Ian fleming

No one wants a more sensitive James Bond

Men do not come to see James Bond movies for the sensitive brooding of an ageing spy. They come for the car, the bikini and the volcano. This is apparently lost on some people in Hollywood – the same people who occupy the unfortunate position of actually making James Bond movies. The Daily Telegraph reports: ‘The next James Bond films will have bigger roles for women and a more sensitive 007, according to the producers.’ Variety quotes producer Barbara Broccoli saying ‘Bond is evolving just as men are evolving’, adding: ‘I don’t know who’s evolving at a faster pace.’ I have a difficult time believing that any fan of James Bond ever expressed a desire

James Bond and the Beatles at war for Britain’s soul

‘Better use your sense,’ advised Bob Dylan: ‘take what you have gathered from coincidence.’ John Higgs is a master of taking what he can gather from coincidence – or, as he would insist, synchronicity. From the filigree of connections and echoes in the KLF (Discordianism through the lens of 1990s pop provocateurs) to the psychogeography of Watling Street to more recent deep dives into William Blake, he confronts the modern Matter of Britain: who wields power, and who resists it? Love and Let Die starts with another perfect coincidence, namely that it was 60 years ago – to be precise, 5 October 1962 – that saw the first Beatles single

Mostly gripping – and boasts not one but two Mr Darcys: Operation Mincemeat reviewed

Operation Mincemeat is based on the book by Ben Macintyre, which in turn is based on what Sir Hugh Trevor-Roper called ‘the most spectacular single episode in the history of deception’. It is so spectacular that the film doesn’t have to do much aside from tell it, and that’s what it does, straightforwardly, plainly, no bells and whistles. It’s a classic tale of British second world war derring-do and the sort of film you’ll watch with your dad on a Sunday afternoon, before or after Ice Cold in Alex. Plus it has a terrific cast that includes not one but two Mr Darcys (Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen). It’s 1943

What the Russians thought of James Bond in the 1960s

Last year I wrote a piece about James Bond for the ‘Freelance’ column of the Times Literary Supplement. All true Bond lovers — of the novels, I mean — know that he lived in a ‘comfortable flat in a plane-tree’d square off the King’s Road’, as Ian Fleming described it in Moonraker. Further internal evidence in Thunderball indubitably established that it was Wellington Square — but there was considerable mystery and doubt about exactly which house contained the Bond apartment. In my article I claimed to have identified it as No. 25, based on a certain amount of sleuthing and, I thought, convincing circumstantial evidence. No. 25 Wellington Square was

It’s time for James Bond to die

I saw the new James Bond last night, but after reading today’s reviews I’m not sure I watched the same film as the critics. Perhaps the glitz of the Royal Albert Hall and proximity to the stars make reviewers better disposed towards a film. Those of us watching in the Odeon, Leicester Square, eating Joe and Seph’s 007 Dry Martini popcorn (transmuted into caramel coating with five per cent vodka) were perhaps less carried away. The Bond of No Time to Die is, you’ll have gathered, terrifically in touch with his emotions. He’s got a vulnerable side; he’s angry and wounded; he’s empathetically good with a little girl (he feeds

Audiences don’t want woke: comic-book writer Mark Millar interviewed

Mark Millar has a raging hangover but he couldn’t be more chirpy or enthusiastic. ‘People say they get worse as you get older but I get reverse hangovers where I feel amazing. I wake up at four or five and I’m ready to go!’ I’ve caught him on a Sunday morning, on his way to Mass, after an exhausting three weeks in which he has been doing up to 45 interviews a day to promote Jupiter’s Legacy, his blockbuster superhero series for Netflix. He ought to be nervous: this is his first big project off the blocks since (in 2017) the studio bought up his publishing company Millarworld for a

Diary – 19 October 2017

New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Raleigh, Dallas… I’m on a book tour in Donald Trump’s USA, which feels much like the USA I’ve visited many times before. The tour doesn’t go to any of the so-called ‘rust belt’ cities where Trump has his main support and the people I meet are quietly shocked, apologetic — as if their President is an elderly relative who has displayed horrible manners at the table. Washington is such a handsome, classical city, with its free museums and wonderful collections of art, that I feel a stab of pain as I drive past the White House and think about the man inside. A single protestor stands

Perfect, gentle Knight

I once asked Baroness Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5, what she did to relax. Nailing me to the wall with her no-nonsense look, she said: ‘I keep sheep.’ A similar association with the animal kingdom resounds through Henry Hemming’s excellent new life of Maxwell Knight, the famous spymaster and possible archetype for Ian Fleming’s ‘M’. Knight’s family and friends observed that, at an early age, he had a particular way with animals that allowed him to bring them under his spell. As a young man he kept a menagerie in his small London flat consisting of a bulldog, a bear and a baboon. Following his retirement, he dedicated himself

Escapism for boys

Jack Higgins’s writing routine was said to start with dinner at his favourite Italian restaurant in Jersey, followed by writing through the night until dawn, when he rounded off the working day with a glass of champagne and bacon and eggs. With his estimated lifetime sales of 250 million copies, his routine seemed to work. Len Deighton, on the other hand, takes a more austere view of his craft, arguing that the biggest dangers for a writer are alcohol and praise. He has a weakness for writers’ gadgets, though — in 1968, he leased an IBM Magnetic Tape Selectric Typewriter weighing 200lbs. The front window of his house had be

That’s entertainment | 6 April 2017

The name Maud Russell creeps almost apologetically into a few 20th-century diaries such as those of her friend Violet Bonham Carter. Generally, she keeps her head below the parapet — not a bad place for a diarist, since it allows her to observe without being noticed. She is certainly worth knowing about. The wife of a banker, Gilbert Russell, a scion of the great Whig family, whose cousin was Duke of Bedford, and daughter of Paul Nelke, a seriously rich stockbroker of German Jewish origin, she was from the mid-1930s chatelaine of Mottisfont Abbey, a beautiful 2,000-acre estate in Hampshire, now owned by the National Trust. There, in her mid-forties,

Licence to kill | 12 January 2017

As I read the last chapter of this book, news broke that the Russian ambassador to Ankara, Andrey Karlov, had been shot multiple times at close range by an off-duty Turkish police officer. Despite shocking live footage of the incident, it was unclear immediately whether this was political assassination or terrorist attack, or who was ultimately behind it. The assassin was quickly ‘neutralised’. Speaking from the Kremlin, Putin praised the slain ambassador, ordered security at Russian embassies to be stepped up, and said he wanted to know who had ‘directed’ the gunman’s hand. This is the crucial question. Not who the killer was, but for whom he was acting and

Diary – 5 May 2016

I am no admirer of Donald Trump — not because he is a doomsayer and professional patriot but because he is a fake and, worse, he owes me money. A few years back I was telephoned by a friend. ‘I have to give a dinner for Donald Trump,’ he said, dolorously. ‘He entertained me in Palm Beach and now he’s over here.’ The dinner was in a bijou Mayfair restaurant and we were a party of about eight. Let me say one thing for Trump: he isn’t stupid. We had never met, but he spotted me for an Englishwoman right away. The other guests were various members of the London ton,

Night moves

The Night Manager (BBC1, Sunday) announced its intentions immediately, when the opening credits lovingly combined weapons and luxury items. ‘Blimey,’ we were clearly intended to think, ‘it’s a bit like James Bond.’ True, the main character works — at this stage, anyway — in the hotel trade rather than as a secret agent. Yet, when it comes to dress sense, being irresistible to the ladies and alternating between looking suave and enigmatically purposeful, Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) has little to learn from the great man himself. Pine was first seen heading to work in 2011 through an uprising in Cairo where dozens of extras were demanding the overthrow of President

Stars in their eyes | 24 September 2015

‘The dominant narrative of space,’ I was told, in that strange language curators employ, ‘is America.’ Quite so. Kennedy stared at the moon and saw a promotional opportunity. Nasa’s logo was designed by the flamboyant Raymond Loewy. A PR man wrote Neil Armstrong’s unforgettable lines. Every event at Cape Canaveral (later the Kennedy Space Center) was televised, while, in the USSR, Star City was built in furtive secrecy just outside Moscow. Tom Wolfe glorified the US space programme in The Right Stuff, his boisterous 1979 masterpiece of reportage where the cowboy mentality of the fly-boys co-mingled with the technical marvels of California aerospace, myth-making the while. But the Soviet Union’s

Talk of the devil | 24 September 2015

For years, Ian Fleming was famously self-deprecating about the James Bond books. (‘I have a rule of not looking back,’ he once said. ‘Otherwise I’d wonder, “How could I write such piffle?”’) Towards the end of his life, though, he finally produced an essay in their defence — proudly pointing out, among other things, that however fantastical the plots may become, they’re always carefully rooted in a world recognisable as our own. Of course, this is not something that can necessarily be said of all the Bond films — but it certainly applies to ITV’s new three-part thriller Midwinter of the Spirit (Wednesday), based on the novel by Phil Rickman.

Life with old father William

This intensely written memoir by Adam Mars-Jones about his Welsh father, Sir William, opens with the death of Sheila, Adam’s mother, of lung cancer in 1998: ‘She died with self-effacing briskness in little more than a month.’ Adam too is self-effacing, moving in while his mother was dying, then staying on as his father’s main carer. The second of three brothers, he explains away this generous act: ‘As an under-employed freelance, I had time to spare.’ ‘Dad’, diagnosed informally as ‘demented’, was by then a retired High Court judge granted a low rent for a large flat in Gray’s Inn. Adam lived in the flat’s converted attic. Adam is thorough

If I were prime minister, by Ian Fleming

This article was first published in The Spectator on 9 October, 1959. I am a totally non-political animal. I prefer the name of the Liberal Party to the name of any other and I vote Conservative rather than Labour, mainly because the Conservatives have bigger bottoms and I believe that big bottoms make for better government than scrawny ones. I only once attended a debate in the House of Commons. It was, I think, towards the end of 1938 when we were unattractively trying to cajole Mussolini away from Hitler. I found the hollowness and futility of the speeches degrading and infantile and the well-fed, deep-throated ‘hear, hears’ for each mendacious

Ian Fleming: cruel? Selfish? Misogynistic? Nonsense, says his step-daughter

When from my eyrie beneath the Christ Corcovado I looked closely at this (unusually) typed letter from Ian Fleming I saw that it was ‘dictated in his absence’ and that it must have been sent by the devoted ‘Griffie’, model for Miss Moneypenny. Scarcely surprising: five days later, on the 12th birthday of his only child Caspar, Ian — as much a father to me as a stepfather — died from a third massive heart attack. (‘I am sorry to have troubled you like this,’ he said to the ambulancemen who took him to Kent & Canterbury hospital.) That too was not unexpected. Early in 1963 I left for Rio

James Bond’s secret: he’s Jamaican

Ian Fleming’s first visit to Jamaica was pure James Bond. In 1943, as assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence, he flew from Miami to Kingston to attend an Anglo-American naval conference and to investigate the rumour that Axel Wenner-Gren, a rich Swede and supposed Nazi, had built a secret submarine base at Hog Island, near Nassau. He was accompanied by his old friend Ivar Bryce, who was also in intelligence, and who put him up at a house his wife had recently bought. As they left the island, Fleming told Bryce, ‘When we have won this blasted war, I am going to live in Jamaica… swim in the sea

James Bond, author

There is one last James Bond book from the late 1950s that remains unpublished. We will not find the typescript lurking in the archives, nor hidden amongst the papers held by Ian Fleming’s estate, for this book is not about James Bond but written by Bond himself. It is from Fleming’s 1959 novel Goldfinger that we learn that 007 spends his hours on night duty at the Secret Service compiling a manual on unarmed combat called Stay Alive!, containing the best that had been written on the subject by his peers in intelligence agencies around the world. Bond is more industrious in the field than at the typewriter and no