeral, and, therefore, poignant. And now I can’t help but wonder whether I would have been drawn so deeply to Japanese culture had it not been for YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. And after more than 30 years of writing internationally bestselling novels, including seven Jason Bourne books and five Jack McClure novels, I can certainly attest to the fact that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

    YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE was, for me, a doorway into my own future. It taught me that a thriller can be so much more than action, adventure, and a ticking time bomb of a plot. All these are necessary to the genre, of course, but, if used correctly, they become the clothes that cover the beating heart. This is what I tried to capture in THE NINJA, the following Nicholas Linnear novels --- all my books, in fact. What YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE taught me was that, no matter the fashion of the clothes, the beating heart can touch readers in many different ways. As a result, I have learned to use my writing to explore and comment on society, politics, philosophy, even religion.

    YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE taught me that the richness of an author’s mind need not be hampered by the conventions of genre, that those very conventions --- trust, betrayal, vengeance, redemption, inversion --- can, if used creatively, become the doorways to many worlds, many realities, all reflecting our own.

    At Christmastime, I always remember that moment of revelation and am grateful for it.

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