“Ashes, Old Boy – Just Ashes.”
In Memory of John Pearson
The husband, father, grandfather and writer John Pearson died on 13th November 2021. In addition to his extensive family, he leaves behind an estimable body of work, including fiction, non-fiction and the defining biographies of Ronnie and Reggie Kray.
Pearson was a longstanding and vital part of Ian Fleming and James Bond’s literary legacy. Ian and John worked together at The Sunday Times, both men learning their craft side-by-side and sharing experiences which would prove vital in later life.
Ian Fleming died in 1964 and it fell to John to write what would become for many years the definitive biography: The Life of Ian Fleming. First published in 1966, it was a deeply personal and expansive history of the creator of James Bond. John was able to gain unprecedented access to Ian’s family, friends, colleagues and peers as well as – vitally – drawing from his own friendship with the late author. The resulting book was a success; so successful, in fact, that John later claimed he was able to live in Italy off the back of it.
His work on The Life of Ian Fleming made him the ideal candidate for James Bond: The Authorised Biography. Published in 1973 (after the first Bond continuation novel, Colonel Sun, and before John Gardner’s long run of original 007 novels starting in 1981) this playful book uses the premise that James Bond is a real person, with Ian Fleming’s novels adapting actual events from this agent’s colourful life. It is a loving homage to both Fleming and 007. The journalist Malcolm Muggeridge complimented Pearson’s first novel, calling it “… exciting, wryly funny and perceptive” and perceptive is the ideal word to describe John, whose observations of Fleming and Bond would dismantle some of the myths that had grown up around both whilst further understanding of their entwined identities.
A great chronicler of people, Pearson would go on to write tomes on everyone from Barbara Cartland to Lord Lucan. His chronicle on Lucan would be adapted into a TV min-series and his Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty would form the basis of Ridley Scott’s 2017 movie All the Money in the World.
In 2020, Queen Anne Press partnered with John on Ian Fleming: The Notes, a collection of the research the author compiled whilst researching The Life of Ian Fleming. More than merely a time capsule, this book gives a wonderful insight into John’s writing process, reminding us crucially that there is always a person behind the words one reads on a page.
Ian Fleming Publications is proud of the work done with John Pearson. He will be sorely missed.