Ian Fleming was, in a way, James Bond

Ian Fleming's House, 22b Ebury Street, Belgrav...
Ian Fleming’s House, 22b Ebury Street, Belgravia, London. (Photo credit: Jim Linwood)

Ian Lancaster Fleming (28 May 1908 – 12 August 1964) was an English author, journalist and Naval Intelligence Officer, best known for his James Bond series of spy novels. Fleming came from a wealthy family connected to the merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co. ~ Wikipedia

One of the reasons the James Bond series of books and movies are so fascinating is that Ian Fleming wrote about events that closely resembled what he had done in life. He was a spy commander in World War 2.

Fleming was not a good student and irritated the housemaster at Eton. He was known for womanizing and owned a car, which set him apart in those days, in a bad light in the eyes of the housemaster. He also contracted gonorrhea. His mother was Swiss and because of this Fleming had a good grasp of the German language, a trait that helped him rise in the ranks of the British Intelligence. After Eton, he studied briefly at Munich University and the University of Geneva. Just out of college he applied for the Foreign Office which was responsible for protecting and promoting UK interests worldwide but failed to get in. His family helped him get into banking but failed in two positions at two separate banks.

In May 1939 Fleming was recruited by Rear Admiral John Godfrey who was the Director of Naval Intelligence of the Royal Navy and became his personal assistant. His codename there was “17F.” It was said Fleming had ‘no obvious qualifications’ for the role” according to Andrew Lycett, a biographer. He started as Lieutenant but was promoted to commander a few months later. After a dismal start in school and banking, apparently Fleming found something he could do very well.

Almost all of the characters that recur in the Bond series are based after real people he met and often worked with. Bond was a mixture of his own life and perhaps two high ranking people he had met.

During his time with Naval Intelligence, he planned some very creative plots to obtain information from the enemy. He formed a group of commandos call the No. 30 Assault unit (30AU). The unit saw much success in Sicily and Italy and was greatly respected by the Royal Navy Intelligence. In June of 1944, Fleming was replaced as head of the force. Whether he was moved out of the position as a lateral move or because people were unhappy with his performance is debatable.

After the war his decided to write a spy novel and titled it Casino Royale.  Fleming endowed Bond with many of his own traits, including the same golf handicap, his taste for scrambled eggs, his love of gambling, and use of the same brand of toiletries. ~Wikipedia

As is common for most successful writers the book was not well received, but since his brother Peter was a successful writer he persuaded the publishing company to print it. The series was a huge hit and has sold over 100 million copies worldwide. Fleming also wrote the children’s book Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang which became a very popular movie.

The man who had spent many years failing at many things now became an incredible success as a writer. His Bond movies are probably watched and loved in almost every country of the world, and his books were loved by many, including an American President. But his books were too racy and violent for the time and he received a lot of negative criticism. Because of this and his marriage problems, some said that his writing ability declined.

Fleming said that he smoked too much, drank too much and loved too much. The last reference is probably in regards to his bouts with sexually transmitted diseases. Due to his lifestyle he died early, at the age of 53 from heart disease, on his son Caspar’s twelfth birthday. It is amazing to think about what he could have done if he hadn’t died so young. But to many people it is an inspiring story of a failure turned success.


  1. I never knew he wrote ‘Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang’ either! That’s a really interesting post – I didn’t know any of it. Having said that, I’m not really a Bond fan.

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