Website last updated: 12-7-2024

Review of Ian Fleming’s Inspiration: The Truth Behind the Books

By: Richard Skillman
Ian Fleming’s Inspiration The Truth Behind Books
Ian Fleming has been well documented in many biographies, memories and television bioplays and this addition to the canon should be well received by those interested in this iconic man who created James Bond.

Edward Abel Smith’s incredibly well annotated biography with many nods to those biographers that came before; notably John Pearson (who passed away as I wrote this review) and Andrew Lycett, weaves a narrative based on the two chapters of Ian Fleming’s life- one on War and the other, Peace. It is a life of intrigue and access to the most secure of governments while living a hedonistic life of infidelity scarred throughout with tragedy.

The approach in Ian Fleming’s Inspiration naturally looks at Fleming’s contributions to the defense of England during WWII and how those operations and strategies impacted the future James Bond novels and short stories.

It is in the War chapters that I found the life of Ian Fleming incredibly complex and compelling. One may argue that Smith gives more credit than is due to Fleming’s input to many of the operations and intelligence gathering during the War but the detail and the close to failure tension felt in Britain is evident throughout in his storytelling and Fleming is in the thick of it.

Entering the post war life of Ian Fleming, we find him seeking a life that would suit his eclectic tastes. Coming to Jamaica, Fleming is greeted warmly by the rich British families with estates across the island and he quickly falls in love with the idyllic nature found there. In a surprising move, Fleming shakes off a grand mansion that would be appropriate for his stature but instead enlists an old friend, Ivar Bryce to locate property and build a very plain and simple homestead which he names Goldeneye after one of his many missions during WWII. He engages his good friend playwright, Noel Coward to join him in establishing a social life among the expats and enjoys a simple day of writing, swimming, and fishing. Unfortunately, his wife Ann is not content with a life there and it is during this unhappiness that Fleming develops a relationship with divorcee Blanche Blackwell, whose family will go on to great fame and future aligned with all things Bond.

Fleming dies at the early age of 56 from illnesses that reflect the “Bond Lifestyle” he surely led and tragically, his wife and son perish not long after his passing. The legacy though has endured in print and film and Smith’s book makes for a good read and breathes new life into the subject by applying all that Fleming experienced - the war, the society, the incredible attention to detail of all things which defines a culture - and deftly embeds these experiences into the stories of James Bond.

Review by Richard Skillman. Copyright © 2021 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.

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