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Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond [Hardcover]

Andrew Lycett
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1996

Ian Fleming's life was just as dramatic as that of his fictional creation, James Bond. Andrew Lycett's direct access to Fleming's family, friends and contemporaries has enabled him to reveal the truth behind the complicated facade of this enigmatic and remarkable man.

With an extraordinary cast of characters, this is biography at is best - part history, part gossip and part an informed reassessment of one of this century's most celebrated yet mysterious personalities.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 486 pages
  • Publisher: Turner Pub (April 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570363439
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570363436
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 489,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


As good as any Bond novels, it proves that facts can be equally as fascinating as any fiction (SUNDAY MERCURY)

This is a revealing biography of a man who lived life in the fast lane (GOOD BOOK GUIDE) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The definitive biography of author Ian Fleming and the perfect read for anyone enjoying the Sky Atlantic biopic starring Dominic Cooper. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By Broga
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is a wonderful example of what, to me, illuminating biography should be. Lycett has exhaustively picked over every kind of source - the man's work, those who knew him, their letters & comments, the media & added his own low-key, rarely judgemental assessment to make Fleming really alive in the mind's eye without ever having met him himself. It is also so much a book about relationships, warts and all. I especially appreciate the manner in which the reader is left, from such a wealth of information, to draw their own conclusions about the subject.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb biography of a fascinating man 5 Aug 2010
This is a superb biography of Ian Fleming, and well worth reading if you're interested in him. It makes two substantial additions to the picture provided by John Pearson in his (also superb) biography published three decades earlier: it gives the story of Blanche Blackwell, Fleming's lover in later life; and provides a much deeper context for the success of James Bond that followed Fleming's death. Neither of these were in Pearson's book, the first I imagine for reasons of diplomacy, and the second because most of it hadn't happened yet. Lycett occasionally overdoses on the connections and backgrounds of very minor figures in Fleming's life, but then again he leaves few stones unturned. While the book is generally more sympathetic than Pearson's, he spares us no detail, even of Fleming's sexual preferences. Fleming was a much misunderstood man during his life, and remains an undervalued writer. The popular perception is that his novels were superficial fantasies, simple Boy's Own adventures. This book shows that they were deeply ingrained fantasies and rather complicated Boy's Own adventures. This book also gives a context to the times in which Fleming lived and to his achievement both in that time and beyond it. While no book could ever present the whole portrait of a writer, taken together with John Pearson's work, one feels that Lycett comes very close.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exhaustive & Exhausting! 14 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having read John Pearson's biography some years ago, I thought I'd give Lycett's version a go and see how it differed.
It is certainly more detailed and less sycophantic. That said, it has an unclear narrative and often becomes a blur of names that have little interconnectivity and whom are relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things. This makes many passages boring and too much of the book is devoted to his pre 'Casino Royale' years and not enough to the development of his novels within the dynamic of the UK thriller market. Fleming virtually created a genre single handily and this is barely mentioned!
To it's credit, one feels that one is reading the naked truth and unfortunately Fleming emerges as a flawed genius who committed suicide through alcohol and tobacco addiction. Not a great life but a great literary legacy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It might be a great book! 11 May 2014
By James
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It might be a great book but I will never know because the type is too small to read comfortably. Why oh why are publishers so careless with their product.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly dry and very academic in style 28 Nov 2009
I should start by saying I am a massive James Bond fan and have always been fascinated by Ian Fleming - you see the TV programmes and the newspaper articles describing him as a complicated man who based James Bond on himself.

This book certainly provides a very detailed and highly researched account of Fleming's life, and for that the author must be given credit. However, I found this ended up having a quite negative effect. The book is written in a very encyclopedic style - one that lacks any life and you feel it is written by your old English teacher. Yes, Fleming met many people throughout his life, but do we really to have incredibly in-depth analysis of each of these people? Then, we get reams of pages dedicated to exploring each and every one of these relationships with Fleming.

This results in a book with no flow, huge sentences and ultimately causing the reader to get completely lost. Chapters don't seem to follow each other and the book ended up becoming a maze. In the end, I decided to skip some chapters and ultimately could not finish the book. Which is a real shame.

If you're a student of Fleming history then this is certainly the book for you. If you are a James Bond fan and want to know a bit about Fleming and how he came to write about Bond, then this is definitely not the book for you. This is more of a text book than a good read.
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