LOOKS AT HOW IAN FLEMING INTRODUCED 007 TO THE WORLD 70 YEARS AGO
HE was debonair, dashing and worked for British Intelligence during the Second World War.
Ian Fleming’s code number was 17F and he was even involved in a secret project designed to beat the Nazis called Operation Goldeneye and once tried to interview Russian leader Stalin when he was in Moscow.
Yet Fleming always denied he was anything like his famous fictional creation 007 saying: “Apart from the fact that he wears the same clothes that I wear, he and I really have little in common. I do rather envy him his blondes and his efficiency, but I can’t say I much like the chap.”
James Bond made his first appearance 70 years ago in Fleming’s first book Casino Royale. It was published on April 13, 1953, and the daring exploits of the British agent quickly turned it into a bestseller. The story ended up being reprinted three times to meet public demand and more than one hundred million books within the Bond series have since been sold worldwide.
Fleming said he wrote about 2,000 words every morning until Casino Royale was finished.
“I made no corrections until the book was finished,” he said.
“If I had looked back at what I had written the day before, I might have despaired.”
The novel opened with the line: “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.”
Fleming bought a gold-plated typewriter to create his 007 novels and it fetched £56,250 when it was sold at auction in 1995. There were rumours that James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan had bought it, but he later denied he was the new owner of the world’s most expensive typewriter.
Fleming himself came from a wealthy family and went to Eton and Sandhurst. He worked briefly as a journalist and tried his hand at several jobs before the start of the Second World War.
John Harrington, the grandfather of Game of Thrones actor Kit Harrington, served alongside
Fleming in Naval Intelligence.
Fleming was never a spy himself, but was eventually promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and drew on his war-time experiences when it came to writing his James Bond novels.
The bird lover drew on his hobby when it came to naming his protaganist. “One of the bibles of my youth was Birds of the West Indies by James Bond, a well-known ornithologist, and when I was casting about for a name for my protagonist
I thought, ‘My God, that’s the dullest name I’ve ever heard,’ so I appropriated it,” he said, “now the dullest name in the world has become an exciting one.”
Books like On Her
Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me, You Only Live Twice and Thunderball followed. Fleming once explained the inspiration behind his famous creation saying: “I was just on the edge of getting married and I was frenzied at the prospect of this great step in my life after having been a bachelor for so long... I really wanted to take my mind off the agony and so I decided to sit down and write a book.”
Playwright and actor Sir Noel Coward was a great friend and one of only two guests at his wedding. Coward was later godfather to Fleming’s son and was also his neighbour near the writer’s Goldeneye estate on the Jamaican coast.
He encouraged his friend’s writing, but he turned down his offer to play villain Dr No in the first 007 film saying in a telegram: “Dr No? No! No! No!”
The legacy of the creator of James Bond is now being honoured with new editions of the original 007 novels marking the series’ 70th anniversary in print.
Canadian Harry Saltzman and American Albert “Cubby” Broccoli brought James Bond to the big screen in 1962 with the first cinematic adaptation, Dr No.
A string of blockbuster films followed, first starring Sir Sean Connery. George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig would all later take on the role.
Fleming himself only got to see Dr No and From Russia with Love in the cinema, but did visit the set of Goldfinger before he passed away in 1964 at the age of 56 – the morning of his son’s 12th birthday.
The writer, who once claimed to have smoked 70 cigarettes and drunk a bottle of gin a day, wrote in a notebook “live until you’re dead”.
He said: “People do connect me with James Bond simply because I happen to like scrambled eggs and short-sleeved shirts and some of the things James Bond does, but I certainly haven’t got his guts nor his lively appetites.”
Playwright and actor Sir Noel Coward was a great friend... but he turned down his offer to play villain Dr No in the first 007 film saying in a telegram: “Dr No? No! No! No!”