Thursday, 6 September 2012

Ian Fleming: The Father Of Bond

There are several people without whom we would not be taking on the Bondathon challenge. We will highlight some of them in the upcoming weeks, but it seems only right to start with the creator of Bond: Ian Fleming

Fleming was born in London on 28 May 1908 and was educated at Eton College, editing a school magazine whilst there. After a failed attempt to join the Foreign Office, Fleming started working for Reuters News Agency in 1931 as a sub-editor and journalist, spending time in Moscow during 1933. He worked as a banker and stockbroker before becoming personal assistant to Rear Admiral John Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence in May 1939. He was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in July of 1939, initially as a lieutenant and then as a commander.

During the Second World War, Fleming worked out of Room 39 at The Admiralty, excelling in administration as Godfrey’s personal assistant and writing memoranda that would have an impact on the course of the war. In 1941-42, Godfrey placed Fleming in charge of Operation Golden Eye which would maintain an intelligence framework in Spain in the event of a German takeover. In 1942, Fleming formed a unit of commandos known as No. 30 Commando, 30 Assault Unit or (more informally) his ‘Red Indians’. The unit would be near the front line of advance in order to seize enemy documents from previously targeted headquarters.

Also in 1942, Fleming attended an Anglo-American intelligence summit in Jamaica and liked the place so much, he decided to live there once the war was over. For a sum of £2000, Fleming purchased land on the north shore at Oracabessa and a house was built, which he named… Goldeneye. Upon his demobilisation in May 1945, Fleming became the Foreign Manager in the Kemsley newspaper group, which at the time owned The Sunday Times. His contract allowed him to take three months holiday every winter in Jamaica. He worked full-time for the paper until December 1959, but continued to write articles until at least 1961

Fleming had mentioned to friends during the war that he wished to write a spy novel, and- in 1952- he achieved this, writing Casino Royale within two months in Jamaica. The main character of Casino Royale was an officer in the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and a commander of the Royal Naval Reserve. His name? Bond. James Bond. 

Taking the character’s name from a real-life ornithologist (the author of Birds Of The West Indies), Fleming explained that ‘I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find… Exotic things would happen to and around him but he would be a neutral figure - an anonymous blunt instrument wielded by a Government Department.’ Published by Jonathan Cape in 1953, such was the popularity of Casino Royale that three print runs were needed to cope with the demand.

After Casino Royale, Fleming used his annual three-month sabbatical at Goldeneye to complete another Bond novel. The next novels published were Live And Let Die (1954), Moonraker (1955), Diamonds Are Forever (1956), From Russia With Love (1957), Dr. No (1958) and Goldfinger (1959). For Your Eyes Only (1960) is a collection of five short stories- ‘From A View To A Kill’, ‘For Your Eyes Only’, ‘Quantum Of Solace’, ‘Risico’ and ‘The Hildebrand Rarity’- whilst Thunderball (1961) is a novelisation of a film script written by Fleming along with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham. 

Further Bond novels included The Spy Who Loved Me (1962), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963) and You Only Live Twice (1964). The Man With The Golden Gun was published posthumously, along with a collection of stories: 'Octopussy' and 'The Living Daylights'. Originally comprising these two stories, further paperback editions have also included the short stories ‘The Property Of A Lady’ and ‘007 In New York’.

Aside from the Bond novels and stories, Fleming published two pieces of non-fiction- The Diamond Smugglers (1957) and Thrilling Cities (1963)- and the children’s novel Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, which was also published posthumously. Fleming died on 12 August 1964 at the age of 56 from a heart attack; his final recorded words were an apology to the ambulance drivers for inconveniencing them.

Fleming was ranked fourteenth in The Times' 2008 poll of 'The 50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945' and his Bond novels are amongst the best-selling book series in the world. John F. Kennedy revealed that From Russia With Love was one of his ten favourite books. Whatever you may think of his writing style or manner, his literary achievements are undeniable.

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