I’ve been an Ian Fleming aficionado since I was a teenager and read all of Ian Fleming’s thrillers after seeing “Dr. No,” and “From Russia With Love,” the first two films featuring Sean Connery as James Bond.
I reached out to Oliver Buckton, the author of a new biography of the late, great thriller writer called “The World is Not Enough: A Biography of Ian Fleming.” I asked him why he wrote the book.
“I had done research on Ian Fleming for my previous book, “Espionage in British Fiction and Film Since 1900: The Changing Enemy,” Mr. Mr. Buckton replied. “I had a chapter on Bond and Fleming that showed how Fleming had updated the spy novel for the 20th century. I felt it was time for a fresh evaluation of Fleming’s life and career. Particularly, Fleming’s deep involvement in the writing and publication process, his interest in environment, and a different take on his relationships with women.”
How does your book differ or add to the previous biographies?
“I go into more detail about the whole writing process for Fleming—from the inspirations of the novels in Fleming’s WWII intelligence work, through the writing of typescripts at his winter home, “Goldeneye,” in Jamaica,” Mr. Buckton said. “Unlike previous biographies, my book explores Fleming’s deep interest in environmentalism and non-human forms of life, reflected in the plots of “Dr No” and “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” I also have a different approach to Fleming’s relationships with women—showing that Fleming had close friendships with intelligent, independent women and that he was not the heartless philanderer some have portrayed him as.”
Mr. Buckton noted that Ian Fleming and James Bond are alike in some ways. Fleming gives some of his own preferences, tastes, characteristics to James Bond - his cigarettes, his cars, clothing, and love of Jamaica.
“Fleming was more thoughtful than Bond, a dreamer rather than a man of action, and a deeply intelligent person,” Mr. Buckton explained. “He suffered various traumas and conflicts in his early life that left scars for the rest of his life. He used Bond as an “escape” from reality, and a fantasy version of himself. In the novels, Bind is also haunted by the past, and his relationships with both men and women are more complex than we might think from the films. In some ways, the James Bond of the films is a more one-dimensional figure.”
How did Mr. Fleming‘s background as a journalist and naval intelligence officer influence his thrillers?
“These experiences were vital for Fleming’s writing of James Bond. His journalist experience with Reuters in the 1930s, and the Sunday Times after the war, trained him in concise writing style, attracting reader’s attention with a gripping ‘lead”—and the ability to describe action effectively. Naval Intelligence gave Fleming many of the ideas and experiences he used for the Bond plots. He had his own Commando Unit, 30AU, which was sent on thrilling espionage missions that influenced Bond. Fleming also launched crucial operations like “Mincemeat” and “Goldeneye,” which some Bond novels, such as “From Russia With Love,” used in their plots.
How would you describe the Bond character?
“Courageous. Adventurous. Independent. Indulgent. Loyal. Patriotic. Aggressive. Ruthless. Haunted,” Mr. Buckton replied.
How did Fleming‘s relationship with women influence his women characters in the novels?
“Fleming had a number of close friendships with highly intelligent, independent women that are based on intellectual exchange. It was Fleming’s tragic early loves who shaped his creation of female characters. Muriel Wright, Fleming’s lover in wartime, was killed in an air raid. Her beauty and tragic death are reflected in the way that women Bond falls in love with, Vesper Lynd and Tracy di Vicenzo, die young and suddenly.”
Are the Bond novels and films still relevant today?
“Bond represents certain values and virtues, including courage, loyalty, love of country, a sense of adventure, and fascination with the wider world, that are still relevant today. Bond on-screen has adapted to the changing fears and threats of the times—such as the growth of global surveillance, the continuing “Cold War” between the West and East, and organized crime,” Mr. Buckton said. “Some of the views of gender and race expressed in the novels are anachronistic and offensive to today’s readers, but in other ways, Fleming engages with issues of global threats, such as terrorism, and environmental devastation that are more relevant than ever today.”
For the millions of fans of Bond films and novels, “The World is Not Enough” offers an in-depth look at Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming.
• Paul Davis’ On Crime column covers true crime, crime fiction and thrillers.
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The World is Not Enough: A Biography of Ian Fleming
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, $34.00, 392 pages: 392