100 things you didn't know about Ian Fleming

Today is 100 years since the birth of the author who introduced the world to the coolest spy of all. Now, with a new Bond book written by Sebastian Faulks on sale, we unveil the man who forged a modern phenomenon

1 Ian Lancaster Fleming was born on 28 May 1908, at Green Street, London,

2 His parents were Valentine Fleming, a soldier and Tory MP who was killed during the First World War, and Evelyn Ste Croix Rose .

3 He was given the middle name Lancaster because his mother liked to claim descent from John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and son of Edward III – though she also claimed Highland descent, and dressed her four sons in kilts.

4 Evelyn had an affair with the famous painter Augustus John when in her forties.

5 At Fleming’s prep school, the headmaster’s wife read to the pupils from boys’ classics such as The Prisoner of Zenda.

6 While he didn’t excel as a scholar, Fleming was twice athletics champion at Eton.

7 James Bond, however, didn’t last long at Eton and ended up at Fettes, in Edinburgh.

8 Fleming said he was harshly beaten at Eton by a sadistic housemaster.

9 Withdrawn from Eton at 17, he went to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, where his tutor declared that he would make a good soldier “provided always that the ladies don’t ruin him”.

10 At Sandhurst, Fleming was indeed ensnared by the ladies – he caught an STI from a prostitute, and was withdrawn from the college and sent to a finishing school in Austria.

11 His broken nose was the result of a football game collision with Henry Douglas-Home, brother of the future prime minister, Sir Alec.

12 Following his signal lack of success at Eton and Sandhurst, He failed exams for a place in the Foreign Office, but in 1931 got his first job with the press agency Reuters. He would later say it taught him to write fast and accurately.

13 In 1939 he was recruited as personal assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence.

14 In “Room 39”, the intelligence office at the Admiralty, he honed skills as an espionage planner.

15 One of his more imaginative plans (unused) was “Operation Ruthless”, a bid to retrieve a German naval codebook by crashing a captured German bomber into the English Channel.

16 Fleming also went on foreign operations for the Admiralty, travelling to a chaotic Paris as the Germans approached.

17 After the war, he joined the Sunday Times.

18 Having returned to journalism, he also acquired a plot of land in Jamaica on which he built Goldeneye, the hideway where he wrote the Bond novels.

19 He named the house after both a wartime operation and Carson McCullers’ novel Reflections in a Golden Eye.

20 Two years ago, Goldeneye was converted by its owner, Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, into an exclusive holiday resort.

21 Blackwell’s mother, Blanche Blackwell, had had an affair with Fleming and gave him a small boat, Octopussy, which provided the title of one of his Bond stories.

22 Other guests at Goldeneye included Noel Coward and Errol Flynn.

23 The first Bond novel, Casino Royale, came out in 1953.

24 Fleming is thought to have christened his agent after the author of the Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies, written in 1947 by one James Bond.

25 Fleming was also involved in the creation of 30 Assault Unit, an intelligence-gathering Commando group.

26 Peter Fleming, his older brother may have been part inspiration for the character of Bond. He was a popular travel writer, and also had an eventful wartime career, narrowly escaping death in Greece, where his life was saved by an officer called Rodney Bond. Another suggested model was the Scottish soldier, author and diplomat Sir Fitzroy Maclean.

27 Others point to the brothers’ dead war hero father – and to Ian Fleming himself, his descriptions of Bond matching his own appearance, with his “longish nose” and “cruel mouth”.

28 He said he wanted 007 to have “the dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find ... brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine”.

29 Bond’s boss, “M”, was at least partly based on Fleming’s gruff boss in Naval intelligence, John Godfrey.

30 The codename 007 also stemmed from his Admiralty days, when all top secret communications carried a double-zero prefix.

31 The name of Miss Moneypenny comes from a character in an unfinished novel by Peter Fleming. The main model for her character seems to have been Kathleen Pettigrew, personal assistant to Stewart Menzies, director general of MI6.

32 M’s secretary was called “Miss Pettavel” or “Petty”, in the first draft of Casino Royal.

33 Fleming was actively interested in cars, golf and snorkelling.

34 He was also, from an early age, an avid book collector, amassing a large collection of first editions.

35 His collection, now at Indiana university, includes papers by Einstein and the first printing of the Communist Manifesto.

36 He married Ann Charteris, former wife of Viscount Rothermere, the newspaper magnate, in 1952. Noel Coward was a witness.

37 Fleming had affairs with many women, including the wives of close friends.

38 Ann, for her part, had an affair with Hugh Gaitskell, then leader of the Labour Party.

39 Fleming amassed a large collection of erotica at Goldeneye that he liked to show off to visitors of either sex.

40 He liked to beat Ann – and she liked him beating her. “It’s very lonely not to be beaten and shouted at every five minutes,” she once wrote to him in 1948. “I must be perverse and masochistic to want you to whip me and contradict me, particularly as you are always wrong about everything.”

41 According to Ben Macintyre, the young Fleming cultivated “a sort of rou batchelor-chic” that lasted throughout his life, wearing fashionable suits and either bow ties or old-Etonian ties.

42 Bond didn’t quite take to bow ties and stuck to black knitted silk.

43 Fleming smoked the same brand as Bond, Morland Specials, when he could get them.

44 Fleming never intended Bond to be a particularly likeable character. Himself witty and dry, he wanted 007 to remain “ironical, brutal and cold”.

45 Fleming was caustic about tasteless dressers, bad manners and homosexuals – even though he was close friends with two gay men, Nol Coward and William Plomer.

46 He also became a friend of Somerset Maugham, also gay, whose lavish lifestyle he admired.

47 He was also an accomplished travel writer, his articles for the Sunday Times eventually being published in book form as Thrilling Cities, due to be reissued

48 Another book, about the diamond trade, The Diamond Smugglers, is also about to be republished.

49 These world travels informed his novels – not least in the international cuisine savoured by 007.

50 For breakfast, Bond and creator liked eggs from Maran hens, boiled for 3 minutes and served on Minton china.

51 Giving him a taste for vodka martinis Fleming described him as “basically a hard liquor man … not a wine snob”.

52 In 1961, he sold the film rights to all published and future Bond novels to Harry Saltzman, who co-produced the first Bond film Dr No with Cubby Broccoli.

53 Fleming initially suggested his old friend Nol Coward for the role of Dr No. He also suggested David Niven as Bond.

54 Undaunted, he went on to suggest Roger Moore as James Bond, but he too was rejected in favour of Seam Connery.

55 Fleming met Connery for lunch, but initially wondered whether “this overgrown stuntman”, was suited to the role. He was assured by women that Connery had the right stuff.

56 Fleming was a long-standing member of Boodle’s, a gentlemen’s club on which he modelled Bond’s fictitious haunt, Blades.

57 The Bond books did not immediately catch on in the US, until President John F Kennedy named From Russia With Love as one of his favourite books.

58 Fleming had met Kennedy in 1960, before he was president, and invited him to dinner, reportedly giving Kennedy his ideas on how to discredit Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

59 the first US paperback edition of Casino Royale was retitled You Asked For it. Similarly, the first US paperback of Moonraker went on the shelves as Too Hot to Handle.

60 Fleming said his hero should be portrayed as “a blunt instrument wielded by a government department”.

61 With the impact of the first film, sales of Bond paperbacks in Britain and the US rocketed to 17 million.

62 A stickler for detail and accuracy, Fleming would consult experts about the hardware in his adventures, including science fiction guru Arthur C Clarke

63 He also became friendly with the French diving pioneer Jacques Cousteau, and joined him investigating a sunken Greek treasure ship.

64 Fleming was bored by guns, but owned a Colt .38 Police Positive presented by Bill Donovan of US intelligence, engraved with: “For special services”.

65 Bond frequently uses a Beretta, regarded by some as a ladies’ gun. Fleming, however, had been given a Beretta during his war service.

66 The first actor to play Bond was the American Barry Nelson who turned up as the spy in a US television adaptation of Casino Royale in 1954.

67 Fleming found the transposition of the Bond yarns to screen “a riot”. On visiting the set of Dr No, he arrived just as Ursula Andress was emerging from the lagoon, was yelled at by the filmmakers and had to dive out of camera shot.

68 In his 1991 novel, The Sixth Column, Fleming’s brother, Peter described Britain as being in need of a hero “with the urbane, faintly swashbuckly sangfroid of Raffles”.

69 Fleming regarded post-war Britain as being in decline, reflected in his writings: “The blubbery arms of the soft life had Bond round the neck and they were slowly strangling him.”

70 Of his many villains, he wrote: “It is so difficult to make [them] frightening. But one is ashamed to overwrite them, though that is probably what the public would like.”

71 During the Cold War, Soviet critics of the Bond stories condemned Fleming for creating “a nightmarish world where laws are written at the point of a gun”.

72 Joining the Sunday Times (with whose owner, Lord Kelmsley he had become friendly during the war), he negotiated an extremely generous salary and contract, which allowed lavish expenses and two months off every year to write at Goldeneye.

73 During the 1950s, he developed a sophisticated network for collecting information and intelligence from Sunday Times foreign correspondents.

74 Fleming once remarked that he wrote “chiefly for pleasure, then for money”.

75 Ben Macintyre suggests that “007’s fatherless reverence for ‘M’” in the Bond stories can be traced back to Fleming’s early loss of his father.

76 Fleming gave Bond a Scottish father, Andrew Bond, and Scottish settings are to the fore in Charlie Higson’s “Young Bond” novels, which began in 2004 with Silverfin.

77 Fleming appears as a minor fictional character in William Boyd’s 2002 novel Any Human Heart.

78 Sting wrote the Police hit Every Breath You Take, at the same desk at which Fleming wrote his Bond Novels.

79 A Conservative, Fleming thought the party too readily associated with the upper classes, and that it should change its name to The People’s Party.

80 He also believed people running company cars should have the name of their businesses on the side – so shareholders would be able to recognise them when pictures appeared in the papers of Rolls-Royces disgorging mink-clad women at premieres.

81 He was also an early supporter of the idea of electric cars.

82 According to his biographer, Andrew Lycett, he proposed that the Isle of Wight be turned into a vast pleasure zone with casinos and brothels.

83 Eventually, the pressure to produce started to tell, and Fleming threatened to kill off Bond, telling a friend: “I used to believe – sufficiently – in Bonds and Blondes and Bombs. Now the keys creak as I type and I fear the zest may have gone … I shall definitely kill off Bond in my next book.”

84 The last book Ian Fleming wrote was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang , written for his son, Caspar.

85 It also became a hugely successful film, in which the name of one character, Truly Scrumptious, is droll take-off of a Bond girl name.

86 Following an attack of pleurisy, Fleming died of a heart attack on 12 August 1964. He was just 56.

87 Caspar died of a drug overdose in 1975.

88 The year after Fleming’s death, his books sold some 27 million copies, in numerous languages, throughout the world.

89 Licence to Kill was the Bond film not to have its title based on a Fleming story.

90 Forty years ago, the author Kingsley Amis analysed all of the Bond novels, and compiled a guide for would-be agents, The Book of Bond.

91 Amis also wrote a Bond novel, Colonel Sun, in 1968, while other post-Fleming Bond authors included Raymond Benson and John Gardner.

92 Today’s centenary saw the launch of a new Bond novel, Devil May Care by Birdsong author Sebastian Faulks.

93 Fleming loved scrambled eggs, and ordered them at New York’s ultra-exclusive Lutce restaurant, followed simply by strawberries.

94 In January stamps marking the centenary sold out faster than those celebrating the Beatles in 2007.

95 Penguin is publishing new hardback editions of the 14 Bond books.

96 The Queen Anne Press, formerly managed by Ian Fleming, has been acquired by his literary estate and is producing a centenary edition of his complete works, including a new volume, Talk of the Devil, containing unpublished and rarely seen material.

97 A major exhibition, For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming + James Bond, is running at the Imperial War Museum until March next year.

98 Among memorabilia, the exhibition includes a letter written to the author written by a Major Boothroyd, who wanted to advise him what handguns he thought most appropriate for Bond.

99 This Fleming centenary week, the Oxfam shop in Edinburgh’s Nicolson Street shop made its biggest ever sale with a rare first edition of From Russia with Love, which went for 300.

100 A centenary exhibition of cover artwork for the Bond books, Bond-Bound: Ian Fleming and the Art of Cover Design, will run in Edinburgh’s City Arts Centre, City Art Centre from 5 July to 14 September.

Compiled from sources including Ben Macintyre’s For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming + James Bond, written in association with the Imperial War Museum exhibition. See also ianflemingcentenary.com

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