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August 24, 2005
September 5, 2005
How tightly identified was
Ian Fleming with James Bond?
If you know nothing about Fleming's
biography, that probably seems like a
crazy question, but Fleming definitely
was involved with British intelligence
during WW II.
But my impression was that he was a
bit of a joke as a secret agent, the CASINO_MUNDANE
kind of guy who was always coming up
with insanely imaginative and
totally impractical ideas. BANG_BANG
Upon reading the biography:
"The Life of Ian Fleming" (1966)
In the Bantam paperback edition
I find that the evidence is a little
more mixed than that...
It turns out that Fleming's role during
World War two was to act as the Personal
Assistant of the head of British Naval
intelligence -- or as Pearson puts it,
the Right Hand Man.
While Fleming certainly came up with
his fair share of impractical schemes,
he also did some fairly serious BONDED_COURIER
work, e.g. organizing a squad of
advance raiders to storm in and grab
intelligence related material (code In other respects however,
books, maps, memos, etc). Fleming does come off as an
amazing bullshit artist...
(Though, this was a Nazi idea perhaps even a bigger one than
originally: Fleming realized they Pearson indicates... reading
were doing it, however, and pushed between the lines, there are an
to imitate it.) awful lot of things that look
like Fleming inventions that
everyone swallowed, and Pearson
But then, the way that Fleming for some reason chose to play
ended up in this position was along.
interesting: it seems that
during WWI the head of naval COUGHING_UP_FLEMING
intelligence had a stockbroker
as his right hand man.
He recommended the same
practice to the new head of
intelligence, insisting that
stockbrokers have the right
kind of mental abilities and
connections to complement a
military mind. So they looked
around for a stockbroker, and
ended up with Fleming.
Why that particular stockbroker?
Before that he'd been working as a
journalist and his skill with
languages was good enough that he While still a journalist, he
was occasionally sent abroad, was offered a job as the head of
e.g. to Moscow. He was also the Shanghai bureau (or some
evidently used by the government such): he *turned it down* to
to do some minor spy work, with take a stockbroker position that
journalism as a cover (as I he thought would be more
understand it, this is not at all lucrative-- not exactly a James
an uncommon manuever)... presumably Bond maneuver, eh?
this is one of the things that
attracted the intention of naval
And how is it that he was offered this
stockbroker position? His grandfather was
the founder of a widely respected investment
bank. Having a Fleming on staff was
considered quite impressive on The Street.
Throughout his life, Fleming was the
son of a rich, well-connected family,
though without much access to the
family fortune. He milked his
connections shamelessly... this is
how the Bond books got published, and
it's how they got favorable press
reviews. It's also apparently how
they got written, with Fleming using
his friends to correct the details of
his stories... Fleming's actual One of Pearson's
knowledge of such things was very examples: a friend had
limited. to correct the spelling
and caliber of the
Two factors pushed the books up into "Beretta .25". (p. 192)
the best seller category: (1) the
British prime minister hid out at
Flemings house in Jamaica when he was
trying to recover from a nervous
breakdown, and (2) "From Russian With
Love" appeared on a list of Kennedy's
favorite books that was published in
"Life" magazine. "Life", March 17, 1963
It was 9th in the list.
Fleming had met Kennedy when he was a Stendhal was 10th.
Senator... and had him on his list of
people to send free copies. There's some speculation
that Kennedy and co.
In general he cultivated felt the need to soften
friendships with the famous the largely highbrow
and the influential... early list with at least one
on he caged a promotional popular work.
quote out of Raymond
(Compare all this to Delany's
impression that networking CONTACT Whatever else one may
is not really all that useful.) say about Fleming,
it's clear that he was
So, given some assumption of accuracy
of Pearson's portrayal, while Fleming
had little in common with a James
Bond figure, he might be regarded as
a sort of "M".
He was not completely without knowledge of the
world of covert operations... it's debatable
how much of it he got right, however.
Yes, SMERSH was a real organization, but it
evidently wasn't terribly active during the
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