14. Fleming’s Bond was a reflection of his own experiences and fantasies
Both James Bond, at least as he was originally portrayed in the novels, and Ian Fleming shared a remarkable number of character traits. Both preferred the companionship of married women. Both smoked custom-made cigarettes, though Fleming used a holder, an affectation which he did not give his spy. Both enjoyed vodka at a time when gin was the preferred white liquor in the west. Both drove a Bentley (though Fleming soon switched to American cars), enjoyed scuba and snorkeling, and exhibited a staunch British stiff upper lip. Both were somewhat contemptuous of Americans. They used the same brands of personal hygiene products, exhibited the same tastes in clothes and foods.
Both James Bond and Ian Fleming were heavy smokers, averaging about 60-70 cigarettes per day (a factor in Fleming’s relatively early demise from heart disease). Both purchased their cigarettes from the London tobacconist, Morland’s of Grosvenor Street. Bond would purchase Chesterfield cigarettes when his own weren’t available, as would his creator. Both had a decided taste for scrambled eggs. Fleming didn’t provide details of Bond’s youth until after the first movies featuring his character appeared; when Scottish actor Sean Connery played him in Dr. No, Fleming added to the literary character’s background a Scottish father and youth in that country, as well as a Swiss mother.
James Bond was born of Fleming’s imagination, and first committed to the page in 1952, while Fleming wintered at Goldeneye. The first novel, Casino Royale, pitted James Bond (a name borrowed from a British ornithologist) against Le Chiffre, a French villain working for the Soviet Secret Service. The novel also introduced Bond’s American ally, Felix Leiter. Fleming gave the book to his brother Peter, a travel writer and editorialist, to solicit his opinion. It was Peter who convinced his publisher to take a chance on the book. The book was released in April 1953 in Britain, and was well received by both critics and the public.
Fleming’s first novel sold well enough in the UK for him to receive a multiple book contract from the publisher, Jonathan Cape. A later paperback edition also sold well. In the United States the book was less well received, and US paperback editions carried a different title, which did nothing to increase sales. In 1954 CBS produced a one-hour television presentation of the book for its Climax series, with actor Barry Nelson portraying the secret agent and Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre. Bond was presented as an American agent in his first screen appearance, with Leiter as his British counterpart. Neither the television version nor the book made much of an impact with American audiences and readers.
16. Fleming’s vacations in Jamaica became the period when he added to the Bond canon
Although Casino Royale was a success, Fleming retained his position with the newspaper syndicate, and used his annual winter vacation at Goldeneye to write additional Bond stories. From 1953 to 1966 a Bond novel or short story collection appeared annually, though the last two were published following Fleming’s death. The second novel, Live and Let Die, was written before Casino Royale was published, and when it was released in 1954 its sales surpassed those of its predecessor. It too earned mostly favorable reviews from critics, as did the next three works; Moonraker, Diamonds Are Forever, and From Russia With Love.
While researching Diamonds Are Forever Fleming gathered the information he used to write a non-fiction book, The Diamond Smugglers. The book grew out of several articles Fleming wrote for The Sunday Times in 1957. It too earned positive reviews for the most part. By the time the book appeared Fleming was well known for the Bond series, and had a steadily growing fan base in the United Kingdom. His books did not sell as well in the United States. Fleming enjoyed financial success, the accolades of critics, and the attachments of celebrity in Great Britain, Jamaica, and while on his travels. In the American market he was relatively unknown. One American who was a devoted fan was a Massachusetts Senator, John F. Kennedy.
17. Fleming found his later works attacked by critics
Following the publication of the non-fiction The Diamond Smugglers Fleming returned to James Bond in Dr. No, published in 1958. For the first time, Fleming felt the sting of blunt criticism of his work. One critic called it “the nastiest book I have ever read”. Another called the book, “the usual sadomasochistic free for all”. Fleming responded to criticism in The Guardian in a letter, which the paper published, in which he defended Bond’s sexism. “Perhaps Bond’s blatant heterosexuality is a subconscious protest against the current fashion for sexual confusion”, he wrote. He also defended his character’s violence and his use of branded products, many of which were the products he used.
Despite being lambasted by many reviews and controversy on television talk shows the book was accepted by Bond fans. Fleming based the book in Jamaica, and his knowledge of his second home made the background more accessible for readers. He was not pleased with the criticism of either the book or its main character. What would today be called conspicuous consumption by James Bond was one of the focal points of critics. It was part of the character’s behavior which had been instilled by the author as reflective of his own. Simply put, Bond was criticized for a lifestyle which Fleming followed, and he resented the criticism.
18. Fleming became more arrogant with critics and fans as time went on
In describing his manner of writing while in Jamaica, Fleming wrote in Books and Bookmen Magazine, “I never correct anything and I never go back to see what I have written”, also claiming that he wrote about 2,000 words per day. In March 1958 Fleming arrived in London following his winter in Jamaica with the next book of the James Bond series, which he had tentatively titled The Richest Man in the World. Its title was changed to the last name of its featured villain, Auric Goldfinger. It was the longest Bond book yet written, and it reflected Fleming’s long love affair with the gold. He was a longtime collector of gold coins, and the owner of a gold-plated typewriter.
The name Goldfinger he encountered from an architect whose work Fleming found distasteful, Erno Goldfinger. When the new Bond book was announced, but not yet released, the real Goldfinger threatened to sue. Fleming responded with a letter to the architect in which he wrote that he would include a note within the already printed copies of the book changing the name to Goldprick, as well as the reason for the change. His publisher, Jonathan Cape, smoothed matters over with the real Goldfinger. A huffy Fleming told friends that the book would be his last featuring James Bond, but the public reaction to the book and its sales quickly changed his mind.
19. Fleming was approached to create a television series for James Bond
In the late 1950s Fleming wrote several plot outlines for a television series featuring James Bond. When the series failed to materialize, he adapted some of the outlines into short stories, and in 1960 they were published in a collection titled For Your Eyes Only. One of the stories was based on a tale related to him by a neighbor, Blanche Blackwell, with whom he also conducted an affair. Blackwell was the likely inspiration for Goldfinger’s Pussy Galore, as well as Honey Rider from Dr. No. The story told to Fleming by Blackwell was the basis of the short story Quantum of Solace. Fleming’s marriage had by then become difficult, in part because his wife detested the James Bond character.
Critical commentary was mostly approving of both the new format and the stories themselves. Fleming also thought the short story format was a good way to initiate some changes in the character, and several critics wrote that Bond was apparently mellowing. Fleming did not date his works in that there was no mention in his stories of the year in which Bond had his adventures. As in Bond’s previous adventures, Fleming relied on personal experiences and acquaintances from his days with Naval Intelligence to generate his plots and Bond’s activities, as well as having 007 enjoying his usual distractions.
20. The James Bond novels and short stories were pro-British at the expense of America
Throughout the James Bond series, in the works written by the character’s creator, the Anglo-American alliance during the Cold War was stressed. The stress was always on the superior contribution of the British. American CIA agent Felix Leiter was presented as always following Bond’s lead, Bond’s orders, and Bond’s direction. In three of the novels Bond is presented with a crisis which is actually an American one, and he resolves it for them, with British Intelligence saving the United States from its less competent agencies. When Dr. No threatens the United States, a British warship and British troops are used to thwart him.
Fleming wrote the Bond series of books and short stories as the British Empire was in sharp decline. So was the British military, the fleet was no longer the most powerful in the world, nor the largest. Britain was increasingly dependent on the United States for its defense, as was most of western Europe. Fleming’s resentment of the United States and most things American became increasingly evident as the series went on, reflected in Bond’s actions, thoughts, and conversations. Fleming wrote of British world dominance as a symbol of normal times, and though he was aware of Britain’s decline, it was presented in his novels as a bad thing, longing for the situation to be reversed, expressed through James Bond.
21. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was based on bedtime stories he told his son
In 1961 Fleming had a heart attack, and while recuperating he used the bedtime stories he told his young son as the basis for the book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It was not published in his lifetime. Fleming used much of the techniques he employed when writing the Bond stories in that he used names and situations he encountered in his own life. One such example is the character Caractatus Pott, a former Commander in the Royal Navy. Pott, like Fleming, was fascinated with automobiles and unusual devices. Pott advised his children in the novel as Fleming did in life, “Never say no to adventures. Always say yes, otherwise you will lead a very dull life”.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was written in three volumes. The first two volumes were completed in the spring of 1961. The third was not completed until 1963, when Fleming was recovering from a second, and then a third heart attack. The latter required him to be convalescent. The third volume of the children’s story was the last the wrote, and it was not published until two months after his death in 1964. The Guardian was scathing in its review of the work, writing “we have the adult writer at play rather than the children’s writer at work”.
22. A James Bond fan gave his name to the books and films
In the first five James Bond novels, 007 is equipped with a Beretta as his standard sidearm. Fleming received a letter from a noted British firearm expert and fan of the series, Geoffrey Boothroyd. Boothroyd suggested the Beretta was insufficient for Bond’s work, and the agent should be equipped with a Walther PPK, a firearm of larger caliber and stopping power. Fleming thanked Boothroyd, and from that point on sought his advice on firearms used by villains, silencers, other weapons carried by Bond and his fellow agents, and the accurate portrayal of weapons used by agents of Smersh and other enemy agencies.
He also, as he so often did, appropriated the fan’s last name. Bond’s armorer and supplier of devices used in the field, became Major Boothroyd beginning in Dr. No, and continued through the series. In From Russia With Love (film) Major Boothroyd and the head of Q Branch become the same person. Bond’s Walther PPK became as iconic as his phrase, “Bond, James Bond”, which was also created by Fleming, not Sean Connery nor the screenwriters for the Bond films which began with Dr. No.
23. Bond’s Aston Martin DB 5 never appeared in the books
James Bond is associated with Aston Martin automobiles as a result of the films, beginning with Goldfinger. Fleming did not so equip his secret agent. In the early Bond books he drove a supercharged Bentley, described as “battleship grey”. The car was destroyed in Moonraker, and Bond drove another Bentley, a Mark II Continental. In Goldfinger Bond was assigned the Aston-Martin DB III, which was equipped with the homing device through which he followed the title character. For the rest of his career as created by Fleming, he drove the Bentley.
Fleming’s Bond did not reflect his own taste in cars. Following the success of Casino Royale the author purchased a 1955 Thunderbird. Four years later he was tired of the car and after shopping around he purchased another Ford, the 1959 Thunderbird. He also owned a British Aceca coupe and demonstrated a marked taste for American cars – one of the few things American of which he approved – by owning a Studebaker Avanti.
24. Fleming grew to approve of Sean Connery’s interpretation of James Bond
Ian Fleming lived to see the first of his novels made into a feature film, 1962’s Dr. No, starring a then little-known Scottish actor, Sean Connery. “The man they have chosen for Bond, Sean Connery, is a real charmer â fairly unknown but a good actor and the right looks and physique”, he wrote to a friend, despite having described Bond as resembling Hoagy Carmichael previously. Connery and Carmichael bore little resemblance to each other. Connery years later told a different story on British television, and one which seems to be more compatible with Fleming’s character.
“What was it he called me, or told somebody? That I was an over-developed stunt man. He never said it to me. When I did eventually meet him he was very interesting, erudite and a snob – a real snob”, Connery said in 2008. Fleming had originally wanted Cary Grant to portray Bond, but the production of Dr. No had a limited budget. Fleming’s approval of Connery came after the success of the film, which boosted the sale of all of his books into the millions.
25. Fleming’s last Bond novel was published after his death
In March, 1964, Ian Fleming returned to London from his Jamaica estate much the worse for wear. He was in the advanced stages of heart disease, and during his stay at Goldeneye he was too weak to work at his former pace. The manuscript he brought back and submitted was the first draft of The Man with the Golden Gun. As with all of his past works, he used the names of acquaintances and events which had occurred to individuals he knew or had known. The novel also included Bond and the villains using devices much more than in the previous books, an idea absorbed from the two Bond films which had been released.
Fleming suffered yet another heart attack after a day of golf and dinner with friends in Canterbury. He died the following day, August 12, 1964. It was his twelve-year old son’s birthday. His final novel and another collection of short stories, Octopussy and The Living Daylights, and the three volumes of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang were published after his death. Fleming left an estate valued at the equivalent of Â£6 million pounds today, and to date his books have sold over 30 million copies. The character he created in his own image, James Bond, is among the most famous literary and film characters of all time.
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