Monday, 23 June 2014

Double Agent - The Life of Ian Fleming & James Bond, The Authorised Biography.


This week, Volcano Cat is nowhere to be found... the old place has been full of rats recently, so doubtless he's busy. In his absence, lets take a look at the bookshelves... 

The Life of Ian Fleming – by John Pearson
Started shortly after the death of Ian Fleming, Pearson's book has the advantage of his personal and professional relationships with the creator of James Bond. Full of interviews, original letters, documents and photographs, the book is rather better than you expect, with some genuine revelations and insights into Fleming's world. So to my own potted biography of Fleming, with reference to John Pearson's book. Rehash, you say?...

Starting as farmers in the Braemar area of Scotland, the Fleming family moved into the Dundee textile industry before Robert Fleming saw the respectable stability offered by banking. He was eventually known as 'The Father of Investment Trusts' – but before you glaze over, it's his other claim to fame that brings us together, dear reader... for Robert Fleming was also the Grandfather of Ian Fleming.

Born in 1908, Ian Lancaster Fleming's Father was the MP Valentine Fleming, who was killed in the trenches of the Great War. A difficult child, most of the young Fleming's early life seems to have been overshadowed by his elder brother Peter, a talented writer and successful at everything. Increasingly frustrated with Ian, his Mother despaired as he first crashed through Eton (Apart from on the sports field, where he was crowned Victor Ludorum – Champion of the Games – twice running) and out of Sandhurst. His education continued at a unique establishment run by Forbes Dennis and his wife in the Tyrolean Kitzbühel. There, Fleming found his love of alpine climbing and alpinesque women. The Forbes Dennis verdict?; Fleming 'lacks stability and direction' – but showed intellectual promise.

In Geneva there was a glimpse into a lifelong insecurity – Fleming translated a lecture by Jung on Paracelsus – but as we all know, Fleming was a Master thriller writer, not an intellectual. All his life he sought recognition for his higher talents, but rejection from the Foreign Office was a damaging blow to this complex, sometimes sensitive young man.

1933. A young Reuters correspondent boards the Nord-Express train to travel from Berlin to the heart of Soviet Moscow. His mission?, to scoop the World's press for the proceedings of the sensational espionage trial brought against six engineers of the Metropolitan Vickers Company. (His efforts included sabotaging the telephones to the cable office and hiring a local runner – complete with running shoes to carry his dispatches). By sheer fluke, Central News beat him to the punch with the final verdicts – but never one to dwell on defeat, Fleming cheekily applied to Stalin for an interview. He was turned down, but it hardly mattered. Ian Fleming had found something he was exceptional at, only to switch to stockbroking, something which he was not even that good at. He seems to have used his talent to entertain and engage to cultivate potential clients, before passing them over to those better suited to advise.

The outbreak of war saw Fleming headhunted by the Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiral John Godfrey. Recommended by none other than the Governor of the Bank of England, Fleming's city connections adverted him to the recently appointed DNI. Urbane, popular and well-connected, the handsome young Ian Fleming was the perfect choice for Godfrey's Personal Assistant. A remarkable man, Godfrey is widely thought to be the model for 'M' of the James Bond books. From the start, Fleming widened the scope of his duties. From Room 39 at the Admiralty, shared with a throng of secretaries, officers and messengers to-ing and fro-ing Fleming went from dictating replies to the Admiral's correspondence to thinking up wild and wonderful schemes, such as submerged concrete observation posts in the English Channel and using the Occultist Aleister Crowley to bring his weird influence over Hitler's Deputy Hess, held captive since his dramatic parachute descent into Scotland.

Here we see two sides of Fleming; the practical, efficient administrator contrasting with the daydreamer. Gradually, the dispersed elements of the strange world of James Bond were appearing. Ever wondered how Fleming got those magnificent ideas? - Lisbon, on Naval business. At a loose end, Fleming played Baccarat with some locals. Fairly banal, but what if they were Germans, Nazi agents? And what if he was himself an Agent, there to clean them out to defeat their plans!. Likewise a visit to New York where the Canadian millionaire and espionage expert Sir.William Stephenson too Fleming under his wing. Representing British Intelligence in the USA, 'Little Bill' broke into the office of the Japanese Consul-General in the Rockefeller Center to copy the enemy's code books. This, of course became 007's celebrated mission where, to earn his Double-O status he shoots a Japanese Cipher expert in the very same building.

Intriguingly, Pearson goes on to suggest that the legendary 'Wild Bill' Donovan invited Fleming to his home under strict secrecy to write the original charter for the OSS – forerunner of the CIA. Certainly, Fleming prized the .38 Colt revolver Donovan presented to him, intriguingly inscribed 'For Special Services.' Further intrigue – and controversy; an innocuous farmhouse near Oshawa, lake Ontario, site of the now infamous Camp X. Here, 'Little Bill' Williamson ran a training school for spies – with such exotic fare as courses in ciphers, explosives, judo and silent killing. Although since disputed, Pearson claims Fleming took part in the training, even stating he was considered 'one of the best pupils the school ever had.' His version goes on to have Fleming stumble during the finale of the training when he was unable to kill a man face to face. We shall probably never know for certain, but his claims fit in perfectly with Fleming's nature and the already established acquaintance with Stephenson – who would almost certainly have wanted a man so close to the British DNI's ear to have a working knowledge of what Camp X had to offer.

Scarface was the nickname of the Austrian SS Officer Otto Skorzeny. A towering figure in the embryonic field of Commando operations, Skorzeny was a natural for a Bond villain – indeed later becoming Moonraker's Hugo Drax. One of Skorzeny's specialties was the 'smash and grab' style of intelligence gathering, to go in apart from the main force using them as cover to simply steal as much secret materiel as possible. Inspired by this hulking Austrian's example, Fleming lobbied hard for – and won the right to set up his own group. Officially No.30 Assault Unit, Fleming liked to refer to them as 'My Red Indians.' And so went Ian Fleming's war – one he was mostly distanced from – the secrets he kept ironically keeping him from the fighting. The horror of it still came through – one of his girl-friends, Muriel Wright worked as a dispatch rider. She was killed in her bed by a chunk of masonry during a bombing raid on London. Fleming was inconsolable, but went on to finish the war with a flourish – the capture by him of the entire German Naval archives at Tambach castle.

It was time to move on. In late 1944, a visit to the USA and Kingston saw Fleming take a ride on the Silver Meteor to Miami (The great train makes an impressive appearance in Live and let Die) with his friend, the millionaire Ivar Bryce (Who also appears, in name at least as Bond and Solitaire travel as Mr & Mrs.Bryce). In fact, you could introduce a fair percentage of Fleming's friends as 'the millionaire.' Anyway, unlikely as it sounds, Fleming was immediately smitten by Jamaica on his first visit in the last full year of war and for the modest outlay of £2,000 he bought an old donkey race track at Oracabessa – Spanish for 'Head of Gold'. This slice of paradise on Jamaica's North shore had a hidden beach, cliffs and privacy. Everything, but a house.
Goldeneye - this image courtesy of stationc.blogspot.com/
Goldeneye – Fleming fans reward yourselves here for already knowing this – consisted of one low-roofed bungalow with a single oversized living room, no bathrooms or hot water, but with three bedrooms. The name is either taken from 1940's Operation Goldeneye, a novel by Carson McCuller
(me neither) or the odd Spanish tomb in the garden with a golden eye set in a golden head,

Lord Kemsley's newspaper Empire was already impressive, but lacked the prestige a Foreign News Service would bring. Who better to organise this than a footloose, well-travelled ex Reuter's man?. Fleming had the foresight to insist on two months paid holiday a year to escape the British winters at Goldeneye. The Mercury Service – as it was called seems like a good idea, but at the time newsprint was still strictly rationed and austerity was King. The pressure on Lord Kemsley to abandon his pride and joy meant Fleming's idyllic life was threatened - and then there was his health. A lifelong chain smoker, Fleming also drank fairly heroically and, inevitably perhaps his health started to falter. Kidney stones were followed by an ominous tightening in the chest and a Harley Street specialist's statement that he would have to have all his teeth extracted was the final straw – vanity simply would not allow for this. It was around this time where thoughts of mortality helped him to seriously consider the leap from journalism to literature, culturing a circle of friends in his deliberate fashion to further his ambition. These people were prominent figures; the writer William Plomer and publisher Jonathan Cape among them.

An inveterate womaniser, Fleming was always at ease with the opposite sex. Unlike so many of his Eton contemporaries, he had both the looks and the smooth charm to establish a line of conquests along the way. His attitude to women would, however shame even James Bond. Often he would ask a woman – on first acquaintance, to share his bed. This changed only when he met – and was captivated by, his equal. Anne, Lady Rothermere was a bright, witty, sharp and vivacious woman and on March 24th 1952 she became Mrs. Anne Fleming in Port Maria, described vividly by Pearson as 'a colourful crumbling slice of Old Jamaica, smelling of fish, bananas, hibiscus, rum, bad drains and diesel fumes.' Port Maria, that is, not Mrs. Fleming. Their friend and fellow Jamaican homeowner Noél Coward attended the wedding and the Brekinge, the traditional wedding breakfast of the island. The next day, the Flemings flew to London via New York, with the rough manuscript of a thriller in Ian's luggage. The title was Casino Royale.

A quick, accurate writera habit learned at Reuters – Fleming wrote his books between the hours of nine and noon before sunning himself and taking lunch. After a nap, he would spend an hour and a half editing his work before retiring for his first real drink of the day. Making no notes, Fleming created his first Bond adventure in the ten weeks before his wedding. So, just who is James Bond?. The answer, of course is Ian Fleming. From the Morland cigarettes with the gold bands to the moccasins, the dark-blue Sea Island shirts to the lightweight blue suits – Bond is Fleming. As all Bondians know, the name came from the author of Birds of the West Indies, Fleming stating that he wanted 'the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find.' James Bond lives the life that his creator could only dream of – where Fleming balked at the risks or lost at the card table, Bond is cool and invariably wins, the man of action Fleming could never quite become.

Crunching along the pebbles of St.Margaret's Bay the winding hairpin drive down from St.Margarets at Cliffe above rewards the sightseer with a rather idyllic view of the channel, the narrow ribbon of beach totally dominated by the white edifice of chalk that is the south east corner of England. Each day, it is said, the sun shines on these cliffs first. It is almost a shock as a gigantic ferry suddenly glides out from the towering bluff of Fan Bay to the South (The caves there were home to the original wartime SBS, from which they practiced raids against Dover.) past which, out of sight is the busiest ferry port in the World at Dover. Sean Connery took the Hovercraft to Europe in the film Diamonds are Forever. From the beach at St.Margaret's you gaze out at the passing container ships with no idea that between those silent giants and the shore lies the wreck of HMS B2, accidentally rammed and sunk by the liner Amerika in 1912. The cliffs above are riddled with wartime tunnels and shelters, a reminder of the danger this part of England faced during the wars.

However, we're not here for that – a short walk of a few hundred yards past the fishermen's hut and a car park brings you to a 'Private' notice, beyond which a gravel driveway leads to a group of houses nestled at the base of the cliffs. One of these is White Cliffs, sold to the Flemings by Noél Coward. Near to Fleming's favourite golf course, the exclusive Royal St.George's at Sandwich, the dramatic coastline later formed the backdrop to Moonraker. By now fully committed to Casino Royale, Fleming's symbol of intent was the gold plated Royal Typewriter he ordered from New York. Alone in his bedroom at their flat in Carlyle Mansions, Chelsea, he hammered away to produce the finished book.

One of Ian Fleming's greatest secrets was his bluff; that assumed Eton air of casualness and expertise. In reality, Fleming himself hardly knew which end of a gun made the noise – a letter to a gunsmith reveals he thought Bond should carry a '.28 Biretta.' A Biretta is a clergyman's hat – but the .25 Beretta was to become Bond's first gun. As Pearson points out, it is hard to think of any subject – except sex, on which Fleming was himself an expert. His ability to research facts and blend them seamlessly into his fiction was unique. For me, Ian Fleming's real talent has always been his wonderful touch with the descriptive, the way Bond-Fleming travel through their mirror existences. You can only imagine how readers of the later paperback editions, waiting for a late train in rainy February or packed onto a crowded bus envied the way James Bond went to work, on his BOAC Stratocruiser or aboard the Simplon-Orient Express.
Ian Fleming soaks up the sun and the growing fame in Jamaica

A son, Caspar was born to the Flemings in August 1952 and March the following year saw the completion of Live and Let Die, five weeks before Casino Royale was published in London. Things were looking up. Moonraker next – with Skorzeny suitably transformed into Sir. Hugo Drax, the rocket of the title poised to destroy London, launched of course from the cliffs near Fleming's beloved St. Margarets. The money was slower than the books, however, so wisely Fleming kept his hand in at the Sunday Times, writing the Atticus column with his notable wit. Inevitably, the world beyond the literary started to take notice of the secret agent with the licence to kill; Sir. Alexander Korda, the film producer showed an interest in filming Live and Let Die, then CBS offered $1,000 for a one-hour TV version of Casino Royale. (It is ghastly).

What do Hilary Bray, Ernest Cuneo and Loelia Ponsonby all have in common?. They are all, of course, characters from the James Bond novels. They are also, all real people; friends of Fleming. Further characters include Scaramanga and Blofeld – George Scaramanga and Thomas Blofeld both Eton contemporaries of the author. Fleming's friend John Leiter (yes, the millionare) gave his surname to 007's counterpart Felix at the CIA. So too, modernist architect Erno Goldfinger – Auric in the book and film, to Erno Goldfinger's lasting disapproval. All those wonderful names; Fleming must have simply looked in his address book. I cannot think of anywhere outside Eton where you could hope to have a classmate, sinister or otherwise, with the name Scaramanga...

A Diamond is Forever – the advert in American Vogue caught the eye and the imagination. Intrigued, Fleming enlisted an old Etonian friend, who had taken a position with de Beer's before shadowing Bond on his travels. New York and the races at Saratoga then Las Vegas. Satisfied his research was complete, Fleming retired to Goldeneye to write the book Diamonds are Forever, finishing it early in 1955. When the screen rights to Casino fetched $6,000 Fleming rightly treated himself to a Ford Thunderbird. Anne hated it. He now had such heavyweights as Raymond Chandler praising his books and Fleming took heart from this support. Only recently he had despondently referred to Bond as 'that cardboard booby'. Anne Fleming's friends, however treated the Bond books as a joke – an object for ridicule. Anne herself referred to her husband's work as 'pornography.' But soon another woman was to enter Fleming's – or at least Bond's life.

The sinister and mysterious Soviet Colonel Madame Rybkin was transformed into Rosa Klebb, whilst a defunct Soviet organisation that arrested German spies and Russian traitors, SMERSH was revived. Interesting, but hardly enough for a book. What Fleming really needed was a place, a setting for the new story. His old friend Sir. Ronald Howe (Ronnie Valance in the novels) at Scotland Yard, the Head of the World-renowned CID arranged for Fleming to receive a press accreditation to the upcoming Interpol conference being held in Istanbul. He arrived just in time for the worst rioting in modern Turkish history. Rather than return by air, Fleming took the Simplon-Orient Express and the elements for the next Bond adventure were laid out.

James Bond was, like his creator, a man of contrast in that whilst he soaked himself in luxury, the soft life repulsed him. Too much led to accidie, a cardinal sin that led to a choking boredom. No sooner than the typewriter had fallen silent, then – the neat pile of paper that was the manuscript for From Russia with Love carefully placed into a folder, Fleming was grateful for the telegram inviting him to join a scientific trip to Inagua's famed Flamingo colony. Inagua – the eerie island with it's coating of Guano was easily transformed into the forbidding Crab Key lair of Dr.No. Fleming's health always seemed to ambush him in England – this time a painful attack of sciatica on top of a cold forced him to retire to a private health clinic (– no prizes for spotting Shrublands from Thunderball). Of course, whilst there virtually the first person he spoke to was a Goldsmith...

Enervated by the healthy regime, Fleming's sciatica remained and on Doctor's orders (!) he cut down to fifty cigarettes a day and replaced the vodka martinis with bourbon. A television series falling through would seem disastrous, but when a planned show about a Commander Gunn in Jamaica was cancelled, Fleming merely took the premise, added the fictitious Crab Key and Dr. No became the project at Oracabessa that year. First, though, the bungalow was lent to an exhausted Prime Minister Eden for a rest and recuperation break (He was to resign shortly afterwards, despite apparently enjoying his time at Goldeneye). The winter of 1957 produced Goldfinger – Fleming's own Royal St.George's club thinly guised as the Royal St. Marks for the famous game of Bond V Goldfinger. And then, Thunderball.
Before the storm... Kevin McClory at Goldeneye with the Flemings

The whole protracted saga of Fleming's involvement with Kevin McClory is well-documented in The Life of Ian Fleming. Their idea to produce the first James Bond film together produced a rough outline of a story. There was a woman, Fatima Blush and a celebrity studded cast – but these elements were later dropped for the more familiar criminal plot to steal an R.A.F. Atomic bomber. Amidst a whirl of conflicts and uncertainty – at one point Alfred Hitchcock was considered to make the film – Fleming retired to write that year's book, describing Thunderball as 'the book of the film'. Pearson makes a keen, if predictable observation that with some decent lawyers a legal framework for the production could have avoided the inevitable court case. Sadly, Fleming seemed to hope the whole emerging mess would simply resolve itself.

A chance meeting in Washington and Fleming at his entertaining and witty best – dinner guest of his friend Mrs.Marlon Leiter at a party thrown by Senator John F.Kennedy. Kennedy was enthralled by Fleming's jokey 'proposals' for a leaflet campaign against Cuba that would force the macho Cubans to shave off their beards en masse – and therefore cease to be revolutionaries!. A Life article listing From Russia with Love in the now President Kennedy's top ten reads ensured Fleming's star rose in the US, but with 32,000 copies of Thunderball already shipped, McClory took his case to the High Court demanding all sales be suspended. Eighteen days later, at a Sunday Times conference, Ian Fleming suffered a major heart attack. Lucky to even be alive, he wrote Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang (The film of which, made in 1968 featured a certain Gert Frobe as the villain Baron Bomburst and Desmond Llewelyn as Coggins the Garage owner). Deciding on a change of scenery, the purchase of Sevenhampton, a house outside Swindon offered challenge – it needed extensive renovation as well as reward – it was near to Huntercombe golf course.
Spotted bow tie, felt hat and cigarette holder - the uniform of Ian fleming

The story of messrs Saltzman and Broccoli is well known – with the heavyweight backing of United Artists, their EON films started casting for Dr.No – and the thirty year old Sean Connery was on his path to fame. However, with little to do, but pose for photos of him looking rakish with various props, Fleming made the best of life with Anne and Caspar. OHMSS followed the decidedly odd The Spy who Loved Me, published in April 1962. During the research for OHMSS a visit to the College of Arms saw Fleming delighted by the discovery of the actual motto of the Bond family; 'The World is Not Enough'. Onwards, ever onwards!. To Tokyo, with his friends Richard 'Dikko' Hughes and Torao 'Tiger' Saito to cover the ground for You Only Live Twice, written early in 1963. The October premiere of From Russia with Love was followed by the long-dreaded McClory case. The outcome? - McClory agreed Fleming had acted in good faith and took the film rights to Thunderball, leaving Fleming with the rights to the novel and only his own court costs to pay. All the strain was gaining, though, with a new heart specialist issuing a bleak diagnosis of 'Coronary and Aortic Sclerosis' and the admonition to avoid smoking, cut down on the drink and slow things down. With medical advice – for once, in mind The Man with the Golden Gun was written an hour at a time, but that last winter at Goldeneye saw the visit of the real James Bond – the ornithologist who wrote Birds of the West Indies accompanied by his wife.

Back in England, Fleming avoided the looming financial issues of Glidrose – the company he had bought to ease the burden of taxation, by selling it to his friend Sir.Jock Campbell. Perhaps driven by the need for activity (Or was it his – Bond's fear of accidie?), Fleming drove to Huntercombe the Sunday after Easter 1964. He was suffering with a heavy cold and a fever and was soaked by the rain that fell during the game, driving back to London soaked to the skin. The cold turned into Pleurisy. After a short spell in hospital and at home in London he went to recuperate at Hove, Sussex. By a twist of fate his Mother lay on her deathbed in a hotel at nearby Brighton (Where, with no relevance to any of this, I was born three years later). 'Mrs.Val' died on July 24th. Ian Fleming, showing real grit forced himself to attend her funeral. Newly elected as Captain of the Royal St.George's, he unwisely attended a committee meeting at the club. Ian Fleming died at Canterbury Hospital at one a.m. the following morning.

What you have just endured is merely a precis – a keyhole vignette into the life of the man behind the World's favourite spy. John Pearson's Life of Ian Fleming is – for the fan of the literary Bond, indispensable. His level of research is a lesson to any author, his ear for a good story is sharp. But, my dear friend – it cannot end here, because John Pearson saw the cracks and reached for his brush...

James Bond – The Authorised Biography – John Pearson

Cracks, what cracks? Simply this: in writing James Bond's stories, inevitably certain aspects and details of his life were left out. Whether it be for pacy reading, or simple brevity, there are many gaps in our knowledge of 007 to tantalise and keep the aficionado in suspense.

John Pearson was dealing with his correspondence – there was a pile of it after his Life of Ian Fleming, from all varieties of Bond fan. One letter stood out – a letter from a Maria Künzler of |Vienna. In the middle of describing her youthful acquaintance with Ian Fleming, she mentioned James Bond, but seemed to confuse him as a real person – a friend of Fleming's rather than a fictional character. Thanking her – she was presumably fuddled – Pearson moved on. A second letter prompted him to actually check Eton school's records – oddly, briefly there was a James Bond, but the Old Etonian Society had never heard of him. That would have been the end of it, but Fraulein Künzler passed away, leaving instructions for her lawyer to send Pearson a photograph; a group shot in the mountains, a pretty blonde flanked by a young Fleming and a burly, handsome dark-haired youth. James Bond.

At this stage, Pearson was intrigued enough to contact Fleming's surviving friends. Then it all changed – first a man calling himself Hopkins called Pearson, demanding he drop his enquiries with the threat of the Official Secrets Act. Thankfully, Urquhart (Glen?) intervened... Somewhat of a mystery figure, Urquhart is Secret Service and, with the game up cheerfully admits Bond not only did, but still does exist!. Having dropped this bombshell, Urquhart successfully persuades Pearson to forget about the whole thing. After a few weeks, the Secret Service man calls again, with an invite to the Service HQ near Regents Park he makes Pearson a startling proposition; write the life story of James Bond!.

So, why the change of heart? - it seems this isn't the first time an outsider has stumbled upon the secret – it's bound to come out and so, keen for the truth to told Pearson was chosen to tell it. (Presumably, a decision helped by his keeping to his word not to keep digging and, one also presumes after a hasty security vetting process). The facts were shaky. Recovering from an attack of some form of hepatitis, Bond was apparently trying to secure a return to active service. Pearson was brought in partly to write the biography, but also to keep the increasingly restless Bond busy.

Bermuda

In the luxurious surroundings of an exclusive penthouse suite, Pearson first meets Sir.William Stephenson (See the eighth paragraph of the previous review if you require a refresher) and then, Commander James Bond...
Still an impressive figure, with no sign of running to fat, Bond is initially unsure, but starting with his childhood begins his story. We learn he was born in Germany and his ancestral home is at Glencoe.

Where Fleming preferred broad strokes, his protegé uses a finer brush, adding detail from imaginative guesswork and inspired reasoning the missing details of a life. Details... The devil resides therein. If, as I do, you possess an eye for details, you read this book and your internal radar starts pinging. Glencoe-ping-Da Silva-ping-Reynard-ping-Demetrios-ping-the Lublin, the wrecked German ship-ping. So many pings, in fact it leaves your ears ringing. Put plainly – this book was very obviously the source for characters, plot details and possibly the inspiration for an entire Bond film. (eg; Glencoe and Da Silva? 007 rejoining the Service with a rigorous testing regime in the cellars beneath London? - Skyfall) Far from accusation – this seems the logical, prozaic thing for the people behind Bond to do. Fleming was prolific, but who could have expected the films to endure past their half century?. With the original material all but exhausted, Pearson's work is a godsend for anyone seeking inspiration. Just saying.

Back to the hotel. As Bond warms to Pearson, he takes him – us through his incredible life through a series of adventurous episodes. His now notorious school days ending in disgrace, James Bond discovers his Holy Trinity; cars, cards and women. Recruited – or at least, loosely so, into the Secret Service by its man in Paris, a shadowy figure called Maddox, Bond's loyalty is tested when he must dispose of a German Spy – who happens to be his own lover. This grim assignment gains the fledgling Spy entreé to the exclusive world of the Secret Agent. He is given his chance to cut his teeth against a criminal syndicate of Roumanians (sic) at Monte Carlo. With special tutoring in the murky arts of card sharping (from an American pro, currently resident of HMP Wormwood Scrubs!), Bond ends up working with his Opposite Number – and friend, Mathis of the Deuxième Bureau and triumphs.

His next work was as a courier or contact man across Europe, bread and butter stuff mainly, until a job went wrong. At the Adlon Hotel, Berlin he went to his room, expecting to meet the girl that was his contact he was met by a trained Nazi killer (Somewhat disconcertingly, in drag). More by luck than skill, Bond managed to kill his first man and escape. In need of a break, Bond took one in Kitzbühel where he met Ian Fleming for the very first time. (Also, of course, the now late Fraulein Künzler)

At this point, Bond introduces his companion in Bermuda. Mrs.Schultz, neé Ryder, the same Honeychile Ryder of Dr.No fame, now a wealthy socialite widow.

Back to the dark days of 1939 and the war. Bond was in limbo – his German birth counting against his further employment, until, thankfully Fleming recommended him for Navy Intelligence work. Known for his madcap schemes, Fleming excelled himself; Bond was dropped off the German coast by submarine on a sandy island, to dig himself in and report on enemy shipping movements by radio. An old Army expression: No Plan Survives First Contact With The Enemy. This is always true, as Bond was to discover for himself. Picking up his signal, the Germans sent a seaplane to investigate and, rather than wait for capture, he tricked his way onto the plane and forced the pilot to head for Blighty. Inexplicably, Bond was greeted with a cold shoulder and a transfer to office duties in Penge came as the last straw. He transferred to active service on ships for the next year or so, but a chance meeting with Fleming (Bond had just, rather unwisely, gotten himself engaged) saw him off on various exotic courses in sabotage and the like at Camp-X.

The Japanese Cypher expert in New York had to be eliminated, 'dealt with' as Fleming put it, shot from one skyscraper to another (ping). There were some risky missions behind the lines and underwater battles with Italian frogmen, a double agent Bond had been friends with caused him regret – and then there were the Werewolves... a last-ditch effort to win a lost war, the Werewolves were to form a Nazi resistance force – a stay-behind army hidden in the woods, rising to strike at the soft rear echelon of the Allies. Dropped into the Ardennes, Bond went to ground and on a recce discovers the Headquarters of the Werewolves, disguised as a field hospital. Returning to raise the alarm was Bond's last act of the war.

After leaving the Service, Bond found peacetime distinctly unsettling – no surprise, perhaps. In 1946 Bond rejoined the Secret Service, there on the sixth floor of the now-familiar building overlooking Regents Park he met the man who was to shape his life. Admiral Sir.Miles Messervy was known to most people by his initial; M. Unsure what to make of Bond, M decides to make use of him with an assignment to America to help them with their new C.I.A., being set up from the wartime O.S.S. After enjoying the dazzle and pace of New York, Bond finds Washington 'formal and pretentious' and doing the social circuit – parts of it more strenuously than others – is involved with a ruckus with a French diplomat and then a scene at a film premieré. A plane crash – an infatuated woman – of all things a Congressman's wife. With the woman dead – no fault of Bond's, his name in Washington was tarnished and he found himself persona non grata. Back in London, he found no support from M. As soon as he entered it, he was out of the Service.

Without work or prospects, life seemed bleak; Fate, however has a way of smiling on James Bond and he bumps across none other than Maddox. Over lunch at the Ritz he offers Bond a lifeline, working for him in Paris as a Security consultant. Working for a syndicate of big French banks, Maddox deals with their interests around the globe – anti-subversion and sabotage at various projects. Bond works hard at this for four long years, travelling across Morocco and down across Africa. From his base, a tiny rooftop flat in Paris, he foils various plots and schemes as well as bedding a series of married women. He falls for the one he cannot have; Maddox' wife rejects Bond's advances, but they become close friends. (A faithful woman the only type a seducer can ever truly respect). Jealous of their intimacy, however, Maddox betrays Bond, who escapes the cunning trap laid for him, this time winding up in the Seychelles where Fleming (who else?) pops up and, appalled at his friend's shabby treatment brings him back to London.
Your servant trying - and failing, to appear Bond-like. Perhaps a bow-tie and a cigarette holder?
This time, M's welcome is geniality itself – primed no doubt by Fleming working behind the scenes. Over lunch at the famous Blades Club, M outlines the current threat from Smersh – the Russian organisation whose motto is (all together:) Smiert Spionam - Death to Spies!. To counter this menace, a new section – the Double-O's is being put together. Three months of intensive training, tested under the scrutiny of experts in human stress and self-defence, in the extensive cellars under the 'Universal Exports' building (ping-Ping-PING!). Finally, Bond is issued a gun, a salary as a Civil Servant and an office on the floor below M's. An inheritance leaves Bond able to run a flat in Wellington Square, off the Kings Road. Hiring his 'Scottish Treasure' may as Housekeeper, Bond is quite the fashionable Chelsea bachelor.

A job in Jamaica – some fuss about the Service resident there drinking too much. New job, new number – before setting off, M gives Bond a vacant number – 007. Perhaps it was wise for the new 007 not to enquire as to how the number came to be free... A Communist plot to infiltrate the Jamaican Labour unions seems to have our man in Kingston obsessed – the florid Gutteridge was, indeed a hopeless drunk. Sympathetic to the old campaigner, Bond plunges into the mysterious business of Colonel Gomez – sent by Moscow to control the unions by terror and, in particular using the black magic cult of the Goddess Kull. Aided by a man named Da Silva (I think my 'ping' has broken by now) Bond goes in and saves the day before – and doesn't he always? - getting the girl.

Greece next and a gun-running ship to be sunk before the adventure that first brought Bond to the public notice, a Russian agent had embezzled Party funds and, desperate to recoup his losses had decided to try his luck at the Casino at Royale-les-Eaux. Of course, this was Chiffre and the Casino Royale affair. Famously, Bond rather lost his head over the girl, Vesper Lynd – a Russian agent as it turned out. He was left with the memory of her death as well as an ugly scar on his hand – a Cyrillic 'S' carved into it. S for Spion (Spy).

Later that year came the events Fleming detailed in the book Live and Let Die, the gold-smuggling racket run by Mr.Big, but then there was trouble with the Smersh killer Oborin – the man had already left his mark on Bond's hand, now Smersh had ordered 007's liquidation. Using the defection of a KGB Colonel as bait the trap is laid – in spectacular surroundings. A partially submerged German battleship, the Lublin, lying in the icy Finnish waters is the setting for the duel between the deadliest killers of East and West. Well, you would have to be far too dense to be welcome here not to guess which killer won that duel. (Volcano Cat would probably scratch you...)

Smersh doesn't give up – a bomb in a hotel room, one sent to his flat and a machine gun attack – missing Bond, but severely wounding his companion, an MP's wife (He doesn't learn). Bond was blown as an agent and finished. As so often, Fleming steps out from the shadows to offer a solution. What if Smersh had been chasing a shadow?, supposing this man James Bond 007 didn't exist?. Not only would the Soviet ministry of death be made to look foolish, Bond himself might be safe. No-one would try to kill a man who never was... Fleming's plan involved some personal return; the kudos and revenue the Bond thrillers were to bring him exceeded anyone's expectation, though. Beginning with Casino Royale, Fleming carefully produced a blend of fact with barely credible fiction – a clever smokescreen to hide the real James Bond, aided by some discrete alterations to the Eton record book and similar sweepings to clear the tracks left by a lifetime.

It worked; Smersh bought the deception, leaving Bond free to resume operations – it was also decided to publish more books; they kept the cover going and, after all else they were good for the image of the Service. Continuing with Live and Let Die, Fleming kept the books coming at regular intervals. Moonraker was decided to be a work of total fiction. After this, aboard Honey's yacht the Honeychile, Bond gives Pearson the background to the events described in Diamonds are Forever. Tiffany Case helped Bond to smash the American gangsters with their stranglehold on the diamond smuggling racket. Afterwards, Bond fell for the girl and brought her to live with him at the Chelsea flat. All was well, until she trod on the toes of the Housekeeper, May. Domestic bliss turns sour and it was a relief for Bond to shadow a Cabinet Minister on holiday on the French Riviera. During his absence, Tiffany meets and falls for an official at the US Embassy. After a blazing row, Tiffany leaves for her American.

As Bond finishes his sad tale, it seems Honeychile is set to claim her man. Pearson realises Bond's weak spot is, indeed women. Expecting a call from M – presumably about his future, Bond is sanguine when no call comes. He feels his career is done with and relates the frustration that waiting for M to find him a job always induced in him. There is more though; more adventures to relate. From Russia with Love is very accurate – too accurate for M's liking. Tatiana Romanova is a Smersh 'honeypot' who dangles the Spektor cypher machine under Bond's nose. The Russians sent Granitsky, aka Grant to terminate Bond and the girl. Death and the added disgrace of a British spy seducing an 'innocent' girl – quite a coup. Smersh, of course had cottoned on to Fleming's literary smokescreen, but it was Rosa Klebb who all but finished Bond. Her spiked shoe – familiar to generations of film-lovers was tipped with blow-fish poison. Unlike the scene in the film, her shoe caught Bond and he was close to death for a time. Stamina and the year's weak batch of fugu poison saved 007's life.

The forgotten hero of the James Bond story is perhaps Sir.James Molony. Retained by the Secret Service, the World-renowned neurologist was called in over the delicate matter of Bond's nerve. Basically, Bond is a complex machine used to the constant tension of operating under strain and the upshot is he is unable to relax during periods of inactivity. Sir.James has a therapy that he himself designed for stressed executives and the like. Bond throws himself into this therapy and makes progress. It was around this time the gadget-geeks will appreciate the issue of the Walther PPK that replaced Bond's trusty old Beretta. (And if you are truly obsessed you might perhaps know the Beretta had a higher-powered cartridge and better reliability. I refer you to 1974 when an attempt to kidnap Princess Anne saw her bodyguard draw his PPK only to hear loud, embarrassing clicks when he tried to fire it.)

America's Space Program/me was being imperilled by unknown forces. Bond tracked the source to Crab Key and it's evil Lord, Dr.No. After this, Hungary, where 009 had broken contact. Embedded as liaison man for the pro-Western resistance groups in Budapest, the situation was fraught as the people rose against their Soviet masters. Going in through Vienna, Bond's briefing gives him clues to 009's possible whereabouts and, guised in workman's clothes he infiltrates the city. 009 is beyond help – his throat slashed... and Bond is caught by a couple in medical garb, taken by ambulance to a zoo!. There he is met by Heinkel, a vaguely defined figure associated with the Resistance. 009 had been in possession of a list of names, which Heinkel plans to sell to either East or West. Bond has no clue about such a list and, after the customary escape attempt he is stripped naked and left to think it over in a Gorilla cage. As well as a massive and unsocial ape, there's a girl in the straw and in a moment of Stupidity Bond decides to karate-chop the gorilla. Swatting 007 away, the gorilla attacks the bars – frightened by this odd pink ape it tries to escape and, quick on the ball, Bond starts a ruckus. Sure enough, the gorilla manages to rip a bar loose and all three escape.

Nashda – the girl, is a witness: Heinkel murdered 009 to keep him quiet – he knew too much, but not that she had the list memorised. Bond gets the girl aboard the Arlberg Express and the World's Unluckiest Train Passenger lives up to expectations. There's a scuffle before Heinkel goes out of the door, followed by Bond and the girl. Heinkel hits a bridge. They do not. By now, Bond's frustration with M is boiling over – so often his defender, Bond wearily admits that after the Hungary affair, M was starting to lose his touch – even comparing him to Hoover in the FBI... but we need to go back, back to the Goldfinger affair. Arno Goldfinger's attempt on on Fort Knox was foiled, but M blocked both the Knighthood and the Medal of Honor for Bond. Was M actually becoming jealous of his star?.

Solace comes in many forms, but Bond sought his in a Bentley Continental. Bought as a wreck, lovingly restored with a Mulliners body, power steering, two bucket seats and 'Elephants breath grey' paintwork. Glossing over the assignments covered in For Your Eyes Only, we move to 1959's Thunderball incident. Concern for Bond's health prompts M – himself in the grip of some health fad, to send 007 to the Shrublands clinic. James Bond could find trouble in a phonebox – and Shrublands is no exception. Count Lippe – a nasty piece of work, clashes with Bond and Blofeld's sinister SPECTRE hi-jacks a N.A.T.O. Bomber to extort £100,000,000 with the ultimate threat – Atomic disaster as a lever. 007's battle with SPECTRE agent Emilio Largo – underwaer, is a legend in itself. Aside from the odd mission, things were quiet now for the OO section – and Fleming's heart attack seemed to spell the end of the stories. Shall we gloss over The Spy Who Loved Me?. Lets.

Over dinner with Miss Moneypenny, M's famously long-suffering Secretary Bond learns of her concern for M. Irascible, even violent, the Old Man simply wasn't himself. Discretely, Bond gets to the truth behind it – M is being blackmailed by a sleazy Italian photographer. With Bill Tanner, M's Chief of Staff, Bond burgles the blackmailers flat. What had been though compromising photographs were innocent shots of poor old M indulging in a spot of nude sunbathing – his quest for health nearly costing him dear. (One wonders if the photos have ever surfaced, perish the thought!)

Back in the present and Honeychile has indeed got her man, she throws a party aboard her luxury yacht to celebrate Bonds retirement and their upcoming marriage. There were still more adventures, of course – Blofeld's insane plan to destroy Britain's agriculture with biological weapons, which had the unexpected result of of Bond's first – so far, only marriage to date. Poor Tracy! - shot through the heart by Blofeld's companion, the hideous Irma Bunt.

A crooked Head of Station in Rome – a mistake by Bond and a scandal that nearly cost M his position... 1962 was a bad year for Bond, at least until the Japan assignment. (For details, read Fleming's book You Only Live Twice.) After all the nights Bond spent dreaming of Blofeld's death, when it came it was an anti-climax. Suffering memory loss, Bond lived with Kissy Suzuki on her island for a time, fathering a son with her. (He showed a photograph of the boy to Pearson, who describes the boy as an 'eight year old Oriental version of Bond.') Bond moved on to Russia, searching for answers. For their part, the Russians wasted no time. Recognising 007, they set about brainwashing him and used drugs to break him down to turn Killer against Master. M had been lucky – surviving Bond's assassination attempt by a hair's breadth. (Bond's cyanide pistol was defeated by an armoured glass screen installed by the Ministry of Works). Naturally enough, Bond skates over this period, barely mentioning the Scaramanga and Octopussy jobs – though the former was almost certainly M's way of getting even – a chance for 007 to die nobly in the course of duty as it were.

Bond seems nonplussed about the films – seeing Connery's portrayal of him was odd enough, but Fleming actually brought Bond to a special showing of Dr.No – quite surreal. With his marriage the next day, it seems 007 has retired at last. Abruptly, Bill Tanner appears at Sir.William Stephenson's penthouse, Sir.James Molony in tow. They are accompanied by a Professor of Genetics from Adelaide. Ominously arriving by a specially diverted R.A.F. Vulcan bomber, they are here to call Bond back to the colours. None other than Irma Bunt – somehow surviving the fiery destruction of Blofeld's castle is out in the remote Australian outback. At the wonderfully named Crumper's Dick (I'm not joking) she has set up some sort of lab where she's producing some sort of giant rat. These Franken-Rats are vicious and capable of stripping a horse to the bone. Bunt is after a Billion dollars to stop the spread of these monsters.

Bond, however is not interested. He's left the Service and is tying the knot. The next morning, Pearson drives out to the airport to see the Vulcan take Tanner and his companions to Australia. At the last second, Honey rolls up in her Corniche and, seeing Pearson Bond promises to finish the story on his return. He assured Honey he will come back to her and kissing her goodbye, he dashes aboard the Vulcan which roars off into the gathering dawn.

So there it is. Two books by the same author about another author and his fictional secret agent who is actually a real person. The Life of forms an indispensable background to the man behind the myth, just as The Authorised Biography fills in some missing gaps in the whole incredible story of James Bond. Is he real? - is he hell, but John Pearson's second book makes a fun case for the defence. A bit silly in places (Giant rats?), the book is a creditable stab at taking up where Fleming left off. I have enjoyed covering both immensely.

Note-The photographs used in this article do not appear in The Life of Ian Fleming - apart from the photo of Ian Fleming in Naval Uniform and the one showing him wearing a hat - a cropped version of which appears on the cover of the paperback edition. The others are here for illustrative purposes only. 

The Life of Ian Fleming, by John Pearson (Coronet edition ISBN 0-340-50598-2)
James Bond The Authorised Biography, by John Pearson (Century HP ISBN 9781846051142 / TPB ISBN 978184603313)

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