If you had to name a fictional spy, it is likely that many of you would name the character created by the author Ian Fleming. This is Bond, James Bond or 007. A spy, licensed to kill, who has glamourous women all over the world and a host of high-tech gadgets to get him out of trouble. Yes, that sounds like James Bond.
However, his creator led a life which in some ways not only reflected his character but might even have outshone it on occasion. Fleming was born on the 28th May 1908 in London. His father was a Conservative Member of Parliament and so Fleming enjoyed a good and wide-ranging education which included periods spent in Germany and Switzerland.
He became a journalist and between 1929 and 1932, he was based in Moscow. It is possible that this secondment provided him with research that would later help him develop many of his villainous characters who had connections to Russia including Spectre and Smersh.
When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Fleming was recruited to work for Naval Intelligence. By the end of hostilities, he had reached a senior position within the service. Once again, his experiences now gave him an insight into the workings of the security services. This provided more information into the world of Bond.
When he returned to “civvy-street” Fleming became the foreign manager for the London Sunday Times. This was a position he held until 1949 when he decided to leave and become an author full-time. His first novel with Bond as the main character was Casino Royale and it was published in 1953. This was followed by From Russia with Love in 1957, Dr No in 1958, Goldfinger in 1959 and Thunderball in 1961.
The character of James Bond is admired by many and frowned upon by others. The latter felt that he was nothing better than a sadistic criminal. This description was one that Fleming himself was happy with. He said that Bond should not be looked on as a hero but as someone you needed when things got really tough.
In all, Fleming wrote twelve Bond books, all of which became movies. Since there are now more than twenty 007 films produced, other writers have been employed to write the screenplays. Fleming also wrote two collections of short stories featuring Bond. But it might come as a surprise to many to learn that he also wrote the children’s book which featured the magical, flying car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which again became a popular movie.
Fleming’s own life reflected Bond’s in many ways. Not only did he have knowledge of the security services, he also mixed easily with the rich and famous. He enjoyed dangerous sports including caving and shark hunting. He died in Canterbury, Kent on the 12th August 1964. His philosophy on life can perhaps be best summed up in the words of one of his fictional characters, Colonel Pott, “Never say No to anything. Always say Yes, otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.”
And he certainly didn’t.