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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Ian Fleming
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on 14 March 2014
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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on 25 March 2017
very good. in condition described.. delivery very long for a book by royal mail. no other problems
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on 21 September 2017
Well written. it also confirmed that West Hallam had the first Bond Girl.
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on 28 December 2010
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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on 23 April 2014
A bit of a struggle. Far too much detail. We can gather that Ian was a good bridge player. (Lost count of the times this was mentioned.

Everyone he seemed to know either had titles, and or, double barrelled names. They all appear to speak in French, Latin or German phrases, thus us plebs require the relevant translation dictionaries.

The stress is piled on as to how well connected his family was, enclosed in all the right circles, old Etonian's, pulling strings, absolutely litter the chapters. Good luck to Ian, that was his world; but Andrew Lycett overdoes the name dropping to the extent of confusion.

James Bond has many fans, courtesy of Ian Fleming and Ian Fleming has many fans, courtesy of James Bond. I cannot imagine that an autobiography would have been so lengthy and detailed as to create an area of boredom, that just wouldn't be him.

No offence Andrew.
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on 10 November 2014
A very well-researched and thorough biography, giving a well-rounded picture of its subject. There is perhaps a tendency to information overload at times - difficult for any biographer to avoid!
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on 10 June 2016
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on 8 March 2017
Andrew Lycett brings to life the author of the James Bond novels - Ian Fleming. From the start of the book, although Fleming is described has taking aspects from many different people to flush out the character of Bond, it is quite clear that Lycett believes that Fleming based Bond on himself. Basically, Bond was Fleming's alter-ego - the man Fleming would never become, so writing about the secret agent's adventures in thrilling novels was the next best thing.

At 486 pages in very small text, there is a lot of information in Lycett's book. He starts by describing Fleming as an "Etonian rebel", by not taking his expensively assembled education seriously. From a young age, Fleming was in the shadow of his over-achieving older brother Peter Fleming. Lycett describes Fleming's "foreign initiation" during his exciting times in the mountains of Switzerland and Austria, and his early career as a Reuters reporter, including an intriguing trip to Russia. Described as "the world's worst stockbroker", Fleming was not cut out for the financial world - in fact he simply used it as a means of meeting interesting people and wining and dining them on the company account.

During World War Two, Fleming was described as a "chocolate sailor", meaning that although he was technically in the navy, he never went to sea. However, his espionage style desk job at the nerve centre of Britain's war effort provided him with oceans of information which he would later use in the Bond books. This was even further enhanced when he managed a team of special agents known as "Ian's Red Indians", undertaking secret missions to aid the war effort.

Fleming then entered into a "newspaper romance" where he entered the publishing world as a newspaper owner and contributor, and he struck up a romance with the wife a a newspaper baron, "succumbing to marriage" after years of agonizing about it. In order to escape the predictability of married life, Fleming started writing the Bond novels. He spent a lot of time researching, writing and producing the books, including detailed advice on the book cover design. This "Bond promotion" took it's toll on Fleming's energy levels, but it distracted him from a fading marriage. In fact, he threw himself into Bond as a means of "escaping the gab-fests" that his critical and skeptical wife and her academic friends held in his house in the form of all-night banquets and parties.

Fleming's "Jamaican attraction" is documented, spending two or three months every year at his self built house "Goldeneye" - the place he wrote the Bond books on his typewriter. This tropical island provided a sanctuary from his "emotional turmoil" as his marriage all but collapsed - both parties were in relationships with other people.

The saga of the bond "film options" was to run far beyond Fleming's lifetime, and Lycett describes how Fleming made rather a hash of selling the rights to the small and big screen. Fleming was poorly advised, and made equally poor decisions himself. He suffered "heart problems" brought on by the stress of the plagiarism legal proceedings, although his taste for alcohol and smoking were probably more fatal.

Towards the end of his life, Fleming relaxed in "Kent and Wiltshire", suspecting that the end was near, but not adjusting his lifestyle at all. He just lived to see his "name in lights" as the first Bond movies came out in a dramatic cinematic success. But this was bittersweet for Fleming, as he had no doubt his time was almost up.

Lycett has to be congratulated in an incredibly detailed and thoughtful biography. He shows Fleming in both a positive and negative light, and his descriptions and assessments are probably quite accurate. Other interesting books about Fleming include Matthew Parker's "Goldeneye: Where Bond was Born: Ian Fleming's Jamaica", Fergus Fleming's "The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming's James Bond Letters", Robert Harling's "Ian Fleming: A Personal Memoir" and John Pearson's "The Life of Ian Fleming: The Man Who Created James Bond".
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on 23 December 2013
Think that really Ian Fleming wasn't that interesting, James Bond was his aspirational alter ego.

He didn't so much die but faded away!
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on 5 June 2013
I heard this author speak on a panel about James Bond at the Jaipur Literature festival 2013, bought the book to satisfy a life-long fascination since my surname is Bond, but ultimately I found this book too long by half. The research is thorough, that's for sure, but regrettably Andrew Lycett has bored the reader with a pedantic recollection of every recorded detail of Flemings life, down to dinner conversations, love letters and unnecessary digressions every time he came across a double-barreled name. Fleming's life was fascinating, worthy of a spy novel himself; a spoilt man of means whose womanising habits and jet setting life ultimately gifted the world this Bond character for which he became famous. Described by one women as `having the emotional maturity of a child' Fleming comes across as a dabbler who thrived best as a member of the British intelligence services in WWII, and later had a knack for thrillers, if a little far fetched. The book does reveal the privileged life in post Victorian Britain that Fleming and his friends (Evelyn Waugh, Noel Coward etc) lived. However this book does little to investigate his literary ideals, nor discuss his writing style, and could have saved space by ditching the minute details of his personal and social life to follow up on the impact of the Bond legacy after his untimely death at 54. It does give some background into the decade long struggle to get movies made of the books but you find yourself skipping over whole paragraphs that seem superfluous. The creator of Bond had a remarkable life that is an intriguing story worth telling and this author unearths every last anecdote. But Fleming's book were never longer than they should have been, they were pacey and he had the correct journalistic training to only include that which advances the story. Subsequent Bond `mimic' authors have got it right but Lycett perhaps missed the point.
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