Article by Revelator
It’s one of the most obscure mysteries in Bondology. In July 1965 a “magazine for men” named Saga published what it offensively called “Ian Fleming’s Last Interview: How to Take Any Woman…James Bond Style!” The note from the editor read:
In the summer of 1964, French journalist Alain Ayache interviewed Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. Fleming agreed to sit for another interview at a later date in Switzerland. But Fleming died in September [sic], 1964. Ayache went over his notes carefully and decided to release them unedited, in Ian Fleming’s own words. Here in a SAGA exclusive, is Ian Fleming on the subject closest to James Bond’s heart.
The mystery begins with a problem: the interview doesn’t read anything like an interview. It reads like a lengthy article—on how to pick up women. It sticks resolutely to the subject, with none of the tangents typical to a normal interview, unless Ayache had asked Fleming only one question and received a very long response.
Was the magazine playing an elaborate prank? It lacked the imagination for it. Saga was published from 1950 to 1983, and initially focused on “men’s adventure” stories before deteriorating into Maxim-style pin-ups in the late 70s. The issue with Fleming’s “interview” also boasted extracts from The Quiller Memorandum, lurid non-fiction stories (“The Air Force Academy Made Us Steal”) and helpful pieces like “How to get a top $$$ job overseas” and “I can lead you to millions in sunken treasure.”
And what about the interviewer? Was he for real? Indeed: Alain Ayache (1936-2008) was a French journalist who eventually became a newspaper publisher. In the early 1960s he wrote for newspapers such as Paris-Presse and Aux Écoutes. Could it be that he approached the ailing Fleming for an interview and was fobbed off with an article Fleming had been unable to flog elsewhere? Or perhaps, in stereo-typically French fashion, he’d asked Fleming to write a Bondean guide to seduction, which he published in France and then offered to Saga!
Perhaps Ayache wrote the article himself and duped the Americans. If so, he must have been a careful student of Fleming, since the text references Jamaica, Bond’s beretta, unpalatable special cocktails, Bond’s comma of hair, and—most importantly of all—it captures Fleming’s tone, style, and personality. Anyone familiar with Pearson and Lycett’s biographies will recognize Fleming’s voice in this “interview.”
Furthermore, its pick-up artist advice corresponds to the techniques that Fleming used to become a successful lady-killer in his younger days. Play hard-to-get, he advises. Have an air of pre-occupation that creates intrigue. Keep your distance and be a man of mystery: reticent, offering only cryptic information about yourself. Don’t be afraid to occasionally seem aloof, silent, indifferent, or even rude. All of this describes Fleming’s style of self-presentation: Leave ‘em wanting more, as they say in show business.
Nowadays, pick-up artistry is in rightful disrepute, and there’s something repulsively cynical in reading such articles. But one should also note that Fleming’s advice, which stops far short of the bedroom, is tempered by an old-fashioned sense of fair play: “Women like strong men, but not brutes.” Or, as he writes earlier, “The most important thing is to make sure of the complicity of the woman you’re dancing with, but not to abuse the circumstances.” As for whether Fleming’s advice still works today, that’s best left for readers to find out, to their benefit—or peril. In the meantime, if you have clues that can solve the mystery of this “interview,” please share them with us!