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In Memoriam of Peter Janson-Smith – Prince among Agents

By: Ajay Chowdhury
Peter Janson-Smith
On 24th September 2016, at a private ceremony, the life and work of Peter Janson-Smith, Ian Fleming’s literary agent and steward for over three decades of 007’s literary heritage, was commemorated at the headquarters of BAFTA in London’s Piccadilly. Janson-Smith passed away in April aged 93. The man whom Ian Fleming described as a “prince among agents” was the quiet force behind a range of extraordinary literary properties and some key speakers from those disparate worlds spoke eloquently in what became a moving evening. They included biographer Richard Holmes, Agatha Christie’s grandson, Mathew Prichard, Ian Fleming’s niece, Kate Grimond and Bond author Raymond Benson and Peter’s daughter, Deidre. Peter’s partner, Lili Pohlmann (widow of actor Eric) was there with her daughter, Karen as well as Peter’s son Patrick and other members of the Janson-Smith clan.

In the mid-Fifties, Janson-Smith was recommended to Fleming by author Eric Ambler and almost immediately managed to sell the foreign rights to the Bond novels to Dutch publisher Bruna. Janson-Smith became known as Professor Nitpick for his attention to detail in the Bond manuscripts.

The recent biography of the Bond films, Some Kind Of Hero, charts how the ambitious Fleming sought to get his Bond books filmed, vesting the literary copyright in a company named Glidrose Productions Ltd whilst the film rights went into a range of family trusts. Just prior to his death, Fleming sold a controlling share in Glidrose to Jock Campbell, chairman of large agricultural concern, Booker Brothers. After Fleming’s death in 1964, with the huge success of the Bond movies, sales of the 007 books skyrocketed. It was partially to deal with the windfall of this success that the conglomerate inaugurated a literary prize in 1968 which still bears their name: the Booker prize.

Peter Janson-Smith was involved with completing the manuscript of the unfinished Bond book, The Man With The Golden Gun, published posthumously in 1965 as well as the release of a collection of short stories in an anthology in 1966. He also policed the copyright of the powerful Bond literary brand and in numerous interesting ways. The first non-Fleming Glidrose story was Bond Strikes Camp, a parody by Cyril Connolly, a pal of Bond's creator - Glidrose ended up buying the story. The first commissioned post-Fleming Glidrose work was The Adventures of James Bond Junior 003½ by R. D. Mascott, the pen-name of Arthur Calder-Marshall was released in 1967. During this time, Glidrose also dealt with South African journalist Geoffrey Jenkins involving a Bond novel entitled Per Fine Ounce based on informal dealings with Ian Fleming who had been a journalistic acquaintance. The novel never saw the light of day but did ultimately lead to the first Continuation book, Colonel Sun in 1968, an entirely original tale written by Kingsley Amis under the pen-name, Robert Markham. Amis, a Bond fan, had written a witty literary assessment of the 007 oeuvre, The James Bond Dossier (1965), as well as writing under the pseudonym, Lt-Col. William 'Bill' Tanner, The Book of Bond or Every Man His Own 007 both published in 1965. Amis had provided informal advice on the publication of The Man With The Golden Gun. In 1973, James Bond: The Authorised Biography, a clever tongue-in-cheek conceit concocted by Fleming biographer and colleague, John Pearson was published. The oft-overlooked Continuation book threads fact and fiction through the Fleming and Amis worlds.

Throughout, Janson-Smith sat on the board of Glidrose with Fleming family members including Fleming’s older brother, Peter, and later, his son, Nichol, also a novelist and then Peter’s daughters, Kate Grimond and Lucy Williams. Numerous original Bond stories were published in comic strip form in the UK with additional original stories by Sweden’s Semic Press AB. In 1975, special permission had to be sought from the Fleming estate to use the title only of The Spy Who Loved Me, the experimental 1962 Bond book. Subsequently, Janson-Smith oversaw the publication of the two very Fleming-esque novelizations of James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and the following James Bond and Moonraker (1979), both by Christopher Wood, a screenwriter on those particular movies, who sadly passed away in 2015. Janson-Smith was involved in the sale of Harry Saltzman’s share of the Swiss company, Danjaq S.A., in which the Bond film copyrights vested and he was also a key witness in the ongoing Kevin McClory dispute.

In 1981, the first of John Gardner’s original Continuation Bond novels was published. Licence Renewed, which updated the Bond mythos to contemporary times was the first of 14 original Bond novels: For Special Services (1982), Icebreaker (1983), Role Of Honour (1984), Nobody Lives Forever (US Forever – 1986), No Deals Mr Bond (1987), Scorpius (1988), Win Lose or Die (1989), Brokenclaw (1990), The Man From Barbarossa (1991), Death Is Forever (1992), Never Send Flowers (1993), Seafire (1994) and finally, Cold (US Cold Fall –1996). Gardner also wrote two film novelizations, Licence To Kill (1989) and GoldenEye (1995). Gardner successfully kept the Bond literary light shining with inventive, entertaining tales.

Glidrose also kept Bond current and after the graphic novel boom of the mid-Eighties, saw an opportunity to join that world with original 007 adventures. During this time a number of comic book adventures were published including Permission To Die (1989) by Mike Grell, Serpent's Tooth (1992-1993) by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy, A Silent Armageddon (1993) by Simon Jowett and John M. Burns, Light of My Death (1993) by Das Petrou and John Watkiss, Shattered Helix (1994) by Simon Jowett, David Jackson and David Lloyd, Minute of Midnight (1994) by Doug Moench and Russ Heath and The Quasimodo Gambit (1995) by Don McGregor and Gary Caldwell. Grell also wrote and inked a graphic novel of the film Licence To Kill in 1989 and in 1995 GoldenEye was partially serialised in comic form by Don McGregor with artwork by Jean-Claude St. Aubin and Rick Magyar.

In 1996, Janson-Smith attended the unveiling of an English heritage Blue Plaque outside Fleming’s home in Ebury Street, London. A year later, he was pleased to guide to publication, Zero Minus Ten (1997) by American author, Raymond Benson. Rather like Kingsly Amis before him, Benson had proved his spurs having written The James Bond Bedside Companion (1984, 1988), the first comprehensive literary and film analysis of the Bond world. Benson would go on to write a series of well-plotted and smart original Bond adventures: Blast From The Past (short story – 1997), The Facts Of Death (1998), Live At Five and Midsummer Night's Doom (both short stories – 1999), High Time To Kill (1999), Doubleshot (2000), Never Dream Of Dying (2001) and The Man With The Red Tattoo (2002). In addition to which, Benson went on to write the novelizations of Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Die Another Day (2002).

Peter Janson-Smith and Raymond Benson
Entertainment from Transamerica: Peter Janson-Smith with Raymond Benson at Harrington’s Books in London, April 2008

Peter Janson-Smith retired from Bond in 2002 shortly after the Fleming family re-acquired Glidrose and renamed the company Ian Fleming Publications Limited. Fergus Fleming, the son of Ian’s younger brother Richard, currently sits on the board and together with Janson-Smith’s protégé, Corinne Turner, have managed the Bond literary brand to spectacular success over recent years. In keeping with Bond tradition, there are a new series of graphic novels including Vargr (2016) by Warren Ellis and Jason Masters. There have been the wonderfully authentic young Bond adventures by Charlie Higson and Steve Cole, and the John Pearson-esque Moneypenny spin-off tales by Kate Westbrook, the pseudonym of Samantha Weinberg. In 2008 Ian Fleming’s centenary was celebrated in style with a detailed and delightful exhibit at the Imperial War Museum and the year saw the resumption of original Continuation Bond novels by a series of heavy-weight authors. Devil May Care (2008) by Sebastian Faulks was followed by Carte Blanche (2011) by Jeffery Deaver and Solo (2013) by William Boyd. In 2015, Anthony Horowitz incorporated the unused Fleming story, Murder On Wheels, in the masterful and astute Trigger Mortis and thankfully has agreed to pen a second Bond novel.

Peter Janson-Smith and Charlie Higson
Passing The Bond Baton: Peter Janson-Smith (left) with Young Bond originator, Charlie Higson at Cine Lumiere in London, November 2005

Of course, the Fleming works have been kept alive throughout. The Bond novels have been reprinted with the latest being beautiful editions of Casino Royale and From Russia With Love by the Folio Society. Fleming's beloved children's book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has been revived and accompanied by continuation novels int the series. Fleming's non-fiction works, The Diamond Smugglers and Thrilling Cities are also kept in print. There have been a series high quality BBC radio plays of the Bond books and star names reading the audio books. Most recently, Trigger Mortis was read by David Olewoyo: the actor will play Othello in New York in Christmas 2015 opposite Daniel Craig as Iago. Perhaps he got some tips!

Also in attendance that evening was Ian Fleming’s stepdaughter, Fionn Morgan, biographer Andrew Lycett, John Gardner’s children, Simon and Alexis, producer Barbara Broccoli, Fergus Fleming, IFPL managing director, Corinne Turner, ex-Glidrose and Eon executive John Parkinson, family friend and Bond vehicle curator Doug Redenius, Bond bibliographer Jon Gilbert, author Paul Kenny, From Sweden With Love’s Anders Frejdh, Bond historian author John Cork and the board of The Ian Fleming Foundation, the US-based charity set up to preserve the works of Bond and Fleming, of which Peter was the Chairman.

Peter Janson-Smith's hand on the tiller throughout the decades made him the Cubby Broccoli of the Book Bond: a strong yet underrated force shaping Bond’s world. Whilst the Bond films are at their most critically and commercially successful for an eon, so too is Bond’s fine literary heritage. For the many fans who have yet to read a Bond adventure, now might be the time to start. In doing so, you will appreciate the unseen skill of the late Peter Janson-Smith, “prince among agents.”

Written by Ajay Chowdhury. Copyright © 2016 From Sweden with Love



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