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Short but successful attempt to explore where Fleming's world ended and Bond's began
on 16 June 2008
A book written to accompany an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum to celebrate the centenary of Ian Fleming's birth, it is, according to author Ben Macintyre, neither a biography of Ian Fleming nor a "Biography" of James Bond, but "a personal investigation into the intersection of two lives, one real and one fictional".
There certainly are many elements of a biography of Fleming. We learn of his father's death, when he was just nine, on the Western Front, and of his relationship with his domineering mother Evelyn, referred to by him and his brothers, interestingly, as "M". Fleming's search for a career that combined high earnings with a relaxed lifestyle, his compulsive womanising, his taste for the good things of life, but also his war service in naval intelligence, are all covered, as a backdrop to the elements of Bond's character. The many actual people who may have contributed to Bond as well as Fleming, including his late father, Valentine Fleming, his brother Peter, also involved in intelligence work, a variety of commandos and Special Forces types like Fitzroy MacLean, and a similar treatment to the other principal characters in the books, like M and Miss Moneypenny. The way that Fleming adopted names from acquaintances for other characters is fascinating: he was almost sued by the architect Erno Goldfinger for the misappropriation of his one.
While Macintyre comments primarily on the books, he also brings in the films. I suspect that part of the reason for this was that it gave the book (and the exhibition) much more material to display, but on the whole inclusion of film material is not intrusive and allows Macintyre to point out the differences. For example, while there was a Q-Section in the books, and an Armourer, Major Boothroyd (named after one of Fleming's correspondents, who persuaded him that a Beretta was no suitable pistol for a secret agent), it was only in the films that these were combined into the character "Q".
If you have read one of the biographies of Ian Fleming (and Macintyre, by the way, recommends those by John Pearson and Andrew Lycett) then this book may seem a little thin. If, like me, you have not, then this book is an excellent, easy to read starting point to looking behind the character of James Bond to the man who created him. Macintyre succeeds, in this short but excellently illustrated book, in showing us where Fleming's world ended and Bond's began.