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The Life of Ian Fleming [Hardcover]

John Pearson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct 1966
It is now 50 years since the premiere of Dr No, the very first Bond film, with Sean Connery introducting 007 as the glamorous secret agent who would become the single most profitable movie character in the history of cinema. But James Bond was invented by one man, Ian Fleming, a wartime intelligence officer and Sunday Times newspaper man who lived to see only the very beginning of the Bond cult.

John Pearson's famous biography remains the definitive account of how only Ian Fleming could have dreamed up James Bond, for he led a life as colourful as anything in his fiction, which in turn became a covert autobiography. Charming, debonair and a ruthless womaniser, globetrotting from wartime Algiers to beachside Jamaica, Fleming was as elusive and opaque as his imaginary creation.

In his new introduction, John Pearson examines the extent to which Fleming's character informs even the most recent movie portrayals of his hero, and how Bond himself has achieved immortality beyond his creator's wildest dreams.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd; First Edition edition (Oct 1966)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224611364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224611367
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 15 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 975,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John George Pearson is a novelist and an author of biographies, notably of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, and of the Kray twins.

Pearson was educated at King's College School, Wimbledon, and Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he won a double first in history. He then worked for The Economist, BBC Television and The Sunday Times. He was Ian Fleming's assistant at the Sunday Times and went on to write the first biography of Fleming, The Life of Ian Fleming', published in 1966.

Pearson was commissioned by Donald Campbell to chronicle his successful attempt on the Land Speed Record in 1964 in Bluebird CN7, resulting in the book Bluebird and the Dead Lake.

Pearson has also written "true crime" biographies, such as The Profession of Violence (The most read book in Great Britain's Prisons), an account of the rise and fall of the Kray twins, who had hired him to write their biography in 1967. Over the next several years the brothers, who by now were in jail, wrote frequently to Pearson. He wrote two further books about the Krays: The Cult of Violence: The Untold Story of the Krays and Notorious: The Immortal Legend of the Kray Twins. In 2010 Pearson put up for auction more than 160 previously unseen letters and photographs from the Kray twins.

Another of Pearson's books, The Gamblers, is an account of the group of gamblers who made up what was known as the Clermont Set, including John Aspinall, James Goldsmith and Lord Lucan. Warner Bros. purchased the film rights to the book in 2006. Pearson's story of The Gamblers has now been made into a TV series called 'Lucan' starring Michael Gambon and Christopher Eccleston, to be aired on ITV1 in two parts on 11th and 18th December 2013.
Pearson's book Facades was the first full-scale biography of the Sitwell siblings Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell. It was published in 1978.

Pearson has also written five novels. Storm Jameson praised his first novel, Gone to Timbuctoo, as "an unusually good first novel, an exciting story, and a splendid setting in French West Africa. The writing is sharp and witty." Malcolm Muggeridge said, "This is an exceptionally brilliant first novel - exciting, wryly funny and perceptive."

For his next three novels Pearson did tie-in fictional biographies. Pearson also became the third official author of the James Bond series, writing in 1973 James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007, a first-person biography of the fictional agent James Bond. However, Pearson declined an offer to write further Bond novels. Pearson then did fictional tie-in works about Upstairs, Downstairs (The Bellamys of Eaton Place) and Biggles.

John Pearson's new website has recently been launched:

Product Description


An absorbing narrative, carefully constructed, elaborately documented, and, one the whole, well written. -- Alan Ross London Magazine

About the Author

John Pearson was born in 1930, and educated at King's College School, Wimbledon and Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he read history. He has worked on various newspapers, including the Economist, The Times, and the Sunday Times where for a time he wrote the Atticus column. After the success of his Life of Ian Fleming, he decamped with wife and family to Rome, where he lived for some years. Mr Pearson returned to England to research and write the life and times of the Kray brothers, and is now at work on a full-scale biography of the Sitwells. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good book 9 Nov 2010
By Rowan
This is a good book. What I like about it is that Pearson seems to have done his homework. He draws a lot of connections between Fleming, the boy, son and brother and husband, the Secret Service man, the writer, the playboy, the athlete and the alcohol drinking and cigarette smoking socialite, and the subject of his books - James Bond (named after an ornithologist writing of birds of Caribbean - one of Fleming's favourite books). Pearson selects and renders his anecdotes well, and I really got a sense of the development of Bond and Flemming - the character and the man - each bleeding into the other.
There's a great emotional aspect to the book also - Pearson gets beneath the cool facade, delving into Flemming's insecurities and inner motivations - in a very human and humane manner. In many respects, this is quite a moving book. It was six months ago that I read it, and I still think about it, frequently, and refer to it from time to time in conversations with friends; yes, it's full of interesting facts that when shared with others never fail to impress!
I recommend it, for the Bond enthusiast, and those interested in Flemming, and for those interested in the relationship between authors and their characters - authorship - the way in which authors sometimes live their life, by chance and/or intentionally, in a manner that seems to facilitate and feed into their written subject.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A really good read! 14 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is the second of John Pearson's books that I have read. I really enjoyed this story of Ian Fleming's life. It was a fascinating insight into a most unusual man.
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5.0 out of 5 stars interesting book 14 Mar 2014
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Enjoyed the book, great insight into his life. I found it much more interesting than I had first thought :)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Life 6 Nov 2013
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Enjoyable read. Contains a great deal of insight into the world and psyche of James Bond's creator in relatively broad strokes by an author who knew Ian Fleming personally. Entertaining and amusing in places and as with a lot of books perhaps a bit 'dry' in others.
Fleming lead a very active and interesting life but seems was never completely satisfied or ever quite reaped the full fruits of his labours. Even though Bond was clearly not completely based on any one real-life individual (such as Ian Fleming himself or WWII operatives such as Forest Yeo Thomas) I'm of the view that when Fleming died the literary James Bond died with him. Ian seems to have been a strong character in some ways. Set backs such as a plagiarism law suit and increasing health problems did not prevent him from writing some of the finest installments in the series, i.e. On Her Majesty's Secret Service and You Only Live Twice.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Life of Ian Fleming 22 July 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A fascinating account of Fleming's life: bit like a Bond Novel. Fleming attended Eton with his elder brother but developed something of an attitude, excelling at athletics and truancy, finally leaving under a cloud. No University yet, but a spell at Sandhurst where he hated the discipline and resigned after a year. Private tuition in Austria followed, where he learned to ski, had a good time and treated the local girls with the same casualness as James Bond.
Ian flunked a Foreign Office exam but did report freelance for Reuters on the mid 30's Moscow industrial spy trials. Then a period in London when the club life developed and finally his contacts allowed him entry to the Intelligence Service at the start of the war. After WWII he write the Bond books.
Well written and researched, easy to read, holds your interest.
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