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


Adventure in the Haggard-Buchan School (The Bookman, Nov. 1960)

The Pass Beyond Kashmir by Berkely Mather
Reviewer: Ian Fleming

The Achilles Affair, Berkely Mather’s first book, was one of the best thrillers of 1959. The Pass Beyond Kashmir takes the author triumphantly over the hump of the ‘second book’ and into the small category of those adventure writers whose works I, for one, will in future buy ‘sight unseen’.

The author belongs to the Haggard-Buchan school, or at any rate to its Search/Chase subdivision, in which English writers are supreme. The essential requirement in the contemporary craftsmen in this idiom is that they should be truthful and accurate reporters, for nowadays we know the world, and the scenery and background over and against which the hero journeys must not only hold the attention but be credible. Berkely Mather’s India seems to me totally so. I believe every word of his local knowledge and I greatly admire the art with which he informs one of sects, secret police, smells, language, dust, mud and flies without overdoing the expertise—a weakness into which Hammond Innes, for instance, occasionally lapses. With Berkely Mather one never feels ‘crammed’, or irritated by ‘knowingness’. The background unrolls, as we follow the cheap but likable private investigator on the way from Bombay to the foothills of the Himalayas, with a truly remarkable narrative ease. And what a ghastly trek we take in search of those secret oil surveys! Fights and muggings in the stews of Bombay—ghastly encounters with police and rivals (with every man’s hand against us!) all the way up to Kashmir and there—the last straw—the damnable Chinks to cope with! And the going! Hard! Nothing to eat, torrents of rain, mud, stench, filth, every foot of the way!

To make the hardened reader feel these things, really to put him through the wringer, is the art of the writer of thrillers. Mr. Mather has this ability, backed by a quiet, unemphatic prose style, a contemporary eye, and, most important, a heart.

Note: I’m going to be charitable and assume that Fleming was echoing the author’s language when he wrote that racial epithet…

Berkely Mather himself is an overlooked and important figure in the history of James Bond. Fleming was a genuine fan of novels and recommended Mather to Broccoli and Saltzman as a screenwriter for the Bond films, starting with Dr. No. Mather’s obituary in The Independent adds “In fact a script was already in existence, and Mather lightened it considerably…Although offered a percentage of the take for his work on the script, Mather disastrously opted for a flat fee.” His work on Dr. No, included his drafts and detailed notes, was later auctioned off.

Mather also co-scripted From Russia With Love and contributed an uncredited rewrite of Goldfinger. So he had a hand in the all of the classic three Bond films and the exact nature of his contributions deserves further study.


“James Bond film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman purchased the film rights to The Pass Beyond Kashmir for Columbia Pictures in 1963. Sean Connery and Honor Blackman were to star. Production was to have begun in late 1964 in Britain and on location in the Far East.”

Not according to google book’s snippet view. “Chink/chinks” appears at least three times all in the sense “a narrow opening or crack, typically one that admits light.”


A Connery film of The Pass Beyond Kashmir certainly would have been a treat.
In my experience Google Books–including its snippet view–doesn’t always search every part of a book. There have been multiple cases where a term popped up far more often than the search suggested. So the issue remains open, though I’m willing to admit that Fleming was an equal-opportunity racist.


Did you go to Eton with my chums? Well, you may as well be from the colonies darling

Closer to how some people look at the world than I’d like…


I’m aware of Google Books’ limitations, so I checked two separate editions. Nada. But the slur does appear in several other novels Mather wrote. Alongside a number of other racial slurs…


I skimmed the book (UK paperback), paying particular attention to the final forty-five pages where Chinese troops do appear. One character refers to them by an archaic slur starting with the letter “P”, four words. The more generic “Chinaman” appears several times.

I’ve since discovered that the two editions I consulted through Google Books’ snippet view are American editions. But I’m skimming the British paperback. I’ve already spotted one racial slur variant between the US/UK editions. The British/Australian generic slur for non-white people appears only in the UK edition.

So all in all I’d say this one is almost certainly Fleming’s fault.


The Thriller Trend (Sunday Times, Sept. 20, 1959)

A Twist of Sand. By Geoffrey Jenkins (Collins. 15s.)

By Ian Fleming

I think the art, or craft, of writing thrillers has come to be despised because the great American thriller writers, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, led the practitioners off into a cul-de-sac. Poe, Stevenson, Buchan, Rider Haggard, Oppenheimer, Edgar Wallace and, of course, Eric Ambler, in their different ways wrote thrillers of originality and distinction. But, then came the American school of the private eye and the millionaire’s nymphomaniac daughter, the Syndicate and Mr. Big in his nightclub, and suddenly, on both sides of the Atlantic, everyone was doing it.

That vein, until we move on to the Teamster Union boss with the daughter at Vassar, is almost extinct. The reader of thrillers has got tired of the office bottle, the kick to the groin, and the beautiful girl beside the swimming pool. One has turned to true-life thrillers about the war or to strange tales which seem true, like The Long Walk. But still, occasionally, for an aeroplane or a train journey one is tempted by a recommendation and buys their teen shillings’ worth of teenage pillow-fantasy beginning in a drab Soho and ending in a drab Tangier—badly documented, illiterate, but worse, naive.

This year, apart from good old reliable Simenon, I have read only one thriller which I could unreservedly recommend to my friends, The Achilles Affair, by Berkely Mather (Collins). But now, with A Twist of Sand, by Geoffrey Jenkins, I think we have a writer who, with encouragement and self-discipline, may become a thriller writer on whom we can rely.


Geoffrey Jenkins has the prime gift of originality. Above all, his setting is original—and how important the background is in these books! He writes about the Skeleton Coast, one of the last truly secret places in the world, that dreadful stretch of South West Africa where the rich alluvial diamonds are mined by De Beers and where the survivors from the Dunedin Star acted out one of the great survival epics of all time. Against this roasting, sand-blasted backdrop, Jenkins tells the story of Geoffrey Peace, D.S.O. and two bars, a court-martialled English submarine commander.

Peace is bequeathed a lost island off this coast by a Buchan-ish uncle. It was here that, under secret orders from the Chief (Director, Mr. Jenkins!) of Naval Intelligence he sank Germany’s prototype atomic U-boat. He sank it by firing a recognition flare into the pool of oil while it was cleaning its fuel tanks. He then shot down the survivors—all but one! He was alone on the bridge when he did these things. Under his vow of secrecy, he could not tell even his second-in-command what he was doing in these suicidal waters, so he was dismissed [from] the Service for hazarding his ship.

Lured back by his inheritance arid his memories, he earns a living fishing off the Skeleton Coast. Until a certain Dr. Stein appears. Stein knows about Peace through the sole survivor of the U-boat and he blackmails him into taking his trawler to land on the forbidden coast, ostensibly in search of a rare beetle—onymacris. The half-crazed U-boat mariner comes too, out for Peace’s blood, and the desirable Anne-with-a-crumpled-eyelid, a Swedish entomologist who alone can recognise the beetle.

Stein tricks Peace ashore with the party arid they set off through the desert into the sinister mass of the Hartmannberge.

There follows a desperate journey, the climax of the book, in the course of which the reader is dealt such a series of highly expert jolts to the solar plexus in the Geoffrey Household style that he reaches the last page panting.


Now, this is a badly organized book. Geoffrey Jenkins tries to cram in too much—the plot, the Skeleton Coast, excellent snatches of natural history, sex, and whole chapters, exciting though they are, of Peace’s wartime experiences. The D.S.O. and two bars are thrust too often down our throats, the court martial chapter should have been cut in toto, and Anne, she of the crumpled eyelid, talks with a peach stone in her mouth.

But these are small criticisms of a literate, imaginative first novel in the tradition of high and original adventure.

Note: Geoffrey Jenkins is best-known nowadays for his lost Bond novel Per Fine Ounce. Two of its surviving pages have been posted by MI6-HQ.com.

Further information from wikipedia:

"After Ian Fleming’s death, Glidrose Productions commissioned Jenkins to write a James Bond novel in 1966. Jenkins claimed in the late 1950s he had discussed the idea of a James Bond novel set in South Africa with Fleming, and even written a synopsis of it, which Fleming had very much liked. Jenkins’ synopsis, found by John Pearson in Fleming’s papers, featured gold bicycle chains, baobab tree coffins and the magical Lake Fundudzi. Fleming had said he would come to South Africa to research the book, but he died before this happened.

"Jenkins finished the manuscript for Glidrose entitled Per Fine Ounce, but it was rejected. Peter Janson-Smith later recalled that he thought it was badly written, although he admitted that Glidrose may have been ‘stricter in those days.’

“The novel is believed lost, except for 18 pages now in the hands of Jenkins’ son David.
In them we learn that the Double-O Section has been closed down and James Bond defies M on a matter of principle, resigning from MI6 to pursue his mission in South Africa alone.”

Next week I’ll post Fleming’s second review of a Jenkins novel.


Two other pages also exist although the website that hosted them is now defunct.

Further information from wikipedia:

I thought it was the other way around. Jenkins kept urging Fleming to visit South Africa. I’ve also heard that Fleming considered Jenkins’ outline overloaded.

Not true. Jenkins chose not to write a novel based on his diamond smuggling outline. I believe he mentions this in his correspondence circa 1966. He instead chose to create an entirely different story which would become the basis for PFO. His original outline and PFO have little, if anything, in common, other than both are set in South Africa.

I’ve heard conflicting reports about this. Others claim only four pages exist.

Fleming reviews Jenkins’ third novel “A Grue of Ice”.

Looking forward to it!


A Thundering Yarn (Sunday Times, Aug. 26, 1962)

By Ian Fleming

A Grue of Ice. By Geoffrey Jenkins. (Collins. 16s.)

I greatly enjoyed Geoffrey Jenkins’s first thriller A Twist of Sand, but I got bogged down in his second, The Watering Place of Good Peace, which suffered from turgidity and a kind of almost hysterical hypertension. The “Grue” in the title of his latest book gave me a moment of unease. I need not have worried. This is fully up to, the standard of Mr. Jenkins’s first book and is in every respect in the highest tradition of the Buchan-Household-Hammond Innes school of adventure story.

Once the characters have been introduced—fashionably, at Tristan da Cunha—the plot hurtles into a positive maelstrom of action and suspense centering on the mysterious and illusive Thompson Island in Antarctica. Wetherby and his Man Friday, Sailhardy, are likeable heroes, the villain and his cohorts are suitably villainous (there is an admirable sub-villain, the radio operator Pirow, “The Man with the Immaculate Hand”), and Helen reminded me, with a pang, of Leni Riefenstahl in her heyday.

But what will make the book memorable, particularly for those who like myself are sea-struck, is the vivid expertise of the oceanographic background to the story—the Blue Whales, plankton, ice-floes; that solidity of stage and props which gives integrity to the fantastic (though I wonder if an albatross really would attack a sea-leopard!).

A note of caution for the worldly reader. This a thundering good yarn, with all that the phrase connotes. Geoffrey Jenkins must beware of the yarnish streak in his prose that produces “Dear God! There has been enough violence already! What are we to do?” and similar fumed-oak passages. That having been said, one can welcome Geoffrey Jenkins’s return to the ranks of the great adventure writers.


Thanks for going to the trouble of digging these pieces out, @Revelator; much appreciated. I wonder what Fleming made of Alistair MacLean? He always struck me as a writer whose œuvre would have interested Fleming on various levels.


You’re very welcome! I’m very happy to share Fleming’s journalism, since it remains publicly inaccessible (unless you’re a millionaire who owns Talk of the Devil). Off the top of my head, I can’t remember Fleming referencing to Alistair MacLean, but I think you’re right about his potential interest.


MacLean despised Bond, Fleming’s books, and Fleming himself. “Sex, sadism and snobbery.” MacLean considered Fleming every bit as bad and trashy a writer as Harold Robbins.

When MacLean was having tax problems, his lawyer advised him to consider a tax deal like what many authors had done and would do with Booker McConnell. MacLean was willing to consider it until the lawyer made the fatal mistake of mentioning that this was what Fleming had done. With that, MacLean firmly rejected the proposal. He would have nothing to do with Fleming, not even doing what Fleming himself had done. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

These mannerisms are common in Jenkins’ books. Many of his books have a manic, feverish quality, verging at times on the hysterical.

Let me quote scholar and university lecturer John Fraser (who is quite the fan of thrillers and has a lot to say about them on his website): “…there was a creepy fascination to the slightly manic Geoffrey Jenkins and his eye for strange locations and physical phenomena.”


Interesting to learn that Fleming did not like Jenkins’ second novel “The Watering Place of Good Peace” (1960). “…Good Peace” has a very curious history and exists in two versions. I seem to recall that the hardcover has a lengthy midsection set 100 years before the events of the main part of the book. This historical sub-plot involves the protagonist’s and villain’s great-grandfathers who also did battle and have the same names as their great-grandsons. This version ends tragically in modern times with the hero’s girlfriend dead in his arms. No paperback appeared until 1974 which Jenkins had radically overhauled. This version has a happy ending. Also seem to recall that the historical sub-plot got cut and instead contained new modern-day episodes. Been decades since I read it…


Note: Below are two of Fleming’s articles on Raymond Chandler. The first is unsigned but was attributed to our man in John Gilbert’s Ian Fleming: The Bibliography. As you can see, it has characteristically Flemingian diction.

The second article, from London Magazine, originally quoted many of Fleming and Chandler’s letters to each other. All of these have been subsequently reprinted in The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters, so I have omitted them. I encourage you to buy Golden Typewriter instead, because it belongs on every Fleming fan’s bookshelf. And now on with the show…

Some Uncollected Authors. I: Raymond Chandler (The Book Collector, Autumn 1953)

[by Ian Fleming]

Since the First World War there has developed in America an approach to the writing of fiction very different from that which produced the stately, civilized novel in English of the preceding age. Modern American novelists have been more concerned than were their predecessors with the failure of western civilization to withstand the corruption of its own technological progress, and their books have tended to be brutal and outspoken where earlier novels were gentle and decorous.

This changed outlook required new techniques for its expression; and the mastery of one such technique, which may be termed the de-civilization of prose style in fiction, is the particular talent of Raymond Chandler. Whatever may be the merits or defects of Chandler in his exposition of character or Weltanschauung, as a stylist he is outstandingly brilliant. Few other authors have handled so faultlessly the supple, sour, conversational prose that has grown up with the modern American novel.

Chandler’s early short stories, mostly written for pulp magazines, were generally no more than tough and thoughtless after the manner of their kind; but Red Wind (1938) already showed the clean construction and powerful style that was to characterize Chandler’s work in the ’forties, and Finger Man had been a good deal better than average in 1934. The five Philip Marlowe novels 1939-49 contain nearly all of Chandler’s best work; and of them perhaps Farewell, my Lovely (1940) and The Little Sister (1949) are the most admirable. The prose style of the articles is more conventional and less interesting.

The collector who turns his attention to Chandler may find himself in an unfamiliar world. It will be hard, for instance, to discover odd copies of Black Mask and Dime Detective; and he will have to decide how to deal with Chandler’s film scripts, a not unimportant aspect of his work. The following check-list [omitted] will give some idea of what there is to be found; it lists only first publication in America and England.
(The Editor is indebted to Mr Chandler for information included in this check-list.)

Raymond Chandler (London Magazine, Dec. 1, 1959)

By Ian Fleming

(I knew Raymond Chandler for about four years and these are all my memories of him, together with some random comments and reflections and most of the letters we exchanged. Not many people knew Chandler, so I will not apologize for the triviality of our correspondence. It fitted in with our relationship—the half-amused, ragging relationship of two writers working the same thin, almost-extinct literary seam, who like each others work. But I do apologize for dragging my own books and what he wrote about them into this biographical note. Unfortunately, there is no alternative. We came together over my books and not over his, and our friendship would not have existed without them.)

I first met Raymond Chandler at a dinner party given by Stephen and Natasha Spender some time in May 1955. He was just coming out of the long spell of drinking which followed the death of his wife. She died after a three years’ illness in their house at La Jolla, in California. When the police arrived they found Raymond Chandler in the sitting room firing his revolver through the ceiling. Chandler never recovered from the tragedy and, whatever the reality of his married life, his wife became a myth which completely obsessed the following years.

He sold his house in California and every scrap of furniture that reminded him of her and came to England, perhaps in one of those flights back to one’s youth and childhood (he was educated at Dulwich and worked for some time in London) that badly hurt people sometimes resort to.

He was very nice to me and said he had liked my first book, Casino Royale, but he really didn’t want to talk about anything much except the loss of his wife, about which he expressed himself with a nakedness that embarrassed me while endearing him to me. He showed me a photograph of her—a good-looking woman sitting in the sun somewhere. The only other snapshot in his note case was of a cat which he had adored. The cat had died within weeks of his wife’s death and this had been a final blow.

He must have been a very good-looking man but the good, square face was puffy and unkempt with drink. In talking, he never ceased making ugly, Hapsburg lip grimaces while his head stretched away from you, looking along his right or left shoulder as if you had bad breath. When he did look at you he saw everything and remembered days later to criticize the tie or the shirt you had been wearing. Everything he said had authority and a strongly individual slant based on what one might describe as a Socialistic humanitarian view of the world. We took to each other and I said that I would send him a copy of my latest book and that we must meet again.

Chandler had taken a flat in Eaton Square and he rang me up in a few days to say that he enjoyed my book and asked if I would like him to say so for the benefit of my publishers. Rather unattractively, I took him up on this suggestion…

…I wanted him to come to lunch to meet my wife, who had not been at the Spender’s, and at last it was arranged.

The luncheon was not a success. The Spenders were there and Rupert Hart-Davis and Duff Dunbar, a lawyer friend of mine and a great Chandler fan. Our small dining room was overcrowded. Chandler was a man who was shy of houses and ‘entertaining’ and our conversation was noisy and about people he did not know. His own diffident and rather halting manner of speech made no impact. He was not made a fuss of and I am pretty sure he hated the whole affair.

Almost a year later he was back again in England and Leonard Russell invited him to review my next book, Diamonds are Forever, for the Sunday Times. It was the first review Chandler had ever written. I quote these extracts to show the sharp, ironical mind…I wrote and thanked him for the review…

…He then went off abroad. Since the death of his wife, he was lost without women and, in the few years I knew him, he was never without some good-looking companion to mother him and try and curb his drinking. These were affectionate and warm-hearted relationships and probably nothing more. Though I do know this, I suspect that each woman was, in the end, rather glad to get away from the ghost of the other woman who always walked at his side and from the tired man who made sense for so little of the day.

…Whenever we were together, I would try and make him write, but the truth of the matter was that it had nearly all gone out of him and that he simply could not be bothered. He had an idea for a play, though I do not know what it was about, and he finally put together his last book Playback, which began splendidly and then petered off into a formless jumble of sub-plots, at the end of which Philip Marlowe is obviously going to marry a rich American woman living in Paris. I asked Chandler if this marriage would come off and he said he supposed it would. This would be the end of Marlowe. She would come along and sack his secretary and redecorate his office and make him change his friends. She would be so rich that there would be no point in Marlowe working any more and he would finally drink himself to death. I said that this would make an excellent plot and that perhaps he could save Marlowe by making Mrs. Marlowe drink herself to death first.

I pulled his leg about his plots, which always seem to me to go wildly astray. What holds the books together and makes them so compulsively readable, even to alpha minds who would not normally think of reading a thriller, is the dialogue. There is a throw-away, down-beat quality about Chandler’s dialogue, whether wise-cracking or not, that takes one happily through chapter after chapter in which there is no more action than Philip Marlowe driving his car and talking to his girl, or a rich old woman consulting her lawyer on the sun porch. His aphorisms were always his own. “Lust ages men but keeps women young” has stuck in my mind.

Mr. Francis, Chandler’s bookseller in London and one of his closest English friends, told me that in the old days, before Mrs. Chandler died, Chandler would carry on a non-stop, ironical commentary on people and books and Fate in exactly Philip Marlowe’s tone of voice. He corresponded a lot with Francis and I have borrowed the letter in which he talks about his particular craft.

October 30th, 1952

“ … As to Maugham’s remarks about the decline and fall of the detective story, in spite of his flattering references to me, I do not agree with this thesis. People have been burying the detective story for at least two generations, and it is still very much alive, although I do admit the term ‘detective story’ hardly covers the field any more, since a great deal of the best stuff written nowadays is only slightly if at all concerned with the elucidation of the mystery. What we have is more in the nature of the novel of suspense. I’m going to write him a long letter one of these days and take up the argument with him. I may even write an article in reply if anybody wants to print it. I should have valued his references to Philip Marlowe even more if he had remembered to spell Marlowe’s name correctly. Some of this stuff of Maugham’s was published a long time ago. The fascinating and acid little vignette of Edith Wharton for example was published in the Saturday Evening Post, and I still have the tear sheets (I think) from the issue. And I seem to recall that Edmund Wilson took rather nasty issue with Maugham about Maugham’s claim that the writers of straight novels had largely forgotten how to tell a story. I hate to agree with…Edmund Wilson, but I think he was right on this point. I don’t think the quality in the detective or mystery story which appeals to people has very much to do with the story a particular book has to tell. I think what draws people is a certain emotional tension which takes you out of yourself without draining you too much. They allow you to live dangerously without any real risk. They are something like those elaborate machines which they used to use and probably still do use to accustom student pilots to the sensation of aerial acrobatics. You can do anything from a wing-over to an Immelmann in them without ever leaving the ground and without any danger of going into a flat spin out of control. Well, enough of that for now.”

…He came back to London in the Spring and we saw more of each other. He was in a bad way, drinking heavily. Like other heavy drinkers, he had been told to stick to wine instead of spirits and he consumed innumerable bottles of hock which cannot have been good for his liver. We had lunch together at Boulestin’s one day with the charming English literary agent with whom he was proposing to go to Tangier to get some sunshine. I told him that I had been in Tangier in April and that it rained the whole time. I persuaded him that he should go to Capri instead. The idea came to me that he should meet Lucky Luciano in Naples and write a piece about him for the Sunday Times. I thought this would be a great scoop and I took a lot of pains arranging the meeting. The whole thing was a failure. They duly met in a hotel in Naples which is Luciano’s favourite hideout and Chandler completely succumbed to Luciano’s hard-luck story. Chandler had an extremely warm and sentimental heart, just as Philip Marlowe attractively has in the books. Luciano admitted that he had laid himself open to prosecution, but said that he had been made a fall-guy by the then District Attorney because he had the right sort of gangsterish name, because the big boys were too hard to tackle, and because plenty of convictions, of which Luciano’s was one, would be good for the political careers of some of the Government officials involved.

Chandler wrote a lengthy article on this theme. It did not contain any of the visual reporting I had hoped for and nothing of the drama of the meeting between these two men. Instead, it was a long exculpation of Luciano and a plea for cleaner Government. This was sheer bad writing and, since it would not suit the Sunday Times or America, I doubt if it has ever been published.

When Chandler came back a month later he was full of the idea of writing a play about a wronged gangster. This would have been very much in Chandler’s later vein and I did all I could to encourage him, but he refused to go forward with the idea until he had obtained Luciano’s sanction. It was again typical of him that, although he need not have involved Luciano’s name or the details of his case in any way, he felt the man had been kicked around enough and must now be treated gently. Luciano replied that he would rather Chandler did not write this story and that was that.

About this time, Chandler and I were booked to give a 20-minute broadcast for the BBC on “The Art of Writing Thrillers.” When the day came, it was very difficult to get him to the studio and when I went to pick him up at about eleven in the morning his voice was slurred with whisky.

However, the broadcast went off all right because I kept out of the act and concentrated on leading him along with endless question. Many of Chandler’s replies had to be erased from the tape and, in particular, I remember that, in discussing Mickie Spillane and his retreat to expiate his “guilt” into the arms of the Seventh Day Adventists, Chandler commented “in a way, it’s a shame. That boy was the greatest aid to solitary sin (he used a blunt word for it) in literature.” Later he apologized to the two pretty girls in the control room and one of them said, “It’s quite all right, Mr. Chandler, we hear much worse things than that.”

At lunch together that day we talked about our writing techniques. While waiting for him, I had jotted down some questions on the back of Boulestin’s cocktail price list (from which I now note with surprise that a Sidecar costs 6s. 6d.). I could not think of anything except the usual stock questions. He said he wrote his books in long-hand, very slowly and going back again and again over what he had written the day before. He often got stuck for weeks and even months. I said I could not do any correcting until the book was finished. If I looked back at what I had written the day before I would be so appalled by its badness that I would give up. He commented that my system probably gave the book pace which he regarded as the most important quality of any thriller. He worked, as one can see, endlessly over his dialogue and most of the wisecracks, as one can also see, were his own. He did not work to a particular routine a day, but in sprints and often sat up all night and kept going. The Big Sleep, which first made him famous, had been written quickly in about two months and this had made him the most money because it was written before taxation killed the rich writer. It was also made into a film and he had earned enough to retire on through it. He agreed that Dashiell Hammett was his first love among thriller writers and that he had learnt most from him and from Hemingway. Hammett, he said, had never let his work decline. He had just written himself out like an expended firework and that was that. In the end, said Chandler, as one grew older, one grew out of gangsters and blondes and guns and, since they were the chief ingredients of thrillers, short of space fiction, that was that. He picked his names from the Los Angeles telephone directory and his chief source of inspiration was a particular friend in the Los Angeles Police Department. (He told me his name but I have forgotten it.) Marlowe? Well yes, one put a certain amount of oneself into one’s hero because one knew more about oneself than about anybody else, but be also put his own unattractive traits into his gangsters and other subsidiary characters. The women were just women he had seen on the street or met at parties. He would never kill Marlowe because he liked him and other people seemed to like him and it would be unkind to them.

That was the last time I saw him or heard from him. I went abroad and, when I came back, I heard that he had had D.T.s and had gone back to California. Such news as I had of him remained bad and it was only a week before his death that I called on our mutual friend, Mr. Francis, of Prince’s Arcade Bookshop, who had a permanent order to supply Chandler blind with any book that caught Francis’s fancy. I told him I had sent Chandler a copy of my last book and asked him what else he had sent. Francis told me that he had not sent anything for months. He had not been asked to do so. We agreed that this was the worst news we had heard. “That’s bad,” I said and left the bookshop thinking that it was, in fact, very bad news indeed.

The long and perceptive obituary in The Times would have given him real pleasure. I wish I had been the author so that I could have repaid him for the wonderful tribute he had written out of the kindness of his heart for me and my publishers. How pleased he and his publishers would have been with the final sentence in The Times: “His name will certainly go down among the dozen or so mystery writers who were also innovators and stylists; who, working the common vein of crime fiction, mined the gold of literature.”


Intrepid: Silhouette of a Secret Agent (Sunday Times, October 21, 1962)

In the higher ranges of Secret Service work the actual facts in many cases were in every respect equal to the most fantastic inventions of romance and melodrama. Tangle within tangle, plot and counter-plot, ruse and treachery, cross and double-cross, true agent, false agent, double agent, gold and steel, the bomb, the dagger and the firing party, were interwoven in many a texture so intricate as to be incredible and yet true. The Chief and the High Officers of the Secret Service revelled in these subterranean labyrinths, and pursued their task with cold and silent passion.

— Sir Winston Churchill in Thoughts and Adventures.

By Ian Fleming

In this era of the anti-hero, when anyone on a pedestal is assaulted (how has Nelson survived?), unfashionably and obstinately I have my heroes. Being a second son, I dare say this all started from hero-worshipping my elder brother Peter, who had to become head of the family, at the age of ten, when our father was killed in 1917.

But the habit stayed with me, and I now, naively no doubt, have a miscellaneous cohort of heroes, from the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh through Sir Winston Churchill and on downwards to many Other Ranks, who would be surprised if they knew how much I admired them for such old-fashioned virtues as courage, fortitude, and service to a cause or a country. I suspect—I hope—that 99.9 per cent. of the population of these islands has heroes in their family or outside. I am convinced they are necessary companions through life.

High up on my list is one of the great secret agents of the last war who, at this moment, allowing for the time factor, will be sitting at a loaded desk in a small study in an expensive apartment block bordering the East River in New York.

It is not an inspiring room—ranged bookcases, a copy of the Annigoni portrait of the Queen, the Cecil Beaton photograph of Churchill, autographed, a straightforward print of General Donovan, two Krieghoffs, comfortably placed boxes of stale cigarettes, and an automatic telephone recorder that clicks from time to time and shows a light, and into which, exasperated, I used to speak indelicate limericks until asked to desist to spare the secretary, who transcribes the calls, her blushes.

The telephone number is unlisted. The cable address, as during the war, is INTREPID. A panelled bar leads off the study, and then a bathroom. My frequent complaints about the exiguous bar of Lux have proved fruitless. The occupant expects one to come to see him with clean hands.

People often ask me how closely the “hero” of my thrillers, James Bond, resembles a true, live secret agent. To begin with, James Bond is not in fact a hero, but an efficient and not very attractive blunt instrument in the hands of government, and though he is a meld of various qualities I noted among Secret Service men and commandos in the last war, he remains, of course, a highly romanticised version of the true spy. The real thing, who may be sitting next to you as you read this, is another kind of beast altogether.

We know, for instance, that Mr. Somerset Maugham and Sir Compton Mackenzie were spies in the first world war, and we now know, from Mr. Montgomery Hyde’s The Quiet Canadian, that Major-General Sir Stewart Menzies, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., D.S.O., M.C., a member of White’s and the St. James’s, formerly of Eton and the Life Guards, was head of the Secret Service in the last war—news which will no doubt cause a delighted shudder to run down the spines of many fellow-members of his clubs and of his local hunt.

But the man sitting alone now in his study in New York is so much closer to the spy of fiction, and yet so far removed from James Bond or Our Man in Havana, that only the removal of the cloak of anonymity he has worn since 1940 allows us to realise to our astonishment that men of super qualities can exist, and that such men can be super-spies and, by any standard, heroes.

Such a man is “the Quiet Canadian,” otherwise Sir William Stephenson, M.C., D.F.C., known throughout the war to his subordinates and friends, and to the enemy, as “Little Bill.”

To strip him to his bare and formidable bones, he was born on January 11, 1896, at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers, just outside Winnipeg, where the Scottish Highlanders established the first British settlement in the name of the Hudson’s Bay Company towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars. It was from one of these early Scottish settlers that “Little Bill” was descended. He was good at mathematics and boxing, but before he could choose a career it was August, 1914, and he went straight from school into the Royal Canadian Engineers, and was commissioned before his nineteenth birthday.

In 1915 he was badly gassed and invalided back to England, but during his convalescence he was seized by the flying bug and in due course received his wings in the Royal-Flying Corps. By the time he was shot down (in error by the French) he was credited with twenty German planes, including that of Lothar von Richthofen, brother of the famous German ace. These exploits earned him the M.C., D.F.C. and the Croix de Guerre with Palm.

Before he was shot down and captured by the Germans (he escaped, of course, from Holzminden), in his spare time, and fighting for the R.F.C., he won the Amateur Lightweight Championship of the World (he retired from the ring, undefeated, in 1923).

After the war, having built up a bit of capital, he went into business for himself in various technical companies, for one of which he invented a new system for the transmission of radio pictures and for another of which, in 1934, he entered the winning aircraft in the King’s Cup air race. In the City of London he will be particularly remembered for his connection with Sound City Films, Earl’s Court, Alpha Cement and Pressed Steel, and it was through private intelligence work in Germany connected with the latter that he was able to give his old friend Winston Churchill the figure of a German expenditure on armaments amounting to £800 million annually. This figure was used by Churchill in a Parliamentary question to Neville Chamberlain and was not denied by the latter.

“Little Bill” developed his sources of intelligence in Scandinavia and Germany, and it was quickly arranged that the fruit of these should be passed to the Secret Service with which, from then on, he became ever more closely associated , until he was appointed—by the then Colonel Menzies—Head of the British Secret Service for all the Americas. In the end it was Churchill who gave him his marching orders. Churchill told him, “Your duty lies there. You must go.”

He went. Well, that is the man who became one of the great secret agents of the last war, and it would be a foolish person who would argue his credentials; to which I would add, from my own experience, that he is a man of few words and has a magnetic personality and the quality of making anyone ready to follow him to the ends of the earth. (He also used to make the most powerful Martinis in America and serve them in quart glasses.)

I first met him in 1941 when I was on a plain-clothes mission to Washington with my chief, Rear-Admiral J.H. Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence, the most inspired appointment to this office since “Blinker” Hall, because, when the days were dark and the going bleak, he worked so passionately, and made his subordinates do the same, to win the war. Our chief business was with the American Office of Naval Intelligence, but we quickly came within the orbit of “Little Bill” and of his American teammate, General “Wild Bill” Donovan (Congressional Medal of Honour), who was subsequently appointed head of the O.S.S., the first true American Secret Service.

This splendid American, being almost twice the size of Stephenson, though no match for him, I would guess, in unarmed combat, became known as “Big Bill,” and the two of them, in absolute partnership and with Mr. Edgar Hoover of the F.B.I, as a formidable full-back, became the scourge of the enemy throughout the Americas.

As a result of that first meeting with these three men, the D.N.I, reported most favourably on our Secret Service tie-ups with Washington, and “Little Bill,” from his highly mechanized eyrie in the Rockefeller Centre and his quiet apartment in Dorset House, was able to render innumerable services to the Royal Navy that could not have been asked for, let alone executed, through the normal channels.

Bill Stephenson worked himself almost to death during the war, carrying out undercover operations and often dangerous assignments (they culminated with the Gouzenko case that put Fuchs in the bag) that can only be hinted at in the fascinating book that Mr. Montgomery Hyde has, for some reason, been allowed to write—the first book, so far as I know, about the British secret agent whose publication has received official blessing.

“Little Bill” was awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit, and I think he is the only non-American ever to receive this highest honour for a civilian. But it was surely the “Quiet Canadian’s” supreme reward, as David Bruce (today American Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, but in those days one of the most formidable secret agents of the O.S.S.) records, that when Sir Winston Churchill recommended Bill Stephenson for a knighthood he should have minuted to King George VI, “This one is dear to my heart.”

It seems that other and far greater men than me also have their heroes.

Note: This article was actually a reprint of Fleming’s introduction to the 1962 book The Quiet Canadian: The Secret Service Story of Sir William Stephenson, by H. Montgomery Hyde (published in America as Room 3603: The Story of the British Intelligence Center in New York during World War II). Hyde had worked as a wartime censorship officer attached to BSC.

Rear-Admiral J.H. Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence was the “real” M, and General “Wild Bill” Donovan was the spymaster who gave Fleming the .38 Police Positive Colt revolver inscribed “For Special Services,” either as a reward for lobbying for Donovan’s selection as head of the O.S.S. or for writing that organization’s charter.

The “Gouzenko case that put Fuchs in the bag” refers to Igor Sergeyevich Gouzenko (1919 – 1982) a cipher clerk for the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, Canada. He defected in 1945 with treasure trove of documents that revealed the extent Soviet espionage activities in the U.S. and Canada and helped kickstart the Cold War.

The Canadians were initially skeptical of Gouzenko–an exception was William Stephenson, who argued strongly for taking in Gouzenko before his life was endangered. Stephenson arranged for Gouzenko to be taken into protective custody and transferred to Camp X, where the SOE and OSS trained their agents for secret service work.

Among the spies rumbled by Gouzenko was Emil Julius Klaus Fuchs (1911 – 1988), a German theoretical physicist who had worked on the Manhattan Project and at Las Alamos. After the war Fuchs moved to Britain and head of the Theoretical Physics Division at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment. In 1950 he was convicted of supplying information from the Manhattan Project to the Soviet Union (to whom he’d given the principal theoretical outline for creating a hydrogen bomb) and imprisoned.

According to John Pearson, the shooting of the Japanese cipher expert in Casino Royale was inspired by one of Fleming’s adventures with Stephenson. A Japanese cipher expert, on the staff of the Japanese Consul-General in New York, was located in an office in Rockefeller Center on the floor below Stephenson, who had the Consul’s office cased and the movements of the cipher expert studied. After duplicate keys were prepared, Stephenson and Fleming, along with two assistants, entered the office at three in the morning to make microfilms of the Japanese code books.

Andrew Lycett notes that “Stephenson, in his dotage, made much of his claim that Fleming was a graduate of Camp X…Ian, according to his mentor, was supposed to have been the camp’s star pupil. He passed the key agent’s initiative test–placing a bomb in the main Toronto power station–by bluffing his way into the complex and disarming everyone with his plummiest Old Etonian accent. He did the self-defence and unarmed combat courses, and performed an arduous underwater swim at night from the camp to an old tanker moored offshore, where–shades of James Bond in Live and Let Die–he fixed a limpet mine against the hull. But the historian David Stafford, who examined these claims, found no evidence that Ian had ever completed a course at the camp. Ian may have taken a day-trip to view an important establishment and may even have participated in some training.”


FOREWORD to Airline Detective

By Ian Fleming

One day in the summer of 1955 I was sitting in the innermost sanctum of Scotland Yard—the private office of the head of the C.I.D.—admiring, with Sir Ronald Howe, some forged five-pound notes and gossiping about crime in general. It was a chance, purposeless visit. I had had to do with Ronnie Howe during my wartime years in Naval Intelligence and the friendship had continued.

Ronnie Howe said that he would be flying to Istanbul in a few days’ time for the annual meeting of Interpol, why didn’t I come?

I had imagined that these meetings of Interpol would be top secret affairs held in remote and heavily guarded police headquarters. In fact it transpired that they were much like the meetings of other international organisations in smart hotels with banquets and speeches and open sessions during which the top policemen of the world read learned papers from flower-banked podiums. Their main object was friendly contact and, if secrets were discussed, they would be confined to private luncheon parties or hotel bedrooms.

Ronnie Howe said that the only other journalist who ever bothered to attend was Percy Hoskins of the Daily Express, and it crossed my mind that if he, by far the most brilliant crime reporter in England, thought these meetings worth while, so should I.

I was at that time Foreign Manager of the Sunday Times and, thanks to the kind heart of Lord Kemsley, more or less able to write my own ticket so far as foreign assignments were concerned. So I fixed things up and in due course flew off in the same plane as Ronnie Howe, Percy Hoskins and a man called Donald Fish who, it turned out, had something to do with airline security.

It was great fun in Istanbul and by scraping together fragments from official papers and speeches and tying them up with informed gossip, I was able to write two long dispatches on “The Secrets of Interpol” whose success was assisted by the Istanbul riots which took place conveniently over that week-end and on which I was able to give a scoop to my paper.

The next year I went again to the conference, this time at Vienna, but my “revelations” of the year before had put the police chiefs on their guard and, on this occasion, I was only able to produce a pretty thin three-quarters of a column. The learned papers read by the police chiefs had been more rigorously censored than before and were more carefully guarded, and the gossip dried up in my presence.

I skipped the next year’s meeting in Lisbon, and that was the end of my acquaintanceship with Interpol.

At the two earlier meetings the British quartet saw a lot of each other and I was interested, and rather annoyed, to note that on no occasion was I able to extract a single grain of news or information from Donald Fish. Ronnie Howe was always generous in providing Percy Hoskins and me with snippets of background, though he was always careful to distinguish between what was secret and what might be published. In fact I think he cannily used me on one occasion to warn the British public about forged travelers’ cheques. But at least he “gave,” and he realised that Percy Hoskins and I had somehow to justify our existence at these conferences.

Donald Fish couldn’t have cared less. No amount of wheedling or badgering would persuade him to yield one word of information about the work of his little air security sub-committee, which got on with its business far from the madding throng of the conference hall. He ate and drank and chatted with us, this tall, rangy man with the poker player’s eyes, but he revealed nothing, and both Percy Hoskins and I had to admire him for it, knowing what we had been able to extract from national police chiefs temporarily in their cups, or suffering from that suppressed vanity that affects men who know many secrets for which an audience is always forbidden them.

No, Donald Fish was one of the securest security men I have ever met, and now that he has retired and is free to tell some of his stories, the reader can be pretty certain he is getting the real stuff. There is nothing wishy-washy in these seventeen chapters, which are some of the best I have ever read in any language on police work.

Security, except when it becomes counter-espionage, is a dreary subject, and I have never envied the security men I have met in my life because so much of their work is of the “policeman on the beat” variety—testing door handles and window frames, and investigating mysterious noises that are always loose shutters. The reward for the work lies in the occasional scoop, and it is the hallmark of the true security officer that when the scoop comes along his mind is not so dulled by previous routine that he fails to recognise it.

Donald Fish and I had dinner together one evening at Sachers in Vienna at the end of the 1956 Interpol meeting, and he did admit that he had had exciting times with B.O.A.C. in between stretches of drudgery. He was due to retire in two or three years’ time and I urged him to think of writing his memoirs, but, like so many expert technicians, he admitted that he couldn’t really distinguish between the wood and the trees in his job, and that anyway there was something magical about writing, and he couldn’t master the art. This or that incident had of course been exciting, but he simply couldn’t get it down on paper. I told him not to despair, but just to do his best and then find a professional writer to smooth the corners of his prose and prune out the irrelevancies and the libel.

In the event he followed my advice. Donald Fish teamed up with John Pearson of the Sunday Times to produce a text that reads true and yet is attractively written. A highly successful series in the Sunday Times resulted, a promising television series is in the offing, and there is this book.

Many people who have led exciting lives had talked to me, as they will with any author, “about writing something when they retire.” Donald Fish’s book, with its solid writing, unobtrusive background and local colour, is technically an example of how a man, himself untalented in story telling, can yet contrive a thoroughly expert distillation of some of the exciting things that have happened to him.

To say anything more about the book would be to write a review of it. This is not my task, and what I have written so far is merely to explain how I came to be asked to write this introduction. I will now leave Donald Fish and his book with my blessing and, quite out of context, tell two stories about “security” that have always stuck in my mind.

During the war one of the Assistant Directors of the Naval Intelligence Division in which I was employed was responsible for security—the physical security of ships and dockyards, the prevention of loose talk, the security of communications and so forth—thoroughly dull work that was often allotted to rather dull individuals. In 1942, Noel Coward had obtained Admiralty permission to use one of H.M. destroyers for the film In Which We Serve and he was naturally anxious to discover her name and when she would be available for filming.

Noel Coward, who told me this story, knew the Assistant Director of Naval Intelligence of that date and he frequently rang him up to find out when the ship would be available, but since the whereabouts of H.M. ships was deadly secret, he always received a dusty answer, until one day Coward was delighted to get a call from the Admiralty. The Assistant Director of Naval Intelligence himself was on the telephone, and immensely mysterious.
“I say, Noel, you know what they do in India, hunting I mean?”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Well, you know people go on safari and they shoot things?”
“So I’m told.”
“Well, now, the thing they shoot will be available at Portsmouth next week.”
At last Noel Coward got the message. “Tigers!” he called excitedly. “You mean she’s called The Tiger?”
“For God’s sake be careful, dammit! This is an open line.”

Those who were in the war will have their own stories along these lines, but I think the saga of Mohammed Ali, the green tea merchant, was probably unique in its example of security gone mad.

The political warfare experts, picking up the strings from the end of the 1914-18 war, began dropping leaflets over Germany almost as soon as war was declared, and we all remember how asinine many of those leaflets were. For some idiotic security reason the leaflets were known by the code word of “Nickel,” though why they should have a code word at all nobody could understand. Anyway, when the time came for the invasion of Africa, it was decided that a “Nickel” should be prepared to rally the North African Arabs to the Allied cause. Something simple was devised with a crude picture of Winston Churchill on one side and Roosevelt on the other, and some such slogan as “Victory rests with the Allies.” In a “Top Secret” folder this project was put into the machinery of the Political Warfare Department, finally reaching, by devious routes and under a watertight cover story, the sole Arabic expert in the Political Warfare Department—a certain Mohammed Ali, a green-tea merchant from Casablanca who had rallied to the Free French and had come over to England after the collapse of France.

Mohammed Ali was instructed to translate the English slogan into Arabic characters and the finished product was then printed in its millions and trillions and shipped out to Gibraltar in cases marked “oranges” or “beer,” and carefully stored in some top-secret depot in the Rock in preparation for the great day.

When the day came, fighters from the Fleet Air Arm were loaded up with consignments of the vital “Nickel” and took off again and again all through the day of the landings, sprinkling the whole of Morocco and Algiers with the leaflets.

After the invasion had succeeded, an American intelligence officer who had taken part in the landings came over to Gibraltar and found his way to the leader of the Allied Political Warfare group. He had a handful of the leaflets and he said to the propagandist in charge, “What the hell’s this stuff you’ve been dropping all over the country?”
Stiffly the political warrior replied, “Those are leaflets to rally the Arabs.”
“Do you know what they say?” asked the American.
“Yes,” said the propagandist, “of course I do. They say ‘Victory rests with the Allies’.”
“No they don’t,” said the American. “They say ‘Buy Mohammed Ali’s Green Tea’.”

Well, those are two stories about “security”—the Evelyn Waugh model, so to speak. The Donald Fish marque is something very different indeed.

6th June, 1961


Splendid, thank you for sharing this gem, @Revelator.

Very typical how Fleming smuggles two largely unrelated anecdotes into this foreword; most likely stuff he’s been dying to tell but didn’t manage to until this occasion presented itself.


The Russians Make Mistakes, Too (Esquire, Nov. 1960)
Some Russian Intelligence boners that make the U-2 fiasco seem trivial

By Ian Fleming

Soviet Russia has the greatest espionage machine in all history. U.S. Secretary of State Christian Herter said recently that the Communist countries had 300,000 agents operating throughout the world. I assume he was referring to centrally organized agents, each with a code number, a specific task and some kind of pay roll. But a powerful ideology such as communism has a vast unseen army of sympathizers. These may be more or less secretly convinced Communists who are “agin” their national government of the day, or they may be those hosts of faceless ones with a grudge. The small, mean man seeking revenge can strike his little blow by looking up the address of the nearest Soviet consul or ambassador in the telephone book and writing him a letter like this:

“Dear Sir: You may be interested to know that in Workshop No. 25, Department of Hydraulics, Aeronautics Division, of the Magnum Combine factory at Blankville, we are working on a lightweight fuel pump with the following specifications…

“Since my pals tell me this is probably designed as part of the fuel system of an Intercontinental missile I think you should know about it. A Well Wisher.”

This kind of letter in the hands of the central evaluating machine in Moscow or Leningrad can be worth diamonds, and it costs not a dime. And the interesting point about free-lance espionage is that it is chiefly one way from the Western bloc to the Eastern bloc.

The sort of Liberal Socialist society in which we in the West live seldom attracts the man who has a grudge he wants to work off by way of revenge. But communism is militant; the man with a grudge thinks “they” will know what to do with a letter like this. “They” will put it to good use and hit back with it, hurting my country, hurting my factory, hurting my foreman, who said yesterday that I was a useless incompetent.

This is only a tiny side issue in the great espionage battle between the East and the West—a small bonus the revolutionary always picks up from the camp of order and establishment. Russia has other advantages. She has almost complete control of her frontiers and of her communications and postal systems. She herself has one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn, while the cultivated Russian is probably the best linguist in the world. Apart from the Communist parties and organizations which democracy allows to flourish in her midst, Russia can call upon several nationalities—Poles, Czechs, Balts, Hungarians, for instance—who can disappear quite easily into the communities of these nations in the West, whereas to send a White Russian into such a highly stereotyped country as Russia is tantamount to murder.

Having all these cards in her hand, the weaknesses in the Russian espionage system are few, but often fatal. Probably the greatest is that the Russians, like the German Secret Service in the last war, are biased evaluators of Intelligence.

Stalin refused to believe that Hitler would attack him, despite documented warnings supplied him by the West. Excessive Nazi ravage of European Russia, with millions of unnecessary casualties, was the result.

Stalin refused to believe that the West would resist in Greece, Turkey and Berlin. Major defeats of Soviet purpose followed.

Stalin grievously misread the evidence of U.S. readiness to reply in Korea, despite the historical proof of the American “Pearl Harbor complex,” i.e. the sharp reaction to plain provocation.

The Soviets, whether under Stalin or Khrushchev, guessed wrong even in Communist countries—Yugoslavia, Poland and Hungary, to name only their most drastic errors.

Preferring the “pretty picture,” the Russians too often will be given too pretty a picture by overzealous agents. (One of the chief dangers for Russia today is in allowing herself to underestimate the West by incorrect evaluation inspired, for instance, by the much publicized Nuclear Disarmers in England or by the equally publicized failure of individual American missiles, and, above all, by the constant breast-beating in the West.)

The other source of weakness for Russia is the intoxicating effect that contact with Western freedoms may have on even the most highly trained Soviet agent who was one hundred per cent Communist when he was posted as assistant military attaché to Ottawa, Washington. London, or Paris, but whose loyalty to the system gradually disintegrates. It is in this latter realm that the West has had some of its greatest victories in the espionage war.

The blackest day for the immense Russian spy organization was probably September 5, 1945, when a humble cipher clerk in the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa walked out with more than a hundred top Secret papers revealing the Soviet network in Canada.

Igor Gouzenko’s defection came like a thunderclap. At first Canadian officials would not take him seriously. But the Royal Commission which was eventually set up to investigate his revelations led to the conviction of six Canadian traitors, including a Communist M.P., Fred Rose, who was one of Russia’s key men in Canada.

But more than that—the Gouzenko defection not only alerted the U.S.A., Britain and Canada to the existence of a hitherto largely unsuspected Russian spy organization, it resulted in a remarkable chain reaction which in the end led to the discovery of more vital spy-traitors. Among those to whom Gouzenko eventually brought disaster were Dr. Klaus Fuchs, Dr. Allan Nunn May, Harry Gold, David Greenglass and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

Today, Gouzenko is a Canadian. No picture or official description of him has ever been circulated. He lives with his wife and two children somewhere in one of Canada’s vast farmlands. Always within reach are the Canadian Mounted Police. He has a job and a life income of $100 monthly from a trust fund set up by a grateful Canadian millionaire. His autobiography, a best-seller which was made into a film, brought him well over $100,000.

It was the young Briton, Dr. Allan Nunn May, who was the first victim of Gouzenko’s revelations. Born on May 2nd, 1911, at Kings Norton, near Birmingham, England, May had a brilliant record at Cambridge. In 1942 he joined the Cavendish Laboratory there, where many early atomic discoveries were made. In 1943 he was moved to Canada and in due course saw much top-secret atomic experimental work in Chicago and various vital U.S. installations.

Colonel Zabotin, official the Russian military attaché in Ottawa, actually their chief spy in Canada, was instructed by Moscow to contact May, who had never made any secret of his left-wing sympathies. Zabotin used a subordinate, Lieutenant Pavel Angelov, to make the contact.

From then on May gave the Russians all the information on atomic research in the U.S.A. and Canada that he could find.

Then May was told he was to return to London, where elaborate arrangements were made by the Russians for renewed contact with him. He got back to London just after Gouzenko defected, but he never kept the appointments made for him. Did he fear that the net was closing? We shall never know. Five months after his return he was arrested. At the Old Bailey on May 1, 1946, he pleaded guilty to giving away secrets to “a foreign power.” He was sentenced to ten years’ penal servitude. The information he gave the Russians has been valued at a million pounds in terms of research costs. In return he received $700 and two bottles of Scotch.

May’s conviction was a blow to the Russians, but they also achieved some kind of gain. The U.S. clamped down for the time being on giving further secrets to their allies.

Klaus Fuchs has been described as the most deadly and baffling spy in all history; his capture came four wars after May’s.

Fuchs was born in 1911 near Frankfurt, Germany.

As a youth he joined the Young Communist League. After Hitler came to power and the Communists went underground, he came to Britain, where he was befriended, and studied at Bristol and Edinburgh universities. As an alien he was interned when war broke out, first in the Isle of Mann, then in Canada. He was later released and was brought back to England for scientific research. Shortly thereafter he made contact with Russian agents, and handed over information. In December, 1943, he went to America, and before long had a comprehensive picture of U.S. atomic projects.

This was a wonderful scoop for the Russians. They contacted him in New York through Harry Gold, whom Fuchs knew only as “Raymond.” Fuchs gave Gold a flow of major intelligence hidden in newspaper wrappings. Gold passed them on to Yokovlev, Russian
vice-consul in New York and top spy. Soon Fuchs was at Los Alamos, New Mexico. He told Gold, and thus Moscow, when the first trial of the atomic bomb was about to be held.

In 1946 Fuchs returned to Britain. He made no attempt to contact the Russians until early 1947 and then had eight meetings with their agents in two years, His illness in 1948 probably prevented him from having more.

By this time the F.B.I. was hot on the trail of the leakages which were now so apparent. All clues pointed to Fuchs. The British were told of America’s suspicions in 1949. But there was no evidence for action. There followed two strange interviews with the top British security officer, William Skardon. The first got nowhere. The second, a few months later in January, 1950, was at Fuchs’ own request. He talked. He was arrested. The Lord Chief Justice sentenced him to fourteen years, the maximum sentence possible.

Harry Gold was next to come under suspicion. He had joined the Russian network in the days of the great Depression, long before Stalin and the atom bomb. He was an old hand by 1943 and was regarded as a first-class operative. That was why he was chosen to contact Fuchs when the latter arrived in the United States.

He did his job with his usual cunning and resourcefulness. When Fuchs was sentenced he may have had some uneasy moments. But he had gotten away with it for twenty years: why not this time?

But Fuchs, in his prison cell, was still willing to talk. For hours F.B.I. men grilled him. Literally hundreds of pictures of suspects were shown to him in an effort to get him to identify his contact man. A picture of Gold, now under suspicion as a result of information from a woman, Elizabeth Bentley, who had become disillusioned with the Communist cause, was shown to Fuchs. He failed to recognize him. The F.B.I. then took moving pictures of Gold, and Fuchs recognized him from his walk and mannerisms of posture. Gold was sentenced to thirty years’ imprisonment.

Among Gold’s contacts had been a David Greenglass. He was a sergeant in the U.S. Army—a machinist technician. His sister, Ethel, had married Julius Rosenberg, a Communist. In 1944 Greenglass was sent to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on secret atomic work. The red network went into action. The Rosenbergs were asked to persuade Greenglass to “co-operate.” Although in a subordinate position, Greenglass was smart enough to glean many of the most vital details of the atom bomb.

When the war ended, Greenglass started an engineering concern with his brother and Rosenberg. He must have forgotten most of his spy work—until he read in the papers of Fuchs’ arrest. Rosenberg realized the danger: Gold would come under suspicion, then Greenglass. He gave the latter money to decamp to Mexico, but Greenglass preferred to stay in the U.S. In time he was arrested, pleaded guilty, and sentenced to fifteen years. Above all he talked, and that meant the end for the Rosenbergs.

Unlike Greenglass, the Rosenbergs fought to the end, but were sentenced to death on April 5, 1951, the first American citizens ever to receive the death sentence in peacetime for spying. Through legal delaying devices and appeals they avoided their fate for another two years. They died in June, 1953.

It was the end of the Fuchs spy ring. Who knows when it might have been discovered—if at all—but for Igor Gouzenko?

The bitter spy war went on. The F.B.I. picked up many useful small fry, but its next big catch, in August, 1957, was Colonel Rudolf Ivanovich Abel of the Russian Counterintelligence Service. The F.B.I. triumphantly described him as “the highest-ranking Soviet national ever arrested in the United States as a spy.”

Abel had slipped into the United States illegally from Canada in 1948 and had used short-wave radio for direct communication with Moscow. It wasn’t until nine years later that he was given away by a self-confessed Russian spy who fed him information—Lieut. Colonel Reine Hayhanan. Abel was tried, found guilty and received concurrent sentences of thirty, ten and five years, and fines totaling $3,000. This was a nasty setback for the Russians.

In 1954 the Russians had another serious setback—this time in Europe. A Russian secret police agent and two East German secret police surrendered to the Americans. The Russian was Captain Nikolai Khokhlov of the M.V.D. He said he had been sent from Moscow to Frankfurt in West Germany to murder an anti-Communist Russian named Georgi Okolovich.

The three men carried guns disguised as cigarette cases. These guns had special silencers, were electrically fired, and for good measure their lead bullets held a deadly poison. The plan was named Operation Rhine.

Not only did Khokhlov give a full account of his mission, he gave much useful over-all information on the workings of the M.V.D. and details of the murder of Leon Trotsky in Mexico. He said he surrendered to the West because his wife, whom he had left behind in Russia, told him she would have nothing to do with an assassin.

The same year, far away in Australia, the Russians had perhaps the worst setback of all. Vladimir Mikhailovich Petrov, the forty-five-year-old third secretary of the Soviet Embassy in Canberra, asked for political asylum. It was the biggest break since the Gouzenko case, for Petrov was head of the Soviet Secret Police in Australia. Australia might seem unpromising ground for spying, but it held vital secrets in the 1,500-mile desert rocket-testing range at Woomera, the desert atom-testing ground at Emu field, the missile and rocket development establishment at Salisbury near Adelaide, and the great uranium mines at Rum Jungle and Radium Hill.

Following the Gouzenko precedent, Mr. Menzies, the Australian Premier, commissioned an investigation of Petrov’s revelations.

This time the Russians seemed really worried. As with Gouzenko they claimed that Petrov had embezzled money and should be handed over to them as a “criminal.” They charged the use of “brutal violations of the generally accepted norms of international law.” And they broke off diplomatic relations with Australia, hastily recalling their entire Canberra staff.

One of the first results of Petrov’s disclosures was the arrest in New Caledonia, France’s most distant colony, of a French woman diplomat, Madame Rose-Marie Ollier, who was named as having told Russia about arms shipments to Indo-China.

While Petrov’s disclosures showed that his spy ring had failed to secure any military or strategic information of vital importance, the great value of his evidence was its detailed description of the complicated setup of the Soviet spy organization, its efforts to secure informants, and its methods of keeping contact with Australians who had visited the Soviet Union. It resulted in a useful tightening up of Australian security methods.

Today the Petrovs are Australian citizens. Like the Gouzenkos in Canada, they are living quietly, having assumed another name.

It was five years before Moscow recovered from this rebuff and resumed diplomatic relations with Australia.

One man who duped the Russians successfully is Russian-born film producer Boris Morros. For twelve years he posed as a Soviet spy, and was a most successful American secret agent. He made some of the Laurel and Hardy films and won fame with his Carnegie Hall. He was born in St. Petersburg and came to the U.S. in 1922 as producer of Chauve-Souris, a musical comedy. He has said that in his counter-spying activities he made sixty-eight trips to Europe, including visits to Moscow and Berlin.

He was closely connected with the arrest in New York in 1957 of Jack Soble, his wife, Myra Penskaya Soble, and Jacob Albam on charges of handing over information to the Russians.

In 1957, Morros also named Mrs. Alfred Stern, formerlv Miss Martha Dodd, daughter of Professor William E. Dodd, a pre-war U.S. ambassador to Germany, as a Soviet spy. Before the Sterns could be arrested they escaped to Mexico, from where they are believed to have made their way to Russia.

Morros has stated that the Russians told him they had fifty-five business firms in the U.S. as spy covers. They wanted him to expand his Boris Morros Music Company in Los Angeles into another cover.

Morros first became entangled with the Soviet spy web in 1945, a few years after he accepted an offer made by a Russian to bring his father from the Soviet Union to join him in America. But he lost no time in informing the F.B.I. of his entanglement, and from then on played his perilous double game.

But what does all this amount to? Mr. Herter has proudly announced that in recent years some three hundred sixty persons in eleven free countries have been convicted of espionage for the Soviet Union. Two hundred forty-one were in West Germany, sixty-five in Finland, fifteen in Norway, thirteen in the United States, eleven in Sweden, seven in Denmark, six in Britain, two each in Turkey and Holland, one each in France and Japan.

Numerically, it should be noted, this haul, mostly from West Germany, amounts to only about one per cent of the Soviet espionage army at home and abroad. But statistics are meaningless in the matter of numbers, for Gouzenko, although only a cipher clerk, was worth a whole division of miscellaneous spies.


Books of the Year (The Sunday Times)

Dec. 27, 1959:

Pirates and Predators By Col. R. Meinertzhagen, (Oliver & Boyd. 70s.)

This is rather a cheat. Pirates and Predators is not the most interesting book I read in 1959, but I am using it as a peg to introduce Colonel Meinertzhagen’s writing to a wider public, because his Kenya Diary, 1902-1906 (surely the flattest title of 1958?) was by far the most exciting autobiography I have read since the war.

Pirates and Predators is a book for “the naturalist who has everything.” It consists of highly personal and often bloodthirsty notes, with plenty of illustrations, of the chief gangsters among birds, divided by Colonel Meinertzhagen into professionals (hawks and owls) and amateurs (certain passerines, storks, herons, cormorants, gulls, etc.). The whole book adds up to a study of violence among birds.

Colonel Meinertzhagen was once more famous as a spy than as a naturalist, and there is a thrilling passage in T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom giving an account of one of Meinertzhagen’s most famous exploits—the planting of a false set of General Allenby’s plans on the Turks; and there is a quality of acute and highly intelligent observation in all his writing. He also has totally uninhibited views on everything from birds to humans and, on the first page of Pirates and Predators, he lets fly, typically, with “The greatest vermin of all is Man himself.” Just the stuff for the feather-pates in the featherbeds of today!

Dec. 25, 1960:

After the Shoals of Capricorn, South Latitude and Isle of Cloves, it has been a long wait for Dr. F. D. Ommanney’s fourth travel book Eastern Windows (Longmans), but he continues to write as beautifully, shrewdly and surprisingly as ever and, as usual, one can almost warm one’s hands at his zest for living.

For Thrillophiles, two crackerjack Westerners by something of a mystery man, Evan Evans, who was killed at Cassino—Song of the Whip and Montana Kid (Penguin).

Dec. 24, 1961:

My happiest discovery has been two real-life adventure stories by William Travis, a very odd fellow indeed who lives in the Seychelles—Shark for Sale and Beyond the Reefs— extremely intelligent, well written, out-of-this-world books which, for some incredible reason, have escaped the reviewers. George Allen and Unwin should put their shoulders behind this potentially best-selling writer.

Thrillers: The Wrong Side of the Sky by Gavin Lyall (Hodder & Stoughton); News of Murder by Anthony Lejeune (Macdonald); Season of Assassins by Geoffrey Wagner (Quadriga)—each for a different reason.

Dec. 23, 1962:

It has been a good year for the kind of thrillers I enjoy. The Hour of Maximum Danger, by James Barlow (Hamish Hamilton), was only spoilt for me by the author’s use of the word “toilets” after having run the gamut of most of the Lady Chatterley words. The Ipcress File, by Len Deighton (Hodder & Stoughton), was a brilliant firework, but rather too “scatty” for my taste. I don’t think thrillers should be “funny.”

Outstanding were Eric Ambler’s The Light of Day (Heinemann), full of vintage Amblerisms and a perfect example of the European thriller. Equally notable, in the transatlantic vein, was The Only Girl in the Game, by the ever reliable John MacDonald (Robert Hale).

Both these books, totally different in idiom, do what I think a thriller should do—see you through a train or aeroplane journey and provide temporary escape if you are ill.


Gary Powers and the Big Lie (Sunday Times, March 11, 1962)

by Ian Fleming

I have strong views about the Powers Case. It will go down to history, I think, as one of the classical espionage cases, classical in the sense of its majestic mishandling. I have nothing against Powers himself. He wasn’t a spy, he was just an extremely good pilot employed to operate an espionage device, one of the finest ever invented, a high-altitude photographical reconnaissance aircraft called the U2.

In connection with this aircraft, which in fact was nothing but a very good “Spy in the Sky,” I have the impression that Americans can lie more safely in their beds today, and Englishmen, too, because of the intelligence brought back by planes of the U2 class piloted by young daredevils such as Powers. These planes, I believe, brought back target information whose possession by America, more voluminous and more accurate than could have been obtained by a million ground spies—if one could have got them in there and out again, which one couldn’t—has made it as possible as any other factor for America to negotiate from strength with Russia—to be able to tell Russia, or perhaps just to leak it discreetly, that in the case of a mass blast-off of I.C.B.M.s by Russia the sources of the attack and other military objectives in the U.S.S.R. could be devastated within minutes, bringing her, however much damage she might do to America and England, militarily to her knees.

So let us take off our hats to the Spy in the Sky and move on to what went wrong in the case of Powers.

Everyone knows that a spy gets paid danger-money for doing a very dangerous job. He knows that if he is caught he is going to get tortured in his most sensitive parts—and, believe me, it is those things the professional spy thinks of far more than of death itself—and then he is going to be killed. It has been so ever since the man from the opposition crept under the tent flap in the desert and listened to the plans of the enemy tribal chiefs and then, with luck, ran all night with the news, to where the camp fires of his own side were burning away in the hills. It has gone on like that through all history, and it is one of the most exciting of all human adventure stories—the single man, in the darkness, facing death alone for the sake of the great mass of his own countrymen.

But the essence of the game—for, in a way, it is a tremendous game—is that, if the spy is caught, and whatever truth is tortured out of him, he is totally disavowed by his own side. Spying is a dirty business, why I have never quite understood. But the convention has always been maintained. If you are in uniform, you are okay. If you’re in civilian clothes you’re a pariah. Smith? Never heard of him, and Bang! You’re dead.

Now every country in the world employs spies and always has done. Nowadays the big corporations employ them also, to spy on the other fellows’ plans and designs—but that is another story. And it is total hypocrisy for any country to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude, to get on a high horse if they catch one of the other fellow’s spies. They’re damned glad they caught him, and the chief of the Red secret service chuckles at the discomfiture of the chief of the Purple secret service, and that’s that.

But in the Powers case things went badly wrong. Powers was in fact a skilled pilot and not a spy—though he probably got plenty of security briefing and knew what he was in for, as he confessed straight away to the Russians, in accepting the huge sums of danger money. What went badly wrong was the handling of the case by the American Government (and here let me say that I am discussing this espionage case purely as a writer of spy thrillers. Let’s keep politics out of it. We in England made almighty fools of ourselves sending a middle-aged romantic called Crabbe out on a ten-mile underwater swim in Portland Bay to examine a Russian cruiser of the Sverdlov class. The only good thing that came out of that mess was that we kept our mouths shut and stuck to our story that we’d hardly ever heard of a man called Crabbe.)

What happened in the Powers case? The Russians broke the story first, though presumably the C.I.A. knew, or guessed, that something bad had happened to Powers (I am told, by the way, that two or perhaps three other U2 planes had been lost before this one, though in these cases the pilot had either been killed or taken his death pill). The next move was with America, and now was the time for The Big Lie.

This is how I, or rather M., the fictional head of the secret service in my James Bond stories, would have handled it. He would have said, through our Foreign Office, as follows, “Thank you very much indeed. One of our experimental aircraft is indeed missing from our Turkish base and your description of the pilot fits in with a man who escaped yesterday from detention at that base. This man Powers is a most unreliable person who has a girl friend in Paris (to explain the foreign currency Powers carried) and he hijacked our plane with the object, presumably, of flying to her. You are quite correct to hold him in detention, and he must clearly suffer all the rigours of Soviet law in the circumstances. Please return our plane and equipment in due course. Sorry you’ve been troubled. P.S.: Powers suffers from hallucinations and delusions of grandeur. Pay no attention to them.”

Or something like that—bland, courteous, firm, but throwing Powers cold-bloodedly to the dogs. After all, it was against a contingency like that that he had been paid several thousand dollars a month. That was danger money. He was expendable. Expend him!

Instead, what happened? Endless havering by the State Department, lies, half-truths and finally admissions from on high that led at least in part to the total collapse of the Summit meeting in Paris. If The Big Lie had been spoken, and stuck to, it would have been in the true traditions of espionage. The democratisation of espionage has muddied the ancient stream that dates back to the man crawling under the tent flap to spy in the sheikhs. Just look at the trouble it caused!

And, just by the way, I don’t for a moment believe that Powers was shot down at 68,000 feet by Russian rockets. I believe it was sabotage at the Turkish base—delayed action bombs in the tail section. Turkey is a bit too close to Bulgaria for comfort. And the Bulgars are the best bomb technicians in the world.

Finally, as an Englishman, I sincerely hope that a U3 is already flying and that a U4 is on the drawing-board. But may they be backed by the Big Lie as well as by young chauffeurs like Powers. This mess wasn’t Powers’s fault, or his plane’s—least of all that of Allen Dulles. It was the fault of the men who think that espionage is a dirty word. It isn’t. It has got to be done well, that’s all—from the Powers of this world, all the way up to the Presidents and the Prime Ministers.

Note: You can read more about the Powers-U2 incident at Wikipedia and the BBC. Fleming was completely wrong about the cause of the plane’s crash. The U2 was indeed brought down by an S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missile. The Soviets already knew about the U2 flights and were expecting Powers to show up.

The Americans attempted an elaborate cover-up and pretended the U2 was actually a NASA weather research plane. But they did this under the impression that Powers had died and his plane was destroyed. Khrushchev delayed revealing the truth to entrap and embarrass the Americans. He succeeded. Eisenhower found himself in the dilemma–admitting responsibility for the U-2 flight would sour the Four Powers summit in Paris, but denying it would indicate to the press and Congress that he did not control his own administration. Fleming kept politics out of his article, but domestic pressure played a large part in forcing Eisenhower’s hand.

I could go into more detail, but that would get in the way of wishing all my fellow Fleming-fans a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I’ll be back with more Fleming in early January. Until then, Happy Holidays!


Happy Holidays, Revelator! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - always a pleasure to read these gems here!

That - and his own argument is also lacking a bit of consequence. To be discussed further…