Interviews with Ian Fleming

‘All History is Love and Violence’

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

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

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

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

“Doctor No” as Film

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

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

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

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

A Few Precautions

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

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

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

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

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

The Whole World Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Satirical Intent

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

“In Jamaica I write,” Mr. Fleming said, “in one hell of a rush. I pull up the drawbridge of my house. I see no one.” At the end of his two months in Jamaica, if the timetable of his previous winters there holds good, he will have produced one more thriller, and he will then return to London and his duties at the London Sunday Times.


Eton’s Spillane stops in Gotham

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

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

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

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

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

Actors bore him

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

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

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

A novel a year

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

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

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


The Man Who Made Bond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But oh, one instinctively feels, if only the sun hadn’t gone down on the Empire, what Ian Fleming might have been!


“The Talk of the Town”: Bond’s Creator

By Geoffrey T. Hellman (The New Yorker, April 14, 1962)

Ian Fleming, whose nine Secret Service thrillers (Casino Royale, Doctor No, For Your Eyes Only, From Russia with Love, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, and Thunderball) have had phenomenal sales in this country and abroad (more than eleven hundred thousand hardcover copies and three and a half million paperbacks), was here for a weekend recently en route from his Jamaica hideaway to his London home, and we caught him on Sunday morning at his hotel, the Pierre, where he amiably stood us a lunch. He ordered a prefatory medium-dry Martini of American vermouth and Beefeater gin, with lemon peel, and so did we.

“I’m here to see my publishers and assorted crooks,” he said. “Not other assorted crooks, mind you. By ‘crooks,’ I don’t mean crooks at all; I mean former Secret Service men. There are one or two of them here, you know.”

“Who?” we asked.

“Oh, men like the boss of James Bond, the operative who’s the chief character in all my books,” said our host. “When I wrote the first one, in 1953, I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened; I wanted him to be the blunt instrument. One of the bibles of my youth was Birds of the West Indies, by James Bond, a well-known ornithologist, and when I was casting about for a name for my protagonist I thought, ‘My God, that’s the dullest name I’ve ever heard,’ so I appropriated it. Now the dullest name in the world has become an exciting one. Mrs. Bond once wrote me a letter thanking me for using it.”

Mr. Fleming, a sunburned, tall, curly-haired, blue-eyed man of fifty-three in a dark-blue suit, blue shirt, and blue-dotted bow tie, ordered another Martini, and so did we. “I’ve spent the morning in Central Park,” he said. “I went there to see if I’d get murdered, but I didn’t. The only person who accosted me was a man who asked me how to get out. I love the Park; it was so wonderful to see the brown turning to green. I went to the Wollman skating rink and saw all those enchanting girls skating around, and then I thought, ‘This is the place to meet a spy.’ What a wonderful place to meet a spy! A spy with a child. A child is the most wonderful cover for a spy, like a dog for a tart. Do tarts here have dogs? I was interested to see that in the bird reservation in the Park there was not a single bird. There are no people there—It’s fenced in, you know, with a sign—but no birds, either. Birds can’t read.”

Mr. Fleming lit a Senior Service cigarette and, in answer to some questions from us, said that he was a Scot, that he had been brought up in a hunting-and-fishing world where you shot or caught your lunch, and that he was a graduate of Eton and Sandhurst. “I shot against West Point,” he said. “When I got my commission, they were mechanizing the Army, and a lot of us decided we didn’t want to be garage hands running those bloody tanks. My poor mamma, in despair, suggested that I try for the diplomatic. My father was killed in the ‘14-‘18 war. Well, I went to the Universities of Geneva and Munich and learned extremely good French and German, but I got fed up with the exams, so in 1929 I joined Reuters as a foreign correspondent and had a hell of a time. Wonderful! I went to Moscow for Reuters. My God, it was fun! It was like a tremendous ball game.”

He ordered a dozen cherrystones and a Miller High Life, and we followed suit. “I like the name ‘High Life,’ ” he said. “That’s why I order it. And American vermouth is the best in the world.”

He added that he had been with Reuters for four years, and we asked what happened next.

“I decided I ought to make some money, and went into the banking and stock-brokerage business—first with Cull & Company and then with Rowe & Pitman,” he said. “Six years altogether, until the war came along. Those financial firms are tremendous clubs, and great fun, but I never could figure out what a sixty-fourth of a point was. We used to spend our whole time throwing telephones at each other. I’m afraid we ragged far too much.”

We inquired about the war, from which, according to the British Who’s Who, Mr. Fleming emerged a naval commander, and he said, “I was personal assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence, so I went everywhere.”

We asked what he’d done after the war.

“I joined the editorial board of the London [Sunday] Times,” he said. “I still write articles for it, and I’m a stockholder. And in 1952, when I was in Jamaica, Cyril Connolly asked me to write an article about Jamaica for his magazine, Horizon. It was rather a euphoric piece, about Jamaica as an island for you and me to go to.”

We promised to go, and he said, “How about some domestic Camembert? It’s better here than the French.”

During this and the coffee, he reverted to the non-ornithological James Bond. “I think the reason for his success is that people are lacking in heroes in real life today,” he said. “Heroes are always getting knocked—Philip and Mountbatten are examples of this—and I think people absolutely long for heroes. The thing that’s wrong with the new anticolonialism is that no one has yet found a Negro hero. They’re scratching around with Tshombe, but…

"Well, I don’t regard James Bond precisely as a hero, but at least he does get on and do his duty, in an extremely corny way, and in the end, after giant despair, he wins the girl or the jackpot or whatever it may be. My books have no social significance, except a deleterious one; they’re considered to have too much violence and too much sex. But all history has that. I finished the last one, my tenth James Bond story, in Jamaica the other day; it’s long and tremendously dull. It’s called The Spy Who Loved Me, and it’s written, supposedly, by a girl.

"I think it’s an absolute miracle that an elderly person like me can go on turning out these books with such zest. It’s really a terrible indictment of my own character—they’re so adolescent. But they’re fun. I think people like them because they’re fun. A couple of years ago, when I was in Washington, and was driving to lunch with a friend of mine, Margaret Leiter, she spotted a young couple coming out of church, and she stopped our cab. ‘You must meet them,’ she said. ‘They’re great fans of yours.’ And she introduced me to Jack and Jackie Kennedy. ‘Not the Ian Fleming!’ they said. What could be more gratifying than that? They asked me to dinner that night, with Joe Alsop and some other characters. I think the President likes my books because he enjoys the combination of physical violence, effort, and winning in the end—like his PT-boat experiences. I think James Bond may be good for him after the dry pack of the day.”

Mr. Fleming is married to a former wife of Lord Rothermere and has a nine-year-old son, Caspar, who is away at boarding school. “He doesn’t read me, but he sells my autographs for seven shillings a time,” his father said.


The Ian Fleming?

By Hollis Alpert (Saturday Review, May 26, 1962)

“There’s only one gun for that, sir,” said Major Boothroyd stolidly. “Smith and Wesson Centennial Airweight. Revolver. .38 calibre. Hammerless, so it won’t catch in clothing. Overall length of six and a half inches and it only weighs thirteen ounces. To keep down the weight, the cylinder holds only five cartridges. Fires the .38 S & W Special. Very accurate cartridge indeed…”

The writer of the above passage? Obviously Ian Fleming, Sandhurst educated, English author of ten James Bond thrillers (latest, The Spy Who Loved Me), master of the precise detail, resident of London and Oracabessa, Jamaica, B.W.I. It is at the latter place, in a house called Goldeneye, that he does the writing each year of a new James Bond adventure, each featuring an exotic villain and a beautiful girl, a girl who gratefully succumbs to Bond’s superior style of lovemaking. But no bed can hold the British Secret Service agent for long, and Fleming’s faithful readers (including the President of the United States) now firmly expect Bond to desert his lovely conquest before the next book appears.

Fleming became aware that JFK was among his fans when he met the then campaigning Senator at a Washington reception. “Not the Ian Fleming?” asked Kennedy. “I couldn’t have been more surprised,” the tall author said, over a drink at the Carib-Ocho Rios. “A most pleasant encounter indeed.” And he admits to having visited the President and his First Lady since.

He was at work on his eleventh James Bond (his next year’s book), and hardly a dozen miles away the first movie to be based on one of his thrillers was being filmed, with an Irish [sic] actor, Sean Connery, playing James Bond, and in pursuit of the malevolent Doctor No. Authenticity of background is not usually regarded as important in the movie-thriller genre, but an Ian Fleming whodunit was another matter, so Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the producers, had decided on a real Jamaica instead of a studio replica.

“I find the script rather ingeniously done,” Fleming said, “and although I’ve made it a point to keep my nose out of their business, I’ve told Cubby and Harry that the crabs have got to come in. They’ve been left out, you see.”

He referred to the fact that the heroine in Doctor No had been menaced in the book by an army of crabs, which were supposed to have eaten her alive while she lay pegged to the ground. “If they don’t get in the bloody crabs,” Fleming said, “all my fans will be disappointed. The girl won’t be harmed, because crabs are vegetarians.”

Fleming confessed that, for the accumulation of such fine points of detail, he always carried a pad with him “for jotting down the things one sees as one goes along. For the rest of it I use a research service in London. Yet I invariably manage to make one big mistake per book. For instance, I gave the Orient Express hydraulic brakes. Dozens of people wrote, absolutely furious.”

He also admitted that the British Secret Service, to which he was once attached, was made, in the book, “a bit larger than life. I can’t be too faithful to the reality there. Must not tread on toes or go beyond the limits of security.” SMERSH, the Soviet organization that once menaced Bond, will not exist in future books. “I have dissolved it myself, for the sake of good international relations.”

Fleming writes four hours a day on the average, and settles for about 2,000 first-draft words per day. “I have a rule of never looking back. Otherwise I’d wonder, ‘How could I write such piffle?’ It’s no good writing for the muse, I find. I must regard it as office work, and bloody well get on with it. I use a German portable typewriter. Tried a few until I found the one that suited me. Let me see now—what is its name?”

The master of detail could not remember.

Note: In a letter to The Spectator (Oct. 26, 1962), Fleming returned to the crab controversy:

“Queequeg asks what happened to the crabs in the film Dr. No. Alas, they went the way of the giant squid, despite urgent representations from me and from one of the producers. The black crabs had not started ‘running’ in Jamaica last February when the Jamaican scenes were being shot, but on my return to London in March I received an excited invitation to visit Pinewood and inspect a consignment of spider crabs obtained from Guernsey. A large tank was unveiled. All the crabs were dead. I asked if they had been preserved in sea water and was told that, since none was available, they had been put in fresh water with plenty of salt added! After that the crab faction gave up.”


The image (and mistaken caption) are from the May 19, 1962 issue of Tatler.


Note: This week’s post is a collection of snippets, excerpts from otherwise unremarkable interviews, short interviews, and various appearances Fleming made in newspaper columns. I’ll resume posting full-length interviews after I return from my vacation in mid-October. I’m less than half-way through posting my collection, and the best is yet to come. See you in a month!

From “Personality of the Month, Ian Fleming,” (Books and Bookmen, May 1956):

“How could I have written this bilge? What a fool the hero is. The heroine is purest cardboard. The villain is out of pantomime.” Thus Ian Fleming after re-reading the typescript of his first novel, Casino Royale, which, in one leap, took him to bestsellerdom.

Sir Anthony’s Rats” (Evening Standard, Dec. 12, 1956):

[Note: After the fiasco of the Suez Crisis, Prime Minister Anthony Eden suffered a mental breakdown and decided to recuperate at GoldenEye, having heard about the house from his wife, a close friend of Ann Fleming. The Edens enjoyed their time there, aside from all the rats…]

Sir Anthony Eden’s rat-catching activities in Jamaica have surprised his host, Commander Ian Fleming.

“They are not really bad rats at Goldeneye,” Fleming tells me today. “They are field rats, not house rats.”

The Prime Minister organized the rat hunt after he and Lady Eden had been disturbed by noises during the night. Seven rats were killed.

Commander Fleming tells me he had not warned the Edens about the rats.

“The rats have never given trouble before,” he says. “They wake one up in the night, knocking coral and crockery off the shelves. But I cannot believe they seriously frighten anyone.”

What is Commander Fleming’s reaction to the success of Sir Anthony’s campaign? “Violet (the housekeeper) will be delighted that they have been removed.”

From “For Christmas Atticus Considers…The Heart of the Matter” (Sunday Times, Dec. 20, 1959):

Thriller-writer Ian Fleming has more positive ideas on Christmas: “Ideally, the only possible place to spend it is Monte Carlo. You don’t have to eat turkey—a detestable bird. There aren’t any people there you know at this time of year, and it’s perfectly easy to play a little golf and avoid over-eating.”

But even for the creator of James Bond, the ideal is not always attainable, and Mr. Fleming will in fact be spending his Christmas near Belfast, reading three good American thrillers, including the latest Rex Stout, and “going to church in a long crocodile with the rest of the family” on Christmas morning. His one way of simplifying Christmas is to give the same present year after year to all and sundry. It consists of a dozen snuff handkerchiefs from Fribourg and Treyer.

From “Making Crime Pay” (Evening Standard, June 16, 1960):

Mr. Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, said he never read detective stories. “I think they’re frightfully dull.”

“What I like is some amusing background and that sort of thing—not a lot of nice English bobbies sitting around drinking tea.”

From “Married to a Van,” (The Evening Standard, July 22, 1960):

Ian Fleming’s powerful Ford Thunderbird was the apple of his eye.

He once wrote an article in its praise that read like a love letter. There was the beauty of its line, the drama of its snarling mouth, the giant flaring nostril of its air intake. He made it sound like Joan Crawford.

“Its paintwork,” he wrote, “is immaculate, and there is not a spot of discoloration anywhere on its rather over-lavish chrome…”

But alas for Fleming. Alas for the Thunderbird. The paintwork is no longer immaculate. The over-lavish chrome is no longer unblemished. On a quiet English road the other day the Thunderbird came to grief.

It tangled with one of the most peaceful vehicles we know and came out of the contest rather badly.

Its opponent: an ice-cream van.

“I was coming back from Oxford with my wife’s small son, Caspar,” says Fleming. “We had been visiting Summerfields, the private school he will be going to in September.

“We were going down that terrific stretch of road near Henley when—well, when the Thunderbird got married to this ice cream van. We were shocked, of course, but remarkably no one was hurt.

“I had managed to brake like hell and swerve before the impact. The car will be away for three months.”

What is he doing without the Thunderbird? “I have to keep mobile,” he says. “So I have hired a Jaguar.”

From “James Bond Thrillers to be Filmed” (The Daily Gleaner, July 21, 1961)

“My books,” he said, “tremble on the brink of corn. One has to be very careful. And I am most anxious that there should be no mistakes in the films.

“I’ve made a mistake in every one of my books so far. In one I gave the Orient Express hydraulic brakes. You should have seen the angry letters I got from train lovers all over the world.”

[…] “I was looking for the dullest name I could find. A name as anonymous as the secret agent he was supposed to be.

“Ten years ago, in Jamaica, I was about to get married, and to take my mind off the ordeal, I was reading as much as I could. One of the books was Birds of the West Indies, by a Mr. James Bond. So I used that.

“Oddly enough I got a letter from Mr. Bond’s wife only the other day.”

Smoking Again. Ian Fleming: 20 a day man” (The Evening Standard, Sept. 2, 1961)

I am delighted to say that James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, has not buckled under to those doctorly warnings not to smoke or play golf.

When he collapsed in his office in April and was packed off to the London Clinic, his doctors said the attack was brought on by too many cigarettes and that he would have to give the habit up.

Now he seems to have reached a very civilised agreement with them. The doctors say he can smoke 20 a day. And Fleming says he is keeping to this figure most of the time, only at moments of stress tending to creep up towards the 30 mark.

“My doctors seem quite satisfied with me,” he said. “And life can’t be a complete vacuum. I’m doing everything in moderation.”

I talked to Fleming at Sandwich, scene of that sinister golf match between Bond and Goldfinger. His secretary told me he had gone there to escape the “excitements and temptations” of London.

He won’t see much of his doctors, either.

“I am playing a bit of golf,” he admitted. “In fact my handicap has only gone up two strokes, to twelve, since my illness. I’m quite commercial on it.”

From “Sex and Sabotage” (San Francisco Examiner, Oct. 28, 1962)

Fleming’s a fast worker, too. He spends two months of every year in Jamaica, in the British West Indies, where he gets out his trusty portable every morning after breakfast and works from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The afternoon is devoted to an after-lunch siesta, swimming, skin-diving, reading. At 6 p.m., in the cool of the evening, he puts in another hour’s work. His day’s output is always about 1,500 words which, in two months, piles up into a novel.

[…] Young Fleming, an indifferent, even lazy student, concentrated on athletics. Once, he piled up so many bad marks he was due to be birched—on the date of the Eton steeplechase. With a great demonstration of salesmanship and pure nerve, the 17-year-old Fleming petitioned the headmaster to receive his caning at 11:45 instead of at the traditional time of high noon so that he could compete in the steeplechase.

“My request was acceded to,” Fleming recalls, “and with blood-stained shanks as a spur I duly came in second.”

[…] “All history is love and violence and those are the main themes of my books, plus accurate reporting and a rather overheated imagination. My stories are true to spy life.”

About James Bond—” (San Francisco Examiner, June 11, 1963)

“Thank you very much for the splendid column. Glad you liked the Dr. No film, but the damn fools would of course go and make Sean Connery wear a tie with a Windsor knot. These show biz people are a lot of ignorant clots.

“I must try to get over to San Francisco some time. I was only there once flying from Pearl Harbor in that giant flying-boat called, I think, The Mars, and I adored the place.”

From Graham Abroad,” by Sheilah Graham (Syndicated in The Honolulu Advertiser, Feb. 9, 1964)

Coming up on Burt Lancaster’s schedule, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, which I found Ian Fleming reading when we met at John F. Kennedy airport in New York. “It’s the best thriller I’ve ever read,” said Ian, who has written some good ones himself.


If it weren’t a rights holder issue you should publish all of this in a book.


I would love to edit such a book (and would even do it for free), but alas…

More of Fleming should be in print. I’m grateful Thrilling Cities and The Diamond Smugglers are still around, but the collection of Fleming’s journalism, Talk of the Devil, is still unavailable to anyone who can’t pony up a few thousand dollars for the Queen Anne Press complete works of Fleming. I suppose Fleming’s scripts for Moonraker and what became Thunderball might have rights complications, but surely IFP has the connections and resources to handle the problem. The same goes for a book of Fleming’s interviews, or State of Excitement (does the Kuwaiti government really still care about suppressing a 59 year old travelogue?).

Fans of other authors, ranging from Conan Doyle to F. Scott Fitzgerald, can read practically every word written by those authors. On my bookshelf is The Uncollected Sherlock Holmes, which includes everything from Doyle’s play of “The Speckled Band” to Sherlockian squibs he wrote for charity. Why can’t we get The Uncollected James Bond?


That would be fantastic.

Probably needs someone to nudge publishers in the right direction. :wink:


You might look into the University of Mississippi Press:

I published my book of Mankiewicz interviews with them, and found that many of the rights for the interviews were free. Andrew Sarris was most kind, and allowed his interview to be reprinted gratis, and for several of the interviews, since the journal/magazine was no longer in print and the rights holder not findable, there were no fees (I just had to show/assert that I made an effort to find the holder). Lastly, UoM Press provided a small amount against future royalties to spend on rights which had to be bought (you will be doing this for free LOL), and had arrangements with certain publishers for a discounted rate.

Have a wonderful vacation.


Thank you! I have some books in the Library Conversations series–the ones on Buster Keaton, Greil Marcus, and Pauline Kael–but hadn’t thought of contacting the publisher. I must track down the Joseph Mankiewicz volume now–considering how witty the man was, his interviews must be good reading. Thanks again for the extremely helpful advice!


You edited a book on Mankiewicz? And you’re only telling this now?


Haunted by his Creation
Tarantulas in Bed—Just Routine

By Tom Cullen (Salisbury Times [Syndicated by Newspaper Enterprise Association], May 31, 1962)

James Bond, better known as British Secret Service Agent 007, has had more close brushes with death than a dozen real-life spies put together.

On one occasion a tarantula was secreted in his bed. On another a baby octopus was placed inside the face mask of his diving suit.

With the utmost calm Bond has faced the prospect of being vaporized in a 2,000-degree electric furnace, or of being fed alive to a ravenous barracuda.

He has also undergone the ghastly pain of having his finger slowly broken in an effort to make him talk.

All of this has earned for Bond, the Beretta-packing hero of a score of books, a following on both sides of the Atlantic, including President Kennedy, who is a confessed fan.

Such Bond thrillers as From Russia With Love and Diamonds Are Forever have sold over five million copies in the United States alone and are now being made into films.

Bond may be a favorite with the President, but he is no hero to the man who created him, 53-year-old Ian Fleming. In fact, Fleming positively dislikes Bond, as I discovered after talking with the author.

“I’ve never made Bond out to be a hero, but only a competent professional,” Fleming explained to me. “That’s why I’m amazed to see the teenagers take him up and idolize him.”

The news may come as a surprise to Fleming’s admirers who have always supposed that Bond was a larger-than-life projection of the man that Fleming would like to be.

Certainly, Bond drinks the right drinks, drives the right cars, and makes love to the right women—that is, when he is not being knocked about as the unwilling victim of mayhem.

If he dislikes Bond so much why does he write about him? “Because the character has taken possession of my mind. While walking along the street I find myself thinking up scrapes for Bond to get out of, or wisecracks for him to make. To me he is like a real person, except that I can’t put a face to him. All I know is that he has blue eyes and black hair.

He doubts whether there are many secret agents now running around loose as glamorous and as irresistible to women as James Bond. “Most secret service work is dull,” he said.

Recently Fleming was the subject of a flat-out attack in the British weekly magazine Today. He was accused of producing “the nastiest and most sadistic writing of our day…disgusting drivel.”

The magazine went on to describe James Bond as a “cheap and very nasty upper class thug” who regards sex as “a tortured bean-feast.”

Fleming denied that he deliberately injects sadism and cruelty into his books in order to titillate the reader. When they occur it is because they are part of the truth, he said.

“The world has read enough about torture used during the Algerian war to know that these things happen. In the old days Bulldog Drummond would have been hit over the head with a cricket bat, but nowadays he would be subjected to much more refined torture. I try to get as near the truth as I can without scaring the daylights out of people.”


Once again, thank you, Revelator, for posting these Fleming insights here. You’re classing us up, Sir.


Glad you’re enjoying them! I think they definitely add an extra dimension to our conceptions of Bond and Fleming. In this interview the line that stood out was Fleming’s admission “I can’t put a face to him.” I’ve never been able to do so either when I read the books. As Kingsley Amis pointed out, by only partially filling in Bond, Fleming made it possible for readers to better identify themselves with Bond.


I think this is part of the reason why the books and indeed the films are such a success. Bond has enough realism as a character and is inserted into fantastic scenarios - making the world an exciting place and allowing us to fantasise. Bond still experiences relatable periods of boredom, depression and anger like we all do. But during that time he’s often living a life of refinement and discipline. To survive against the torture he routinely faces Bond has to have questionable elements of darkness, which goes to what Fleming says about Bond being a competent professional rather than a pure hero.


The Man Behind Secret Agent 007

Our Sleuth in London Tracks Down Author Ian Fleming, Creator of the World’s Currently-Most-Popular Fiction Tough Guy.

By Arthur Veysey (Chicago Daily Tribune, Nov. 18, 1962)

That impeccable, unique Britisher, Ian Fleming, sat in the bar of London’s Ritz watching two rough chunks of ice swirl lazily thru his late-afternoon double Scotch. A romantic blonde, tantalizing as a Caribbean breeze, studied him from the settee across the room. It was obvious she found most pleasant his large tanned face, his wavy, almost curling black hair laced with gray and worn long in the London fashion, his ocean-blue pin-striped suit from Saville row, his boldly striped shirt and tie.

James Bond, British Secret Agent 007, would have been at her side in a moment. But Fleming merely gave his glass another twirl. With women, he said softly, he’s shy—unlike Bond, who frankly, is something of a cad.

“I envy him his success with women,” said the author and creator of the world’s currently-most-popular tough guy, “but I can’t really say I much like the chap.”

It takes only a few minutes with Fleming to realize how much of a real-life figure this fabulous creature of his virile imagination has become to him. Though Fleming devotes only six or eight weeks each year to writing the newest of Bond’s wild adventures, just about everything Fleming hears, reads, and sees all year long is sifted for situations, sites, or even words to give new spice to next year’s tale.

The way Fleming tells it, Bond, like Topsy, just grew. It happened 11 years ago when Fleming, then a 43-year-old bachelor, became bored during a long winter vacation at his Jamaican seaside hideaway.

“I have a puritanical dislike for idleness,” he said. “So I decided to write a book. At the rate of 2,000 words in three hours each morning, the book dutifully produced itself.”

Fleming, son of a wealthy Conservative member of parliament, was at the time a successful London newspaper man—foreign manager for the Kemsley chain of British newspapers. He had attended Eton and Sandhurst, Britain’s West Point, and universities in Geneva and Munich. He had been a correspondent for Reuters, the British-owned world news agency, and had gone into London merchant banking and the London stock exchange. During the war, he was assistant to the director of British naval intelligence. An older brother, Peter, was famous even before the war as a writer and explorer.

Upon his return to London from Jamaica, Fleming packed away his book. But two weeks later, an old friend, the chief reader for the Jonathan Cape publishing house, discovered accidentally Fleming had written the book and asked to read it.

“Adolescent tripe,” Fleming said of it, but surrendered the manuscript. Much to his surprise, Cape’s, which had not handled a thriller in many years, published it. More to his surprise, the London Times praised it, and the public found it amusing and exciting and lined up to buy it.

Within weeks [sic] Fleming quit his job and career to become an author. He also married Lady Rothermere, former wife of the head of the Kemsley papers.

Only an hour before Fleming and I met at the Ritz, he had delivered to Cape’s the last chapter of his 12th book. “What do you think of Belles of Hell as a title?’ be asked. ‘Or should I play safe with something like, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?”

The hero, of course, as in all previous 11 books, is Bond, who now is Britain’s best selling mystery fiction character, replacing the entire entourage of Agatha Christie. In America, Bond’s popularity has risen fast since President Kennedy declared him his personal favorite. Altogether, more than six million Bond books have been sold in a dozen languages.

This fall, Bond, in the image of a 29-year-old one-time Glasgow building laborer named Sean (pronounced Shawn) Connery, is flashing onto world movie screens. For the first of a series, United Artists chose Dr. No. The film, shot in Jamaica, recently premiered in London.

Many British literary critics are harsh with Fleming and Bond. Published statements include: “School boy shockers”…“Trash with an Oxford accent”…“A maze of extravagant absurdity”…“Gentlemanly chronicler of bizarre and ungentlemanly adventure”…“The old recipe of blood and thunder, with pain, wine, and off-beat sex thrown in.”

But Sir Ronald Howe, former deputy commissioner of Scotland Yard, says Fleming is “the most readable post-war writer of adventure stories.”

Fleming says his books are thrillers and calls himself a “kiss-kiss bang-bang” writer. He says he’s happy to go on turning out Bond stories so long as the public will buy them. His plots, he says, are “not very clever but always something is happening.”

As a writer, Fleming says he is not ambitious and is “incapable of writing on a high level.”

“Anyway, I have nothing to say on that level,” he adds. He is happy, he says, if his Bond tales give people a few hours’ relaxation. He thinks men like them “because most men hope the things that happen to Bond will happen to them some day but they know jolly well they won’t.” Women, he says, like them because “the female characters are always getting bashed about.”

If the books do raise blood pressure, what, he asks, is wrong in that? If he had to label his books he would choose three words:

“Good, healthy fun.”


An interview with—Ian Fleming

By H. Doug Campbell (The Sunday Gleaner, Feb. 10, 1963)

Ian Fleming, English novelist, took time off from writing a new book at his holiday home, “Goldeneye,” in Oracabessa to discuss nuclear disarmament and race and colour in the world today, among other things.

His book Doctor No was filmed partly in Jamaica last year and already the motion picture has become the second best money maker in Britain’s film history since its showing in London.

Meyer Hunter, the Publicity Director, recently outlined the proposed plans for having a western hemisphere premiere of the film in Jamaica in April or May and to which the stars of the film, Sean Connery (James Bond), Ursula Andress as well as Ian—will be invited. He told me that the success of the film Doctor No is second only to The Guns of Navarone at the theatre box office.

“When you see Doctor No you will be proud of the Jamaican actors,” he said in a voice that sounded as if he is also very proud of that too. Asked whether he also wrote the movie script he said he had not and explained: “I was writing the book On Her Majesty’s Secret Service at the time the film Doctor No was being made on the north coast.” He added, “Script writing is a technical job for which I am not equipped.”

He had urged the film directors [sic] to use Jamaican actors for parts in Doctor No and was pleased that that was done, he said.

The new book On Her Majesty’s Secret Service will be out in April this year. “It is largely set in Switzerland and involves a terrible amount of mayhem and death and terrible goings on, all over Europe.”

He would not disclose much about the book which he is working on at present. This book is set in Japan. “It is a close trade secret and to disclose details now may irritate my publishers,” he said.

Eleven books have so far been written by him and “All my books were written at ‘Goldeneye,’ every single one of them,” he said.

His various novels of suspense include Casino Royale, The Spy Who Loved Me, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds are Forever, From Russia with Love, Doctor No, Goldfinger, For Your Eyes Only, Thunderball, and The Diamond Smugglers.

Born May 1908, he is the son of the late Major Valentine Fleming MP, DSO, and was educated at Eton, Sandhurst, Munich, and Geneva University. He worked with Reuters News 1929-33; Cull & Co., Merchant Bankers 1933-35; Rowe and Pitman Stockbrokers 1935-39.

He served in the war from 1939-45. He was at one time Foreign Manager of Kemsley, later Thomson Newspapers (1945-59).

How does he go about writing a book? He explained that “the hatching of the book is done in my head during the year.” Then he does research; beside his typewriter you can see a pile of research books. His first book, written eleven years ago at “Goldeneye,” was Casino Royale.

This was followed by Live and Let Die, a book set with a Jamaican background. “Two of my books have a Jamaican location and also two of my short stories.” Asked if he will write another book with a Jamaican setting, he said with a chuckle, “I can’t go on plugging Jamaica like this or my public will think I have shares in the Jamaican travel business and so on.”

His favorite book is From Russia with Love. This book is now being filmed on location in Istanbul, Turkey, and it is anticipated to be equally successful as Doctor No.

He first came to Jamaica in July 1942, when Britain was worried about U-Boat sinkings in the Caribbean. Then he stayed at Myrtle Bank Hotel in Kingston and “although it rained during that time, I fell in love with Jamaica,” he said.

He disclosed that Noel Coward is due in Jamaica shortly and while here will work on a musical based on one of Terrence Rattigan’s plays. Coward had great success with his musical Sail Away, which he staged in England.

Asked whether he had any thoughts he would like to express on race and colour in the world today, he replied “That is rather getting into the realms of politics, but I am very happy the way things are going, the way we are becoming what we basically are—brothers. As far as I am concerned, the colour problem does not exist.”

Asked what he thought about nuclear disarmament, he said, “I am all for it, as I hope you are too, Doug. The two big poker players, America and Russia, are evenly poised and the bluff and double bluff going on all the time is above my head and I hope it will all settle down in the end, as I expect the two players are so evenly matched they will finally decide to call the game off and we shall all be able to settle down and not worry about it any more,” he said.

“Goldeneye” is where former British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden and Lady Eden spent a holiday. “It was just after Suez. Sir Anthony Eden became very sick and chose Jamaica and my house to rest. As you know, Sir Anthony later resigned and became Lord Avon. So struck he (Lord Avon) was with the beauty of the Caribbean on his visit to Jamaica, that he bought a property in Antigua,” Mr. Fleming explained.

His hobby is spear-fishing and his spacious sitting room is loaded with spear fishing and underwater diving equipment. “My wife and I love underwater sports.”

Mr. Fleming describes “Goldeneye,” which is on a cliff overlooking the sea—“It is a very simple house, which I designed and which was built by Jamaican workmen. It is a square U with a 60 foot living room. It has no glass in the windows, only the good old Jamaica jalousies, designed so the birds can fly though and so we can live as much inside as outside.”


That Other Secret Service Feller

It’s Pistols for Two When Ian Fleming Meets his Latest Rival

By Peter Evans (Daily Express, March 27, 1963)

He selected a cigarette, placed it in his ebony holder and lit it with a gold lighter. It was all done with the studied rhythm of a man playing for time while thinking of exactly what to say.

“I look forward to meeting this fellow,” Ian Fleming said finally, tilting his head towards the ceiling and gently blowing smoke after his words.

With one finger he pushed aside the curtains of the private room over the restaurant not very far from Tottenham Court-road and looked down-into the street.

“Yes, indeed,” he said after another long moment, “It should be a most fascinating encounter. Even perhaps memorable.”

The threat

Indeed. For the missing guest was Mr. Len Deighton, the author whose first spy book, The Ipcress File, has made him the biggest threat to the suave Mr. Fleming and his equally suave hero James Bond since Smersh.

Deighton’s unnamed agent has been snapped up by Bond’s own publishers, Jonathan Cape, and signed by the producers who filmed Doctor No.

What is even more fascinating is that where Mr. Fleming is reputed partly to have modelled Agent 007 on himself, so Deighton’s fumbling, cheapskate hero has more than a touch of his curious creator.

Mr. Fleming, who himself nominated The Ipcress File among the [Sunday Times] Books of the Year, said “I simply have to meet him, you know. It is important to know the kind of fellow you are up against.”

Some fifteen minutes late, Deighton arrived—an untidy man in one or those 1963 suits with the 1957 price tags. He made it look lumpy. On his cuff-links were colour pictures of Littlehampton. He is a man who looks in a perpetual state of surprise.

“This is a bit posh, isn’t it?” he said, shaking Fleming’s hand. “They very nearly didn’t let me in downstairs.”

A silence

Mr. Fleming arranged his face into a bleak smile. “It is rather a pleasant little restaurant,” he said, searching his rival’s face like a map-reader searching for a bearing.

There was the kind of sharp silence that occurs in the first round at a boxing match, when the crowd is waiting for the first punch to be thrown.

Mr. Fleming opened up. “My favourite restaurant is Scotts, actually. Almost got arrested there during the war, as a matter of fact. They suspected I was a German spy. Awfully amusing.

“I was working for [Naval] Intelligence and giving some U-Boat commander a slap-up lunch. The idea was to pump him for information. Cost about £20 and the blighter didn’t talk. Saw right through it obviously,” Fleming admitted pleasantly.

“Anyway, the waiters heard us yapping away in German and in no time we were surrounded by police. I got a most frightful rocket when I got back to my office.”

Deighton’s head began to rock slowly backwards and forwards, as if mesmerised by Mr. Fleming’s story.

“You were in intelligence yourself, weren’t you?” Mr. Fleming put the question across like an angry schoolmaster who has caught one of his pupils dozing.

“Yes. Air Intelligence,” admitted Deighton.

“I guessed as much,” said Mr. Fleming, a look of satisfaction seeping over his face like a blush. “You get pretty near the knuckle in some parts, I must say. Anyway, I realized you knew what you were talking about—as indeed I do.”

The cars

“Your next book,” said Deighton slowly, is set in Japan.”

“Correct,” said Mr. Fleming, his face a mask. “It’s called You Only Live Twice. I’ve just been to Tokyo actually. Ran over on the old willow pattern route. Very jolly. Saki and kimonos and all that damn bowing amuses me enormously. Ever been to Tokyo?”

“Yes,” said Deighton.


“BOAC,” said Deighton.


“I was a steward,” said Deighton.

Again that circling, first-round silence. “I have a rotten feeling,” Deighton said moodily, “that my car’s going to be towed away.”

“What do you drive, old boy?” asked Mr. Fleming, perhaps sensing a common bond in cars.

“A beaten-up old Volkswagen, actually,” said Deighton, adding brightly, “but I’ve installed a telephone. Yours?”

A joke

“I’ve just got one of those new Studebaker Avantis. Naught to 60 in 4.5 seconds, 175 miles an hour with four passengers up. Supercharged, of course. I must say I adore it,” said Fleming.

Silence. Then: “You know what we should do?" asked Mr. Fleming suddenly. “We should start a running joke in our books. Like those chaps Crosby and Hope. I’ll get Bond to knock your chap—you really should give him a name, you know—and you can get him to tear the hell out of Bond.”

“Super,” said Deighton, “I’d love to knock Bond. You remind me of him in many ways.”

The smile

A thin smile traced across Mr. Fleming’s face. “Really? Well, I do identify myself with him in a few things.”

Mr. Fleming smiled a sad smile. “But of course Bond has a far better digestion than I have, and his prowess with women is considerably greater than mine, unfortunately. Needless to say, he has more guts.”

Deighton asked: “Do you honestly like Bond?”

Mr. Fleming thought about this question for a minute, then: “I began by disliking him intensely. I’ve grown to like him. To be honest, I think your fellow is rather more solid—indeed, Bond is often quite cardboard—but I have put him through so much it would be too disloyal not to like him now.”

It was, as Mr. Fleming predicted, a most fascinating encounter.

Note: Fleming afterward wrote to Raymond Hawkey, who had also attended the meeting: “Thank you also for the amusing photograph of me and Len Deighton. I am sorry to say I thought Evans’ piece was pretty skimpy, but don’t tell him I said so!”

Hawkey, an art college friend of Deighton, had designed the cover for The Ipcress File and went on to design the Pan paperbacks of the Bond series. Fleming acclaimed Hawkey’s first Bond cover (for Thunderball) as “really brilliant…I think it is quite splendid and I don’t think the filthy little Pan sign spoils it too much.”

Fleming did indeed mention Deighton in his contribution to the Sunday Times “Books of the Year” feature (Dec. 23, 1962), though with reservations:

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.’”

In a letter to his close friend William Plomer, dated May 20, 1964, Fleming discussed Deighton’s Funeral in Berlin:

“Amusing cracks but I simply can’t be bothered with his kitchen sink writing & all this Nescafe. Reminds me of [John] Bratby. I think Capes should send him to Tahiti or somewhere & get him to ‘tell a story’. He excuses his ignorance of life with his footnotes & that won’t stand up for long –- nice chap though he is.”

Deighton worked on the screenplay of From Russia With Love, though it seems his contributions were mostly disregarded. He later collaborated with Kevin McClory and Sean Connery on the script for the unmade Bond film Warhead. In 2012 he published the ebook James Bond: My Long and Eventful Search for His Father. I haven’t read it, but the Amazon review by John Cork (the Bond expert) suggests the book has some problems.


Conversation at Scott’s

By Herb Caen (San Francisco Chronicle, May 16, 1963)

He was seated alone in the Window Room of Scott’s Restaurant in Coventry Street, his long, tapered fingers toying with a glass of white wine to which two teaspoons of water had been added.

“Sit down,” he said, half rising, the terseness of the words tempered by a smile that flickered for a warm second—no more—and was gone. It was obvious he had little time for small talk. After a quick but careful glance around the handsome Edwardian room, he leaned forward to ask the key question. “What will you drink?”

“Martinis,” we said. Swiftly assessing the cryptic word, he summoned a waiter with a commanding flick of his head. “Two martinis, very dry,” he ordered. “Four and 2 quarter parts of Coates’ Plymouth gin to five eighths of a part of Boissiere, the white vermouth. On the rocks. No lemon peel, no onion, no olive. Stir, don’t shake.”

He turned his surprisingly blue eyes on us. Cold as sapphires, they shone out from a lean, ruddy face—handsome, if you like—that betrayed a few tell-tale signs of too many late nights at the baccarat table and perhaps more champagne (Taittinger blanc de blancs) than was strictly necessary. His luxuriant close-cropped hair was, I noticed, now completely gray. Again, he bent his supple, six foot frame forward.

“Cigarette?” he asked, offering a dull silver case surmounted by a curious coin. He caught my brief stare. “Gold sovereign,” he said. “My lucky coin at Monte Carlo. Made a killing with it.” The snakelike head of his Ronson Variflame flicked evilly and in a flash his cigarette was lit. As he took a deep drag, the neat polka-dot bow tie bobbed at the collar of his Sea Island cotton shirt with short sleeves.

If the foregoing sounds like a pallid attempt to imitate the style of Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond stories—well, it is. The gentleman, described above, with whom we were taking lunch in the admirable surroundings of Scott’s, was Mr. Fleming, the successor to the Hammetts, the Greenes and the Amblers as the world’s best-selling author of international spy fiction. His hero, James Bond (No. 007 in the British Secret Service), has become a household word in most of our best households, including the one in the White House.

“Actually,” he said over the cold salmon, sliced no more than .007 of an inch thick, “I picked the name of James Bond because it sounded to me like the most commonplace name in the world. I first ran across it in Jamaica—a James Bond was the author of an obscure scientific book I was reading. What an unspeakably dull name, I said to myself. Just a step removed from anonymity. Now the readers think there actually IS a James Bond.”

“Do you know any good villains?” he inquired, flicking an ash off his blue suit (no pocket handkerchief). “Villains are the hardest for me. I was rather fond of Rosa Klebb, but, of course, I had to kill her off. Same with ‘Doctor No.’” I mentioned Blofeld, the evil fellow with the syphilitic nose who almost finishes Bond in his newest book, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but Mr. Fleming merely shook his head over his lamb chops (pink in the middle).

“I kill off Blofeld in the next book, which I just finished,” he said regretfully. “An excruciating death. And as for Bond, I’ve got him in such a devil of a pickle I don’t know how I’m EVER going to get him out. Poor James.”

In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service the dashing Bond, who averages three affairs and an equal number of killings per book, marries a fine girl named Tracy. As they are starting out on their honeymoon in a white Lancia, the unspeakable Blofeld, in a red Maserati, races past and fires at them. At the end of the book, the Lancia has crashed into a field, “and Bond put his arm around her shoulders, across which the dark patches had begun to flower.”

“I hate to ask this,” I said, mindful of previous miraculous recoveries, “but is Tracy REALLY dead?”

Mr. Fleming poured himself a splash of vin ordinaire from a carafe and nodded sorrowfully. “Of course,” he replied. “Blood oozing out the back—sure sign. Too bad, but I couldn’t keep Bond married, you know. He’s on constant call, has to be too many places, get into too many scrapes. Wouldn’t do at all.”

He glanced at the stainless steel Rolex on his left wrist. “Really must go,” he apologized. “Catching a plane for Istanbul, where they’re filming From Russia. With Love. The first picture made from one of my books—Dr. No—has just been released here. Tremendous success. Made all its costs back right away, and I’m happy to say I have a small piece of the action. Sean Connery will play James Bond again—don’t you think he’s a fine Bond?”

We agreed. We had seen a preview of Dr. No and Connery seemed almost as good as the real thing. Mr. Fleming struggled into a luminous blue raincoat and led the way out of Scott’s into the gray London afternoon. As we searched for a cab, he pointed to a second-story corner window of the restaurant. “See that window?” he asked. When James is in London he always lunches there, at the corner table. That’s so he can look down and watch the pretty girls walking past.”

And with that, Ian Fleming—or is HE James Bond?—waved a cheery farewell and strode off into the anonymous crowd.

Note: The legendary San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen was one of Fleming’s early American fans and praised the books in his columns. Fleming returned the favor by writing an article, “The Case of the Painfully Pulled Leg,” in praise of Caen for the Chronicle. After Fleming’s death Caen devoted another column to him—extracts below:

Farewell to Double Nought Seven

By Herb Caen (San Francisco Chronicle, August 16, 1964)

I saw Ian Fleming for the first and last time in London, a little over a year ago. His penultimate [sic] book, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was about to be published and the word was already around that in it, James Bond, the avowed bachelor, had married La Comtesse Teresa di Vicenzo, otherwise known as Tracy. “That’s true,” smiled Fleming over lunch at Scott’s, “but of course I had to kill her off at the end. Nasty death, on their honeymoon. It wouldn’t do at all for James to be married, you understand—a wife would just be in the way. I may have to kill off Bond one of these days, too—before he kills me. Plots are getting harder and harder to come up with.”

[…] I didn’t realize how closely he identified with Bond till we got around to a discussion of the movie versions of his books (Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and next, Goldfinger). When we agreed that the actor who portrayed M., Bond’s chief, was miscast, I suggested “You should play M.—you’re about the same age, aren’t you?”

Immediately, he looked hurt, and I clammed up. Obviously, he felt he had nothing in common with the aging sea dog who headed the British Secret Service. He gave me a long, cold, ironical look that would have done justice to James Bond.

[…] Spy critics poked fun at Bond’s modus operandi—pointing out, for example, that no agent would smoke those special cigarettes with the three gold bands, so easily identifiable. They snickered at Fleming’s penchant for ticking off Bond’s clothing, smoking and drinking habits by brand name, never letting him forget that he misspelled Bond’s favorite champagne—Taittinger Blancs de Blanc (he left the “s” off the first “Blancs”).

Fleming’s patient report to all this criticism was “Don’t they have any sense of fun?”—and, in this gloomy, literal-minded world, Bond was fun, for all his faults.