On February 17th 1952, Ian Fleming sat down at his typewriter in Jamaica to write <em>the spy story to end all spy stories</em>. The central character of this story would become one of the world’s best-known and best-loved fictional creations: James Bond. Fleming would go on to write 12 novels featuring his super spy – each one an exciting blend of intrigue, escapism, sex and violence.
Bond’s popularity leaped when US president John F Kennedy declared himself a fan of the book “From Russia with Love”, but it was the start of the film series in 1961 that truly assured 007’s place in the big time. It is estimated that half the population of the world has seen a James Bond film, while Fleming’s books have sold over 100 million copies.
But is James Bond purely a fairytale? Can a 43-year-old former journalist with a liking for scrambled eggs, cigarettes and vodka martinis simply conjure up a fictitious character that has stood the test of time, without having some foundation in reality?
Fleming’s wartime career in naval intelligence saw him become intimately acquainted with the ways of the secret service, and he embarked on numerous top-secret missions to the US, France, Spain and North Africa. The events that occurred during this little-known period of Fleming’s life informed and influenced every aspect of Bond: his world, his women and his adventures.
Henry Chancellor, author of a book on Bond, believes Fleming “may have written fiction, but 95% of it was based on fact that had been filtered through the prism of his imagination and then polished up a bit”.