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Fleming, Ian Fleming...
August 6, 2008 7:49 AM   Subscribe

He wrote the childrens book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a travel guide called Thrilling Cities, a study of Diamond Smugglers... and created James Bond. Ian Fleming, who died of a heart attack at 56, was born a century ago this past May. He led a fascinating life. Born the son of an MP, educated at Eton and Sandhurst, he served in the Black Watch, and then in Naval Intelligence. His time in naval intelligence led to his most famous creation, and the writing of Casino Royale. An immediate best seller in the US when President Kennedy listed 1957's From Russia With Love as one of his favorite books, Fleming eventually wrote twelve novels and nine short stories featuring 007, leading to one of the most successful movies empires of all time. Fleming returned the favor, suggesting to Kennedy over a dinner ways in which the CIA could work to discredit Fidel Castro. Not only a prolific writer, Fleming was also a talented bibliophile and collector, amassing a collection of books now held by the Lilly Library at Indiana University, Bloomington.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow (36 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
While I can't find another cite for it at the moment, I remember hearing that the filming location of Totleigh Towers in the BBC's Jeeves and Wooster series, was actually Fleming's boyhood home
posted by timsteil at 8:00 AM on August 6, 2008


..and not to forget his older brother Peter Flemming, a famous author before Ian was. Best known for his trilogy of travel literature: Brazilian Adventure (1933), One's Company: A Journey to China in 1933 (1934) and News from Tartary: A Journey from Peking to Kashmir (1936)
posted by stbalbach at 8:06 AM on August 6, 2008


this is a pretty amazing fpp. thanks for this.
posted by shmegegge at 8:14 AM on August 6, 2008


The Lilly Library is a fantastic resource. Patrons can peruse anything in the collection (including the Fleming manuscript and related collections) by simply registering in the reading room and showing a picture ID.
posted by Heretic at 8:24 AM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you haven't read any of his books, do. His writing is exceptional. Clever plots, good characters, and always exciting. He had the knack for allowing to get your head around a character, a place, or a meal with just a few well chosen words. I'm always reminded a bit of Hemingway when I read Fleming. He provides such rich detail in so few words.

So many authors, were they to kick you, would first kick around your shins for a while, then maybe a few in the butt, a kick in the chest to test you, then back to your shins. After a while, despite the kicking you fall asleep. Fleming would kick you straight in the nuts, and hard.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 8:43 AM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


The estate of Ian Fleming has authorized a new Bond book by Sebastian Faulks, by the way--read an excerpt in last month's Vanity Fair. The release was timed to coincide with the centenary of Fleming's birth.

(See also the related article in the same issue, The Man with the Golden Pen.)
posted by cirocco at 8:45 AM on August 6, 2008


Timothy Dalton was said to have been Fleming's favorite Bond.
posted by NationalKato at 8:57 AM on August 6, 2008


Impressive foresight on his part, given that Dalton was just 18 when Fleming died.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 9:20 AM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Timothy Dalton was said to have been Fleming's favourite Bond.

Presumably by a medium.
posted by Mocata at 9:20 AM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


And Dalton wasn't even his own favourite Bond.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 9:21 AM on August 6, 2008


Bonds in order of Bondness:

Moore
Connery
Lazenby
Craig
Brosnan
Dalton
(Niven, if you must)
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 9:25 AM on August 6, 2008


The Bond books are well written and the pacing is breath-taking, but the misogyny hasn't aged too well and gets pretty hard to stomach. Still, I could do with a reread of my favorites. Chitty Chitty was a marvelous book but a horrible movie.

The Bond movies really wore out their welcome for me. Brosnan lobbied for a rougher more realistic Bond but the producers just couldn't think out of the box. Then came Casino Royale. Damn, I could watch that opening sequence a hundred times and it wouldn't get old. Now I can't wait for A Quantum of Solace.
posted by Ber at 9:36 AM on August 6, 2008


Not to get away from the Fleming goodness, but on following some imdb links, I was surprised to learn that Roald Dahl not only did a screenplay for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but You Only Live Twice as well. Great post.
posted by Muttoneer at 9:38 AM on August 6, 2008


The estate of Ian Fleming has authorized a new Bond book by Sebastian Faulks

i just finished reading it a week or so ago, and I thought it was great. I'm also happy with the new Craig James Bond. It's really refreshing and in many ways closer to Fleming's writing.

Great post btw, I was just reading about Fleming the other day!
posted by ob at 9:43 AM on August 6, 2008


The Bond books are well written and the pacing is breath-taking, but the misogyny hasn't aged too well and gets pretty hard to stomach.

Misogyny and racism never age well, but anyone who is so sensitive it keeps them from reading older works of literature is really doing themselves a disservice. Fleming's Bond books are classics of action and intrigue literature, and any fan of the genre should really read them, if only to experience a part of its origins. Any fan of the movies should also read them, because they are, as is inevitable, better.

Though Casino Royale kicked ass, and Quantum of Solace looks like it'll be as good.
posted by Caduceus at 9:53 AM on August 6, 2008


Dalton
Lazenby
Connery
Craig
Brosnan
Niven
Sellers
posted by Eideteker at 9:56 AM on August 6, 2008


So many authors, were they to kick you, would first kick around your shins for a while, then maybe a few in the butt, a kick in the chest to test you, then back to your shins. After a while, despite the kicking you fall asleep. Fleming would kick you straight in the nuts, and hard.

Rejected dust jacket reviews from Hell, dept.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:02 AM on August 6, 2008


Misogyny and racism never age well, but anyone who is so sensitive it keeps them from reading older works of literature is really doing themselves a disservice. Fleming's Bond books are classics of action and intrigue literature, and any fan of the genre should really read them, if only to experience a part of its origins.

I agree. I only posted my concerns about the misogyny as a caveat for anyone who has never read the books. They are worth seeking out.

Lazenby
Craig
Connery
Brosnan
Dalton
Niven
Moore

And Craig will only continue to rise given the intensity he brings to the role.
posted by Ber at 11:03 AM on August 6, 2008


Connery
Craig
Lazenby
Brosnan
Dalton
Niven
Moore

and that's the last word on that.
posted by shmegegge at 11:12 AM on August 6, 2008


Wow, it really is theme week!
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:37 AM on August 6, 2008


They don't really need new books, though. Some of the movies depart pretty drastically from the books, so they could just make new movies that are based more closely on the books, like they did with Casino Royale. The Man with the Golden Gun would be pretty cool, for example.

Connery
Connery
Craig
Connery
Brosnan
Connery
Moore
Dalton
Niven
posted by kirkaracha at 11:40 AM on August 6, 2008


The Faulks book previously.

Connery
Craig
Dalton
Brosnan
Lazenby
Moore
Niven

Who in their right mind puts Moore at the top of the list?
posted by juv3nal at 11:53 AM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Best Ian Fleming story I've ever heard.

There really was a James Bond. Not his real name, of course; he just took it from a street corner in London (where James crosses Bond). Though none of the stories are based on his actual exploits, this mystery man did operate in much the same manner as Fleming's Bond (heartless, efficient, stylish, deadly); so much so that he took serious affront to Fleming's appropriation of his "name". Hence Fleming's unexpected death of "natural causes" at a relatively early age.
posted by philip-random at 12:09 PM on August 6, 2008




There really was a James Bond. Not his real name, of course; he just took it from a street corner in London (where James crosses Bond). Though none of the stories are based on his actual exploits, this mystery man did operate in much the same manner as Fleming's Bond (heartless, efficient, stylish, deadly); so much so that he took serious affront to Fleming's appropriation of his "name". Hence Fleming's unexpected death of "natural causes" at a relatively early age.

That's a helluva lot more dramatic than the real story, which goes like this: The Bond thrillers were written because Fleming needed money and knew publishers from his London newspapering days; his goal was to mimic his favorite writer, Raymond Chandler, but in post war/cold war European and Caribbean settings familiar to him; and the character was named after the author of Fleming's favorite birdwatching guide, ornithologist James Bond.
posted by kenlayne at 1:01 PM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Who in their right mind puts Moore at the top of the list?"

Who puts Moore on the list at all? James Bond does not wear a clown costume and makeup. Woody-fucking-Allen was a better Bond.
posted by Eideteker at 1:53 PM on August 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


The Sebastian Faulks book is just the latest in a long line of commissioned Bond novels written by other authors. I enjoyed the John Gardner series (starting with "License Renewed").

I've always wondered why these post-Fleming books were never used as the basis for new films. As usual, I suspect licensing (heh) issues are to blame.

My dream is that someone will eventually film the original Fleming novels, in order, as cold-war period pieces. There is a ton of cool stuff in the books that never made it into the films.
posted by bruceo at 4:23 PM on August 6, 2008


Craig
Dalton
Connery
Lazenby
Brosnan
Niven
Barry Nelson
Woody Allen
Moore
posted by crossoverman at 4:24 PM on August 6, 2008


bruceo, the Gardner books are really terrible, IMHO. Raymond Benson was more bearable. But - shudder - Charlie Higson's Young Bond series has more integrity than both.

Plus why would the filmmakers pay for the film rights to those books, when they can pay someone to create an original screenplay for them?
posted by crossoverman at 4:28 PM on August 6, 2008


Bonds in order of Bondness:

Connery
Brosnan
Lazenby
Moore
Dalton
Niven
Allen
Atkinson (would make a better Bond than..)
Craig
posted by ZachsMind at 4:32 PM on August 6, 2008


Oh... and this is an awesome FPP. Very well done. NotMyselfRightNow deserves a prize of some sort. Maybe a pony.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:35 PM on August 6, 2008


Atkinson (would make a better Bond than..)
Craig


Oh, ZachsMind, never change.
posted by crossoverman at 4:38 PM on August 6, 2008


I think it is interesting that Fleming's stuff is at IU Bloomington, as he described Bond in the following manner:

In Casino Royale, the anti-heroine Vesper Lynd remarks, "Bond reminds me rather of Hoagy Carmichael, but there is something cold and ruthless." Likewise, in Moonraker, Special Branch Officer Gala Brand thinks that Bond is "certainly good-looking . . . Rather like Hoagy Carmichael in a way. That black hair falling down over the right eyebrow. Much the same bones. But there was something a bit cruel in the mouth, and the eyes were cold." (wikipedia)

Carmichael is of course Bloomington's most celebrated native son.
posted by mwhybark at 8:06 AM on August 7, 2008


Who puts Moore on the list at all? James Bond does not wear a clown costume and makeup.

There's a bit of Baby-Duck Sydrome I've witnessed among Bond fans: they tend to have a lingering fondness, oftentimes preference, for their first Bond, regardless of the actual performance of said Bond. My first Bond movie was Moonraker, and I still think of Moore as being an okay Bond. Well, certainly not the worst of the worst.

Related: the first Connery Bond movie I saw was Never Say Never Again, so I have derisive feelings towards Sean Connery's fitness for the role that are similar to Eideteker's scoffing at Moore. James Bond does not wear a toupee, dammit.
posted by cirocco at 9:22 AM on August 7, 2008


The Lilly Library is a fantastic resource.

Seconded. I was there recently, and was completely fascinated. They also have a collection of over 30,000 mechanical puzzles, some of which they have out for visitors to play with.

Also, unlike the Library of Congress, they'll let you take a picture of their Gutenberg Bible.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:33 AM on August 7, 2008


James Bond does not wear a toupee, dammit.

Connery was wearing a toupe in some of his 60s Bond films as well.
posted by crossoverman at 7:18 PM on August 7, 2008


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