Fleming liked the sound of this and asked if he could use it for a book he was writing.
“I agreed that he could,” said Forster, “especially as 007 had no traceable value, but sounded impressive and secretive. I also asked how he invented names of this characters.”
“That’s easy,” said Fleming. “I take the first couple of names from my house at school and swap their Christian names.”
“In my case, they were James Aitken and Harry Bond,” said Forster. “So you would have Harry Aitken and James Bond. Fleming’s face lit up. James Bond 007 was born.”
During a stroll in Hyde Park in 1945, Fleming’s long-term lover Ann O’Neill told him that she was going to marry Lord Rothermere. Ian was unperturbed. He would live just around the corner from their London house in a new flat in Montagu Square. There were other women, of course, but the affair continued while Ian maintained Lord Rothermere as a friend.
After the war, Lord Kemsley offered Fleming a generous salary to be the foreign manager of his newspaper group. He would have been made foreign editor, but did not want the responsibility of writing the occasional think piece. Kemsley allowed him two months’ holiday a year to work on his putative novel. By the end of 1945, Fleming was on his way to Jamaica to start building his new house. It would be called Goldeneye after the wartime operation. The site Ivar Bryce found for him was on the north coast just outside the town of Oracabessa – “Golden Head” in Spanish. There he would swim among the brightly coloured fishes and spear a lobster for his dinner.
The newly knighted Sir William Stephenson also moved to the island. At the time, he and William Donovan, along with other former spooks, were running a front company that bartered goods in developing countries. Stephenson also introduced Fleming to Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of the Daily Express, and to another resident. Ian was also friendly with Thomas and Marion Leiter, who lent their surname to James Bond’s CIA sidekick.
Ian continued his womanizing ways and Marion Leiter chastised him for his treatment of her friend Millicent Rogers.
“Mr Fleming,” she said. “I consider you a cad.”
“You’re quite right,” he replied. “Shall we have a drink on it?”
Travelling back to England on the Queen Mary the following spring, Fleming was introduced to Winston Churchill, who made it plain that he would rather have been meeting Peter than Ian.
Many found Fleming's love of gadgetry faintly ludicrous. Back in his office at the Sunday Times, he had a large map of the world installed with flashing lights indicating the presence of Kemsley’s eighty or so correspondents. Many of the correspondents he took on were spies, or former spies. Reports sent back were often not for publication and were passed on to the intelligence services. Fleming even ran one Far East correspondent, a hard-drinking Australian, as a double agent for the SIS, after the KGB had approached him. Otherwise, reporters were told to inject more “brightness and champagne” into their stories to cheer up a Britain that was now undergoing a period of austerity after the war.
When Ann took off to New York on the Queen Elizabeth with her new husband, Ian grew jealous. Learning that Rothermere was travelling on to Canada, Ian flew over to New York and spent four nights in the Plaza Hotel with her. During the trip, he suffered pains in the chest. He consulted a doctor and was told to cut down on his smoking and drinking: at the time, he was getting through seventy cigarettes and a bottle of gin a day. On another occasion he was seen to be bruised and hinted at a sadomasochistic element to the relationship. In her letters, Ann admitted to enjoying being whipped by him.
On Jamaica, Goldeneye began to take shape. A concrete construction, it was initially compared to a district commissioner’s residence. Noël Coward, later a neighbour, once referred to it as the “Golden eye, nose and throat clinic”. Fleming took on staff, including a housekeeper who would stay on at Goldeneye for the next seventeen years. When friends visited, they swam naked in the warm sea. Ian was full of stories of diving on the reef there. Evenings were spent partying with other denizens of the upmarket resort the north shore of Jamaica had become, where everyone seemed to know about his relationship with Lady Rothermere. He wrote a piece about north-shore society for Horizon magazine whose editor Cyril Connolly became a friend.
In London, when the Rothermeres moved house, Ian moved too to be near Ann, at the same time taking on a succession of pretty au pairs. He would spend his evenings at Boodle’s or dining innocently with the Rothermeres. However, whenever Esmond was away at the office, Ian found himself in Ann’s bedroom. Meanwhile he maintained a string of other female acquaintances, continuing the search for his perfect woman who, he said, was “thirtyish, Jewish, a companion who would not need an education … would aim to please, have firm flesh and kind eyes”. But Ian and Ann still spent what time they could together and Ann even found an excuse to visit him in Jamaica. She was an amateur naturalist and Ian bought a Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies to amuse her. It was written by an obscure American academic named James Bond.
After Ann left, Ian went shark hunting, dragging the carcasses of a cow and a donkey out to sea as bait. It was, he said, the most thrilling thing he had done in his life and was, perhaps, the inspiration for the climax of the novel Live and Let Die. At different times the writers Rosamond Lehmann and Elsa Maxwell came to stay. Noël Coward rented Goldeneye when Ian was away and wrote a song about his stay. In London, Fleming mixed with literary luminaries such as Osbert and Edith Sitwell, T.S. Eliot, the biographer Peter Quennell, the academic Maurice Bowra and South African novelist, poet and librettist William Plomer who later edited some of Fleming’s novels.
In 1948, Ann fell pregnant with Ian’s child. She miscarried but, with her husband around, Ian could not be on hand to console her. However, his thoughtful letters convinced Ann that she loved him. In reply, she urged him to write the book he was always talking about. At the time, he had dreamed up a crime story where the murder weapon was a frozen leg of lamb which was disposed of by being cooked and eaten. Roald Dahl, who knew Fleming from the war, used this plot for his 1952 story “Lamb to the Slaughter”.
In the wake of the miscarriage, there was no hiding Ian’s relationship with Ann. Rothermere contacted Lord Kemsley, who duly upbraided his foreign manager on his ungentlemanly behaviour. Nevertheless, the affair continued and Fleming and the Rothermeres went on mixing in the same social circles, though tensions ran high.
When Ian next visited Jamaica, Ann went with him, though to keep appearances she said she was staying with Noël Coward at his new house, Blue Harbour. They began to talk about marriage. When they returned to England, Ann received an ultimatum from Rothermere – she must stop seeing Ian or he would divorce her. She ignored this and, in the summer of 1949, they rented a cottage near Royal St George’s golf club in Kent from thriller writer Eric Ambler. Here Ann surrounded them with her literary friends. However, while Ann remained a socialite, Ian preferred his own company.
Fleming began to show signs of ill health, perhaps brought on by the stress of living with Ann and in her milieu. Doctors again advised he cut down on his drinking. That Christmas he went alone to Jamaica where he began a study of the sea life. Ann threw herself into the social whirl on the Continent, writing that she missed Ian and whipping him.
At the Sunday Times he did not go to the pub with his colleagues, but rather lunched at his club with friends. With Britain now coming off rationing, he introduced the food columnist of an American magazine to the readers of the Daily Graphic. He got his friend Stephen Potter’s book Gamesmanship reviewed by the Sunday Times, but rejected Fitzroy Maclean’s book Eastern Approaches for serialization. Fleming also became a director of Dropmore Press, a Kemsley subsidiary, and worked as a commissioning editor. One of the company’s titles was Book Handbook, aimed at fellow bibliophiles.
The devaluation of the pound in 1949 hit Fleming’s foreign news operation. It was also noted that his idea of foreign news came from lifestyle magazines such as Life and Paris Match, rather than The New York Times or Le Monde. Nevertheless, at the height of the Cold War, he strove to obtain a visa for a permanent correspondent in Moscow for the Sunday Times, the only newspaper in the Commonwealth to get one, then sent wine writer and connoisseur Cyril Ray. He also started a magazine on typography and design, set a literary competition for the Spectator and wrote a speech for Princess – soon to be Queen – Elizabeth to give to the American press. It was not used. Meanwhile he kept up his contacts with SIS.
Searching for a larger place where he could live with Ann, Ian took a flat in the block in Chelsea where T.S. Eliot lived. Every July he did two weeks' naval training, allowing him to retain his rank a commander in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Afterwards, in the summer of 1950, he went to stay with Ivar Bryce for the first time in the Green Mountains of Vermont where, later, For Your Eyes Only and The Spy Who Loved Me would be set. He was to return to Vermont nearly every summer.
Meanwhile, others in his family decamped to the Caribbean. Peter spent time in Barbados, while his mother moved to the Bahamas. The following spring Rosamond Lehmann arrived at Goldeneye. Having just finished a nine-year affair with Cecil Day Lewis, she was intent on bedding Ian. He had the same thing in mind, but Ann was there and he had to palm Rosamond off on Noël Coward, which must have been frustrating for both of them.
By the summer of 1951, while talk was of the defection of the Cambridge spies, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, the Rothermeres agreed to a divorce. Ann was pregnant again and she and Ian decided to marry. Friends and family were aghast, believing Ian not to be the marrying type and that Ann had become pregnant to ensnare him.
They retired to Jamaica where they intended to marry and Ian, finally, began to write the thriller he had been talking about for so long. For three hours in the morning, he pounded his twenty-year-old Imperial portable typewriter. Then, around five, after an afternoon nap, he read through what he had written. It was a routine he would follow the next twelve years, whenever he was at Goldeneye.
Chapter 2 – The Creation of James Bond
Fleming’s biographer John Pearson says that James Bond was born on 15 January 1952. However, Ann later said that Ian did not start writing the first Bond book, Casino Royale, until after dining with Noël Coward, who only arrived in Jamaica on 16 February. The book was finished on 18 March. This would mean that he finished the 62,000-word novel in just four weeks, at the astonishing speed of over two thousand words a day.
Fleming maintained that he wrote Casino Royale to take his mind off his forthcoming marriage, which annoyed Ann, particularly as the final words of the novel are: “The bitch is dead now.” However, another motive may have been sibling rivalry. That year, Peter Fleming published The Sixth Column, a novel about the secret service with a Bond-style hero named Colonel Hackforth. The book was dedicated to Ian, but that must have rankled. After all, Ian had long been talking about writing a thriller and must have considered this his territory. With a child on the way, he also needed money; and he had to support a new wife who had previously been married to a wealthy press baron. He also needed some way to divert his energies. As Ann had already lost one child, she was not about to risk losing another by having sex. Still, she was on hand to give him the support he needed to get down to work. Ian and Ann married just six days after Casino Royale was finished. They celebrated at Noël Coward’s house with dry martinis. Then they honeymooned in Nassau and New York.
Back in London, Fleming had to get used to living, not only with Ann, but with her two children from her first marriage, now teenagers, plus a parrot called Jackie. Yet although he was worried about how he was going to support this menagerie, along with an extravagant wife, he bought himself a wedding present – and a reward for finishing the novel: a gold-plated Royal typewriter which he had shipped over from New York. He joked that, in future, he would write on vellum provided by his “personal goatherds in Morocco”, studded with diamonds from Cartier. For ink, he would use his own blood. Clearly, he believed Casino Royale marked him out as a “writer of distinction”. However, it was not until 12 May that he mentioned that he had written a book to his friend William Plomer, a literary adviser at Jonathan Cape, and promised to send him the manuscript. Two months later, Plomer had to remind him. Only then did he actually send it. Ian was still protesting that he was intending to make revisions on his return to Jamaica the following spring, when Plomer sent it to a fellow reader at Cape, who also like it. Jonathan Cape himself rejected it and was only persuaded to publish when Peter Fleming put in a good word for his brother.
At this time Kemsley made Fleming a director of a new imprint, Queen Anne Press, and relaunched the Book Handbook as the quarterly Book Collector. Now a publisher, Fleming gained a new cachet among Ann’s literary friends as he published offerings from Evelyn Waugh and Cyril Connolly.
On 12 August 1952, Ann gave birth to their son, Caspar, by Caesarean section after a painful labour. Ian was seen to weep openly. While Ann was in hospital, Fleming started the final revision of Casino Royale on his gold typewriter, though afterwards reverted to his Imperial portable. He also wrote a piece about Jamaica for the Spectator, but an article he wrote on road safety was rejected by the Sunday Times. Later, through the good offices of Lord Kemsley, it was published in the Daily Graphic under the pen name Frank Gray.
With no agent, Fleming negotiated his own deal with Cape, assigning the rights to a small company, Glidrose Productions, he and Ann had just taken over; but he retained the movie and serial rights himself. Friends helped him find a publisher in the US and author Paul Gallico put Fleming in touch with his agent in Hollywood.
Ian was repelled by the scar left by Ann’s Caesarean and sex ceased. He also avoided her friends. Even so, they moved into a larger home. The following January, they flew to the US to research Live and Let Die in New York, travelling by train from Penn Station to Florida as in the book. In St Petersburg, he checked out the waterfront for a suitable site for Ourobouros Worm and Bait Shippers, Inc. Then they flew on to Jamaica, where Cabarita Island, near Oracabessa, became Mr Big’s hideaway Isle of Surprise. That had indeed been where the seventeenth-century pirate Henry Morgan had careened his ships, as it says in the book. The sections on voodoo were gleaned from Ann’s friend Paddy Leigh Fermor’s book The Traveller’s Tree, which was written, in part, at Goldeneye. Fleming also witnessed the local version of a voodoo funeral in Jamaica.
Guests that winter included Graham Greene, novelist Angus Wilson, painter Lucian Freud and actress Katharine Hepburn. Meanwhile, news came from the nanny in London of Caspar’s first tooth.
Back in London, at a party given by publisher Hamish Hamilton, Fleming met the pioneer of the aqualung Jacques Cousteau who invited him to a dive in the Mediterranean, so he was away from England when Casino Royale was published on 13 April 1953. Ann stayed in Antibes with Somerset Maugham, who praised the book. For the rest of his life, Fleming kept a copy of the Times Literary Supplement containing a glowing review by Alan Ross, a literary friend of Ann’s.
He could depend on reviews in the papers owned by Kemsley and Beaverbrook, though he received cool notices from Rothermere’s publications. He was also helped by W.H. Smith, the leading chain of booksellers, which was owned by family friends. Fleming had designed his own book jacket and flyers, and constantly pushed Cape over publicity. This paid off and the first print run of 4,750 sold out. James Bond was on his way to becoming an international sensation, and soon Hollywood movie companies were showing an interest.
Fleming used the success of the second and third print runs to renegotiate his contract, upping the royalty. Then he went to New York to sign a deal with Macmillan, where the publisher's editor bowdlerized the book. Fleming did not care. He was more concerned with promotion. On the Queen Elizabeth, he corrected the proofs of Live and Let Die. These were circulated to film companies and attracted praise. His next book, he said, would be written specifically with a movie in mind. That winter, he sat down to write Moonraker.
Meanwhile, he took up treasure hunting, caving and gambling in casinos – all, ostensibly, to provide copy for Kemsley newspapers. He later took over the Atticus column in the Sunday Times and used it to attack Senator Joe McCarthy’s Reds-under-the-bed scare. It was James Bond, not McCarthy, who was the ultimate Cold Warrior. Otherwise, Fleming used the column to puff his friends.
Fleming consulted old intelligence colleagues for information about the Nazi Werewolves who were supposed to fight on after the war and V2-style rockets, both of which make an appearance in Moonraker. He also consulted a Harley Street psychiatrist about the character traits of megalomaniacs before creating the book’s villain Hugo Drax.
As Fleming wrote Moonraker he began to think more deeply about James Bond, realizing already that he was doomed to continue writing a series of fantastic adventures concerning the same character. It did not matter how fantastic the stories were, he concluded, as long as the author believed in the fantasy.
Casino Royale was given a cool reception in the US and Moonraker failed to attract a movie offer. Nevertheless, Live and Let Die got good reviews in the UK, where Fleming had the press, apart from the Rothermere group, in the palm of his hand. And the book was banned in Ireland, which helped generate publicity.
Fleming’s life fell into a pattern. He spent the first three months of the year in Jamaica writing a manuscript, then return to London to prepare for publication the book he had written the year before. Meanwhile, the book he had written the year before that came out in the US. For the rest of the year, Fleming would use his position at the Sunday Times to research exotic locations. He paid great attention to detail, even driving the routes mentioned in the books to see how long the journey took. He had experts from the British Interplanetary Society look over the details of the rocketry in Moonraker as Arthur C. Clarke was away in the US at the time.
He visited De Beers in London to research Diamonds Are Forever, then headed for Saratoga Springs in upstate New York where, by mistake, he happened upon a run-down mud bath, like the Acme Mud and Sulphur Baths Bond visits to pay off the jockey who then gets bumped off. A friend he met there had a Studillac – a Studebaker with a Cadillac engine – which Fleming also appropriated for the book.
On this trip, Fleming became a director of the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA), a new features agency. He tied this to the foreign operation he ran at Kemsley, then negotiated a lucrative syndication deal with Beaverbrook’s Express newspapers.
Back in London, Ian avoided Ann friends – a group which now included James Pope-Hennessy and Cecil Beaton – fearing that they looked down on his thrillers. One night, it is said, he returned from his club to find them laughing at a reading from one of his sex scenes.
Leaving Ann in London, he took a train from New York to Los Angeles where he sold a movie option on Casino Royale. Curtis Brown, the agent he had taken on in New York, sold the TV rights and a hour-long version of the book appeared on CBS. Money was also offered for options on Live and Let Die, Moonraker and subsequent James Bond books, but Fleming turned them down.
During a visit to the LA Police Department, Fleming was briefed on the surveillance techniques that greeted Bond when he arrived at Las Vegas in Diamonds Are Forever. He then flew to Las Vegas for more research. At the airport he delighted in the slot machine that gave two minutes of oxygen for 25 cents – which, again, Bond used in the book. With Ernie Cuneo, Bill Donovan’s former liaison officer with Royal Naval Intelligence, he made a tour of all the casinos in Las Vegas. Placing small bets, he quit when he was $1 ahead, then drank a glass of champagne and moved on. By the end of the evening he could boast that he had beaten every casino in town - and Ernie Cuneo appeared as Ernest Cureo, Bond’s cab driver and undercover Pinkerton man in Nevada.
While writing Diamonds Are Forever in Jamaica in the winter of 19XX, Fleming came across a local character called Red Grant, the name he later used for the assassin in From Russia With Love. Evelyn Waugh was also on hand to help him polish up the love scenes.
Live and Let Die sold poorly in the US despite an endorsement from Raymond Chandler, who Fleming had met at a party given by the poet Stephen Spender. Meanwhile, the $600 movie option on Casino Royale turned into $6,000 for the rights. With it, Fleming bought a Ford Thunderbird. He was so enamoured of the car, Ann began to call him Thunderbird.
James Bond spoofs began to appear, much to Fleming’s delight. On the downside, Billy Woodward, who used to accompany Ian to the racing at Saratoga, was shot and killed by his wife, who mistook him for a prowler. Diamonds Are Forever was dedicated to J.F.C.B (Ivar Bryce), E.L.C (Ernie Cureo) and W.W. Jr (Woodward) “at Saratoga 1954 and '55”.
That September Fleming accompanied Scotland Yard’s assistant commissioner to the Interpol Conference in Istanbul to get an insight into international crime. It also gave him an interesting setting for his next Bond adventure, From Russia With Love. There he was shown around by a hard-living, Oxford-educated Turk named Nazim Kalkavan. He became the model for Darko Karim, the Istanbul SIS station chief who assisted Bond. Fleming returned on the Simplon-Orient Express where Bond fought it out with Red Grant and bedded Tatiana Romanova.
Queen Anne Press was now in financial difficulties and Fleming bought the Book Collector, giving him the academic credibility he craved. The rest of the company was bought by Robert Maxwell, who had all the elements of a Bond villain, though Fleming remained a director until his death.
Through a friend from Eton, Fleming became a member of the Royal College of Art. That September, he and Ann visited Anthony Eden and his wife Clarissa at the prime minister’s country retreat, Chequers, where they were told not to mention Burgess and Maclean. He then went back to the US where he arranged to sell NANA to a Canadian syndicate, taking a welcome profit. On his trip, he noted encouraging signs that the American public were at last taking notice of Bond, perhaps because Pocket Book’s paperback edition of Casino Royale – published under the name You Asked For It – had the picture of a girl déshabillé on the cover.
The American critics were a little kinder to Moonraker and Hollywood offered $1,000 for a nine-month movie option. Meanwhile, the UK’s Rank Organization – who owned Pinewood Studios, Bond’s eventual home – offered £5,000 and Fleming had to unmake the Hollywood deal. But Rank had no clear idea of what to do with James Bond and Moonraker. Fleming was well aware of the problem.