Later this year Casemate will publish Edward Abel Smith’s “Ian Fleming’s Inspiration: The Truth Behind the Books.”
“James Bond is possibly the most well-known fictional character in history,” Casemate Publishing notes. “What most people don’t know is that almost all of the characters, plots and gadgets come from the real-life experiences of Bond’s creator — Commander Ian Fleming.
“In this book, we go through the plots of Fleming’s novels explaining the real-life experiences that inspired them. The reader is taken on a journey through Fleming’s direct involvement in World War II intelligence and how this translated through his typewriter into James Bond’s world, as well as the many other factors of Fleming’s life which were also taken as inspiration.”
One friend who inspired Fleming was the late Richard Hughes, who was a foreign correspondent for the British Sunday Times. He was the inspiration for the fictional character Dikko Henderson in Ian Fleming’s 1964 James Bond novel “You Only Live Twice.”
“He is a giant Australian with a European mind and a quixotic view of the world,” the late Ian Fleming said of Richard Hughes.
In 1959, Fleming, then the foreign manager of the Sunday Times, was asked by the newspaper’s editor to travel to foreign cities and write about them, as Fleming notes, “through a thriller-writer’s eye.” The newspaper articles were compiled into a book called “Thrilling Cities” in 1963.
While visiting Hong Kong and Tokyo, Fleming’s guide was Richard Hughes, whom Fleming called “Our Man in the Orient.”
Ian Fleming later wrote “You Only Live Twice,” which featured a character named Richard Lovelace Henderson. Henderson, based on Hughes, was the British intelligence chief in Japan. He was a big, boisterous and profane Australian who understood the way of the Japanese. Fleming described him as looking like a middle-aged prize-fighter who retired and had taken to the bottle.
Richard Hughes was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1906. He served as a war correspondent in North Africa in WWII and after the war he worked primarily in Japan. In 1956 he filed an exclusive interview in Moscow with the British spies, traitors and defectors Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess. Hughes went on to write several books, including his 1972 autobiography, “Foreign Devil: Thirty Years Reporting in the Far East.”
“I had the honor of accompanying my friend, the late Ian Fleming, on his second and last tour of Japan. He was seeking local color, factual detail spiritual inspiration and carnal folklore for his twelfth — and alas, penultimate — James Bond volume, “You Only Live Twice,” Hughes wrote. “I filled the humble role of valet-comrade to Fleming-san. Our odyssey was the most instructive, enjoyable, crowded, leisurely, lively and hilarious trip I ever made in thirteen long and happy years.”
Hughes wrote that he discovered what he called “Fleming’s technique of precise and meticulous investigation for the background and action of a James Bond adventure.”
In the late 1970s, John le Carre visited Hong Kong while doing research for his novel “The Honorable Schoolboy,” the sequel to his novel “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” Mr. le Carre met Richard Hughes, and like Ian Fleming, he based a character on him.
In the novel, the assembled journalists at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club in Hong Kong were discussing the closing of the local branch of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). Mr. le Carre wrote that William Craw, like Hughes, was the doyen of Asia’s foreign press corps.
“In the tireless pursuit of legends about one another, old Craw was their Ancient Mariner. Craw had shaken more sand out of his shorts, they told each other, than most of them would walk over; and they were right,” le Carre wrote. “In Shanghai, where his career had started, he had been teaboy and city editor to the only English-speaking journal in the port. Since then, he had covered the Communists against Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang against the Japanese and the Americans against practically everyone. Craw gave them a sense of history in this rootless place.”
Mr. le Carre thanked Richard Hughes in the foreword of the spy novel. “And then there is the great Dick Hughes, whose outward character and mannerisms I have shamelessly exaggerated for the part of old Craw. Some people, once met, simply elbow their way into a novel and sit there till the writer finds them a place. Dick is one. I am sorry I could not obey his urgent exhortation to libel him to the hilt. My cruelest efforts could not prevail against the affectionate nature of the original.”
Richard Hughes, who died in 1984 at the age of 77, led a robust and fascinating life, and he fascinated two world-famous thriller writers.
• Paul Davis’ On Crime column covers true crime, crime fiction, mysteries and thrillers.