Ian Fleming is Born

On 28th May 1908 Ian Lancaster Fleming was born in London to Valentine and Evelyn Fleming.  Ian’s father, Valentine, was the MP for Henley and the son of Scottish financier and philanthropist, Robert Fleming, whose hard work and talent for figures helped him rise up from lowly roots in Dundee to become one of the most successful merchant bankers of his day.  Ian had an elder brother Peter, and two younger brothers, Richard and Michael.


Top left: Ian Fleming’s father, Valentine Fleming

Top right: Ian Fleming’s mother, Evelyn Fleming


First World War

Just after the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Valentine Fleming enlisted as a captain in the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars and by December he had been promoted to major.


Durnford School

Ian and Peter were enrolled at Durnford Preparatory School in Dorset which was overseen by eccentric headmaster, Tom Pellat, who encouraged the boys to nurture their individuality.  However, along with this liberal ethos came spartan conditions and regular beatings.  Ian lamented in a letter to his mother, ‘I am afraid I do not like school very much.  I do not know what form im in im in so many.  I’m afraid I have not made many friends, they are so dirty and unreverent.’


Right: Ian Fleming at the beach as a small boy

Left: The Fleming brothers, Peter (front left), Ian (front right), Michael (back left) Richard (back right)


Killed in Action

In mid-May 1917 Valentine’s squadron was called to an exposed post in the British Expeditionary Force’s frontline opposite the Hindenburg line, north of St. Quentin.  During the early morning of 20th May, the Germans opened a heavy bombardment and Valentine was hit by a shell and killed instantly.  News of the tragedy reached the family mere days before Ian’s ninth birthday.  Valentine’s good friend Winston Churchill wrote his obituary in The Times, ‘He was most earnest and sincere in his desire to make things better for the great body of the people’.  A copy of the obituary, inscribed by Churchill hung in Ian’s bedroom throughout his life.

The Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars. Valentine Fleming (back row, far right) and Winston Churchill (centre).

The Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars. Valentine Fleming (back row, far right) and Winston Churchill (centre).

‘As the war lengthens and intensifies and the extending lists appear, it seems as if one watched at night a well-loved city whose lights, which burn so bright, which burn so true, are extinguished in the distance in the darkness one by one.’

Winston Churchill

From the obituary of Valentine Fleming in The Times


Eton College

Ian Fleming entered Eton College in the autumn term of 1921.  His brother Peter had started a year before and was already earning a reputation for academic brilliance.  In contrast, Ian was not a gifted scholar but excelled at athletics for which he was twice awarded victor ludorum (champion of the games).  In 1925 Ian co-edited an issue of the school magazine The Wyvern which featured his first published short story, The Ordeal of Caryl St. George.

Left: Ian Fleming’s Eton College Leaving Portrait, 1926.

Right: Victor Ludorum at Eton College.


Sandhurst Military College

Ian, who was always somewhat of a rebel, was often in trouble at Eton for playing truant, driving cars and entertaining girls.  In the end a deal was struck between his mother and housemaster that Ian would leave Eton a term early in order to prepare for Sandhurst Military College, as it was then known.  However, Ian’s temperament was not suited to the life of a soldier and he withdrew from the college after a year.


Time in Europe

After living up to his reputation as the black sheep of the family, Ian’s mother Evelyn was at a loss to know what to do with her wayward son.  She decided to send him to Kitzbühel in Austria to improve his languages before sitting examinations for the Foreign Office.  Ian was sent to the Villa Tennerhof, which was run by Ernan Forbes Dennis and his wife, the celebrated author Phyllis Bottome who had a profound influence on Ian by encouraging him to use his imagination to write fiction.  Ian flourished under their tutelage where the educational theories of Adler were followed and students were encouraged to work hard and satisfy wide-ranging curiosities.  Ian loved to ski and to climb the mountains and later wrote to a friend describing Kitzbühel as, ‘that golden time when the sun always shone’.  After a year at the Tennerhof, Fleming moved on to Munich University and then to Geneva University to polish his German and French respectively.

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming as a young man

‘That golden time when the sun always shone.’


Affairs of the Heart

Ian Fleming had many girlfriends as a young man and began to acquire a reputation as a womaniser.  A friend from his Tennerhof days, Ralph Arnold, remembered Ian as being ‘irresistible to women’, and during his time in Geneva he became engaged.  The object of his affection was Monique Panchaud de Bottones, the daughter of a Swiss landowner whom he had met at a Genevese ball.  Throughout the summer of 1931 Ian and Monique were inseparable but after returning to London, distance and his mother’s disapproval contributed to the decline and eventual severance of their relationship.  However, it is likely Ian always carried her memory with fondness as he was later to provide James Bond with a Swiss mother named Monique.

Ian Fleming by the sea

Ian Fleming by the sea

Foreign Office Exams

After that blissful summer, Ian returned to London to sit his exams for the Foreign Office but failed to secure one of the few places, coming 25th out of 62 applicants.  Instead he embarked upon a career as a journalist with Reuters, initially on a trial basis for one month without pay.


The Russian Assignment

Ian settled in well at Reuters and in April 1933 he was sent to Moscow to cover the Metropolitan-Vickers trial, where six British engineers were found guilty of espionage and sabotage.  Fleming’s boss Bernard Rickatson-Hatt sent a telegram to the Moscow office to announce Fleming’s arrival, ‘I AM SENDING YOU IAN FLEMING ONE OF OUR ABLEST YOUNG MEN TO HELP COVERAGE OF TRIAL’, thus marking the start of his first major assignment.  Whilst in Moscow, Ian took the opportunity to write to Stalin to try and secure an interview.  His request was unsuccessful but his efforts were rewarded with a signed letter of refusal.  The assignment also earned him an invitation to report his impressions of the current Soviet situation to the Foreign Office which surely marked his name on records for future intelligence work.


The World’s Worst Stockbroker

During his time at Reuters Fleming developed his writing style and learned to compose fast, clear prose.  Whilst he enjoyed his burgeoning journalism career, citing the two years he’d worked for Reuters as some of the happiest in his life, it could not support the lifestyle he was accustomed to.  Bowing to family pressure, he accepted a position at the merchant bank Cull & Co. and subsequently moved on to Rowe and Pitman.  Whilst his family connections gave him standing in the banking world and his talent for charming and socialising with clients was undeniable, the actual minutiae of money-making bored Fleming.  A former colleague remembered Ian’s time in the City by saying, ‘As a stockbroker old Ian really must have been among the world’s worst.’


Ann O’Neill

In November 1934 during a visit to Stanway House in Gloucestershire, Ian met 21-year-old Lady O’Neill (née Ann Charteris).  Looking back at her first impressions of Ian, Ann recalled, ‘I thought Ian original and entertaining.  He was immensely attractive and had enormous charm.  He was totally unlike anyone else I had ever met.’  It wasn’t until 1939 that the two embarked upon a long-lasting love affair.

Ann Fleming

Ann in the late 1940s

‘I thought Ian original and entertaining.  He was immensely attractive and had enormous charm.  He was totally unlike anyone else I had ever met.’


Peter Fleming in the 1930s

After leaving Christ Church, Oxford with a First class degree in English, Ian’s elder brother Peter Fleming established himself as an explorer and travel writer publishing accounts of his adventures in Brazil and China.  In 1935 Peter married the actress Celia Johnson, best known now for her roles in the films Brief Encounter and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.


Unofficial Business

In the spring of 1939 the Foreign Office asked Ian Fleming to return to Russia, officially to accompany and report on a Trade mission for The Times.  The unofficial and actual purpose of Fleming’s visit was to report on Russia’s military strength and morale ahead of almost certain war.

Naval Intelligence

After thirty years’ service in the Royal Navy, Rear-Admiral John Godfrey was appointed Director of Naval Intelligence at the beginning of 1939.  With war on the horizon, he was tasked with growing and strengthening his department to be able to handle the perils which lay ahead.  He needed an assistant, a role for which Ian Fleming’s name was put forward.  In July 1939 Ian was appointed to the role and became a Lieutenant in the Special Branch of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, a rank he was later to bestow upon his hero James Bond.  It is widely speculated that Godfrey was the model for the character M, the head of MI6 and James Bond’s superior.

Rear-Admiral John Godfrey

Rear-Admiral John Godfrey


A Casualty of War

In October 1940, Ian’s youngest brother, Michael, was captured in Normandy after covering the retreat to Dunkirk and later died from his wounds.


Advising Allies

During the war Fleming visited the United States several times to help develop security collaboration between the two Allies.  On one occasion he wrote a memorandum to advise US Colonel Donovan who had been asked by President Roosevelt to set up the Office of Strategic Studies (OSS), predecessor to the CIA.  The memo advised Colonel Donovan how to set up the organisation and included tips such as, ‘Make an example of someone at an early date for indiscretion and continue to act ruthlessly where lack of security is concerned.’

Ian Fleming in Naval uniform

Ian Fleming in his Naval uniform

Casino Estoril

En route to a visit to the US, Fleming and Admiral Godfrey stopped off in neutral Portugal.  It was an evening spent at the Casino Estoril that was to spark his creative mind in years to come.  Upon leaving the casino, Fleming turned to Godfrey and said, ‘What if those men had been German secret service agents, and suppose we had cleaned them out of their money; now that would have been exciting.’  This musing provided the inspiration for the plot of Casino Royale where Bond’s mission is to bankrupt SMERSH agent Le Chiffre at the gaming table.


The Establishment of 30AU

The 30 Assault Unit (or AU) was a British Commando unit formed to accompany troops and gather intelligence and was the brainchild of Ian Fleming.  At first 30AU’s gains were minor and in some cases, such as the Dieppe Raid, their efforts had devastating results.  However, as the war progressed so too did their effectiveness and amongst their greatest triumphs were the successful capture of an enigma machine and the seizure of the complete logs, diaries, minutes and reports of the German navy dating back to the Franco-Prussian war.


Operation Mincemeat

During his time in Room 39, Ian Fleming was instrumental in helping to organise several espionage missions, one of which was Operation Mincemeat.  This was a successful British misinformation plan to convince the German high command that the Allies planned to invade Greece and Sardinia in 1943 instead of Sicily.  The plan was to deposit the corpse of a British serviceman carrying false official papers off the coast of Spain.  When the body washed up it was intercepted by German agents and, as a report to Churchill explained, ‘Mincemeat swallowed rod, line and sinker.’

‘Mincemeat swallowed rod, line and sinker.’


First trip to Jamaica

Towards the end of the war, Ian was invited to attend the Anglo-American naval conference in Kingston, Jamaica.  He stayed with his friend Ivar Bryce whose wife had a beautiful old house in the Blue Mountains, Bellevue.  November is a notoriously wet month in the Caribbean and their visit was overshadowed by torrential rain.  Bryce was certain Ian’s introduction to Jamaica had been a failure, until he turned to him on the flight to Washington and said, ‘you know, Ivar, I have made a great decision.  When we have won this blasted war, I am going to live in Jamaica.  Just live in Jamaica and lap it up, and swim in the sea and write books.’  By that time, Fleming already had an idea of the sort of books he would write as he confided to his colleague in Naval Intelligence Robert Harling that he intended to ‘write the spy story to end all spy stories.’

Ian Fleming, Ann Fleming, Ivar Bryce and Robert Harling in Jamaica in the 1950s

From left to right, Ian Fleming, Ann Fleming, Ivar Bryce (foreground) and Robert Harling in Jamaica in the 1950s

‘When we have won this blasted war, I am going to live in Jamaica.  Just live in Jamaica and lap it up, and swim in the sea and write books.’


Ann O’Neill Remarries

After the death of her first husband, Irish peer Shane O´Neill, during the war, Ann O´Neill married the proprietor of the Daily Mail, Lord Rothermere.  Her affair with Ian continued on and off and it is likely that she had hoped to become Mrs Fleming at this point.  However, Ian was a determined bachelor and Ann found comfort as Lady Rothermere whilst continuing her love affair with Ian.

Kemsley News

After the war Fleming accepted a job with Kemsley News, owners of the Sunday Times amongst other papers.  He was their Foreign Manager, running a network of overseas correspondents, a role he was perfectly suited to after his experience in Room 39.  As part of his contract he negotiated two months off every year, which he set aside for Jamaican living.



True to his word three years earlier, Fleming bought a former donkey racetrack just outside the sleepy Northern coastal town of Oracabessa and set about building a house which he named Goldeneye.  There are several theories as to the name’s origin: one was that he took the name from the novel Reflections in a Golden Eye, another that it came from Operation Goldeneye, the Allied plan he worked on in 1940 to defend Gibraltar, another theory was the Spanish translation of Oracabessa to ‘head of gold’ and perhaps most convincing of all was the discovery of a strange Spanish tomb in the garden which had a golden eye in a golden head.  Years later Fleming wrote in a letter, ‘When I came to Jamaica, I was determined that one day Goldeneye would be better known than any of the great houses that had been there so long and achieved nothing.’


Goldeneye, Ian Fleming’s home in Jamaica



Queen Anne Press

In 1951 Ian Fleming became Managing Director of Queen Anne Press, a publishing house which produces limited editions by notable authors.  QAP still operates today and is committed to producing high-quality books by the best writers.


The Book Collector

Ian Fleming was an avid book collector and over the course of his life acquired a vast collection of rare first editions.  In spring 1952 he launched The Book Collector, the only journal in the world concerned with book collecting.  Published quarterly, the journal still runs to this day.

‘A Whisper of Love, A Whisper of Hate’

Despite her second marriage, during the early 1950s Ian and Ann’s relationship flourished and by 1951 she was pregnant with his child.  Lord Rothermere issued a divorce and Ian and Ann prepared to marry.  Ian always joked that it was an attempt to distract himself from his looming nuptials that inspired him in January 1952 to sit down at his desk at Goldeneye and in no more than two months, write a novel.  The product of his labour was the first story about British secret agent James Bond, a name which Fleming had borrowed from his ‘Jamaican bible’, A Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies, by American ornithologist James Bond.  He called the novel Casino Royale and to celebrate completing the manuscript, Fleming rewarded himself with the gift of a gold-plated Royal de Luxe typewriter.  He passed the manuscript to his friend, the poet William Plomer who was a reader for publishing house Jonathan Cape, and thus James Bond’s journey began.  Every January afterwards until his death in 1964, Fleming spent the first two months of every year writing James Bond adventures at Goldeneye.

Field Guide of Birds of the West Indies

Fleming’s ‘Jamaican bible,’ Field Guide of Birds of the West Indies by James Bond

Caspar is born

The Flemings were married in March 1952 and in August their only son Caspar was born.  A few weeks after the birth, Ian wrote to a friend, ‘If it were possible to make a better man out of me he is certainly assisting the process.’

Ian Fleming holding his baby son, Caspar

Ian Fleming holding his baby son, Caspar

‘If it were possible to make a better man out of me he is certainly assisting the process.’



On 13th April 1953 Casino Royale was published by Jonathan Cape in the UK.  Fleming could have no idea of the impact his self-proclaimed ‘dreadful oafish opus’ would have on British culture and wrote to Cape ahead of publication saying, ‘my own feeling is that the life of a book of this sort is not long’.  Casino Royale was an instant success, warranting three print runs in quick succession and provoking rave reviews such as Time magazine’s, ‘Casino Royale introduces a brand new mystery writer, Briton Ian Fleming, and a hard-shelled British secret service operative, James Bond, who should be prowling the international underground for some books to come.’


Left: 1st edition book jacket of Casino Royale

Right: Ian Fleming reading a copy of Casino Royale


In autumn 1953 Fleming took on the role of Atticus for the Sunday Times, a pseudonymous weekly column for publishing society gossip.



Before Casino Royale was published, Fleming set about writing the second novel to feature Special Agent 007.  Whereas James Bond’s first adventure was composed mostly from memory, Live and Let Die was a more professional affair with Fleming undertaking detailed research before settling into his 2,000 words-a-day regime.  He had explored the territory of his villain, Mr Big, on a trip to Harlem in December 1952, information on gold doubloons and Spanish treasure was supplied by Spink, London’s premier coin dealers and he visited a live worm factory whilst on a visit to Florida with Ann at the start of 1953.  Meanwhile, he need only look out of his window at Goldeneye for inspiration for the setting of the book’s climax.  Live and Let Die entered UK bookshops on 5th April 1954 and earned Fleming much praise, including the enthusiastic Sunday Times review, ‘Speed… tremendous zest… communicated excitement.  Brrh!  How wincingly well Mr Fleming writes.’

‘When I come against a man like this one, I have another motto.  It’s live and let die.’

Live and Let Die



Set in London and Kent where Fleming spent most weekends at his beloved Royal St George’s Golf Club, Moonraker was a thoroughly British affair.  Not only was it a departure from the exotic locales of his first two novels, but it was the first time James Bond failed to win the heart of the book’s heroine, police officer Gala Brand.  Before the title was settled upon, other suggestions included Wide of the Mark, The Inhuman Element and the startlingly gloomy Mondays are Hell.



It was in New York, on the way home from Goldeneye in March 1954 that Fleming noticed an advertisement in American Vogue, ‘A Diamond is Forever’.  This sparked his imagination and lured James Bond into his next mission investigating the spectacular world of international diamond smuggling.  The book’s cover was painted by Pat Marriott, the wife of Cape publisher, Michael Howard.

Diamonds Are Forever

1st edition book jacket of Diamonds Are Forever, created by Pat Marriott



Alongside his relatively new guise as a thriller writer, Fleming retained his position as a journalist at the Sunday Times.  In 1957 the paper invited him to write a story on the International Diamond Security Organisation which worked to crack down on diamond smuggling, a subject Fleming was familiar with after extensively researching Diamonds Are Forever.  The Sunday Times serialised the book over six weeks in September 1957 and Cape published it in November that same year.

‘One day in 1957 I had just answered a letter from an expert in unarmed combat writing from a cover address in Mexico City, and I was thanking a fan in Chile, when my telephone rang…’

The Diamond Smugglers


After writing three James Bond novels, Ian Fleming was growing weary of his hero.  Writing to his friend, American thriller writer Raymond Chandler, Fleming confided, ‘My own muse is in a bad way… it has been very difficult to make Bond go through his tricks in From Russia with Love’.  The novel sees Bond pitted against SMERSH, the Soviet counterintelligence agency, who plan not only to kill Bond but to discredit the entire British secret service by framing him in a major sex scandal.  The novel includes excellently drawn villains and ends on a cliff-hanger, leaving readers anxious about the fate of their hero; no doubt a ploy which would allow Fleming to end the series if his muse failed to return.  In 1961 From Russia with Love was named as one of US President John F. Kennedy’s ten favourite books in Life magazine, encouraging American sales of the series to soar and proving that Fleming’s decision to extend the life of his hero was the right one.

Publicity shot of Ian Fleming

Publicity shot of Ian Fleming



Dr No was Fleming’s most fantastical James Bond adventure to date.  With a luxurious underground lair in the Bahamas, a giant squid for a pet and steel pincers for hands, the eponymous villain proved to be one of the most unforgettable products of Fleming’s imagination.  The New York Herald Tribune described it as, ‘The most artfully bold, dizzyingly poised thriller of the decade.’

‘Below him the water quivered. Something was stirring in the depths, something huge.’

Dr No



Fleming’s seventh Bond novel, Goldfinger, follows the pursuits of a wealthy criminal with a penchant for torture.  The novel features some iconic scenes synonymous with Bond, one in which a treacherous Bond girl is suffocated by having her body coated in gold paint and another where 007 is strapped to a table as a circular saw moves slowly towards his groin.  The book cover was illustrated by up-and-coming artist Richard Chopping, who had been responsible for the jacket for From Russia with Love.  From this point onwards, Chopping created every UK first edition Bond cover.


1st edition book jacket of Goldfinger, created by Richard Chopping



This collection of five short stories sees Bond thwart a drug-smuggling ring, investigate the murder of a motorcycle dispatch rider and help an assassin intent on revenge.  A couple of the stories started life as outlines for television episodes which were never made, whilst the short story Quantum of Solace paid homage to his friend, playwright and novelist W. Somerset Maugham.

‘The red sanserif letters, still damp, said: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.’

For Your Eyes Only



From the beginning, Fleming had been keen to adapt his James Bond adventures into films and in 1959 he produced a sixty-seven-page treatment which was passed on to his friend Ivar Bryce and producer, Kevin McClory.  Suggestions and amendments were made but enthusiasm for the project waned and Fleming used elements of the outline for his next novel, Thunderball.  Once completed, Fleming was ashamed of his latest effort and wrote to his publisher, ‘Tell William Plomer I’m halfway through a long and very dull Bond and to sharpen his red pencil as never before.’  However, The New York Times printed a contrasting evaluation, ‘a thriller, a chiller and a pleasure to read.’

Ian Fleming at his desk at Goldeneye

Ian Fleming at his desk at Goldeneye

Bond on the silver screen

In 1954 an adaptation of Casino Royale renamed Climax! was produced for television by CBS, starring Barry Nelson as ‘Jimmy Bond’.  Since then none of Fleming’s attempts to get James Bond onto screen had paid off.  But in 1961 film producers Albert R. ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and Harry Saltzman set about transforming Fleming’s books into films.  The two producers partnered to create EON Productions and its parent (holding) company Danjaq, LLC, named after their two wives’ first names – Dana and Jacquiline.

Albert R. 'Cubby' Broccoli, Sean Connery, Ian Fleming and Harry Saltzman

Albert R. ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, Sean Connery, Ian Fleming and Harry Saltzman

Heart attack

For some years Ian Fleming’s health had been declining and he had long suffered heart problems and difficulties with his kidneys and back.  On April 1961 whilst attending a Sunday Times meeting, he suffered a major heart attack.  On the surface he joked to friends, writing that, ‘years of under work and overindulgence’ had caught up with him, but behind the humour he realised life would never be the same again.



By the time Fleming came to write the sequel to Thunderball in 1961, his life had become more complicated than he would have wished.  His health was failing, James Bond was not providing the light-hearted diversion he once had and his marriage had withered due to his and Ann’s extra-marital affairs.  It was under these circumstances that Fleming broke away from his usual writing formula and produced a very different Bond book.  The Spy Who Loved Me was written from the point of view of Vivienne Michel, a heart-broken young woman who gets tangled-up in an ill-fated insurance scam at an isolated motel in Vermont before being rescued by 007.  When it was published in 1962, critics did not welcome Fleming’s literary experiment and his confidence was knocked by the book’s poor reception.

‘You take a wrong step, play the wrong card in Fate’s game, and you’re lost in a world you had never imagined, against which you have no weapons.  No compass.’

The Spy Who Loved Me

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Whilst convalescing after his heart attack at the London Clinic, Fleming was forbidden a typewriter so that he could enjoy proper respite.  However, no one had mentioned anything about a pen and paper and it wasn’t long before Fleming began to write a children’s story about a magical car that was based on the bedtime stories he had concocted for his son, Caspar.  In 1968 the Bond film producers adapted Chitty Chitty Bang Bang into a film starring Dick Van Dyke, with a screenplay written by children’s author Roald Dahl.  Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was published posthumously in 1965 and 1966, with classic illustrations by John Burningham.

Illustration of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by John Burningham

Illustration of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by John Burningham


‘One of Bond’s most ominous and chilling adventures,’ was how Newsweek appraised On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  Calling on his experiences at the Tennerhof in the 1930s, the book transported readers to the Alps and brought back Bond’s adversary from Thunderball, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

EON’s 007

Following the deal brokered with Broccoli and Saltzman, filming of the first Bond film, Dr No, began on location in Jamaica in 1962 and the film was released in October that same year.  Starring Sean Connery as Agent 007 and Ursula Andress as Honey Rider, Dr No was a box office hit and sparked the longest-running film franchise in history.  Fleming lived to see the success of the second Bond film adaptation From Russia with Love and had input on the film Goldfinger, although he died before the film was released.

Ian Fleming and Sean Connery on the set of Dr No

Ian Fleming and Sean Connery on the set of Dr No


Legal Battle

After the publication of Thunderball in 1961, Kevin McClory, along with screenwriter Jack Whittingham, sued Ian Fleming for novelising their screenplay without crediting their input.  After nine days the case was settled but the stress surrounding the case contributed to Fleming’s declining health.


Published as a book in 1963, Thrilling Cities is a collection of articles Fleming wrote for the Sunday Times, based on two trips in 1959 and 1960 during which he visited some of the world’s most interesting cities.  Fleming’s travelogue delves into cities as varied and interesting as Hong Kong, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Berlin, and Monte Carlo and provides unique insight into those places at a time of great change.

Thrilling Cities

1st edition book jacket of Thrilling Cities



Set in Japan, You Only Live Twice is a unique novel in that it provides readers with a detailed understanding of Bond’s past.  Missing, presumed dead, M writes an obituary for James Bond in The Times where we discover that Bond was orphaned at the age of eleven, was expelled from Eton College after ‘some alleged trouble with one of the boys’ maids’, continued his education at Fettes and then entered the Ministry of Defence after claiming to be older than he was.  You Only Live Twice sees the return of Bond’s nemesis Blofeld, thus concluding the ‘Blofeld trilogy’ and was the last James Bond novel to be published in Fleming’s lifetime.

‘You only live twice.  Once when you’re born and once when you look death in the face.’

You Only Live Twice

Ian Fleming Dies

By the beginning of 1964 Fleming’s health had deteriorated to a point of no return.  At Easter he played a round of golf in the rain, drove home in wet clothes and developed pleurisy.  He spent a long time in hospital recovering and in July his mother Evelyn passed away, adding to his melancholic outlook. In August he was in Kent where he was due to be elected captain of the Royal St. George’s golf club, when after dinner on 11th August he suffered a heart attack.  The following morning, on his son Caspar’s twelfth birthday, he died at the age of 56.

Ian Fleming at his typewriter at Goldeneye

Ian Fleming at his typewriter at Goldeneye

Ian Fleming’s Legacy

Before his death, Fleming had already delivered a manuscript for his final James Bond novel, The Man with the Golden Gun, which was redrafted and edited by author Kingsley Amis and published posthumously in 1965.  Fleming’s only story for children, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was published in three instalments in 1965 and 1966 and a collection of short stories featuring 007, Octopussy and The Living Daylights was released in 1966.

Fleming could never have guessed the impact his creation would have on British culture, cinema or the world’s perception of British espionage.  The enduring adoration for James Bond is something which could never have been conceived as Fleming sat down in Jamaica that January in 1952, and succeeded in his quest to write the spy story to end all spy stories.


At his memorial service his old friend and editor at Cape, William Plomer delivered the following heartfelt address to the congregation,

‘Let us remember him as he was on top of the world, with his foot on the accelerator, laughing at absurdities, enjoying discoveries, absorbed in his many interests and plans, fascinated and amused by places and people and facts and fantasies, an entertainer of millions, and for us a friend never to be forgotten.’


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