The Ian Fleming Miscellany

The Ian Fleming Miscellany

by Andrew Cook


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A unique insight into how Ian Fleming created by inspiration—and sometimes plagiarism—the legend of James Bond 

The book centers on Ian Fleming the man, his contradictions, and his public and private personality. It examines the man behind the myth and how in particular he managed (unsuccessfully at first) to create a film franchise that has lasted over fifty years. It considers Fleming’s reputation as a writer, the "formula method" he perfected and the formula’s reliance on the recycling of real individuals and events as well as the occasional reliance on plagiarism. It uniquely accesses a number of closed and recently opened government files that shed light on previously unknown wartime operations such as the Air Ministry’s top secret "Operation Grand Slam", which was used in Goldfinger.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780750960915
Publisher: The History Press
Publication date: 02/01/2016
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 4.60(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Andrew Cook is an author and TV consultant. He has written for The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, BBC History Magazine, and History Today. His previous books include On His Majesty’s Secret Service Ace of SpiesM: MI5’s First Spymaster, The Great Train Robbery, and 1963: That Was the Year That Was.

Read an Excerpt

The Ian Fleming Miscellany

By Andrew Cook

The History Press

Copyright © 2015 Andrew Cook
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7509-6577-4



* * *

• The End in the Beginning •

Ian Fleming's birth and upbringing nurtured the talent, urbanity and focus that made him successful, but also the arrogance and self-doubt that caught up with him in the end.

He was born into a family of great wealth and extraordinary talent. Only two generations back, his paternal great-grandfather had been a humble Dundee bookkeeper. His grandfather had begun work at 13, learned how to invest other people's money and founded his eponymous merchant bank Robert Fleming and Co. before he was 30. Having left Scotland for New York, he made influential friends, among them the international banking magnates John Pierpoint Morgan and Jacob Schiff. In the early twentieth century his bank changed its base from Dundee to the City of London, and Robert and his wife, Kathleen, moved the family to a mansion in Grosvenor Square.

The older of Robert Fleming's two sons was Valentine, known as Val. On Val's marriage to Eve Ste Croix Rose, Robert gave the couple £250,000 – tens of millions today. Val became a barrister, and MP for Henley, and had four sons of his own: Peter, Ian, Richard and Michael, in that order. Their mother, Eve, was a pretty and sociable woman of distinguished heritage and with a strong sense of entitlement.

Perhaps it was all too perfect to last. Valentine Fleming served in the First World War as a major in the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars and was killed in Picardy in 1917. His closest friend, who appreciated him as a kind and honourable man and wrote a sad and loving obituary in The Times, was Winston Churchill. Valentine left money in trust for his sons and their education. For Eve, there was an extremely generous allowance for life unless she remarried, in which case her stipend would be considerably reduced.

All the boys boarded at a prep school – which Ian hated – before taking up places at Eton. They were close, especially Ian and his older brother Peter, who remembered their father well and understood the terrible finality of his death when it happened. At Eton, Peter took the academic prizes while Ian concentrated on establishing his physical prowess. 'Victor Ludorum twice,' he said proudly to Roy Plomley, when asked about Eton decades later in a BBC radio interview. He also edited a school magazine, wrote poetry and made dozens of friends for life. There were escapades with Ivar Bryce, a rich, young fellow pupil. Together they discovered motorbikes, fast cars and the thrill of escape from authority.

Eve Fleming, meanwhile, indulged a penchant for Upper Bohemia. Ian had been born in Green Street, Mayfair, but for most of his childhood the family had occupied Pitt House at North End, Hampstead. This was the home Eve had shared with her husband and where she entertained a large circle of friends. In 1923, she sold it and moved to the unfashionable, least accessible part of Chelsea: a row of unassuming cottages at the west end of Cheyne Walk. One of them was distinguished by having been home to J.M.W. Turner. She bought it, and the two others either side of it, and got the builders in; she ended up with a twelve-bedroomed mansion with a lot of space for grand gatherings of well-off and slightly louche musicians, artists and writers. She was a pretty widow; Augustus John, who, at 45, was seven years older, lived with the mother of some of his many children. He was a notorious philanderer. His studio was nearby, across the King's Road in Mallord Street. The inevitable happened – or, quite possibly, it had already happened, for a move from sturdy, family friendly Hampstead to what was then arty, edgy Chelsea seems otherwise unlikely.

Quite how much Eve's oldest sons knew of her affair with Augustus John is uncertain. In 1925, at 17, he wrote a story in Wyvern, an Eton College magazine, and the thread that ran through it was the infidelity of women. Was he secretly hurt and censorious about his mother's 'betrayal' of his deceased father? We cannot know. Like most teenagers, Ian was probably self-obsessed and not much interested. He would soon follow his brother into adult life, which meant making his mark, somehow. Eton encouraged its pupils to think of themselves as leaders of men.

Peter, the eldest of the four, was tough-minded. He refused to countenance a career in the family bank and devoted himself to becoming a writer. His mother encouraged him, and his success at Eton led to Christ Church, Oxford, and a First in English.

Ian, as the second son, lived in Peter's shadow. As a student, he was careless. As an athlete, he excelled. He was not a great team player, but he liked challenging games such as golf and even bridge, and he was by no means stupid. At 18 he seemed to be imaginative and outgoing but lazy. What to do about Ian? His housemaster, Edward Vere Slater, MA Oxon, co-author of a popular Latin Grammar, judged grimly that Fleming Minor 'could do better' and, regarding the boy's academic failure as inevitable, recommended a term in a crammer as preparation for officer training at Sandhurst.

• Trying Hard •

Later in life Ian said he'd wanted, at the time, to go into the Black Watch. He took his Scottish ancestry seriously. But he was unsuited to regimentation, and he faded away from Sandhurst after a year – with gonorrhoea, according to a biographer, contracted after a brief encounter with a girl at the 43, Mrs Meyrick's notorious nightclub in Gerrard Street. Nearly twenty years would pass before antibiotics became generally available and until then there was no reliable treatment for venereal disease.

Plan B, in 1927, was more successful. 'I had a go at the Diplomatic,' drawled Ian on the radio in 1963. This meant the Diplomatic Service of the Foreign Office, which required fluency in languages – an excuse to go abroad.

As his exasperated mother knew, not only had he caught the clap but he had done so when in keen pursuit of another girl for whom he was still pining. Abroad was definitely a good idea.

She made enquiries and pulled strings, something she would do again and again until Ian found his niche. She despatched him to Kitzbühel in Austria, where an interesting couple called Forbes Dennis ran a school. Ian found an enchanting Tyrolean town with winding mediaeval streets and snowy mountains where he could learn to ski well. A.E. Forbes Dennis had been the British Passport Control Officer at the Vienna Embassy – that is, in charge of British intelligence for Austria and the lands around it. Nigel West traces Fleming's aspiration to improve his German and French, join the Foreign Office and get into intelligence, to Forbes Dennis. Mrs Forbes Dennis, better known as Phyllis Bottome, was a novelist and biographer.

He enjoyed himself. Not only did he make friends of both sexes, drive fast and expertly, and feel freer than he had in England, but he may have received a grounding in popular writing from Phyllis Bottome, who respected his talents. He was already an avid reader of adventure stories, but from her he could learn how to plunge right in, set a scene and introduce characters and the relationship between them in the first few pages. She was not aiming at literary fiction and deployed predictable techniques. In her stories, which can be over-reliant on expository dialogue, key characters make a memorable entrance and one colourful location follows another as in the scenes of a play. There's conflict, unresolved sexual tension, identifiable motive, desirable outcome and generally everything that makes people want to turn the pages.

After Kitzbühel there were courses at Munich University and the University of Geneva. Four years after leaving Sandhurst, Ian could read and speak French and German well and Russian passably. He was back in England ready to be considered, by examination and interview, for a job in the Foreign Office, and he had a serious girlfriend, Monique Panchaud de Bottomes. They became engaged in 1931. He was 23 and still living at home when he was in England. Monique came to spend a few days at Cheyne Walk, which was a disaster since his mother made it clear to him that this Swiss girl of the haute bourgeoisie was in no respect haute enough to become a Fleming (she had caught her creeping towards Ian's bedroom at night). Monique left.

Ian did not get one of the few vacancies at the Foreign Office. Until the day he died, he said he had come seventh and there were only five places. Later research has revealed that he did not get anywhere near the top of the list, and he must have been bitterly disappointed.

• Influence •

Nil desperandum. Eve was not lacking in grit and nor were the Fleming grandparents. Old Robert, now in his late 80s, and his eccentric wife, Kathleen, lived, as they had done since long before the First World War, between Grosvenor Square and a vast mock-Tudor house called Joyce Grove outside Nettlebed in Oxfordshire. Perhaps Granny Fleming's dour assessment of the prospects for a young man without a job stung Eve into action, or maybe she was already aware that London in the twenties and early thirties was over-supplied with unemployed young men qualified in the arts and classics, with oodles of charm and bags of background but no understanding of science or business. Anyhow, she set about finding work for Ian.

Her second son's interests, other than dining, drinking, girls and fast cars, were writing and travelling. She scanned her address book with a frown, flipped past Beaverbrook, ignored Rothermere and found the head of Reuters. Surely Sir Roderick Jones could do something? Indeed, he could. In October 1931, Ian joined the news agency as subeditor and journalist.

Reuters' intermittent link to the Secret Service dated back many years, but in 1916, after the death of Baron Hubert de Reuter, the company received a guaranteed subsidy from Secret Service funds to enable Sir Roderick Jones to buy it. Jones had been the Reuters South Africa correspondent during the Boer War, and when the Ministry of Information was created he became its Director of Propaganda.

Reuters was perfect for Fleming. Boring, repetitious tasks were cut to a minimum. Deadlines, witty company, drinks at El Vino's, endless novelty and the creative challenge of grabbing public attention and keeping it were just what he needed. He became, by trial and error, a newsman. He learned to write vividly, with economy and impact. He loved it, and he got paid. He left the western edge of Chelsea for a flat of his own at the eastern edge, where Belgravia began, in Ebury Street. He had a Buick, and he reported on the Alpine Motor Trials from Munich in 1932. He actually took part, with an experienced co-driver, and loved every minute of it.

• Seizing the Moment •

March 1933 was tense. This was the month in which Hitler slithered from coalition leader to outright dictatorship in Germany. But it was news from Moscow that electrified Parliament. Six British, and many more Russian, Metro-Vickers engineers had been arrested on charges of espionage or treason. There was an immediate call for a trade embargo.

The government's consternation arose from complacency about the assistance Britain was affording to Stalin's Five Year Plan. In the 1800s, British engineers had built railways the world over, and now, in the new century, our expertise in power generation would propel Russia's vast downtrodden populace into the twentieth century. Mr Stalin, we assumed, must be grateful.

Apparently not. The Ambassador was recalled. The men would soon be tried and sentenced. All the news agencies wanted reporters in the courtroom and every one of them would be vying to get his piece back first. Ian Fleming's editor picked him to represent Reuters alongside their resident reporter in Moscow. The least experienced foreign journalist there, he rose to the occasion. He arrived well ahead of time and began sending despatches back, building up the tension. Alone among the press pack, he travelled out of Moscow to the Vickers compound and interviewed the five engineers who were being held on bail.

When the case came to court, just one of the British men pleaded guilty. (Even he claimed later to have done so only because his Russian lady housekeeper, whom he loved, would otherwise be shot.) All the rest pleaded innocent. The outcome of their trial was impossible to guess.

'Everything depends on getting in first!' Fleming had been warned. Every other journalist knew that too, so they tried bribing the girls in the telegraph office down the road from the courthouse. Fleming decided this would never work. Instead, since every cable had to be read and passed before despatch, he made a special friend of a censor. What if, he asked his friend, he were to draft two stories with alternative outcomes, and when judgement was passed, he telephoned the cable office and the censor filled in the gaps in the right one and sent it first ..? Niet. So Fleming came up with another plan. He found a boy. He found running shoes that fitted the boy. He stationed the boy beneath a window outside the courtroom and disabled all the courthouse phones except one, where a Central News correspondent had to await a call from head office. And he sat in the courtroom, noted down the lenient sentences, added them to his prepared article, dropped the text out of the window to the running boy – and waited as the kid sprinted madly towards the telegraph office.

It should have worked. But luck was against him. The Central News correspondent, chewing his nails near the phone in a corridor, heard the Judge's verdict through a nearby loudspeaker, and by some fluke he got through to Central News in London almost immediately. They therefore obtained the result twenty minutes before Reuters did.

Moscow wasn't altogether a wasted journey. Fleming had also tried to get an interview from Stalin. He received a polite Excuse and No, personally signed, which he treasured to the end of his days. And after the trial, the foreign press contingent sent a telegram to Sir Roderick Jones, praising their new colleague Ian Fleming. 'He gave us all a run for our money' was the cheery message.

Ian had found his métier. He was offered a job in Shanghai, the most exotic town in the world and notoriously, then, the former home of Mrs Simpson. It was a dream job. He was very much tempted. But everything was about to change.

• Revising the Plan •

That summer old Robert Fleming died aged 88. His will left the huge house in Oxfordshire, No. 27 Grosvenor Square, the Scottish estate and the bulk of his fortune to his second son, Philip. Granny Kathleen could remain in residence at all the homes for life. Eve would get nothing and her sons were effectively disinherited.

They had enough, thanks to their father, to set themselves up and would not receive enough to ruin themselves; maybe their grandfather's will would prove the making of all of them. But Ian knew that he would never have the life he wanted on a journalist's salary. Not long before, over dinner in Paris, he had told Ivar Bryce:

He had always thought of writing as a wonderful way of life, and again explained the advantages and pleasures of writing thrillers while travelling about the world. He was excited at the thought of all the adventures and characters for plots that could be met with in, say, Vienna, and utilised as a short-cut to fame and fortune, with no more capital required than a pen and a writing-pad.

That was all very well, but Ian Fleming liked dinners in Paris, and cars, and taking girls out. He needed money. His brother Peter was travelling the world and had just published Brazilian Adventure to loud acclaim. Peter was prepared to rough it, a condition Ian viewed with distaste. Richard and Michael, his younger brothers, had both joined Flemings and commuted happily enough into the City every day. Theirs, not Peter's, was the route to the security you needed in order – someday – to live the dreams that would – someday – come to life in best-sellers.

Ian had, by then, a lover: a sophisticated and wise older woman called Maud, who was married to Gilbert Russell, a director of Cull & Co., bankers. Gilbert was preparing to retire in a couple of years and offered Ian a job in the City. He found it congenial enough. He took people out to lunch and discussed their investments; that was about it. Socially, he spent a lot more time shooting in Scotland than he ever had before. There were games of cricket, bridge and so on. Cull & Co. paid him generously, the hours were undemanding and the seat on the board soon to be vacated would be his, so he could do pretty much as he pleased. He lived well, made friends with a knowledgeable antiquarian bookseller and began to collect rare books. And then one day in 1935 the world woke up to read in the newspapers that Cull & Co. – having made some extremely unwise investments – had lost a huge amount of money.

Gilbert Russell was asked to stay on. Ian might as well go. However, if he wished to live in the style to which he had become accustomed, he must first pass by the Labour Exchange located within the Fleming network. Through this he found a job at Rowe and Pitman, stockbrokers. It seems that some intelligence officers worked for Rowe and Pitman. Most important and well connected of all the directors was Lance Hugh Smith, whose friends included Oppenheimers, Bowes Lyons, directors of De Beers and John Pierpoint Morgan. Andrew Lycett, Fleming's biographer, read the firm's unpublished official history, and it identifies Lance Hugh Smith as a likely talent-spotter for Intelligence before, and probably during, the Second World War.


Excerpted from The Ian Fleming Miscellany by Andrew Cook. Copyright © 2015 Andrew Cook. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


• 1 • Silver Spoon,
• 2 • The Trouble with Women,
• 3 • There Will be War,
• 4 • The Dream Job,
• 5 • Meticulous Plotting,
• 6 • More War,
• 7 • Jamaica,
• 8 • Shotgun,
• 9 • Technique,
• 10 • Love and Marriage,
• 11 • The Big Mistake,
• 12 • The Killer,
List of Abbreviations,

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