Interviews with Ian Fleming

edited June 6 in Literary 007 Posts: 2,904
This thread is devoted to reproducing every known interview with Ian Fleming. The interviews will be posted weekly and in chronological order. If you think I've missed any let me know. This post will serve as a regularly updated index of links for easy access.

Though Fleming was eager for Bond's name to appear in as many places as possible, he was more shy about promoting himself. During a decade-long writing career he gave approximately 25 interviews in print. He gave far fewer in radio or TV and most of them no longer survive.

If you've ever been interested enough in someone to read through collections of their interviews then you know that people tend to repeat favorite stories. So if you read every post in this thread you'll repeatedly encounter Fleming's anecdotes about dinner at Scott's and meeting JFK. Nevertheless, I think every interview holds something of interest.

If you enjoy this thread, check out (if you haven't already) my threads on Fleming's non-Bond writing: "Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)" and "The Adventure Journalism of Ian Fleming".


01. "A Conversation Between Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming" (BBC, July 10, 1958)

02. "Behind Bond" (Lilliput, Oct. 1958)

03. "Men Looking at Women. No. 1: Ian Fleming" (Evening Standard, April 4, 1960)

04. "James Bond and Me" (Books and Bookmen, May 1960)

05. "The Travellers in Towns" (BBC Home Service, Aug. 2, 1960)

06. "Mr. Fleming Escapes from Belgravia—Thanks to James Bond" (Evening Standard, Oct. 7, 1960)

07. "Personality: Ian Fleming: A tour with the creator of James Bond" (Rogue: Designed for Men, Feb. 1961)

08. "James Bond runs a cool eye over the man he owes most to" (Daily Express, March 15, 1961)

09. "Writers in the Tense Present" (Queen, August 1961)

10. "All History is Love and Violence" (New York Herald Tribune, Feb. 4, 1962)

11. "Eton’s Spillane stops in Gotham" (North American Newspaper Alliance, Feb. 18, 1962)

12. "The Man Who Made Bond" (Harper’s Bazaar, Feb. 1962)

13. "Bond's Creator" (The New Yorker, April 14, 1962)

14. "Tonight" (BBC Television, April 16, 1962)

15. "New Comment" (The BBC Third Programme, April 18, 1962)

16. "The Ian Fleming?" (Saturday Review, May 26, 1962)

17. Excerpts and short interviews (Various publications, 1956–64)

18. "Haunted by his Creation" (Newspaper Enterprise Association, May 31, 1962)

19. "Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups" (BBC Home Service, June 1, 1962)

20. "The Violent World of James Bond" (Photoplay, November 1962)

21. "The Man Behind Secret Agent 007" (Chicago Daily Tribune, Nov. 18, 1962)

22. "The Writer Speaks” (New American Library, 1962)

23. "An interview with—Ian Fleming" (The Sunday Gleaner, Feb. 10, 1963)

24. "That Other Secret Service Feller" (Daily Express, March 27, 1963)

25. "Conversation at Scott’s" (San Francisco Chronicle, May 16, 1963)

26. "Ian Fleming” (Desert Island Discs, June 12, 1963)

27. "The Spectacular Cult of Ian Fleming" (Saturday Evening Post, June 22, 1963)

28. "JFK Is James Bond Fan—Ian Fleming Autographs Thrillers for President" (Associated Press, July 14, 1963)

29. "Background to Bond" (The Motor, August 21, 1963)

30. "The Ian Flemings" (Vogue, Sept. 1, 1963)

31. "The World of Bond and Maigret: Fleming Meets Simenon" (Sunday Times, Sept. 15, 1963 and Harper’s Bazaar, Nov. 1964)

32. "Profile: Ian Fleming" (Criminology, Sept.-Oct. 1963)

33. "Goldeneye: Ian Fleming’s House by the Sea" (Home, October 1963)

34. "Ian Fleming" (Counterpoint, 1964)

35. "Ian Fleming Talking…1964—and James Bond gets his 13th assignment" (Daily Express, Jan. 2, 1964)

36. "You can’t ask for more!" (Daily Express, Feb. 24, 1964)

37. "A Redbook Dialogue: Allen Dulles and Ian Fleming" (Redbook, June 1964)

38. "Ian Fleming" (Playboy, Dec. 1964)

39. "How to Take Any Woman…James Bond Style!" (Saga: The Magazine for Men, July 1965)

40. "How James Bond Destroyed My Husband" (Interview with Ann Fleming; Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 1966)

41. "Mrs. Ian Fleming: Widow to a Legend" (The Cool Crazy Committed World of the Sixties, 1966)


  • Posts: 2,904
    Behind Bond

    By Philip Oakes (Lilliput, Oct. 1958)

    Even on a wartime memo, the scheme looked wild enough to succeed. First, take a captured Nazi plane; load it with four British agents (all speaking German); crash land it in the path of a German U-boat crawling down the English Channel; overpower the crew at gunpoint; then sail to England.

    Proposing the mission was not secret agent James Bond (who might conceivably have pulled it off, with the aid of a marine Mata Hari), but his subsequent creator; Ian Fleming, at that time the personal assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence.

    “Fortunately,” says Fleming, “the scheme never came to anything. The invasion came first.”

    Lately the names of Fleming and his fictional hero James Bond have been fitted together in print like the sinister halves of a pantomime horse. Angry critics, outraged by the ethics (or lack of ethics) of Fleming's sex-charged best-sellers, have shrilled convincingly that Bond’s exploits indicate “a bad symptom of the state of civilization in this country.”

    In fact, there are many similarities between author and character. “Bond is everyone’s alter ego, including mine,” admits Fleming. “I write for the sensible, warmblooded heterosexual.”

    But fact and fiction part company from here on. James Bond (code number 007) is a British secret service agent who has slugged and slept his way through six novels, beginning with Casino Royale, to the delight of an estimated 1,250,000 British readers. He is a hero created by the cold war. He is licensed to kill enemies of the State. He shoots fast, and he takes his sex where he finds it. “He is absolutely non-political,” says Fleming. “He is merely a blunt instrument of the government in power.”

    Fleming, on the other hand, is foreign manager of the Sunday Times, with a large, shabby office on the third floor of Kemsley House, and a secretary, discreet to the point of deafness. He has a house in Belgravia, a small estate in Jamaica (“30 acres bought cheaply in 1946”), and a professed dislike of his strong-arm hero. “Bond,” he says distantly, “is a bit of a bastard. I don’t approve of him at all.”

    Neither do critics like Bernard Bergonzi, who (writing in the Twentieth Century) sees Bond as a Savile Row-suited fascist, whose sexual antics plunge headlong into the pornographic. Bergonzi quotes a passage from Diamonds are Forever, in which Bond first meets Tiffany Case, the victim of a multiple rape in her adolescence. She is sitting half-naked in front of a mirror: “…her spine was arched, and there was arrogance in the set of her head and shoulders. The black string of her brassiere across her naked back, the tight black lace pants and the splay of her legs whipped at Bond’s senses.” Bergonzi comments: “Mr. Fleming’s characteristic mode of fantasy seems to be that of a dirty-minded schoolboy.”

    Unperturbed, Fleming bares his big, white teeth in a bland smile, and screws a fresh cigarette into a gold-tipped holder. “There’s an awful lot of sexual confusion in criticism today. Bond may get the girl, but I make him suffer for it.”

    The youngest [sic] son of a successful banking family, Fleming went through the usual upper-crust mill of prep school and Eton (where he won the public school hurdles). But he denies that he belongs in any way to the Establishment—the closed social shop of Britain’s ruling class. “Anyone who says that, is absolutely dotty. I never went to Oxford or Cambridge. I was earning my living at 22, and I’ve never been anywhere near Ascot.”

    Now 49, Fleming cultivates the air of a tough, rakish dandy. He wears dark, casually-cut, two-button suits; spotted bow-ties; and black moccasins. His hands are hard and hairy. His belt has a gold buckle. His long, full-lipped face is tanned to a deep terracotta. In the light, rapid flow of his conversation the U-accent is barely discernible, but golf (which he plays with a handicap of 10) is invariably pronounced as "goff".

    Fleming opted out of Sandhurst when the army became mechanized. “I was supposed to be going into the Black Watch, but they wanted to turn me into a grease monkey. There was a vague idea of me going into the Diplomatic, and with that future in view, I went to university at Geneva and Munich. I was so fed up that I joined Reuters.”

    Soon promoted to a reporter, Fleming went to Berlin and Moscow, where he covered the Metro Vickers trial in the 1930s. Then came the war (“I had a pretty good time”), and a pre-invasion sortie on the beach at Dieppe. “I headed a special squad which was supposed to grab whatever equipment the Germans had left lying around and then get the hell out of it.” Most of the time, however, Fleming was desk-bound, a feature of his service career which earned him the jeering title (from a touchy Press lord) of "The Chocolate Sailor".

    The Bond books started in 1953. Fleming and his wife were staying at Goldeneye, Fleming’s Jamaican home. “I began writing,” he says, “because my mental hands were empty, and as an antibody to my hysterical alarm at getting married at the age of 43.” For three hours every morning he sat at his type-writer, clocking up an average of 2,000 words a day; and the result was the best-seller Casino Royale.

    Fleming was unprepared for success. “When I got back to London, I did nothing with the manuscript. I was too ashamed. Even under a pseudonym, someone would leak the ghastly fact that it was I who had written this adolescent tripe. There would be one or two sly paragraphs in ‘The Londoner’s Diary’. Then…Shame! Disgrace! Disaster! Resign from the club. Leave the country.”

    But, on the advice of William Plomer, the book was published, and Bondmanship—a chic literary variation on Lifemanship—was born.

    Basically, this is a snob fantasy on Gracious Living; a game in which the object is to equip any well-known character in fact or fiction with the right income, the right clothes, the right food, and the right girls.

    In the case of James Bond it is known (on the evidence of six novels) that he earns the salary of a principal officer in the Civil Service, plus an annual £1,000 of his own (tax-free), and unlimited expenses while on a job. His cigarettes—Balkan and Turkish mixture—are custom-made by Morlands, of Grosvenor Street. His coffee comes from De Bry, of New Oxford Street. He insists on his eggs being boiled for three and one-third minutes. His breakfast comprises wholewheat toast, Jersey butter, Cooper’s vintage Oxford marmalade, and Norwegian heather honey from Fortnums. His bath water is scented with Floris lime essence. He drives a Bentley, and his choice of champagne is Dom Perignon.

    Fleming admits to sharing many of Bond’s tastes. But the trappings, he insists, are not as Bernard Bergonzi says, “…fantasies of upper-class life which can only be a desire to compensate for the rigours of existence in a welfare state.”

    “I had to fit Bond out with some theatrical props,” he wrote in reply to a Time questionnaire. “I myself abhor Wine and Foodmanship.”

    The Bond books have earned high praise from such critics as Raymond Chandler and Elizabeth Bowen. “Here’s magnificent writing,” she once enthused. But the opposition is just as vocal. Reviewing Dr. No, in which Bond is put through an obstacle course of refined torture, including red-hot tunnels, poisonous spiders, and electrical shock-treatment, the New Statesman’s Paul Johnson branded gourmets of this fare as psychological cousins to the prison torturers in Algeria.

    Fleming professes to be puzzled by this kind of attack. “I can't understand why they take it all so seriously,” he complains. He does, however, take himself seriously. Proud of his "A" class-readership, he is not flattered by his classification by booksellers as "the Peter Cheyney of the carriage trade".

    “Cheyney was always making mistakes,” he says. “I always try to get it right.”

    But even Fleming is fallible. “I do apologize for once making Bond order asparagus with béarnaise, instead of mousseline sauce,” he says. “A writer should acknowledge his shortcomings.”

    Curiously, Bond seems to lack any sense of humour, while Fleming is an avid collector of jokes, many of which studded the Atticus column of the Sunday Times during his tenure. Sample: he suggested that a bishop should have his "in" and "out" trays stamped "Sacred" and "Top Sacred".

    Fleming spends every January and February at Goldeneye. In London, he is a member of three clubs: Boodles, The Turf, and The Portland, where he plays what is reputed to be a savage game of bridge.

    He detests the theatre and enjoys films. But his real passion is reserved for his Thunderbird, over which he dotes like a lover.

    Fleming’s fortunes seem inextricably bound up with those of James Bond. And the prospects look good. A seventh novel, Goldfinger, is already in the bag. The Daily Express has launched Bond (looking remarkably like Fleming) in a strip cartoon. And an American TV series of Bond adventures is being filmed.

    Enthroned on a rapidly mounting heap of dollars, Fleming affects surprise. “There seems to be some sort of plot to make Bond a world figure,” he declares. “I find it all very odd.”
  • Posts: 2,161
    Thanks @Revelator !
  • Posts: 3,291
    Thanks, nice interview.
  • Posts: 852
    Thanks, btw, thing that came help you. It's came from a chap named Ihsan Amanatullah on this FB group : :

    I have been collecting Ian Fleming's print interviews and now think I have all of them. Below is a chronological list. Am I missing anything?

    "Behind Bond" (Lilliput, Oct. 1958)
    "Men Looking at Women. No. 1: Ian Fleming" (Evening Standard, April 4, 1960)
    "James Bond and Me" (Books and Bookmen, May 1960)
    "Mr. Fleming Escapes from Belgravia—Thanks to James Bond" (Evening Standard, Oct. 7, 1960)
    "Personality: Ian Fleming" (Rogue: Designed for Men, Feb. 1961)
    "James Bond runs a cool eye over the man he owes most to" (Daily Express, March 15, 1961)
    "Writers in the Tense Present" (Queen, August 1961)
    "'All History is Love and Violence'" (New York Herald Tribune, Feb. 4, 1962)
    "Eton’s Spillane stops in Gotham" (Birmingham News [North American News Alliance], Feb. 18, 1962)
    "The Man Who Made Bond" (Harper’s Bazaar, Feb. 1962)
    "James Bond Comes to New York" (The New Yorker, April 21, 1962)
    "THE Ian Fleming?" (Saturday Review, May 26, 1962)
    "Haunted by his Creation" (Salisbury Times [Newspaper Enterprise Association], May 31, 1962)
    "The Man Behind Secret Agent 007" (Chicago Daily Tribune, Nov. 18, 1962)
    "An interview with—Ian Fleming" (The Sunday Gleaner, Feb. 10, 1963)
    "That Other Secret Service Feller: It’s Pistols for Two When Ian Fleming Meets his Latest Rival" (Daily Express, March 27, 1963)
    "Conversation at Scott’s" (San Francisco Chronicle, May 16, 1963)
    "The Spectacular Cult of Ian Fleming" (Saturday Evening Post, June 22, 1963)
    "JFK Is James Bond Fan" (The Morning Call [Associated Press], July 14, 1963)
    "The Ian Flemings" (Vogue, Sept. 1, 1963)
    "The World of Bond and Maigret: Fleming Meets Simenon" (Sunday Times, Sept. 15, 1963 [reprinted in Harper’s Bazaar, Nov. 1964])
    Interview in "Counterpoint" (conducted Oct. 1963, published 1964)
    "1964—and James Bond gets his 13th assignment" (Daily Express, Jan. 2, 1964)
    "You can’t ask for more!" (Daily Express, February 24 1964)
    "A Redbook Dialogue: Allen Dulles and Ian Fleming" (Redbook, June 1964)
    "Ian Fleming" (Playboy, December 1964)
    "Ian Fleming’s Last Interview: How to Take Any Woman…James Bond Style!" (Saga, July 1965)
  • edited June 2022 Posts: 2,161
    That post had me doing a double-take.
  • edited June 2022 Posts: 2,904
    Thanks, btw, thing that came help you. It's came from a chap named Ihsan...

    And what a smart, handsome chap he is! He happens to be me. All the articles I listed on Facebook will be showing up in this thread.
    Birdleson wrote: »
    That post had me doing a double-take.

    I get around.
  • Posts: 852
    Oh?! Nice !
  • edited July 2022 Posts: 2,904

    [Caption: Photographer Norman Eales offers his own interpretation of the James Bond girl. Essential elements: the beautifully wide cheekbones; the hair that falls fine and free; the mobile mouth, the unpainted fingernails; a crisp white silk shirt and not a superfluous bow; wide handstitched calf belt, narrowly pleated skirt. Would she find favor with James Bond? There’s no telling: They’ve never met.]

    Barbara Griggs Introduces…Men Looking at Women

    No. 1: Ian Fleming (Evening Standard, April 4, 1960)

    Talking to Ian Fleming about women and the way they dress is hypnotically like chatting to the MI5 [sic] hero of his famous thrillers, tough, bon-vivant man-of-the-world James Bond.

    The same enthusiasms and preferences, the same shuddering antipathies and prejudices, the same insistence on more woman and less fashion make themselves manifest—a draught of cold manly air blowing through the hot-house atmosphere of fashion.

    And indeed, checking back afterwards, I discovered almost all of his most forceful remarks crystallized for me in one or other of the Complete Works, so perhaps Mr. Fleming will forgive me if I occasionally quote him in support of himself.

    The Big Snare

    “Women, of course, don’t dress for men,” he told me authoritatively when I went to see him in his brand-new dark-green and white office. “They dress for each other—or for an audience. And so they occasionally waste an awful lot of money, and occasionally go frightfully astray.

    “High fashion, unfortunately, is their big snare. Most couturiers are destroyers of sex.

    “Look at the sack, for instance: it didn’t look too bad on some wonderful young girl in Rome sometimes: but on who else?”

    “Women should stay out of the streams of fashion; they shouldn’t be taken in by it. Just observe it enough to preserve their self-respect.”

    Skirts are Tops

    “What sort of clothes do I like women to wear? I love shirts and skirts and wide handstitched belts. I think women should stick to finely-pleated skirts; they flatter the walk immensely.”

    (Tilly Masterton’s dress for a car-crash outside Macon in Bond’s book Goldfinger: “She wore a white, rather masculine-cut heavy silk shirt. It was open at the neck but it would button up to a narrow military collar. The shirt had long wide sleeves gathered at the wrists…she wore a very wide black stitched leather belt with brass buckles…her short skirt was charcoal grey and pleated…)

    On the subject of shirts, Ian Fleming is a stickler for plainness: “I hate those bogus pockets and flaps. All decorations should have a basis of usefulness.

    “I love white shirts—but a whole dress in white? I think it’s a mistake, except on a tanned skin. And it gives a woman such anxiety complexes: those backward glances down at their skirt as they walk out of a restaurant to see if they’ve sat in something. Too awful for them.”

    Black Velvet

    “For evening? Something long and plain—preferably black velvet. The frightful thing about it though, is the way it marks when you sit on it.”

    (“Do you mind if we go straight in to dinner?” she asked. “I want to make a grand entrance and the truth is there’s a horrible secret about black velvet. It marks when you sit down.”)[Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale]

    Ian Fleming is forthright on the subject of shape:

    “Women in this country have been brought up to be ashamed of their bosoms and behinds. They should wear them like flags.

    “Her behind is the most distinctive part of a woman’s body: it shouldn’t be flattened out and concealed by all that scaffolding and wire and basketwork.

    “Women should stick to their own shape; the moment you start pretending you’re a different shape you’re in trouble.

    “As long as a woman’s flesh is clean and healthy, what does it matter what shape she is?

    “Trouble is, women here simply are not clean: absolutely filthy, the whole lot of them. I’ve said so to beauty experts here and they agree with me.

    “Englishwomen simply do not wash and scrub enough. And why don’t they use frictions more often? Those wonderful all-over Eau-de-Cologne ones?

    …And Scents

    “Scent? I hate the musky ones—anything that smells of patchouli; I like any of the light flowery ones, particularly lily-of-the-valley.”

    (N.B.—Mr. Fleming is sensitive on this subject of scent. One of his rare recorded lapses was the occasion when he credited Balmain’s Vent Vert to Dior)

    “Make-up I like as light as possible—as little as possible—and durable. I can’t stand women who keep fiddling with their hair or face all the time.

    “I don’t care much for nail-varnish, unless it’s pale pink; unvarnished, well-polished nails are prettier.”

    (Gala Brand in Moonraker: “Apart from the warm rouge on her lips she wore no make-up and her nails were square-cut with a natural polish…)

    “I like dirty clothes for the country. They shouldn’t have that glossy Tatler look to them. A well-cut mac covers an awful lot of sins.

    “What happened to the beret? You never see it now. When a good thing like that comes along, I think women should hang on to it. Men do.

    “Why are women so obsessed with models? I can’t understand it. They’re such awful narcissists—almost as bad as actresses; thinking of themselves the whole time. Just not whole women.

    “No man is taken in by an advertisement showing a handsome man—he knows he won’t look like that. But women are perennially taken in.

    “Are Englishwomen better dressed than Frenchwomen now? I think we’re overhauling them rapidly. Frenchwomen, of course, know how to use great artifice. But they have hideous bodies and skin.

    “The great thing is that we’re beginning to get thousands of really beautiful girls all over England.

    “That last long summer got them all out like butterflies.”
  • Posts: 2,904
    James Bond and Me

    Ian Fleming interviewed by Anne Britton (Books and Bookmen, May 1960)

    Just eight years ago a character called James Bond was born.

    His dossier kept by the Russian organization SMERSH described him: “eyes: blue; hair: black; scar down right cheek and on left shoulder; signs of plastic surgery on back of right hand; all-round athlete: pistol shot, boxer, knife thrower; does not use disguises. Languages: French and German. Smokes heavily (NB: special cigarettes with three gold bands); vices: drink, but not to excess, and women. Not thought to accept bribes.”

    Quite a man, this James Bond, whose yearly appearance causes more discussion, jealousy, disgust and admiration than any other thriller “hero.”

    His Creator, Ian Fleming, has a good deal to say on the subject.

    “I wrote the first book, Casino Royale, in the few months before I got married. It was better than biting my nails and thinking that getting married at forty-three was too big a step. I took the name James Bond from the author of a bird book on Jamaica, thinking it would make him sound neutral. I had no intention of writing another book with the same character. But he’s popular and until I grow out of him, I shall go on writing about him.

    “The last thing I wanted James Bond to be was the hero type. Rather the opposite.” In Casino Royale he made this clear in a revealing chapter ending. “…with the warmth and humour of his eyes extinguished, his features relapsed into a taciturn mask, ironical, brutal, cold.”

    “I wanted Bond to be a strong character, masculine, a composite figure made up of the commando types and spies I met during the war. He is a man who gets involved. Many of the English thriller heroes these days are ordinary men who find themselves in circumstances against their nature. Bond is not a character that readers can identify themselves with, perhaps that is his strength. Rather it is wishful identification.

    “He is intended to be a blunt instrument in the hands of a Government department and his quirks are to give him added character. Take his interest in expensive food and drink: good food and wines were still scarce when I started the first book and I hoped the description of meals would make people’s mouths water. They certainly made mine water. But now, of course, Bond still has to remain gourmet.”

    I asked him what answer he had to give to his critics about the outrageousness of Bond’s situations and the varying forms of torture he is forced to endure.

    With just the faintest trace of irony he says, “Few people seem to realise that so many incidents in the James Bond books are based on fact. I string these together, along with a beautiful girl, to make a good story. In Casino Royale the gambling incident was very true to life.

    “I was in Estoril during the war and saw the German spies gambling at the Casino. I love gambling and decided I could beat them at their own game. I failed miserably, but I made Bond succeed. Later on, the bomb throwing incident of the red and blue cameras with a reconstruction of the Russian attempt to kill von Papen in Ankara. The Russian organisation SMERSH does actually exist.

    “One of the things that intrigues people is the bridge game in Moonraker. They have only to look up one of Culbertson’s books of instructions and see that game described, word for word. In much the same way the method of cheating at Canasta in Goldfinger was taken from an actual court case in Miami. I spent several years during the war in Naval Intelligence and saw far stranger things than I write about, and one only has to read the newspapers to confirm that.

    “A case in point is another episode in Goldfinger when the Korean is sucked through the window of a pressurised cabin of a plane. That had actually happened a short while before.

    “And then the torture. You have only to read about the concentration camps and the treatment of prisoners in Algeria to realise mine is mild stuff compared with that. People like to hide their eyes from the truth.”

    Of necessity Ian Fleming is two people. For nine months of the year he is the experienced, brilliant newspaper man. For three months he closes his mind to that, goes to Jamaica and dissolves into the character of James Bond. “I try to have some kind of plot already formed, but often the ideas and incidents weave themselves into a story once I have started.

    “Sometimes I feel like changing the formula, but people want the same thing again. I have regular hours of work. If one is writing professionally it is the only way. It also adds pace which is the main ingredient of a good thriller. People read thrillers in trains and planes and you must make them want to read over the page. Too many of the modern thriller heroes are cardboard cut-outs. They spend their time recapping to pad out a few more pages.”

    As a writer Ian Fleming is always seeking perfection. “Even the sex bits, which do tend to be a bit vulgar, I would hate to think were badly written. I started adding more sex to shock a little. It is good for the English. We are so Calvinistic and nonconformist.”

    As a man his interests are wide. He finds nature always exciting and his love of underwater fishing has crept into more than one of his books. “And travel, I will never lose the thrill of a journey, of a new country. When I’m tired I can always settle in a small French town and examine it minutely the way Simenon does.”

    He does admit that to write these thrillers he must have an insatiable interest in the odd, the queer and the exciting. “But above all I believe in getting on with it, in writing what I please, not what I ought to. So often I am asked when I am going to write something better. But I have no wish to be a Serious Writer. They take themselves and their work too seriously and are always searching for a message.”

    His new book, For Your Eyes Only, has another eye-catching jacket. (Wisely, Fleming discusses all his jackets with the artist, Richard Chopping. Between them they have not produced a dud one yet.) It is a volume of five stories which he describes as experiences of James Bond that would not fit into any other book. The middle one will be an enigma to many of his admirers since its style and tempo are suspiciously Somerset Maugham, but the last two, even if they are rather more restrained, will undoubtedly please Bond fans. And the underwater sequence is a joy to read.

    What is it that has made James Bond such a cult—even to the extent of three fan clubs in Australia and Hollywood who write earnest letters and spend their money on Berettas? Is it the pace, the technical brilliance of the writing, the detailed but never dull description, the sheer entertainment value, the sadistic streak, the forthright attitude towards sex, or a secret delight in snobbery?

    Ian Fleming cannot supply the answer, but with any luck he will go on rousing our baser instincts for a long time to come.
  • Posts: 2,161
    Those three fan clubs mentioned are our ancestors.
  • Posts: 2,904
    Birdleson wrote: »
    Those three fan clubs mentioned are our ancestors.

    Yes, the only differences are that we're on the internet and don't spend our money on Berettas.

    I also want to call attention to these superbly insightful sentences: "Bond is not a character that readers can identify themselves with, perhaps that is his strength. Rather it is wishful identification."

    Fleming knew exactly what he was doing and what Bond's appeal was.
  • Posts: 2,161
    A friend and I were just discussing this conversation, so I thought I’d post it here.
  • Posts: 2,904
    I hope to post the full half-hour version, along with a transcript, after I've finished posting all the print interviews. That won't be for a while, so this clip is a good appetizer.
  • edited July 2022 Posts: 2,904
    Mr. Fleming Escapes from Belgravia—Thanks to James Bond

    By Thomas Wiseman (Evening Standard, Oct. 7, 1960)

    Mr. Ian Fleming, gentlemanly chronicler of the bizarre and ungentlemanly adventures of James Bond, secret agent, did something very unusual yesterday: he went to one of his wife’s renowned luncheon parties in Victoria Square at which the guests included Mr. Somerset Maugham, Mr. Cyril Connolly and Mr. Angus Wilson.

    Normally Mr. Fleming finds such occasions an unmitigated bore. He much prefers to be in a low bar in Hamburg.

    It is possible too, that in the presence of such literary celebrities, Mr. Fleming feels a trifle intimidated: a discussion of Mr. Fleming’s literary creations, such as the lady who wears nothing but a leather belt, might not be exactly apposite in this setting.


    The contrast between the published life of James Bond and the private life of his creator is startling. Fleming is the son of a Tory MP, the husband of the former Lady Rothermere, now one of the leading hostesses of London; a friend of Sir Anthony Eden; he was educated at Eton; and until recently occupied an important executive position on one of the posh Sunday papers.

    As the author of James Bond’s adventures, Mr. Fleming has been responsible for a series of best-selling novels which, to put it mildly, emphasize the less refined relationships of the sexes.

    It is instructive to talk to Mr. Fleming about this apparent split in his personality; for one discovers him to be a kind of Walter Mitty; a man living the high life and hankering for the low life.

    “My wife,” he explains, “fully understands my attitude, that I don’t care for her parties and literary friends. For one thing, you know, if you are married to a hostess, you find that she will seat the most interesting men next to herself and saddle you with their boring wives. So whenever possible I avoid going to wife’s parties.

    Not sociable

    “I am, anyway, not a very sociable person. Of course, my wife hates the whole James Bond business. I think she rather wishes I were a Cyril Connolly or something respectable like that. She would like me to write on a much higher level. I have to tell her that I am not capable of writing on a higher level. I’ve got nothing to say on that level. I am not ambitious.

    “I find the people one meets in a low strip-tease joint in Hamburg infinitely more interesting than anyone one would meet a Belgravia dinner party. Give me a cheap joint any day.

    “That Belgravia crowd, you would need a tin-opener to get at them. They may, of course, be just as interesting as anyone else underneath, but it would take years to find out, and then, of course, they might turn out to be as boring underneath as on the surface.”

    The creation of James Bond has provided Mr. Fleming—if only in fantasy—with an escape route from Belgravia. In his smartly decorated office off Fleet Street, with its green-striped walls and shelves of garish paper-backs, Mr. Fleming can transport himself into the world in which James Bond operates: a world in which blondes are always and instantly available, in which fiendish foreigners inflict unimaginable tortures on unimaginable heroines, in which blood is spilt as cheerfully as a dry-martini.

    Such a cad

    Upon reflection, Mr. Fleming is not sure that he likes James Bond very much. “He really is a frightful cad,” he admits, “and, apart from the fact that he wears the same clothes that I wear, he and I really have little in common.

    “I do rather envy him, his blondes and his efficiency, but I can’t say I much like the chap.

    “His success with women is pure wishful-thinking on my part.

    “All Englishmen are shy with women and I am just as shy as any of them. I suppose one projects one’s secret fantasies in this sort of fiction. That I suppose is why male readers like my stories; they express what every man hopes might happen and jolly well knows doesn’t happen.

    “The reason women like the stories? Well, women are all masochistic and I suppose they like the way the female characters are bashed about.”

    He accepts criticisms of his writing—that it is sadistic, erotic—with equanimity.

    “It doesn’t hurt to raise the blood pressure of novel readers a bit. It could do with a bit of raising. I don’t think any of my books do any harm. It’s all good, healthy fun.”

    Only the suggestion that James Bond is something of a snob about food and wine succeeds in momentarily ruffling Mr. Fleming.

    “You can’t call a liking for caviar snobbish,” he protests, “it’s just bloody good stuff.”

    Some recent Fleming news: on a Bond Facebook group I came across the Daily Mail article "Ian Fleming's rules for life are revealed as James Bond creator's private notebook goes up for auction."

    As Heritage Auctions reveals, the rules are from a 39-page notebook Fleming kept during his trip to Japan to research You Only Live Twice. Here are some scans:



    Fleming's rules:

    01. Don't draw your gun unless you can see both the other man's hands.
    02. Don't waste your time on women who wear a bracelet on their left ankle.
    03. Beware of motorcars with 2 women in the front seat.
    04. Don't play cards against married couples, unless they are drunk.
    05. See the brand name on the bottle.
    06. Avoid people who call you 'Old Boy,' and all politicians.
    07. Never eat scrambled eggs unless you make them yourself.
    08. Talk secrets only in the open air.
    09. Don't buy anything that eats.
    10. Beware of people who smell and tread carefully in the company of moustaches, side-burns, or beards.
    11. Have nothing to do with correspondence in coloured ink—particularly when variegated.
    12. Cut down on your drink when your eyes get red and on your smoking when your breath feels short. Don't worry about cirrhosis of the liver or cancer.
    13. Live until you're dead.

    And speaking of death:

  • edited July 2022 Posts: 2,904
    Personality: Ian Fleming

    A tour with the creator of James Bond, Goldfinger, and the insidious Dr. No as he seeks sin—Chicago-style. (Rogue: Designed for Men, Feb. 1961)

    By William F. Nolan

    In this glittering age of specialization, when the globe-trotting adventurer is becoming almost as scarce as the whooping crane, it gives you a great deal of soul-satisfaction to meet a modern-day Soldier of Fortune who ranges the world in quest of excitement, unique experiences, and bizarre sensations. Recently I had occasion to spend an unusual afternoon with a suave and sophisticated member of this vanishing breed, England’s Ian Fleming, well known in the United States as the author of several explosive, hard-driving thrillers starring the implacable, indestructible James Bond of the British Secret Service. As Foreign Manager of the London Sunday Times, Fleming was in Chicago to pick up colorful data for a series of articles on “Sin Cities of the World.” He had already covered Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Honolulu, San Francisco and Las Vegas; now he was wrapping up his assignment in the Windy City, where I was to meet him in the lobby of the Ambassador West. As a cab took me across town I reviewed Fleming’s background: Educated at Eton and Sandhurst, where he distinguished himself with a remarkably high scholastic standing, he entered the Reuters News Service, operating out of London, Berlin and Moscow. In the spring of 1939 he was appointed special correspondent to Russia (representing the Times), joining the Naval Intelligence Division later that same year.

    During the Second World War he served in the Special Branch of the R.N.V.R. (Royal Navy Veteran’s Reserve). When the global conflict ended he moved to Jamaica where he organized the foreign service of the Sunday Times and of the Kemsley papers. He eventually became Vice-president for Europe of the entire North American Newspaper Alliance. In 1952, because of certain close attentions paid to the titled Lady Rothermere, Fleming was named correspondent in a divorce suit filed by a nettled Lord Rothermere.

    Ian immediately married the Lady in question, and they set up residence at Goldeneye, a luxurious resort home in Jamaica, where Fleming wrote the first of his fast-paced adventure novels, Casino Royale, published in 1953. In this book Fleming introduced James Bond, Secret Service Agent 007, a cool-nerved, steel-muscled gentleman with a snake-quick gun hand, addicted to raw violence, vintage sports cars, exotic foods and seducible women. A new Bond book—combining sex, sophistication and sudden death—emerged each year, by-product of the author’s extensive world travels for the Times. The critics, from Paul Gallico to Harper’s Gilbert Highet, were stunned and enchanted. Novelist Elizabeth Bowen went so far as to declare: “Here’s magnificent writing.”

    With the publication of Goldfinger (seventh in the series) in 1959 Fleming was a firmly-established name to some 1,250,000 loyal readers—as well as the focal point in a bitter critical controversy, spear-headed by London’s New Statesman, as to whether his books were merely superbly-fashioned adult escape fantasies or a seriously destructive influence on the morals of Great Britain.

    Fleming replied: “For one thing, I am accused of injecting too much sex into my work. Perhaps Bond’s blatant heterosexuality is a subconscious protest against the current sexual confusion in our society…I am not, after all, an entrant in the Shakespeare stakes.”

    As a member-in-good-standing of Britain’s Upper Crust, Fleming often hobnobs with such social luminaries as Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, Noel Coward and W. Somerset Maugham (whom he calls “Willy”). In addition, his dust jacket photos picture Fleming as an unsmiling, slightly distasteful man with cold, penetrating eyes—and I wondered if I could successfully pierce his wall of icy British reserve.

    My fears, I was soon to discover, were unfounded. As I entered the spacious lobby of the Ambassador West a tall figure in a dark blue raincoat moved easily across the thick red-velvet carpet to shake my hand.

    “I’m Fleming,” he said, smiling. “Glad to know you.” And his disarmingly warm manner immediately put me at ease. Ruddy-complexioned, with the veins in his cheeks close to the skin, he wore the sallow, slightly dissipated look of the “typical” Englishman. His curly hair was combed across a wide, high forehead and his slate-colored eyes were heavily lidded, yet were anything but cold. Despite the overall hauteur of his face his eyes sparkled with a knowing good humor.

    “Can we talk here?” I asked, not aware of Fleming's plans for the afternoon.

    “Fraid not,” he told me. “I’ve engaged a chap with a private car who claims to know the old Chicago. Capone era. He's going to take me to a few places I want to see. Come along. We’ll chat en route.”

    A long black Cadillac glided hearse-like to the entrance, and we climbed into the rear seat as Fleming gave the driver careful instructions. “First I want to be taken to the site of Dion O’Banion’s assassination, then to Big Jim Colosimo’s nightclub, then the exact location of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre and, lastly, to the Biograph motion-picture theatre on the North Side. Got that?”

    The driver nodded, easing the heavy car into the flow of crosstown traffic. “Biograph’s the place they trapped Dillinger,” Fleming said, settling back into the seat. “FBI chaps cut him to bloody ribbons in the alley. They were waiting for him to come out. Betrayed by a woman in a scarlet dress. Genuine drama there, don’t you agree?”

    I agreed. It was going to be an unusual afternoon.

    “Found much sin in the sin cities?” I inquired.

    “Oh, it's always there,” replied Fleming. “Most of the time one has to dig a bit. In Macao however I ran across a rather remarkable house of prostitution. Seven stories tall, with girls for sale on each floor. All the real pigs are on the first level. And frightfully cheap! As you progress upward the quality, as well as the price increases. On the top level, which is decorated like an Egyptian palace, the young ladies are all absolute smashers! Truly lovely creatures. But one walks out with an empty wallet—which is probably why the sailors never seem to get beyond the second floor.”

    The car pulled to the curb on State Street.

    “That was O’Banion’s flower shop,” the driver told Fleming, indicating a nondescript grey building. “Across the street’s the church where he got it. Cut down on the steps.”

    “Dispatched on God’s doorstep,” mused Fleming as he made rapid notes on the back of a large envelope.

    “Wanna get out?”

    “That won’t be necessary. You may head for Colosimo’s.”

    The Cadillac purred into motion.

    “Odd the things that can annoy you,” commented Fleming. “In London, simply because I happen to like good food, people are always asking me to supply the name of one headwaiter or another. Figure they’ll get better service. Well, the fact is I cannot keep up with all the names and just don’t bother…But I do happen to know the name of the headwaiter at Scott’s. Named Baker. Know it because the chap did his best to have me arrested as a German spy during the war.”

    “How did that happen?” I asked.

    “Whole affair was rather embarrassing,” grinned Fleming. “I was in Naval Intelligence at the time. Another fellow—from the Sub Service—and I were attempting to get the captured captain and navigator from a U-boat drunk at Scott’s, so as to worm out of them just how the devil they managed to avoid our mine fields in the Skagerrak. They’d been ‘allowed out’ of their prison camp for a day’s sightseeing in London, and we were playing the role of friendly brother officers. Only fighting because of politics sort of thing. A bit clumsy, but we hoped it would work. Anyhow, Baker, who was then just a waiter, heard our conversation and grew alarmed. Within minutes we found ourselves surrounded by a roomful of outwardly harmless-looking couples, picking intently at bits of fish—and it was only when we arrived back at the Admiralty, befuddled and no wiser about the Skagerrak, that a red-faced Director of Naval Intelligence testily informed us that the only result of our secret mission had been to mobilize half of Scotland Yard. And that is why I happen to know Baker’s name.”

    By now the car had stopped again, and the driver pointed out another undistinguished soot-grey building. “We're at twenny-second an’ Wabash,” he said. “Big Jim had his club here.”

    “Ah, yes,” nodded Fleming, as he scribbled more notes, “I’m told that Mr. Colosimo was quite the enterprizing fellow. Ruled his own empire of vice. Drugs, gambling, white slavery…And this was the hub of it all.”

    The big car rolled majestically back into the traffic flow.

    Fleming had written a book and a series of articles on diamond smuggling, and I was curious about certain methods of detection.

    “How do the natives who work in the diamond mines manage to carry out stones when they have X-ray machines to detect such attempts?”

    “Half the time they’re caught,” replied Fleming. “The diamonds show up as black specks on the plate—but the catch is you can’t go on X-raying men over and over without loading their bodies with gamma rays. If you X-rayed them each time they left the mines they’d die like flies. So they run spot checks. Sometimes a native will be sent to the hospital for a purge with a stomach full of black specks. But these often turn out to be buttons or nails or pebbles the fellow has swallowed just to test the white man’s magic. It’s a tricky business all round.”

    We began to discuss gambling, and Fleming had an incredible story to tell regarding his recent visit to Hong Kong.

    “I saw two shabby-looking little Chinese walk into the casino, each carrying a battered suitcase. One case was empty, the other full of money. It turned out that here was the life savings of an entire town—from the village where these two chaps lived. They’d collected it from hut to hut with the promise of doubling the total at the tables in Hong Kong. Well, they stayed there in the casino, gambling desperately, for almost a week. Then they closed the suitcases and shuffled back to their village—but this time both cases were stuffed with money. And they seemed utterly unconcerned about their fantastic luck.”

    I thought of Casino Royale, Fleming’s first novel, and of the tense, beautifully-written sequence between Bond and the deadly Le Chiffre. I told Fleming that this scene was one of my favorites.

    “That first book was a pure lark to write,” he admitted. “I knew a bit about gambling and about the Secret Service and I thought it would be jolly to combine them. Had no idea of doing a series at that time. There really is a James Bond, you know, but he’s an American ornithologist, not a Secret Agent. I’d read a book of his, and when I was casting about for a natural-sounding name for my hero I recalled the book and lifted the author’s name outright.”

    “Did you have a publisher in mind when you wrote Royale?”

    “Heavens, no. Didn’t know what to do with the thing when it was done. Met the senior editor of Jonathan Cape, Ltd. at my club one afternoon and we got to talking about thrillers. Both agreed that Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler were first-rate. Then, rather hesitantly, I told him I’d just done a thriller myself. He was intrigued, read it, and the next time we met told me he was going to publish it over the objections of Cape’s younger editors.” Fleming grinned. “Seems they all thought it too wild.”

    “The critics certainly loved the book,” I said.

    Fleming nodded. “So much so that Cape wanted more on Bond, and I agreed to do one a year for them. Every season now, after the Christmas holidays, I head for Goldeneye with a packet of notes and put old Bond through his paces…Takes two months, January and February. Book’s in the mail by March.”

    “You seem to take a special joy in killing off your villains,” I said. “They never seem to survive.”

    “Rosa Klebb, the head of Otdyel II—which is the department of torture and death in Russia—was alive at the end of From Russia With Love,” said Fleming, “but I do admit it’s fun to eliminate master criminals. Le Chiffre got a bullet between the eyes; Mr. Big was eaten by a leopard shark; Sir Hugo Drax with blown up by his own atomic warhead; Jack Spang was shot out of the sky. Then I had Bond personally strangle Goldfinger.”

    “You forgot Dr. No,” I added. “He was buried under a mountain of bird dung.”

    Fleming grinned happily.

    “What does your wife think of these literary efforts?” I asked.

    “She’s constantly nagging me to do something better, but dammit, I enjoy Bond and give him my absolute best. There just isn’t any more.”

    Now the Cadillac was slowing once again; the driver pulled to a stop on Clark Street in front of yet another squalid grey building and informed us that we had arrived at the site of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre.

    “They used ‘rippers’ to do the job here, didn’t they?” inquired Fleming.

    The driver removed his chauffeur’s cap and scratched his balding head. “We call ’em ‘choppers’—Tommy Guns,” he said. “I was a kid then. Lived right in this neighborhood, and I heard the shootin’ a block away, so I ran down here and peeked in one of the windows. Blood all over the joint. Bodies sprawled every which way. Nothin’ was alive inside except a dog, and he was howlin’ like a Banshee.”

    Fleming took more notes.

    “Splendid,” he said. “Let’s get on to the Biograph.”

    “In Twentieth Century Bernard Bergonzi declares that the women in your books are all half-nude pushovers for Bond,” I stated. “Care to comment?”

    “He’s quite right,” chuckled Fleming. “But then I feel that poor Bond—though he is something of a bastard—deserves a bit of feminine companionship after what I put him through.”

    Fleming had a point. Surely Operative 007 had undergone more assorted tortures than any ten Stateside private eyes. In Royale he'd been bound naked in a cane chair with the bottom removed. Then Le Chiffre had attacked Bond's manhood with a carpet beater. In Live and Let Die he was almost eaten alive by cannibal fish—and he was nearly scalded to death by a steam jet in Moonraker. He lived through auto crashes, avalanches and mob beatings—and, in Dr. No, had survived bullets, fire, electric shock, a deadly centipede, a cage of tarantulas and a giant squid in order to share a sleeping bag with the heroine on the final page.

    “That blonde spy he found in his bed in From Russia With she typical of real-life female spies? Are they all great beauties?”

    “Unfortunately, no,” said Fleming. “Most of them are very plain. They attract less attention that way. There are exceptions, of course. I recall the case of a British spy, Christine Granville. Dark-haired beauty, that one. Had a fabulous record in wartime espionage. Even earned the St. George medal. Rare honor.”

    “What became of her?”

    “Too beautiful for her own good. She was murdered by a love-crazed ship’s steward in a Kensington hotel room in March of 1952. Real loss to the Service.”

    I was tempted to inquire further into the activities of Miss Granville, but we had now reached the Biograph on Lincoln—and Fleming wanted to get out and inspect the alley in which John Dillinger had died.

    Somehow the neighborhood seemed unchanged by the intervening years. The Biograph was still a product of the Roaring Twenties with its dusty rows of naked light bulbs completely outlining the little wooden box office. It seemed likely that an unsuspecting Dillinger might emerge at any moment to face a dozen blazing FBI guns.

    We walked into the alley and I ran my fingers over several deep scars in the rotted wood of a telephone pole. “The bullet holes are still here,” I said.

    Fleming carefully placed a Chesterfield in his long silver holder and lit the cigarette. He walked thoughtfully along the street, absorbing the past.

    “Shame to waste all this on a damned article,” he said. “Really should have Bond visit Chicago. Maybe get him involved with the Mafia.”

    We got back in the car and Fleming told the driver to take us to the Edgewater Beach Hotel.

    We arrived at the Edgewater and Fleming paid off the driver, tipping him generously for his help. We entered the hotel.

    “Bar’s supposed to be a corker here,” said Fleming.

    We walked down a gangplank into what seemed to be the interior of a lavish yacht’s lounge.

    We sat down and Fleming ordered a double bourbon. I settled for Scotch and soda.

    The drinks were served and Fleming leaned back with a satisfied sigh. “Nothing like good bourbon to brace you up.” He smiled suddenly at an inward vision.

    “Let me in on the joke,” I said.

    “No joke,” he said. “I was simply recalling a double bourbon evening I spent in London at a party in honor of Princess Margaret. It was latish, and we were all sitting around this enormous fireplace. Mellowed by the bourbon, I volunteered to relate a rather grisly story, warning Margaret that it was not the sort one tells to a young Princess. But she urged me on.”

    “What was the story?” I asked.

    “Had to do with a fellow lost in the depths of the Black Forest during a storm. Just at dusk, with the rain pelting down, he found this old dark castle, and was admitted inside by a sad-looking chap who offered him food and shelter for the night. They had a late supper at a long, candle-lit table, with the host and his wife at one end, half-lost in shadows. The young man kept trying to get a clear look at the girl all through the meal, but could not. She had left before dessert was served, and the sad-looking host gave the young man a candle and led him to an upstairs bed chamber. During the night, in the pitch blackness, the door slowly opened and in crept the girl, a dim shape of loveliness in the moonlight. She climbed directly into bed with the young man and made vigorous love to him, leaving just before dawn. As the young man prepared to leave the castle he couldn’t help asking the girl’s name, naturally giving no hint of the close relationship they’d shared. ‘She is Elspeth, my wife,’ the sad-faced host told him. ‘Poor dear. So lovely…and yet, so doomed.’ ‘What do you mean?’ demanded the young man. The host shook his head. ‘Elspeth,’ he said slowly, ‘is a leper.’”

    Fleming chuckled. “I can still hear Margaret gasp,” he said.

    We finished our drinks and left the Yacht Club. Outside, Fleming hailed a cab.

    “Art Institute, please. On Michigan,” said Fleming. In front of the Art Institute the car braked to a jarring halt.

    “Fraid I’ll have to leave you now,” Fleming told me. “I’ve only got a few more hours to spend here and I really can’t properly interview Chicago while you’re interviewing me. Bloody shame, but there it is. Hope you understand?”

    “Perfectly,” I said, and we shook hands.

    I watched Fleming mount the wide steps of the Art Institute between the two huge stone lions and thought of Auric Goldfinger and Mr. Big and James Bond and giant squids and Christine Granville and Big Jim Colosimo and a seven-story brothel in Macao and a bullet-scarred telephone pole on Lincoln Avenue. …My initial hunch had been correct.

    It had certainly been an unusual afternoon.
  • Posts: 3,291
    Great interviews. Its remarkable how much Fleming's dialogue reads like Bond's dialogue. It could be Bond speaking.
  • Posts: 2,904
    Thanks! Good point about the dialogue--I'd never made that connection before and you're right.
  • Posts: 2,904
    James Bond runs a cool eye over the man he owes most to

    [By Robert Harling] (Daily Express, March 15, 1961)

    James Bond? A man of fiction, of course. But a credible man none the less—partly modelled, in fact, on the writer of this article, who is a close friend of author Ian Fleming. Here Fleming is given a secret agent’s appraisal on the eve of the Daily Express serialisation of his latest thriller, “Thunderball” (starring Bond). Start reading “Thunderball” tomorrow.

    Ian Fleming is about six feet tall, with dark hair now touched heroically by grey. A ruddy, craggy, sardonic, probably handsome face, which contrives, somewhat paradoxically, I’ll admit, to seem amused and spleenish at one and the same time.

    He has pale blue eyes—as if you hadn’t guessed.

    In London he wears dark grey or dark blue suits and no waistcoats. Quite often he wears, with pale blue shirts, a bow tie. He is one of the very few men who give distinction to that dicey piece of neckwear.

    He never actually wears a hat, but usually carries a battered black felt that looks as if it had been savaged by a wolf-hound.

    He hates all unnecessary (and most necessary) chores, and thus wears casual black shoes which require no lacing.

    For the countryside and golf he sports a pleasantly extrovert line in hound’s-tooth checks and hirsute pullovers.

    His hates

    He has been accused by some of his more emotional critics of sadism in his books and, of what is an even greater crime in present-day Britain, snobbery.

    Few of his friends would recognise these qualities in him.

    He’s not over-fond of pets. He hates, with sadistic fervour, theatre-goers who take coffee in the interval.

    He has about six well-hated acquaintances.

    He does have his cigarettes made for him, but he now buys ready-made shirts and shoes.

    In London he lives in a small and pretty stucco house in Pimlico with circular rooms, overlooking one of London’s smaller, car-choked squares.

    His wife Anne, who has as spiky and wicked a wit as any woman since Mrs. Pat Campbell, has considerably skill as an interior decorator, and the house is gay and comfortable in the still-fashionable Regency-Victorian manner.

    It is also a very real home—in the sitting-room that is.

    Her parties

    But Mrs. Fleming also has a passion for hostessing and [has] gathered round her dining table some of the most splendid egoists of our time.

    As she also has a tip-top cook and the arty intelligentsia of London is always hungry and ill-fed, her dinner parties are apt to be marathon sessions, memorable to both gastronomic gluttons and gluttons for intellectual punishment.

    Fleming invariably goes out, returning at 11 or midnight to find his wife’s guests still at table, still settling the fate of the world.

    As he needs a lot of sleep, he usually continues upstairs to bed.

    Yet, despite his affection for his London home, Fleming is probably happiest in the Caribbean, where he writes his books.

    At Goldeneye, his well-loved Jamaican house, hidden among a plantation of giant palms, he dresses in a fiercely-patterned cotton shirt, shorts and sandals, and works hard. Very hard.

    Something of his Puritanical Scottish background must impel him to these efforts—as well as the spurs of fame and fortune—for he is, by nature, a hedonist and would rather be out beyond the reefs with goggles, snorkel and spear than slogging at the typewriter.

    He designed the house himself, although he cannot draw a line. So take heart all would-be amateur architects, for Goldeneye is the most successfully planned of all the tropical houses I have ever stayed in.

    A vast dining-living room and three bedrooms overlook the sea and the small private cove below the cliffs.

    One friend, steely eye fixed on Fleming, knowing his man, contended that the name of the house might well have been Rum Cove.

    Another friend, Noel Coward, who has cosier ideas about tropical interior decoration than Fleming, countered by saying that the house should have been called Golden Eye, Nose and Throat.

    Vivid phrases

    Still the house is cool and quiet, and comfortable. And always at the foot of the cliff steps is the beach or a boat or a swim.

    Among friends, he talks well in simple, unvarnished English, quickened from time to time by vivid phrases, which he delights in himself and appreciates in others.

    Unlike many good talkers he is no monologue-roller, but a warm and willing listener.

    So long as the material is worth listening to, that is. If not, he is quickly bored—and shows it.


    This characteristic, of course, makes him particularly susceptible to new experiences, new thrills, new anything—except, possibly, new friends.

    The promise of a trip on the footplate of a railway engine puffing through the Rockies has him as excited as a schoolboy. The chance of trying out a new underwater gadget is a heady prospect.

    But he doesn't demand that all the experiences should be hair-raising.

    He is just as ready to be entertained by the prospect of a visit to a little known church with John Betjeman, or to inspect some of the bookish treasures of the Holkham Library under the genial guidance of Dr. Hassall of the Bodleian.

    Scrambled eggs

    This interest in the bases of our lives as well as its more esoteric extremes was well shown when he was editing a gossip column in a weekly paper.

    One of his reporters came to him one day to say that a convention of the world’s greatest chefs was being held in London and that the chefs were preparing for themselves one of the greatest slap-up feasts of history. Shouldn’t she try to get hold of the menu?

    “No,” said Fleming. “Ask each of these great chefs his recipe for scrambled eggs.”

    He is shrewd, practical, to the point—qualities which were well illustrated by his answer to a question I once asked him—What would he do post-war?

    “Write the spy story to end all spy stories,” he said with simple grandiloquence.

    And so James Bond was born. You can read about him again tomorrow.
  • edited August 2022 Posts: 2,904
    Writers in the Tense Present

    By Elizabeth J. Howard (Queen, August 1961)

    If we are lucky, we notice a certain amount of our present and remember fragments of our past, while the future is usually a subject for idle, speculative anticipation, curiosity and foreboding. In an attempt to clarify our reactions to the age we live in, I asked a group of writers six questions relating to their work in the Sixties. Here they are...

    FIRST QUESTION: What do you expect to achieve in the Sixties? Are you aiming at any particular quality or quantity of work?

    IAN FLEMING: thriller writer, creator of James Bond, whose adventurous orgies he records every year.

    One can never expect to achieve anything—even less if one is in the fifties and living in the sixties. Since I am a writer of thrillers I would like to leave behind me one classic in this genre—a mixture of Tolstoy, Simenon, Ambler and Koestler, with a pinch of ground Fleming. Unfortunately I have become the slave of a serial character and I suppose, in fact, since it amuses me to write about James Bond, I shall go on doing so for the fun of it. I would also like to write a really stimulating travel guide to the Commonwealth and the remainder of our Colonies, regarding this as a public duty. But this would require too much time and energy from me, and, in fact, would better be done by a central editor using a different writer, but good ones, for each territory. I would also like to write the biography of a contemporary woman, once a professional prostitute and spy, who has changed the face of a certain country. But the source material would be difficult to get, the story would be bristling with libel, and I expect the idea will be stillborn.

    SECOND QUESTION: What do you feel is different about the Sixties? (Better, or worse, or simply different)

    IAN FLEMING: During my lifetime, life in general has accelerated fantastically—communications, inventions and the pace of peoples’ lives. This process will continue in the Sixties together with the further destruction of gods and images and heroes, which the Age of Realism is achieving. Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World will come closer and closer, life will become more comfortable and much duller and basically uglier, though people will be healthier and live longer. Boredom with and distaste for this kind of broiler existence may attract an atomic disaster of one sort or another, and then some of us will start again in caves, and life on this planet become an adventure again.

    THIRD QUESTION: Do you want to make any particular public impact in this time? (Political, moral, spiritual, intellectual, or any combination of these?)

    IAN FLEMING: Certainly not. Personal privacy is becoming worth diamonds. But I would like to continue, in the thin literary seam that I mine, to provide occasional slices of excitement and fantasy which will briefly hoist people out of their broilerdom.

    FOURTH QUESTION: Do you expect, or hope for; any change in your way of life as a writer, and if so, what kind of change?

    IAN FLEMING: No. All I ask for is more zest and inventiveness—and time.

    FIFTH QUESTION: What medium, first in all the arts, secondly in writing, do you think is the most influential today?

    IAN FLEMING: If television could develop from a craft to an art, it would be more influential than any of the individual painters, writers, actors, etc., who would be presented through its medium to the public.

    SIXTH QUESTION: What three living writers do you think have, or will have (in this decade) the most impact (a) on you, (b) on society?

    IAN FLEMING: William Plomer, for his quietude and irony in the midst of chaos. Simenon, because he is the master of my particular craft. Graham Greene, because each sentence he writes interests me, both as an individual and as a writer. (b) At a wild guess, Muriel Spark, Bernard Levin, and the partnership of author and draftsman known as Trog.
  • edited August 2022 Posts: 2,904
    ‘All History is Love and Violence’

    By Don Ross (New York Herald Tribune, Feb. 4, 1962)

    Ian Fleming, the Englishman who writes the thrillers about James Bond, the British intelligence agent, was in town the other day on his way from England, where he plots his stories, to Jamaica, where he writes them. We sent a reporter around to his hotel to have a chat with him.

    Mr. Fleming, a tallish chap with longish wavy hair and urbane manners, told us that he lives in Jamaica with his wife in a house called “Goldeneye” on the north coast near a broken-down banana port called Oracabessa. There he spends two months each year batting out his books which are replete with risen hair, gourmet food, fine luxurious beds more often than not containing a girl—Steady, Bond, old boy, that’s Tatiana, the Russian spy—and sudden death.

    More than two and a half million copies of the paperback editions of the Bond books have been sold in this country and President Kennedy is reported to be a fancier.

    “Doctor No” as Film

    For the, first time a Fleming thriller—Doctor No—is to be made into a film. It went before the cameras two weeks ago in Jamaica, which is the locale of the book.

    Doctor No is a homicidal maniac who has been hired by the Russians to devise electronic thingamajigs to make American missiles from Cape Canaveral go off course. James Bond foils him. A third character is Honeychile, an eighteen-year- old girl with a penchant for collecting sea shells in the nude. She is stunningly beautiful except for her nose, which was broken by a man who raped her. She got even with him by planting a deadly tarantula in his bed. It bit him and he died, horribly.

    Mr. Fleming, who was assistant to the director of British naval intelligence during the last war, offered us a cigarette which we declined. (Readers of Bond books know you can’t be too careful about cigarettes that strangers offer you. They often explode.) Mr. Fleming then offered us a whisky and soda. We declined with a sneer. (What did he take us for? That drink might have had enough cyanide potassium to have killed every man, woman and child in Istanbul.)

    Mr. Fleming was wearing a blue suit, blue shirt with a bow tie and brown suede shoes. The suit looked bulgy under the left armpit. No doubt a shoulder holster with a .25 Beretta in case we turned out to be an operative of Smersh, the execution arm of the Soviet Secret Service, instead of a Herald Tribune reporter. Smersh is everywhere.

    A Few Precautions

    Mr. Fleming excused himself and went into the bedroom to get a handkerchief (at least that’s what he said). We took a chance that he wasn't studying us through a peephole and looked quickly behind a Degas print hanging on the wall. No bug. We glided swiftly to the icebox In the pantry and opened It. Just orange juice. Where the hell was the wireless transmitter? There's always a wireless transmitter.

    Hearing a noise in the next room, we dived back to the sofa, and were innocently scratching our chin as Mr. Fleming came back and sat down.

    “Was Honeychile’s broken nose a symbol of our decaying civilization?” we asked him.

    “No, I simply feel that my heroines shouldn’t be too perfect,” he said. “In my last book, which is called Thunderball, the girl has a bit of a limp. There’s always something wrong with the girls I meet—perhaps a mole, a crooked finger. I suggested to the producers of the film that they break the nose of the actress playing Honeychile, but they said it would cost too much money.”

    Ursula Andress, a girl with a very nice nose, will play Honeychile. Sean Connery will be James Bond and Joseph Wiseman will be Doctor No.

    The Whole World Over

    Mr. Fleming, who has been Moscow correspondent for Reuters and The London Times and is presently a member of the editorial board of The London Sunday Times, has been accused of loading, his books with sex and sadism. In England he is sometimes known as “the thinking man’s Mickey Spillane.”

    “If you’re in the market place you’ve got to get used to the tomatoes and rotten eggs,” said Mr. Fleming, who is not a Spillane fan and does not relish the comparison. “All history is love and violence. It doesn’t matter where you go, people are making love and fighting and one thing or another. James Bond is a sort of Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, you might say. He climbs the Hill Difficult and fights the Giant Despair and at the end he has a meal of caviar and champagne and gets the beautiful girl.” (The noise you hear at this point is John Bunyan revolving in his grave.)

    “I don’t want to imitate Spillane,” said Mr. Fleming. “I really can’t remember anything about his books. I can’t remember any incident, any piece of knowledge that he has given me. You’ve got to be well educated to write good thrillers. I was expensively educated.” (Eton, Sandhurst and the Universities of Geneva and Munich.) “And I get things right. I’m proud of my factual knowledge.”

    Mr. Fleming said that, despite his education, he had gotten a couple of things wrong in his books and had never heard the last of it from outraged readers. One of the mistakes he blamed on his wife. “In Casino Royale,” he said, “I spoke of the perfume Vent Vert. I asked my wife who made It. She said Dior and so I put it down Dior. Well, it turned out to have been Balmain.”

    In From Russia, With Love, Mr. Fleming said, he wrote that the Orient Express had hydraulic brakes. “Some blasted railroad experts wrote and told me that any damned fool knows it’s got vacuum brakes,” he said. Then, in Moonraker, came the most hideous gaffe of all. “I said James Bond ordered asparagus with béarnaise sauce. Of course, I should have said mousseline sauce.”

    As a former British intelligence man, Mr. Fleming prides himself on the authenticity of the technical intelligence Information in his books. “I use my knowledge subject to security,” he said. “They know I know enough about the racket not to say the wrong thing.”

    “Allen Dulles (former head of the American Central Intelligence Agency) is a good friend of mine,” Mr. Fleming said. "He told me once that he had tried out two or three of the technical gimmicks in my books, in the laboratories of the C.I.A., and that they didn’t work. This is a strong indictment of the C.I.A.,” Mr. Fleming said, smiling.

    As for the President. Mr. Fleming said, “he writes me very nice letters when I send him copies of my books. He apparently reads them. I am delighted but I do hope he is keeping up with his more serious reading at the same time.”

    No less an authority than Elizabeth Bowen, the English novelist, has said that Mr. Fleming writes a fine prose. “It’s really not fine,” he said, deprecatingly. “I think I write a good professional prose which I learned when I was with Reuters as a child. I think my stories have pace and I think the reader wants to turn the page. This is the essence of a thriller.”

    No Satirical Intent

    Some readers have suspected that Mr. Fleming writes with a satiric intent—that he is trying to spoof the thriller, as it were. He denies this utterly, although he will admit that the name James Bond is a sort of spoof. He borrowed it from a James Bond who wrote an ornithological treatise called Birds of the West Indies, the last place in the world where one would look for beautiful spies and state secrets.

    “In Jamaica I write,” Mr. Fleming said, “in one hell of a rush. I pull up the drawbridge of my house. I see no one.” At the end of his two months in Jamaica, if the timetable of his previous winters there holds good, he will have produced one more thriller, and he will then return to London and his duties at the London Sunday Times.
  • Thanks for these, @Revelator. They are sprinkled with amusing --and revealing!-- passages throughout. "If you're in the market place you've got to get used to the tomatoes and rotten eggs." "I think my stories have pace and I think the reader wants to turn the page. This is the essence of a thriller." These tell us more about Fleming's creative instincts than we're likely to find anywhere else.
  • Posts: 2,904
    I'm glad you're enjoying them! And thank you for commenting on this otherwise quiet thread. I'm barely a third of the way through posting interviews, so lots of good stuff is on the way.
  • edited August 2022 Posts: 2,904
    Eton’s Spillane stops in Gotham

    By Ward Morehouse (North American Newspaper Alliance, syndicated to Birmingham News; Feb. 18, 1962)

    Ian Fleming, the Eton-educated Mickey Spillane, paid a hurried visit to New York recently, pausing long enough to talk colorfully of President Kennedy, who reads and appreciates the Fleming suspense novels, the theater (which Fleming loathes), actors (another dislike), and gambling (which he loves).

    “Yes, the President has said he is a fan of mine, and it’s very nice of him,” he said. “He writes me very nice letters when I send him copies of my books. I rather think he should do more serious reading, but I’m very grateful to him. The whole Kennedy family reads my books.”

    More than 2,000,000 copies of Fleming's novels have been sold in this country and millions more in Europe. London is his home, but the novels are written at his Jamaica estate “Goldeneye,” where he was host to Sir Anthony Eden a few years ago.

    A motion picture of a recent Fleming thriller, Doctor No, is now being filmed by United Artists in Jamaica, with Sean Connery as James Bond, the British secret service agent who is hero of all the Fleming novels.

    Actors bore him

    “Cary Grant, David Niven and James Mason wanted to play James Bond,” said Fleming. “But I said why spend millions of pounds on one of these characters, why not create our own Cary Grant? We made a nationwide search and hit on Sean Connery, a young Shakespearean actor who weightlifts for Scotland and is a very solid fellow. Actors generally bore me to tears. So many of them are pansies, forever flitting about.”

    Fleming said of the theater. “I loathe it. I always know what’s going to happen and it annoys me so much when people laugh at the obvious jokes. I like films. They’re much cheaper for one thing, and you can go in and out whenever you want to.”

    In 1952 he wrote his first novel, Casino Royale, an instant success, “Having been a bachelor until I was 43, I was suddenly trapped by marriage and I was so appalled by it I had to write a thriller to take my mind off it. I’m still happily married.” His wife is the former Lady Rothermere.

    A novel a year

    He has since turned out a novel a year. “I go to Jamaica in January and stay to March and write one of these books. Noel Coward’s place is only 30 minutes from mine. I’m quite fond of Noel. We cabled him about playing the villain in Doctor No and he cabled back, ‘No, no, no, no, no. Love. love, love. No.’ I agree with him. He would have been wrong for it.”

    Fleming loves to talk of his gambling coups. He won a million (francs) at chemin-de-fer in Le Touquet. And in Las Vegas he hit the jackpot on a dollar slot machine, a memory that still gives him visible shivers of pleasure.

    “The ugly brute erupted suddenly, and the floor was rolling with silver dollars. One of those fellows with a gun on his hip came over to help me. Las Vegas is a daft place, all those women with blued hair standing at the machines like so many dazed hens. They never even go to the zoo.”
  • Posts: 2,904
    The Man Who Made Bond

    Douglas Keay meets Ian Fleming (Harper’s Bazaar, Feb. 1962)

    He sits at a leather-topped desk (small, one feels, mainly because the room is small), which is somewhat cluttered with a fancy gold clock (present from his wife), a garish red pen tray decorated with a life-size black china revolver (souvenir from Las Vegas), papers, magazines, and a sick-joke ashtray on which the word “THINK” has been crossed out by the manufacturer and the word “SCHEME” scrawled underneath.

    His suit is subdued blue hopsack, well cut to his tall, lean frame, but not so well cut that creases do not show like weals across his back when he rises to go to the glass-panelled bookcase behind him. His bow-tie is as gentle as his handshake of greeting and his whole appearance, in fact, admirably suited to the front pew of a parish church any Sunday.

    Indeed one is almost disappointed to discover that only the smile, which begins with the upper lip rising a fraction before both lips part, and the look in the eyes, which lingers disconcertingly, can persuade one that this could possibly be Ian Fleming the thriller writer, the creator of James Bond, the most vicious, sadistic, supersexed secret agent ever to keep readers moist with tensility until the last excruciating page.

    When The Spy Who Loved Me appears on the bookstands in April Ian Fleming will have completed ten thrillers in ten years, seen his sales rocket to two million in Britain, one million in America, and a total of over four million throughout the world. More significant, he will almost certainly remain the only contemporary “non-serious” writer to have been attacked (instead of being merely mocked), by two well-known “quality” papers, and count among his most publicly avid readers the President of the United States and Mrs. Kennedy.

    In his self-described “rather splendid” office, tucked strategically mid-way between the holocaust of Fleet Street and the deceptive calm of the Temple, I began by asking Mr. Fleming if he could explain why his books are as successful in Kensington as in King’s Cross, which they are.

    “Well I think one of the reasons is that I do produce a hero who isn’t in line with the current fashion, you know. I mean, everybody’s always knocking the Queen and knocking Admiral Mountbatten and crying down with this and down with that, and people who read Bond say, 'well at least the fellow’s doing a good job for his country and is not ashamed of it...'

    “And then again, I think one of the reasons for their success in Belgravia is that I do know a higher stratum of life than the average thriller writer does. I’ve been round the world two or three times. I’ve got very strong views about which are my favourite restaurants and which aren’t. I’m not starry-eyed about night-clubs and the Ritz and things of that sort, and because I know German and French and took psychology as one of the extra subjects for the Foreign Office exam, I’m much more at ease with the sort of world I write about than I might otherwise be.”

    Fleming’s background as well as his manner of speaking might be said to be out of the top drawl. His father, a major, a DSO, an MP, was killed in 1916 serving with the Oxfordshire Hussars and had his obituary in the Times written by Winston Churchill. He himself was educated at Eton, Sandhurst, Munich and Geneva universities. His brother is Peter Fleming, the travel writer, and his wife was married first to the third Baron O’Neill and then to the second Viscount Rothermere. One of his three houses, “Goldeneye” in Jamaica (allegedly renamed the Goldeneye, Nose and Throat by Noel Coward), was used by Sir Anthony Eden for convalescence.

    All of which might make it seem slightly surprising that Ian Fleming should even want to write thrillers, let alone be the indisputable master that he is.

    But then, like the hero of his books, one ventures further, and in doing so makes some interesting discoveries. At Eton, for instance, the young Fleming was Victor Ludorum (winner of the individual track and field championship) twice—a unique achievement. At Sandhurst he was meted out the severest punishment ever, short of dismissal (a month’s CB and six months’ stoppage of leave), for an escapade involving a beautiful girl. And in the last war he was Personal Assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence and, strong rumour has it, didn’t confine himself to chairborne spying.

    “I suppose I could be described as belonging to the old school,” he says. “If I’d been born a bit earlier” (he’s fifty-four), “I would probably have been an Empire builder. Not that I’ve a desire to collar India again or anything like that, but I like the idea of adventure immensely and I do think the Empire did provide adventure for a host of excellent chaps. Nowadays nobody wants to go out and govern some little province, which I find rather sad. And though there is still a desire for adventure—there was that little party in the Amazon the other day, remember?—we live in an age which is becoming increasingly coloured with the blue rinse of American widows with large alimonies living in fat hotels. The whole ethos of adventure is regarded rather as old hat and consequently there isn’t enough for young people to do on wet afternoons…”

    Did he in any way feel that his James Bond thrillers helped to fill the gap?

    “Well yes I suppose so. There are plenty of people who want a straight adventure story. They don’t want the kitchen sink and they don’t want everyone to be filthy and dirty. I can’t say I enjoy the Osbornes and Weskers either. I quite liked [John] Braine’s Room At The Top, but I can’t be bothered with—what’s the name of the red-brick one?—that’s right, Kingsley Amis. I couldn’t be bothered with his sense of humour. It didn’t seem to me to be funny compared with Evelyn Waugh. And it does seem to me, I must admit, that there is something tremendously vulgar in a different sense about [Alan] Sillitoe’s writing—a sort of inverted snobbery.”

    Fleming’s own books have been criticised for being extremely vulgar and snob-ridden. I quoted to him an extract from the Guardian: “The idea that anyone should smoke a brand of cigarette not because they enjoy them but because they are exclusive…is pernicious, and it is implicit in all Mr. Fleming’s glib descriptions of food, drink and clothes.”

    Mr. Fleming leaned forward, extracted a cigarette (a popular brand), from a drawer, placed it in a holder, and lit it. “Well, I agree. My books have got an air of vulgarity, but then nowadays so many good things are automatically vulgar. I mean if a man eats a large meal you immediately assume he’s on an expense account and that he’s on some racket or other. The sort of people you see nowadays in the smart restaurants are extremely vulgar looking people and really I’ve tried to give my villains strong touches of vulgarity so as to have more fun knocking them down.

    “What I’m after is realism and authentic detail with a touch of the fantastic towards the end. Everybody’s always talking about the sadism in my books but the torture Bond suffers at the hands of his enemies” (in one story he's stripped, strapped to a seatless chair and his most sensitive parts are flicked with a cane switch) “is not nearly as bad as what was done to our secret agents during the war. If I used the absolute truth it would really make the reader’s hair stand on end. You see, all life is violence and love. All of us are sadists or masochists. Freud tells us so anyway and I’m pretty sure my books do ring a bell with everyone. Besides which the kind of thing which happened to Bulldog Drummond just won't do any more. He used to get a bang on the head with a wooden stick and that was all. But that’s not Life! In the same way I don’t think there’s a kiss in the whole of Buchan. He may occasionally hold the girl’s hand but no more. Well, really…”

    The more one talks with Ian Fleming the more one is troubled by a niggling desire to ferret out some sort of satisfactory connection between this urbane man and the ruthless hero of his books. Was it true, I wondered, that after a pre-war spell with Reuters and during his time as Foreign Manager of the Sunday Times, he had deliberately set himself the task of writing “a spy story to end all spy stories”? And why?

    “Well yes, it was true. I’ve always liked reading the kind of book I write, but they’re jolly hard to come by you know. Most of the English thrillers start with a sleazy Soho night spot which has fascinated the writer and end up in Tangier which has also fascinated the writer. Now I regard both these areas as absolutely dead meat as far as thrillers are concerned, far too overdone.

    “I also find a lot of the writing in other thrillers worse than it should be. Thriller writing is a thin seam of literature.

    “But as far as there being a connection between James Bond and myself, I don’t really think that we’re at all alike. I don’t live the smart life he lives and I don’t particularly like the food he eats. I put the foodmanship stuff in the first book because at the time, just after the war, we were all feeling a bit thin. But in fact my own favourite dish is scrambled eggs. I admit I share his enthusiasm for gambling, but I’ll not go to a casino more than twice a year.

    “People often ask me how I would describe James Bond and, really, I’ve no idea. I’ve got so confused by the pictures I see of him in strip cartoons, on book covers and on posters advertising shirts.

    “When I started I looked for a name that would have no glamour and would help to make my hero an anonymous secret agent. The name actually came from a book called James Bond’s Birds of the West Indies. When I saw it I thought, 'My God, that’s a dull name.'”

    Next July the first James Bond film (based on Dr. No) will be premiered in London. Playing the role of Bond will be a young, hardly known actor called Sean Connery. Fleming appears pleased with the choice. “Physically he’s a very good example of James Bond—except he’s got rather a strong Scottish accent. He’s very slow moving, powerfully built, six feet tall, dark hair, weight-lifts for Scotland, boxed for the Navy, and plays centre forward for the Variety Artists team at weekends—yes, I think he will be very good in the part, and if he clicks, his fortune is made because I’m going to do a Bond film a year from now on.”

    “Doing” a Bond film a year means writing a Bond book a year. He spends months on research (“attention to detail has helped my success tremendously”), then, within a day or two of January 17th each year, he takes off for Jamaica where he spends exactly two months pressurizing facts and fiction into yet another Bond book as smooth as the bonnet of a Bentley, as taut as a suspender.

    “I regard myself as a pro trying to make as much money as possible without lowering my sights which, even in thriller writing, one must have. I’m a commercial writer in a commercial world…”

    But oh, one instinctively feels, if only the sun hadn’t gone down on the Empire, what Ian Fleming might have been!
  • stagstag In the thick of it!
    Posts: 1,053
    This is a superb thread. Thanks for the thought and effort you've put into it.
  • stag wrote: »
    This is a superb thread. Thanks for the thought and effort you've put into it.

    Agreed. My favorite nugget from this posting is the observation by Douglas Keay: "The more one talks with Ian Fleming the more one is troubled by a niggling desire to ferret out some sort of satisfactory connection between this urbane man and the ruthless hero of his books." I wonder how much of our view of Fleming the man is influenced by this niggling desire?

  • edited August 2022 Posts: 2,904
    I'm very glad you guys have been enjoying the thread!

    I certainly think that the Fleming of the Bond books comes across as very different from the Fleming we encounter in his letters and interviews. That said, a line like "Not that I’ve a desire to collar India again or anything like that, but I like the idea of adventure immensely" tells us a lot about Fleming's attitudes toward the empire and swashbuckling.
  • Posts: 1,044
    Revelator wrote: »
    I'm very glad you guys have been enjoying the thread!

    I've just spent a very enjoyable half hour on this thread, thank you so much!
    I bought the Man with the Golden Typewriter book about six months ago, hoping to get a better understanding of Fleming's attitudes toward his literary creation, but this thread offers much more.
  • NickTwentyTwoNickTwentyTwo Vancouver, BC, Canada
    edited August 2022 Posts: 7,527
    I only know this essay as "How To Write A Thriller", which was originally seen by me on our very own on September 28th, 2014 (no longer available there). Evidently it was an essay written by Fleming a year before his death.

    I can try to track down the original source, or if this is already posted above in some link somewhere, I will delete it immediately. Anyways, I keep this as a note on my phone and read it constantly:

    "People often ask me, "How do you manage to think of that? What an extraordinary (or sometimes extraordinarily dirty) mind you must have." I certainly have got vivid powers of imagination, but I don't think there is anything very odd about that.

    We are all fed fairy stories and adventure stories and ghost stories for the first 20 years of our lives, and the only difference between me and perhaps you is that my imagination earns me money. But, to revert to my first book, Casino Royale, there are strong incidents in the book which are all based on fact. I extracted them from my wartime memories of the Naval Intelligence Division of the Admiralty, dolled them up, attached a hero, a villain and a heroine, and there was the book.

    The first was the attempt on Bond's life outside the Hotel Splendide. SMERSH had given two Bulgarian assassins box camera cases to hang over their shoulders. One was of red leather and the other one blue. SMERSH told the Bulgarians that the red one contained a bomb and the blue one a powerful smoke screen, under cover of which they could escape.

    One was to throw the red bomb and the other was then to press the button on the blue case. But the Bulgars mistrusted the plan and decided to press the button on the blue case and envelop themselves in the smoke screen before throwing the bomb. In fact, the blue case also contained a bomb powerful enough to blow both the Bulgars to fragments and remove all evidence which might point to SMERSH.

    Far-fetched, you might say. In fact, this was the method used in the Russian attempt on Von Papen's life in Ankara in the middle of the war. On that occasion the assassins were also Bulgarians and they were blown to nothing while Von Papen and his wife, walking from their house to the embassy; were only bruised by the blast.

    So you see the line between fact and fantasy is a very narrow one. I think I could trace most of the central incidents in my books to some real happenings.

    We thus come to the final and supreme hurdle in the writing of a thriller. You must know thrilling things before you can write about them. Imagination alone isn't enough, but stories you hear from friends or read in the papers can be built up by a fertile imagination and a certain amount of research and documentation into incidents that will also ring true in fiction.

    Having assimilated all this encouraging advice, your heart will nevertheless quail at the physical effort involved in writing even a thriller. I warmly sympathise with you. I too, am lazy. My heart sinks when I contemplate the two or three hundred virgin sheets of foolscap I have to besmirch with more or less well chosen words in order to produce a 60,000 word book.

    One of the essentials is to create a vacuum in my life which can only be satisfactorily filled by some form of creative work - whether it be writing, painting, sculpting, composing or just building a boat - I was about to get married - a prospect which filled me with terror and mental fidget. To give my hands something to do, and as an antibody to my qualms about the marriage state after 43 years as a bachelor, I decided one day to damned well sit down and write a book.

    The therapy was successful. And while I still do a certain amount of writing in the midst of my London Life, it is on my annual visits to Jamaica that all my books have been written.

    But, failing a hideaway such as I possess, I can recommend hotel bedrooms as far removed from your usual "life" as possible. Your anonymity in these drab surroundings and your lack of friends and distractions will create a vacuum which should force you into a writing mood and, if your pocket is shallow, into a mood which will also make you write fast and with application. I do it all on the typewriter, using six fingers. The act of typing is far less exhausting than the act of writing, and you end up with a more or less clean manuscript. The next essential is to keep strictly to a routine.

    I write for about three hours in the morning - from about 9:30 till 12:30 and I do another hour's work between six and seven in the evening. At the end of this I reward myself by numbering the pages and putting them away in a spring-back folder. The whole of this four hours of daily work is devoted to writing narrative.

    I never correct anything and I never go back to what I have written, except to the foot of the last page to see where I have got to. If you once look back, you are lost. How could you have written this drivel? How could you have used "terrible" six times on one page? And so forth. If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky if you write 500 words a day and you will be disgusted with them into the bargain. By following my formula, you write 2,000 words a day and you aren't disgusted with them until the book is finished, which will be in about six weeks.

    I don't even pause from writing to choose the right word or to verify spelling or a fact. All this can be done when your book is finished.

    When my book is completed I spend about a week going through it and correcting the most glaring errors and rewriting passages. I then have it properly typed with chapter headings and all the rest of the trimmings. I then go through it again, have the worst pages retyped and send it off to my publisher.

    They are a sharp-eyed bunch at Jonathan Cape and, apart from commenting on the book as a whole, they make detailed suggestions which I either embody or discard. Then the final typescript goes to the printer and in due course the galley or page proofs are there and you can go over them with a fresh eye. Then the book is published and you start getting letters from people saying that Vent Vert is made by Balmain and not by Dior, that the Orient Express has vacuum and not hydraulic brakes, and that you have mousseline sauce and not Bearnaise with asparagus.

    Such mistakes are really nobody's fault except the author's, and they make him blush furiously when he sees them in print. But the majority of the public does not mind them or, worse, does not even notice them, and it is a dig at the author's vanity to realise how quickly the reader's eye skips across the words which it has taken him so many months to try to arrange in the right sequence.

    But what, after all these labours, are the rewards of writing and, in my case, of writing thrillers?

    First of all, they are financial. You don't make a great deal of money from royalties and translation rights and so forth and, unless you are very industrious and successful, you could only just about live on these profits, but if you sell the serial rights and the film rights, you do very well. Above all, being a successful writer is a good life. You don't have to work at it all the time and you carry your office around in your head. And you are far more aware of the world around you.

    Writing makes you more alive to your surroundings and, since the main ingredient of living, though you might not think so to look at most human beings, is to be alive, this is quite a worthwhile by-product of writing."
  • stagstag In the thick of it!
    Posts: 1,053
    @NickTwentyTwo good post. I enjoyed reading it.

    I've got a copy of 'The Life of Ian Fleming' by John Pearson somewhere. I must have last read it in the 1980s. For anyone who hasn't, I can recommend it.

    Reading the interview material in this thread helps to add another layer to my appreciation of the man and his novels.
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