Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

edited December 2023 in Literary 007 Posts: 2,895
This thread was established to share the literary journalism of Ian Fleming, with a focus on Fleming's reviews of thrillers, spy novels, crime stories, and even non-fiction books on those topics. Over the course of a year I posted a review by Fleming approximately every week.

This post serves as an index of links to each review, for ease of access.

Reviews (in order of original publication):

The White Cheat (Gamesmanship, by Stephen Potter)

Books and Authors Abroad: English Laurels in America (a round-up of stateside British bestsellers)

Bestsellers in America: “Beautiful, Beautiful Books” (negative short reviews of four prominent American authors)

Partner! You Have Triumphed My Ace… (The Complete Card Player, by Albert Ostrow)

“BANG-BANG, KISS-KISS” ("An American Miscellany" on My Gun is Quick, by Mickey Spillane, and more)

An Open Letter to the Transport Minister (on the deadly issue of road signs)

West Indian and Island in the Sun (Pleasure Island: the book of Jamaica, edited by Esther Chapman, and Jamaica, by Peter Abrahams)

The Deadly Tube (One of Our Submarines, by Edward Young)

Eldollarado ("A Transient’s Scrapbook from New York")

Some Uncollected Authors: Raymond Chandler and Raymond Chandler (two articles on the great American mystery novelist)

Questions of Colour (Family and Colour in Jamaica, by Fernando Henriques)

Mountaineering Downwards (British Caving: An Introduction to Speleology, by Members of the Cave Research Group)

Mr. Coward Explains (Future Indefinite, by Noel Coward)

Mudscape with Figures (The Riddle of the Sands, by Erskine Childers)

The Secrets of Interpol (preview of its ill-fated Istanbul conference)

The Great Riot of Istanbul (an eyewitness report)

Delinquents and Smugglers (post-mortem of the Istanbul Interpol conference)

Birth-pangs of a Thriller ("How I Came to Write Casino Royale")

Dangerous Know-How (Scarne On Cards, by John Scarne)

Gangs Cock a Snook at Interpol (report from the organization's Vienna Conference)

Forever Ambler (The Night Comers, by Eric Ambler)

Three Men at the Motor Show (Ian Fleming, Godfrey Smith, and Stirling Moss talk cars)

Wonders of the Deep (Man Explores The Sea, by James Dugan)

Girl's Best Friend (Diamond, by Emily Hahn)

Nightmare Among the Mighty (account of Fleming's performance in a Berkshire charity gold tournament)

The Sun Went In (Man The Ropes, by Augustine Courtauld)

The Tragic Spy (The Spy’s Bedside Book. An Anthology edited by Graham Greene and Hugh Greene)

The Secret of Edgar Hoover (The F.B.I. Story, by Don Whitehead)

Introduction to The Education of a Poker Player, by Herbert Yardley

Trouble in Havana (Our Man in Havana, by Graham Greene)

Ian Fleming on the film Our Man in Havana (BBC Film Review)

The Thriller Trend (A Twist of Sand, by Geoffrey Jenkins)

Full Fathom Five (Captain Cousteau’s Underwater Treasury, by Jacques-Yves Cousteau & James Dugan)

One Man's World (a personal column)

Adventure in the Haggard-Buchan School (The Pass Beyond Kashmir, by Berkely Mather)

The Russians Make Mistakes, Too ("Some Russian Intelligence boners")

Foreword to Airline Detective, by Donald Fish and John Pearson

Foreword to The Seven Deadly Sins, by W.H. Auden, Cyril Connolly, Patrick Leigh-Fermor, Edith Sitwell, Eric Sykes, Angus Wilson, and Evelyn Waugh

Gary Powers and the Big Lie (commentary on the U2 spy scandal)

Eton and Brought Up (The Fourth of June, by David Benedictus)

How to Write a Thriller ("President Kennedy’s favorite fiction writer, the creator of secret agent James Bond, offers his recipe for best-selling suspense")

A Thundering Yarn (A Grue of Ice, by Geoffrey Jenkins)

Intrepid: Silhouette of a Secret Agent (introduction to The Quiet Canadian: The Secret Service Story of Sir William Stephenson, by H. Montgomery Hyde)

Connoisseurs’ Choice (Ian Fleming describes his last car)

Books of the Year, 1959-1962 (selections including Eric Ambler, Len Deighton, John MacDonald, and more)

Introduction to All Night at Mr. Stanyhurst’s, by Hugh Edwards

The Case of the Painfully Pulled Leg (a tribute to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen)

Introducing Jamaica (Preface to Ian Fleming Introduces Jamaica, edited by Morris Cargill)

A Malignant Growth in the Fabric of Society (The Honoured Society, by Norman Lewis)


  • edited July 2018 Posts: 2,895

    The Tragic Spy
    (Sunday Times, Nov. 17, 1957)

    The Spy’s Bedside Book. An Anthology edited by Graham Greene and Hugh Greene. (Hart-Davis. 15s.)

    I cannot understand why the great spy novel has never been written. The true spy is a fascinating figure—a lonely, nervous, romantic controlled by an organisation which is hobbled by Security, lack of funds and official skepticism. Tragedy—the tragedy of the futile—is inherent as much in his successes as in his failures. If, by some brilliant stroke of luck or craft, he discovers a vital truth, even if it is believed, by his Service, it will almost certainly be disbelieved by his Government, because it is a Secret Service report. For Secret Services are rarely trusted by War Ministries.

    I remember the early reports of the V.1s reaching the Admiralty and subsequently being debated by the Joint Intelligence Committee of the Chiefs of Staff. These reports, from Vienna, where many of the components were being manufactured, from the environs of Peenemünde, and from workers in the Todt Organisation who were constructing the launching sites on the Channel coasts, were obtained by Secret Service agents at great risk. How many lonely men and women ran the gauntlet of how many dangers to get this vital intelligence through the maze of couriers and cut-outs to the secret wireless transmitter that, under the ears of the enemy D/F vans, transmitted it to London?

    For weeks, even months, skepticism greeted these priceless messages. Finally the sheer weight of them demanded a check by the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit. The results confirmed the Secret Service reports, and the bombing of the V.1 sites and factories began at the eleventh hour.

    This is not to criticise Whitehall—we should have lost the war if we had sent out our bombers every time a secret agent reported a secret weapon—but to underline the tragedy of the spy. He gets a poor salary and little, if any, reward for his services. He has no social standing in the community and remains all his life “something in the War Office” while his wife, watching her friends’ husbands climb the ladder, remains just the wife of something in the War Office.” And, on top of it all, the fruits of his dangerous labours rarely give satisfaction outside the department of the Secret Service which controls him.

    Here, it seems to me, is the stuff of a great novel which no one, has attempted and whose fringes have been only touched on by Somerset Maugham, Eric Ambler and Graham Greene.

    Seduced from the drab truth by the emotive lushness of espionage, most writers of spy fiction (or spy fact for the matter of that) choose the easier and more profitable thriller approach and, with the exception of the three I mention above, it is only the best of the others—Buchan. George Griffith, and O. Henry—who can reread except as a joke. They do date so terribly, these fairy stories of our teens—their language, their steam-age wars, their moustaches, their exclamation marks! Even their gimmicks lack the high seriousness with which the thriller writer should approach his subject. One shivered pleasurably at Khokhlov’s explosive cigarette lighter, but, surely, even in those days of other smoking habits William Le Queux’s explosive cigar which blew the Privy Councilor’s face off must have made our fathers chuckle rather than shiver.

    In fact, it is these lowlights of spy literature which make The Spy’s Bedside Book required reading for anyone who likes thrillers or detective stories. It is all here: the hazards, the tricks, the delights of the profession, wrapped up in an attractive package which includes an authentic old-time advertisement by The Stereographic Camera Company, “For Accurate Copies of All Documents. A Necessity for Blackmailers, Spies, and Gentlemen of the Press.”

    It is probably that note, the note that makes the book such fun, that inspired the rather incongruous reflections at the beginning of this review. They were the reactions of one of the fifty or so contributors to this anthology who is reminded that the art of thrilling ought to consist of rather more than shouting “Bang!” in an authoritative voice.
  • Posts: 520
    Although this stuff is, up to a point interesting, the truth is that during the epochs of Joseph Conrad, Erskine Childers, John Buchan, Somerset Maugham and early Graham Greene, the spy novel was at best a niche business.
    It was truly the works of Fleming, Deighton and Le Carre (In that order) that elevated espionage fiction into the realm of important literature.
    Consequently, Fleming’s reviews of espionage fiction have to be taken within that context.
    In PussyNoMore’s opinion it was crime thrillers that were truly his biggest influence.
  • edited July 2018 Posts: 2,895
    the truth is that during the epochs of Joseph Conrad, Erskine Childers, John Buchan, Somerset Maugham and early Graham Greene, the spy novel was at best a niche business. It was truly the works of Fleming, Deighton and Le Carre (In that order) that elevated espionage fiction into the realm of important literature. Consequently, Fleming’s reviews of espionage fiction have to be taken within that context.

    Yes, Fleming pretty much states that up to the late 1950s only Maugham, Ambler, and Greene had created first-rate work in the genre. I'll be posting Fleming's review of Childers sometime in the future, but I can report that Fleming thought The Riddle of the Sands was barely even spy fiction.
    In PussyNoMore’s opinion it was crime thrillers that were truly his biggest influence.

    Elsewhere Fleming listed his influences Chandler, Hammett, Simenon, Sax Rohmer, and E. Phillips Oppenheim. Jeremy Duns--a spy novelist and scholar of the genre--has argued persuasively that Fleming was also deeply influenced by Leslie Charteris and Dennis Wheatley.
  • Posts: 520
    Revelator wrote: »

    Elsewhere Fleming listed his influences Chandler, Hammett, Simenon, Sax Rohmer, and E. Phillips Oppenheim. Jeremy Duns--a spy novelist and scholar of the genre--has argued persuasively that Fleming was also deeply influenced by Leslie Charteris and Dennis Wheatley.

    There can be no doubting the influence of both Charteris and Wheatley.
    PussyNoMore also thinks Mickey Spillane and the French writer Jean Bruce also had a significant influence on Fleming. Their works proceeded Casino Royale by some six years. They both were massive sellers and shared the distinction of being excoriated by the literary establishment.
    Another writer, seldom mentioned in polite circles, who would undoubtedly have also had an influence on Fleming would have been James Hadley Chase.

  • edited July 2018 Posts: 2,895
    Fleming was also influenced by Michael Arlen--he described his very first short story, written at Eton, as "a shameless crib of Michael Arlen".
    Sometime in the near future I will post Fleming's comments on Spillane (they're not very positive).
  • Posts: 1,296
    Who is this Fleming chap? Just teasing thank you Revelator for always bringing it back to the man who is the reason we are all here to begin with. Always a pleasure to read. :)
  • Posts: 520
    Revelator wrote: »
    Fleming was also influenced by Michael Arlen--he described his very first short story, written at Eton, as "a shameless crib of Michael Arlen".
    Sometime in the near future I will post Fleming's comments on Spillane (they're not very positive).

    PussyNoMore looks forward to this.
    The Pussy has never read Fleming’s opinion of Spillane and awaits it on the tenderest of hooks.
    That said, it will not surprise if it is less than flattering.
    Dear Mickey was this strangest of birds. High literature he was not but he created atmosphere like few others. PussyNoMore often thought that Fleming added a little Spillane to the Buchan cocktail and shook well.
    The biggest scandal in all of this is however, the complete silence by both Pearson and Lycette regarding the huge and obvious influence of Jean Bruce. 007 and OSS117 - hello !

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    The Secret of Edgar Hoover: 33 Years at the F.B.I.
    (Sunday Times, Dec. 15, 1957)

    The F.B.I. Story. By Don Whitehead. (Muller. 30s)

    By Ian Fleming

    “I heard Jack say he had searched the town to find the kind of kit he wanted, and he had gift-wrapped it and placed it in his mother’s luggage as a surprise for her when she reached Alaska.” It was a dynamite bomb that Jack had gift-wrapped and it blew to kingdom-come Jack’s heavily insured mother and forty-three other people in United Airlines Flight No. 629, eleven minutes out of Denver. When the Federal Bureau of Investigation had pinned the crime on Jack Graham he said to his guard, “You can send my mail to Cannon City Prison until next, month. After that you can send it to Hell.”

    The modern F.B.I. is Edgar Hoover. Hoover joined the Bureau at the age of twenty-two, shortly after the greatest sabotage act of all time, when Von Rintelen and Boy-Ed brought off the Black Tom explosion of two million pounds of dynamite stored on an island in New York Harbour. Hoover was put in charge of enemy alien registration until, at the end of the war, the entire personnel of the Bureau was swamped with the round-up of American deserters who, by June, 1918, had reached the staggering total of 308,489.

    Wartime Meeting

    Then came the scandals of the Harding administration, in which the head of the F.B.I.,
    William Burns, and the grimy detective Gaston B. Means were deeply implicated. President Coolidge’s first step in house-cleaning was to appoint Harlan Stone as Attorney-General, and in 1924 Stone summoned twenty-nine-year-old J. Edgar Hoover to his office, scowled at him and appointed him head of the F.B.I., a position that Hoover has held to this day.

    How has Hoover, in defiance of all history, remained head of a national secret police force for thirty-three years, surviving almost unchallenged five Presidents and eleven Attorneys-General?

    I met Edgar Hoover in 1940. I was in Washington with my chief, Admiral Godfrey, who was on a mission to co-ordinate the Naval Intelligence effort before America came into the war. In the confusion of fledgling Intelligence organisations, there were two solid men in America—the brilliant Canadian, “Bill” Stephenson, who represented British Intelligence, and Edgar Hoover. Hoover, a chunky, enigmatic man with slow eyes and a trap of a mouth, received us graciously, listened with close attention (and a witness) to our exposé of certain security problems and expressed himself firmly but politely as being uninterested in our mission.

    Hoover had his channels with Bill Stephenson, and his commonsense, legalistic mind told him it would be unwise to open separate channels with us. He was, of course, quite right. Our constitutional link with American Intelligence could only lie with the Office of Naval Intelligence of the Navy Department.

    Hoover’s negative response was soft as a cat’s paw. With the air of doing us an exceptional favour he had us piloted, through the F.B.I. Laboratory and Record Departments and down to the basement shooting range where, at that time, his men had their training in the three basic F.B.I. weapons—pistol, automatic shot gun, and sub-machine gun. Even now I can hear the shattering roar of the Thompsons as, in the big dark cellar, the instructor demonstrated on the trick targets. Then, with a firm, dry handclasp, we were shown the door.

    My impression of the F.B.I then, and my Impression of the occasional agents I have since met, is that discipline and thoroughness, rather than intuitive brilliance, is the backbone of the Bureau. These virtues, together with incorruptibly and absolute loyalty to his superiors, are the reasons for Hoover’s long survival. Add to these absence or greed to political power and, despite his bachelorhood, a life totally untouched by scandal, and you have a Civil Servant whom any government would welcome as guardian of its secrets (not quite all its secrets: Hoover knew nothing of the atomic bomb project until his own undercover agents in Communist cells on the West Coast began picking up gossip about the Manhattan Project!).

    Resisted McCarthy

    In England, we are inclined to think the F.B.I. played a dubious role at the time of the McCarthy purges. It would be wrong to tar Hoover with that brush. The F.B.I. had to obtain and give evidence, but Hoover refused to open his files to the McCarthy investigators. Hoover’s point of View was that a raw file, containing unconfirmed suspicions, is a weapon which should never be used against an individual except to build up a case that will subsequently stand in law. He successfully resisted all McCarthy’s attempts to gain access to his records on any man, while accepting his duty to provide the Senate Inquiry with normal security checks.

    No doubt the F.B.I. has its grimy secrets and certainly, as all police forces, it has made mistakes, but the impression I have, now strongly reinforced by reading The F.B.I. Story, is that the Bureau is probably the best-run Department of the American Government. In a country where a serious crime is committed every 13.9 seconds it would be bad news if it wasn’t!

    Mr. Whitehead has written in admirable prose a first-class documentary which can be read with real excitement by the crime addict, but which will also serve as good contemporary history.

    Commentary: Ian Fleming would have been astonished to know J. Edgar Hoover continued serving as director of the F.B.I. until his death in 1972. The reason for Hoover’s long survival was that multiple Presidents feared his retaliation. As Lyndon Johnson legendarily said, "it’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in." Richard Nixon chose not to remove Hoover because he feared Hoover would "bring down the temple" by releasing damaging information about him. In a wonderful irony, Hoover's death brought down the temple instead, since the man Nixon passed over to succeed Hoover became Deep Throat!

    The F.B.I.'s "grimy secrets" were also grimier than Fleming knew: illegal wiretapping, COINTELPRO, the persecution of the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King ( to whom an anonymous blackmail letter was sent, urging him to commit suicide), and much more.

    Fleming also doesn't mention that he was among those "in England" who were "inclined to think the F.B.I. played a dubious role at the time of the McCarthy purges." Evidence is in the following excerpt from an earlier article, where Fleming compared Hoover to Napoleon's secret police chief.

    from Eldollarado: A Transient's Scrapbook from New York
    (Sunday Times, June 28, 1953)

    These Names Make Bad News

    For a time the Coronation (“It’s going to mean a great religious revival round the world” is a comment I have heard several times) ousted McCarthy as topic “A” in New York and I believe throughout America, but now he is top-billing again, and you simply can’t stop talking about him or reading about him.

    There are various reasons for this: he has a really expert publicity machine, he is always springing or cooking-up a new surprise, people are terrified and fascinated by him, and “he may be a sonofabitch but, darn it, he’s always right.” Homosexuals in the State Department, British ships trading with China, un-American books in American embassies abroad.

    Each scandalous broadside has missed with ninety-nine calumnies and hit with one. And that one is enough in a country where every man is born with a chance to be President and where, in consequence, every man aches to prove the Administration wrong. McCarthy is just pressing the trigger of a gun which is loaded and aimed by a huge cross-section of the public.

    Walter Winchell has been doing much the same thing for thirty years, and he goes on doing it on radio and TV to a guaranteed public of around ten million every week. Is there a connection between them?

    And what role does Edgar Hoover of the F.B.I. play in all this, the Washington Fouché who has controlled the American secret police for the amazing span of twenty-seven years? These three men are the recipients of all the private grudges of America. They are the overt and covert crusaders against un-Americanism. The sun would indeed be darkened if history were to bring them together, or any closer together, before this giant country has found itself.
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    American Miscellany: “BANG-BANG, KISS-KISS”
    (Sunday Times, March 19, 1950)

    By Ian Fleming

    Stoddard turned angular, wind-whipped features in her direction. “It’s none of my business—I know, but you are, well, sort of gone on Hugh? Or is it my over-active imagination?” Under the restless breeze light brown curls lashed softly at the smooth curve of Jingles Lawson’s strong cheekbones as she started a quick reply, but, instead, paused and smiled a taut little smile. “I kind of get unglued inside when Hugh’s around, and me a growed-up gal of near thirty. Silly isn’t it? Silly, silly!”

    Two hundred and seventy pages of this come to you by courtesy of Mr. Van Wyck Mason in Dardanelles Derelict. It is a “Major North Story” by the author of seventeen other (in Hollywood’s jargon) “Bang-Bang, Kiss-Kiss” tales, and it was pressed into my hand by a formerly reliable friend in Brentano’s in response to a request for the best American “toughie” since Christmas. I recommend Mason for this year’s “Prix Amanda Ross.”

    For another pound’s worth of the local currency I fortified myself for the stratocruiser flight home with My Gun is Quick, by Mickey Spillane, which the New York Times had just reviewed with horrified awe. Alas, on leaving Gander, I found that “The moonlight on the white V of the plunging neckline made it hard to concentrate” for Mike Hammer, private eye, of whom the Miami Herald critic says: “In a long and misspent life immersed in blood, I don’t believe I have ever met a tougher hombre.” For my money, they come tougher in Teddy Lester’s Chums.

    The Saturday Review of Literature reports that “They’ve been shuffling the big brass in the Brentano book chain,” and my message to the new president is that the homespun American folk-tales of Raymond Chandler, John O’Hara, James M. Cain, “Little Caesar” Burnett and others have many admirers, and if the day comes when the harsh voice of the .38 Police Positive is stilled and the office bottle has yielded its last pint of rye, one customer will no longer darken the portals at 5th Avenue and 47th.

    Sentimentality in America very easily becomes mawk, and it mav be that some of the tears being currently shed in New York at Mister Roberts and Death of a Salesman are spilling over into the book business. Personally, I will pay folding money not to see either of these plays, and still haye some to spare to protect my heartstrings from books about repenting gangsters.

    The rest of the American literary scene is also disappointing. John O’Hara’s A Rage to Live is selling far better than it deserves. John Bowles’s much discussed The Sheltering Sky was poorly reviewed, but is now a best-seller, and Mrs. Roosevelt’s This I Remember heads the general list. British authors, for instance, Daphne du Maurier, Joyce Cary and the late George Orwell, are best-sellers, shortly to be joined, I expect, by Mr. Churchill’s The Grand Alliance, and Fitzroy Maclean’s Eastern Approaches.

    “Stuffers” (promotion material which the book traders stuff into magazines and other books) are going out for Miss Kathleen Winsor’s Star Money, successor to her Forever Amber. This will presumably satisfy two types of American customer recently unearthed by the Saturday Review of Literature—the lady who demanded “a light, entertaining novel she could read while knitting and watching television,” and the woman columnist of the New York Post who claims that women can lose some of their “middle-aged spread” by balancing books on their stomachs.

    The horizon is bleak. Ernest Hemingway’s short novel, Across the River and into the Trees (to be published here by Cape) appears in the spring; and John Hersey’s The Wall, on a Polish-Jew theme, is coming shortly, but from a quick glance at an advance copy it looks to me the most difficult reading since the Rosetta Stone.

    American publishers are biting their nails over a recent Gallup Poll which asked the adults of six democracies: “Are you now reading any books or novels?” (a piquant differentiation). America was easily bottom of the list; England was top. Fifty-five per cent. of our population are now reading a book (or novel), compared with forty-three percent in Norway, forty percent in Canada, thirty-five percent in Australia, thirty-three percent in Sweden and (stop sniveling, Scribner!) twenty-one percent in the U.S.A. What puzzles the publishers is that only thirteen percent of the British adult population are alleged “to have gone beyond elementary or grade school,” compared with over fifty-three percent in America, and that “mass education and a high degree of literacy in the United States” does not seem to be paying off.

    Could be there’s a horrible answer in definitions of “education” and “literacy.” Probably is.
  • Posts: 520
    Fleming comes across as quite opiniated and a little boorish in these articles.
    He is quite dismissive of Van Wyck and Spillane. Both of whom had achieved considerable success and both of whom were credited with producing heroes - North and Hammer - that had more than a little influence on the development of Bond.
    PussyNoMore thinks he was probably secretly jealous!
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    That could be! But Fleming does show good taste in praising Raymond Chandler, John O’Hara, James M. Cain, and “Little Caesar” Burnett. All genuine toughies!
    I confess I'd never heard of Van Wyck before this article, and what's excerpted here doesn't sound that hot.
  • Posts: 520
    Revelator wrote: »
    That could be! But Fleming does show good taste in praising Raymond Chandler, John O’Hara, James M. Cain, and “Little Caesar” Burnett. All genuine toughies!
    I confess I'd never heard of Van Wyck before this article, and what's excerpted here doesn't sound that hot.

    Van Wyck was quite a prolific writer (78 published works) who was particularly famous for his Captain/ Colonel Hugh North novels.

    Many saw North as some sort of template for 007. He was an agent for G-2, Military Intelligence. When he started out in the '30s he was more of a detective than a spy but after the second world war he morphed into the international agent that was more akin to Bond.

    The Pussy read a couple of his books when he was at school. Frankly they weren't that great.

    Spillane on the other hand, deserves more respect. Whatever his faults as a writer, he created NYC atmosphere in a very unique way.

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    Trouble In Havana
    (Sunday Times, Oct. 5, 1958)

    Our Man in Havana. By Graham Greene. (Heinemann. 15s.)

    By Ian Fleming

    Spies are rapidly getting the same old-fashioned look as the rest of the bric-a-brac of pre-Sputnik wars.

    Somehow there does not seem to be much point in stealing plans of aircraft, tanks and submarines when every year, and almost every month, the distance between the blueprint and the junk-heap gets less and less.

    Already this summer the “Terriers,” rattling down the roads on their summer manoeuvres, have seemed like something out of a rich boy’s play-box, or the windows at a print shop. Surely nobody could be seriously interested in purloining one of those antitank weapons they carry so proudly! After all, couldn’t one buy the whole outfit at Hamley’s with, of course, a crib to their radio code thrown in?

    It is rather pathetic that the glamorous trimmings of war seem as dated as the busby. What shall we dangle in front of our grandchildren’s eyes instead of a V.C.? Or will they award it for Vigorous Citizenship?

    The modern military spy is a ticking instrument in a stark room on a mountain top, measuring gigantic explosions across the roof of the world. The quiet-spoken linguist with a cyanide pill in his coat button has gone out with the rat-catcher and the chimney sweep, and Mr. Graham Greene gives him a last savage kick down the steps of the big anonymous building near Maida Vale.

    Mr. Wormold, “Our Man In Havana,” is a typical Graham Greene reluctant hero—troubled, anxious, sensitive, loving—with a vacuum-cleaner agency in Cuba. Abandoned by his wife, he dotes on his daughter, an adorable nymphet in her teens who has caught the eye of the villainous, and admirably drawn, Segura, Chief of the Secret Police.

    Wormold is recruited by the British Secret Service without quite knowing what is happening to him. He sets up a cursory and entirely notional network of agents, using names picked at random from the local Country Club members’ list. He earns good money with his farcical secret reports and spends it on his daughter’s whims.

    Unfortunately, Wormold is in turn spied upon, and suddenly two of the Country Club members whose names he has been using are assassinated. Caught in this ghastly web, an H-Certificate Charley’s Aunt situation develops which I, for one, would prefer to have seen worked out to its logically horrific climax, but the author is kindly and allows us and his reluctant hero to escape to a more or less happy ending.

    Mr. Greene has chosen to heighten, rather than lower, the grotesque temperature of his story so that what could have been terrible and true becomes a savage farce. To my mind, the almost Wodehousian treatment of the Secret Service (its Chief wears a black monocle over a glass eye) is a weakness, and the only weakness in the book. For the rest, this is brilliant and utterly compulsive reading and in the highest class of what the author describes as his “Entertainments.”

    As with all Mr. Greene’s books, what delights most of all is the sheer intelligence of the writing. To watch an intelligence of this quality at work on every page, in every sentence even, is a freshet in the desert, a blessed island in the Sargasso Sea of post-war letters. In his latest book, this high intelligence, never, I think, so evenly sustained by the author, is as easy to recognize as pre-war whisky.
  • edited July 2018 Posts: 2,895
    I forgot to add the following note, which is an excerpt from Andrew Lycett's Fleming biography:
    Ian saw in the new decade with a typical marital mix-up. On New Year’s Day he had an appointment with the poet George MacBeth, who was also a producer at the BBC Third Programme, to record a six-and-a-half minute review of the new Carol Reed film, Our Man in Havana, based on Graham Greene’s novel. The previous evening he booked two tickets to see the film, one for himself, and one for his wife who he thought might enjoy seeing Noël Coward playing Hawthorne. Somehow, however, Ian had neglected to inform Ann of this, and she had invited Frederick Ashton, William Plomer, Diana Cooper and Cecil Beaton to Victoria Square for a small party to welcome in the 1960s. Thus Ian had to arrange for his wife’s guests also to be accommodated at the cinema [...] they all saw the film which, according to general consensus, was not very good.

    When Ian went into the studio the following day, the film was barely discussed. He earned his ten guineas’ fee by using his review as a platform from which to deliberate on weightier matters; in this case, the business of espionage. His line was that the old-fashioned idea of spying, where the code-book was always purloined by the Embassy valet, was dead. Today, “and for as long as war is a threat, the spy is a ticking seismograph on top of the Jungfrau measuring distant atomic explosions on the other side of the world, or instruments carried in aircraft that measure the uranium or plutonium contents of the atmosphere”. Generally speaking, today’s secret services did not need to know about the numbers of tanks or the design of bombs. “The big people have the big weapons and the small people have them not. Details of the weapons are unimportant. They are known.” Therefore, any book or play about the Secret Service had to be either incredible or farcical, he concluded. He admitted he himself tended towards the former. “Personally I am sufficiently in love with the myth to write basically incredible stories with a straight face.” Graham Greene, however, had adopted the latter “more truthful approach and a more modern one. He takes the splendid myth of centuries and kicks it hilariously downstairs.” Ian felt Greene’s SIS agent Wormold, who managed to satisfy his bosses in London by concocting an imaginary spy-ring, was “almost too close to those who served in wartime intelligence to be funny”.
  • Posts: 520
    This is very interesting.
    His line "Personally I am sufficiently in love with the myth to write basically incredible stories with a straight face" sums up his approach to the genre.
    He really was the creator of the 'Spy Fantasy' category.
    It could be argued that the likes of Buchan, Household, Wheatley and Charteris had played around with it before either in terms of pace or fantastical elements but it really was Fleming that made it his own and opened the door for the others to follow.
    Of course, it was the more grounded and cerebral works of Le Carre and Deighton that spawned the darker more 'serious' spy story.
    A furrow that is plowed today by many great writers whilst 'Spy Fantasy' really died a death at the end of the '70s. Indeed the last great exponents that The Pussy can remember are the late, great Peter O'Donnel and the mysteriously disappeared Adam Diment.
    Perhaps they were a product of their times or maybe it's time for a revival ?
    God knows we could do with something to lighten us up !
    With regard to 'Our Man In Havana', loveable as it is, it really falls into the category of 'Spy Farce'. Fleming was correct in his review. It is very Wodhousian.
  • edited July 2018 Posts: 2,895
    I wonder if it's coincidental that spy fantasy died out in fiction around the same time as the Bond films became super-fantastical.
    In Fleming's case, he started out gritty and noirish in CR, but after DN he went for fantasy; GF was confirmation of that.
  • Posts: 7,653
    I found Mike Ripleys book on the British thrillers from the sixties to the eighties having quite a good explanation and he writes once you are past chapter one a really nice story about the influences of Post War Britain on the British thriller writer it released on the world.


    Feel free to read this book.
  • Posts: 520
    Revelator wrote: »
    I wonder if it's coincidental that spy fantasy died out in fiction around the same time as the Bond films became super-fantastical.
    In Fleming's case, he started out gritty and noirish in CR, but after DN he went for fantasy; GF was confirmation of that.

    It is interesting to hypothesise.
    The evolution of the Bond movies together with pastiches like ‘Our Man Flint’ and ‘The Man From Uncle’ could well have hastened its demise.
    One could also argue that perhaps ‘spy fantasy’ morphed into ‘spy techno fantasy’ with the likes of Ludlum and Clancy.
    It’s difficult to know. The Pussy’s personal view is that they are incredibly difficult to write. The two top exponents of ‘Spy Fantasy’ - Fleming & O’Donnell we’re both fabulous scribes.
    Perhaps today’s best spy writers, the likes of Herron, Cumming, Kanon and Furst prefer to concentrate on the more serious end of things because they consider it has more literary merit?And, of course, they all worship Le Carre and this is what he does.
    That said, the huge success of the movie ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ shows that there is still an appetite for ‘Spy Fantasy’ so maybe we will see a resurgence.
    Those of us that have been on this planet long enough know the absolute truth behind the adage ‘What goes around , comes around’ but it will require a terrific writer.

  • Posts: 7,653
    In the sixties we also got the writer Le Carre, Alistair Maclean, Desmond Bagly to name a few who were selling bestsellers even if the James Bond formula started going strong with DN, FRWL & GF.
    With the way to early death of Fleming and the Bond Movies who took pf there was huge appetite for Spy fantasy and even serious spy stories. On one side you have UMCLE, the Avengers (John Steed & co, who started out quite seriously and became more fantasy) and on the other side we got Le Carre, John Forsyth, Len Deighton who were never spy fantasy and they had huge followers in the form of readers.

    With the coming of television and then VHS followed by DVD the reading market has changed into a more visual aided market.

    The thrillers today are less spy fantasy than ever before, while we accept it in the cinema and can even be nostalgic about the occasional Kingsman the only one currently doing well in our friend Tom Cruise with his MI franchise that has taken the 007 franchise place in high octane action and fantastic concepts. And his is movie series and not a book series.
  • Posts: 520
    SaintMark wrote: »

    ......The thrillers today are less spy fantasy than ever before .....

    It is an interesting debate that hinges on how ‘fantasy’ is defined.
    Few would consider the shoot um up epistles of Brad Thor or Vince Flyn to be remotely realistic. With their blood and guts, ridiculous body counts and lamebrain heroes they are indeed truly ‘fantastical’.
    That said, they do not conform at all to PussyNoMore’s idea of spy fantasy which is probably defined more by glamour than anything else.
    When one thinks of the great exponents of the ‘60s : Fleming, O’Donnell, Diment, Leasor and even John Gardner with his Boysie Oakes books. They told great stories, that were well written, had some fantastical elements but above all else, they were soaked in glamour.
    Everybody drove a cool car, wore great clothes, visited glamorous locations and seduced or were seduced by beautiful women or, in the case of Blaise, by attractive men. All whilst going about the business of saving the world.
    Perhaps it was all a reaction to the darkness of WW2 and the ‘50s ?
    Maybe people just wanted to have fun. If so, bring it on again !

  • Posts: 7,653
    It surely was a response to the darker yeas left behind us and the likes of James Bond took the reader and viewer 10 years later to places the average person could never wish to visit. Honeychile Ryder rising out of the ocean in sun-drenched Jamaica was something so glamorous that people constantly fell for the movie and the birth of 007 on celluloid.
    In the same sense the books of those time reflected the worlds people would perhaps never visit but could through the eyes of the reader, put in the thriller aspects and you have a good read.

    I am currently reading "Love down under" the ninth Dr Jason Love novel because while I like a good Le Carre I also enjoy a nice fantasy spy story even if the Love novels are pretty grim sometimes.

    But I am a great fan of the Sir David Niven movie Where the spies are with Francoise Dorleac as femme fatale.
  • Posts: 2,895
    Forever Ambler
    (The Sunday Times, July 1, 1956)

    The Night-Comers. By Eric Ambler. (Heinemann. 13s. 6d.)

    By Ian Fleming

    There are not many authors one can automatically buy “sight unseen,” and it seemed for a time after the war that Eric Ambler had crossed himself off the short list. With The Night-Comers (what a good, eerie title!) we can again buy Ambler blind.

    The story is set In Indonesia. The opening pages are slow and read like an ABCA briefing for an invading army, but at last we have learnt and quickly forgotten the intricacies of Sundanese politics. Major Suparto appears, and we meet that favourite creation of Ambler’s—the dangerous, rather villainous, foreigner whom we and the hero get to like.

    And then Ambler’s typically reluctant hero, Fraser, an English construction engineer, picks up the delicious Eurasian Rosalie at the New Harmony Club and takes her back to his flat, and almost before has made love to her we are in the middle of bloody rebellion. Prisoners of the National Freedom Government in the radio station building, the man and the girl are on the losing side, caught up in its treacheries, and forced to obey the sinister Colonel Roda and the slowly crumbling dictator General Sanusi.

    One of the best scenes in the book, reminiscent of the silent safe-breaking in Rififi, is Fraser’s effort at pistol-point to get the bombed radio-station generator to work again. How much one enjoys these long, deadly struggles with machinery: in this book, the drama of those wet generator windings that had tripped the no-volts circuit breaker!

    The bombers come, and “not very far off an 88 was slamming away like a pair of double doors in a gale.” “Like a dull-witted bull blinking in the sunlight of the arena” the enemy tank comes into the square, the attacking troops get into the building, and Fraser and the girl wait for the lobbed-in grenade .and the panicky spray of a machine pistol. It is a really splendid piece of battle writing, set around a love affair which, at the end, does not let us down. The girl is tidied up on a note of unsentimental realism.

    All Ambler's other gifts are in this excellent thriller—the well-drawn minor characters, the simple, easy prose; the exact ring of the dialogue. It is very good to have this fine writer back with us again.

    Note: Fleming was less enthusiastic about the book than his review indicated, as seen in a letter to Raymond Chandler:
    "Eric Ambler has a new thriller coming out next week, which no doubt Prince’s Bookshop will send you. If not, I will. It is better than the last two but still not the good old stuff we remember. I have done a review for the Sunday Times headed Forever Ambler which struck me as a good joke." ( June 22, 1956)

    Chandler responded:
    "I have already ordered Eric Ambler's new thriller since he told me about it some time before it came out. I think the title of your review, Forever Ambler, is a pretty good joke of the third class division." (July 4, 1956)

    According to Wikipedia, "Forever Amber (1944) is a historical romance novel by Kathleen Winsor set in 17th-century England. It was made into a film in 1947 by 20th Century Fox."
  • Posts: 520
    Fleming’s private assessment of Ambler’s ‘The Night Comers’ is spot on.
    All Eric Ambler’s classics are pre-war.
    He never scaled those heights again.
    The Pussy often puzzles over this. Perhaps he got too enamoured with the film world ?
    The difference between Fleming’s public and private opinions shows the problem of authors reviewing each other. They mostly want to go easy and be supportive.
    If PussyNoMore reads ‘Lee Child says it’s the best thriller he’s ever read’ again, he will scream !
  • edited August 2018 Posts: 2,895
    Dangerous Know-How
    (Sunday Times, April 22, 1956)

    Scarne on Cards: With a Photographic Section on Cheating at Cards. (Constable. 35s.)

    By Ian Fleming

    Although cheating at cards is not numbered among the cardinal sins, I suppose it is the only antisocial act that remains as heinous and as severely punished today as it was during the last century.

    Card cheats still have to resign from their clubs and suffer social ostracism, and there is not a woman who reads this who would not tremble at the idea of a husband or brother being caught in the act.

    Yet the polite card cheat sits at many a friendly bridge or whist table, squinting onto his neighbours’ hands, signalling to his partner with voice or expression or gesture, and in games where this is possible, fudging the score.

    It is not with these humble practitioners that John Scarne deals in his Cheats’ Encyclopaedia, but with the card hustler who knows just that bit more about the game than you and I, the professional gambler who makes his living by operating games of chance, and the straight card sharp, known in the profession as a “mechanic.”

    Scarne can do anything with cards. Nate Leipzig and Harry Houdini, now both in the Magicians’ Valhalla, once put their signature to the statement: “John Scarne is the most expert exponent of wonderful card effects and table work that I have ever seen in my life”; yet he uses no apparatus except ten steel-spring fingers and fifty-two playing cards. He moves up close to you. You tear the wrapper off a new pack of cards and shuffle it as much as you like. You give it to Scarne and he cuts it four times. At the aces. He counts that his greatest trick. Trick? It is a work of art on which he practiced six hours a day for several years.

    During the war Scarne worked for the American War Department, writing a weekly article for “Yank” to educate the G.I. into not losing his pay to card sharps, and this book is a distillation of his knowledge not only of cheating but of strategy and other aspects of popular American card games.

    This is not perhaps a book for the general public. It is expensive and, although pleasantly written, highly professional. Moreover it concentrates largely on American games such as the poker and rummy families, and—a grave fault—bridge is not mentioned; but every club and library should have a copy to be issued to the accredited card lover with the proviso “For Your Eyes Only.”

    Why? Because this is a dangerous book to leave lying about.

    Note: Eagle-eyed readers will recognize that the beginning of this review repeats what M tells Bond in Moonraker: “And don't forget that cheating at cards can still smash a man. In so-called Society, it's about the only crime that can still finish you, whoever you are.”

    And Fleming fans of course know that Scarne on Cards also appears in Moonraker:
    He was home in fifteen minutes. He left the car under the plane trees in the little square and let himself into the ground floor of the converted Regency house, went into the book-lined sitting-room and, after a moment's search, pulled Scarne on Cards out of its shelf and dropped it on the ornate Empire desk near the broad window.

    “…Ten minutes later…he was sitting at his desk with a pack of cards in one hand and Scarne's wonderful guide to cheating open in front of him.

    “For half an hour, as he ran quickly through the section on Methods, he practised the vital Mechanic's Grip (three fingers curled round the long edge of the cards, and the index finger at the short upper edge away from him), Palming and Nullifying the Cut. His hands worked automatically at these basic manoeuvres, while his eyes read, and he was glad to find that his fingers were supple and assured and that there was no noise from the cards even with the very difficult single-handed Annulment.

    At five-thirty he slapped the cards on the table and shut the book.

    That's not the only reference--here's a quote from the Bridge game at Blades:
    M. snorted and threw his cards down. Bond automatically gathered in the pack and as automatically gave it the Scarne shuffle, marrying the two halves with the quick downward riffle that never brings the cards off the table. He squared off the pack and pushed it away.

    Scarne is also referenced in Diamonds Are Forever. Bond watches Tiffany false-deal him at blackjack in Vegas:
    The girl snapped the pack with a fluid motion of the hands, broke it and put the two halves flat on the table and executed what appeared to be a faultless Scarne shuffle. But Bond saw that the two halves did not quite marry and that when she lifted the pack off the table and carried out an innocent reshuffle she would be getting the two halves of the pack back into their original order.
  • edited August 2018 Posts: 2,895
    The Great Riot of Istanbul
    (Sunday Times, September 11, 1955)

    From Ian Fleming, Special Representative of The Sunday Times at the International Police Conference.

    This week’s great riot of Istanbul—the worst insurrection in the history of modern Turkey—is a reminder that Great Britain is very fortunate in being an Island nation. She has never built up those hatreds that fester between neighbours in a suburban street and lead to fisticuffs and end up in court and a shameful half column in the evening paper—the hatreds that gather and come to a head between two families or even two generations in the same house, and that sometimes end in murder—the hatreds between Arab and Jew, German and Frenchman, Pole and Russian, Turk and Greek.

    This was to have been a great week for Turkey. Obedient to the undying memory of Ataturk, she has continued to mould her destiny away from the East and towards the West, perhaps in defiance of her stars and certainly in defiance of her true personality, which is at least three-quarters oriental.

    To begin with, she successfully changed her spots. She abolished the fez, the harem, her Sultans. (Only twelve eunuchs remain in the “Association of Former Eunuchs” that held its annual reunion here last Sunday. Thirty years ago there were one hundred and ninety. Fifty years ago the Sultan had four thousand.)

    She turned her fabulous palaces—and they really are fabulous—into museums. She imported large quantities of French and English culture, German machinery and American taxicabs. She played her cards carefully during the last war. Then she joined N.A.T.O. She bolstered her currency with a tough exchange rate (difficult and dangerous for the operators).

    The educated Turk became a carefully dressed provincial Frenchman with a Homburg and a briefcase and a ballpoint pen. Mr. Conrad Hilton, a man who considers even England a bad risk for an hotel, built the Istanbul Hilton, the most fabulous modern hotel in Europe. The International conference delegates flocked, like the quail whose season opens also this week, into the Golden Gates and this was to be the sixty-four dollar week in a record season.

    This week would surely have made the recently joined member of the European Club eligible, even for the committee, for the prospect of busy modern Istanbul would surely please even those most sensitive confidential agents of the modern State—the police and the economists.

    On Monday in an atmosphere of friendly efficiency began the Twenty-fourth General Assembly of the International Police Commission (Interpol), and the police chiefs of the world went into a conclave on such matters affecting the public safety as I described last Sunday. That was Monday. On Wednesday the 200 delegates to the conference of the International Monetary Fund started coming in to discuss that very delicate matter, the credit of nations—including the credit of Turkey. Between these two days the Turkish Common Man broke out from behind Turkey’s smile of welcome and reduced Istanbul to a shambles.

    On Wednesday morning martial law was declared, and the official Interpol lunch arranged by the Chief of Police of Istanbul had to be cancelled as its venue, a restaurant, had been razed to the ground. That evening the heads of the police of fifty-two countries, after getting off cables to their wives, were confined for their safety to their hotels. There, with the banker economists of the International Monetary Fund, the two congresses lugubriously danced at the centre of the curfew.

    The whole damage, a small fraction of which I witnessed, was done in eight hours of darkness by the peaceful light of a three-quarter moon. At six o’clock the fuse of hatred against the Greeks that had been creeping through the years reached the powder with reports that Ataturk's birthplace at Salonika had been bombed by Greek terrorists. (In fact only a window had been broken by a bomb thrown at the Turkish consulate on Salonika. The proprietor of the leading evening paper and his editor are among the 2,000 rioters now under arrest.)

    Spontaneously on both sides of the Bosphorus in every noisome alley and smart boulevard hatred erupted and ran through the streets like lava.

    Several times during that night curiosity sucked me out of the safety of the Hilton Hotel and down into the city, where mobs went howling through the streets, each under its streaming red flag with the white star and sickle moon. Occasional bursts of shouting rose out of the angry murmur of the crowds, then would come the crash of plate-glass and perhaps part of a scream.

    A car went out of control and charged the yelling crowd and the yells changed to screams and gesticulating hands showed briefly as the bodies went down before it. And over all there was the trill of the ambulances and the whistling howl of the new police cars imported from America.

    When, nauseated, I finally got back to my hotel a muddy, tough-looking squadron of cavalry were guarding the approaches, but they never fired their 1914-18 Mausers and I think there was no shooting by either side during the riot. It was a night of the long staves and these were quickly put away at dawn when the Sherman tanks came in and the first Turkish Division got a grip of the town. For it is broken, and millions of pounds’ worth of damage was done that night. Countless businessmen are wiped out. Including several British merchants, and the Consulate and the rest of the British community are rallying to their help.

    And now the normal disorder of Istanbul is being re-established and on a higher level Ankara and Athens are doing their own mopping-up. In a day or two the police chiefs and their cohorts will depart. As for Turkey, her splendid progress in the International game of snakes and ladders has suffered. She has landed on a snake and must now go back and wait patiently until she can throw a six and get back into the game again.

    Commentary: Since Turkey is back in the news and in turmoil again, this seemed like a good time to share Fleming's eyewitness report. Some background information on how he ended up in the eye of the storm:

    In September 1955 Fleming accompanied joined Sir Ronald Howe, Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, to Istanbul for the International Police (Interpol) Conference.
    Bond fans might remember that Howe had appeared in Moonraker as Superintendent Ronnie Vallance (the surname was that of Fleming’s accountant, Vallance Lodge). After From Russia With Love was published, Howe glowingly reviewed it for the Sunday Times and called Fleming was called “the most readable and highly polished writer of adventure stories to have appeared since the war.” But, Andrew Lycett revealed decades later, Howe’s review was actually written by John Pearson--who had recently graduated from Cambridge before joining the paper.

    Like James Bond in From Russia With Love, Fleming flew to Istanbul with a copy of Eric Ambler’s The Mask of Dimitrios on his knee. Unlike Bond, he avoided the dingy Pera Palace and stayed in the luxurious Hilton. The Interpol conference turned out to be dull and Fleming wrote to Admiral Godfrey ‘The trouble with these policemen is that they have no idea what is really interesting in their jobs and regard criminal matters as really a great bore.’ But on Tuesday, September 6, as the policemen met in the Chalet of Yildiz Palace, the seeds of the riot were germinating.

    As Pearson so aptly put it:
    Here at last then, in Istanbul, we have Fleming confronted with that face of violence which had haunted and fascinated him since boyhood. Here in reality was what he had written about so many times from his imagination – the smell of death and the tumult of danger – bloodshed, chaos and carnage. And how did he react? He was, he wrote, ‘nauseated’ by what he had seen. …Fleming the symmetrist had seen real violence at last. Fascinated yet appalled by it, he had retreated gratefully to the side of order and tranquillity. For the riot brought out in him the strange quality which was at the root of all his fantasies and all his books – that ‘threat of doom’, that ‘atmosphere of suspense married to horrible acts’ – which he had thrilled to at Eton in the stories of Robert Louis Stevenson and Edgar Allan Poe and which was really the thrill and horror with which the obsessively ordered mind reacts to apprehensions of chaos.

    There is in fact a touch of supreme irony about these few days of his in Istanbul. He had come prepared to gather material for an imaginary act of violence and cruelty. Instead he found the real thing…

    The riot played an important role in the making of From Russia With Love, because it introduced Fleming to Nazim Kalkavan, the Oxford-educated shipowner who became the model for Darko Kerim, “one of those rare characters whom Fleming’s hero respects and admires as a fellow spirit," as Pearson notes. The pro-British Kalkavan was horrified by the impression the riot made on foreigners and called at the Hilton the morning after to invite the conference goers to his villa on the Bosphorus. Fleming accepted and the two men quickly became good friends.

    "I have rarely met anyone in my life," Kalkavan said of Fleming, "with so much warmth and with a personality so full of life, an alertness encompassing all. He was always inquiring; we used to have endless talks mooching about the city.” Over the course of several days Kalkavan showed Fleming across town. What they saw was incorporated into From Russia With Love, and Fleming even wrote down his friend's words to give them to Darko Kerim. The following dialogue by Kalkavan will sound familiar to anyone who's read the novel:

    “I have always smoked and drunk and loved too much. In fact I have lived not too long but too much. One day the Iron Crab will get me. Then I shall have died of living too much. Like all people who have known poverty, my chief pleasures are the best food, the best servants and changing my underclothes every day.”

    Perhaps Fleming knew the Iron Crab would get him too.

    One last note: I have an additional reason for posting this article: next week I'm flying to Istanbul. Posts in this thread will resume in mid-September.
  • Have a great trip to Istanbul Revelator!
    The FX is in your favour and if you haven’t read it, travel with Ambler’s ‘The Mask Of Dimitrios’ on your knee.
    Istanbul is one of PussyNoMore’s favourite destinations. It’s full of spies.
    If you can, stay at ‘The Four Seasons’ , Sultanhamet. Bond would have loved it.
    Bon Voyage and stay clear of gypsy camps and Marilyn Monroe’s mouth !
  • This is a very enjoyable thread, Revelator. Thanks for starting & maintaining it! Enjoy Istanbul, and hey! Check out a gypsy camp if you feel in the mood for an adventure...
  • edited August 2018 Posts: 2,895
    Thanks very much gentlemen, I'm glad to know you've been enjoying the thread! I've read The Mask of Dimitrios, but the books I'll take on vacation will probably be the essays of Lord Halifax (the 17th century one) and Sir Thomas Urquhart's translation of Gargantua and Pantagruel. I will be staying with relatives (my Mom's side of the family is Turkish). Erdogan and company seem to have driven most of the gypsy camps out of the city, alas...
  • Revelator you are carrying some intellectual heft with you.
    If you want some ‘Spy’ relief may I suggest Charles Cumming’s ‘A Colder War’
    Set in Istanbul and Eastern Europe it is a great read.
  • Posts: 2,895
    If you want some ‘Spy’ relief may I suggest Charles Cumming’s ‘A Colder War’. Set in Istanbul and Eastern Europe it is a great read.

    Thanks, I'll look that one up. I haven't yet read anything by Cumming.

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