Andrew Lycett's superb biography is the story of a shallow man, disastrous husband and hopeless father. And yet, as Fleming lived his heavy drinking, self centred life in an upper crust mileu where his values were often accepted, and desirable work owed more to public school and family conections than merit, Lycett produces a sympathetic portrait. Fleming's mother was never going to rear an emotionally mature man and placing him at Eton did nothing to ameliorate her destructive influence. He developed as an excellent writer and in his fantasy figure James Bond seems to have been invested with many of the qualities Fleming would have liked to posses himself. Reading the excruciating details of Fleming's inability to halt his slide to an early death - e.g.70 cigarettes a day and heavy drinking - is like watching a train crash in slow motion.
He loved facts, he admired and read great writers, he was passionate about the marine environment and he worked hard on his writing. He wanted fame and fortune but when it came the satisfaction was muted. In one way he never compromised: he lived his life on his own destructive terms to the end. This is a magnificent biography, the detail and sharp insights - often supplied by astute observers such as Noel Coward, Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene - are stunning. And the portrait of Fleming, at the end, is sympathetic. He was a deeply flawed, chronically disatisfied man who sought happiness in a material world which alone could never provide it. But this same man produced James Bond who thrilled millions, allowed them for a time to escape their own mediocrity and melancholy, and Fleming himself acheived a celebrity on a par with his hero.