Ian Fleming, the Brit author and naval intelligence officer was born on this day in 1908. Fleming has given us the iconic, smart spy character – James Bond 007. The popularity of James Bond as a spy character across the globe is unparalleled.
Fleming wrote twelve novels and nine short stories featuring Bond. The very first novel – Casino Royale – was completed by him on March 18, 1952. Later on, twenty-six films were made in the James Bond series (and counting), starring as many as seven different actors in the role of James Bond.
Fleming who was a bird enthusiast had a friend named James Bond who was an American ornithologist. He was a Caribbean bird expert and also an author. It was his name that Fleming gave to his very own spy. In 1962, Fleming to The New Yorker, “When I wrote the first one in 1953, I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened; I wanted him to be a blunt instrument … when I was casting around for a name for my protagonist I thought by God, [James Bond] is the dullest name I ever heard.”
As famous as the name is the number ‘007’. 007 was a number used in connection with the World War I – it was in reference to the event when the British naval intelligence cracked the German diplomatic code. Any material that had ’00’ meant that it was highly classified. So the use of 007 comes from Fleming’s own experiences.
However, the building of the character of James Bond was based on not one but several people that Fleming met during the war – Bond is a mixture of them all. Some of the people who inspired Fleming to were Sidney Cotton, who once worked for MI6, secretly photographed German installations and collected intelligence in Germany, then there was Peter Fleming who was Fleming’s elder brother. Peter Fleming spent a lot of time in various war zones and also in Delhi, India when he helped devise deceptions plans for the Imperial Japanese Army. There was also one Forest Yeo-Thomas whose missions involved parachuting multiple times.
Fleming was also inspired by Sandy Glen, an Arctic explorer and intelligence officer, Duane Hudson who was once with the British Secret Service and survived various assassination attempts. There were six to seven more such intelligence officers like Berlin Marshal, Wilfred Dunderdale, Fitzroy Maclean, Patrick Job, Conrad O’Brien-ffrench, Peter Smithers, Dusko Popov, William Stephenson, Merlin Minshall and Michael Mason who all fused into one character of James Bond. He was also inspired by a fictional character Gregory Sallust, who was a secret agent created by Dennis Wheatley.
Did you know Fleming was once commissioned by an oil company in Kuwait to write a book on them? But the book had to be approved by Kuwaiti government and that did not happen.
Fleming’s last Bond book was Octopussy and The Living Daylight in 1966. On 12th August 1964, Fleming passed away due to a heart attack. His last words were addressed to those in the ambulance. He had said, “I am sorry to trouble you chaps. I don’t know how you get along so fast with the traffic on the roads these days.”
Preview Photo: ianfleming.com