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Ian Fleming

[flem-ing]

Ian Lancaster Fleming (May 28, 1908August 12, 1964) was a British author, journalist and Second World War Navy Commander. Fleming is best remembered for creating the character of James Bond and chronicling his adventures in twelve novels and nine short stories. Additionally, Fleming wrote the children's story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and two non-fiction books.

Early life

Ian Fleming was born in Mayfair, London, to Valentine Fleming, a Member of Parliament, and his wife Evelyn St. Croix Rose. Ian was the younger brother of travel writer Peter Fleming and the older brother of Michael and Richard Fleming (1910–77). He also had an illegitimate half-sister, the cellist Amaryllis Fleming. He was the grandson of Scottish financier Robert Fleming, who founded the Scottish American Investment Trust and merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co. (since 2000 part of JP Morgan Chase). He was cousin to actor Christopher Lee and actress Dame Celia Johnson was his sister-in-law (wife of his brother Peter), and Great-uncle to the composer Alan Fleming-Baird. His nephew Matthew Fleming played cricket for England.

Fleming was educated at Sunningdale School in Berkshire, Eton College, and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He was Victor Ludorum at Eton two years running, something that had been achieved only once before him. He found Sandhurst to be uncongenial, and after an early departure from there, his mother sent him to study languages on the continent. He first went to a small private establishment in Kitzbühel, Austria, run by the Adlerian disciples Ernan Forbes Dennis and his American wife, the novelist Phyllis Bottome, to improve his German and prepare him for the Foreign Office exams, then to Munich University, and, finally, to the University of Geneva to improve his French. He was unsuccessful in his application to join the Foreign Office, and subsequently worked as a sub-editor and journalist for the Reuters news service, including time in 1933 in Moscow, and then as a stockbroker with Rowe and Pitman, in Bishopsgate. He was a member of Boodle's, the gentleman's club in St. James's Street, from 1944 until his death in 1964.

His marriage in Jamaica in 1952 to Anne Charteris, daughter of Lord Wemyss and former wife of Viscount Rothermere, was witnessed by his friend, playwright Noel Coward.

World War II

In 1939, on the eve of World War II, Rear Admiral John Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence of the Royal Navy, recruited Fleming (then a reserve subaltern in the Black Watch) as his personal assistant. He was commissioned first as a Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve lieutenant, and subsequently promoted to Lieutenant Commander, then Commander. His known codename was 17F.

In 1940 Fleming and Godfrey contacted Kenneth Mason, Professor of Geography at Oxford University, about preparing reports devoted to the geography of countries engaged in military operations. These reports were the precursors of the Naval Intelligence Division Geographical Handbook Series produced between 1941 and 1946. He also conceived of a plan to use British occultist Aleister Crowley to trick Rudolf Hess into attempting to contact a fake cell of anti-Churchill Englishmen in Britain, but this plan was not used because Rudolf Hess had flown to Scotland in an attempt to broker peace behind Hitler's back. Anthony Masters's book The Man Who Was M: The Life of Charles Henry Maxwell Knight asserts Fleming conceived the plan that lured Hess into flying to Scotland, in May 1941, to negotiate Anglo–German peace with Churchill, and resulted in Hess's capture: this claim has no other source.

Fleming also formulated Operation Goldeneye, a plan to maintain communication with Gibraltar as well as a plan of defence in the unlikely event that Spain joined the Axis Powers and, together with Germany, invaded the Mediterranean colony.

30 Assault Unit

In 1944, Fleming gained control of a specialist unit of Commandos, known as 30 Commando, or 30 Assault Unit (30AU). He neither founded the organisation, nor was he their field commander. He was, however, the planner. As an intelligence officer at the Naval Intelligence Division (NID), he had an idea of what information and equipment the enemy had, that was of interest to the Allies and where it was likely to be located. He therefore detailed the 'scalps' he required and his "Red Indians", as he called them, set off to acquire them. The basic idea lay in the work of the Abwehr field units, which had been noted in the early campaigns of the war and now taken up with a vengeance by their enemy.

30 Assault Unit were teams of trained Commandos, specialising in targeting enemy headquarters, to secure documentation and items of equipment with an intelligence value, that the ordinary Allied soldier, or even Commando, might ignore or even destroy. They trained in lock-picking, safe-cracking, unarmed combat, and general techniques and skills for collecting intelligence. The unit contained some of the most 'gung-ho' operatives in the Commandos. The term AU has no connection with the Auxiliary Units in which Fleming's elder brother had served.

The unit did not operate as a single unit, but as specialist teams that would attach themselves to whatever main force would get them closest to their invidual targets. In the final stage, the teams were trained and equipped to fight their own way into a headquarters building and secure whatever items they required, before the enemy extracted it themselves, or destroyed it before leaving. To adapt a phrase, whilst they may not have relied on fear, they did rely on surprise, toughness and ruthless efficiency. Prior to D-Day, Fleming had only indirect access, as most of the action was away in the Mediterranean. However, because of their successes in Sicily and Italy, 30AU (based at the The Marine Hotel Littlehampton, West Sussex, now a public house and venue for the annual reunion of the 30AU veterans) became greatly trusted by naval intelligence. Having seen the scope of its achievements and its potential, with the right support and the right direction, to deliver even more, the unit was much enlarged and it was given direct tasks: specific items and documents to acquire. Fleming was the man who would give these specific directives.

Fleming visited 30AU in the field during and after Operation Overlord, especially after the Cherbourg attack. He was concerned that the unit had been incorrectly used as a main line Commando force, rather than in its intelligence gathering role. This wasted the men's specialist skills; hazarded them on a task not appropriate to the risk; threatened either the total loss, or devaluation through delay, of the intelligence priorities. From then on, the management of the units was revised.

As a desk-bound officer for much of the war, Fleming yearned to be connected with real heroes and with direct action. Access to this unit gave him that vicarious involvement, without the pain of having to do the arduous training himself. It also made him see that intelligence-gathering could be macho, masculine and main stream, not the obscure work of odd-balls and the effete. When he began his writing career, Fleming would have his fictional hero incorporate the macho attitude of the naval commandos into the more sophisticated milieu of the traditional spy novel: the combination would take the spy novel forward and create a new genre.

Writing career

As the NID's personal assistant, Fleming's intelligence work provided the background for his spy novels. In 1953, he published his first novel, Casino Royale. In it he introduced secret agent James Bond, also famously known by his code number, 007. Legend has it that Camp X included Fleming, though there is evidence against this claim. The character of James Bond was supposedly based on Camp X's Sir William Stephenson and what Fleming learned from him. Two men have supplied the basis for Bond's character: naval officer Patrick Dalzel-Job, and Fleming's brother, Peter. Casino Royale: Bond appears with the beautiful heroine Vesper Lynd, who was modelled on SOE agent Krystyna Skarbek. Ideas for his characters and settings for Bond came from his time at Boodle's. Blade's, M's club (at which Bond is an occasional guest), is partially modelled on Boodle's and the name of Bond's arch enemy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, was based on a fellow member's name. Bond's name came from famed ornithologist James Bond, the son of the Bond family who allowed Fleming the use of their estate in Jamaica to write. The Bonds were wealthy manufacturers whose estate outside of Philadelphia, Pa. eventually became the grounds of Gwynedd Mercy College. Fleming used the name after seeing Bond's Birds of the West Indies (1936).

Initially Fleming's Bond novels were not bestsellers in America, but when President John F. Kennedy included From Russia With Love on a list of his favourite books, sales quickly jumped. Fleming wrote 14 Bond books in all: Casino Royale (1953), Live and Let Die (1954), Moonraker (1955), Diamonds Are Forever (1956), From Russia with Love (1957), Dr. No (1958), Goldfinger (1959), For Your Eyes Only (1960), Thunderball (1961), The Spy Who Loved Me (1962), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963), You Only Live Twice (1964), The Man with the Golden Gun (1965), and Octopussy and The Living Daylights (1966).

In the late 1950s, the financial success of Fleming's James Bond series allowed him to retire to Goldeneye, his estate in Saint Mary Parish, Jamaica. The name of the house and estate where he wrote his novels has many sources. Notably, Ian Fleming himself cited Operation Goldeneye, a plan to bedevil the Nazis should the Germans enter Spain during World War II. He also cited the 1941 novel, Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers. The location of the property may also have been a factor — Oracabessa, or "Golden head". There is also a Spanish tomb on the property with a bit of carving that looks like an eye on one side. It is likely that most or all of these factors played a part in Fleming's naming his Jamaican home. In Ian Fleming's interview published in Playboy in December 1964, he states, "I had happened to be reading Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers, and I'd been involved in an operation called Goldeneye during the war: the defense of Gibraltar, supposing that the Spaniards had decided to attack it; and I was deeply involved in the planning of countermeasures which would have been taken in that event. Anyway, I called my place Goldeneye." The estate, next door to that of Fleming's friend and rival Noel Coward, is now the centerpiece of an exclusive resort by the same name.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1962) stylistically departs from other books in the Bond series as it is written in the first person perspective of the (fictional) protagonist, Vivienne Michel, whom Fleming credits as co-author. It is the story of her life, up until when James Bond serendipitously rescues her from the wrong circumstance at the wrong place and time.

Besides writing twelve novels and nine short stories featuring James Bond, Fleming also wrote the children's novel Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He also wrote a guide to some of the world's most famous cities in Thrilling Cities and a study of The Diamond Smugglers.

In 1961, he sold the film rights to his already published as well as future James Bond novels and short stories to Harry Saltzman, who, with Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli, co-produced the film version of Dr. No (1962). For the cast, Fleming suggested friend and neighbour Noël Coward as the villain Dr. Julius No, and David Niven or, later, Roger Moore as James Bond. Both were rejected in favour of Sean Connery, who was both Broccoli and Saltzman's choice. Fleming also suggested his cousin, Christopher Lee, either as Dr. No or even as James Bond. Although Lee was selected for neither role, in 1974 he portrayed assassin Francisco Scaramanga, the eponymous villain of The Man with the Golden Gun.

Neither Saltzman nor Broccoli expected Dr. No to be much of a success, but it was an instant sensation and sparked a spy craze through the rest of the 1960s.

The successful Dr. No was followed by From Russia with Love (1963), the second and last James Bond movie Ian Fleming saw.

During the Istanbul Pogroms, which many Greek and some Turkish scholars attributed to secret orchestrations by Britain, Fleming wrote an account of the events, "The Great Riot of Istanbul", which was published in the The Sunday Times on 11 September 1955.

Later life

Fleming was a bibliophile who collected a library of books that had, in his opinion, "started something", and therefore were significant in the history of western civilization. He concentrated on science and technology, e.g. On the Origin of Species, but also included other significant works ranging from Mein Kampf to Scouting for Boys. He was a major lender to the 1963 exhibition Printing and the Mind of Man. Some six hundred books from Fleming's collection are held in the Lilly Library at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A.

In March 1960, Fleming met John F. Kennedy through Marion Oates Leiter who was a mutual friend and invited both to dinner. Leiter had introduced Kennedy to Fleming's books during his recovery from an operation in 1955. After dinner Fleming related his ideas on discrediting Fidel Castro; these were reported to Central Intelligence Agency chief Allen Welsh Dulles, who gave the ideas serious consideration.

Fifty-six-year-old Ian Fleming died of a heart attack on the morning of August 12 1964, in Canterbury, Kent, England, and was later buried in the churchyard of Sevenhampton village, near Swindon. Upon their own deaths, Fleming's widow, Ann Geraldine Mary Fleming (1913–1981), and son Caspar Robert Fleming (1952–1975), were buried next to him. Caspar committed suicide with a drug overdose.

In observance of what would have been Fleming's 100th birthday in 2008, Ian Fleming Publications commissioned Sebastian Faulks to write a new Bond novel entitled Devil May Care. The book, released in May 2008, is credited to "Sebastian Faulks, writing as Ian Fleming".

Selected works

James Bond books

Nr Name Year
1. Casino Royale 1 1953
2. Live and Let Die 1954
3. Moonraker 2 1955
4. Diamonds Are Forever 1956
5. From Russia with Love 1957
6. Dr. No 1958
7. Goldfinger 1959
8. For Your Eyes Only (short stories) 3 1960
9. Thunderball 4 1961
10. The Spy Who Loved Me5 1962
11. On Her Majesty's Secret Service 1963
12. You Only Live Twice 1964
13. The Man with the Golden Gun 6 1965
14. Octopussy and The Living Daylights (short stories) 7 1966
Notes
1 First U.S. paperback edition was retitled You Asked for It.
2 First U.S. paperback edition was retitled Too Hot to Handle.
3 Short story collection: (i) "From a View to a Kill," (ii) "For Your Eyes Only," (iii) "Risico," (iv) "Quantum of Solace", and (v) "The Hildebrand Rarity."
4 Subject of a legal battle over story credit which led to the book's storyline also being credited to Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham; see the controversy over Thunderball
5 Fleming gives co-author credit to "Vivienne Michel", the fictional heroine of the book; Fleming refused to allow a paperback edition to be published in the UK, but one was eventually published after his death. His agreement with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman only allowed the use of the title for a movie.
6 For years, it has been alleged that William Plomer, and/or others, completed this novel as Fleming died before a finished manuscript was created. Many Fleming biographers dispute this; see the controversy over The Man With The Golden Gun.
7 Posthumously compiled short story collection. Originally published with two stories: (i) "Octopussy" and (ii) "The Living Daylights". The 1967 paperback edition's title was shortened to Octopussy and a third story, "The Property of a Lady", increased its page count. In the 1990s, the collection's longer, original title was restored, and with the 2002 edition, the story, "007 in New York" (originally published in some editions of Thrilling Cities (see below) was added.

Children's story

Non-fiction

Unfinished/unpublished works

  • Fleming kept a scrapbook containing notes and ideas for future James Bond stories. It included fragments of possible short stories or novels featuring Bond that were never published. Excerpts from some of these can be found in The Life of Ian Fleming by John Pearson.
  • The author Geoffrey Jenkins worked with Fleming on a James Bond story idea between 1957 and 1964. After Fleming's death, Jenkins was commissioned by Bond publishers Glidrose Productions to turn this story, Per Fine Ounce, into a novel, but it was never published.
  • In 1960 Fleming was commissioned by the Kuwait Oil Company to write a book on the country and its oil industry. The typescript is titled State of Excitement: Impressions of Kuwait but was never published due to Kuwait government disapproval. According to Fleming: "The Oil Company expressed approval of the book but felt it their duty to submit the typescript to members of the Kuwait Government for their approval. The Sheikhs concerned found unpalatable certain mild comments and criticisms and particularly the passages referring to the adventurous past of the country which now wishes to be 'civilised' in every respect and forget its romantic origins.

Biographies

  • Henry A. Zelger, Ian Fleming: The Spy Who Came in with the Gold (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1965)
  • Eleanor and Dennis Pelrine, Ian Fleming: Man with the Golden Pen (Toronto: Swan Publishing, 1966)
  • John Pearson, The Life of Ian Fleming (London: Jonathan Cape, 1966)
  • Richard Gant, Ian Fleming: Man with the Golden Pen (London: Mayflower-Dell, 1966) - a different work than the Pelrine book
  • Ivar Bryce. You Only Live Once: Memories of Ian Fleming (London: Weldenfeld and Nicolson, 1975)
  • Bruce A. Rosenberg and Ann Harleman Stewart, Ian Fleming (Boston: Twayne, 1989)
  • Donald McCormick, 17F: The Life of Ian Fleming (London: Peter Owen, 1993)
  • Andrew Lycett, Ian Fleming (London: Weldenfeld and Nicolson, 1995)

Biographical films

References

Further Reading

  • Conant, Jennet The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington (Simon and Schuster, 2008)

External links

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