Tuesday, May 28, 2024


    It's the birthday of Ian Fleming, born May 28, 1908. His younger days saw him flourish in journalism and then in naval intelligence during World War II, where he worked on schemes to mislead the Nazis. By 1952, he was semi-retired and bored. Living by the ocean in Jamaica, he decided to write a novel. He based his story on some of the spies and rogues he had met during his wartime activities, and created one of the most famous spies in literary history...James Bond. He would go on to sell over 100 million Bond books.

    His first novel, Casino Royale, gave little hint at the tremendous success that awaited him. After two months at his typewriter, he had a finished draft. But when he re-read it, he thought it was a ghastly effort filled with clich├ęs and could only have been penned by an adolescent mind. He eventually found a publisher despite its flaws. Sales, however, were mediocre. In the United States it sold only 4,000 copies. Nevertheless he kept writing, and by 1961 had published six more Bond novels and a collection of short stories. Sales were good, but not great.

    All that changed in 1961, when LIFE magazine published an article about the new American President, John F. Kennedy. In the article, Kennedy mentioned that one of his favorite books was Fleming's fifth novel, From Russia, With Love. After that sales rocketed. All of his previous works, some of which had gone out of print, were re-issued. The first Bond movie was released in 1962. Dr. No starred Sean Connery as James Bond.

    Fleming continued to write and publish one Bond novel a year until his death in 1964. He was only 56 years old, but years of heavy drinking and a four pack a day cigarette habit resulted in a fatal heart attack, 

    Two more Bond novels were published posthumously, and since Fleming's death, his estate has authorized additional Bond novels, fourteen written by John Gardner and six by Raymond Benson. Others have been penned by Kingsley Amis, Anthony Horowitz and Jeffery Deaver. There have also been 27 Bond films released with the latest, No Time To Die, coming in 2021.

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