Accueil arrow Notes historiques arrow The intelligence life of Ian Fleming


Herman Matthijs

Herman Matthijs
Senior Lecturer, Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Ian Fleming's fiction was not limited to the "BOND" novels, he also wrote a children's book called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: the Magical Car , which was published in 1964. In 1968 a film was made of  the book with a script by Roald Dahl and Ken Hughes and which starred Dick van  Dyke and Gert Fröbe and Benny Hill in supporting roles.

There can, however, be no doubt that figure of Ian Fleming will forever be associated with "007".

The Secret Service

During World War II Ian Fleming was attached to Naval Intelligence - nothing to do with MI5 or MI6 -  where he first worked as the personal assistant of the Director, Rear Admiral John Godfrey.

As of September 1942 Fleming became head of a special unit called "30 Assault Unit" (abbreviated to "30 Au").  The task of this secret unit was to infiltrate German and occupied territory with the object of learning more about the German army's nuclear programme [1]. Initially consisting of three separate units, an amalgamation was pushed through in December 1942 and a single unit created.

30 Au operated with a great degree of independence and received its orders from the highest echelons of the British establishment and the intelligence community. The unit conducted secret missions behind German lines and captured codes, documents, various types of materiel, as well seeking information on the status of German atomic weapons programme.

Prior to the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944, the unit had been active on missions in North Africa, Greece, Corsica and Norway.  On 6 June 1944 elements of 30 Au landed on Juno Beach (British and Canadian forces) and Utah Beach (US troops). The primary objective of 30 Au was to collect information on the basis of the so-called Black Book.

This book contained information about those German scientists who had a knowledge of atomic energy and the materials used for it. These persons and the materials had to be found regardless of the cost. If such people were found, they were to be immediately arrested and transferred to Britain for interrogation.

In the event about ten scientists were picked up and brought back to a safe house at Farn Hall near Cambridge. The interrogations were codenamed Operation Epsilon. It is generally accepted that the precise results of this operation have yet to be revealed.

Another 30 Au operation was Operation Paperclip. Here the aim was to smuggle academics and other senior figures of the Nazi regime back to the UK. Ian Fleming had a hand in these operations as well.

At the end of 1944 Ian Fleming returned from the Far East, where he had been working with Naval Intelligence as a liaison officer.

On 4 January 1945 Ian Fleming was called to London to be informed of a new and ultra-secret operation: tracking down the money and gold of the Nazis [2]. In political terms the financial war on Nazi Germany fell to the US Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau. Morgenthau was the confidante of President Roosevelt and served in the Presidential cabinet from 1933 to 1945. He fell out of favour with Roosevelt's successor, President Harry Truman, because Truman rejected Morgenthau's idea of making Germany a purely agricultural country after the war [3].

During those first days of January 1945, the British decided to start secret operations aimed at getting hold of Nazi financial resources. To this day only a very little is known about this plan.

Nonetheless, in 1996 Christopher Creighton [4], a pseudonym of John Ainsworth Davis, revealed that during a secret operation - Operation JB -  he had kidnapped Martin Bormann in the Soviet zone of Berlin and taken him back to the UK.

Bormann was the closest thing to a treasurer that the Third Reich had, but evidence about his fate following his escape from the Führerbunker is sketchy. Officially he was missing, but in 1972 human remains were found in West Berlin during excavations for a new underground station. One of the skeletons is thought to have been that of Martin Bormann.

Even so the object of Operation JB, which was implemented in May 1945, was to get Bormann out of Berlin. Creighton was one of the members of this operation, which was headed by Ian Fleming. The codename the latter chose to use for this operation was James Bond (J.B.).

Ian Fleming had borrowed the name from an existing writer, an ornithologist, and author of "A Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies", although he did not seek the writer's permission to use it. Fleming had bought the book in November 1944, on his first visit to the Carribean.

The British were convinced that Bormann was in possession of the details of various Swiss bank accounts and knew the whereabouts of caches of precious metals and artworks.

According to Creighton, Bormann remained in the United Kingdom until 1956, before proceeding to South America where he disappeared. In 1946 Martin Bormann was condemned to death in absentia at the Nürnberg trials.

Creighton's book prompted a storm of debate. Tellingly relevant documents in the archives of the British secret service had been made illegible.


Even so many a reader of this book will raise an eyebrow upon learning that Bormann was succesfully hidden from view for several decades, that the operation was called "James Bond" and that Ian Fleming was responsible for it.

On the other hand it is hard to ignore the fact that the book reproduces letters from Churchill, Lord Mountbatten and Ian Fleming discussing the operation.

Early Life

Ian Lancaster Fleming was born in London on 28 May 1908 and went to Eton and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. His grandfather, Robert Fleming, had been born in Dundee in Scotland, and established the family fortune by successfully investing in American railways.

Ian's father was Valentine Fleming, who had likewise attended Eton before going up to Oxford. Valentine Fleming was elected to parliament as the conservative representative for Henley. However, being an MP did not stop him from volunteering for military service in 1914. He rose to the rank of major before being killed in France in 1917. Valentine was a close friend of Winston Churchill's [5].

Following his father's death Ian Fleming was brought up by his mother Evelyn Saint Croix Rose. There were four sons in the family, Peter, Ian, Richard and Michael. Eldest brother Peter had also been to Eton, where he laid the basis for his career as a writer and journalist.

Upon leaving Eton at the age of 18, Ian Fleming went to Sandhurst but failed to graduate. His mother then sent him to Kitzbühel to attend a small academy run by Ernan Forbes Dennis and his wife Phyllis Bottome. Ernan Forbes was a retired diplomat and had worked for the foreign intelligence section of the British secret service or MI6. Phyllis was the author of numerous books. During his stay in Switzerland Ian Fleming received tuition in French and German.

His subsequent writing talent was developed here too. In 1928 Ian signed up for a course of Russian at the University in Munich. Upon his return to the UK, Ian sat for the foreign office examinations but was rejected, whereupon he went to the work for the Reuters press agency.

At the time the British-owned Reuters was locked in a fierce battle with the American "United Press" agency. In March 1933 one of the many show trials of the Stalin era started, the difference on this occasion being that it concerned a number of British employees who had been accused of spying. Reuters did not have many people in its ranks who had any notion of Russian and as a result it was Fleming who ended up being sent to Moscow to cover the trial.

The trial gave Reuters an edge in the keen competition with the other press agencies, but also brought Fleming  to the attention of the Soviet authorities as the sole British reporter covering the trial.

In October 1938, Fleming caused some surprise by resigning from Reuters and becoming a partner in a merchant bank. Somewhat later he became a stockbroker.

It was these career moves that brought him the wealth he needed to carry on a life of some comfort.


As the threat of war grew the British intelligence services found themselves looking for recruits with a knowledge of cryptology, telecommunications and foreign languages.

So it was that people like the novelist Graham Greene (1904-1991) joined MI6, historian Hugh Trevor-Roper the Radio SecurityService and Ian Fleming Naval Intelligence [6].

Ian Fleming started working for Naval Intelligence in early 1939. This was the result of a word put in for Fleming by an acquaintance of Fleming's mother, Montagu Norman, the then Governor of the Bank of England, a friend of Rear Admiral John Godfrey. Godfrey was responsible for naval intelligence and was Director of Naval Intelligence (D.N.I.) throughout WWII.

Fleming's function in the service was to be the personal assistant of Godfrey, whereas the D.N.I. was chiefly interested in Fleming's knowledge of languages. Fleming was ultimately given the rank of Commander, which was also James Bond's rank in both the books and the films. Fleming based Bond's superior "M" on John Godfrey [7].

Although some would have it otherwise Ian Fleming never worked for Britain's S.I.S. (Secret Intelligence Service) otherwise known as MI6 (British Secret Intelligence Service) [8].

As a Naval Intelligence officer Fleming was primarily occupied with the planning and organization of the naval intelligence service.

MI5 or MI6 [9]


MI5 stands for "Military Intelligence (department) Five". The service (Secret Service Bureau, SBB) was established in 1909 in order to deal with German espionage in the British Isles. In 1916 it became part of "Military Intelligence". Officially it has been known as the "Security Service" since 1931, although it is still widely referred to as MI5.

By the end of WWI, Military Intelligence had no fewer than 19 departments. MI1 for example was responsible for cracking secret codes. MI2 conducted espionage in Russia and Scandinavia, whereas MI3 spied for Britain in the remainder of Eastern Europe.

Nowadays the Security Service, MI5 is based in Thames House in London. The mission of the service is the defence of the United Kingdom, its inhabitants and national interests from all possible threats on its own territory and overseas. The 1989 "Security Service Act" placed MI5 under the authority of the Home Office.

MI6 is the "Secret Intelligence Service - SIS" and has offices at Vauxhall Cross in London.

When the SSB was established in 1909 the service was quickly divided into "Counterintelligence" (which subsequently become MI5) and the foreign service (subsequently MI6). WWI and particularly WWII meant that copious resources flowed into this service. The foreign secret service was only put on a legal footing with the adoption of The Intelligence Services Act of 1994.

The service is answerable to the Foreign Secretary. For security reasons the budget of these services is not published. However, the total budget for the various intelligences services and GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) in the annual budget comes to about £1,600 million.

The Books and the Films 

Ian Fleming drew on a variety of sources when writing his Bond novels, including the following:

- the experiences of Patrick Dalzel-Job (1913-2003), a Scot who was involved in various British Army and 30Au commando operations in Norway during WWII,

- Fleming's own experiences in Naval Intelligence [10],

- his brother Peter Fleming, who worked for the SOE (Special Operations Executive) [11] during the war,

-  he life of Dusko Popov (1912-1982). Originally from Yugoslavia Popov became a double agent working for both Germany's Abwehr and Britain's MI6. During a visit to the US on behalf of the Germans in 1941, he informed the FBI of the interest of the Axis powers in America's Pearl Harbor naval base on Hawaii, although the FBI did nothing with this information.

In the event Popov passed on much misleading information about the British war effort to the Germans and is regarded as one of the most successful double agents in history [12].

General Patton once called Popov "The papillon of the WWII spy game". Whereas Popov was primarily important to Britain's secret services, the Americans relied chiefly on Fritz Kolbe of the Aussenministerium . This German official was responsible for supplying the US with numerous German plans. The CIA's former boss William Casey (1981-87) called Kolbe "The greatest spy coup of World War II". The British secret services were less sanguine and thought him a "double agent" and that he "passed information of limited value" [13].

One of the people in MI6 responsible for checking Kolbe's information was Kim Philby, a real double agent who worked on behalf of the Soviet Union [14].


Ian Fleming is far from the only writer of novels in which secret agents play a central part.

American author James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) introduced the spy genre with his 1851 book The Spy . Even before that the French novelist Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) had highlighted the part played by spies in The Three Musketeers , in which the hero, d'Artagnan, helped by his companions, had to outwit the spies of Cardinal Richelieu. 

Apart from these largely fictional tales, more realistic stories came from the pens of authors such as Britain's Frederick Forsyth (1938-) whose novel The Odessa File (1972) was based on Wolfgang Lötz (1921-1995), a German who worked for the Cairo station of the Mossad, the Israeli secret service, in the years 1959 to 1964. Forsyth's first book The Day of the Jackal (1971) [15] is a fictionalized account of some of the attempts on the life of Charles de Gaulle.



A more up-to-date account of spying than Ian Fleming's comes from John Le Carré (1931-), who has written a number of spy novels [16] on the basis of his personal experiences in MI5 and as an MI6 officer from 1960 on. These books reveal a far less glamorous world than that portrayed by Fleming.

A study of the relatively limited literature devoted to information services and the history of same makes one realize that secret services have been in existence in one form or another for centuries.

The Art of War , the famous Chinese treatise on warfare written by Sun Tzu in the 6th century BC devotes an entire chapter to the importance and usefulness of intelligence. [17] The Romans also made intensive use of intelligence gathering partly for assessing and appraising domestic opposition but also for keeping conquered territory in check and assessing external threats. [18] Intelligence services were also organized in the Middle Ages [19], for example by the Vikings/Normans for appraising the likely resistance in the lands they planned to raid or conquer.


Films [20] in which espionage was an essential element were being made well before WWII. Alfred Hitchcock was one of the pioneers and made several spy thrillers in the nineteen-thirties. Examples include The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The 39 Steps (1935) and Sabotage (1936).

During WWII and in its aftermath, various US and British films were made about espionage in the period concerned.

One of the better films was The Third Man (UK - 1949) directed by Carol Reed. In this film an American writer (played by Joseph Cotten) comes to Vienna, which at the time was divided into four zones occupied by each of the allies, to find his old friend Harry Lime (played by Orson Welles).

According to some writers, the author Graham Greene based Harry Lime on Kim Philby. Harry Lime was being hunted by the British had similarly good contacts with the Soviets.

As the cold war intensified so did cinematic interest in the spy genre. Books such as John le Carré's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold , 1963, which examined the moral implications of espionage, and Frederick Forsyth's Fourth Protocol , 1984, a story of Soviet spying in the UK, were released as films in 1965 and 1987 respectively.

Spy stories involving secret agents also became a staple of TV series. Examples include The Avengers (1961-69) and The New Avengers (1976), Secret Agent (1964-66), The Saint (1962-69), with Roger Moore as the eponymous hero, the American series The Man  from U.N.C.L.E. starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum (1964-68) and Mission Impossible (1966-73). In the nineties Mission Impossible inspired three very successful feature films.

Ian Fleming's books [21]

After the end of the war Ian Fleming went back to his first love, writing [22]. On 10 November 1945 Fleming was relieved of his Naval Intelligence duties and initially went to work at the foreign desk of the Kemsley Newspapers group, which eventually led to him writing a column for the "Sunday Times".

He would spend his summers in England, but pass the winters at Goldeneye, his house in Jamaica. Here he would draw on his own experiences, and those of friends and acquaintances, to create a series of stories about a secret agent called "James Bond", an MI6 officer. Bond has an "00" number because he has a licence to kill, and as we have seen the name "James Bond", was borrowed from an ornithologist who wrote a book entitled Birds of the West Indies .

Fleming's first book was Casino Royale (1953). The story is based on Fleming's own wartime experiences in Lisbon in May 1941. He visited the Estoril Casino and lost a large amount of money on at the tables. It was here too that he became acquainted with several German spies and Dusko Popov. By mid-1954 Casino Royale was already in its third reprinting although virtually no sales were made outside the UK. Even so the American CBS network were interested in filming the story. Eventually it was broadcast as an episode of the "Climax Mystery Theatre" live television show. In this version Bond is a American secret agent, and was played by Barry Nelson. Nonetheless this live-to-air version did not create anything like the stir that came later.

The next Bond book to appear was Live and Let Die (1954). Once again the story is based on Fleming's personal experiences in the war.

In mid-1941 Fleming had travelled to New York to advise the Americans on establishing an intelligence service. This was the O.S.S. (Office for Strategic Services) the predecessor of the CIA. While in New York Fleming met Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, and William Stephenson, MI6's station chief in Washington. By setting the story largely in Jamaica, Fleming was able to draw on his local knowledge to provide an exotic background for the novel.

Ian Fleming's next novel was Moonraker , which came out in 1955. Moonraker involved more spying than its two forerunners, with Bond being required to use his brains as much as his fists when he plays Hugo Drax at bridge. Even so the novel was only a moderate success and was not followed by a breakthrough.

Moonraker was followed in 1956 by Diamonds are Forever (1956). Generally speaking the reception was cool and the book was regarded as being a weaker effort. Set mainly in the US gambling capital of Las Vegas, the story failed to appeal to English audiences.

The next year (1957) saw the appearance of the fifth Bond story, From Russia with Love . Fleming had acquired the necessary experience of conditions in Soviet Russia during his time in Moscow as a journalist reporting on Stalin's show trials.  The action takes place in Istanbul, which occupied a strategic position at that period of the Cold War. Indeed Fleming visited Istanbul in the fifties as a journalist reporting on an Interpol conference. This gave Fleming the chance to give Bond a place and a role in the long period of tensions between East and West.

Ian Fleming gradually became better known to the general public, not just because of his books but also because Sir Anthony Eden, who was PM in 1957, stayed at Goldeneye for a while prior to tendering his resignation as a consequence of the bungled response to the Suez Crisis.

In 1958, the Beaverbrook newspaper, The Daily Express, started a daily strip featuring the James Bond character.

In 1961 President Kennedy said that From Russia with Love was one of his favourite books. The presidential seal of approval undoubtedly helped create a US readership for the Bond stories.

Although Ian Fleming revelled in this success, he was somewhat tired of the Bond character. However, his faithful British readership were clamouring for the next story, and a trip to the Caribbean island of Inagua gave Fleming enough material to fashion another Bond story. This sixth novel was Dr. No (1958).

It was in Dr No that Bond exchanges his Beretta pistol for a Walther PPK, apparently because the Beretta was thought to be too much of a lady's weapon. Felix Leiter returns as a CIA officer but is given a much a bigger role.

This too mirrored Flemings wartime experiences. As a Royal Navy Intelligence officer Fleming had regular contacts with the O.S.S., in particulary with a certain Ernest Cuneo. Cuneo was the liaison between the US and British secrets services for a long period during the WWII. In the novels Fleming and Cuneo respectively become Bond and Felix Leiter.

Dr. No enjoyed considerable success and Fleming set about writing new stories. Goldfinger was written in just two months and was published as the seventh Bond story in 1959.

Fleming then embarked on an extremely lucrative period of writing, with a collection of stories entitled For your eyes only , which was published in 1960. The stories describe five top secret occurrences in 007's career namely, From a View to a Kill, For Your Eyes Only, Risico, Quantum of Solace and The Hildebrand Rarity . Following the success of From Russia with Love and Dr No , Fleming again tried to make a deal with film producers. In 1959 a projected 32 part series entitled Commander Bond for CBS came to nothing. Even so after For Your Eyes Only interest in filming the Bond novels revived. The first to show interest was the producer Kevin McClory and the script writer Jack Whittingham. Together with Fleming they started work on Longitude 78 West, with James Bond as the central character. However, the collaboration was less successful than hoped and Fleming, acting on the advice of his doctors, withdrew to the sunny climate of Jamaica.

It is here that he wrote Thunderball in 1961. However the publication of Thunderball resulted in a long drawn-out court case, because McClory and Whittingham considered that Fleming had used material that was originally developed for Longitude.

Despite the legal problems, Thunderball went on to break all records for Bond novel sales. In the end the copyright to Thunderball was awarded to Ian Fleming.

In 1961 the American producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman both separately went to talk with Fleming. Eventually the two producers joined forces under the name "EON Productions" to buy all the film rights to Fleming's existing James Bond books with the exception of Thunderball which was still the subject of legal dispute and Casino Royale , the rights to which were in the hands of Charles Feldman. At the time the rights to Moonraker were also the subject of dispute, but Broccoli and Saltzman managed to get hold of them later on. The agreement between Fleming and the two US producers was that all the movie rights to all the existing works, with the exception of the three mentioned above, would go to "EON productions". Furthermore the contract provided that the rights to all future James Bond books would also go to EON.

In 1962 the cinema version of Dr No turned out to be a dazzling success, although the tone of the film was rather different from that of the book. Fleming's books had not been troubled by an excess of humour, whereas the Bond films allowed for a considerable degree of ironic joking.

Fleming had a prolonged argument with Broccolli and Saltzman about who should play "007". Fleming wanted David Niven in the role and was not at all happy with the Sean Connery and his pronounced Scottish accent. Even so Fleming changed his mind when he saw his compatriot in the finished film and in his later books would go to the effort of giving Bond a Scottish background.

The tenth book in the Bond series, The Spy Who Loved Me came out in 1962. The shortest of the Bond novels, the book ran into publishing difficulties in several countries because of what were regarded as sexually explicit passages in the opening chapters.

It was agreed with EON Productions that should the story go to film only the title had to be retained.

Following the negative criticism of his tenth Bond, Fleming withdrew to Jamaica to concentrate on writing. The result was two widely praised works, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963) and You Only Live Twice (1964).Together with Thunderball , these books make up the Blofeld trilogy.

It was in On Her Majesty's Secret Service that Fleming introduced James Bond's family motto of Orbis non sufficit of which the English version is The world is not enough.

Back in 1943 Fleming had made a visit on behalf of Royal Naval Intelligence to a commando training camp in the Canadian town of Oshawa (Ontario). You Only Live Twice makes ample use of his memories of this trip.

Fleming's thirteenth book was written in 1964. This was The Man with the Golden Gun . Unfortunately he died before the proofreading stage and the story was published posthumously in 1965. A final collection was published in 1966 under the name Octopussy , and consisted of three stories:

- Octopussy : a short story from the early sixties,

- The Living Daylights : a story that had already been published in The Sunday Times in 1992 and

- The Property of a Lady , a story written at the request of the London auction house, Sotheby's.

What Happened Next

In the fifties Ian Fleming, acting on the advice of his accountant and for tax reasons, bought a production company to handle the rights to and revenues from his Bond books. The original name of this company was Glidrose Productions Limited, a name reflecting the founders of the original company, John Gliddon and Norman Rose. [23]

Starting in 1956 Peter Janson-Smith became the man at Glidrose responsible for keeping the Bond story going.

Obviously the problem became acute after Fleming died in 1964. Who would now become the spinner of Bond yarns? In 1972 Glidrose Productions approached Kingsley Amis (1922-1995) to see if he would be interested in writing new James Bond stories in the Fleming style. Amis, a close friend of Fleming's, seemed an obvious choice because in 1965 he had written two Bond-related books. However, the only spy thriller Amis produced was Colonel Sun , which was published in 1968.

Amis had in fact quickly realized that he had little taste for turning out stories in the style of Fleming and suggested that another author might be prepared to assume the Fleming mantle.

Glidrose Productions then chose John Gardner (1926-2007) to continue the Bond tradition. An Englishman with a naval background and author of several spy stories Gardner wrote fourteen James Bond novels as well as two novelizations. Unsurprisingly the best known of his books are those which were filmed, namely Licence to Kill (1989) and Goldeneye (2005).

Gardner's declining health meant that Glidrose Productions had to look for a successor. Their choice fell on an American called Raymond Benson (1955-). Starting in the mid-nineties Benson wrote 6 Bond novels as well as various novelizations and short stories. Between the publication of Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and The World is Not Enough (1999) Glidrose Productions Limited changed its name to Ian Fleming Publications (IFP). A new generation of the Fleming family had taken the helm and set about updating the company's image.

In 2008 to mark the centenary of Ian Fleming's birth, IFP published the Devil May Care by the respected British author Sebastian Faulks. [24].

The Silver Screen

There can be no doubt now - in 2009 - that Ian Fleming's James Bond books have been an immense commercial success [25]. Ian Fleming was able to witness the success of only the first two films in person, i.e. Dr. No in 1962 and From Russia With Love in 1963.

It was Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman working through their EON (Everything or Nothing) production company who were responsible for the success of the Bond films.

The two producers were responsible for Dr. No (1962) , From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965) [26], You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973) and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974). All these films were based on Bond titles that had been written by Ian Fleming.

Albert Broccoli then went solo to produce The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981) and Octopussy (1983) [27]. These productions were likewise all based on titles by Fleming.

In A View to a Kill (1985) Albert Broccoli shared the production with his stepson Michael Wilson and the same applies to The Living Daylights (1987). Both films still drew on Ian Fleming's Bond material.




With License to Kill (1989) Broccoli and Wilson started to draw on material from the John Gardner Bond books. Goldeneye (1995), produced by Albert Brocolli's daughter Barbara, was also based a John Gardner title.

There were several reasons for the prolonged interval between the films of a full 6 years. License to Kill had only a lukewarm reception, Timothy Dalton was thought to be an unconvincing Bond and more suited to the stage, various legal arguments, and the death of Richard Maribaum, the scriptwriter who had long been associated with the Bond movies.

The long drawn-out search for a new Bond eventually resulted in the choice of Pierce Brosnan, who rather ironically had been born in Ireland.

Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli then made three new films on the basis of the Raymond Benson Bond titles, namely Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Die Another Day (2002).

One of the striking aspects of the latter film is that the producers managed to attract various major media stars for cameo parts. For example John Cleese succeeds Desmond Llewelyn as the new Q and apart from singing the title track Madonna also has a walk-on part.

The two most recent films Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008) represent a new departure for the Bond franchise because they have little relationship to any of the novels written by Fleming or by his successors.


For the sake of completeness we should mention the two Bond films that fall outside the EON  Productions franchise. These were the 1967 Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again (1983) starring Sean Connery. 

Casino Royale was, in keeping with the spirit of the time, a parody of the Bond character and starred David Niven and Woody Allen. Never Say Never Again though was a serious endeavour backed by US money that starred Sean Connery in his final appearance in the role of Bond. Indeed after making Diamonds Are Forever (1971) Connery, fearing typecasting, had had enough of 007.

The Never Say Never Again saga effectively goes back to the disputed copyright to Thunderball and in  fact the film is updated remake of Thunderball.

Kevin McClory had produced Thunderball (see footnote 26) and had accepted this role on condition that the film rights would remain his for a period of ten years. In 1976 McClory announced his intention to produce another Bond film thinking that this agreement would hold, after all Brocolli had taken no serious action in respect of Casino Royale .

However, in 1976 Broccoli went to court. Legally speaking though the rights to Thunderball had not passed from Fleming to Broccoli, but nor had they gone to McClory. Broccoli's argument was that the rights referred to the film rather than to the book as well as the fact that Never Say Never A gain used the Bond character, which was effectively a property of EON Productions. The resulting legal battle lasted years and eventually stranded in the limited commercial success of this "American" Bond film.

Interestingly there were also arguments about whether Kevin McClory was entitled to sell his Thunderball rights to the producer Jack Schwartzman, Francis Ford Coppola's brother-in-law. One of the questions the courts were asked to settle was whether the McClory did indeed have the right to sell the rights.

James Bond Now

A hundred years after his birth Ian Fleming continues to be remembered for his novels. An exhibition in London's Imperial War Museum in 2008-2009 celebrated Fleming and his creation 007.

Few writers are so honoured in the UK . 2009 saw the screening of a Quantum of Solace , the 22nd EON film featuring Bond. Even the Post Office issued a commemorative stamp to celebrate Ian Fleming's centenary.

Fleming's James Bond novels have sold more than an a hundred million copies around the world. Taken together with the film and merchandising revenues, James Bond has earned many thousands of millions. [28]

In April 2008 the correspondence between Ian Fleming his typist Jean Frampton were auctioned in Dorchester for € 18,000, a vast sum considering that Frampton and Fleming never met and one that greatly exceeded the pre-auction estimates.

Academics too have jumped on the Bondwagon. For example James Chapman [29] has studied the sociological impact of the films on society, and espionage films have been considered in respected scientific publications about "Intelligence" [30].

Historians too have also studied British history in the light of the James Bond phenomenon. [31] Furthermore the actors who play the 007 role have fully realized the impact of their screen performance on their acting careers. [32]

Academics and scientists regularly publish about new trends and limitations regarding intelligence gathering. [33]  Here too the producers of new Bond films will be able to find inspiration.

But as the proverb says, "He who laughs last, laughs loudest!" And it's definitely Ian Fleming who has the last laugh.

Ian Fleming's grave in Sevenhampton in Wiltshire bears the following inscription, Omnia perfunctus vitae praemia marces which translated into English reads Having enjoyed all life's prizes, now you decay .

  • [1] See in this connection the following books:
    - John Cornwell, Hitler's Scientists, Science, War and the Devil's Pact , London, 2003.
    - Rainer Karlsch, Hitlers bom , Lannoo, 2005.
  • [2] Tom Bower, Nazi Gold , Harper Collins, 1997.
  • [3] Jean Ziegler, Hitlers bankiers , Meulenhoff, 1997, p. 173.
  • [4] Christopher Creighton, Operation JB , Simon & Schuster, 1996.
  • [5] Raymond Rombout, James Bond All in , Borgerhoff-Lamberigts, 2008, p. 10.
  • [6] R.G. Grant, Britain's Security and Secret Intelligence Services , Bison Books, 1989, p. 58.
  • [7] Norman Palmer and Thomas Allen, Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage (2nd edition), Random House, 2004, p. 238-239.
  • [8] Nigel West, At Her Majesty's Secret Service , Greenhill Books, 2006, p. 17.
  • [9] United Kingdom: National Intelligence Service Handbook , International Business Publications, Washington D.C., 2007.
  • [10] Norman Pillar and Thomas Allen, o.c., p. 238.
  • [11] Ibid, p. 595 and subs. The SOE existed between 1940 and 1946. Its mission was to carry out sabotage operations in German-occupied territory in Europe.
  • [12] Dusko Popov, Spion contra spion , Amsterdam boek, 1975.
  • [13] Lucas Delattre, Betraying Hitler: the Story of Fritz Kolbe, The Most Important Spy of the Second World War , Atlantic books, 2006.
  • [14] Kim Philby (1912-1988) was for years the leader of the Soviet-guided "Cambridge Five" spy ring, even though he worked at the heart of the British intelligence community. Philby defected to Moscow in early 1963.
  • [15] The Odessa File was filmed in 1974 by Ronald Neame with Jon Voight in the starring role. The film of the Day of the Jackal, directed by Fred Zinneman, was released in 1973. 1997 saw the release of a remake directed by Michael Caton-Jones and starring Bruce Willis.
  • [16] Including The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963) and Absolute Friends (2003).
  • [17] Michael Warner, The Divine Skein: Sun Tzu on Intelligence , in Intelligence and National Security  (Routledge Editions), vol. 21, August 2006, no. 4, pp. 483-492.
  • [18] Rose Marie Scheddon, Intelligence Activities in Ancient Rome , Frank Cass, 2005.
  • [19] Jean Deuve and E. Denécé, Les services secrets au Moyen-Age , in Les archives des temps médiévaux, April 2007, Centre Français de Recherche de Renseignement.
  • [20] Norman Pillar and Thomas Allen, o.c., p. 434 and subs. Loch K. Johnson, Spies in the American movies: Hollywood's Take on Lèse Majesté , in Intelligence and National Security, vol. 23, February 2008, no. 1, p. 5 and subs.
  • [21] A great deal has been written about Fleming's and the later Bond films, including the following:
    - Lee Pfeiffer and Dave Worrall, The Essential Bond , MacMillan, 1998;
    - Lee Pfeiffer and Philip Lisa, The Incredible World of 007 , Boxtree Ltd., 1995;
    - Steven Jay Rubin, The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia , Contemporary Books Inc., 1990;
    - Raymond Rombout, De James Bond saga , Van Halewyck, 2006;
    - Simon Winder, The Man Who Saved Britain , Picador, 2006;
    - John Griswold, Ian Fleming's James Bond: Annotations and Chronologies for the Bond Stories , Picador, 2006;
    - James Chapman, Licence to Thrill , Tauris Publishers, 1999;
    - John Cork and Collin Statz, James Bond Encyclopedia , Dorling Kindersley, 2007.
  • [22] A collected Dutch edition of Ian Fleming's books was published in paperback by Zwarte Beertjes uitgeverij in 1984.
  • [23] Raymond Rombout, James Bond All in , Borgerhoff Lamberigts, 2008, p. 127.
  • [24] Sebastian Faulks, Devil May Care , Doubleday, 2008.
  • [25] The ornithologist called James Bond, who lent his name to 007, died in 1987.
  • [26] Saltzman and Broccoli were the Executive Producers of Thunderball , whereas Kevin McClory was the producer for EON Productions.
  • [27] A scene from Fleming's short story The Property of a Lady is included in Octopussy .
  • [28] The James Bond Journal, nr. 6, 2008, nr. 4.
  • [29] James Chapman, Licence to Thrill , I.B. Tauris Publishers, 2007.
  • [30] E.g. the themed issue Spying in Film and Fiction  , in : Intelligence and National Security, no. 1, February 2008, vol. 23 (ed. Stan Taylor).
  • [31] Simon Winder, The Man Who Saved Britain , Picador, 2006.
  • [32] Roger Moore, My World is My Bond , Michael O'Mara books, 2008.
  • [33] Michael Andregg , Symposium on Intelligence Ethics , in : Intelligence and National Security, nr.  3, June 2009, vol. 24, p. 366 and subs; David Muller, Improving Futures Intelligence , in the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, no. 3, Fall 2009, vol. 22, p. 382 and subs.

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