Interviews with Ian Fleming

A Redbook Dialogue: Allen Dulles and Ian Fleming (Redbook, June 1964)

Allen Dulles has served in diplomatic, legal and intelligence posts under eight presidents, beginning with Woodrow Wilson. Now retired, his last post was Director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Ian Fleming, prolific author of chilling spy stories, is a former foreign correspondent, and also served as personal assistant to Britain’s Director of Naval Intelligence during World War II.

It is a raw, rainy day. Allen Dulles and Ian Fleming arrive a few moments apart, Dulles first, accompanied by his publisher’s representatives, then Fleming, who is staying in the hotel where the dialogue is to be held. Fleming is also accompanied by a publisher’s representative. Dulles removes his hat and coat, then his rubbers, revealing feet shod in soft bedroom slippers. “I am allergic to wearing shoes indoors,” he says. “I hope no one cares. I believe in being comfortable.”

There is a brief hubbub in the hotel suite as Dulles and Fleming, old acquaintances, greet each other, as coffee is ordered, as appointments are made and as, one by one, the publisher’s representatives, leaving copies of Fleming’s and Dulles’ books, make their farewells. Continuing their small talk. Dulles and Fleming establish themselves in comfortable chairs.

MR. DULLES: Are you staying in this hotel?

MR. FLEMING: Yes, I am.

DULLES: I always did. As long as Uncle Sam was paying the bill. Now my old law office, you know, has a suite in a hotel nearby, so now I use that. It’s excellent.

FLEMING (Sounding like his discriminating fictional hero, James Bond): It’s a good, quiet hotel, without pretensions. But the big hotels, the good hotels, are all gone.

DULLES: Of course, Claridge’s is the best hotel in the world. (Indicating the microphone) Is this thing on?


DULLES (Laughing): Well, I don’t want to advertise or slander anybody at the moment—not without knowing I’m doing it

FLEMING: Well, come on. Let’s get this over with, Allen.

DULLES (Humorously): Give me a chance to get my breath! Now, what do you want to talk about? I wrote down a few ideas…

FLEMING: Well, I’ve got a few in my head. I think the thing to do is to make it as merry as possible.

DULLES: Oh, I agree with you.

FLEMING: If we can avoid being dull…

DULLES (Playfully): Well, then, let me give you a tip. A few nights ago I was sitting around after a dinner party, and there happened to be three or four ladies about, and I was talking to them. I said I was coming up here to have this talk with you, and they were all fascinated. And then they started talking about your books, and they said, “You know, the only trouble with Ian Fleming’s women is that they’re sort of one-purpose women. We don’t object to the one purpose,” they said, “but we’d like to have a book sometime where there is long-lasting love, where the woman not only participates actively in the operations but comes out as a heroine with some sort of character to her.” I give you (Twinkling) that tip.

FLEMING (With mock gravity): Thank you, Allen. …Well, there have been such women in espionage. They may have existed. But as you know, women spies are difficult people. I mean, they’re emotional. They get involved; and you can’t really control a woman’s emotions to the same extent that you can control a man’s, assuming he’s a normal man. I mean it’s very difficult to say to a woman, “Come on—you must go and make love to So-and-so.” How does one know she’s not going to fall in love? And then where are you?

DULLES: That’s often happened. But some women spies have been very good. You know the history of Mata Hari.

FLEMING (With dislike): She was a hopeless girl!

DULLES: She was very useful, though. She did get information. Women certainly have a part to play in intelligence. And then I’ve found too, on the analytical side of intelligence—even in order of battle—I’ve found women extremely good. Meticulously careful! You have that in England too. You remember that marvelous—don’t you?—that gal who analyzes the photographs?

FLEMING: Yes, yes. Marvelous! You’re right! I’ve forgotten her name… (Referring to aerial photographs taken from a man-made satellite) “Spy in the Sky.”

DULLES: “Spy in the Sky.” Yes.

FLEMING: Quite right! I don’t know your staff breakdown, but I suppose there are a good many women…

DULLES: A great many. They are excellent. Men often are impatient of details. And in intelligence you’ve got to be very careful. Say you have fifteen or twenty reports about the make-up of a certain Soviet army group, and you have all kinds of little pieces to put together like a jigsaw puzzle. What is the true strength of this particular group? How many divisions are there in it? And where are they positioned? And so forth. You give a gal the raw material and I would say that most of the time she’ll be doing it better, if she’s well trained, than a man.

FLEMING: Well, I grant you that. That’s perfectly true. What I meant was that the old-fashioned idea of a female spy, a girl going to bed with a man to find out secrets, that went out with Edgar Wallace…

DULLES (Humorously, still not agreeing): But Mata Hari got, I would say, a good deal of valuable information from her association with high French officials. She was extremely useful.

FLEMING: Yes. But how does one do it? All right; one is in bed with Mata Hari! And she says (Acting it out): “Darling, do tell me about that Howitzer that you just developed.” And you say, “Oh, well, my dear, it’s part of a gun,” and so forth, “and it fires quite a big shell.” And she says, “How big, exactly? How many millimeters?” One simply can’t believe that conversation!

DULLES (Amused): You know, I think it was a London daily that published a most marvelous letter from some gal, going back to the Profumo case—just asking, “At what stage during the amorous dalliance did Christine pop the question about giving the bomb to the Russians?”

FLEMING: That’s it, you see, really…

DULLES: Well, the point is that you establish certain connections which can be used otherwise than in bed. They were enamored of Mata Hari. Some of those men who were enamored, they would see her all the time…

FLEMING: Yes. Well, you’ll be amused when you see my next film, From Russia With Love.

DULLES: That’s the book of yours I like best of all.

FLEMING: Well, it’s great fun. I like it the best too, as a matter of fact. And I think there you have a perfectly reasonable operation by a woman. I mean, the whole operation is quite straightforward. She doesn’t have to ask about howitzers or missiles or anything of that sort. She has a definite job—to make the man fall in love with her, and I must say it’s a lark, this bloody film; you must see it, Allen.

DULLES (Still teasing a little): I will. I will. But—well, there you have it—your point. She falls in love herself. She turns out to be a very nice girl. But in some of your other books—that’s what some of your women readers complain of—they would like to have you idealize a woman a little more than you do. What is your ideal woman, Ian?

FLEMING: The woman one sees from the top of a bus. We’ve got those double-decker buses in London. Perhaps on a gusty, rainy day, and you’re going along on the top, which I rather enjoy doing…You might see half a dozen ideal women from the top of a bus, you know.

(Dulles laughs)

FLEMING (More seriously): I think I very much like the WREN type of woman. Or—what’s the name of your women’s naval service?—the WAVES. I like the fact that they seem to want to please, to make one happy. Rather like, you know—if you’ve ever been to Japan; there’s a desire to please among Orientals which I find very pleasant after living in the harsh West. (Pausing) But I think it’s very difficult to say. Because in the end, one ends up marrying entirely the opposite of what one thinks, you know, which I have done.

DULLES: But haven’t you noticed, in a great many cases, after death or a divorce, the next wife will have certain traits very similar to those of the first?

FLEMING: That’s probably true, yes.

DULLES: I’ve seen it again and again.

FLEMING: You know, wives, marriage…The whole business of marriage…It’s a ridiculous institution, really.

DULLES (Laughing): I’m not supposed to assent to all of this.

FLEMING (Continuing seriously): I think anybody who has a happy marriage…Well, both of them are heroes! I mean, both parties of a marriage, a successful marriage, have got to be heroes. Because I think marriage is the most difficult thing in life. I mean, Allen, your job in CIA was nothing

DULLES (Humorously): I grant that.

FLEMING: —absolutely nothing compared to creating a happy marriage! My golly, it requires intelligence! It requires understanding, it requires intuition, it requires sensitivity, far beyond anything your staff could ever have produced.

DULLES (Again laughing): That sounds very different from James Bond!

FLEMING: Well, I am different. Oh, Lord, yes. Just as I suspect you are different from a lot of the spies you’ve employed.

DULLES (Comfortably): Well, I’m supposed to look like a professor.

FLEMING: A genial professor, yes… But tell me, Allen, how do you like being, so to speak, in retirement? After giving up your tremendous job.

DULLES: Well, one never likes it, really. You adjust yourself to it. I made one big mistake. I thought I was going to be bored when I left, so I took on a good deal more than I can do. I’m on quite a number of boards, and I’m up here—

FLEMING: What kind of boards?

DULLES: Investment companies, things of that kind. They think I know what’s going to happen in the world, you know, and I may be useful. And I’ve written, you know, this book, The Craft of Intelligence, and have two or three more books in the works. And they keep me running around, the publishers. I thought you wrote a book, you know, gave it to the publishers and they did the rest. But they’re after you all the time. I’m traveling all over the country.

FLEMING: Well, particularly in America—you’re required to do too much of this editing, over here.

DULLES (Referring to the dialogue): What I’m talking about is promotion. This is promotion, isn’t it?

FLEMING: I suppose it is. Yes…When was it we met, Allen? You gave a dinner, I recall. Four years ago, was it?

DULLES: It was longer. Six or seven years. And we met (Dryly, very casually)—you remember that man, head of one of your unspeakable—I mean unmentionable—British agencies?

FLEMING (Remembering with pleasure): That’s right! And we sat around…We got…Oh, we had great fun!

DULLES: He’s still going strong, isn’t he?

FLEMING: Yes, he is. Nice chap.

DULLES: Was that about the time you met President Kennedy?

FLEMING: No, no, I met him later. It was in the spring, about March—before he was elected President. I was visiting an old friend, and I was driving along through Washington one day with his wife—a charming person; and there we saw two people on the street and she said, “Oh, there’s Jack and Jackie Kennedy!” And so we pulled up, and she said, “How are you?” and so on—she’s a great friend of theirs—and, “Do you know Mr. Ian Fleming?” And Jack Kennedy said, “Not the Ian Fleming!” Of course, this is the sort of thing that any author, you know—this is just what we love! You know (Playing it out) “The Allen Dulles!” (Dulles laughs) And I sort of blushed and said, “Well, I’m the chap who writes the books.” And they said, “Oh, you must come to dinner tonight,” and so on and so forth. And we went to dinner and we had great fun; and since then—I mean, we became friends, and I always sent the Kennedys my books. And, of course, he did me a fantastically good turn in America by saying they liked my books.

DULLES: Well, I can testify to that. Because I got one of your books from Mrs. Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy; and then I sent her the next two…

FLEMING (Sadly, almost inaudibly): A lot of adventure went out of the world when he died.

DULLES: It did. It did. And lightness and quickness…

FLEMING: He was an extraordinary man. It just hit us like a sledge hammer in England.

DULLES (Quietly): He was—he was extraordinary…In any case, that was when we met the first time, you and I, at that dinner. And then you were kind enough to begin introducing some of our CIA people into your books. In subordinate positions, of course. I say this very politely, you understand.

FLEMING (Also more lightly): Yes…Well, I’ve brought you into my next book also. Comparing you favorably with your successor, who, I have said, is a much more difficult man to get on with—from the British, of course, point of view.

DULLES: I hope not too difficult. Because I’m supporting him in every way I can.

FLEMING: Well, in the book he’s under jurisdiction of the defense council. And he’s very worried about the leaks in England—about the Vassal and Profumo cases, and so forth. Discovering that Vassal, a highly trusted man, had for six years been leaking information to the Soviet—that was quite a thing.

DULLES: Well, we’ve had our own leaks in this country too. I’ve always been very cautious about criticizing. Faced with what we have to cope with in the Soviet system, we’re all going to have spies in our midst. But what we’re doing now—and I hope sometime you can emphasize the fact—is strengthening our counterintelligence. Counterintelligence is getting very, very much better than it was ten, fifteen years ago.

FLEMING: I’m very glad to hear that.

DULLES: And now we’re picking them up.


DULLES: And the fact that you are finding enemy agents in Great Britain too ought not to be a subject for too much criticism. That you have them, that’s damned bad. But you are finding them. And we’ve been finding them here too. But, you know, I think we exchange them too rapidly. I was very much opposed to the exchange of Egorov and his wife before trial. You remember—Ivan D. Egorov, the fellow in the UN who was running a network here…

FLEMING: That’s right…

DULLES: …and we let him go home? Some in his network will he tried, but the chief fellow had been exchanged! I thought we ought to have tried him first—then if you want to exchange him, all right.

FLEMING: Quite. But was that for Powers? Or for whom?

DULLES: No. Egorov and his wife were exchanged for a Fulbright scholar. He was arrested over there in 1961. And for a Roman Catholic priest who’d been held since 1940.

FLEMING: Oh, of course. I remember.

DULLES: I agreed to the Powers exchange. I agreed because, after all, we got value for value there. And Abel—Colonel Rudolf Abel, who had been posing as a lowly photographer in Brooklyn—I don’t think Abel was ever going to talk! You remember, up to that point the Soviets had taken the position that they had no responsibility for him. And so we also won the point that in his exchange we had an admission by the Soviet that he was their spy.

FLEMING: But what’s annoying to me, Allen, is the fact that we work in a democracy and they work in a police state. And nobody makes trouble in their newspapers, Pravda and Izvestia, when they get into espionage trouble.

DULLES: No. It’s never mentioned.

FLEMING: Never! But my Lord, you or I, your country or mine, they’ve only got to sense trouble and the thing makes banner headlines all over the place.

DULLES: Even more so here than in England. You at least have the Official Secrets Act.

FLEMING: How is it you don’t have it?

DULLES: Well, you see, our Constitution is such that that might be deemed impairment of freedom of the press, which is constitutionally guaranteed. I’ve often discussed this question with the Department of Justice—when I was Director. But they always told me that in their view—and I’m a lawyer too, and understand their position—under our constitutional provisions, we probably couldn’t have a National Secrets Act.

FLEMING: Well, I don’t know how the hell you operate without it, Allen.

DULLES: We do have espionage laws.

FLEMING: Yes. But, you see, you’ve some terrible leaks, particularly in some of your scientific publications, as you know.

DULLES: Oh, yes, that’s true. In my book I tried to attack that. And then there was a Polish defector, the Polish military attaché here, who defected from the Polish Embassy in Washington. Well, he wrote a book—Really, the subject of that book is how pleasant it is to spy in the United States! A delightful land for spies! Of course, if they get caught, they can get the extreme penalty.

FLEMING (Worriedly): No. It is difficult, that. I mean, I’ve seen things in the press—I’m only on the fringe of these affairs nowadays—but the enemy’s got imagination, and I’ve seen things put out by some of your absolutely top columnists that put my hair on end!

DULLES (Laughing ruefully): They aged me a good deal too in the days when I was Director.

FLEMING: I’ll bet they did.

DULLES: I mean really did. Sometimes it was ignorance, in the sense that the writers did not realize the importance of what they were telling. Take when we were trying to develop defenses against the Soviet missiles—that is, from the point of view of intelligence—finding out where they were shooting, what success they had, and so forth. I’m not disclosing any secrets now, but there was that radar we had near the Iron Curtain. It was very important. You had to place your radar within reasonable distance of where the missiles were being tried to know what was happening. Well, that was all disclosed! Now, that didn’t do anybody any good. That certainly wasn’t a bit of information the American public had to have to supervise their government. And the enemy wasn’t raising the issue. And it was all disclosed in our newspapers; and it put the countries where the radars were in a very difficult position.

FLEMING: Well, I think you’ve got your problems and we’ve got ours, and I don’t know what you feel are the main security risks in your country. But I think perversions, sexual perversions—the possibility of blackmail by the enemy of people in important positions—is probably one of the biggest troubles. And they’re so difficult for us to find out.


FLEMING (Continuing): …because there’s a sort of trade union among those people, which makes it difficult…

DULLES: Oh, yes.

FLEMING: I mean, if you and Fleming: I mean, if you and I happened to love girls in mackintoshes, we would get together! We would say, you know (Secretively, acting it out) “Look quickly there! There’s a girl in a mackintosh!” (Dulles laughs)

FLEMING (Continuing seriously): But the enemy finds out, and it seems to me that is one of the greatest risks. Now, take this Vassal case we had. It’s so difficult to spot them! He seemed perfectly ordinary, a perfectly ordinary man…And for six years he was working for the enemy because he was afraid he’d he exposed.

DULLES: Well, I think in your country—and I ought to be very careful about any criticism—that maybe you’re a little slow over there in adopting tactics and techniques that might be helpful in finding out. Naturally, you desire to protect everybody’s rights, and so do we.

FLEMING: That’s quite true.

DULLES: Now, I found that what they call the lie detector, is extraordinarily effective in that field. It was perfectly fantastic.

FLEMING: Did you?

DULLES: Not that you ever convict by this alone. We don’t. But, I mean, we get on to them. You use the polygraph and you and you get traces, and then you’re able to follow these traces, and you get a confession nine times out of ten.

FLEMING: We don’t use it—the lie detector—so much, do we?

DULLES: Not so much, but there have been some talks about it.

FLEMING: But doesn’t that come under your ruling here against eavesdropping? I was reading something about that in one your newspapers. Surely a lie detector is a maximum form of eavesdropping! I mean, it’s eavesdropping on somebody’s subconscious!

DULLES: This is different. That man knows that he’s taking the test. As a matter of fact, I always made it a rule in our shop that you didn’t have to take the lie-detector test. (Pausing) But it’s perfectly true that if you refused to do it, we were pretty anxious to know why. And it didn’t help you in getting a job if you refused to take the test. (Jovially) I never took it because they couldn’t throw me out anyway, so I thought it just as well not to take it. But I’ve often wanted to since—just to see how it works. I think maybe I’ll ask them to give it to me now.

FLEMING: It would be interesting for me to give it to you—to see if I could put my finger on some of your secrets. It would be rather fun to try.

DULLES (Laughing): You might try. I don’t think we’ve got time this morning, though. (Continuing thoughtfully) The thing is, in intelligence and counterintelligence you have to be careful—you can trip on anything. It’s a critical business.

FLEMING: It’s all-out war! People who raise questions about ethics, moral standards, that sort of thing, just don’t understand what it’s about. I mean the head of the CIA and his opposite number in in this case Semichastney, head of Soviet State Security—they are absolutely like two commanders in chief in the field! I mean, all right—you see the traffic in the streets and everything’s quiet and orderly here. But those two men have been locked in deadly combat—for years!

DULLES: Yes. It goes on just the same, that combat. But I think our people are coming to realize this, and to realize how much we accomplish. Of course, we’ve got a very different problem now from what we had ten or fifteen years ago. For example, I’ve always been fascinated by Khrushchev’s actions and attitudes. There seems to be something of the shock treatment idea in his actions. You know—surprise them; do something when they don’t expect it! Take the timing of the Belgrade conference of unaligned states. That was the time Khrushchev took to unilaterally break the test ban agreement—oral agreement, the so-called gentleman’s agreement. You would have thought that this was the one time he wouldn’t have done it. Because all those unaligned states were so interested in banning the bomb. But he did. And he took the blame. He just stood up and said, “I’m going to start testing tomorrow!” And he did.

FLEMING: I shall be sorry when Khrushchev goes. I find him sympathetic. I mean, he’s an enemy, an enemy politician, but he’s interesting; a devil we’re beginning to know. It’s a hell of a start.

DULLES: He’s got a sense of humor.

FLEMING: Yes. He’s got a sense of humor.

DULLES: Do you remember that story when I met him at the White House?

FLEMING: Remind me of it.

DULLES (Smiling): Well, when Khrushchev was over here in the fall of 1959—you remember, he went around the States and complained that we wouldn’t let him go to Disneyland, and all that—remember?


DULLES: There was a big dinner at the White House. And I was there, J. Edgar Hoover was there—there were about sixty to seventy people there, quite a big dinner given by the President. And as I went along the line to be introduced to Khrushchev, Khrushchev turned to the interpreter and said something; and then the interpreter said, “Oh, he says he knows you; he reads your reports.”

FLEMING (Grinning): That’s marvelous.

DULLES: Well, you know a reception line isn’t a place where you can stop and argue, so I just shook hands and went on. But after dinner, when the men were in that small room next to the dining room having their cigars and cognac and so forth, Dick Nixon came up and said, “Have you had a good talk with Khrushchev?” I said, “No, I just had a word or two as we went along the line.” He said, “Well, come on up,” and he introduced me. And Khrushchev repeated, “Oh, yes, as I told you, I know you well. I read your reports.” “Well,” I answered, “I hope you come by them honestly and legally." And he said, “You know we do. We all have the same agents. The agents report to me and they report to you. We all read the same reports.” (Laughs)

FLEMING: That’s terribly funny. And of course, there’s a modicum of truth in that story. I mean the spy is a money-maker in the end—at least, a lot of them are in it simply for money—and of course, as we know, a lot of them deal with both sides.

DULLES: I’ve found that the money-maker is the least dependable type of spy.

FLEMING: Certainly.

DULLES: Sometimes money is important. I can think of a number of cases where a man wanted to keep up a certain social position and got in debt or something of the kind; then money plays a role. And as you say, you get people with some sort of problem, and the enemy gets at them and blackmails them into espionage. But there are also the ideological fellows, those who go into it because they really want to serve their country. By and large I’ve found that if you get an ideological fellow, you’re much safer.

[Continued in next post]

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[Continued from previous post]

FLEMING: Well, and there are the romantics, the adventurers. The ones who like the excitement…

DULLES: Yes, like James Bond, the hero of your books.

FLEMING: Well, he is more a commando type. He likes adventure.

DULLES: Yes, but he’s working for his government. He’s got patriotic feeling. He’s part of the Service. That’s something I tried to build up when I was the Director—esprit de corps; the fact that we had a fine group of people who had high standards and were part of the team.

FLEMING: Well, in spite of James Bond—who represents the romance and adventure of the game—my books are meant to entertain! It’s a fact that an awful lot of intelligence work is not flamboyant at all.

DULLES: That’s true. The man in my shop in the old days who was largely responsible, I think, for one of the greatest intelligence coups—getting, in 1956, the secret speech of Khrushchev, in which he denounced Stalin to the Twentieth Party Congress—was doing that kind of job. And that coup had effects all around the world. It hit the Communist parties, you know, like a bombshell; it broke up some of the parties. It contributed to the Hungarian uprising. The finding of that speech was the result of very sophisticated work. You see, we knew the speech had been written down. It was much too long and detailed to have been made extemporaneously, even by Khrushchev, who is famous for long, extemporaneous speeches. We knew that it had been given a very limited circulation to the heads of some of the Communist parties abroad. Now, where could you get it?

FLEMING: Fascinating!

DULLES: And we in CIA took no credit for it. We gave it to the State Department. We spent weeks analyzing—bringing in all the experts to make sure we hadn’t got a forgery, because there are an awful lot of forgeries and a lot of paper mills, people who turn out completely worthless stuff…

FLEMING: Yes, and double-agent stuff, useless stuff which they sell to both sides.

DULLES: Yes. But finally we got the unanimous view of the experts that this could not be false. There were items in it that no person other than Khrushchev could know. It was a great coup! And that cost us practically nothing.

FLEMING: There you are! As you say, the great stuff generally doesn’t cost a lot of money. It’s the small stuff, the swindles, that cost.

DULLES: Well, due to closer collaboration among the services of the Free World, one has been able to cut that down a good deal too. Because some of those people would sell to two or three allied services too, you see, and as soon as you began to compare notes you saw you were being “had.” (Laughs) You were buying the same goods, just mimeographed on different paper.

FLEMING: Whereas the best agents, the real professionals, quietly do their jobs and generally seem very unimpressive.

DULLES: That’s sometimes a great problem. It’s no secret that wives who don’t know what their husbands are doing sometimes wonder why they don’t do better.

FLEMING: Yes, you get a man who’s perhaps got the job of agricultural attaché; maybe in Moscow or somewhere of that sort. Of course his wife is very worried that from the point of view of his social standing he goes on being agricultural attaché year after year and never gets any promotion. And as for the embassy parties—he’s probably not even invited, because he’s not high enough on the protocol. This is very difficult vis-à-vis the other wives. She can’t say to the other wives, “Joe’s in the Secret Service, you know,” and hear them answer, “Oh, my gosh, is he really!” So Joe goes on as the agricultural attaché, never getting anywhere; and though he may be doing extraordinary work, this means nothing to the wife, and similarly to the children as they grow up. (Acting the question out) “Why is Pa still agricultural attaché?”

DULLES: Sometimes, you know, the wife has to be let in on the secret—perhaps officially—to explain why her husband doesn’t get on. And some of the foreigners begin to ask questions too! “Why, Mr. So-and-so is an awfully smart fellow! Why does he stay on as Secretary of the Legation for five years while younger people who are obviously not nearly as intelligent or clever are moving on?”

FLEMING: Yes, it’s a real problem. But of course, these covers are generally penetrated fairly quickly. A good thing, too. You know, we had a very, very good spy whose job was in the Latin countries—in Italy, largely, and in Paris. When he went over he was a Commander of the Navy, which was his cover. And everybody said, “Oh, here’s dear old—” let’s call him Joe—“Here’s dear old Joe from the English Secret Service!” And people used to come out of the masonry and out of the cabinets, you know, and say, “Thank God, at last we know whom we can go and tell things to.” Actually, it’s very important to have one or two people who are known spies.

DULLES: You know, I had an interesting example of that when I arrived in Switzerland two days after the invasion in North Africa. I barely got in, because the frontier was closed. You remember, when Hitler moved down at the time our troops landed in Africa in November, 1942. Well, I arrived in Switzerland. I just barely made it. They threatened me with arrest at the frontier, but I got in. And the next day there was an editorial in the Journal de Genève, an excellent paper, that said I had arrived, and that though I had come as a mere attaché or special assistant in the legation, really I was the special representative of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Well, I thought my career there was fixed; I thought I was “blown”! And I said to myself, “Well, let’s accept this.” I had denied, of course, that I was anything special, but the more you deny something, the more they believe it. And the result was, as you say, that a lot of people came to me, thinking that I was a special representative of Roosevelt, and it was very helpful. A lot of crooks came in, but there were a lot of extraordinary people too. And often they came to me after they’d tried to get to other secret· service men and couldn’t find them.

FLEMING: Quite. Exactly. It’s good to have an occasional chap above the surface. But then you have to keep your operations especially careful.

DULLES: Yes, yes. You know, the Swiss blackout was one of the things that helped me tremendously.

FLEMING: Was it?

DULLES: You could do things at night. Switzerland was a hotbed of international agents. I don’t think there was any infra-red camera or anything of that kind. So one was able to have meetings at night with all kinds of people, do a great many things I never could have done without the blackout.

FLEMING: Are you going to write that period of your life?

DULLES: I hope to, yes. It’s almost time. There’s a little of in my current book.

FLEMING: Yes. Of course, your government being much easier on all this publication than ours is…

DULLES: May I question that?

FLEMING: Well, you have had some books that went too far. We spoke of one earlier, and we agreed—But we’ve had very interesting book published in England which I see is now on sale here, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. It’s a very, very fine spy story.

DULLES: I’ve read it. I got an advance copy of it. (Playfully) But I thought somebody was invading your field a little bit. You’re having some competition there, aren’t you?

FLEMING: I don’t object to that. Because first of all, I admire this book very much. It’s very well written. But of course, the only trouble about this is, it’s taking the “mickey” out of the spy business.

DULLES (Laughing): Explain that a little bit. I’d like to get you to explain that.

FLEMING: Well, none of us wants to do it. I mean, none of us professional writers about spies want this to happen. We want the romance—at least I do; I’m talking for myself—I want the romance and the fun and the fantasy to go on. If you reduced the whole thing to police daywork or ordinary secret-service daywork, it would bore the reader to tears.

DULLES: Well, I didn’t think this did.

FLEMING: No, no. It didn’t. It was well done. But what he does to the spy story is to take the fun out of it. This is a serious, a most depressing, book. I mean, it’s a book that one reads with great respect, but it isn’t a book I would take an airplane journey. Because it wouldn’t take my mind off the airplane. It might even increase my fears and nervousness—

DULLES: I didn’t even know you had any!

FLEMING (Dryly): Well done, Allen. Now, I’ve got to go now, Allen—

DULLES: Can’t we put in a word—I would like to put in a word about my book here.

FLEMING: Yes, come on.

DULLES: Have you had a chance to look at it?

FLEMING: No, Allen. I haven’t seen it yet. It hasn’t appeared in England yet. I’ll buy a copy here.

DULLES: Oh, no. You’re going to get an American copy. I’ll give it to you.

FLEMING: How much does it cost—four ninety-five?

DULLES: Yes, but I’ll give it to you. I can’t take money. (Fleming laughs)

Moderator: We have one for you.

FLEMING: Oh, hooray!

DULLES (Deliberately): Well, The Craft of Intelligence is the first effort here to really describe in a book the purposes and objectives of an intelligence service and how it operates, insofar as it can be told. And (Humorously, to the moderator) when you reproduce this dialogue, I want something on the book, because that’s—Well, I’m here to see Ian Fleming, but I’m also here to promote my book.

FLEMING: Hear! Hear! I think the thing to do is to end the dialogue on the sort of lines, “All you’ve got to do is read about it in Allen’s The Craft of Intelligence and the latest 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.

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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.