A fresh portrait of the man behind James Bond, and his enduring impact, by an award-winning biographer with unprecedented access to the Fleming family papers.

Ian Fleming's greatest creation, James Bond, has had an enormous and ongoing impact on our culture. What Bond represents about ideas of masculinity, the British national psyche and global politics has shifted over time, as has the interpretation of the life of his author. But Fleming himself was more mysterious and subtle than anything he wrote.

Ian's childhood with his gifted brother Peter and his extraordinary mother set the pattern for his ambition to be “the complete man,” and he would strive for the means to achieve this “completeness'”all his life. Only a thriller writer for his last twelve years, his dramatic personal life and impressive career in Naval Intelligence put him at the heart of critical moments in world history, while also providing rich inspiration for his fiction. Exceptionally well connected, and widely travelled, from the United States and Soviet Russia to his beloved Jamaica, Ian had access to the most powerful political figures at a time of profound change.

Nicholas Shakespeare is one of the most gifted biographers working today. His talent for uncovering material that casts new light on his subjects is fully evident in this masterful, definitive biography. His unprecedented access to the Fleming archive and his nose for a story make this a fresh and eye-opening picture of the man and his famous creation.

About the author(s)

Nicholas Shakespeare's books have been translated into twenty languages. They include The Vision of Elena Silves, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, and The Dancer Upstairs, which was made into a film of the same name by John Malkovich. His nonfiction includes the critically acclaimed authorized biography of Bruce Chatwin. Shakespeare is married with two sons and lives in Oxford.


"Monumental . . . . Mr. Shakespeare is so adept . . . at distilling complex history and conjuring cinematic images."
Wall Street Journal

"Prodigiously researched . . . . Shakespeare’s surely definitive account [is] . . . . a rich and fully fleshed portrait." — Air Mail

"A book so buoyant and delicious that you feel it will be a friend for life." — Telegraph

"This excellent biography is as worldly and clever as one could wish." — Spectator

"Elegant and painstakingly researched." — The Observer

“[Shakespeare] is the first Fleming biographer to get his hands on just about everything Fleming wrote, which helps to make this biography somehow both capacious and breathlessly entertaining . . . . This is certainly the most three-dimensional portrait of [Fleming].”
Los Angeles Times

"Using rare access to the Fleming archive, Shakespeare fashions an exciting and often sad portrait of the man. It is rich in detail . . . . The book is terrific." — Chicago Tribune

"A monumental record of Fleming’s life. The completeness of the book is beyond doubt. Shakespeare leaves no future biographer much to discover. Fleming’s place in history is assured." — Sunday Times (London)

"A sustained and engrossing homage to the Olympic icon of a beleaguered Britain, and a writer damned to fame. With scarcely a dull page, it’s a chip off the old block . . . . steeped in exceptional research . . . . stitches up the loose ends of Fleming’s story into a satisfying 21st-century biography." — The Independent

"A definitive biography that deepens and reshapes previous versions of Fleming’s life . . . . light-footed and swift-moving despite its copious research . . . . Shakespeare’s Fleming rises from these richly textured pages as a more substantial and sympathetic figure than the preening snob of myth." — Financial Times

"Ian Fleming: The Complete Man is packed with women, their characters and stories carefully filled in . . . . highly accomplished and readable." — New Statesman

Ian Fleming: The Complete Man attempts to peel back the layers, debunk the myths, and make sense of the contradictions . . . . [Shakespeare] has produced the most thorough biography of Fleming yet . . . . Hugely compelling . . . a bold reassessment of an intriguing person.”
Washington Examiner

"Fresh . . . . Insightful . . . . Shakespeare leaves no stone unturned in this exhaustive, highly readable biography." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"The most comprehensive picture yet of Bond’s creator . . . . Definitive." — The Economist

"This is a marvellous book about Ian Fleming, but it’s also one of the most engaging portraits of a particular period of British history that I have read in a long time." — Antonia Fraser

"Fascinating, well researched, neatly written." — Literary Review

"Shakespeare has the rare ability to reinvigorate subjects that had seemed exhausted. If, like me, you thought you knew all there was to be known about Ian Fleming, prepare for a surprise . . . . Written with such brio that the pace never slackens." — Adam Sisman

"What a masterful and definitive study this is, enhanced by a novelist’s skill in making it so eminently readable and page-turning. I learned a great deal that I did not know. It is compulsively absorbing." — David Stafford

“Nicholas Shakespeare’s magisterial Ian Fleming: The Complete Man will surely be the last word on James Bond’s creator. Shakespeare’s intimate grasp of Fleming’s social milieu makes this superb biography even more authoritative.” — The Spectator (US)

"Exemplary . . . . This will stand as the definitive biography of [Ian Fleming]." — Publishers Weekly

“Shakespeare . . . was given unprecedented access to Fleming’s papers. Out of his research, he’s written a highly detailed, generally very admiring portrait of a cultured, problematic, creative man from a different era."

Ian Fleming: The Complete Man takes a deep dive into the life of the author who created James Bond . . . . Drawing on never-before-accessed private archives, the book contains new insights into Fleming’s career, friendships, and love affairs.”

More Literary Figures