5 True Facts About Ian Fleming, the Author of 'James Bond'
An International Man of Mystery
James Bond is one of the most well-known fictional characters in popular culture today. His shoes have been filled by memorable actors like Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and most recently by Daniel Craig, making him feel like an always new and culturally immortal character. However, while Bond's exploits are known practically around the world, not everyone knows the unique story of his creator. There was far more to Ian Fleming than met the eye.
Fact #1: He Wrote What He Knew
While it's hard to tell exactly what Fleming was involved in, since he was sworn to secrecy, it is public knowledge that he was recruited by British Naval Intelligence during World War II. In between covert missions around the world (we can only assume developing a taste for vodka martinis and carrying out her Majesty's will) Fleming was eventually promoted to the position of assistant to Admiral John Godfrey. When someone told Fleming to write what he knew, it seems that what he knew was the gritty underbelly of the secret service, spying on the enemies of the empire, and when necessary making sure that loose ends got tied off good and tight.
No word on whether or not the Walther was his weapon of choice when in the field, though.
Not a lot of people know it, but Ian Fleming was related to another infamous British badass; the actor Christopher Lee (who I previously covered in 5 True Facts About Christopher Lee).
Lee was not in Naval Intelligence with Fleming; the six and a half foot tall future actor instead served in the Special Air Service (British special forces) during the second World War. Cousins by marriage, the two men played golf together, and were by all accounts good friends. It was only after the James Bond books achieved success as films that Lee was invited to play one of the villains of the series. While there were some difficulties getting him away from Hammer films at the time, Lee eventually played the man with the golden gun, Francisco Scaramanga. While there are those who wondered what his performance as Bond would have been like, as there were rumors Fleming wanted his cousin to play 007, no one has ever doubted that Lee's skills in portraying villains are some of the finest any thespian could ask for.
Fact #3: Fleming Put More of Himself Into Bond Than You Know
With all of the big similarities between the author and his creation, it might be easy to call shenanigans on Ian Fleming for making a self-insert character. After all, he was in British Naval Intelligence just like Bond. He was sent on covert missions all around the world just like Bond. Both men just happen to be English. However, there are some smaller, more subtle hints of the man behind the curtain if readers know where to look.
As a for instance, the villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld was born on May 28, 1908, which just happens to be the same day the author came kicking and screaming into the world. Bond's golf handicap is nine, which is the same as Fleming's. Even Fleming's house in Jamaica made its way into the mythos. It was called Goldeneye, after a military operation.
Fact #4: He Wrote Other Things, Too
While Fleming wrote 12 actual James Bond novels, along with two collections of short stories featuring the famous spy, he wasn't a one trick pony. In fact huge audiences are familiar with one of Fleming's less well-known works; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
This story, about a magical flying car, is worlds away from the gritty realities of 007, but Fleming wrote it for his son when he needed a story to read. The book just happened to make its way onto the shelves right alongside Fleming's less child-friendly works, and it's gotten to the point that a lot of people completely forgot it was his pen on the page.
Fact #5: He Blatantly Stole Bond's Name
While there are those that theorize the character of "M" was based off of Fleming's boss (which must have made his time in the trenches even more terrifying than it needed to be), the author fully admitted that he just up and stole the name of his main character. The name came from the cover of Field Guide to Birds of the West Indies, which just happened to be sitting around when Fleming was putting his novel together. The author of the field guide, James Bond, had such a normal and completely forgettable name that it was a perfect fit for a man who was supposed to be able to vanish into a crowd. After more than half a century, though, the name James Bond has become synonymous with all things cool, suave, dashing, and dangerous.
Shows the sort of impact that a few, well-loved books can have.
Bonus Fact! Fleming's Famous Fans Kept Bond Alive
As with other famous fictional characters, 007 and his creator had quite a fan base all over the world. Even knowing how famous Bond books were, though, there were quite a number of fans whose names came as a surprise to the writer. President John F. Kennedy was a big fan of Bond for instance, as was Prince Philip of England. Due to the sheer amount of popularity the character achieved, Fleming continued telling his exploits on, long past the point where he wanted to kill the secret agent off, and put a cap onto the whole Bond business.
He even tried to a time or two, but Bond always came back for more.