A ‘world-famous secret agent’: it seems a contradiction in terms. Yet how else to describe Bond – James Bond – whose exploits have sold over sixty million books to date, and launched one of the most successful film franchises in the world? Few other literary characters can claim to have had the cultural impact of 007.
This was certainly not the outcome Ian Fleming anticipated, when, in January 1952, he first plucked his protagonist’s name from the cover of a book on Jamaican birds. Armed with a typewriter, a wealth of (top secret) wartime experience in Naval Intelligence, a sharp prose style honed by his career as a journalist, and a desire to distract himself from his impending marriage, Fleming began work on Casino Royale. The novel was an instant success. The luxurious appeal of the spy fantasy – the fast cars, the exotic locales, the expensive meals and beautiful clothes, many of which were based on Fleming’s own tastes – provided a perfect escapist fantasy in a post-war world still subject to rationing.
Over the next twelve years he wrote a further eleven Bond novels and nine short stories, including such iconic titles as Goldfinger, From Russia With Love and Dr No. He also published two works of non-fiction, as well as the beloved children’s classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – the latter written for his young son, Caspar. To see a list of all Fleming’s works in publication order, click here.
By Fleming’s death in August 1964, aged just 56, James Bond had become a global phenomenon. To read about Ian Fleming’s fascinating life in more detail, please see the timeline below.