Ian Fleming (1908 – 1964)

Commander Ian Lancaster Fleming, RNVR (May 28, 1908- August 12, 1964) was an English author and journalist, best remembered for writing the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Ian Fleming was born in Mayfair, London, to Valentine Fleming, a Member of British Parliament, and his wife Evelyn St. Croix Fleming (nee Rose). Ian was the younger brother of the travel writer Peter Fleming and the older brother of Michael and Richard Fleming.

Ian was educated at Eton College and Sandhurst military academy. After an early departure from Sandhurst which he found uncongenial, he was sent by his mother to study languages on the Continent, first at Kitzbuhel, Austria, at a small private establishment run by the Adlerian disciples, Ernan Forbes Dennis and his American born wife, the novelist Phyllis Bottome, to improve his German and prepare him for the Foreign Office exams then at Munich University, Germany and finally to improve his French at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.

Fleming was unsuccessful at the attempt to join the Foreign Office and subsequently worked as, firstly as a sub-editor and journalist for the Reuters news service, including for a time in 1933 in Moscow, Russia and later as a stockbroker with Rowe and Pitman, in Bishopsgate.

In 1939, on the eve of World War II, Rear Admiral John Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence of the Royal Navy, recruited Fleming (who at the time held the rank of reserve subaltern in the Black Watch) as personal assistant. Initially commissioned as a Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve lieutenant, he was subsequently promoted to Lieutenant commander, then as Commander. Fleming travelled to Whitby, Ontario to train at Camp X, a top secret training school for Allied forces. While in Naval Intelligence, Fleming conceived, and was author of Operation Ruthless, a plan-left unexecuted- for capturing the German naval version of the Wehrmacht's Enigma communications encoder. He also came up with an attempt to use British occultist Aleister Crowley to trick Rudolph Hess into attempting to contact a faux cell of anti-Churchill Englishmen in Britain. This plan wasn't used, however, as Rudolph Hess had flown to England and parachuted in an attempt to broker peace behind Hitler's back. Anthony Masters's book The Man Who Was M: The Life of Charles Henry Maxwell Knight asserts Fleming conceived the plan that successfully lured Nazi Party Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess into flying to Scotland- in May 1941, to negotiate Anglo-German peace with Churchill - and consequent captivity; this claim has no other source.

As the DNI's personal assistant, Fleming's intelligence work was the background and experience for writing spy novels. The first James Bond novel was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The James Bond books became wildly successful and part of 1950s popular culture even before being filmed, permitting Fleming to retire comfortably to his home in Jamaica, a small cottage he called Goldeneye.

His 1962 Bond novel, The Spy Who Loved Me was somewhat of a departure for Fleming as he wrote the book in first person from the point of view of a female protagonist, "Vivienne Michel". Fleming actually gave the fictitious character co-author credit; this predated by 40 years a similar innovation employed by the screenwriter of the film Adaptation, who similarly gave co-writing credit to one of his characters.

In 1961 Fleming agreed to allow Albert "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to produce a movie based on Dr. No. In 1962, Fleming suggested his cousin, actor Christopher Lee play Dr. Julius No, the villain of the first film; sources say Lee also was considered for the James Bond role. Although Lee was not selected for either role, he would be cast the eponymous villain of the film From Russia With Love, which would be the last Bond picture Fleming would live to see released.

Ian Fleming was also a noted bibliophile, and put together an important library on the theme of significant books in the history of western civilization, books which had "started something". He particularly collected books relating to science and technology such as On the Origin of Species, but also included such milestones as Mein Kampf and Scouting for Boys. He was a major lender to the 1963 exhibition Printing and the Mind of Man and 600 books from his collection are now in the Lilly Library at Indiana University.

Early on the morning of August 12, 1964, Ian Fleming died of a heart attack in Canterbury, Kent, at age 56, and is interred in the churchyard cemetery in the village of Sevenhampton, near Swindon, next to his wife Ann Geraldine Mary Fleming (1913-1981) and their only son, Caspar Robert Fleming (1952-1975). Notable surviving relatives of the writer include the composer Alan Fleming-Baird.

Reportedly, on May 5, 1995, Pierce Brosnan, the fifth official James Bond actor, bought the gold-plated typewriter on which Ian Fleming wrote some of his James Bond novels in Jamaica for a reported £52,800.

Books by Ian Fleming