Interviews with Ian Fleming

Absolutely stunning work you’re doing here, Sir.

It needs to be published.


I’m delighted that you’re enjoying the articles—even when they’re very long! (Next week comes the even longer Playboy interview). I’ve given thought to MrKiddWint’s suggestion of approaching University of Mississippi Press, but it might not be interested in publishing material that’s available online.
In other news, I’ve learned of two previously unknown (to me at least) Fleming interviews that might take a while to track down. More details to come…


Looking forward to it!


I’ve got two chapters left of Goldeneye: Where Bond was Born. I’ve enjoyed it immensely, and feel like I understand and appreciate Bond even more than I did previously. Ian was a complex and thoroughly interesting individual, and understanding him and where his influences came from enrich the whole experience.

It’s also left me full of admiration for what somebody like him achieved (who was often called an elitist snob) - even through the persistent mocking derision that he was writing ‘pornography’ and ‘horror comics’. He kept at it and grew an iconic franchise that the public fell in love with. The things that the critics dismiss, even to this day with the movies, are what ensured the long term mainstream appeal.


Though he didn’t admit it publicly, Fleming must have been proud that respected literary figures like Kingsley Amis–and before him Raymond Chandler and John Betjeman–stood up and praised his “horror comics,” especially after the critical attacks he started receiving in 1958, when the Bond novels were growing more popular. (Incidentally, one of Fleming’s most vicious attackers, Paul Johnson, who savaged Dr. No in the New Statesman, died last week, having gone from a left-wing twerp to a right-wing twerp. Horizontal devolution?)

I’m glad you’ve so enjoyed Goldeneye. I think Parker struck the right balance between sympathy and criticism, and he also teaches the reader a good deal about modern Jamaican history, which I’d been utterly ignorant of. He does an excellent job of carefully placing Fleming in the context of the island’s pleasures and troubles.


Ian Fleming

By Ken Purdy (Playboy, Dec. 1964)

Since Edgar Allan Poe invented the modern detective story with “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” expert practitioners of the form have known huge audiences and heavy material rewards. In this procession, the late Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, secret agent nonpareil, will long hold a prominent place. His publishers have sold 30,000,000 copies of his 12 books in 12 years—give or take a couple of million. There are few literate communities in the world, from Hong Kong to Helsinki, in which he is not being read today. Even those who read only Yiddish or Siamese need not be deprived of the pleasure of his literary company—though Fleming himself, at the age of 56, died of a heart attack late last summer, not the first he had had. He had known for some time that he had little prospect of a long life. Yet even in the four hours between the onset of the attack and his death in a Canterbury hospital, he managed to maintain the image of urbanity that distinguished him: En route to the emergency ward, he told the ambulance attendants that he was sorry to have had to trouble them. It was something that most Englishmen of his class would have said, almost pro forma, but it was also very James Bond. There is no doubt that his own character, and the one he had created, were intricately interleaved in Fleming’s mind.

Despite, or perhaps in part because of, his enormous popularity, the literary establishment took little notice of Fleming during his lifetime, and not much more at his death. In general, their judgment of his worth may prove to have been deficient, for he may still be read when novelists presently of some stature have been forgotten. He had an original view; he was an innovator. His central device, the wildly improbable story set against a meticulously detailed and somehow believable background, was vastly entertaining; and his redoubtable, implacable, indestructible protagonist, though some thought him strangely flat in character, may well be not so much the child of this century as of the next.

Several months before his death, Fleming consented to our request for an extended and exclusive interview. Our interviewer says of their meeting:

“He invited me to pick him up for lunch at his London office in Mitre Court, a byway between Fleet Street and the Inns of Court, which is to say, between the worlds of British law and journalism. The reception room was presided over by a pleasant and serene woman whose manner was not unlike M’s Miss Moneypenny in the Bond books. She showed me into his inner office, a sedately elegant study draped and carpeted in wine red, neatly stacked with galley proofs and immaculately furnished with a gilt-framed mirror, brass penholder, ashtray, cigarette lighter and crimson letter boxes. A black Hamburg, a tightly furled umbrella and a dark-blue Burberry raincoat hung from hooks on the back of the door.

“As I entered, Fleming rose from behind a massive leather-topped desk to usher me to a chair—a tall man, lean, tending to be florid, wearing a navy-blue suit of typical British cut marked by one eccentricity: cuffs on the sleeves; light-blue shirt and black-and-white polka-dot bow tie, knotted with offhanded Churchillian looseness. We exchanged pleasantries. He was suave, amused, sardonic—but one sensed that he was kind. More than others, the Englishman reflects his station in life with his air, attitude and speech, and one versed in these matters could place Fleming instantly—and accurately—as Eton and Sandhurst, inherited money, government service, world travel, social assurance. He hadn’t married until he was 43. Mrs. Fleming was Anne Geraldine Charteris, former wife of Lord O’Neill and of Lord Rothermere, owner of London’s Daily Mail.

“After a few minutes of amenities, we left his office and repaired next door to El Vino’s, a venerable Fleet Street grog shop where one may drink from the wood instead of the bottle. I felt like having a whiskey and water, but in deference to my companion’s standing as a gourmet, decided instead on an amontillado. His own choice rather shook me: brandy and ginger ale. Afterward we went for lunch to the White Tower, a deservedly reputable London restaurant where we shared a superb meal with excellent wine, and talked of what came into our heads, for rapport; we were the last to leave the place, at around three o’clock. We declared our mutual ease and made another date for ten days hence in Mitre Court, where we concluded the interview.”

Playboy: It is the belief of some psychologists that neurosis is a necessary concomitant of the creative drive. As a creative writer, do you agree?

Fleming: I think that’s perfectly true. I think that to be a creative writer or a creative anything else, you’ve got to be neurotic. I certainly am in many respects. I’m not really quite certain how, but I am. I’m rather melancholic and probably slightly maniacal as well. It’s rather an involved subject, and I’m afraid my interest in it does not go deeper than the realization that the premise does apply to myself. Possibly it all began with an overprivileged childhood.

Playboy: According to published biographies, your well-to-do family had high hopes of launching you on a distinguished career in the military. After putting you through Britain’s exclusive Sandhurst Academy they learned of your last-minute decision, upon receiving your commission, to “pack it in.” What made you change your mind?

Fleming: I didn’t take up my commission after Sandhurst simply because they had suddenly decided to mechanize the army, and a lot of my pals and I decided that we didn’t want to be glorified garage hands, and that the great days of the cavalry regiments were passing, or shortly would be ended forever—no more polo, no more pigsticking and all that jazz. So a lot of us, having taken our commissions, just gave them up. I was born in 1908; this would have been around 1925, and disillusionment of that kind—and kinds more severe—was common then, as you know. My mother was infuriated. My father had been killed in the First War, and my mother felt responsible for imposing discipline on me and on my three brothers, who were all doing splendidly. She insisted that I must do something, something respectable, and so I opted for the Foreign Office. I went abroad to learn languages. I went to the University of Geneva and the University of Munich. I don’t think of myself as a linguist, but I know French and German very well, because one must if one has any serious inclination toward the Foreign Office. You have to have French and German first-class and one other language partially, which in my case was Russian. My languages are all that remain to me of my original education.

Playboy: Apart from enabling you to sprinkle your James Bond books with foreign terms and bits of conversation, have they proved valuable to you?

Fleming: They are a tremendous extension of one’s life generally, whereas all the other stuff I’ve learned—algebra and trigonometry and all that—I’ve completely forgotten, and as far as I know, none of it was ever of any use to me at all, in any case. But having languages is a tremendous help. You’ve got to live abroad for two years at least to learn a language. When I came home, I took the Foreign Office examination, but I passed seventh and there were only five vacancies, and that was that.

So I started looking around for work that would fit in with what talents and abilities I possessed. All I had done up to that time, aside from a great deal of studying, had been to begin collecting. I had decided, after concerning myself with first editions for a time, that I would collect books that signalized a right-angle turn in the world’s thought on any particular subject, a book of permanent value in the history of the world. I began to think through every human activity, from art to sports and physics and whatnot, and with the help of a great friend of mine who is still my bookseller, we got out a tremendous list of the great books of the world since 1800, which we arbitrarily decided to make the starting date.

They go from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital to Ely Culbertson’s first book on contract bridge, which changed the bridge-playing world—books on everything, the invention of mechanical devices of every kind, of the miner’s lamp, radar, billiards, every kind of subject. This collection gradually got up to about two thousand volumes, all first editions, all in the best possible state, and today it is one of the most valuable private collections in the world. It was considered of such importance that the Bodleian Library at Oxford cared for it during the War. It’s now in storage waiting for us to get into the house we’re building near Oxford, where I can have a proper library, which I’ve never had before. Incidentally, mixed up with that, I later bought a small magazine, The Book Collector, which is now probably the leading bibliographical magazine in the world.

Playboy: You were saying you were looking for a job.

Fleming: Yes—and finally I found one. Because a man called Sir Roderick Jones, who was chairman of Reuter’s, was a friend of my mother’s, I went into Reuter’s, the great international news agency. I stayed with them for three years and had the most exciting time of my life, because in those days news-agency work was like a gigantic football match, and Reuter’s and the Associated Press, of America, were a part of the Allied Agency group, and there were freebooters such as United Press and International News who were trying to break into our territories all around the world. We had some superb battles in Germany and Russia, and so on, and it was all highly enjoyable. It was in Reuter’s that I learned to write fast and, above all, to be accurate, because in Reuter’s if you weren’t accurate you were fired, and that was the end of that.

Playboy: Would you do all this again?

Fleming: Well, the world being as it was in the 1930s, I would do the same as I did then. But today, with the world as it is now, I must say, I really don’t know what I’d do. I’d travel enormously, find some sort of job that would take me round the world, and round and round and round it, and I should think I would probably go back to newspaper work—as a TV newsman, I should think; rather a different article from his counterpart of a few decades ago, although the effort is the same. Nowadays, of course, one’s so hamstrung by trade unions and that sort of thing that some of the fun’s gone out of the game. In those days the paper came first, the story came first, you were out to beat hell out of the opposition, and the pay and the hours of work meant nothing. Of course, for that one must be young and strong and, I suppose, romantic; it’s a different matter if one’s fifty-six and has a wife and child.

Playboy: What took you from journalism into Naval Intelligence?

Fleming: Well, when I left Reuter’s, I did a period in The City [London’s business and financial district] as a partner in the firm of Rowe and Pitman’s, one of the great English stockbroking firms, extremely nice fellows. It was a very pleasant sort of City club—they’re still great friends of mine today—but I got rather fed up, and The Times gave me a special correspondent’s job to go to Moscow on a trade mission. When I came back from that in about March or April of 1939, suddenly I began to hear funny little questions being asked about me; friends would tell me that so-and-so had been asking about where had I been, what did I know, and so on.

This turned out to be a quiet casing for a job in Naval Intelligence; and the reason was that because, of all people, the governor of the Bank of England and the head of Baring Brothers, a very big merchant-banking firm in The City, had been asked to find a man of about my age with good languages and some knowledge of The City, which in fact I hadn’t got at all. In any case, it ended with a luncheon at the Carlton Hotel, with the Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiral J.H. Godfrey, still my warm friend, and a couple of other very quiet characters in plain clothes, and I suddenly found myself in the Admiralty with an honorary rank of lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and put down as Personal Assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence. I stayed in that job throughout the War.

Playboy: What were your duties?

Fleming: My job got me right into the inside of everything, including all the most secret affairs. I couldn’t possibly have had a more exciting or interesting War. Of course, it’s my experience in Naval Intelligence, and what I learned about secret operations of one sort or another, that finally led me to write about them—in a highly bowdlerized way—with James Bond as the central figure.

Playboy: Did you really settle on the name James Bond, as reported, because you’d been reading a book by a man of that name, and you thought it sounded “suitably flat and colorless”?

Fleming: Yes, that’s absolutely so. It was James Bond’s Birds of the West Indies, a famous ornithological work, and I wanted my hero to be entirely an anonymous instrument and to let the action of the book carry him along. I didn’t believe in the heroic Bulldog Drummond types. I mean, rather, I didn’t believe they could any longer exist in literature. I wanted this man more or less to follow the pattern of Raymond Chandler’s or Dashiell Hammett’s heroes—believable people, believable heroes.

Playboy: One reviewer has written of Bond, “He is the bad guy who smoulders in every good citizen.” Do you agree?

Fleming: I don’t think that he is necessarily a good guy or a bad guy. Who is? He’s got his vices and very few perceptible virtues except patriotism and courage, which are probably not virtues anyway. He’s certainly got little in the way of politics, but I should think what politics he has are just a little bit left of center. And he’s got little culture. He’s a man of action, and he reads books on golf, and so on—when he reads anything. I quite agree that he’s not a person of much social attractiveness. But then, I didn’t intend for him to be a particularly likable person. He’s a cipher, a blunt instrument in the hands of government.

Playboy: You’ve been quoted as saying that you don’t like Bond personally. Is that true?

Fleming: Well, I’ve lived with him for about twelve years now, and we’ve been getting into deeper and deeper trouble together. So I’ve come to have a certain sympathy with what is going to happen to him, whatever that may be.

Playboy: Do you sometimes feel that you are Bond, and Bond is Fleming?

Fleming: No, Bond is a highly romanticized version of anybody, but certainly not I, and I certainly couldn’t keep up with him; I couldn’t have even at his age, which is, and has always been, in the middle thirties. He’s a sort of amalgam of romantic tough guys, dressed up in 20th century clothes, using 20th century language. I think he’s slightly more true to the type of modern hero, to the commandos of the last War, and so on, and to some of the secret-service men I’ve met, than to any of the rather cardboardy heroes of the ancient thrillers.

Playboy: Do you consider his sexual prowess, and his ruthless way with women, to be true to life—even among commandos and secret-service men?

Fleming: Naturally not; but we live in a violent age. Seduction has, to a marked extent, replaced courtship. The direct, flat approach is not the exception; it is the standard. James Bond is a healthy, violent, noncerebral man in his middle thirties, and a creature of his era. I wouldn’t say he’s particularly typical of our times, but he is certainly of the times. Bond’s detached; he’s disengaged. But he’s a believable man—around whom I try to weave a great web of excitement and fantasy. In that, at least, we have very little in common. Of course, there are similarities, since one writes only of what one knows, and some of the quirks and characteristics that I give Bond are ones that I know about. When I make him smoke certain cigarettes, for example, it’s because I do so myself, and I know what these things taste like, and I have no shame in giving them free advertising.

Playboy: Including the gold-ringed cigarettes of Balkan and Turkish tobacco mixed for Bond by Morland’s of Grosvenor Street?

Fleming: Certainly. Why not?

Playboy: Isn’t that a rather injudiciously conspicuous brand for a secret agent to be smoking?

Fleming: Of course it is. No self-respecting agent would use such things. He’d smoke Players or Chesterfields. But the readers enjoy such idiosyncrasies, and they accept them—because they don’t stop to think about it. The secrecy of my secret agent is pretty transparent, if you think about it even briefly. But the pace, the pace of the narrative gets one by these nasty little corners. It’s a sleight-of-hand operation. It’s overpowering the reader. You take him along at such a rate, you interest him so deeply in the narrative that he isn’t jolted by these incongruities. I suppose I do it to demonstrate that I can do it.

[Continued in the next post]


[Continued from previous post]

Playboy: Why do you pay so much attention to minutiae in your books?

Fleming: The main reason is that these things excite and interest me. I’m observant, I think, and when I walk down the street or when I go into a room, I observe things and remember them very accurately. It amuses me to use my powers of observation in my books and at the same time to tell people what my favorite objects are, and my favorite foods and liquors and scents, and so on. Exact details of individual private lives and private tastes are extremely interesting to me. I think that even the way in which a man shaves in the morning is well worth recording. The more we have of this kind of detailed stuff laid down around a character, the more interested we are in him.

I make notes of such details constantly; I write down my thoughts and comments and I note menus, and so forth. I’ve just written down something I picked up in Istanbul the other day: “Now there is no more shade.” This is a Turkish expression, used when a great sultan, like Mustafa Kemal, dies. The general cry of the people was “Now there is no more shade,” which is rather an expressive way of saying now there is nothing to protect us, now that the great man has gone. I write things like that down and often use them later on in my books.

Playboy: Of course, you have research done for you as well.

Fleming: Yes, but generally only after I’ve written the book. After I’ve finished a book I realize that I’ve been rather vague or thin on some topic or other, and then I go to the right man and try to get the true gen out of him and then rewrite that particular area.

Playboy: Are you interested in the skills of individual specialists? Would you, for example, go out of your way to meet Chic Gaylord of New York, who makes custom-tailored revolver and pistol holsters for the New York City police and the FBI?

Fleming: Quite honestly, the whole question of expertise in these matters bores me. Obviously, I want to know the facts. If a Gaylord holster is better than a Berns-Martin, I want to know about it, but there my interest rather ends. However, I’m not a bad shot; in fact, I shot for Sandhurst against West Point at one time. And just to see that my hand isn’t trembling too much, I like to have a shot at a tin can or something now and again.

Playboy: How about hunting game?

Fleming: No, I’m not keen on killing things, except to eat them. We have big bush rats in Jamaica, and one time when I’d lent the place for a bit to Anthony Eden, he couldn’t sleep, they made such a racket scurrying about, and a number of them had to be shot by his private detective, which I didn’t like. But to go back to the matter of expertise, I’ve been pestiferated ever since Sports Illustrated ran that article about Bond’s weapons; you saw it, I’m sure—the one which told how I’d been persuaded to take Bond’s .25 Beretta away from him and make him use a 7.65mm Walther instead. That idea had originated with Geoffrey Boothroyd, a genuine expert, and since the article appeared I’ve had hundreds of letters from weapon maniacs—and they are maniacs; they’re terrifying—and Boothroyd gets all those letters sent on to him. I never look at them; he deals with them himself or he doesn’t. I wouldn’t dream of attempting it. I’m just not sufficiently expert.

Playboy: Speaking of firearms, does it amuse you that your imaginative device of Bond’s permissive double-0 prefix—licensing him to kill—should be taken so seriously by your readers when, in fact, any intelligence agent may find it necessary to kill in the line of duty, and to that extent might be considered to have the right to do so?

Fleming: Well, though this was purely a fictional device to make Bond’s particular job more interesting, the double-0 prefix is not so entirely invented as all that. I pinched the idea from the fact that, in the Admiralty, at the beginning of the War, all top-secret signals had the double-0 prefix. This was changed subsequently for the usual security reasons, but it stuck in my mind and I borrowed it for Bond and he got stuck with it.

Playboy: Is there, in your opinion, any such thing as the proverbial perfect murder?

Fleming: Well, no technique, I should think, is more deadly and efficient than that employed by the gunmen of what its proprietors so amusingly call the Cosa Nostra in America, where a man may be sent all the way from Detroit to kill another man sitting in a bar in New York and walk away with no demonstrable connection with him. That is a near-perfect type of killing—the sort of killing that the secret services do, particularly the Russians, who’ve been pretty keen on it in West Germany. Their latest gimmick, the cyanide gas pistol, which is more or less a water pistol filled with liquid cyanide, is a particularly good stunt, because a man can be killed while, say, climbing stairs, and when he’s found, the cyanide has dissipated and leaves no trace. It’s natural to assume that he has had a heart failure climbing the stairs.

But you’ve got to have a lot of nerve for that sort of thing, and whatever it is that enables a good killer to function also seems to defeat him in the end. The killer’s spirit begins to fail, he gets the seed of death within himself. As I wrote in one of my books, From Russia with Love, the trouble with a lot of hired assassins such as the Russians use is that they feel rather badly when they’ve killed five or six people, and ultimately get soft or give themselves up, or they take to drugs or drink. It would be interesting to conduct an inquiry to determine who was the greatest assassin in history—who was, or who is. I have no particular candidate. But they all do grow a sort of bug inside them after a bit.

Playboy: You’ve been criticized for being “obsessed” with violence in your books. Do you feel the charge is justified?

Fleming: The simple fact is that, like all fictional heroes who find a tremendous popular acceptance, Bond must reflect his own time. We live in a violent era, perhaps the most violent man has known. In our last War, thirty million people were killed. Of these, some six million were simply slaughtered, and most brutally. I hear it said that I invent fiendish cruelties and tortures to which Bond is subjected. But no one who knows, as I know, the things that were done to captured secret agents in the last War says this. No one says it who knows what went on in Algeria.

Playboy: You said a moment ago that professional assassins “grow a sort of bug inside them after a bit.” Does that include Bond?

Fleming: Yes, it does disturb Bond to kill people, even though he continues to get away with it—just as he continues to get away with driving conspicuous motorcars.

Playboy: In recent books you’ve had him driving a supercharged Bentley. Why did you pick this particular car for him?

Fleming: I probably chose the supercharged Bentley because Amherst Villiers was and is a great friend of mine, and I knew something about it from my friendship with him. I put Bond into a Bentley simply because I like him to use dashing, interesting things.

Playboy: Do you share his taste for exotic cars?

Fleming: Yes. I’d like to have a supercharged Bentley myself, but nowadays—I’m fifty-six, after all—I like a car I can leave out in the street all night and which will start at once in the morning and still go a hundred miles an hour when you want it to and yet give a fairly comfortable ride. I can’t be bothered with a car that needs tuning, or one that will give me a lot of trouble and expenditure. So I’ve had a Thunderbird for six years, and it’s done me very well. In fact, I have two of them, the good two-seater and the less-good four-seater. I leave them both in the street, and when I get in and press the starter, off they go, which doesn’t happen to a lot of motorcars.

Now, the Studebaker supercharged Avanti is the same thing. It will start as soon as you get out in the morning; it has a very nice, sexy exhaust note and will do well over a hundred and has got really tremendous acceleration and much better, tighter road holding and steering than the Thunderbird. Excellent disk brakes, too. I’ve cut a good deal of time off the run between London and Sandwich in the Avanti, on braking power alone. So I’m very pleased with it for the time being.

Playboy: Unlike Bond, you say you are bored by guns, and you don’t drive an exotic vintage car. Do you share, at least, his passion for casino gambling?

Fleming: I do like to gamble. I play bridge for what might be called serious stakes. I like chemin de fer. I play at clubs here in London, private clubs. And I may go to Le Touquet, places like that on the Continent. I like to think that I am reasonably competent at the gaming tables—we all think so, I suppose—but still, I win as much as I lose, or a bit more. I like that, which I suppose demonstrates that I am not a true compulsive gambler, because the compulsive gambler doesn’t care much whether he wins or loses. He is interested primarily in the “action.” I remember one occasion on which I very much wanted to win. I was on my way to America with the Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiral Godfrey. We were in Estoril in Portugal, and while we were waiting for transport, we killed some time in the casino. While there, I recognized some German agents, and I thought it would be a brilliant coup to play with them, break them, take their money. Instead, of course, they took mine. Most embarrassing. This incident appears in Casino Royale, my first book—but, of course, Bond does not lose. In fact, he totally and coldly vanquishes his opponent.

Playboy: Casino Royale, and all of the other Bond books, have been written at your home in Jamaica. How did you happen to pick the West Indies as a creative hideaway?

Fleming: I first went to Jamaica on a Naval Intelligence assignment around 1942 to meet with my American opposite numbers from the Office of Naval Intelligence to see if we could do something about the U-boat sinkings in the Caribbean. I stayed in the good old Myrtle Bank Hotel, and it poured every day—and I loved every minute of it. I’d never been in the tropics before and I thought they were wonderful, as I suppose any Scotsman would. I was determined that at the end of the War I’d come back and find a plot and build a house and live in it whenever I could. It’s worked out like that. When I went back in 1946, I borrowed a car from a man called Sir William Stevenson, who was chief of our intelligence service in the States during the War; he had a house in Jamaica and I went round and finally I found this disused donkeys’ racecourse by the sea. I bought the racecourse and I built on it a square of a house which I had designed while I was working in the Admiralty during the last two or three years of the War, looking forward to something more pleasant than the V-1s and V-2s. And I go there every year during January and February and a bit of March, and the whole thing’s been a great success. It’s by a little banana port called Oracabessa, and the house is called Goldeneye, a name I chose.

Playboy: Why?

Fleming: I had happened to be reading Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers, and I’d been involved in an operation called Goldeneye during the War: the defense of Gibraltar, supposing that the Spaniards had decided to attack it; and I was deeply involved in the planning of countermeasures which would have been taken in that event. Anyway, I called my place Goldeneye. The alternative choice was Shamelady, which is the Jamaican name for the sensitive plant, the one which curls up when the leaves are touched. When I and a friend inspected the plot, we looked over the edge of the cliff, and there was the most beautiful naked Negress bathing in the waves, so I thought that Shamelady would be a good name for it—the whole thirty acres were covered with the plant—but it would have been a little bit too fancy. In any event, the house has been a great success. As you said, I have written all my books there.

Playboy: Do you spend most of your time there at the typewriter?

Fleming: By no means. I get up with the birds, which is about half past seven, because they wake one up, and then I go and bathe in the ocean before breakfast. We don’t have to wear a swimsuit there, because it’s so private; my wife and I bathe and swim a hundred yards or so and come back and have a marvelous proper breakfast with some splendid scrambled eggs made by my housekeeper, who’s particularly good at them, and then I sit out in the garden to get a sunburn until about ten. Only then do I set to work. I sit in my bedroom and type about fifteen hundred words straightaway, without looking back on what I wrote the day before. I have more or less thought out what I’m going to write, and, in any case, even if I make a lot of mistakes, I think, well, hell, when the book’s finished I can change it all. I think the main thing is to write fast and cursively in order to get narrative speed.

Then, about quarter past twelve, I chuck that and go down, with a snorkel and a spear, around the reefs looking for lobsters or whatever there may be, sometimes find them, sometimes don’t, and then I come back, I have a couple of pink gins, and we have a very good lunch, ordinary Jamaican food, and I have a siesta from about half past two until four. Then I sit again in the garden for about an hour or so, have another swim, and then I spend from six to seven—the dusk comes very suddenly in Jamaica; at six o’clock it suddenly gets very dark—doing another five hundred words. I then number the pages, of which by that time there are about seven, put them away in a folder, and have a couple of powerful drinks, then dinner, occasionally a game of Scrabble with my wife—at which she thinks she is very much better than I am, but I know I’m the best—and straight off to bed and into a dead sleep.

Playboy: And you return to England in March with a completed manuscript?

Fleming: Except for minor revisions, yes.

Playboy: How do you spend the rest of the year?

Fleming: Commuting between London—where we have a very nice little house—and the country, where I keep a small but comfortable flat on Pegwell Bay in Sandwich; that’s in Kent. I work the “Fleming Two-Day Week,” which means that I try to spend at least four days and five nights in the country and only two nights up in London, because I don’t like big towns. Generally I come up on Monday night and I go down again to Sandwich on Thursday morning, with any luck.

Playboy: What do you do with your time in the country?

Fleming: Well, I get up late, about half past eight or nine, have breakfast, coffee and a boiled egg—three and a half minutes, not three and two thirds, like James Bond. I read newspapers and deal with a certain amount of mail and then I go off to the golf course; the one I play on is in Sandwich—the Royal St. George—a course known to a great many Americans, and one that Bobby Jones and all the great men have played; Jack Nicklaus won the Gold Vase on that course three or four years ago. And I meet some friends there and we have a drink or two and lunch and then I go out and play a tough game of golf for fairly high stakes, foursomes generally, not American four-ball, but each pair hitting the ball in turn. And we laugh a lot and it’s great fun. Then I go back home in the evening and sit down and have a couple of very powerful bourbons and waters with ice and read awhile, and then I have whatever my wife has decided to cook for me and I go straight off to bed.

Playboy: And when you’re in London?

Fleming: In London we have, as I said, a very nice little house—but it hasn’t got any trees around it, which I would like, and I would prefer to live higher up, somewhere like Hampstead, on the heights above London, with birds and trees and a bit of garden. But my wife, who likes to entertain, feels that this would be too far from the House of Commons for our friends to come, and altogether too suburban. In any case, I get up in the morning about the same time as in the country, have the same breakfast, and at about half past ten I drive to my office, where my secretary has the mail ready for me, which I cope with and then dictate a few letters. Then I correct some proofs or go over whatever I happen to be working on at the moment and have lunch with a friend—always a male friend; I don’t like having lunch with women—and perhaps I go to my club, Boodles, or the Turf, where I sit by myself and read in that highly civilized privacy which is the great thing about some English clubs. In the afternoon I have more or less the same routine correcting proofs. I go home and have three large drinks and then we either stay in for dinner or have people in, or go out; but more often we have dinner together and go to bed.

Playboy: Your books were often among those at the bedside of President Kennedy, who publicly declared himself an enthusiastic Bond fan. He was even said to have considered Bond his favorite fictional character. Did he ever tell you why?

Fleming: No, he didn’t. In any case, I don’t think Bond was President Kennedy’s favorite fictional character; I think he was his favorite adventure character. But I think perhaps that Bond’s sort of patriotic derring-do was in keeping with the president’s own concept of endurance and courage and grace under pressure, and so on. Strangely enough, many politicians seem to like my books, I think perhaps because politicians like solutions, with everything properly tied up at the end. Politicians always hope for neat solutions, you know, but so rarely can they find them.

Playboy: Do you have other admirers among world figures of major stature?

Fleming: I don’t know, really. For one, I don’t believe Mr. Khrushchev is one of my readers, and we haven’t met. I do have among my memorabilia a short typewritten note from Joseph Stalin, signed in his hand and, I think, typed by him as well, saying that he is sorry, but he must decline to be interviewed.

Playboy: It was Stalin who organized SMERSH, the Soviet counterpart of the Gestapo, which served as Bond’s adversary in several of your earlier books. What made you decide to abandon it in Thunderball for the ideologically unaligned gang of international conspirators which you call SPECTRE?

Fleming: I closed down SMERSH, although I was devoted to the good old apparat, because, first of all, Khrushchev did in fact disband SMERSH himself, although its operations are still carried out by a subsection of the K.G.B., the Russian secret service. But in that book—I think it was Thunderball that I was writing at the time of the proposed summit meeting—I thought well, it’s no good going on if we’re going to make friends with the Russians. I know them, I like them personally, as anyone would, as anyone would like the Chinese if he knew them. I thought, I don’t want to go on ragging them like this. So I invented SPECTRE as an international crime organization which contained elements of SMERSH and the Gestapo and the Mafia—the cozy old Cosa Nostra—which, of course, is a much more elastic fictional device than SMERSH, which was no fictional device, but the real thing. But that was really the reason I did it, so as not to rag the Russians too much. But if they go on squeezing off cyanide pistols in people’s faces, I may have to make them cosa mia again.

Playboy: Mystery writer Raymond Chandler has said of you, “He writes more correctly, neatly, concisely and vividly than most of our ‘serious’ novelists.” On the other hand, New York Times critic Anthony Boucher has said that in his view you write “monumentally badly.” Do you have any comment on these contrasting appraisals?

Fleming: I dare say Ray Chandler said that because he was a friend of mine. As for Anthony Boucher, he’s never liked my books, and it shows what a good reviewer he is that he says so. Others, happily—such as Cyril Connolly—think otherwise. There is no doubt, however, that I—and even Anthony Boucher—should write better. There is no top limit to writing well. I try to write neatly and concisely and vividly because I think that’s the way to write, but I think a large amount of that comes, as I said earlier, from my training as a fast-writing journalist, under circumstances in which you damned well had to be neat and correct and concise and vivid. I’m afraid I think Reuter’s training was much more valuable to me than all the reading in English literature I did at Eton or in Geneva or wherever.

Playboy: You have said that you write unashamedly for money. Is that true?

Fleming: Yes, it is. I do write for money—but also for pleasure. I’m very glad that people say kind things about my books—because, naturally, if they didn’t say so, I shouldn’t make any money, and consequently I shouldn’t enjoy the writing so much. I think that communicating enjoyment is certainly a very good achievement, even in the fairly modest seam of literature that comprises thriller writing. But it’s true that I write below my ultimate capacity—or at least I think I probably do. If I really settled down and decided to write a War and Peace among thrillers, if I shut myself up and decided to do this and nothing else, I dare say I might bring it off, if such a thing is possible. There’s a great deal of violence and sex in all great novels, so I dare say if I tried to do it in the modern vein I might conceivably succeed.

But I’m more interested in action than in cerebration, and I should think that the great War and Peace thriller would be more likely to be written by a man like Graham Greene or Georges Simenon, because either of them would do it more truthfully and accurately than I ever could. I enjoy exaggeration and things larger than life. It amuses me to have a villain with a great bulbous head, whereas, as you know, they’re generally little people with nothing at all extraordinary-looking about them. Then, too, I’m afraid I shouldn’t be able to write in sufficient depth to make this hypothetical thriller stand up as a classic.

Playboy: Why not?

Fleming: I’m too interested in surface things, and I’m too interested in maintaining a fast pace, in writing at speed. I’m afraid I shouldn’t have the patience to delve into the necessary psychological introspection and historical background. But in the end, I must say, I’m very happy writing as I do. And I greatly enjoy knowing that other people, quite intelligent people, find my books amusing and entertaining. But I’m not really surprised, because they entertain and amuse me, too.


Ian Fleming’s Last Interview: How to Take Any Woman…James Bond Style!

By Alain Ayache (Saga: The Magazine for Men, July 1965)

You don’t have to be a spy—or look like Sean Connery—to make love to the woman you want. Here, the creator of James Bond bares 007 seduction secrets.

Editors’ Note: In the summer of 1964, French journalist Alain Ayache interviewed Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. Fleming agreed to sit for another interview at a later date in Switzerland. But Fleming died in September [sic], 1964. Ayache went over his notes carefully and decided to release them unedited, in Ian Fleming’s own words. Here in a SAGA exclusive, is Ian Fleming on the subject closest to James Bond’s heart.

Seduction is an art that must be practiced casually in order to obtain the best results. No sentimentalism. A seducer such as James Bond takes very careful aim each time he spots a quarry to be certain of success. A setback would be as fatal to him as if he had shot at and missed an adversary, Beretta in hand.

Thus he must follow a rigorous training program. Statistics prove that 81.6 percent of all females considered beautiful, elegant or simply attractive, notice, first of all, a man’s glance. They read it like an open book. Everything is in the glance. Harden it until it is metallic. The look that you use must be fiery, rapid and searching—but it must never rest on the object of your desire more than several fractions of a second.

The first quality that strikes a woman, according to men like James Bond, is an impression of virility. A woman doesn’t have to feel that you have noticed her; it is she who must notice you. A man must undress a woman with his gaze, but for a woman, a simple, rapid glance suffices to decide whether or not you are “her type.”

James Bond, a man who loves a fast seduction, does not behave with women the way most men would. Women, being the way they are, love to be intrigued. This is no great secret, but there are different ways of taking advantage of this weakness.

The most effective method, on meeting a woman for the first time, is to affect an air of preoccupation. Pay only the slightest attention to the hand she offers you; just enough so that you will not appear impolite, and just little enough so that for an instant she will think you are a cad!

Avoid compliments—leave such banalities to those men devoid of sex appeal.
Use your metallic gaze; your power to stir emotion is gone if you allow a sentimental stare to take its place. Women sensitive to the virile charm of a James Bond (and believe me, there is some of this charm in all of us!) love to meet men who are hard, implacable and solid—men who are direct.

It is also important not to leap at the first word pronounced by the woman as soon as she has been introduced to you. On the contrary, let several seconds pass, as if you were very occupied in making some private plans, or plotting the details of how you were going to meet her the next day!

Don’t waste your effectiveness by recounting in great detail your trips abroad, even if they are true. Just pass over them by saying things like, “Jamaica to me meant a broken arm!” And if she insists on having more details, pretend that you didn’t hear her and pass on to another subject.

At a party, never stay with the same group; don’t hesitate to move away, to stay by yourself in a corner—but in a corner where everyone can see you. Don’t appear to enjoy yourself too much. Where others break out laughing, be satisfied just to smile to your right and your left—it’s more esthetic.

Never readjust your tie; women definitely consider this gesture as indicative of indecision and timidity! Instead, in order to impress them favorably, put your hand in your pants pocket, or rub your chin with it. These details may seem insignificant to many of you, but you’ll find that you are wrong.

It is not advisable to lacquer your hair; I would recommend this only for those men who ordinarily comb their hair straight back. For the others, it’s better to cultivate a rebellious lock, one that’s never quite in place, but hangs slightly over the forehead.

In nightclubs, restaurants, and other public places, it’s always useful if certain waiters, bartenders or members of the staff know “who you are,” without, of course, knowing too much about you.

Don’t waste time in trying to “make yourself interesting.” Don’t feel that you must show your little social talents by doing card tricks, or by telling “the latest funny story.” In order to seduce, you must observe a certain silence. Women of the world often equate a quiet man with a “man who knows more than he wants to say.”

While someone else is giving what he believes to be a brilliant demonstration of his talents, you must bring your smile into play, to the right and the left, with your most ironic air.

When she asks your opinion on some question with which you would be expected to be familiar, don’t grasp at the opportunity like a drowning man reaching for a life preserver. Tug at your ear a bit, and then reply, without making too much of your knowledge. Nothing bores a pretty woman more than a man who wants to tell her everything he knows.

Don’t hesitate to show your boredom if people around you are discussing an uninteresting subject. There will be at least one person of the opposite sex who will share your feeling.

Don’t ever be the one who leaves a party last. I think it useful to mention that there is a means of departure you can use that will leave behind an “odd impression.” All you have to do is buy a watch with a bell alarm, which you can set to ring at the chosen moment. This will not fail to intrigue those around you!

It will happen, probably, that you will feel like dancing. I recommend strongly to all those who think that they have James Bond blood in their veins, never to dance just for the sake of dancing! You must choose useful dances, dances that will permit you to improve your advantage, and to know where you stand in relation to your partner.

Slow dances are recommended, of course. I suggest that you not make excessive use of them, however; a slow dance is like alcohol, capable of playing bad tricks on you if you are not accustomed to it. Avoid the childish cheek-to-cheek stuff. Squeezing your partner against you is okay, but it won’t get you anywhere—even if you sense that she has a strong attraction to you. The most important thing is to make sure of the complicity of the woman you’re dancing with, but not to abuse the circumstances.

Avoid talking about her; act as if you weren’t familiar with refined manners. But don’t be completely silent, and don’t stare her straight in the eyes. Dances, slow ones especially, have nothing in common with the moment of truth at a bullfight! You might, if need be, permit yourself to catch a lock of her hair in your hand, if it happens to be long enough.

If she responds to your appeals, cut her off abruptly. Don’t ask her for the following dance. Find some pretext for disappearing. Return half an hour later, and without saying a word to her, take her by the hand, lead her onto the floor, and dance with her.

Then simply say: “Do you plan to stay here all evening?”

It is probable that she will reply, “No.”

Then, “My car is in front of the door, let’s go have a drink somewhere else. Go on out, I’ll rejoin you in three minutes.”

It is necessary that in all these things your behavior conveys a certain disdain for other people—without exaggeration, however. Women like strong men, but not brutes.

As soon as you are in the car, turn on the radio. You will inevitably hit on some popular record. Feign an irritated expression and change the station until you find some classical music, a Beethoven symphony, for example. Your companion will regard you again with more attention and curiosity!

When she shows signs of tenderness, don’t press her hands in yours. It may be very disagreeable to hold back, but don’t, under any circumstances, allow yourself to hold her hand!

If you order a second drink, don’t ask for just anything. Give the bartender the recipe for your special cocktail. Make sure it’s one that will take even him by surprise—even if it makes you gag to drink it.

You will once more have scored a point.

If you go into a nightclub or a discotheque, don’t commit the fatal error of all beginners—don’t take a table. Strategically, choose the bar; you’re then sure of seeing everything, and nothing will hamper you in moving about quickly.

If, on entering, you see a woman of remarkable beauty, don’t rush; you will get ahead of her desires, because to convince her of them, you will first have to catch her glance. Patience.

Others will rush out to ask her to dance.

She will refuse.

And then, probably after several refusals, she will by chance dance with someone.

Don’t get panicky. You haven’t lost the game yet.

You should take the wise precaution, even though you’re chomping at the bit, not to ask any other woman to dance. Inevitably, the beautiful female you lust after will pass in front of you while dancing with her escort. The floors of nightclubs, it is well known, are very small.

With a simple gesture of your index finger, you ask her for the next dance.

With a nod of the head, she will tell you, “yes.”

Take care to choose a moment when her escort has his back to you. This “yes” that she gives you with a nod of her head is worth more than hours of chatter. When you dance with her the following dance, she will be already three-quarters conquered.

You will stick in her mind as the man who had the courage to ask her in spite of her escort. She will remember that you were not the first to approach her. As you know, women hate to submit to just any man—above all, to the first one who comes along.

You must avoid the common pitches habitually used in nightclubs; be content to improve your advantage by declaring with a detached air, “I know at least five different men around me who would be delighted to dance with you.” She will reply that these types do not interest her.

“What is your type of man, then?” you ask.

She will probably twist her lip a bit, and then, word by word, she will automatically paint a picture that down to the color of the hair will resemble you.

At that point you squeeze her a little harder in your arms, embracing her but saying nothing. All this you can achieve without the slightest difficulty and with considerable pleasure.

I definitely advise, to the James Bond that sleeps in the hearts of all of you, to remain silent for periods of at least 30 seconds. A silence so prolonged will make your partner think about you.

If you want to avoid disappointing her, don’t propose a walk through the park, hand-in-hand. This type of woman expects action from you. Don’t forget that in her mind you are “a man apart.” You must practice feigning indifference. This approach will often get surprising results, particularly if the woman you are dancing or talking with is convinced that you “have a weakness for her.”

It is never necessary to give to women the impression that they have chosen you, but rather that you have conquered them.

Never forget that all women are available, or more exactly, all are ready to be swept off their feet. Some love to speak of it as their “one fault,” in which case it is only necessary to give them the impression that they are conquered. It’s that simple! If she thinks that you are an exceptional type, she will also think that she is an exceptional woman!

It is necessary, if you are one of those men who like a quick seduction, that you get into the habit of discerning at first glance the woman who will not refuse to dance with you, or who wants to talk with you. This might appear difficult at first. Actually, there’s nothing to it.

Men, in general, lack audacity—or often confuse audacity with haste.

Everything about you must breathe CLASS!

As I see it, a man of class in women’s eyes is, above all, a man who one realizes will not be easy to handle, a man who must live at the burning pace of a sports car in a 24-hour endurance race.

It won’t get you anywhere to brag of your money, your qualities, or your connections. Women have a horror of being “put on.”

Some of my recommendations will not be effective for some men.

It is absolutely necessary that the reader of this article measure at least 5’9". He must be thin. Age is not so important, but he shouldn’t be past 60. He must have a nonchalant, blasé appearance. His presence should inspire respect from other men. He must appear elegant, but at the same time a little careless of his appearance—and, above all, he must make of the conquest of women in general as noble a sport as golf! He must avoid wearing showy cuff-links, and especially rounded shirt collars. He must pay attention to the way he knots his tie, and his shoes by preference should be square-toed.

I know that these details will appear silly to those whose goal in life is not necessarily seduction. But my advice is directed to those who do not want to waste time approaching a woman when they have no chance of success!

It is necessary to avoid swaggering, rubbing your hands together in satisfaction, talking in a loud voice, leering lecherously and telling coarse jokes. And also knowing how to dance too well.

There is no perfect man on this earth, and a woman will want you to have a few faults, a few gaps that she can try to fill.

You would do well to try, one evening, sending an old, trusted friend on ahead of you—one whom you know thinks a lot of you. You plan to arrive a half-hour after him. He will have had time to spread, by way of flattering remarks about you, such an interest in your eventual presence that you, and no one else, will be able to satisfy it.

All successes, like all delicate operations, must be prepared for conscientiously. It won’t be love at first sight if you don’t plan it beforehand.

What about the importance of a man’s profession in the eyes of a woman?

It is obvious that an unattached man doesn’t place much importance on the profession of his female companion, as long as she is beautiful. It’s not the same for a woman.

If you meet a woman who asks you, “What do you do for a living?”, don’t reply immediately; take time for reflection. Then say, “Is it so important?”

She will probably insist. You have by your hesitation excited her curiosity.

Don’t tell her you’re a spy—she won’t believe you. On the contrary, say to her, “I’d prefer that we talk about other things. My profession is nothing very noble, and fortunately it keeps me out of the limelight.”

You will then see a smile appear on her face. If she is intelligent, she will read between the lines that you are someone “special,” and as she will have probably just read some mystery thriller, she will imagine that you are one of these shadowy heroes whom it will be useless to pester with questions!

If pressed further, remember that women will not want, in most cases, to go out with a floorwalker, a clerk or a hairdresser even if he appeals to her. She will prefer a popular novelist, a mystery writer, a journalist, an explorer, a deep-sea diver, an airline pilot, a photographer, a stunt flyer, a croupier, or even a man who somehow or other is “mixed up” in counterespionage!

Don’t disappoint her!

Don’t commit the gross mistake of telling her your real profession! What is she looking for, after all?

A dream? Escape?

Then be generous. Give it to her!


How James Bond Destroyed My Husband

By Mrs. Ian Fleming, as told to Leslie Hannon (Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 1966)

Ian Fleming wrote the most successful spy stories of our time. His books and movies made millions. Now, his widow discloses a plot from real life: how this dashing, brilliant man was actually haunted by the success of his fictional hero and finally driven to a premature death.

Somerset Maugham once said to me when the James Bond myth grew to threatening proportions that the public would henceforth refuse to leave my husband alone, and that Ian would feel himself driven to satisfy his public. Maugham was certainly proved right.

Sometimes I hated James Bond. Ian should certainly not have written the last book. I implored him to rest. The doctors warned him time and again. It was far too much strain for a man who had suffered a bad coronary attack.

I said. “Other writers don’t feel driven to publish a book every year.” He didn’t need the money. But with publishers, film-makers, the press and the public all seemingly insatiable, the writing of the next Bond fantasy, and then the next, became a compulsion. Bond was his Frankenstein’s monster.

Ian died at 56. His constitution was unequal to the pace and to the burden of to cope with the never-ending demands. No one knew this better than he did. He was an impossible patient. He flatly refused to slow down even to a normal living pace; he wanted “something wonderful” and exciting to happen every day. I suppose it was almost deliberately suicidal.

I was very surprised when my husband wrote his first book—I thought I had married the foreign editor of the Sunday Times of London—but it now seems he told many of his men friends that he always intended to write the greatest spy story ever written. He never told me that because he thought I would not be interested. He knew I never read thrillers, and disliked anything more violent than Agatha Christie.

He said jokingly later that he had written Casino Royale—that’s the first Bond thriller, all about gambling and torture—to take his mind off getting married in his forties. It was Ian’s first marriage (he had been a close friend of my first husband. Lord O’Neill, who was killed in action in Italy). I think he said this because I declined to have the book dedicated to me. I didn’t care for the torture scenes.

I have never been a James Bond addict. I did read all the books, usually in rough manuscript, but I get them mixed up. All the girls with the funny names—I can remember some of them: Pussy Galore, Honeychile, Domino—and the wicked villains—Drax, Goldfinger and company. But Ian invented only one real character—James Bond; the heroines and villains did not come to life.

I find James Bond a bit of a bore. I don’t think I’d have him as a dinner guest more than once. No sense of humor. No conversation.

The world’s appetite for the Bond books—I think more than 20 million have been sold—we both found bewildering and unreal. It appears that in an age of anti-hero fiction, there was a vacuum to be filled. I am sure now that this accounts for the phenomenal success.

Women like to read of supermen, and men like to identify themselves with adventure and success. It is perhaps a Walter Mitty-ish dream to have a happy interlude with a lovely girl with no subsequent complications.

With his beautiful girls, his special cigarettes and whiskey, expensive cars and clothes, Bond is a reaction to the passing vogue for the grubby have-not anti-hero in current novels, and in the “kitchen-sink” theater. It is the revolt against the latter that accounts for Noel Coward’s renewed popularity, and the same applies to books.

In my view, novels and plays are surely for pleasure and an escape from daily life. If they must contain a sociological message, Charles Dickens did it best: with narrative excitement, comedy and humanity.

I doubt, though, if the wife of any writer can be objective about her husband’s work. Ian once showed me a chapter where, I think, James Bond is pursued by thousands of sharks. I said I thought it would have been much more exciting if there had been only one shark. After that, he didn’t show me any of his work for a long time.

I think, in fairness, that the worst person to give a writer advice is his wife. She is too close to it, on a different level.

Ian had a friend, a lawyer called Duff Dunbar, who could say to him: “What’s that humorless bore James Bond going to do this year!” But I couldn’t have said it. Ian would always let Noel Coward tease him. Noel was our neighbor—both in England and Jamaica—so we saw a good deal of him. In fact, the first house we bought after our marriage was Noel’s old house in Kent—the one called The White Cliffs.

When we married, in 1951, I had no expectation of the remarkable events ahead. Ian Fleming was a very handsome and talented person. Tall and athletic. Somewhat aloof. He had been a brilliant success in a Top Secret job in Royal Navy Intelligence during the war, and after the war Lord Kemsley asked him to create a foreign service for his prestige paper, the Sunday Times. Ian had earlier written reports for Reuters news agency—I remember he covered the great spy trials in Moscow in the ’30s—but his work at the time of our marriage was mostly managerial. I was interested in newspapers, and delighted for him to be, simply, a newspaper executive. There was enough money. We had a house in London and a seaside cottage in Kent. Ian had already built Goldeneye, his beach house in Jamaica.

Ian was a melancholic, and needed much solitude. I have a photograph of him with his three brothers. Their father, Major Valentine Fleming, D.S.O., a member of Parliament, was killed in in the First World War. In the picture, three boys are smiling at the Camera and there’s one looking saturnine. This was Ian. He was different. I don’t think he was a very easy child.

Most people found him astonishingly difficult to talk to. Very remote, reserved, and full of charm when he wished to be. A difficult and unusual character. He was always a very restless figure. He started by going to the officers’ training school at Sandhurst, but he never really wanted to go into the Army. He studied hard in French and German to get into the Diplomatic Service, and just failed. He tried both banking and stockbroking before the war.

He created James Bond at Goldeneye. We went there for two months in 1951, and that’s too long a time just for sunbathing. He established the working pattern he was to maintain rigidly until the end. With all his restlessness, he was a man who enjoyed a set routine. Orange juice was put out for him at 7:30 A.M. so that he could drink it before early swimming. He would ring for his shaving water, which was brought to him by his housekeeper Violet. He would tell her what kind of eggs be wanted for breakfast. We had paw-paw and guava jelly and wonderful coffee. Then he would bang away on the typewriter from 9:30 to 11:30, when we took to the sea with masks and spear guns. When it was dark, he would correct what he had written in the morning. He would spend a long time at the railing of the cliff garden, staring out to sea, smoking continuously. He enjoyed the melancholy beauty of tropical nights. We went to bed early.

He was very humble about that first book, and he was amazed when it was accepted by Jonathan Cape, the London publisher. He had shown it to a friend of ours, the poet William Plomer, who reads for Cape’s. Plomer greatly encouraged him, and helped him by toning down some of the passages.

Things are so jumbled already in the public mind—all the books and articles about Ian— that it is wearying at times to try to keep the record straight. But the legend that James Bond was an instant success, an overnight sensation, is entirely wrong. Casino Royale sold about 3,000 copies, no more, and, alas, Ian sold the film rights for £300. The picture will be screened soon, with Peter Sellers and other big stars, and I expect that, like all the other Fleming films, it will make millions. But not for the Flemings.

Another interesting misconception is that Ian’s character treated women in a hard-boiled way. Bond actually marries in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and has a most sentimental romance in the subsequent novel. The film producers have very successfully parodied the books, but the ever-increasing number of glamour girls per yard of film has little to do with the original novels.

Another thing that makes me angry is the repeated statement that Ian was a snob. He was most emphatically not a snob. Apparently my husband’s preference for good food rather than bad, fast cars rather than slow, pretty girls rather than ugly is snobbish. It could as soon be said of those who prefer classical music to swinging, or great art to posters.

The reviewers of the Bond books insisted Ian was a snob. He was something quite different—a perfectionist. No one knew this better than I, since I was in charge of the housekeeping. Books had to be totally free of dust; food, though simple, had to perfectly cooked. Fishcakes were one of his favorite dishes—and a perfect fishcake is awfully difficult.

He demanded the same standards in all the Bond paraphernalia—cars, revolvers, women, drinks. The exact measures of gin, vodka, and Lillet in a deep champagne glass, Bond’s famous cocktail—that was Ian talking. Eggs had to be boiled for exactly 3 1/3 minutes.

Standards have fallen so low in England today that we will pay large sums for blunt scissors, leaking shoes, dirty accommodation, tough meat, watery vegetables and bad service—and any insistence of standards is apparently called “snobbish.”

Ian was permanently disappointed in modern England. He thought that England was rotten—perhaps “rotting” would be more accurate—and that there was no longer a sense of adventure and excitement. He found these things in America, which he enjoyed enormously—except for the food, which, he used to say, was all frozen.

I don’t think, though, that Ian would have stayed in America any longer than he stayed anywhere else. One of the keynotes of his character—and, of course, it’s typical of James Bond, too—was not staying anywhere very long.

Ian could make a hotel bedroom into a home in 10 minutes. He would first unpack what he called “traveler’s joy,” which was a large bottle of bourbon. Then he would put out his typewriter and the books he had chosen to read. He would ring the bell for some ice, and he would be as happy and relaxed as other people feel in their homes. The next day, we would be off in the Thunderbird, roaring over foreign roads with his foot on the accelerator.

I realize that this sounds like a vignette from one of the Bond thrillers. In my memory, there isn’t an exact day, or month, or even year when I became aware that James Bond was taking over our lives. It happened over a dozen years, imperceptibly at first; then, when the paperback presses really began to pour, and the films appeared, it gathered the destructive speed of an avalanche.

In the press and television interviews, which he loathed, people increasingly compared Ian to Bond. He tried to be accommodating by making jokes about himself and Bond both liking scrambled eggs and cotton shirts. He had given Bond an Eton education like his own—he even gave him fluency in French and German, his own extra languages. Bond’s father, in the fiction, died when the boy was 11; Ian had lost his father at nine.

I discussed with Cyril Connolly, the English critic, if anyone had invented a character and then become like the character; a prisoner of his own creation. Cyril said nothing to allay my fears. This is what happened: As Ian became identified with James Bond, he somehow became more like the James Bond he had invented. I think that he was writing about the way he would have liked life to be, except that out of nerve and humility about his writing he would put in more sadism than he ever meant. He didn’t like killing—even killing fish in Jamaica. Unlike me—I rather enjoyed it.

I noticed that he became more self-conscious about his cigarette holders, his clothes, and what he drank. He started to fret about the plot for next year’s novel, just as Somerset Maugham said he would. He enjoyed the money—we were both extravagant—but the Bond thing was something much stronger than the urge for money. It was making him very much more restless. He was running away from himself, I suppose. I don’t know what he was running after: new countries, new people, new experiences.

Everything that Bond did in the books had to be exactly right, and Ian absorbed this intensive search for detail more and more into his life. I am ashamed to say I know nothing about ballistics, but there was unending conversation about guns. He learned that a certain gin was considered by experts to be the purest spirit available, and for a while he would insist on that brand for his Martinis. He discovered a malt whiskey one could get only at London’s Army & Navy Stores. He became a devoted reader of Which?, the British consumers’ magazine that analyzes products, and he would purchase things it recommended. But Ian knew very little about wine. He liked to drink any red wine, especially Chianti. He called it “infuriator”—the Navy’s name for it.

The quest for detail could become complicated. Ian asked me once to tell him the ideal measurements for a woman. I didn’t know, exactly, except that I thought their hips were wider than their breasts. I remember reeling off some statistics, and he put these into the book. Later some infatuated secretary in New York said, “They’re the same as mine!” Ian found out that she had enormous shoulder blades sticking out at the back. He was horrified.

Ian took a lot of trouble over the names of the girls in the hooks. Pussy and the rest. But, as far as I know, they meant nothing at all. He sensibly didn’t have anything to do with the people who played these parts m the films. It didn’t really interest him what they did with the pictures. He did feel that an unknown should play James Bond, and I know he liked Sean Connery, but they did not see much of each other.

In living some part of his real life through Bond’s fictional adventures, Ian could express certain feelings deeply rooted in his personality. I think it’s in From Russia With Love that he wrote an epitaph for someone’s tombstone: “This man died from living too much.” Ian himself overdid everything in life. He wanted exaggerated effects all the time.

I remember once that he took our son Caspar out when he was only six and let him eat as many oysters as he liked. He said Caspar was very sick and would never look at an oyster again, which was an economy for the future.

Ian was a Romantic. Bond represented financial escape from dullness and sameness into a dream world. Ian couldn’t bear the thought of returning home in the evenings to what he would describe as “the smell of cooking and babies.” He detested perambulators and everyday married life.

He could not visualize old age. “You’ll never get me into a bathchair,” he used to say. There was a time when he told everyone he couldn’t imagine being 40. He liked everything to be at its best, at the peak, so therefore he was not particularly fond of children or old people.

He was a man who liked to have heroes. His addiction to fantasy made him a very poor judge of people. Some of his geese were geese, not swans.

At home, Ian liked me to invite perhaps one or two men to dinner. He didn’t want wives to come. He would say that if interesting men came to dinner I would talk to them all the time and he would have to sit with their wives. On the whole, his relationships with women were very short. He didn’t wish to be involved with them. He enjoyed the male society of the golf club. I’m certain he was happier there than anywhere else.

Ian was a man who had great zest and an ability to interest people in what was interesting him. He would talk with enormous enthusiasm. If we had a publisher to dinner, he would tell him how to run the publishing business; if it was a politician, Ian would tell him how to govern the country.

He didn’t care for the conversation at dinner parties I gave for friends in London. He liked talking “shop.” When everyone was being frivolous, he would complain that facts were never discussed. I said there were no facts in his books—the whole thing was fantasy—so it was a perennial family argument.

Ian enjoyed antique shops. He was a person with natural good taste, certainly in interior decoration, in furniture, but not the arts. He didn’t like the opera, or the ballet, and he loathed the theater. He was bored by the theater, but he very much enjoyed the cinema. We tended to think that films weren’t as good as they used to be—we were of that age.

I think Ian could have probably excelled at many things, if the Bond business had not swept him away. He had genuine flair. When he was only 21 he decided to collect first editions of original thought since the beginning of the 19th century. I have the collection now, about 300 volumes, at our country place in Wiltshire. It’s mostly scientific—like the first book on the submarine—but it also contains first editions of T.S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, and others. Several American universities are interested in purchasing the library [and one did]. There’s nothing Ian would have liked more than for an American university to have it. He totally admired American ability to take an original idea and turn it to practical use.

He could have written other books—good books. I tried to encourage him to branch out. He did write three non-Bond books, one of them a first-rate documentary on diamond smuggling. Another book, on the Arab state of Kuwait, has never been published.

Also, quite outside the Bond imagery, Ian’s favorite reading was The Times Literary Supplement. For years, he kept alive The Book Collector—a highly expert quarterly devoted to bibliography. The estate still publishes it.

There seem to be vast misconceptions about the Fleming estate. Everyone assumes that because the Bond books and films obviously earned a great deal I must be a very rich woman. I wish I were! The picture is very complicated. A horde of lawyers is involved, and the tax authorities have not behaved very well. It’s my belief that my husband was not well advised in business matters and at times, I get frightfully aggressive about it. It will be a long time before the estate is settled, and there will be no fortune for anyone. I have just been reading Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, and the criticism Dickens makes of the law in the case of “Jarndyce vs Jarndyce” is just as true today.

I don’t think Ian understood his will. It is a legal mumbo-jumbo trust giving unending power to all sorts of people. This year, for instance, I got £4,000 ($11,200) subject to tax, which cannot be considered a fortune.

Ian sold a majority interest in all his book royalties to a London investment company for a lump sum and, since he died within six months, most of the money he got went to the government. He accepted a hard-and-fast fee of £25,000 for each of the Sean Connery films and, of course, they have made millions at the box office. The tax authorities are even trying to claim tax now on any future films that may be made.

The screening of the first film, Dr. No, and its instant world-wide success, increased the business pressures manifold on my husband, and he was in no condition to stand any extra strain at all. When you have that kind of success, you ought to have enormously good secretaries and lawyers to build a whole defensive mechanism between yourself and the world. I don’t think this was arranged very successfully.

The sadness, the tragedy of it all, was that, because of his increasingly poor health, Ian was not able to enjoy the great success he had earned. James Bond gave with one hand, and took away with the other.

I’ll never forget the premiere of the first film. Ian enjoyed the limelight—most honest persons would admit they do—but he hated crowds, and he was already very ill. There was a big party afterward. I knew that standing about with a lot of people would bring on his heart pains. He would take out his white pills and try to take them without anyone seeing. For me, it was a question of trying to get him home and into bed as soon as possible. Of course, the party was given for “James Bond” and they didn’t want James Bond to go home. It was a tug-of-war.

The premiere of the second film, From Russia With Love, also was not a happy occasion. Ian was awfully ill. It was a terrible ordeal for him to sign autographs, and for me to try to rescue him from the fans. Our nice Dr. Beal and his wife were in the audience, in case anything happened.

Ian seemed a little better at the supper party. He had won £300 at the Le Touquet casino and, in one of his James Bond gestures, he spent it all on caviar. It was an extravagance, but it gave him pleasure, which was all that mattered.

I am certain it was the threat of a big lawsuit that brought on his heart attack in the first instance. I have talked to doctors about it. They say that women are not troubled by lawsuits, but they are a source of great distress to men. It was a suit for plagiarism concerning Thunderball brought against Ian by some of his early associates. It was pending for a long time, and it worried him very much. It was a very confused arrangement, in which nothing had been written down in black and white. Ian thought he was dealing with a great friend. It was all resolved in one of those immensely complicated legal verdicts.

I used to call Ian the “oldest Beatle”; his success bad the same quality as that fabulous “pop” group—in both cases something indefinable appealed to public fancy, and was immediately fastened onto by those who batten on exploiting original talent. Not that I hold it against them, but trying to preserve an ill man from the press, the film and television worlds was a nightmare experience. To them, Ian was a property promising golden dividends, while I wished above all to prolong his life.

After his first illness, we all made every possible attempt to get him to take things easier, but he would say that he would sooner die than be an invalid. The doctors implored him to stop smoking, but he wouldn’t give up cigarettes. He used to get his cigarettes especially made at Morland’s, in Grosvenor Square—the same kind James Bond smokes in the novels—but then he switched to a popular English brand. I think he smoked about 60 or 70 cigarettes a day.

He would not stop doing anything. He didn’t stop drinking—but, of course, if you’ve got this kind of bad heart it helps lessen the pains (by increasing the circulation) if you drink whiskey.

At Goldeneye, Ian would still go skin diving, even though it brought on his pains. He would not cut down his golf, no matter what the weather. I think he felt happiest when he could drive his Thunderbird straight to the golf course. The day he became fatally ill was a Sunday. We were at our country home, about 60 miles from London. He had a cold, and I took his temperature. It was 100. I said, “You can’t play golf today.” And he said, “I couldn’t possibly spend Sunday in the depths of the country with nothing to do.” So he played golf in the rain, drove to London in wet clothes, got a fever and brought back the heart trouble. He was then in bed for the next four or five months until he died.

Afterward The Times and other important journals discussed Ian’s life and work with proper candor and proper respect, but, in some quarters, it seemed that he still had to pay a price for being identified with the sensationally successful Mr. Bond. Fleet Street does not generally relish success. The British press has also behaved shamefully recently by printing obituaries of Evelyn Waugh and books on Somerset Maugham written by embittered or ignorant people.

In Ian’s case, the outstanding example of betrayed friendship was Malcolm Muggeridge, who wrote venomously in Esquire magazine, and in the London Observer. Since Malcolm had frequently been our guest, it, was a shock to me. I do not speak to him now.

Ian’s reserve didn’t, allow him to make friends easily. Like many Englishmen, he had a small circle of close men friends. John Pearson, who has now written the official biography of my husband, took a lot of trouble to talk to those who knew Ian, but it was not easy for John, as he had not known Ian well.

Ian’s two greatest friends were not in the club world, one being Robert Harling, the editor of House and Garden; the other being William Plomer. Ian would lunch with them, and sometimes Cyril Connolly or Alan Ross, the editor of London Magazine. Though none these could remotely be described as dull men, Ian always said he loved bores; possibly he was thinking of the Philistine golf world, which he said was restful compared to the crackling conversation of London dinner parties. I remember him leaving an embassy dinner party directly after we left the dining room, bidding good-night to the ambassadress with the words: “I have said everything I have to say to everyone in this room.”

I suppose the spy racket will continue while there is a market for it. The company which owns the Fleming royalties has commissioned Kingsley Amis, the author of Lucky Jim, to carry on the series. I have the right of veto. It seems particularly ludicrous that Kingsley should attempt this; James Bond exact opposite of his Lucky Jim. In the past, all efforts to continue series like Bulldog Drummond and Sherlock Holmes failed. I think the plan neither right nor sensible.


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

“I thought I was marrying the Foreign Editor of the Sunday Times.”

She had no idea, of course, back in 1952, that she was marrying into the great cult of the Sixties. James Bond had not yet been invented, and her new husband—her third—was a journalist and an ex-Naval Intelligence man of impeccable background (Eton and Sandhurst) who collected rare first editions, enjoyed spearfishing, cards, and golf, and had a place in Jamaica where he spent two months of every year.

But the marriage had come only after a period of shattering personal complexity for both of them. Her first husband, Lord O’Neill, was killed in action in 1944. Her second, Lord Rothermere, the press baron, divorced her in 1952, naming Fleming as co-respondent. They were married at once, he for the very first time. Marriage, Ian Fleming was to write later, “is a very painful thing at the age of forty-four, so to take my mind off the whole business, I sat down and wrote a novel.” Its title: Casino Royale. Unknown to either of them, the seeds of the cult were germinating.

Of the Anne Fleming of these days, it has been written that “she provokes extreme reactions, like a wasp provokes panic. Her friends adore her. Others, intimidated by what they consider to be her ruthless vitality, are more reserved in their response.” Among those who adored her were: Lady Diana Duff Cooper, Somerset Maugham, Cecil Beaton, Noel Coward, Cyril Connolly, Evelyn Waugh, and Sir Frederick Ashton. Her legendary literary dinner parties—“gastronomic sessions combined with intellectual punishment”—were scarcely part of Ian Fleming’s world. He shunned them, preferring bridge at the Portland Club. The diners, in their turn, paid him and his work little heed.

It was a little more than a year after Fleming’s death (queues for Goldfinger encircling Leicester Square) that on visiting London, in November, 1965, I thought of inviting the author’s widow to talk to me on television. She had been in seclusion, but I had heard that she was disturbed, if not a little embittered, over the red tape that had enmeshed his literary estate. She agreed to come down to the Westbury Hotel and appear before the cameras.

At fifty-six, I found her a still-handsome woman. She must once have been very striking indeed. It is possible to perceive the steel within her, but this does not mean she is not charming. Behind the wall of reserve, behind the very British tendency to hold herself in check, there emerges the driest of wits. She answered all my questions readily enough but, as the transcript shows, without a great deal of elaboration. I began, of course, by asking her opinion of James Bond.

MRS. FLEMING: I’m ashamed to say I never was a Bond addict.

PIERRE: You never were? Why not?

MRS. FLEMING: I thought he had very little sense of humour.

PIERRE: James Bond?

MRS. FLEMING: Very little sense of humour.

PIERRE: He’s not the sort of person you would have invited to dinner had he been real?

MRS. FLEMING: I don’t think more than once.

PIERRE: In spite of his known love for good food and fine wines? Things like that. Not much of a conversationalist?

MRS. FLEMING: I think I always get James Bond and Ian Fleming mixed up, and I think he did in the end, more and more with every book that be wrote.

PIERRE: Did he become a prisoner of his creation?

MRS. FLEMING: I think so. I remember consulting Cyril Connolly about that. I said: “Has any author invented a character that has got hypnotized by it and become like it?” And he said: “This has happened frequently. I’m very sorry for you.”

PIERRE: In what way did your husband become a prisoner of his character?

MRS. FLEMING: Well, when he was getting ill, and I was imploring him to stop writing the book, I spoke to Somerset Maugham about it, and Maugham said: “He’ll never be able to rest now because the public won’t let him, and he won’t really want not to satisfy his public.”

PIERRE: He’d had one serious heart attack, hadn’t be, before his death?

MRS. FLEMING: He had a very serious one six years ago.

PIERRE: But this didn’t stop him?

MRS. FLEMING: It didn’t stop him writing. But he should have stopped playing golf and he should have stopped drinking, but he wouldn’t stop either…

PIERRE: Did he know that his years were numbered, at this point?

MRS. FLEMING: If he’d been sensible they needn’t have been.

PIERRE: Then he must really have enjoyed writing the Bond books, or he wouldn’t have kept on.

MRS. FLEMING: I think he enjoyed it enormously. He enjoyed all the research he did in the months before he went to Jamaica and settled down to write, and then he used to get through the book, the plot, and come home and correct it for the next six months.

PIERRE: Were you much involved with these books yourself? Did he talk to you when he was writing them?

MRS. FLEMING: Well, he started by talking to me about them, but be stopped because, I remember—I think it’s the book where two thousand sharks are eating someone—I said: “I think it would be much more exciting if there was only one shark; it’s worse.” This was supposed to be the wrong kind of criticism. But I understand, from talking to other writers’ wives, that it’s far better not to discuss books at home.

PIERRE: You’ve been asked this question, I’m sure. In what ways did Ian Fleming resemble James Bond? For instance, was he the gourmet that James Bond was supposed to be?

MRS. FLEMING: Well, he was very fond of scrambled eggs, probably you know from reading the books. I don’t think he liked very elaborate meals; I think he liked rather simple things extremely well-cooked. He was very fussy that his boiled eggs should always be just three and a half minutes. That was Bond.

PIERRE: Was he fussy about wines?

MRS. FLEMING: No. He liked any kind of red wine. He called it “infuriator.” That’s what they call cheap red wine in the Navy. I don’t think he minded very much what sort of red wine it was.

PIERRE: Did he invent that cocktail that James Bond drank, with vodka shaken up, not stirred?

MRS. FLEMING: As far as I know this he invented completely.

PIERRE: I wonder if this wasn’t a bit of the Walter Mitty in Ian Fleming? If this wasn’t a projection of his dreams?

MRS. FLEMING: I am sure it was. I think he very much enjoyed being in the Naval Intelligence during the war. What he did there he wouldn’t have dreamt of telling me. Nor was it possible to find out because John Pearson, who’s writing Ian’s life, is finding it quite impossible to get anyone in Naval Intelligence to tell him anything at all. But I think this was a projection of that, and a projection of a way of life which he thought was ceasing to exist He didn’t care for a sedentary existence. He liked traveling and he liked adventure.

PIERRE: How did the Bond idea come about? I would be interested to know, for instance, if you knew he was going to write spy thrillers before he actually sat down and wrote the first one—Casino Royale.

MRS. FLEMING: I hadn’t the remotest idea. 1 thought I was marrying the Foreign Editor of the Sunday Times.

PIERRE: Did anybody know?

MRS. FLEMING: He told about five of my best friends and three of his that he intended to write the greatest spy story in the world. But he never mentioned it to me.

PIERRE: He was right, wasn’t he?

MRS. FLEMING: He was right.

PIERRE: He wrote once, himself, towards the end of his life, that “the gimmickry grew like bindweed.” This was all the business of the guns, the cars, and the very special products that surround James Bond. Were you aware of this?

MRS. FLEMING: Well, he got very excited by this. He took enormous trouble over the book jackets, which I think are extremely good.

PIERRE: Yes, they are. I remember half-way through the series he changed guns because, apparently, the gun that Bond was using originally wasn’t a very good gun. Were you involved in this?

MRS. FLEMING: I’m ashamed to say I’m so uninterested in ballistics that a lot of this used to pass me by. But there were unending conversations about guns, certainly.

PIERRE: At what point did you actually read the Bond books? Or have you read them all?

MRS. FLEMING: I have. But I get them a bit mixed up in my mind sometimes. But I have read them all. I read them, usually in Jamaica, when they were first in manuscript.

PIERRE: What were his working habits?

MRS. FLEMING: Well, six weeks in Jamaica to two months when be used to get it all down on paper. In the next six months, he used to obviously go over it, all over it all over again, elaborately; and it was shown to William Plomer, that charming writer, who used to read for him in Cape’s. William, I think, used to take out some of the more exaggerated effects.

PIERRE: Oh they toned him down a bit, did they?

MRS. FLEMING: Sometimes, yes.

PIERRE: There was a legend around, I don’t know whether it’s true or not, that the reason Bond was made into a gourmet was that he was eating so many scrambled eggs that somebody said: “Look, this isn’t proper for a secret agent. In fact, it would identify him too easily, a man who always eats scrambled eggs. Vary the menu.” Have you heard that story?

MRS. FLEMING: I think I have. I think it must have been William.

PIERRE: The same man?

MRS. FLEMING: I think so, yes.

PIERR.E: How long would he write during a day? What were his work habits?

MRS. FLEMING: Well, in Jamaica it fitted in very well, because one can’t sit in the sun all day and do nothing—at least neither of us could. So he would have breakfast about eight—having swum before breakfast—and then he would type for three hours. Then he would reread that in the evening.

PIERRE: Not a bad existence.

MRS. FLEMING: He found it perfect.

PIERRE: Why would you say, then, that this contributed to his heart attack?

MRS. FLEMING: Well, because after his heart attack we had a steep staircase down to the beach there, very steep, about forty steps, which he should never have walked up and down. And he got pains whenever he went underwater swimming. And he should have given up all these things and golf, and he wouldn’t give them up at all.

PIERRE: There’s a great deal of golf and skin-diving in his books. These were a part of your husband’s life.

MRS. FLEMING: Yes, that’s it.

PIERRE: Your husband was also a gambler. In Casino Royale, Bond was very expert in gambling.

MRS. FLEMING: I never thought he was a real gambler in the serious sense of the word. He was Scottish, you know, and fairly careful. If he did gamble, he was rather good and usually won, but not for the enormous stakes you’d expect James Bond to play for.

PIERRE: But talking of gambling and talking of money, let’s talk about the estate. This is surely one of the largest literary estates in history—with the motion picture rights and everything else.

MRS. FLEMING: I think it is. From time to time Ian said if we left England we would be very, very, very rich, indeed, and I said: “I can’t bear leaving England so we won’t.” And he didn’t want to. Of course, Somerset Maugham’s estate was huge because he left England and went to France. But we stayed here, and then at a given moment the taxation was going to be so tremendous he sold the book royalties.

PIERRE: He sold all his royalties in the future?

MRS. FLEMING: All the book royalties forever and ever, keeping forty-nine per cent of the shares—a minority share, so that the estate gets a tax dividend whenever they choose to declare it, which isn’t a fortune, really. Taxation being what it is.

PIERRE: Do you personally get much money out of the Bond estate?

MRS. FLEMING: Well, it will probably take another three or four years to settle at the present rate. I’ve no idea. But there’s not very much at the moment.

PIERRE: Are you bitter about this? I’ve heard that you were.

MRS. FLEMING: I think if it’s there I might as well have some of it.

PIERRE: And you can’t get at it?

MRS. FLEMING: Not at the moment.

PIERRE: Why does it take so long?

MRS. FLEMING: Estate Office, estate duty. I think they’re trying to work out estate duties on any films that may be made in the future, which seems to me rather hard.

PIERRE: You mean they’ve really got to guess? They don’t know what this estate is worth? It depends on how successful the films are?

MRS. FLEMING: The films are taken up one after the other. The film people would stop taking them up if they stop being a success. At the moment they are so successful that this is very improbable.

PIERRE: Do you own the rights yourself, or does the estate own the rights to the Bond books?

MRS. FLEMING: Well, the books and the films are quite separate. The films go straight to the estate and the royalties go to a man called Jock Campbell, the chairman of an enormous concern called Booker Brothers.

PIERRE: They bought the rights from your husband?


PIERRE: But there’s forty-nine per cent of that left. Is that willed to you?

MRS. FLEMING: Forty-nine per cent of the shares go to the estate. Left all in a trust.

PIERRE: Have you any say over what happens?

MRS. FLEMING: I’m always trying to have more say than I ought to have now I’ve pulled myself together. I didn’t take much interest to begin with. Then I started fighting about it.

PIERRE: I read the other day that Kingsley Amis, who’s a great Bond expert, has been asked to continue your husband’s character, James Bond, in a new series of books. How do you feel about that?

MRS. FLEMING: Well, I was very angry because I know Kingsley fairly well. I thought he might have rung me up and asked me what I thought about it. And I also thought Sir Jock Campbell, whom I know, might also have rung me up and said: “What do you feel?” Whereas in fact they were pretty well ahead signing up when I heard about it.

PIERRE: You tried to stop it?

MRS. FLEMING: And with some aid, it’s been stopped at the moment.

PIERRE: Is this your doing or somebody else’s?

MRS. FLEMING: I was rather helped by uninvoked aid.

PIERRE: Why don’t you want the Bond character to continue?

MRS. FLEM1NG: It’s emotional at the moment, naturally. I feel rather emotional about it. I’m sure it couldn’t come off.

PIERRE: It’s never come off in the past. Sherlock Holmes…Fu Manchu really couldn’t have been continued.

MRS. FLEMING: No, well John Pearson, who’s writing Ian’s life and had all the letters from his office, found a very funny letter from Ian to Mrs. Sax Rohmer who had written to Ian asking if he’d continue Dr. Fu Manchu. I have never seen this letter, but I understand that Ian wrote a very funny reply—saying that he did not think this could ever be done.

PIERRE: Mrs. Fleming, somebody wrote that the violence in the James Bond books was part of the strange decadence that affects Britain today. Would you agree with that?

MRS. FLEMING: Oh, I do hope you’re not right. It’s a very difficult question, isn’t it?


MRS. FLEMING: Isn’t there a great deal of violence in America?

PIERRE: Yes, there is. Maybe it’s part of the strange decadence that affects the world, if indeed the world is faced by decadence.

MRS. FLEMING: I don’t know if it’s decadence. It’s a tremendous period of change…readjustment…newly educated people. I mean, vast masses of people are now educated. Look at Africa.

PIERRE: Tell me, would you have liked your husband to have written books other than the spy thrillers?

MRS. FLEMING: Yes. He wanted to write the life of a woman whose name I can’t remember [Marthe Richard]. She shoved out all the brothels in Paris. She was a French cabinet minister. He wanted to write her life, but he then got so occupied.

PIERRE: He once said, in the last interview with him, that if he had enough concentration, he could have written a book comparable to War and Peace. Is this possible?

MRS. FLEMING: I’m very surprised to hear that he said it. No, I’m sure he couldn’t.

PIERRE: But do you think he had a sneaking feeling that he should write something else than spy books—or was he satisfied with this?

MRS. FLEMING: Well, he was very full of humility about it, at the beginning; and be was tremendously pleased and very excited when the first book was accepted. He didn’t expect it to be.

PIERRE: And, indeed, it didn’t do very well at the beginning.

MRS. FLEMING: I don’t think it did. I don’t think it sold very many. I don’t remember how many. He was overwhelmed by this rolling-stone success.

PIERRE: When did that happen? When were you aware suddenly that there was a kind of a mania going on about James Bond?

MRS. FLEMING: When you live with some growing legend, you’re never conscious of a particular moment. As far as the sales of Pan Books were concerned, it was after the first film. I think the director of the first film, Terence Young, was brilliant in that he managed to get ‘U’ certificates so that everybody could take their children, and he took out this hero-masochism a lot and made it a joke.

PIERRE: Did your husband take himself seriously?

MRS. FLEMING: He didn’t take Bond seriously, no, he didn’t.

PIERRE: He didn’t even like him, he said once.

MRS. FLEMING: I think he probably grew to think of him as a sort of Frankenstein’s monster at the end.

PIERRE: You have a reputation for holding literary salons. In fact, I think that this is part and parcel of your life, isn’t it? You have a great many literary friends.

MRS. FLEMING: I enjoy literary friends, yes—very much.

PIERRE: Malcolm Muggeridge is one, isn’t he?

MRS. FLEMING: I haven’t seen Malcolm for a long time. I bitterly resent what he wrote about Ian. I don’t know if you happened to see it. It was quite awful. I have not seen Malcolm since then.

PIERRE: I was wondering what your other friends thought of Bond?

MRS. FLEMING: Well, Malcolm was really Ian’s friend—well, both our friend, but particularly Ian’s—so I thought it was not a very kind way to behave. I think he resents all success.

PIERRE: When you had these literary salons, did your husband attend?

MRS. FLEMING: Not often; but then a literary friend of mine called Peter Quennell, who’s written a good deal about Byron, you know, says it’s rather boring to be at a dinner party where everybody’s works are discussed except your own. Then there was a moment about three or four years ago when the highbrows got interested in Ian, which pleased Ian. He got reviews from a lot of them. Then, of course, Cyril Connolly wrote that parody which was brilliant.

PIERRE: What did he think of the Bond parodies?

MRS. FLEMING: He enjoyed them very much.

PIERRE: But Bond was not a subject of literary discussion at your salon?

MRS. FLEMING: Not, I’m afraid, until he became a success. I now think that phenomenal success interests everybody, whether they are highbrows or lowbrows.

PIERRE: It is interesting that the highbrows did not take over Bond until he became part of the social fabric. I suppose it became fashionable to pay attention to him then.

MRS. FLEMING: He became a figure one could no longer deny.

PIERRE: Are you astonished by the whole Bond business? There are Bond sweat shirts out, Bond magazines, guns…all sorts of different things.

MRS. FLEMING: Well, the lady who did my hair early this morning asked if I’d seen the James Bond car. I haven’t.

PIERRE: You don’t get involved much, then, in this sort of thing?

MRS. FLEMING: Well, I’m just intending to write to the merchandising people. I’d like them to send some of them free, perhaps, to give as Christmas presents.

PIERRE: Who owns the merchandising rights?

MRS. FLEMING: I believe one-third goes to the film people, one-third to Jock Campbell’s company, and one-third I believe to Ian’s estate.

PIERRE: So in the end you may benefit from this?

MRS. FLEMING: I think so.

PIERRE: When it’s all settled.

MRS. FLEMING: I’m just about to write and ask if I couldn’t be told about it.

PIERRE: It would be nice to know, wouldn’t it?

MRS. FLEMING: Wouldn’t it!

PIERRE: Don’t you feel out of things?

MRS. FLEMING: Well, I was too unhappy for a long time to care; but now I’ve got frightfully aggressive about it.

PIERRE: How does all this affect your thirteen-year-old son?

MRS. FLEMING: I try to keep him out of it, because I think all father images shouldn’t overshadow a child’s life. I think he’d better make his own life. He’s terribly interested in Egyptology and antiquities at the moment.

PIERRE: Are the Ian Fleming books in his school library?

MRS. FLEMING: He was asked about that. He was asked to write why they weren’t when he was ten. I was a little surprised. He was offered ten pounds to write fifty words. He said: “I can say it in three and I don’t want ten pounds. They’re too sexy.”

PIERRE: Since the Westbury Hotel, from where we’re broadcasting, is on Bond Street, it occurs to me to ask if it has any connection at all with James Bond; or if your husband was at all interested in the fact that there was a street named after his character?

MRS. FLEMING: Suddenly he was, after Bond became such a success. He played golf with a man who works in the College of Heralds office, so he found out all about the name. It was called after some family that apparently live in Somerset. I believe there was an original Bond who was a well-known clubman. Ian then got very interested and found out what the family motto was: “The World Is Not Enough.” He was longing to adopt it for himself. It wouldn’t have been a bad motto for him really.


The Violent World of James Bond

Ken Ferguson Talks to the Man Who Created the World’s Most Famous Secret Agent (Photoplay, November 1962)

Three Blind men shuffle along a hot sunny pavement rattling money boxes. From an adjacent club, a smartly-dressed man walks towards his parked car. As he opens the door death strikes swiftly from the silencers of the three blind men—and his body falls, riddled with bullets.

And for secret agent James Bond, number 007, another dangerous assignment has begun.

This is the opening scene of Dr. No, the first film in a series based on the exploits of Ian Fleming’s spry hero—James Bond. Bond himself is the conventional tall, dark and handsome hero, a man of sophistication with a passion for adventure and beautiful women.

The success of Fleming’s stories, all intelligently written, full of detail and highly intriguing plots, lies in the fact that they are laden with the two greatest selling commodities in fiction—sex and violence.

Bond lives and revels in a violent world filled with bizarre characters and outrageously seductive women.

The aim of every writer is to get the reader to hurry on to the next page. Fleming does this brilliantly.

I went to meet Fleming at his London office. dominated by a large desk and with paintings of beautiful women adorning the walls. The women were all reproductions of the front covers of Fleming’s books.

Fleming himself is a tall, strikingly handsome man in his fifties. His greying hair adds to his distinguished looks.

He sat behind the large desk, smoking a special brand of cigarette, and occasionally glancing at the weather outside, wishing no doubt he was back in Jamaica, where he writes most of his books.

“I spend a few months every year out there,” he said. “It’s much easier to concentrate. The sun shines more often too.”

It was in Jamaica that James Bond was born in the vivid imagination of Ian Fleming.

“In 1946,” said Fleming, “I built a house on the north shore, and arranged my life so that I could spend at least two months of the winter there. For the first six years 1 found plenty to do—underwater swimming, for instance, which I adore, getting to know the island and its people. Well, I’d just about explored my little reef and apart from this I was about to get married, which quite frankly scared the life out of me. I had created for myself a vacuum which needed to be filled by plunging myself into creative work.

“I needed something to relieve the tensions set up by my forthcoming marriage. So one day I decided to sit down and write a book.”

Combining his own thrilling adventures during his days with the Naval Intelligence Division with his own vivid and colourful imagination, Fleming gave birth to James Bond in the pages of Casino Royale.

In this adventure, set in a small French resort, Bond came face to face with his first master-crook, Le Chiffre, at the gambling tables. Le Chiffre was a notorious gambler and a member of the secret society known as SMERSH.

Bond’s plan was to beat him heavily at the tables so as to reduce his funds.

“The idea for the story was based on an actual incident that happened to me,” said Fleming.

“I was flying to Washington in 1941 with my chief for secret talks there just before America entered the war. Our plane stopped for an overnight stay in Lisbon. We were told that the place was full of German secret agents, and that the chief and his two assistants gambled heavily at one of the casinos out of town. I decided to gamble my £50 against them hoping to win heavily and reduce their funds. Unfortunately I lost the £50 and suffered a most humiliating experience.”

We then talked about the series of films that are being planned and adapted from his books—the already made Dr. No, which will be followed by From Russia With Love, Diamonds Are Forever, Goldfinger, Live And Let Die, Moonraker, and possibly, if it can be adapted for the screen, The Spy That Loved Me.

“You know,” said Fleming, “I have always wanted the Bond stories to be made into films. But I didn’t have much faith in film producers. Then I received an extremely attractive offer from Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli. I’d seen Saltzman’s Saturday Night And Sunday Morning and Broccoli’s The Trials of Oscar Wilde and was very impressed. We discussed the project and I found them to be very intelligent chaps. I put my faith in them.”

“And have you seen their translation of Dr. No?” I asked.

“Yes, I have. And I enjoyed it immensely. This chap, Sean Connery, is damn good. When I first met him I thought he was a bit on the large side and rugged. But he looks and moves very well indeed which, of course, is important. Intelligent sort of chap too. I think he makes a very good James Bond.”

James Bond proved to be the casting plum of the year and, as one might have imagined, a number of top stars were fighting for the part.

“Names like Cary Grant, James Mason and David Niven were mentioned,” said Fleming, “but after long chats with the producers we decided to go for a fresh face. Mr. Connery is certainly not new, but his face isn’t as identified as those of Grant, Mason, Niven, and so on. It was a gamble but I think it has paid off extremely well. The parts have been wonderfully cast, beautiful women, interesting villains.”

I took Fleming up on the amount of sadism he packs into his stories.

“Bond is subjected to the most horrible tortures,” I said.

“Yes, he is,” Fleming said. “But then Bulldog Drummond had to go through the mill before he got his man. Only in Drummond’s day, to be hit over the head with a cricket stump was extremely violent, and no doubt uncomfortable for poor Mr. Drummond. But today it’s rather laughable, isn’t it? Our methods of causing physical pain today are very different.”

No doubt if Bond were struck over the head with a cricket stump, his only physical discomfort would be a slight headache.

“My big problem now is thinking up original plots,” continued Fleming. “I always like to take my readers to exciting places and I like them to meet exciting people involved in an intriguing plot. I have never written about a place I haven’t myself visited. I like to absorb the atmosphere before I begin to write.”

Fleming tells me that it takes him about eight weeks to actually write a novel, but it takes a year to prepare, research, write and finally check the page proofs.

“I check those proofs over and over again,” smiled Fleming. “I’ve been embarrassed occasionally by my readers who’ve taken the trouble to write in and tell me that I have made a mistake.”

“I notice in your books you write in great detail. How do you get most of your information?” I asked.

“Well, what I don’t know myself other people usually do. I have a few friends who give me tremendous help when I’m stuck. Of course, the danger lies in over-doing it. One can easily bore the reader, so I don’t try to force it too much. Sometimes I do go on a bit. For instance, in Goldfinger I devoted three entire chapters to a game of golf. I expected to be inundated with letters from readers not interested in the game, but there were no complaints.”

Fleming has no intention of retiring James Bond. His latest novel, to be published next year, is the longest one yet.

“It gives me enormous pleasure writing a Bond story,” smiled Fleming, “and it is also an extremely profitable way of passing the time.”

Now that Bond has finally come to the screen, the tan dark handsome hero should acquire countless other fans who will, I’m sure, warm to his exciting adventures.

And, Mr. Fleming hopes, rush out and buy the other books.

Notes: As you might have guessed, I ran out of print interviews with Fleming three weeks ago. But during the course of this thread I learned of two more magazine interviews, in the UK version of Photoplay and in Modern Woman (Dec. 1963). Thanks to a very kind fellow researcher and collector I have obtained a copy of the first interview and present it below. If anyone can help with Modern Woman, let me know!

Fleming’s oft-told anecdote about gambling against Nazis, which inspired Casino Royale, was in fact heavily embellished. As Andrew Lycett wrote:

Regarding the rest of the interview, two points stand out.

First, the projected order of the Bond films: DN, FRWL, DAF, GF, LALD, MR, and maybe TSWLM!
If this was accurate and had been followed through, film history would have been much different! DAF would have been the third Bond movie for a start. But the publication of OHMSS and YOLT, plus the deal struck with McClory for TB, obviously changed things, since the producers would have been more interested in adapting the newer books. Mention of TSWLM also casts some doubt on Fleming supposedly banning any adaptation that wasn’t title-only.

Secondly, this interview reinforces what many other past interviews have—that Fleming was actually quite pleased with Sean Connery as Bond. Even Fleming’s wife and mistress affirmed this, which leads me to believe that the Fleming’s supposed unease with Connery was a fabrication from the filmmakers (quite likely from Terence Young, who enjoyed gossip and s**tstirring and was known for stretching the truth).


Introductory note: Many of you are familiar with the discussion between Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming broadcast by the BBC in 1958. It exists as 24 minute audio recording and is notable for being the only recording of Chandler’s voice and one of four surviving recordings of Fleming’s.

What you might not know is that over a third of the discussion was cut before broadcast; partly because of content, mostly to fit the 20 minute time slot. The excised material no longer exists on audio, but can be found on a transcript in the BBC Archives. Thanks to the great kindness of a fellow researcher and collector, I can now share the full conversation with you.

I have assembled what follows from the uncorrected BBC transcript, made from a telediphone transcription of the unedited program; a partial transcript of the broadcast printed in Five Dials No. 7; and an online recording of the broadcast, which I have used to check the transcripts.

The BBC’s transcriber was slightly flummoxed by Fleming’s drawl and Chandler’s mumbling, and majorly flummoxed whenever they talked over each other, so a few areas of the transcript are garbled or missing a few words. I have therefore used “[…]” in areas where the transcriber was unable to take down everything they heard and left a gap that could not be checked against the audio.

A Conversation Between Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming

The men behind Philip Marlowe and James Bond discuss some differences between English and American thrillers and compare their own latest books, ‘Playback’ and ‘Dr. No.’

Recorded June 26, 1958. Transmitted July 10, 1958, BBC Home Service, 10:25-10:45 PM.

Title: English and American Thrillers Playback and Dr. No

IAN FLEMING: Well, the first thing I suppose Ray, really, is to define what we’re supposed to be talking about. I think the title of what we’re supposed to be talking about is English and American thrillers. First thing is, what is a thriller? In my mind of course, you don’t write thrillers and I do.


IF: I don’t call yours thrillers. Yours are novels.

RC: Other people call them thrillers.

IF: I know. I think it’s wrong.

RC: Well—

IF: I mean, you write novels of suspense like Simenon does and Eric Ambler does perhaps, but in which violence is the background, just as love might be in the ordinary or straight kind of novel…

RC: Well, in America, a thriller, or a mystery story writer as we call them, is slightly below the salt. (Laughs)

IF: Well, I suppose thriller writing is very below the salt really…

RC: You can write a very lousy long historical novel full of sex and it can be a bestseller and be treated respectfully. But a very good thriller writer, who writes far, far better, just gets a little paragraph of course.

IF: Yes, I know. That’s very true.

RC: Mostly. There’s no attempt to judge him as a writer.

IF: Well, I don’t know—I suppose. But you yourself are judged as a writer, and Dashiell Hammett was, I think . . .

RC: Yes, but how long did it take me? You starve to death for ten years before your publisher knows you’re any good. (Laughs)

IF: Yes, of course. Your first story is now a very valuable first edition…[from] Black Mask magazine. What is it called, do you remember?

RC: The first story?

IF: Yes, the first published story was the—wasn’t it [in] the Black Mask?

RC: Some have been republished and I don’t think—perhaps it has. It was called “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot.” It took me five months to write and I rewrote it, and I rewrote it and I rewrote it and I got 180 dollars for it.

IF: That was jolly good money in those days.

RC: One cent a word.

IF: One cent a word.

RC: Yes, it was 18,000 words long.

IF: That was very good money I should have thought.

RC: […] Good money, you can’t live on that sort of thing.

IF: Well now, what’s your current sort of rate—a dollar a word?

RC: Oh, I can’t exactly tell you by the word but I get about 2,000 dollars—1,000 pounds […] and 5,000 in America.

RC: That’s for a book.

IF: Yes.

RC: These were novelettes.

IF: Yes. Where do you get your material? Nearly always a Californian setting, isn’t it? Has it ever not been a Californian setting?

RC: Well, I lived many years in Los Angeles, and Los Angeles had never been written about. California had been written about, [in] a book called Ramona—a lot of sentimental slop. But nobody in my time had tried to write about a Los Angeles background in any sort of realistic way. Of course now, half the writers in America live in California. (Laughs).

IF: Nathanael West did, I think, didn’t he?

RC: Yes, but he came along much, much later.

IF: Yes, that’s quite true.

RC: He wrote a wonderful book called Day of the Locusts. And then he wrote another book about Hollywood. Very very clever but a little disorganized. […] No, he got killed.

IF: Yes, he did. Of course Scott Fitzgerald up to a point used the West Coast, didn’t he?

RC: No, no.

IF: He is all the East?

RC: He did write a book (The Last Tycoon) about Hollywood, but Hollywood is not California—it’s not Los Angeles.

IF: …His last unfinished novel was about California—about Hollywood, wasn’t it?

RC: Yes, and it might have turned out to be the Hollywood novel if he’d left out the nonsense about the girl. But the actual talk about movie-making is very good.

IF: Yes, well of course he was a writer. As far as my material is concerned I’m afraid I just get mine by going to places and taking down copious notes because I can’t remember anything.

RC: Yes, but you’re an experienced journalist.

IF: I think that’s probably the answer. I mean, I learnt by writing…

RC: You can go to Las Vegas and you can get Las Vegas in a few days, except the iced water. (Laughs)

IF: Oh yes, you complained about one of the meals James Bond ordered in Las Vegas. I described the meal and I didn’t get in the waitress bringing the iced water as the first thing…

RC: That amused me because that’s the first thing that happens in an American restaurant—

IF: I kick myself…

RC: —is a glass of iced water, put down by the waitress or the busboy—

IF: I kicked myself when you told me that.

RC: —the busboy is comparable to a commis here.

IF: Yes, because I rather pride myself on trying to get these details right, and that was a very bad break.

RC: But I don’t think any English writer has ever got as many right as you have.

IF: Well, it’s laborious work.

RC: I mean, that stuff in Harlem was wonderful.

IF: Was it?

RC: I thought it was, and also in St Petersburg.

IF: I rather liked St Petersburg.

RC: I don’t think any American writer could have done it more accurately.

IF: But they didn’t like it down in St. Petersburg, they got very angry—

RC: —Nothing to do with the quality of the writing.

IF: Well, that’s fine. They didn’t like these elderly folk being described as they were though.

RC: No, that’s the way they are. Just people dying in the sun.

IF: Yes, I know—we’ve got it a bit, I suppose. Torquay, Bournemouth, we have that sort of world too—retired people, sunshine.

RC: Yes, retired farmers from Ohio and Indiana and so forth and they just go down there, I don’t know what they do there.

IF: I find it, I don’t know if you do, extremely difficult to write about villains. Villains I find extremely difficult people to put my finger on. You can often find heroes wandering around life. You meet them and come across them and plenty of heroines of course. But a really good solid villain is a very difficult person to build up, I think.

RC: I don’t think I ever in my own mind think anybody’s a villain.

IF: No, that comes out in the books. But you’ve had some quite tough, villainous people there.

RC: Yes, they exist.

IF: This man Brandon [?] in your book…he must have been a villain before you settled down—

RC: No, I wouldn’t say so, I would only say that he was a businessman racketeer.

IF: He handles himself well in that book I thought. He handled that scene in the nightclub well, when the girl’s head—

RC: Well, you know all-out big racketeers nowadays are businessmen. […]

IF: […] I suppose the FBI have got some pretty smart lawyers of their own to get round—to outsmart the gangsters’ lawyers.

RC: […] They have some very smart people…

IF: I see they had another killing last week in New York. One of these men connected with that dock union man—what’s his name?

RC: Albert Anastasia?

IF: Anastasia, yes. How’s a killing like that arranged?

RC: Very simply. You want me to describe how it’s done?

IF: Yes, yes.

RC: Well, first of all the syndicate has to decide if he must be killed, and they don’t want to kill people.

IF: No.

RC: It’s bad business nowadays.

IF: Yes.

RC: When they make the decision they telephone to a couple of chaps in, say, Minneapolis, who run a hardware store or something or other and have a respectful business front. These chaps come along to New York and they’re given their instructions and they’re given a photograph of the man and told what’s known about him. And when they get on the plane, if they have to get on the plane—

IF: In Minneapolis?

RC: They’re given guns…No, not in Minneapolis. After they get their instructions. They’re given guns—now, these guns are not defaced in any way, but they are guns that have passed through so many hands that the present owners can never be traced. The company could [only] say the first purchaser.

So they go to where the man lives, they get an apartment or a room across the street from him, and they study him for days and days and days until they know just exactly when he goes out and when he comes home, what he does. And when they’re ready, they simply walk up to him and shoot him. And they have to have a crash car—Bugsy Siegel was a great man for the crash car. The crash car is in case a police car should come down the street, and it accidentally on purpose smashes the police car…

IF: Yes, I see what you mean.

RC: …so they get away. They get back on the plane and go home and that’s all there is to it.

IF: They drop the guns at the spot, do they?

RC: They always drop the guns, yes.

IF: And wear gloves?

RC: How many fingerprints have ever been taken off guns?

IF: Yes, quite.

RC: If you hold ’em by the butt…

IF: Yes, that’s quite true. Of course they always appear to be taken off in books, but I suspect that, because by filing the material on the butt and scraping it well you make a rough surface that won’t take any prints at all.

RC: No, and butts aren’t made that way. They’re made to be rough.

IF: Yes, quite true. How much do they get paid for that, each?

RC: Ten thousand.

IF: Ten thousand each?

RC: Yes, if it’s an important man. That’s small money to a syndicate.

IF: Yes. And then they go back to their jobs in hardware stores in Minneapolis?

RC: Yes. It’s quite impersonal.

IF: They don’t mind one way or the other—

RC: They don’t care anything about the man, they don’t care if he’s dead or alive. It’s just a job to them. Of course they have to be a certain sort of people, or they wouldn’t do it. They’re not like us. We wouldn’t do it.

IF: No. Difficult thing to imagine doing.

RC: Well, I’ve known people I’d like to shoot.

IF: For instance? Anybody in England?

RC: No, not in England.

IF: What do you want to shoot them for?

RC: I just thought they were better dead. (Laughs)

IF: But what sort of things have they done wrong, these people…?

RC: …Just rotten.

IF: Yeah.

RC: Sub-human.

IF: Yeah.

RC: My doctor, who is a neurologist—a neuro-surgeon—thinks we made a great mistake to [get rid of] capital punishment.

IF: He does?

RC: Mm-hmm.

IF: Yes.

RC: He thinks there are certain people there is no logical reason to keep alive.

IF: No, quite.

RC: A sex offender or a sex murderer in a mental hospital—a criminal mental hospital. Eventually they will let him off because they are so overcrowded. They will do it all over again.

IF: Yes, it’s quite true, it’s happened here.

RC: Yes, it happens everywhere.

IF: Yes it does.

RC: On the other hand that’s a very difficult decision to take.

IF: It is. Rather nicer for the government to take it than oneself for instance.

RC: Well, as a matter of fact you know, there are eleven states in the United States that do not have capital punishment, and they are much more dreaded by hoodlums than those that have.

IF: They are?

RC: The chances of being convicted […] in California are about one in five, chances of being executed are about one in fifty. Whereas in Michigan they give you a life sentence—[if] it’s a life sentence you might be there 25 or 40 years.

IF: But again to go back to villains. Of course, the difficulty is in writing about a man such as the people you describe is to be certain oneself—and to be able to persuade the reader—that the man is not to be pitied for being a sick man. It’s difficult to depict somebody who really is tough without being a psychopath.

RC: Well, it’s almost impossible to imagine an absolutely bad man who is not a psychopath.

IF: It is, know. And then you see, you create pity for him at once. It’s difficult, and that’s what I mean about villains. They’re very difficult people to build up.

RC: Well, he may have his very human side. He may be very kind to his family, but in his business—illegitimate—he may be quite ruthless.

IF: One’s got to know these people, you can’t invent them.

RC: [Pause] You don’t find anyone really that’s all bad. Except the low class hoodlums.

IF: Yes.

RC: And they don’t seem to be human beings at all.

IF: No, there are a class of people in Mexico called Capungos who kill for about 15 mil-réis, which is about 25 shillings, and I should think they are just about as low as you can get in that particular class.

RC: I imagine they have no brains and no imagination.

IF: No, no imagination. Now do you think so far as heroes are concerned…your hero, Philip Marlowe, is a real hero. He behaves in a heroic fashion. My leading character, James Bond, I never intended to be a hero. I intended him to be a sort of blunt instrument wielded by a government department who would get into bizarre and fantastic situations and more or less shoot his way out of them or get out of them one way or another. But of course he’s always referred to as my hero, but I don’t see him as a hero myself. I think he’s on the whole—

RC: You ought to.

IF: —a rather unattractive man. “You ought to,” I know. I’d certainly write about him with more feeling and more kindness probably.

RC: I think you did in Casino Royale.

IF: Do you?

RC: Yes.

IF: Well, I—yes, he had some emotions at the end, when the girl died.

RC: That’s all right. A man in his job can’t afford tender emotions.

IF: Well, that’s what I feel.

RC: He feels them but he has to quell them.

IF: Yes. On the other hand Philip Marlowe feels them and speaks about them.

RC: He’s always confused.

IF: He is, is he? (Laughs)

RC: (Laughs) He’s like me.

IF: But for instance, I’ve managed to get hold of an advance copy of your last book, the one that’s just coming out—Playback—and I was very interested by this passage talking about violence and toughness and so on and so forth. It seems to me very well put. He’s gone into this girl’s bedroom having overheard her conversation as a blackmailer.

(Fleming reads from the book) She brought out a small automatic up from her side. I looked at it. “Oh guns”, I said, “Don’t scare me with guns. I’ve lived with ’em all my life, I’ve teethed on an old Derringer, single shots, the kind the riverboat gamblers used to carry. As I got older I graduated to a lightweight sporting rifle, then a 303 target rifle and so on. I once made a bull at 900 yards at open sight. In case you don’t know, the whole target looks the size of a postage stamp at 900 yards.” “A fascinating career,” she said. “Guns never settle anything,” I said. “They’re just a fast curtain to a bad second act.”

(Laughs) I think that’s well put! But you see that is a far more sensible point of view than the one which I put forward in my books, where people are shooting each other so much and so often that you often need a programme to tell who is in the act and who is a spectator.

RC: Why do you always have to have a torture scene?

IF: Well…do I always? Yes, let me think now…maybe you’re right.

RC: Well, every one that I’ve read.

IF: Really? I suppose I was brought up on Dr. Fu Manchu and thrillers of that kind and somehow always, even in Bulldog Drummond and so on, the hero at the end gets in the grips of the villain and he suffers; either he’s slugged or something happens to him…

RC: Well, next time, try brainwashing. Probably worse than torture.

IF: I think it is, yes. I don’t like that, that’s too serious. (Laughs) No I agree, I think it’s a weakness. On the other hand, I think this so-called hero of mine has a good time. He beats the villain in the end and gets the girl and he serves his government well. But in the process of that he’s got to suffer something in return for this success. I mean, what do you do, dock him something on his income tax?

RC: (Laughs) It’s enough suffering for him to find out that the girl was a counter-spy.

IF: Yes. But that came, of course, right at the end. I don’t know…

RC: All right. You’re having your hero beaten up a little, because usually when you put yourself in dangerous situations, that can happen.

IA: It can.

RC: But these elaborate torture scenes that you work out…(Laughs)…they’re so elaborate!

IA: I’ve heard about that…I’ve really tired of the fact that the hero in other people’s thrillers gets a bang on the head with a revolver butt and he’s perfectly happy afterwards—just a bump on his head. Well, I think my chap ought to suffer more—

RC: That’s one of my faults—they recover too quickly. I know what it is to be banged on the head with a revolver butt. The first thing you do is vomit.

IF: It is, is it?

RC: Mm-hmm.

IF: Yeah. Well, there you are. You see, that’s already getting violent and unattractive and so on. The truth is like that, you see. It goes on in North Africa now, and Morocco and so on. It was just the sort of thing going on during the war and they used to have these ingenious tortures. There was one called passer á la mandoline, which some of our agents had to go through. Well—it’s true life. These things happen. Villains are villainous. They invent villainous tortures.

RC: Well, there’s one beauty the Nazis had. They had a machine that broke your knuckles one by one. There you are. That sort of thing [has happened] ever since the Inquisition.

IA: Tortures existed, and while there’s certainly criticism of my books that it comes in too often, I think my so-called hero has got to suffer before he gets his prize at the end of the book.

RC: Well, he’s got to suffer a little, that’s true, but

IF: Not too much. Well, he doesn’t get hurt in the next book which I’ve just written. Much.

RC: Have you?

IF: Yes.

RC: What’s it called?

IF: It’s called Goldfinger.

RC: Which?

IF: Goldfinger.

RC: How can you write so many books with all the other things you do?

IF: Well I sit down…and I have two months off in Jamaica every year. That’s in my contract with the Sunday Times, and I sit down and I write a book every year during those two months, and then I bring it back.

RC: I can’t write a book in two months.

IF: But then you write better books than I do.

[Continued in the next post]


[Continued from the previous post]

RC: That may be or may be not, but I still can’t write a book in two months. The fastest book I ever wrote, I wrote in three months.

IF: Simenon writes them in about a week or ten days.

RC: Mm-hmm. And so could Erle Stanley Gardner.

IF: Yes.

RC: In fact, Edgar Wallace…You know the story about Edgar Wallace going to Hollywood, and they asked him if he would write an original story for a screenplay. And they expected him to take about six weeks. This was on a Friday and he was back on Monday with it finished.

IF: Let’s hope they paid him for the whole six weeks.

RC: I think it was a flat sum.

IF: I’m glad to hear it. I find I’ve just been reading The Four Just Men series [by Edgar Wallace] again—just by chance. I do find they date terrifically of course, these thriller writers, so-called. Don’t you find that, when you look back on some of the old masters? E. Phillips Oppenheim and so on. The slang and the situations and the things that people eat and drink and their clothes and so on; motor cars and everything, the speed they move at—you know if a motor car goes at 40 miles an hour, everybody’s gasping with excitement.

RC: Don’t you find that about all fiction written a generation ago?

IF: Well, I don’t find it about the Russians for instance, because they don’t use so many contemporary things, so to speak. […] Individuals, persons, conversations between people, examination of people’s psychology of something, which of course is a permanent…

RC: But don’t you agree that the technical ability of quite ordinary writers today, ordinary successful writers, is far ahead of the technical ability of what we regard as classics.

IA: I quite agree. I remember the number of words they used to use. I happened to read a book not so very long ago by Henry James. There were enormous sentences and semicolons and commas and relative clauses, running down the whole page.

RC: And Tennyson—it’s worthwhile to stick it out.

IF: Yes—but you see, it’s hard going.

RC: I know, but you have to give something to it. Nowadays, you know, you’re not supposed to give anything to a book. It’s supposed to give you everything.

IF: Yes, quite so.

RC: In those days, of course, people had very few amusements. They had more patience. More time.

IF: Yes, they did.

RC: They had no radio, no television, and no cinema.

IF: Not many appointments, not many appointments.

RC: Walks in the country—about all they had. And reading. Playing the piano and singing silly songs around it, I remember it in my boyhood—it was like that.

IF: Yes. That’s what drove you to write your first sort of story for the Black Mask magazine, that atmosphere?

RC: No, it didn’t. I was an intellectual snob when I was a young man in London. I wrote very highbrow stuff. It took me about twenty-five years to get over it.

IF: Yes. I remember the first thing I wrote was published in Horizon, Cyril Connolly’s famous magazine. But your man, your hero Philip Marlowe—is he based more or less on yourself, so to speak? I see a certain…in fact, I see a distinct relationship between you and Philip Marlowe.

RC: Oh, not deliberately. If so, it just happens.

IF: One writes what one knows of course. My chap, I suppose he’s got some foibles that I’ve got, but I wouldn’t have said he had any relation to the person I think I am, but there it is.

RC: Can you play baccarat as well as he can?

IF: Not as well, no. I’d like to be able to. I love it. I love gambling.

RC: Takes almost unlimited money, doesn’t it?

IF: Well, I don’t know about unlimited. Depends if you can build yourself up some capital while you’re having some lucky play to begin with, and then play with the casino’s money from then on. I’m not a gambler in the sense that I can gamble when I’ve got no money left and say “take my house, take my car, take…”

RC: I don’t enjoy gambling at all. It’s the only vice I don’t possess.

IF: Oh, come, come. There are plenty left, aren’t there?

RC: Well, it is the only vice I don’t possess. I have no interest in gambling.

IF: No. Well, good for you. Would you say there are any basic differences between the English and the American thriller?

RC: Oh yes. Except for a few exceptions—I shouldn’t say “except for a few exceptions,” it’s a bad tautology isn’t it?—like yourself, and there are a few, the American thriller is much faster paced.

IF: Yes. We’ve got into a rather “tea and muffins” school of writing here, I think. The policemen are much too nice and always drinking cups of tea, and inspectors puff away at pipes and the whole thing goes on in a rather sort of quiet atmosphere in some little village somewhere in England.

RC: The policemen aren’t so darned nice here after all. I notice they’re getting smaller but they’re getting tougher. I know a five-time loser [who’s] just written a book, published by Secker & Warburg. His name is Frank Norn [?] and what he could tell you about the police would curl your hair.

IF: I don’t mean all of them.

RC: No—I wouldn’t mean all of them in the United States either. But a pornographic bookseller in Soho pays 200 pounds a week to the police.

IF: Do they read his books?

RC: Hmm?

IF: Does he give them his books to read?

RC: I don’t know, that didn’t come into the conversation.

IF: Now of course you’ve got the private-eye tradition which we haven’t got so much over here because our private detectives are on the whole just ordinary little people who go and follow married couples around and try to catch them out.

RC: Same as they are in America…

IF: Yes, but they’re written up to be much more.

RC: Oh, well…A private eye is a catalyst, he’s the man who resolves the situation. He doesn’t exist in real life. Unless you can make him seem real. (Pause) He doesn’t make any money either.

IF: Marlowe seems real to me—I mean, I visualize him quite clearly.

RC: Oh, I know, but that’s because I’ve known him so long. He’s not real as a specimen, as a private detective.

IF: I suppose the same thing applies to secret service agents. I’ve known quite a number of them, and on the whole they’re very quiet, peace-loving people whom you might meet in the street, sit next to them in your club, in fact two or three do sit next to me in my club…

RC: They must have an immense interior courage though.

IF: They must, because it’s a dull job and they get no thanks for it and they get no medals and their wives have a dreary time. […] Supposing we’ve got some man in an Embassy working under cover or something, and his wife has to sit there and watch other people being promoted while the usual is going on. [The wife] of the Assistant Naval Attache or something like that. It’s pretty bad on the wives too, they have a hard time, apart from the danger and all that still occurs.

RC: The wives of policemen don’t have a very good time in America.

IF: They don’t?

RC: The policemen get shot every once in a while.

IF: Yes, of course you shoot much more than we do over here.

RC: Well, they carry guns. Although I’ve known a police captain in La Jolla who carried a gun for 28 years and never used it, except when required to on the police pistol range to qualify. He never shot a man with it.

IF: I was had up in America going 96 miles an hour last year in a Studillac, which is a rather favorite car of mine—it’s a combined Studebaker and Cadillac—and I was taken along to the Sheriff’s office by this speed cop, and we got more or less friendly and then he showed his gun.

And I said “Have you ever let this off in anger?” and he said “I wouldn’t think of doing so.” He said, “The number of forms we have to fill up for every time we let off a gun is so dreadful. I might throw it at somebody but I’d certainly not fire it.” He was a wonderful chap.

On the wall of the Sheriff’s office—before I finally paid my twenty dollars and got away from it all—were a couple of poker work mottos written up, and the first one said, “God look down and bless this house.” And below was one saying, “Politicians never die, they only smell that way.” He was a real Sheriff that fellow. (Laughs)

RC: There are some very tough cops in America. On the east side of Los Angeles they’ll shoot at the drop of a hat—they really will. They’ll beat up a drunk and if a bystander protests they’ll drag him into an alley and beat him up.

IF: Why are they so tough, particularly there?

RC: Because they are in a tough district.

IF: Yes, the east side of Los Angeles. Why is that particularly tough, the east side of Los Angeles?

RC: Why is any district particularly tough? It usually gets tough as a result of the people who live there.

IF: Yes, thank you. I suppose we shall all start writing about juvenile delinquents before long; there see to be plenty of them about. But the thought bores me completely.

RC: No, I shan’t.

IF: Nor shall I.

RC: I shan’t. I don’t know the answer. What’s the use writing if you don’t know the answer?

IF: I know. Well—the answer is the break-up of the home, of course. The mother and the father—

RC: Oh—no.

IF: You don’t think so?

RC: No—not in America.

IF: I think it is here; the mother going out to work you know, there’s no home, no proper home for the boys.

RC: Surely in America they come from two classes: the very poor and those who come from rather rich families. Parents are always on the go and they give the boys plenty of pocket money, or the girls as the case may be. And they’re bored, they don’t know what to do with their lives.

IF: On the other hand, of course, you’ve got these big mixed races—the Puerto Ricans, and the whole of the Negro section. Harlem now is very, very tough. I think I’m right in saying—aren’t I?—that there are very few Americans who’d think of going down there in New York at night—a white American. Is that true?

RC: Oh, or Central Park. [It] runs these gangs.

IF: Yes.

RC: But you know, there was a wave of burglaries with vandalism in Atlanta, Georgia, a couple of years ago. And when they finally found out who was doing it, they were all sons of very well-to-do people.

IF: Really?

RC: They broke into houses, stole, destroyed all sorts of things. It was a thrill. That’s all. They do it, as they say, for “tricks.”

IF: Well, we seem to be talking all the more about real crime than fictional crime. Are you planning any kind of a new book now? You’ve got this one coming out today.

RC: Well, I’ve got myself in a bad spot now.

IF: In what way?

RC: A fellow has to get married.

IF: Oh, I was going to ask you about that…this woman—

RC: It’s going to be a struggle.

IF: He is—Marlowe’s going to get married, is he?

RC: Yes, but there’s going to be an awful struggle, because she’s not going to like him sticking to his rather seedy profession, as she’d consider it, and he is not at all going to like the way she wants to live, in an expensive house in Palm Springs with a lot of freeloaders coming in all the time. So, it’s going to be a struggle, it might end in divorce, I don’t know.

IF: Oh golly. You wouldn’t like to go and kill her off perhaps?

RC: Kill her?

IF: Yes?

RC: Oh no, she’s too nice.

IF: She is, is she? Linda, isn’t it?

RC: Yes, much too nice to kill off.

IF: Ah. Oh well. Well, I don’t think my fellow is going to get married.

RC: Of course if I had Marlowe killed off it would solve a lot of problems. I wouldn’t have to write any more books about him. (Laughs)

IF: Well you’ve always meant to write a play anyway, haven’t you?

RC: Oh yes, I want to write a play.

IF: Yes.

RC: I want to write a play about [Lucky] Luciano, if he’ll let me.

IF: Yes, that’s because your visit to Luciano was so fascinating the other day?

RC: I think there’s a play in that.

IF: Yes. He must be a remarkable man. You feel he’s really been badly done by?

RC: Absolutely so. I’m quite sure of it.

IF: Extraordinary, the way he’s become, sort of, a type name for the criminal—like all these other people, in the old days of Bugsy Siegel and so on. But Luciano seems to be living a very sort of quiet life down there.

RC: Well, he has to.

IF: Yes. He’s got a medicinal supplies factory or something of that sort, hasn’t he?

RC: Medical furniture—hospital furniture. He was outside the law, from the time when everybody was—during the bootlegging era. He ran gambling places and as Americans will gamble and they’ll find places to gamble—I could find places right on Sunset Boulevard—there’s gambling houses.

IF: Yes. But why was Lucky Luciano made such a particular target?

RC: Well, he was a pretty big man in his line. It was good publicity.

IF: Yes.

RC: And he was rather defenceless. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the gangs put him up.

IF: Yes, as a target.

RC: Happens so often, you know. To have a scapegoat.

IF: I was in Rome about ten days ago and I gather there are over 2,000 deported Italian American gangsters hanging around Italy, not knowing what to do. Must be quite a job for the Italian police having to keep tabs on them the whole time.

RC: Well, they don’t have to have deported Italian American gangsters in Naples—practically everybody there is half a gangster.

IF: Yes, I know, it’s increased the gangster population fairly considerably.
What we’ve talked about really are the basic ingredients of thrillers. One could write almost a couple of books on what we’ve been talking about. The Luciano situation is one, and a detailed story of one of these gang killings you’ve described—the man coming down from Minneapolis—is another one.

But I wonder what the basic ingredients of a good thriller really are. Of course, you should have pace; it should start on the first page and carry you right through. And I think you’ve got to have violence, I think you’ve got to have a certain amount of sex, you’ve got have a basic plot, people have got to want to know what’s going to happen by the end of it.

RC: Yes, I agree. There has to be an element of mystery, in fact there has to be a mysterious situation. The detective doesn’t know what it’s all about, he knows that there’s something strange about it, but he doesn’t know just what it’s all about. It seems to me that the real mystery is not who killed Sir John in his study, but what the situation really was, what the people were after, what sort of people they were.

IF: That’s exactly what you write about. Of course you develop your characters very much more than I do, and the thriller element it seems to me in your books is in the people, the character building, and to a considerable extent in the dialogue, which of course I think is some of the finest dialogue written in any prose today. And I think basically we’re both of us to a certain extent humorists too. Both of us rather like to bring in…

RC: That’s true.

IF: Which possibly might not come out at first sight, but we like making funny jokes.

RC: A solemn thriller is really rather a bore.

IF: Yes, and there’s something very seedy about it. You see, a man like Mickey Spillane, was a man without any humor and [with] a lot of unattractive characteristics as well—and I tried reading a few of his books but there’s something very seedy and sort of smelly about them to me, I found.

RC: To me also. Me also.

IF: Yes, it’s funny, it comes right through the writing…

RC: It had a tremendous appeal to the armed services. Probably the greatest thing done for masturbation in the last twenty years. (Laughs)

IF: But what happened (Laughs) to Mickey Spillane since? He hasn’t written a book for ten years, has he?

RC: Well, I told you. He’s joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

IF: Oh, so you did, yes.

RC: Which is a sort of Holy Roller sect. Very sincere in themselves but terribly ignorant—primitive—in their religious ideas. They seem so to me. But I’m not a religious person really. Well I was, once.

IF: Yes…yes. Do you think that it was remorse for what he’d accomplished in his books that suddenly decided him—

RC: No. I don’t think it was that at all. I don’t think he had any remorse. Some ideal got hold of him. He’s obviously a man of very superficial emotions.

IF: Yes. In fact a rather simple character all together. I wonder what started him off writing at all.

RC: I don’t know either.

IF: Incidentally, there’s a wonderful article in this month’s number of the London Magazine called “Mrs. Handy’s Writing Mill”; you ought to get a hold of that. It’s about a woman on the west coast who creates best-seller writers. She created [James] Jones, [who wrote] From Here to Eternity. Taught him how to write and made him write the book, sat over him while he did it. And now she’s got a sort of farm and writers come to her and get turned into best-seller writers. It’s a fascinating little article—you ought to read that.

RC: It may be a fascinating article but the whole idea is disgusting to me as a writer.

IF: That’s what the man who wrote the article says. That it’s an extraordinary proceeding. When you go there—supposing I went to her, I should be put down first of all to writing out pages and pages of Hemingway, straight out of the book, copying them down, to get me into the habit of writing like a good writer, so to speak.

And then her theory is that in everybody there is a book of some sort, if only they can write—automatically write or write automatically—if their own ideas are sufficiently interesting, or their own experiences, to produce a best seller. And this man writes three or four books that are in the best seller list in America now, that have been turned out by Mrs. Handy’s Writing Mill.

RC: Hmm…well, I don’t think that means very much in our business. If the book is long enough and dirty enough it can very easily become a best seller, but it must be long and it must be sexy.

IF: That applies in America of course, you do have these huge books, don’t you? I can’t carry them around, they weigh too much. But why is this? Is it value for money, do you think the Americans like getting these big books?

RC: I don’t know. I don’t know at all.

IF: They’re double our length.

RC: Americans are not book buyers. Book renters, not book buyers, and a lot of them of course don’t read books at all. They just read magazines, newspapers, or look at television.

IF: Yes, that applies to a certain extent here, of course.

RC: But—no, it’s worse there because television goes on from six o’clock in the morning till two o’clock the next morning. And you have the choice around Los Angeles, where I live, of ten channels.

IF: Ghastly. I’ve got a television set but I’ve only once looked at it.

RC: […] Is yours the BBC?

IF: Yes, it doesn’t get the commercials.

RC: Well, that’s all right. I’ve got a long cord that switches off the sound when the commercial comes on. You see the chap, you see his mouth going on but can’t hear a word he says. (Laughs)

IF: But I find that television is simply an additional appointment in the day. All right, Raymond Chandler is appearing on television at 6:30. Well, it means I’ve got to get back from my office and meet Chandler on television at 6:30. It’s an additional chore, it seems to me.

RC: Well, that would be a waste of time—but I like watching Wimbledon.

IF: Yes, it’s very good for sports. However, look here, we’d better be getting back to our subject…

RC: It is very good for some dramatic plays. BBC did The Caine Mutiny court martial—I thought it was marvelous.

IF: Didn’t see it.

RC: Couple of Sundays ago. I think it was the best thing I ever saw on television.

IF: As good as that? Well, that’s a good plug for the BBC anyway. Have you got any particularly favourite thriller writers, Ray? People you automatically buy more or less blind?

RC: No. I don’t have to buy them. They send them to me free.

IF: They do?

RC: The publishers do.

IF: You’re lucky. I got one free the other day, which I haven’t read, which sounds rather exciting. It’s going to be published by Arthur Barker in August and I got an advanced proof copy, unrevised and confidential.

RC: We don’t have those bound proofs in America.

IF: Well, I think his is rather a departure here. But Arthur Barker obviously thinks very highly of this fellow. He’s called Kenneth Royce—My Turn to Die—and it’s coming out in August and certainly the first page is good. I can tell you that much. Then I’ve just bought The Taste of Ashes by Howard Browne, which looks good.

RC: I guess he’s improving quite a lot. Must be.

IF: He wrote a book called Thin Air before, I don’t know if you’ve read that.

RC: No.

IF: Well, it’s very good. And then another one called Operator I’ve just bought, haven’t read yet. […] It’s by a man who wrote a very good one called The Big Bite, which was a wonderful blackmail story published last year—Charles Williams. Very good indeed.

RC: I couldn’t read it—made me nervous.

IF: It did?

RC: I remember the book, but I couldn’t read it—made me too damn nervous.

IF: Oh, that’s the finest thing you could say about it—to the writer. I think the whole object of a thriller is to make you nervous.

RC: I don’t like that edge-of-the-chair writing.

IF: You don’t? You always says you like mine but perhaps…

RC: No—it isn’t just that.

IF: Isn’t it?

RC: No.

IF: Well—I think it is. Then there’s this, Norman Lewis’ The Volcanoes Above Us, which is really more a novel than a thriller, but I found it had most of the ingredients of a thriller to read. There’s mystery and very tight hard writing—wonderful book. He writes very well, Norman Lewis—he’s got an extraordinary visual eye. Photography is one of his main hobbies I think, and he’s got this astonishingly clear eye for detail and situation. Very remarkable man.

RC: Did you read a book called Knock and Wait a While?

IF: No, I didn’t.

RC: An American writer whose name I forget. It’s an intelligence agent story and I thought it was very real.

IF: I’ll write that down. Get hold of it.

RC: His assignment was to prevent a Russian girl from being kidnapped aboard a Russian ship and taken back to Russia.

IF: Knock and Wait a While.

RC: I think his name’s Steele but I’m not positive. (The author was William Rawles Weeks)

IF: And who was this man James Anthony Phillips you were mentioning to me?

RC: James Atlee—A-T-L-Double E.

IF: James Atlee Phillips. You said he was one of the most remarkable mystery writers in America, and I’m ashamed to say I’ve never heard of him.

RC: Well, I think he’s a darned good writer by any standard.

IF: What’s he written? This book Pagoda you mentioned?

RC: Pagoda, Suitable for Framing, The Deadly Mermaid, and he wrote one called The Shivering Chorus Girls, which I never could get hold of.

IF: That’s the trouble. I believe there’s some very good thrillers that publishers let get out of print and vanish off the scene. I’m sure in publishers’ lists there are a lot of very good thrillers tucked away that will be forgotten and ought to be brought out, and flushed out again. There aren’t enough good thrillers for me. I like reading them in aeroplanes and trains. The kind of books to pass the time with. They make no demand…

RC: There are a great many thriller writers in America who write directly for the paperbacks because they don’t have to share a royalty with the publisher.

IF: Quite.

RC: But they are short-sighted in a way. Because a publisher can make a much better deal for them, if they are any good. And there’s no prestige.

IF: No, there isn’t.

RC: They have finally begun to notice them in the papers, but there’s no prestige and they’ll print an additional, say 80,000 copies of paperbacks—well, then the thing dies.

IF: I see John MacDonald, who’s a great favourite of mine, he wrote A Bullet for Cinderella and several others—

RC: —Did you read his book about the multiple crash on the highway?

IF: No.

RC: Oh—that’s wonderful.

IF: It is? But he’s a marvelous writer and I think he keeps up his extraordinary good standard…

RC: Very prolific too.

IF: Very prolific.

RC: Must be an energetic chap. He lives in Mexico.

IF: Does he?

RC: He sent me his latest book but I can’t find it.

IF: He’s a very adept writer. Well anyway Ray, that’s more or less covered our points—I think we’ve probably gone off track a good deal, but thrillers are—

RC: —They can always cut it if they don’t want it.

IF: Anyway, thanks, Ray. It’s been nice to see you again.

RC: Well, it’d be silly of me to say that. I love to see you always.


Note: This week brings another treat—the complete Desert Island Discs interview with Fleming. Only nine minutes of the audio survive, but thanks to the kindness of a fellow researcher and collector I can now share with you the transcript of the entire show. The interview was recorded in approximately 10 segments. Four were retakes, and though Fleming’s answers were usually identical I’ve included a few answers from the original takes. There are one or two bits where the transcriber was unable to catch what was said, and these are indicated with “[…]”

Desert Island Discs

Ian Fleming

Transcribed from a Telediphone Recording from Talks/General Division—Sound; 12th June, 1963

ROY PLOMLEY: How do you do ladies and gentlemen? Our castaway this week is a best-selling author. He is the author of the James Bond books, the ingenious thrillers about a British secret agent who’s licensed to kill. It’s Ian Fleming. Mr. Fleming, what effect do you think solitude would have on you?

IAN FLEMING: I think I would enjoy it very much. I’m rather solitary by nature, and I’ve always wanted to live on a desert island.

PLOMLEY: You’ve have no particular worry?

FLEMING: Not that I know of, unless I got an abscess in my tooth, or stumped my toe on a scorpion fish.

PLOMLEY: What would you be happiest to get away from?


PLOMLEY: Mm. Does music play much [of a] part in your life?

FLEMING: No, very little indeed. I’m afraid this is a very light-hearted selection.

[Take 1: No, it doesn’t really. I only play gramophone records—sort of sentimental light ones for entertaining myself—in the evening with a drink or two.]

PLOMLEY: You’ve never studied music? You don’t play an instrument?

FLEMING: No, and I avoid concerts like the plague.

PLOMLEY: From what point of view did you pick your records? Are you looking back? Are you looking hopefully forward to the future? Is it mood music? What is it?

FLEMING: Well, I think it’s mostly mood music. It’s evocative of various times in my life and of er—girlfriends.

[Take 1: Well, I think it’s probably mood music. I think if one was on a desert island, you’d want to recall memories, possibly of girlfriends in one’s past and I’m afraid there’s certainly nothing very serious in my selection.]

PLOMLEY: What’s the first one?

FLEMING: The first is by Jack Smith, the famous Whispering Baritone, and this is a sentimental memory of my public school, Eton. He was a tremendous favourite with all of us there.

PLOMLEY: And what’s he singing?

FLEMING: He’s singing “Cecilia.”

Record 1

PLOMLEY: “Does Your Mother Know You’re Out Cecilia?.” Whispering Jack Smith. What’s your second choice?

FLEMING: The second choice is The Revellers, another old, very old favourite of my generation, singing “Dinah.” They were a wonderful quartet and this recalls my period at Sandhurst.

Record 2

PLOMLEY: The Revellers singing “Dinah.” Mr. Fleming, where were you born?

FLEMING: I was born in London.

PLOMLEY: You told us you went to Eton. I believe your main distinction there was in athletics.

FLEMING: Yes, it was. I’m afraid I wasn’t terribly good at my books.

PLOMLEY: Victor Ludorum twice and public school hurdles. And then Sandhurst?

FLEMING: Yes, I went to Sandhurst, with the idea of going into the Army, and into the Black Watch incidentally, but then it was decided to mechanise the Army and me and a lot of my friends decided we didn’t want to be—what we thought then would be—large scale garage mechanics.


FLEMING: So I had a go at the Diplomatic and learnt my languages for it, and I passed in seventh, but there were only five vacancies, so I decided not to have another go, but to go straight in and start earning some money. So I joined Reuters, which was the nearest thing to the diplomatic in a way, because I could use my languages, German and French and Russian, and I had a wonderful time at Reuters. I was a correspondent in Moscow and Berlin and all over the place, and of course I learnt there the sort of good straightforward—or at any rate straightforward—writing style everyone wants to have if they’re going to write books.

PLOMLEY: How long did you stay with them?

FLEMING: I stayed with them for three years, but then I wanted to earn some more money, and Reuters wasn’t very keen on paying large sums in those days—I’ve no doubt they’re much better now—and so I went into the City, but I didn’t get on very well there, because I’m not very good at making money as such.

PLOMLEY: How do you mean?

FLEMING: Well, I mean just pure making money. I must do something that entertains me; if it makes money at the same time, well that’s all the better for me.

PLOMLEY: Yes. Well, then the war came along, and you joined the Navy and became personal assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence. Well, this led, not surprisingly, to some rather violent action I believe.

FLEMING: Well, not so much that, really. It was a very interesting life. I took part in the Dieppe raid, which was a very bloody affair, and I had some exciting adventures round the world, and all together I couldn’t have had a more interesting war, if one can have a interesting war.

[Take 1: Well, a certain amount you know, but then I was deskbound in the Admiralty for a great deal of it, but I went on the Dieppe raid and one or two forays around the world, and I really had a wonderful war, as far as one can have an wonderful war.]

PLOMLEY: And presumably your Naval Intelligence experience provided some useful source material for your later books.

FLEMING: Yes, it taught one what one could say in writing thrillers and what one couldn’t say. And of course it taught you really how the intelligence machine does work. I can’t say that of course I tell that exactly in my books, because they’re fiction and the whole thing is much larger than life, but as I said, at least it tells you what mistakes not to make.

PLOMLEY: And when the war ended?

FLEMING: Then I went to the Sunday Times, to the Kemsley newspapers and I became their foreign manager. They didn’t have a foreign department in those days, and it was my job to place correspondents all round the world and look after their welfare and see that they write plenty of intelligent stuff.

PLOMLEY: Yes. And you had that post until quite recently?

FLEMING: Yes, until Roy Thompson took over the group, and now I’m still mixed up with them vaguely as a so-called editorial advisor.

PLOMLEY: Well, let’s have your third record. What next?

FLEMING: My third record is Edith Piaff, the famous Parisian chanteuse, singing “La Vie En Rose,” which again has sentimental associations for me.

Record 3

PLOMLEY: Edith Piaff singing “La Vie En Rose.” Now your book. You’ve written now what—11 James Bond books?

FLEMING: Well, there’s actually twelve, because the next one has just gone to my publishers.

PLOMLEY: Yes, that’s one a year.

FLEMING: That’s one a year.

PLOMLEY: So the first one then, what, 1950—

FLEMING: ’52, written in ’51 I suppose. Yes.

PLOMLEY: Had you had this character growing in mind for a long time?

FLEMING: No, I can’t say I had really. He sort of developed when I was just on the edge of getting married, and I was frenzied at the prospect of this great step in my life, after having been a bachelor for so long, and I really wanted to take my mind of the agony [Laughter] so I decided to sit down and write a book.

PLOMLEY: Yes. Is Bond based on any particular person or combination of persons?

FLEMING: No, not really. He’s sort of mixture, a fictional mixture of commandos and secret service agents that I met during the war, but of course entirely fictionalised.

PLOMLEY: Yes. Is there much of you in it?

FLEMING: I hope not. People do connect me with James Bond, simply because I happen to like scrambled eggs and short-sleeved shirts, and some of the things that James Bond does, but I certainly haven’t got his guts nor his very lively appetites.

PLOMLEY: Now the first James Bond book was an immediate success.

FLEMING: Yes it was.

PLOMLEY: How long do these books take you to write?

FLEMING: Six weeks to two months, the actual writing, but I never correct as I go along, I try and get pace into the narrative by sitting straight down at the typewriter, but then of course I do two or three months correction afterwards, and then one has to correct the proofs and so on, so it takes about a year all together, let’s say.

PLOMLEY: Are you a systematic worker? Can you work so many hours a day, regularly?

FLEMING: Yes, I find I have to. I work for about three hours in the morning and one hour in the evening, and I find that unless I stick to a routine, if I just wait for genius to arrive from the skies, it just doesn’t arrive; I just get on with the work.

PLOMLEY: You write these books always at your vacation home in Jamaica—


PLOMLEY: Do you look forward to writing a new one every year?

FLEMING: Well I don’t really unless I’ve got it firmly fixed in my mind. And of course this is a very bad period for me, this time of the year, because I’m trying to work out the next adventure of James Bond, which has got to be written in January or February, and of course I’m always rather in despair thinking I’m not going to have enough book to write.

PLOMLEY: Yes. There’s been a cumulative rise in sales since the first book.

FLEMING: I think there has, with the exception of the last one, let’s say last year’s one, which was The Spy Who Loved Me, when I tried to break away from my normal formula, but the readers were so furious that James Bond didn’t appear until about three quarters of the way through, and that it was written ostensibly by a girl—

PLOMLEY: In the first person.

FLEMING: —That I must confess it wasn’t a success, and it took quite a beating from the critics.

PLOMLEY: And now the books are being made into films.

FLEMING: Yes, they’ve made Dr. No already and it’s been a tremendous success in England, and even more of a success I think in America, where it’s opened several weeks ago, where it’s breaking records. They’re now doing From Russia With Love and I went out to see them in Istanbul with the unit at work and I was tremendously impressed with the casting and the way the script had been written, and I think it’s going to be an equal success.

PLOMLEY: They’re going to do the whole James Bond catalogue.

FLEMING: They’ve got an option on doing all the books, yes. One after another.

PLOMLEY: Well, let’s have Record 4. What are we going to have next?

FLEMING: That’s the Ink Spots’ “If I Didn’t Care,” which is the first record that made them famous in 1944, and I’m devoted to the Ink Spots, all their records, and I play them constantly, every week.

Record 4

PLOMLEY: The Ink Spots’ “If I Didn’t Care.” 11 best sellers in 11 years and very profitable film sales. Now on the face of it, that looks like unmixed success, but some of the press notices haven’t been all that glowing. They’ve accused you of being sadistic and [including] too much sex. Taking the charge of sadism first, your torture scenes are pretty beastly in some of the books.

FLEMING: Well, I don’t know how many you’ve read, but they’re nothing to…what they really are in real life, and I think the old days of the hero getting a crack over the head with the cricket stump have rather gone out and we’ve all been considerably wiser since the last war, and I’ve tried to bring verisimilitude into these books—and it’s certainly true that the critics have occasionally found them pretty strong meat.

PLOMLEY: What effect do you think these scenes have on the average reader? Are they going to give him unhealthy ideas? Is this vicarious violence a harmless way of sublimating aggressive tendencies?

FLEMING: Well, I think that’s a way of putting it. I was brought up on what they used to call fourpenny horrors and I can’t remember that any of the excitements of the sort of […] Chinamen, and horrible Germans and so on and so forth, ever did me any harm. All history is sex and violence, and I think it’s ridiculous to go on writing thrillers in the old Bulldog Drummond-John Buchan way, when life has come on so fast past this.

PLOMLEY: Yes. Well, sex—Bond is a non-stop womanizer and he takes his sex where he finds it, almost as casually as he takes a drink.

FLEMING: Well, he has one girl per book approximately and that’s one a year. He’s a bachelor and he moves around the world pretty rapidly, and I don’t see any great harm in that myself.

PLOMLEY: He’s unusually fortunate in meeting these lovely and cooperative girls.

FLEMING: Yes, I envy him.

PLOMLEY: The last Bond book has achieved a new importance. It’s been issued in a handsome limited edition at three guineas a copy. Is this a sign of Bond in High Society, in top people literature?

FLEMING: I don’t think so really. I think it was just the publisher’s idea and apparently they managed to sell all the copies so it can’t have gone far wrong.

PLOMLEY: I mentioned some British criticism in the British press of the books. There’s another quote from a Russian paper that I think is rather more serious, and it accuses the James Bond books of being violently anti-Russian and it does seem justified. Invariably your villains are a pretty deep-dyed bunch of Russian thugs, and at a time when Anglo-Soviet relations are rather important, is this a responsible attitude?

FLEMING: Well, it’s all very fine, but these are fiction and one’s got to have an enemy. In the old days there used to be the Chinese and the Germans and various other nationalities, and when you come to think of some of the cases of about Russian espionage, there was one quite recently in Stuttgart, where a man had been sent by the Russians and had successfully murdered three West Germans, with a cyanide gas pistol. Well, if they will go on playing that sort of trick they mustn’t expect to be completely white-washed.

PLOMLEY: Mm. Still, you will admit that Bond is something of a deep-dyed thug himself.

FLEMING: Oh yes, certainly. He has to be or he couldn’t defeat the other deep-dyed thugs. It’s a world of thuggery.

PLOMLEY: Let’s have record No. 5.

FLEMING: No. 5 is Rosemary Clooney—“This Old House.” It makes a very fine noise this record, and I’m devoted to it and I’m also devoted to Rosemary Clooney’s appearance on the sleeve; and I assume I should be allowed the sleeves as well as the records, so that she can act as a pin-up girl on the nearest palm-tree.

Record 5

PLOMLEY: Rosemary Clooney, “This Old House.” All your books Mr. Fleming show tremendous attention to detail. You’ve obviously done a great deal of background research. Have you ever slipped up at all in any of the James Bond books?

FLEMING: Yes, I’m afraid I do from time to time. I take a lot of trouble not to, but inevitably things slip past my publishers. [Take 1: Oh constantly. It’s actually terrifying the number of mistakes I make, because I try to be accurate]

For instance in the last book the girl goes into a bar in the Casino and orders half a bottle of Pol Roger champagne. Well, it just turns out that Pol Roger is the one champagne firm that doesn’t turn out half bottles.

PLOMLEY: Good Lord.

FLEMING: And again, some friend commented on the fact that when Bond drives up to his headquarters in Regent’s Park and smells the smell of burning leaves and realises that summer has come to an end, I was making a mistake because Regent’s Park is now a smokeless zone. Well, that’s very helpful but I find that other people make mistakes. Shakespeare for instance had clocks chiming in ancient Rome, and other people have made errors of one kind or another—

PLOMLEY: Yes, somebody always writes in and tells them.

FLEMING: Yes, it’s very helpful of them and I try to correct them in later editions.

PLOMLEY: How much longer do you think you can keep Bond going? Is he a job for life?

FLEMING: Well, I don’t know, it just depends on how much more I can go on following his adventures.

[Take 1: Well, it just depends on how long my puff lasts, so to speak. It’s a question of invention.]

PLOMLEY: You don’t feel that he’s keeping you from more serious writing?

FLEMING: No, I’m not in the Shakespeare stakes, I’ve got no ambitions.

PLOMLEY: You do an occasional major piece of reporting. You went round the world for the Sunday Times quite recently.

FLEMING: Yes, that was a series called Thrilling Cities, which is coming out as a book in October.

PLOMLEY: Have you anything more like that lined up?

FLEMING: If I found something very exciting I’d love to do it you know, but again it’s a question of how much you can crush into the week, and I’ve invented the Fleming two-day week and I’m trying to stick to it.

PLOMLEY: Right. Record 6 now.

FLEMING: Record 6 is “A Summer Place” by Billie Vaughan, and I just happen to like this, because I think it’s a wonderful piece of light orchestration.

Record 6

PLOMLEY: Billie Vaughan and his orchestra playing Max Steiner’s theme from “A Summer Place.” Mr. Fleming, would you be an efficient castaway on this island?

FLEMING: I think I might be. I love underwater swimming and if I could make a spear out of a piece of bamboo, and get some sort of covering for my eyes, I think I could keep myself alive. I’ve always like the idea of building a house of palm-thatch and so on and keeping the scorpions away with a big ditch round it.

PLOMLEY: Could you build a craft?

FLEMING: Well, one could always build some sort of craft. How seaworthy it’d be I’ve no idea.

PLOMLEY: Well, how’s your navigation? Would you try to get away?

FLEMING: Very bad indeed. I’d cast myself loose if I wanted to find a dentist somewhere, but that’s as far as I could go, I think.

PLOMLEY: Record No. 7 now.

FLEMING: That’s the old Anton Karas, at his zither, playing the Harry Lyme theme. I enjoy the record because it’s rather a thriller writer’s record and it’s evocative of Vienna, which I’ve always enjoyed.

Record 7

PLOMLEY: Anton Karas, the Harry Lyme theme. Now we come to your last one Mr. Fleming. What have you chosen for the end?

FLEMING: The last record is Joe Carr playing “Darktown Strutters’ Ball,” and this is just a splendid hell-raiser, when I want to wake the echoes and feel perhaps slightly lonely.

Record 8

PLOMLEY: Joe “Fingers” Carr, “Darktown Strutters’ Ball.” We’ve heard your eight records Mr. Fleming. If you could take only one of this eight, which would it be?

FLEMING: Well, that’s a very difficult question, but I think on the whole I choose the last one, Joe “Fingers” Carr, because he makes this tremendous racket that would keep the ghosts away, and it would cheer me up if I was—as I say—if I was feeling rather gloomy.

PLOMLEY: And you’re allowed to take one luxury with you. What are you choosing?

FLEMING: If I couldn’t take my wife, I’d have a typewriter with plenty of ribbons and paper.

PLOMLEY: For what? More James Bond books?

FLEMING: Well, that we’d have to see, what there was to write about on the island.

PLOMLEY: All right, and one book to take with you, apart from the Bible and Shakespeare.

FLEMING: Well, this is perhaps the only sort of serious note in this programme, because in fact I’d probably take War and Peace, which I’ve never read but in German, because I enjoy the German language and I could both practice my German and read War and Peace at the same time.

PLOMLEY: Right. And thank you Ian Fleming for letting us hear your choice of Desert Island Discs.

FLEMING: Well, it’s been great fun and I hope it wasn’t too lighthearted.

PLOMLEY: Goodbye everyone.


Background to Bond (The Motor, August 21, 1963)

Special Investigator D.B. Tubbs Grills 007’s Creator Ian Fleming

You can’t read a book about Secret Service agent 007 James Bond without being aware that he is fond of fast cars, which is not surprising because Ian Fleming likes them, too. He has been devoted to motorcars all his life, from the first car he owned, an old khaki-coloured Standard with the Union Jack radiator badge, down to his present Studebaker Avanti. The Bond-Fleming firm have an especial affection for Bentleys, which they are apt to make up as they go along, like the “Mark II Continental that some rich idiot had married to a telegraph pole” in Thunderball. You may remember that Bond got Mulliners to rebuild it as a two-seater and “fitted new clockwork—the Mark IV engine with 9.2 compression”. Strictly non-catalogue, but not as fictional as The Saint’s Hirondelle.

This Bentley thing of Fleming’s goes back at least to Le Mans 1930. As a young man he covered that race for Reuters, getting to know the Bentley teams quite well—not the drivers so much as the mechanics in the pits. The great tear-up between the green cars and the Mercedes made a great impression on him, so that the theme continually recurs in the Bond books, where, out of reminiscent piety, superchargers are apt to howl when strictly they shouldn’t. A year or so later Fleming covered the Alpine for Reuters, this time from the best place of all, for he went as passenger with Donald Healey in the 4 1/2 Invicta that won its class. So the firm has respectable Vintage roots, and an orthodox preference for Bentleys of the old style—a feeling reinforced by Fleming’s life-long friendship with Amherst Villiers, who developed the Blower cars for Birkin, and is now in charge of the Moon Project at the Douglas Aircraft Corporation. Letters pass to and fro on Bentley lore, not untinged perhaps with hindsight and wishful thinking. Other motoring matters are vetted by a London friend who undoubtedly knows his stuff, but is apt to get coshed by the plot. Hence errors like the “new set of racing Michelins” and the loud hiss of vacuum brakes.

Fleming, like Bond, likes large cars. He is not attracted to the smoothery of an S2 or E-type, but he wants something that will carry him far and fast across the Continent with lots of luggage. The car must stand out in all weathers because there is no garage, it must start at once, and give no trouble. The first two-sealer Thunderbird. which Fleming met in the States, filled the bill. It was, he says, a splendid touring car. The paint and chromium bred for American climatic extremes never tarnished, and the car did not so much as blow a lamp bulb in six years; by no means a sports car extra sec like a Ferrari—but not soft and suburbanized like the later four-seaters.

The Avanti, one might say, came by post. Pinched in New York State for doing 97 m.p.h. in a 50 limit, Fleming put the cause of his conviction, a Studebaker Special with Cadillac engine, into a novel. In this book, Diamonds are Forever, Felix Leiter explains the “Studillac” to Bond, adding that “You couldn’t have anything better than this body. Designed by that Frenchman, Raymond Loewy. Best designer in the world. But it’s a bit too advanced for the American market…” So one day Fleming had a letter from Loewy, saying thank you for the few kind words and asking whether he had tried an Avanti. He hadn’t, but he had a trial run and wrote to Amherst Villiers. Villiers said go ahead, so he ordered one.

The Avanti, says Fleming, is “a bomb of a motorcar. European roadholding and disc brakes. It has cut my drive from London to Sandwich by 20 minutes, just on those brakes. And the tremendous rattle of the exhaust note as that big supercharged V-8 engine goes through maximum torque makes you feel young again. In fact, the torque is so tremendous you have to be careful not to bum the rubber off your tyres. At around 5,000 dollars the Avanti is very cheap in the States, and at £2,810 it is not dear here. Little things about it are silly: the cheap little door handles come off, and the rear vision is farcical. Tiny rear mirror. I’ve fitted a bigger one.”

The Kentish roast was infested with villains until James Bond cleaned it up. Drax’s murdering Mercedes and Goldfinger’s solid gold Rolls have gone, and the dreadful Korean is dead; but on A2 and A20 you still see his “repainted sky-blue Ford Popular with large yellow ears scurrying along the crown of the road,” and tirelessly meet “that infallible badge of the bad driver, a hat clamped firmly on the centre of his head.”

Ian Fleming profits by observation. He knows about bowler hats. He knows that sooner or later if there are two women in a car they will look into each other’s eyes, and if there are four women the front two will turn right round. He has learned to mistrust dollies, tigers, steering-wheel cosies and string-back gloves. He suspects that packets of tissue on the rear shelf are a car-snob affectation hailing from the U.S.A., and though an ardent Scot he is maddened by Ecosse plates. He is now against badges of every kind. “I used to have quite a collection of foreign ones, pleasant reminders of trips abroad, but the whole thing got out of hand. Besides they don’t go on a modem car. Any badge would spoil the lines of the Avanti, so I’ve taken them all down.” It was quite a proud moment, he says, when he passed his advanced driver’s test, “but would you believe it, people have started putting their I.A.M. badge on the back. So I’ve taken that down, too.”

The expertise in the Bond books, though sometimes shaky in detail, is mostly first hand, and the motoring bits have a solid background, despite the surface cracks. Ian Fleming knows about underwater swimming because he dived with Cousteau in the Mediterranean galley days, he has the rifle-shooting patter because he used to shoot for Sandhurst. He was never in the Secret Service but he was in Naval Intelligence during the war “and such friends as I still have in Intelligence forgive what James Bond does because they say I’m their best recruiting agent.” Each bit of expertise brings the story back to earth. “The Bond books are sheer fantasy, but when you read that Bond wears a Rolex Oyster or Saxone golf shoes, you believe in him more as a person.” And when he borrows a DB3 you envy him as well.

Before we parted I wondered whether Mr. Bond, always a keen courting type, ever went courting in cars. “Perhaps,” said Ian Fleming, “but I doubt it. Bond likes always to keep both hands on the wheel.”

Note: this image and the previous one are from a separate publication, Sporting Motorist (April, 1963).

I wish to thank the fellow researcher and collector who kindly sent me this article. Watch for another next week!


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

By Michael Fitzgerald

James Bond and his bride, Tracy, are driving away on honeymoon at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service when the fiendish Blofeld shoots up their car. Frankly, Tracy looks a gonner, but it seems Bond may pull through. Is Tracy being killed off to give Bond a free rein with the women again? Next March, when another James Bond adventure, You Only Live Twice, appears, there will be crowds at the bookshop wanting to buy the book to find out. Until then here is the background story of the writer who invented James Bond and began a literary cult.

I went to see Ian Fleming at his office just off Fleet Street—a mere pistol shot from the Temple and had the unusual experience of seeing him at work on a Bond book. It is called The Fabulous Pay-Off and will appear at Easter, 1965.

Unusual, because all his previous books have been written in the peace and seclusion of a house called Goldeneye in Jamaica. Fleming was breaking a personal rule by writing in London and he told me with a slightly exasperated smile: “I’m finding it difficult to work here. There never seems to be enough time and there’s always someone coming to see me.”

Always someone to see him…people like Cummings, the Daily Express cartoonist, who preceded me into Fleming’s office and presented him with the original of his cartoon The Adventures of MacBond, which shows the hapless Mr. Macmillan being pursued by knife-carrying “personalities” featured in the Profumo Affair.

The Cummings cartoon was proof of the fame of the remarkable Mr. Bond—if proof were needed.

Nearly everyone knows Bond. But few of the people who so avidly follow his adventures know the story of how he was created one sunny morning in Jamaica by a man who had never written a novel and who has never since written about any other fictitious character.

A borrowed name

Fleming, then 45 [sic] had gone to Goldeneye in 1952 to “sooth my nerves” before his marriage. One day, having nothing better to do, he sat down at a typewriter and began to tap out a story called Casino Royale, which was about a secret agent. Stuck for a name, Fleming “borrowed” that of the author of one of his favourite books, The Birds of the West Indies. The author’s name: James Bond.

Of that first book Fleming told me: “I had no particular interest in the hero. I just wanted him to be an agent doing his best for his chief, M, head of the secret service. Bond seemed a fairly anonymous sort of name. I made no attempt to portray him as an heroic figure. Rather the opposite. But he had to be efficient, ruthless and self-indulgent.”

So an adventure legend was born; for Fleming it was the start of a fabulous pay-off in royalties and the real Mr. Bond achieved the fame that all the West Indian birds would never have earned him.

“Write another quickly”

When Fleming told his friends he had written a novel they urged him to write another quickly because, they said, if the first book was a flop he would lose heart and might never write another. So he wrote Live and Let Die in 1953.

Fleming admits that he was astonished when reviewers, especially one in The Times Literary Supplement, were enthusiastic about Casino Royale and its follow-up. He began a yearly routine—flying to Goldeneye every January to write a Bond adventure and then returning to Britain to his newspaper job in Fleet Street. Sales of the Bond books climbed (they are now well over two million) and the film-makers decided they wanted Bond on the screen.

Fleming’s acceptance of the film offer was not unconditional. “I was very pleased, of course. It meant a lot of money. But I did insist that a comparatively unknown actor should be cast as Bond. James Mason, David Niven and Cary Grant were among the big names who wanted the part—but Sean Connery got it, and I thought his work in the first Bond film, Dr. No, was first class.”

Background Story

Bond, in his mid-thirties, is aggressive to the point of sadism, snobbish and highly sexed. His past is shady and his future quite unpredictable. Fleming, in his mid-fifties (he really does look 10 years younger) has a rather different background and attitude towards life, however tempting it is to depict him as the real-life counterpart of his lusty hero.

Ian Fleming was born in May, 1908, of Scots parents. His father, Major Valentine Fleming, DSO, MC, was killed in 1916 while serving with Winston Churchill’s regiment, the Oxfordshire Hussars. Churchill, in fact, wrote Major Fleming’s obit for The Times.

The second of four sons, Ian went to a private school at Dumford, Dorset. He was no scholar, but found that this did not bar him from a place at Eton, where again his total lack of interest in book-studying always ensured him a position near the bottom of the class list. But on the athletics field the young Fleming outplayed most of the others.

“A bit of a duffer”

Fleming admits he was “a bit of a duffer,” which is probably the reason why he drifted into Sandhurst at the end of his Eton schooling. Again the academic side of Sandhurst (minor though it was) bored him; but he was still out in front on the athletics field. It was while he was at Sandhurst that Fleming had an escapade that would not have been out of place in a story of Bond’s youth: a lovely girl nearly got him thrown out of the royal military academy. Fleming had taken her to a night club in London and although it was already well past lights out time at the barracks, he insisted on escorting her back to her home in Aldershot. Fleming’s subsequent attempt to slip into the barracks without being seen by the sentry was a failure and in true Bond fashion he got the stiffest punishment (apart from dismissal) ever handed out at Sandhurst. Instead of being sent down from the academy, he was confined to camp for six months—a heavy blow to his social life.

On leaving Sandhurst, Fleming was commissioned onto the Black Watch. But his army career was brief. He resigned his commission because of rumours that plans to mechanise the army would mean young officers becoming “glorified garage hands.”

His family decided that Ian should be entered for the diplomatic corps, as he had a flair for languages. He went to Munich and Geneva universities to cram for the diplomatic service’s exams and for the first time in his life he worked hard at his books. Fleming came seventh in the exam result list; but there were only five vacancies at that time in the Corps.

He next turned to journalism and joined Reuters for three exciting years, competing with the giant UP and AP agencies in Berlin and Moscow for exclusive stories.

In 1933, Fleming returned home and went into the City intending to become a stockbroker.

Special correspondent

“But I decided, fairly quickly, that I was not very good at making money from stocks and shares,” he told me, “so I managed to persuade The Times to send me to Moscow as their special correspondent.” This job didn’t last long, either. The British Intelligence Service asked the Bank of England to find them a young man who was good at foreign languages and who knew the international situation. Fleming was chosen, and so gained practical experience in the world of espionage that was to prove invaluable when he began writing the Bond stories.

In 1939, a few months before war broke out, Fleming was commissioned as a lieutenant in the RNVR and became assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence. His still-secret war record cannot be recalled here, but again it provided background for Bond’s adventures.

After the war, Fleming returned to journalism and Lord Kemsley picked him to reorganise the foreign services of the Sunday Times and the rest of the Kemsley newspaper group. He stayed with the group as Foreign Manager until 1959, when Kemsley sold out to Roy Thomson. By that time of course, Bond was bringing in enough money to provide Fleming with almost everything he wanted out of life.

In Bond, some see a man whose sadism, sensuality and egotism have a harmful effect on readers, particularly the young. I asked Fleming about this, and his reply was: “As a boy I used to read the penny dreadfuls and the blood and thunder stuff. Bond is no worse, and has no greater influence on readers. Even Grimm’s fairy stories are filled with violence.

“Bond is the kind of man every girl secretly dreams of meeting and he leads the life every man would like to live if he dared.”

Belief in Smersh

I also asked Fleming whether he saw Bond as an instrument of anti-Communist propaganda and whether he really believed in the notorious Russian counter-espionage organisation called Smersh, which appears in so many of his books. Fleming said he had not deliberately set out to write anti-Red propaganda. “If I had begun writing Bond books before or during the war, Bond’s enemies would have been the Nazis. It is just that the Russians were the people who were the obvious adversaries of Bond when I first began writing about him.

“I don’t doubt for one minute that Smersh existed. I know it did. But Mr. Krushchev seems to have stopped all that and consequently I have dropped Smersh from my latest books.”

A London journalist who worked for Fleming when he was Kemsley’s Foreign Manager told me: “Ian Fleming was the ideal chief. In a way, he was rather like ‘M,’ sitting behind his somewhat cluttered desk, silhouetted against the window of his office in Kemsley House. He rarely gave an order, just made requests in such a way that it was almost an honour to carry them out. Quiet-spoken, good-humoured, he would sit doodling on his green blotting pad and smoking cigarette after cigarette from a long holder. In an office where tempers were frequently lost, his never seemed to fray. He appreciated good work and forgave mistakes. There are, alas, too few Flemings left in the newspaper business today.”


Note: This week’s interview consists of excerpts from a long panel discussion conducted for BBC radio. My thanks to the fellow researcher and collector who kindly sent me the transcript.

The Travellers in Towns

Ian Fleming, Norman Lewis, and Peter Duval Smith (Transmitted August 2, 1960 on the BBC Home Service)

PETER DUVAL SMITH: The travellers here tonight, Ian Fleming, Norman Lewis and myself, don’t entirely go along with people like Sir John Hunt and Wilfrid Thesiger that the most interesting places in the world to spend one’s travelling time are the North Pole or the middle of the Arabian Desert. I think perhaps we prefer to travel for people, for new friends, for new drinks and new food, and these sort of things are to be found in towns, I think. And I think that we agree that we prefer to go to towns rather than to explore. How do you go about, Ian Fleming, finding a new town and getting yourself into it?

IAN FLEMING: Well, I think if you take the ordinary town—Orleans, Hamburg, Vienna, anywhere you like—the first thing to do when you arrive in a town is to buy the ordinary town guide and town plan, and spend half an hour perhaps over dinner, over a drink, having a look at it and more or less getting your bearings; basing yourself on your hotel so that you won’t lose yourself when you start to get back. Generally, in all these towns are various landmarks—a river or a hill or a cathedral—and you can get yourself more or less straight on the thing. You can see the business centre, and the entertainment centre and the theatre and the suburbs.

From the point of view of the ordinary traveller arriving in a town, perhaps he’s had a puncture or something and he doesn’t know where to go, I think that one of the great things to remember is that the railway station, of course, is the centre of any town. And around that will be more or less the main centre of life of the city. And if in doubt, I think the thing to do is always to make for the railway station, and if in doubt about a hotel to stay in a station hotel…[places] where the commercial travellers come and they demand cleanly things, rather like Le Routier in France, where you get the minimum of everything but it’s fairly solid and good.

SMITH: I think another point about arriving into an unknown town is how to find anywhere good to eat. It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got in your pocket; how does one go about getting a good meal?

FLEMING: Well, I think the thing to do really is to go to the fattest man or woman you can see and say politely, ask politely without looking at their fatness, where is the best place to eat, with a lot of “if you please,” and “thank you very much” and so on and so forth. Well, you can be pretty certain that if anybody is fat and has a cheerful face they’ll know the answer.

SMITH: Well, what if you’re in a country where the food is bound to be appalling?

FLEMING: When I’m stuck I always ask for three fried eggs.

[Peter Duval Smith discusses his experiences in Macao]

FLEMING: Did you go to the great house of pleasure, the Central Hotel?

SMITH: Oh yes, yes.

FLEMING: I rather like the idea that the—it’s what, seven or eight storeys high as I recall it. Big skyscraper. And the quality of the pleasures increases with the price according to the storey. You started off in the sort of low coolie area, the gambling and the girls and everything else, and then you went higher and higher and higher till you reached the final courtesan on the seventh floor.

Oh, I think Macao’s got a great future, but unfortunately it’s very far away.

SMITH: Well, perhaps that’s as well.

FLEMING: I think that to exchange one’s ordinary comfortable nest for something that’s really foreign, I think perhaps for a short time—probably a flight to Naples—gives one the original smell of being abroad more than anything, any other town that I know of. I think to fly from England to Naples, be suddenly thrust into this extraordinary world of people who cheat one, thieve from one, overcharge one, are rude to one, it has the authentic smell of the first place one ever went to when one perhaps crossed the Channel to Calais and was completely confused and got into trouble with the porters and so on.

They’re great experts in Naples at covering up those ghastly sea fish that they make one eat the whole time, sort of spiny…

LEWIS: Yes, Norman Douglas used to complain of them. They’re all bones.

FLEMING: Absolute muck, yes. But of course they’re great experts at really sort of shredding up the foreign tourist. I mean, I have great affection for Naples, because it’s a very beautiful place and there are wonderful things to see around—like Paestum and Herculaneum and Pompeii and Ischia and Capri, with Gracie Fields. But of course, they’ve got this business of eviscerating the tourists to a fine art.

But I rather like the story which is often repeated, about the ordinary G.I. in those days—the days you were referring to—who used to go wandering off into the back streets of Naples in search of pleasure, and he would be sold a bottle of hooch by some of the local gangsters and fall down insensible and then be carried off on a handcart into the background somewhere amongst the alleys and simply put up for auction as he stood or as he lay, with wrist-watch, wallet…and simply put up for auction.

The highest bidder would buy him. A big man with plenty of his clothes and belongings, and then after having stripped him and taken his belongings, he’d be carried off to a vineyard in the background and put to work until he dropped and be thrown back into the harbour. They’re real rapscallions.

SMITH: Well, what do you chaps do about languages? What does one do when one doesn’t know the language?

FLEMING: Well, I’ve got French and German. But I’m absolutely sunk anywhere south. I think the thing about language, which obviously is an appalling obstacle to all kind of travel, is that in England, where there are the most stupid sort of insular collection of people living on this this tiny little place, one must teach children languages. I think languages are absolutely essential to extend one’s life outside this little place that we live in.

SMITH: Well, how dearly one would like to be really bilingual in English and French.

FLEMING: Yes, one must have one other language. I mean every child must have one other language, and it ought to be made compulsory by law. To expect other people to understand English really is terribly—well, it’s not only insulting…you get stuck. In a place like Naples you get absolutely stuck, if you don’t know some Italian…We must learn languages. Some kind of language.

But of course, to get on in a town you—nowadays in a foreign town there’s nearly always, particularly near a railroad station there’s nearly always interpreters, people who can explain this, that and the other. It’s no good going to taxi-drivers, they know nothing at all.

SMITH: Of course, what you get if you don’t know languages, is only boring conversation. I mean, almost anybody is prepared to talk to you endlessly about your father’s name and your mother’s name and your job and things like that.

FLEMING: “How interesting, you come from England and do you know somebody who lives in Greenwich?”

SMITH: Yes. The gap between that and a real conversation is a terribly long way and it means knowing the language quite well.

FLEMING: I think people ought to learn—linguaphone records or any of these things—they ought to learn basic phrases. They’ll be much happier if they do.

SMITH: But which towns do you really hate?

FLEMING: Well, I think really—I’m ashamed to say it, but I’m afraid that I’ve taken very much against New York, now. I’ve been there many, many times since the war and I think the town is rapidly going downhill. It’s not only the fact that all the beautiful bits of New York are being torn down—the nice old brownstone houses—but the sort of manners of the people are very abrupt and rough…You’re an out of town man and alright, you ask the way, well you don’t know the way so why the hell should they answer, and they say sorry, bud…you know, and sort of go on their way.

But I must confess that I was in Moscow in 1939, and I do really think that Moscow is the dullest, flattest town in the world. It’s rather like Manchester on a sort of wet Sunday night.

SMITH: Worse than New York?

FLEMING: Worse than New York.


The Writer Speaks (1962)

Guests: Ian Fleming, British suspense writer, and William Plomer, British author and critic.

The Writer Speaks… a [radio] program produced in cooperation with the New American Library, publishers of Signet and Mentor paperback books.

Our guest is Mr. Ian Fleming. In 1952, when British suspense writer Ian Fleming published his first book Casino Royale, the Sunday Times of London called him “the best new thriller writer since Eric Ambler”, while the Irish Times said the book was “a calculated assault on the nerves”. His reputation for first-class spy stories quickly spread throughout the world, as Fleming sent secret-agent James Bond into fantastic adventures with tropical madmen, international diamond smugglers and atomic blackmailers. His books—From Russia with Love, Doctor No, Moonraker and 7 others have been praised by prime ministers, read by President and Mrs. Kennedy and loudly applauded by the critics. Now, on The Writer Speaks, Ian Fleming discusses some of the ingredients of these thrillers with the English author and critic, William Plomer.

Plomer: I feel compelled to start off with a very blatant: question: Do you think your books are studies in sex, snobbery and sadism?

Fleming: Well, I don’t think they are studies in any of those quite proper ingredients of a thriller. Sex, of course comes into all interesting books and into interesting lives. As to snobbery, I think that’s pretty good nonsense, really, in fact, we’d all of us like to eat better, stay in better hotels, wear better clothes, drive faster motorcars, and so on, and it amuses me that my here does most of these things. As for sadism, well I think the old-fashioned way of beating up a spy with a baseball bat has gone out with the last war, and I think it’s permissible to give him a rather tougher time that we used to in the old fashioned days before the war.

Plomer: If someone asked you to compare yourself to Mickey Spillane, how would you do it?

Fleming: Well, I wouldn’t do it to begin with. If forced to, I’d only say that I can’t remember very much of Spillane’s work. I’ve read most of them in my time, but I’m afraid I must confess I can’t remember a single incident in any of them.

Plomer: Well then it’s not much good comparing yourself to him, is it? Now this is a most elementary question, but I would like to know what made you start writing thrillers at the age of 43. Could you, do you think, have written thrillers as good, say, at the age of 23?

Fleming: Well, I don’t think so, because, of course, to write thrillers you’ve got to know thrilling things and perhaps to have experienced some yourself, and certainly at the age of 23 I would have no wartime intelligence service, I wouldn’t have done any underwater swimming, and occasionally mess with an octopus or shark and so on, and so forth, and in fact I wouldn’t have had enough experience to write about secret service work with any kind of verisimilitude.

Plomer: Have you told us exactly what made you start writing thrillers at the age of 43? I don’t think you have; was it ambition?

Fleming: It wasn’t really ambition at all, my mental hands were empty and I was just about to get married, which is a terrible step to take at the age of 43, and I think, really, I started writing my first thriller to take my mind off the prospect of getting married.

Plomer: Tell us something about the famous James Bond. What did he start out to be in your mind?

Fleming: Well, he didn’t really…I mean he gradually built himself up through the books, but originally he was simply intended to be a blunt instrument and that’s really why I gave him such a very dull name. And, incidentally, I’m afraid I purloined the name from a very famous American ornithologist, because one of my bibles in the West Indies is a book called “James Bond’s Birds of the West Indies”.

Plomer: Would you say that your concept of James Bond has changed over the ten years that you’ve been writing?

Fleming: I don’t think so, but I think he’s got slightly more cluttered up with mannerisms and quirks of one sort or another, probably, I mean he’s not quite such a simple character as he was at the beginning, ten years ago.

Plomer: Now you’re undoubtedly asked a million times to tell how you think James Bond and you are alike. Now tell me instead how you and he differ or in what ways you simply couldn’t be James Bond?

Fleming: Well, I couldn’t possibly be James Bond because first of all, he’s got much more guts than I have. He’s also considerably more handsome and he eats more than, rather more richly than I could possibly manage to do.

Plomer: How do you think your own life has helped in creating a successful series of thrillers?

Fleming: Well, it’s been helpful, of course for me to have had experience in Reuters, the international news agency, because there one was taught to write fast and accurately. And of course by working in Berlin and Moscow and various other foreign capitals I got some experience of them, and I’ve traveled a very great deal, I’ve been twice around the world which helps anybody to write any kind of book. And, of course, my Naval intelligence work in the war has been a help because it’s brought me in contact with spies and methods of spying, and the same thing applies of course to my hobbies, such as skin diving, and occasional shooting, that sort of thing, like driving fast motorcars.

Plomer: Well now, could you pinpoint for us one of the adventures in your books which you actually experienced yourself?

Fleming: Well, the gambling scene in my first book Casino Royale is more or less, a blown up version of what happened to me during the war because I was flying to Washington with my chief, the Director of Naval Intelligence and we came down at Lisbon and were told that if we wanted to go and see some German secret agents, they were always gambling in the Casino at Estoril in the evening. So we went along and my chief didn’t understand the game of chemin de fer they were playing. I explained it to him and then it crossed my mind to have a bash at the Germans who were sitting around, and see if I couldn’t reduce their secret service funds. Unfortunately I sat down and after three bancos my travel money had completely disappeared. Now that, greatly exaggerated, was the colonel of James Bond’s great gamble against Le Chiffre in which he took Le Chiffre to the cleaners.

Plomer: That’s very revealing, interesting to know. Well, what is your recipe for a good thriller? I mean your use of detail and the way you catch atmosphere, the way you use familiar places, and also the way you use implausible things which could, however, happen.

Fleming: Of course the recipe for a thriller is to write about thrilling things and I try and thrill the reader right down to his taste buds so to speak. But so far as implausible things are concerned, true secret service history is very fantastic, and we occasionally see a little bit of it in the newspapers, like, for instance, the U-2 affair, or the tunnel between West and East Berlin through which we and the Americans tapped the telephone lines of the Russians, and the man who escaped to Germany or rather came over to Germany for the Russian secret service to kill a West German with a cigarette case containing dum-dum bullets, which were poisoned, and if the man hadn’t been captured would have killed his victim at once. And similar little bits of information from the underground of secret service work are constantly getting into the papers and one would say they are fantastic, but they are certainly no more or less fantastic than what happens in James Bond’s adventures.

Plomer: That fits in very well with what we know about truth being a good deal more farfetched than fiction. Do you think more readers read their books as though they were you or as though they were James Bond? With whom do they identify?

Fleming: Well, I’m pretty certain of course, that we all when we’re reading a book with a particular hero, see ourselves in that hero’s shoes. I think that’s really the answer to that.

Plomer: Why do you do most of your writing in Jamaica?

Fleming: Well I’m lucky enough to have a small house there and it hasn’t got a telephone and it’s a very good place to write because it’s because one writes in a vacuum there, nobody to bother one, and when my wife and I go out there we simply pull up the drawbridge so to speak and I get down to writing and she gets down to painting. I work for three or four hours a day and stick to a routine.

Plomer: That seems a very good arrangement.

Fleming: Well, it’s nicer to work in the sun than out of it.

Plomer: I bet it is. Is your own attitude toward women as functional as Bond’s? I’m rather curious to know why most of your heroines have some slight thing wrong with them. A crooked nose, or a slight limp, or a mole or two?

Fleming: Well, I don’t think this is really the place to discuss my sex life, but as far as the occasional limp or whatever it may be that my heroines have, I think we’d all of us agree that one’s girlfriends generally do have some tiny fault in their otherwise flawless beauty and I occasionally give my heroines such a fault because I think it’s truer to life.

Plomer: It’s a bit of naturalism. We know that nothing is perfect in this world, so I suppose that makes them more real. Well now, what spot in the United States do you think would make the best spy rendezvous? And why?

Fleming: Well the U.S., of course, is a very large place but the best place to meet a spy is usually in a park, or in a crowded swimming pool, public swimming pool. I once had this discussion with Raymond Chandler and he said that supposing it were a beautiful spy as opposed to a rather dull spy, the place to take her would be to the Rainbow Room at the top of the Rockefeller Center because he said that was a very attractive place to meet anyway and also almost entirely used by out-of-town Americans and tourists, so that one would be unlikely to run into a friend or an acquaintance.

Plomer: Rather an anonymous place, in fact?

Fleming: Yes, that’s the answer. And I did, in fact, once meet a spy in the United States, a man I wanted to talk to, and I arranged to meet him at the reptile house at the zoo in Central Park. So we duly appeared at the zoo. Unfortunately there was no reptile house at the zoo, so this meeting didn’t come off very well and we had to start all over again.

Plomer: Rather unfortunate. Still, some reptiles have two legs. How do you visualize your readers? I mean the different types of people attracted to your books?

Fleming: Well, I don’t really visualize them at all. I merely judge them from the ones that I meet and the ones who write to me and they seem to be more or less a very straightforward cutacross of…

Plomer: Just folks, as it were.

Fleming: Just sort of people really. But I think people like different things in books, either they like the movement, or the locales, or the excitement, adventure and so on and I think anybody likes a good spy story really.

Plomer: I think you’re being rather evasive. I think you ought to go into more detail about what sort of men, what sort of women, what sort of young people you notice particularly reading them.

Fleming: Well, I’m surprised to find that the teenagers are now going for these books and I hope they’re not doing them any harm.

Plomer: Well, that’s your responsibility. Tell me how you first met the Kennedys?

Fleming: Well, it was rather interesting. About a year before Mr. Kennedy became President, I was staying in Washington with a friend of mine and she was driving me through, it was a Sunday morning, and she was driving me through Washington down to Georgetown and there were two people walking along the street and she said, “Oh there are my friends Jack and Jackie,” and they were indeed very close friends of hers, and she stopped and they talked. And she said, “Do you know Ian Fleming?” And Jack Kennedy said, “Not the Ian Fleming?" Of course that was a very exciting thing for him to say and it turned out that they were both great fans of my books, as indeed is Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General, and they invited me to dinner that night with my friend, and we had great fun discussing the books and from then on I’ve always sent copies of them direct and personally to him before they’re published over here.

Plomer: I think that was an historic encounter. We know that presidents and prime ministers do like to read thrillers, why do you think that is?

Fleming: Well, I think the answer is, of course, that it does take their mind off their more pressing problems. And I think they find them very relaxing and, of course, the fact that they usually have a satisfactory and happy ending is quite a change for a president or a prime minister who is usually tied up with inextricable problems through which he can’t see the end.

Plomer: I remember some 12 years ago, we were lunching together here in London, and how did we then get onto the subject of your writing books?

Fleming: Well, William, I had just written this book in Jamaica and of course, I had no idea whether it was going to be a success or not. I thought it was quite exciting, but I dreaded the day when a publisher would see it, and I remember we were lunching and I said to you, William, if you get smoke inside a woman, how do you get it out of her?

Plomer: I remember.

Fleming: And you said, “Explain exactly what you mean.” And I said, what if I was writing a book on a woman who’d inhaled a cigarette or a lungful of smoke. You couldn’t then say that she exhaled it, because that’s a stupid word, and puffed it out, dribbled it out and so on and so forth. This is a technical question I want to ask, how do you get it out of her. And you said, “Ian, you’ve written a book.” And I said, well, as a matter of fact William, it isn’t exactly a book but I have written a sort of thriller. And you then said, “Well I want to see it.” And I blushingly handed over the manuscript in a day or two and in due course you wrote a very kind report on the book and if you remember you managed to persuade the partners of my English publishers Jonathan Cape to publish it, although they hadn’t, I don’t think, published a thriller since The Postman Always Rings Twice. And the book got off to a good start and…

Plomer: And since then you’ve never looked back. Well, I hope you don’t regret having become, as you have, so eminent a writer of thrillers.

Fleming: Well, I’m not so sure that thriller writers are eminent but still, it’s certainly been a tremendous success, the whole venture, and I’ve enjoyed it enormously because being a writer’s a very good life really, you carry your office around in your head and you don’t have to work at it all the time. You earn fairly good money from royalties and of course if you manage to sell serial rights or film rights you do very well indeed. But, I certainly think it’s marvelous to have a job, so to speak, which is also a pleasant hobby.

Plomer: Well, as you know, no one is more pleased with your success than I am. Have you any idea how many copies of your books have by now been sold?

Fleming: Well, that’s a very difficult thing to discover because they’ve been translated into about thirty foreign languages. But I should say that my sales in England over the past ten or eleven books would be around 2 or 3 million, and in America I think they’re certainly that and possibly more. I think they may be well up to 4 million because they’ve gone into the New American Library Paperback Edition and been very smartly dressed up and they seem to be going like hot cakes in the States.

Plomer: You ought to be pleased about that. I should think the number of your readers in America is increasing so rapidly that it will soon overhaul your British public. Do you agree with that?

Fleming: Well, it certainly seems to look like it, rather, because the sales figures that I see from New American Library are certainly very startling indeed.

Plomer: Well, that’s good. Tell me, I wonder, what writers have influenced you…can you think of any?

Fleming: Well, I think principally two American writers, the two great masters of the modern thriller, namely Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. I was very struck by both those writers, as I know everybody else is. And particularly by their extremely good style and the verisimilitude of their stories. I should say those two Americans probably influenced me more than any other. But of course in one’s childhood one used to read the Phillips Oppenheim, Sax Rohmer, and bloods of those days and I suppose they all have played their little part too.

Plomer: They were all in the tradition, weren’t they?

Fleming: Yes.

Plomer: Have you got another book on the stocks at present, and if so, can you tell me anything about it?

Fleming: Yes, I’ve finished a new, in fact the longest James Bond that I’ve written. And that’s as you know with the publishers over here now. And also a copy with my publishers in America and they seem to be fairly satisfied with it. It’s a very long story with a great deal of incidents, or various excitements, and it’s even suggested at one period of the book that James Bond may be descended from the man who named Bond Street, which I think will make a lot of people chuckle.

Plomer: Yes, that’s an interesting touch, isn’t it? Would you say you’ve broken rather fresh ground in this book?

Fleming: I wouldn’t say so. It’s set in Switzerland actually and not as most of my books are in America or the Tropics.

Plomer: Well that’s unfamiliar to us…

Fleming: Yes, and there’s a great deal of incident in the high Alps which will certainly interest people who do winter sports, and skiing and so forth. Some pretty dreadful things happen.

Plomer: Well we shall be frozen to death with excitement. What about films? You know people often think your books ought to be films. Am I not right in thinking that the first film based on one of your books has just been made?

Fleming: Yes, it has. It was filmed mostly out in Jamaica this last winter. And it’s been done by United Artists through a subsidiary of theirs over here called EON Productions, and it’s been produced by the producer of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning which was a very great success both here and in America.

Plomer: Have you seen a preview of your film?

Fleming: Yes, I have, I’ve seen the rough cut and I must say I think they’ve certainly managed to hit it off very well. They’ve got a very good star as James Bond, a man called Sean Connery, a Scotsman, who weight-lifts in Scotland and boxed for the navy and a very good Shakespearean actor and so on, and they’ve got plenty of excitement and gunplay and what all in the film and I think it’ll probably be a very great success.

Plomer: Well let’s hope it will be the first of a succession of films. I’m sure we all look forward to them.

Fleming: Well, they have got an option on the remainder of my books and I think the next one—this one they’ve just filmed is Doctor No, and I think the next one they intend to do is From Russia With Love.

Plomer: With the same star in it?

Fleming: I think certainly with the same star as James Bond, but probably of course, with different subsidiary stars.

Plomer: Ah yes. Well I thank you very much for answering all those questions. I really feel now that I know just a little bit more about you than I did before.

Fleming: Well, thank you William.


Note: The following is a transcription from a now-lost radio interview. It is notable for delving further into the Bond books than the usual interviews with Fleming. My thanks to the fellow researcher and collector who found and kindly sent me the transcript.

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

This evening’s programme is devoted to some aspects of the thriller…In the novel there have been perhaps more kinds of thriller, not surprisingly, than in any other art form: the ghost story, the Gothic horror novel, the science fiction novel, the detective story are all variants on the thriller formula. But in England, perhaps the most successful and original variant, at any rate over the last fifty years, has been the spy story.

It’s perhaps a consequence of our position as an imperial power in decline that our writers of thrillers since Buchan and Sapper have been preoccupied with the mystique of the English gentleman as a sort of individual lever of the political world, averting disaster with a flick of his eyelashes between two glasses of Marsala in his Brook Street club. The James Bond novels of Ian Fleming stand squarely in this tradition of the elegant spy story with an upper middle class flavour, but they’ve added the new and crucial ingredient of detailed popular newspaper realism—in setting, in background information, in their descriptions of sex and violence. In the following recorded interview Ian Fleming talks to T. G. Rosenthal about the nature of the thriller, and about his own work in this field.

Aficionados of Mr. Fleming’s thrillers will perhaps like to known that the interview took place at the top of a certain discretely distinguished building near Regents Park, which may account for the quality of the recording; alternatively you could put it down to a frustrated attempt at jamming on the part of Smersh.

T.G. ROSENTHAL: Mr. Fleming, it seems to me that a great deal of the appeal of the James Bond stories you’ve written is a kind of escapism—it’s the kind of escapism which you also find in the cinema, but if one just goes back to your short story that you wrote for the Sunday Times a few weeks ago, there’s a moment when the man who is instructing Bond at the rifle range at Bisley sees Bond finish, pack up, go away, and he says to himself “Mm. ’Spose he’s off to London to get a woman or something. Yes, he’s the kind who can get any number of women he likes.”

Now this seems to me to be almost an archetypal comment about Bond, and I’m sure it’s one of those things that makes him most successful, because for the average Englishman to read about such a character and then identify with him, this undoubtedly gives him a thrill, and do you agree with this?

FLEMING: Well I s’ppose I do. I think all life or history is violence and sex, and I think that undoubtedly large proportions of them appear in my books. I think that it would be very hard if they didn’t because the thriller is a kind of Pilgrim’s Progress where you get the man starting off in rather poor shape and gradually working his way up until he defeats the villain and wins the prize, so to speak; and it’s perfectly true that in the case of most thrillers and certainly in the case of mine, the prize is a beautiful girl very often.

ROSENTHAL: As much as the actual goal of whatever his Secret Service was? Are the two equal in your structure?

FLEMING: Very much subsidiary—the girl or girls come into the story as part of the exercise in which Bond is engaged. Possibly [in] my present book that’s come out the girl takes the major part, because it is in fact the girl who is telling the story.

ROSENTHAL: Well you’ve mentioned the form of the thriller—now it’s a cliché to say that one of the chief problems of any kind of writing is self-discipline, but don’t you think that in the form which you have set yourself—with the exception of the latest book which we’ll come to later—but in the previous nine, you seem to have set yourself a certain formula, which I think ought to at least ease the problem of self-discipline, because having worked out this formula you can then fit the book to it. Do you find that this is in fact a help and does it give you a certain greater fluency?

FLEMING: Well of course I don’t see the formula. You perhaps see that as a reader and critic, but to my mind they’re all just entirely separate stories. Perhaps you could call them fairy stories for grown-ups, which I have to think I wrote entirely separately. I can’t fall back on what you would call a formula, because when I sit down at my desk with page one in front of me in the typewriter, yawning at me, I’ve got to tell a story of one kind or another. To fit it to formula doesn’t really cross my mind.

ROSENTHAL: No, wasn’t in any sense accusing you of having all the books the same—they’re all extremely different of course and there’s no question of any similarity between two books—

FLEMING: —I think I see what you mean.

ROSENTHAL: —but you can always be sure of one good bedroom scene, in nearly all the books there’s a torture scene of some kind, there’ll always be a shooting, there’ll always be a briefing by M and so on.

FLEMING: Yes I think there’s a lot in that, but of course he’s a serial character, James Bond, and he’s got to be started off on his mission by somebody, and the Secret Service has got to send him off and very often [there’s] a useful way of getting the plot on the move by M, who’s his Secret Service chief, saying “Look here, we’ve got a very nasty problem on our hands in Paraguay.” Well, now already you’ve got two or three chapters…letting the reader into the secret of more or less what Bond’s task is in this particular book, and if one didn’t have that, which is of course partly a formula, it’d be much more difficult.

In From Russia With Love for instance I started at the other end with a similar, so to speak, situation in the Russian secret service headquarters, where there was a briefing going on for the destruction of Bond, and Bond only then himself came in halfway through as being the object of the destruction of him that had been planned in Moscow.

ROSENTHAL: Yes, and indeed in fact From Russia With Love is the only book which ends with—obviously not disaster, because Bond is alive again for Doctor No, which is I think the one that followed, isn’t it?


ROSENTHAL: [Bond is] getting an enormous rocket at the beginning of Doctor No for his slip-up at the end of From Russia With Love, but of course the last page of From Russia With Love shows Bond probably dying after being poisoned by the fiendish Russian woman.

FLEMING: Well that is quite correct, fictionally correct, because Bond had made an awful fool of himself in his behaviour at the end of that book, and he deserved punishment, which he in fact received.

ROSENTHAL: Using this word “punishment”—do you regard yourself as a moralist in any way?

FLEMING: (LAUGHING) I don’t know about that—I don’t think so, and I’d never pretend that James Bond is a particularly desirable character. I don’t really pretend that he’s a hero at all. I make it pretty clear that he’s got unlikeable traits, but does a very good job, and when I first thought of him as a character I intended him to be purely a blunt instrument in the hands of his government, who would be subjected to various adventures and excitements, but who would not show up as the stock hero of, for instance, let’s say the Buchan books or Bulldog Drummond, and so on and so forth, or the Saint, where the man is definitely given a heroic role. I meant this man really to be an extremely capable instrument in the hands of the government, and that is one of the reasons why I gave him such an extremely dull name, because rather than call him, for instance, Peregrine Carruthers, or something of that sort, I called him James Bond, being to my mind the dullest name I could lay my hands on.

ROSENTHAL: Yet you do Mr. Fleming, don’t you give Bond a certain number of rather better characteristics? You do give him [those] in one or two of the books, for example in Casino Royale [Bond] moralises himself, he philosophizes—he asks himself is it a good job he’s doing, should he be doing it, then he justifies the various killings he’s done, certainly the so-called cold-blooded ones, and finds reasons why they had to be done and were in fact unavoidable for the interests of the State, and leaving aside mere self-preservation.

FLEMING: Yes, you’re perfectly correct about that—probably I have a certain amount of sympathy for the chap, or [have been] developing one over the years, and I feel that he ought not to be made out quite such a monster as some of his critics do make him out as, and no doubt I write in these passages quite subconsciously, trying to make out that Bond is in fact a nicer man than he really is.

ROSENTHAL: …Well, of course you have a number of adverse critics who dislike the so-called cult of violence, but then there was, wasn’t there, this leader in the Guardian which said, among other things, that the books are providing a conveniently accessible safety valve for the boiling sensibility of modern man, and also provide a vicarious satisfaction of innately violent instincts.

FLEMING: Yes, I think it was rather well-said. As a matter of fact Paul Gallico said something rather similar—he wrote a most entertaining introduction to an omnibus volume of mine which appeared in America, and he likened the whole business to the psychologist’s theory that if you keep a cat you are in fact keeping a small tiger. I mean that in your mind the sense of danger of keeping a tiger is reproduced in the keeping of a cat.

ROSENTHAL: Mmm—mmm. If we could look for a moment at the sadistic element in the books, which I think is undeniable, how much of this is done in an attempt to titillate an audience, or how much is it done in the knowledge that this is rather what your readers want or expect?

FLEMING: Well, when I started out to write these books, it was really quite soon after the war, and I’d worked in Naval Intelligence and [was] fairly close to the sort of things that go on in a tenser form in the James Bond books, and the violence, or sadism that you mention, that appears in the books, is as nothing to what occurs in real life, in the life of true James Bonds.

ROSENTHAL: Well, it’s going on at the moment in Algeria and has been for a long time of course.

FLEMING: Yes, well that is true, and the tortures that I know of that were inflicted on our secret agents, particularly by the Moroccan French—if I published anything approaching their violence and horribleness, then I should undoubtedly be overstepping the bounds of what can be written. But I think this sort of Bulldog Drummond business of the hero just getting a bang on the head with a sort of wooden mallet isn’t good enough nowadays. We’ve been through a couple of major wars, and we know perfectly well that human beings do wreak far worse vengeance on each other than has ever been written in the old-fashioned thrillers, say, and as I try to make my thrillers…get fairly close to the truth of life, perhaps this kind of truth is unpalatable to some people, and also perhaps totally beyond our experience or knowledge.

ROSENTHAL: I think you’d agree with me that there is a very definite James Bond cult—some of the blurbs of your jackets refer to James Bond clubs and so on. Do you at all relish the idea, and I’m sure it’s going to come sooner or later, if it hasn’t already, of earnest Ph.D students in minor American universities taking all your books apart and analysing them and producing statistics of how many times Bond in the first part of lovemaking reaches for the right breast and feels the erect nipple and so on—

FLEMING: Well—I’m horrified at the thought it might happen, but it is already doing so. In fact I got a letter from an extremely earnest lady student in Germany the other day, asking for some information, because she was in fact writing her Doctorate thesis on the subject of the James Bond books, and that was in Germany, where I’m not very widely published.

ROSENTHAL: It seems to me that you have made a very definite and a very successful effort at a closely reasoned and fairly serious medium [in] your thrillers, following in the tradition of people in America like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Have you felt yourself to be influenced by these people—particularly, I think, Chandler?

FLEMING: Yes, definitely. I was tremendously impressed by both those writers—the fact that they got away from Mandarin English and also told a more of less truthful type of story. I admit fantasy enters into mine far more than it does into theirs, but it did seem to me that they’d taken the thriller a tremendous step forward away from ham, so to speak, and of course one of my great ambitions would be to write—as indeed Raymond Chandler says himself in his book Chandler Speaking—to write a great novel that would also be a great thriller. And I’m sure it’s certainly quite possible because when you look at the Russians—look at Tolstoy, Doestoevsky, the tremendously thrilling elements in their great novels.

I’m not in the least ashamed of telling a story, so to speak, I’m very unfashionable in that way, and I’m sure that we shall come upon a writer—Simenon is after all very nearly that, he’s written some quite remarkable novels, in which elements of violence and terror and death are very strong. Certainly as people become more adult in their reading habits, I think the thriller will develop along those lines—let’s say it [will] get closer to the novel, while at the same time remaining the telling of a story, rather than let us say, [the] lopped end of a life, which is rather current today.

ROSENTHAL: Well if we hark for a moment on the question of the novel, which is more important to you—the sequence of events, or individual events? You have written a few short stories, haven’t you, which seem to me to be constructed in a very similar fashion to the novels, in that there is always a beautiful girl involved, there is once more the element of pursuit and of capture, and of extreme violence and brutality. In other words, it seems to me that you can compress certain aspects of your novels into a much shorter space, but is it the whole sequence that counts or is it the individual events?

FLEMING: Well, I think that pace is probably the answer to that question—it’s a rather difficult question to answer. What I have tried to achieve is speed. That’s why you find very little dialogue on the whole in my books, and a great deal of incidents and descriptions of places and things. Whereas of course in a novel, it’s very difficult to write a successful novel unless you have long passages of dialogue, which personally bore me because I’m not very good at writing dialogue. I can pick up a Raymond Chandler and read his dialogue just for the pleasure of reading his dialogue, and very often, as I think must possibly occur in the case of many readers, one doesn’t really honestly know what the devil’s going on in a Chandler book, but the dialogue is so good it carries one…

…As many readers will find, they can pick up, as I can, a Raymond Chandler book and read it [as] such for the sake of the brilliance of the dialogue, and I, for my part, very often haven’t got the foggiest notion what is really happening in a Chandler book—I just read it with great pleasure because it’s so highly intelligent, but I think his plots are extremely dubious, very often he loses track of…

ROSENTHAL: You said a few minutes ago Mr. Fleming that you were very interested in the form of the novel as such, and that you would one day like to write a great novel which was also a great thriller. Now in your latest book, The Spy Who Loved Me, it seems to me that you’ve gone much more over to the novel rather than the thriller; certainly in the first half dealing with the spy, it’s obviously different because you’ve written it from the point of view of a girl. But also Bond comes into it very late indeed—is this a deliberate attempt to break away from what you feel might be a limiting formula or what?

FLEMING: Well I think if you’re writing about a serial character, and trying to be slightly intelligent about doing so, you do get rather tired of the reader’s desire that you should produce exactly the same mixture as before, and in this last book of mine, The Spy Who Loved Me, I have tried to get away from that, for a change—an intellectual change for myself, perhaps, and I’ve tried to look at Bond as one might say from the other end of the gun barrel, and the book purports to be written by a girl, and it is how she sees Bond, but I have tried to put [that] across, rather than for instance how Bond sees the girl, which is fact is not mentioned at all.

ROSENTHAL: But there are in fact only a very few pages which actually put this across—between a third and a half of the book is devoted to the girl’s previous history and her maltreatment at the hands of rather contemptible men.

FLEMING: Well, I had to make the girl the sort of girl to whom the exciting events that then come to pass would come to pass. She’s a French-Canadian, she’s had rather [a] normal life perhaps, but in London, before she gets to this rather sinister hotel in America, and I think artistically—if one can put it like that, or from the point of view of craftsmanship—I had to explain the girl pretty thoroughly before the gangsters arrived on the scene and then subsequently James Bond.

ROSENTHAL: Mmm. If we can change the subject completely, although in fact it’s a reversion to Hammett and Chandler, we’ve seen many films of books from those two, we know what their private eyes look like. It seems to me quite extraordinary—particularly these days, when a writer has to depend very often on film rights in order to live properly—that we haven’t yet had any James Bond films. Are there any on the way?

FLEMING: They just have begun. Previously there’s been a lot of dickering and flirting with the idea of Hollywood, which generally consisted of having very expensive lunches, and everybody saying “Ian, what a wonderful writer you are and what wonderful films you’d make, Ian” and so on and so forth, and then nothing—everything…fades out and Mr. Finkelstein disappears back into Hollywood, and that’s the end of that. But now [the] extremely able team of producers who made Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and The Trials of Oscar Wilde and The Entertainer and many other films have now got rights nearly all the James Bond books—all the James Bond books that are free, and they have started in effect.

They’re very nearly finished doing the first one, which is Doctor No—which is an extremely expensive affair in Technicolour—and I went and watched one or two scenes being shot on location in Jamaica, and I’ve seen some rushes from it and it does seem to me to get back to the likes of The Guns of Navarone—the old sort of blood and thunder film which I personally have always greatly enjoyed—when you stagger out into the night at the end of the film not really knowing what’s hit you. As for instance, Hitchcock, in his excellent North by Northwest pulled one’s legs so much that one went out into the night not knowing whether to laugh or be frightened.

ROSENTHAL: Who is playing Bond and do you approve of him?

FLEMING: I urged them not to get a typed actor, but to try and find somebody who was comparatively unknown, and they’ve found a most admirable man called Sean Connery, who is a Scotsman, and he’s a well-known Shakespearian actor, and he’s done a bit of TV as well. He’s boxed for the Navy, he weight-lifts for Scotland, and he plays centre-forward for the Variety Association Football team at weekends. He’s very good-looking, moves very well, very good with a gun, and I think he’ll do the job absolutely splendidly.

They’ve got a very beautiful Swiss actress called Ursula Andress who appears as the heroine in this, and some extremely good subsidiary characters…a very good villain called Wiseman from America, and a very good coloured man in the part of Quarrel, which is a rather important subsidiary part in the picture. And from what I can see they’re doing a tremendous job of it, and I suppose it’ll be coming out round the end of about August or September, and of course I shall be extremely interested to see what the public think of it all.

ROSENTHAL: Have you in fact any part in the supervision of the technical problems of that sort of grim obstacle race which Bond has towards the end of the book?

FLEMING: I’ve given them some ideas, but as a matter of fact I’ve kept as far away as possible because if you get mixed up in show business it can be an extremely time-wasting affair, and I have been writing in the last two months, while they’ve been filming, another full-length James Bond story, so I didn’t want to get too tied-up in the show business side of things.

ROSENTHAL: Is this all Bond this time?

FLEMING: Yes. First page to last.




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