2015 has been a bonanza year for Ian Fleming fans with multiple book releases about his life and a surge in interest in James Bond’s creator. One book that might have slipped under the radar for some, is the established author Andrew Cook’s The Ian Fleming Miscellany.
A small volume in comparison with the more hefty books on Fleming such as Andrew Lycett’s biography, Fergus Fleming’s TMWTGT and Robert Harling’s memoir of Fleming, this almost pocket-sized book makes either a perfect introduction to Ian Fleming’s life or a useful addition to the completist’s bookshelf.
With a plethora of books out on Ian Fleming, what prompted you to write one and how is yours unique?
Due to my background and the series of intelligence books I’ve written over the past decade, my publisher asked me if I could write a short book on Fleming, from my own perspective. I agreed, as I felt that a) a short ‘summarised’ book that was easily readable and digestible was certainly called for, and b), I felt that a book that was a little more ‘even-handed’ when it came to the thorny question of who really created the James Bond that most people today know and admire via the film franchise.
What were some of your research techniques?
I essentially used the research work and indeed the methods I used to write the books on Sidney Reilly and William Melville (both of whom I believe were strong and previously un-acknowledged influences on Fleming’s work – see in particular the Reilly cartoon on page 118 of my book). These influences were not only visual, but in substance too in terms of character, in Reilly’s case, and plots in Melville’s.
I then analysed Fleming’s plots for ‘real life’ influences. Equally, I was also keen to check his claims of truth regarding elements and locations in his plots, that conversely turn out to be deliberate falsehood (see for example page 145/146 in my book regarding stretenka ulitsa).
Did you feel that you discovered things hitherto not well documented about Ian’s life?
As I’ve said, i think the reality about the creation of the bond we know today (as opposed to what you might call ‘Bond mark-1’ (1953-1961), is not very well documented, partly through over-reverence to Fleming and partly through fear of the legal ‘iron-fist’ of those who today ‘guard’ his works. As has often been said before, Fleming himself would have viewed with horror attempts to silence authors who utter an alternative view.
With the death of Kevin McClory, the man who many see as at least the co-creator of the bond we know today, his family finally settled all outstanding legal issues with Columbia pictures. This meant a welcome return to the Bond v Blofeld approach, with Spectre and all that goes with it. I am also enthused and intrigued (as are many), at the recent speculation that the bond series might now revert to being set in the 1960s, thus adopting a similar retro approach as Guy Richie’s recent ‘The Man from Uncle’ film. Incidentally, I believe Fleming deserves more credit than has thus far been given for ‘The Man from Uncle’ concept, which I believe he played a big part in before his death.
Do you have a favourite work by Fleming and why?
Thunderball is my favourite, although strictly speaking (as the high court ruled in 1963) this is essentially a plot co-authored by three men not one (ie, Fleming, Whittingham and McClory). I think it’s a breath of fresh air that went on to further the bond v spectre approach (as opposed to the Bond v Smersh formula that by Fleming’s own admission had gone totally stale by 1959). The bond we love today was born, in my view, in Thunderball not in Casino Royale.
Andrew Cook is an author and TV consultant with a degree in History & Ancient History. He was a programme director of the Hansard Scholars Programme for the University of London. Andrew has written for The Times, Guardian, Independent, BBC History Magazine and History Today. His previous books include On His Majesty’s Secret Service (Tempus, 2002); Ace of Spies (Tempus, 2003); M: MI5’s First Spymaster (Tempus, 2006); The Great Train Robbery (THP, 2013); and 1963: That Was the Year That Was (THP, 2013).