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In Topic: "Widow to a Legend": Ann Fleming Speaks

28 April 2016 - 10:17 PM

Some brief notes on the piece above:

* It's sobering to know The Man With the Golden Gun contributed to Fleming's death!

* Ann continues to come across as more sympathetic. It's evident that she resented Bond for changing her husband's character and ultimately killing him. She loved her Ian for who he was, and his career as a writer was something she hadn't bargained on. Her distaste for Bond is also explained by a simple fact that she wasn't a fan of thrillers in general.

* That said, I cheered when Ann defended the Bond books against the charges of snobbery and of treating women roughly. She even cited Bond's romance with Kissy in YOLT!

* How amusing to see the vehemently anti-American praise the Yanks when interviewed by them...

* The personal details--Fleming's hotel routine, his love of fishcakes, treating Caspar to oysters--are touching. The evidence of how Fleming was changed by Bond is slightlydisturbing.

* Further debunking of the myth that Fleming disliked movies...

* I can vouch for Ann's praise of Bleak House. One of the greatest of all novels, even if you don't like Dickens. "Jarndyce vs Jarndyce" is also a good metaphor for Kevin McClory's life.

* Ann's public appearance during this period seem intended to drawing attention to her financial situation by embarrassing the those with the cash. Today the Fleming estate is of course doing quite well, in the hands of Peter Fleming's descendants.

* Further evidence that Fleming actually liked Connery's Bond!

* The "great friend" Ann sarcastically mentions is Ivar Bryce.

* Malcom Muggeridge was despicable for more reasons than spitting on Fleming's grave. He made an ass of himself during the controversy over Monty Python's Life of Brian and his other idiocies are detailed by the great Clive James.

* Ann's comment about Bond and Sherlock Holmes continuation novels was obviously short-sighted...


In Topic: "Widow to a Legend": Ann Fleming Speaks

28 April 2016 - 09:35 PM

Good news! I found the Ladies Home Journal interview (from Oct. 1966) and it's reprinted below. Ann repeats several facts, and sometimes even their phrasing, from the earlier interview, but this is a far more in-depth piece and has many more personal touches and details. And it's definitely got a snappier title...

 

 

 

HOW JAMES BOND DESTROYED MY HUSBAND

By Mrs. Ian Fleming, as told to Leslie Hannon

 

Ian Fleming wrote the most successful spy stories of our time. His books and movies made millions. Now, his widow discloses a plot from real life: how this dashing, brilliant man was actually haunted by the success of his fictional hero and finally driven to a premature death.

 

Somerset Maugham once said to me when the James Bond myth grew to threatening proportions that the public would henceforth refuse to leave my husband alone, and that Ian would feel himself driven to satisfy his public. Maugham was certainly proved right.

 

Sometimes I hated James Bond. Ian should certainly not have written the last book. I implored him to rest. The doctors warned him time and again. It was far too much strain for a man who had suffered a bad coronary attack.

 

I said. “Other writers don't feel driven to publish a book every year.” He didn’t need the money. But with publishers, film-makers, the press and the public all seemingly insatiable, the writing of the next Bond fantasy, and then the next, became a compulsion. Bond was his Frankenstein's monster.

 

Ian died at 56. His constitution was unequal to the pace and to the burden of to cope with the never-ending demands. No one knew this better than he did. He was an impossible patient. He flatly refused to slow down even to a normal living pace; he wanted “something wonderful” and exciting to happen every day. I suppose it was almost deliberately suicidal.

 

I was very surprised when my husband wrote his first book—I thought I had married the foreign editor of the Sunday Times of London—but it now seems he told many of his men friends that he always intended to write the greatest spy story ever written. He never told me that because he thought I would not be interested. He knew I never read thrillers, and disliked anything more violent than Agatha Christie.

 

He said jokingly later that he had written Casino Royale—that's the first Bond thriller, all about gambling and torture,· to take his mind off getting married in his forties. It was Ian's first marriage (he had been a close friend of my first husband. Lord O’Neill, who was killed in action in Italy). I think he said this because I declined to have the book dedicated to me. I didn't care for the torture scenes.

 

I have never been a James Bond addict. I did read all the books, usually in rough manuscript, but I get them mixed up. All the girls with the funny name—I can remember some of them: Pussy Galore, Honeychile, Domino—and the wicked villains—Drax, Goldfinger and Co. But Ian invented only one real character—James Bond; the heroines and villains did not come to life.

 

I find James Bond a bit of a bore. I don't think I'd have him as a dinner guest more than once. No sense of humor. No conversation.

 

The world's appetite for the Bond books—I think more than 20 million have been sold-we both found bewildering and unreal. It appears that in an age of anti-hero fiction, there was a vacuum to be filled. I am sure now that this accounts for the phenomenal success.

 

Women like to read of supermen, and men like to identify themselves with adventure and success. It is perhaps a Walter Mitty-ish dream to have a happy interlude with a lovely girl with no subsequent complications.

 

With his beautiful girls, his special cigarettes and whiskey, expensive cars and clothes, Bond is a reaction to the passing vogue for the grubby have-not anti-hero in current novels, and in the “kitchen-sink” theater. It is the revolt against the latter that accounts for Noel Coward's renewed popularity, and the same applies to books.

 

In my view, novels and plays are marriage surely for pleasure and an escape from daily life. If they must contain a sociological message, Charles Dickens did it best: with narrative excitement, comedy and humanity.

 

I doubt, though, if the wife of any writer can be objective about her husband’s work. Ian once showed me a chapter where, I think, James Bond is pursued by thousands of sharks. I said I thought it would have been much more exciting if there had been only one shark. After that, he didn't show me any of his work for a long time.

 

I think, in fairness, that the worst person to give a writer advice is his wife. She is too dose to it, on a different level.

 

Ian had a friend, a lawyer called Duff Dunbar, who could say to him: “What's that humorless bore James Bond going to do this year!” But I couldn't have said it. Ian would always let Noel Coward tease him. Noel was our neighbor—both in England and Jamaica—so we saw a good deal of him. In fact, the first house we bought after our marriage was Noel’s old house in Kent—the one called The White Cliffs.

 

When we married, in 1951, I had no expectation of the remarkable events ahead. Ian Fleming was a very handsome and talented person. Tall and athletic. Somewhat aloof. He had been a brilliant success in a Top Secret job in Royal Navy Intelligence during the war, and after the war Lord Kemsley asked him to create a foreign service for his prestige paper, the Sunday Times. Ian had earlier written reports for Reuters news agency—I remember he covered the great spy trials in Moscow in the ’30’s—but his work at the time of our marriage was mostly managerial. I was interested in newspapers, and delighted for him to be, simply, a newspaper executive. There was enough money. We had a house in London and a seaside cottage in Kent. Ian had already built Goldeneye, his beach house in Jamaica.

 

Ian was a melancholic, and needed much solitude. I have a photograph of him with his three brothers. Their father, Major Valentine Fleming, D.S.O., a member of Parliament, was killed in in the First World War. In the picture, three boys are smiling at the Camera and there's one looking saturnine. This was Ian. He was different. I don't think he was a very easy child.

 

Most people found him astonishingly difficult to talk to. Very remote, reserved, and full of charm when he wished to be. A difficult and unusual character. He was always a very restless figure. He started by going to the officers’ training school at Sandhurst, but he never really wanted to go into the Army. He studied hard in French and German to get into the Diplomatic Service, and just failed. He tried both banking and stockbroking before the war.

 

He created James Bond at Goldeneye. We went there for two months in 1951, and that's too long a time just for sunbathing. He established the working pattern he was to maintain rigidly until the end. With all his restlessness, he was a man who enjoyed a set routine. Orange juice was put out for him at 7:30 A.M. so that he could drink it before early swimming. He would ring for his shaving water, which was brought to him by his housekeeper Violet. He would tell her what kind of eggs be wanted for breakfast. We had paw-paw and guava jelly and wonderful coffee. Then he would bang away on the typewriter from 9:30 to 11:30, when we took to the sea with masks and spear guns. When it was dark, he would correct what he had written in the morning. He would spend a long time at the railing of the cliff garden, staring out to sea, smoking continuously. He enjoyed the melancholy beauty of tropical nights. We went to bed early.

 

He was very humble about that first book, and he was amazed when it was accepted by Jonathan Cape, the London publisher. He had shown it to a friend of ours, the poet William Plomer, who reads for Cape’s. Plomer greatly encouraged him, and helped him by toning down some of the passages.

 

Things are so jumbled already in the public mind—all the books and articles about Ian—t that it is wearying at times to try to keep the record straight. But the legend that James Bond was an instant success, an overnight sensation, is entirely wrong. Casino Royale sold about 3,000 copies, no more, and, alas, Ian sold the film right", for £300. The picture will be screened soon, with Peter Sellers and other big stars, and I expect that, like all the other Fleming films, it will make millions. But not for the Flemings.

 

Another interesting misconception is that Ian’s character treated women in a hard-boiled way. Bond actually marries in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and has a most sentimental romance in the subsequent novel. The film producers have very successfully parodied the books, but the ever-increasing number of glamour girls per yard of film has little to do with the original novels.

 

Another thing that makes me angry is the repeated statement that Ian was a snob. He was most emphatically not a snob. Apparently my husband’s preference for good food rather than bad, fast cars rather than slow, pretty girls rather than ugly is snobbish. It could as soon be said of those who prefer classical music to swinging, or great art to posters.

 

The reviewers of the Bond books insisted Ian was a snob. He was something quite different—a perfectionist. No one knew this better than I, since I was in charge of the housekeeping. Books had to be totally free of dust; food, though simple, had to perfectly cooked.  Fishcakes were one of his favorite dishes—and a perfect fishcake is awfully difficult.

 

He demanded the same standards in all the Bond paraphernalia—cars, revolvers, women, drinks. The exact measures of gin, vodka, and Lillet in a deep champagne glass, Bond’s famous cocktail—that was Ian talking. Eggs had to be boiled for exactly 3 1/3 minutes.

 

Standards have fallen so low in England today that we will pay large sums for blunt scissors, leaking shoes, dirty accommodation, tough meat, watery vegetables and bad service—and any insistence of standards is apparently called “snobbish.”

 

Ian was permanently disappointed in modern England. He thought that England was rotten—perhaps “rotting” would be more accurate—and that there was no longer a sense of adventure and excitement. He found these things in America, which he enjoyed enormously—except for the food, which, he used to say, was all frozen.

 

I don’t think, though, that Ian would have stayed in America any longer than he stayed anywhere else. One of the keynotes of his character—and, of course, it’s typical of James Bond, too—was not staying anywhere very long.

 

Ian could make a hotel bedroom into a home in 10 minutes. He would first unpack what he called “traveler’s joy,” which was a large bottle of bourbon. Then he would put out his typewriter and the books he had chosen to read. He would ring the bell for some ice, and he would be as happy and relaxed as other people feel in their homes. The next day, we would be off in the Thunderbird, roaring over foreign roads with his foot on the accelerator.

 

I realize that this sounds like a vignette from one of the Bond thrillers. In my memory, there isn’t an exact day, or month, or even year when I became aware that James Bond was taking over our lives. It happened over a dozen years, imperceptibly at first; then, when the paperback presses really began to pour, and the films appeared, it gathered the destructive speed of an avalanche.

 

In the press and television interviews, which he loathed, people increasingly compared Ian to Bond. He tried to be accommodating by making jokes about himself and Bond both liking scrambled eggs and cotton shirts. He had given Bond an Eton education like his own—he even gave him fluency in French and German, his own extra languages. Bond’s father, in the fiction, died when the boy was 11; Ian had lost his father at nine.

 

I discussed with Cyril ·Connolly, the English critic, if anyone had invented a character and then become like the character; a prisoner of his own creation. Cyril said nothing to allay my fears. This is what happened: As Ian became identified with James Bond, he somehow became more like the James Bond he had invented. I think that he was writing about the way he would have liked life to be, except that out of nerve and humility about his writing he would put in more sadism than he ever meant. He didn't like killing—even killing fish in Jamaica. Unlike me—I rather enjoyed it.

 

I noticed that he became more self-conscious about his cigarette holders, his clothes, and what he drank. He started to fret about the plot for next year’s novel, just as Somerset Maugham said he would. He enjoyed the money—we were both extravagant—but the Bond thing was something much stronger than the urge for money. It was making him very much more restless. He was running away from himself, I suppose. I don’t know what he was running after: new countries, new people, new experiences.

 

Everything that Bond did in the books had to be exactly right, and Ian absorbed this intensive search for detail more and more into his life. I am ashamed to say I know nothing about ballistics, but there was unending conversation about guns. He learned that a certain gin was considered by experts to be the purest spirit available, and for a while he would insist on that brand for his Martinis. He discovered a malt whiskey one could get only at London’s Army & Navy Stores. He became a devoted reader of Which?, the British consumers’ magazine that analyzes products, and he would purchase things it recommended. But Ian knew very little about wine. He liked to drink any red wine, especially Chianti. He called it “infuriator”—the Navy's name for it.

 

The quest for detail could become complicated. Ian asked me once to tell him the ideal measurements for a woman. I didn't know, exactly, except that I thought their hips were wider than their breasts. I remember reeling off some statistics, and he put these into the book. Later some infatuated secretary in New York said, “They’re the same as mine!” Ian found out that she had enormous shoulder blades sticking out at the back. He was horrified.

 

Ian took a lot of trouble over the names of the girls in the hooks. Pussy, and the rest. But, as far as I know, they meant nothing at all. He sensibly didn't have anything to do with the people who played these parts m the films. It didn't really interest him what they did with the pictures. He did feel that an unknown should play James Bond, and I know he liked Sean Connery, but they did not see much of each other.

 

In living some part of his real life through Bond's fictional adventures, Ian could express certain feelings deeply rooted in his personality. I think it’s in From Russia With Love that he wrote an epitaph for someone's tombstone: “This man died from living too much.” Ian himself overdid everything in life. He wanted exaggerated effects all the time.

 

I remember once that he took our son Caspar out when he was only six and let him eat as many oysters as he liked. He said Caspar was very sick and would never look at an oyster again, which was an economy for the future.

 

Ian was a Romantic. Bond represented financial escape from dullness and sameness into a dream world. Ian couldn’t bear the thought of returning home in the evenings to what he would describe as “the smell of cooking and babies.” He detested perambulators and everyday married life.

 

He could not visualize old age. “You’ll never get me into a bathchair,” he used to say. There was a time when he told everyone he couldn't imagine being 40. He liked everything to be at its best, at the peak, so therefore he was not particularly fond of children or old people.

 

He was a man who liked to have heroes. His addiction to fantasy made him a very poor judge of people. Some of his geese were geese, not swans.

 

At home, Ian liked me to invite perhaps one or two men to dinner. He didn’t want wives to come. He would say that if interesting men came to dinner, I would talk to them all the time and he would have to sit with their wives. On the whole, his relationships with women were very short. He didn’t wish to be involved with them. He enjoyed the male society of the golf club. I'm certain he was happier there than anywhere else.

 

Ian was a man who had great zest and an ability to interest people in what was interesting him. He would talk with enormous enthusiasm. If we had a publisher to dinner, he would tell him how to run the publishing business; if it was a politician, Ian would ten him how to govern the country.

 

He didn’t care for the conversation at dinner parties I gave for friends in London. He liked talking “shop.” When everyone was being frivolous, he would complain that facts were never discussed. I said there were no facts in his books—the whole thing was fantasy—so it was a perennial family argument.

 

Ian enjoyed antique shops. He was a person with natural good taste, certainly in interior decoration, in furniture, but not the arts. He didn't like the opera, or the ballet, and he loathed the theater. He was bored by the theater, but he very much enjoyed the cinema. We tended to think that films weren’t as good as they used to be—we were of that age.

 

I think Ian could have probably excelled at many things, if the Bond business had not swept him away. He had genuine flair. When he was only 21 he decided to collect first editions of original thought since the beginning of the 19th century. I have the collection now, about 300 volumes, at our country place in Wiltshire. It’s mostly scientific—like the first book on the submarine—but it also contains first editions of T.S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, and others. Several American universities are interested in purchasing the library. There’s nothing Ian would have liked more than for an American university to have it. He totally admired American ability to take an original idea and turn it to practical use.

 

He could have written other books—good books. I tried to encourage him to branch out. He did write three non-Bond books, one of them a first-rate documentary on diamond smuggling. Another book, on the Arab state of Kuwait, has never been published.

 

Also, quite outside the Bond imagery, Ian’s favorite reading was The Times Literary Supplement. For years, he kept alive The Book Collector—a highly expert quarterly devoted to bibliography. The estate still publishes it.

 

There seem to be vast misconceptions about the Fleming estate. Everyone assumes that because the Bond books and films obviously earned a great deal I must be a very rich woman. I wish I were! The picture is very complicated. A horde of lawyers is involved, and the tax authorities have not behaved very well. It’s my belief that my husband was not well advised in business matters and at times, I get frightfully aggressive about it. It will be a long time before the estate is settled, and there will be no fortune for anyone. I have just been reading Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, and the criticism Dickens makes of the law in the case of “Jarndyce vs Jarndyce” is just as true today.

 

I don’t think Ian understood his will. It is a legal mumbo-jumbo trust giving unending power to all sorts of people. This year, for instance, I got £4,000 ($11,200) subject to tax, which cannot be considered a fortune.

 

Ian sold a majority interest in all his book royalties to a London investment company for a lump sum and, since he died within six months, most of the money he got went to the government. He accepted a hard-and-fast fee of £25,000 for each of the Sean Connery films and, of course, they have made millions at the box office. The tax authorities are even trying to claim tax now on any future films that may be made.

 

The screening of the first film, Dr. No, and its instant world-wide success, increased the business pressures manifold on my husband, and he was in no condition to stand any extra strain at all. When you have that kind of success, you ought to have enormously good secretaries and lawyers to build a whole defensive mechanism between yourself and the world. I don’t think this was arranged very successfully.

 

The sadness, the tragedy of it all, was that, because of his increasingly poor health, Ian was not able to enjoy the great success he had earned. James Bond gave with one hand, and took away with the other.

 

I'll never forget the premiere of the first film. Ian enjoyed the limelight—most honest persons would admit they do—but he hated crowds, and he was already very ill. There was a big party afterward. I knew that standing about with a lot of people would bring on his heart pains. He would take out his white pills and try to take them without anyone seeing. For me, it was a question of trying to get him home and into bed as soon as possible. Of course, the party was given for “James Bond” and they didn't want James Bond to go home. It was a tug-of-war.

 

The premiere of the second film, From Russia With Love, also was not a happy occasion. Ian was awfully ill. It was a terrible ordeal for him to sign autographs, and for me to try to rescue him from the fans. Our nice Dr. Beal and his wife were in the audience, in case anything happened.

 

Ian seemed a little better at the supper party. He had won £300 at the Le Touquet casino and, in one of his James Bond gestures, he spent it all on caviar. It was an extravagance, but it gave him pleasure, which was all that mattered.

 

I am certain it was the threat of a big lawsuit that brought on his heart attack in the first instance. I have talked to doctors about it. They say that women are not troubled by lawsuits, but they are a source of great distress to men. It was a suit for plagiarism concerning Thunderball brought against Ian by some of his early associates. It was pending for a long time, and it worried him very much. It was a very confused arrangement, in which nothing had been written down in black and white. Ian thought he was dealing with a great friend. It was all resolved in one of those immensely complicated legal verdicts.

 

I used to call Ian the “oldest Beatle”; his success bad the same quality as that fabulous “pop” group—in both cases something indefinable appealed to public fancy, and was immediately fastened onto by those who batten on exploiting original talent. Not that I hold it against them, but trying to preserve an ill man from the press, the film and television worlds was a nightmare experience. To them, Ian was a property promising golden dividends, while I wished above all to prolong his life.

 

After his first illness, we all made every possible attempt to get him to take things easier, but he would say that he would sooner die than be an invalid. The doctors implored him to stop smoking, but he wouldn’t give up cigarettes. He used to get his cigarettes especially made at Morland’s, in Grosvenor Square—the same kind James Bond smokes in the novels—but then he switched to a popular English brand. I think he smoked about 60 or 70 cigarettes a day.

 

He would not stop doing anything. He didn't stop drinking—but, of course, if you've got this kind of bad heart it helps lessen the pains (by increasing the circulation) if you drink whiskey.

 

At Goldeneye, Ian would still go skin diving, even though it brought On his pains. He would not cut down his golf, no matter what the weather. I think he felt happiest when he could drive his Thunderbird straight to the golf course. The day he became fatally ill was a Sunday. We were at our country home, about 60 miles from London. He had a cold, and I took his temperature. It was 100. I said, “You can't play golf today.” And he said, “I couldn't possibly spend Sunday in the depths of the country with nothing to do.” So he played golf in the rain, drove to London in wet clothes, got a fever and brought back the heart trouble. He was then in bed for the next four or five months until he died.

 

Afterward The Times and other important journals discussed Ian’s life and work with proper candor and proper respect, but, in some quarters, it seemed that he still had to pay a price for being identified with the sensationally successful Mr. Bond. Fleet Street does not generally relish success. The British press has also behaved shamefully recently by printing obituaries of Evelyn Waugh and books on Somerset Maugham written by embittered or ignorant people.

 

In Ian's case, the outstanding example of betrayed friendship was Malcolm Muggeridge, who wrote venomously in Esquire magazine, and in the London Observer. Since Malcolm had frequently been our guest, it, was a shock to me. I do not speak to him now.

 

Ian’s reserve didn't, allow him to make friends easily. Like many Englishmen, he had a small circle of close men friends. John Pearson, who has now written the official biography of my husband, took a lot of trouble to talk to those who knew Ian, but it was not easy for John, as he had not known Ian well.

 

Ian’s two greatest friends were not in the club world, one being Robert Harling, the editor of House and Garden; the other being William Plomer. Ian would lunch with them, and sometimes Cyril Connolly or Alan Ross, the editor of London Magazine. Though none these could remotely be described as dull men, Ian always said he loved bores; possibly he was thinking of the Philistine golf world, which he said was restful compared to the crackling conversation of London dinner parties. I remember him leaving an embassy dinner party directly after we left the dining room, bidding good-night to the ambassadress with the words: “I have said everything I have to say to everyone in this room.”

 

I suppose the spy racket will continue while there is a market for it. The company which owns the Fleming royalties has commissioned Kingsley Amis, the author of Lucky Jim, to carry on the series. I have the right of veto. It seems particularly ludicrous that Kingsley should attempt this; James Bond exact opposite of his Lucky Jim.  In the past, all efforts to continue series like Bulldog Drummond and Sherlock Holmes failed. I think the plan neither right nor sensible.


In Topic: "Widow to a Legend": Ann Fleming Speaks

27 April 2016 - 10:58 PM

As for Ann Fleming...

There are numerous legends about her, most of them not fit for retelling, that's why they get spread over the internet. This article is one of the rare chances to get a tiny glimpse on her character based on her own words.

Definitely. Ann frequently seems like an off-putting figure, but here we have a chance to see Bond through her eyes. Some have thought that her behavior toward Amis was that of a rhymes-with-witch, but here we learn that the continuation novel was planned relatively soon after Fleming's death and that neither Amis, whom she says she knew well, nor Jock Campbell bothered to even tell her about the project. You can see how that might have soured her reaction.

 

Ann's only other known interview was given to Ladies Home Journal. I'm now attempting to track it down.


In Topic: Ideal Bond Directors

05 March 2016 - 01:41 AM

I haven't read over every post in the thread, so my apologies if this has been raised and dismissed before, but what about Spielberg? His craftsmanship is beyond debate and he's wanted to direct a Bond film for decades. One possible objection is that his last Indiana Jones film was rather bad, but few directors could have overcome such a script. A second objection is that Broccoli and Wilson would be loathe to have a big-name director take on Bond, but hasn't that already happened with Mendes? And while Spielberg's decisions as a director would certainly have to be accepted, at other levels, such as scripting, he's less likely to dominate the production (no more than Mendes anyway).


In Topic: Ian Fleming and CIA chief Allen Dulles discuss spycraft

27 February 2016 - 12:27 AM

I did read this piece before and could have sworn it was included in the compilation 'For Bond Lovers Only'. Well, obviously not...

 

There's an online copy of the piece, which is probably the one you read. However, it's a scan of the CIA's own photocopy, and the CIA stamped and marked it up to the point of rendering some sections illegible. I decided to visit my local library and make a clean, new copy.

 

Interesting also that Dulles obviously is ignorant to the fact Fleming had CIA bit-players in his books from square one.

 

Yes, Felix is given a prominent introduction in Casino Royale and appears in all but one of the books published before FRWL.
 

Completely over my head is, how Fleming can display such a level of ignorance and outright idiocy towards female agents...Claiming the gathering of all kinds of intelligence by female agents 'went out with Edgar Wallace' is probably the dumbest thing ever voiced.

 

I winced during that part of the discussion as well. But to be fair, what Fleming said was "the old-fashioned idea of a female spy, a girl going to bed with a man to find out secrets, that went out with Edgar Wallace." However, that's also the type of female spy he first mentions when discussing female spies in general, which suggests that he wasn't keeping up with the other, non-sexualized types of female spies, regardless of his praise for "the spy in the sky." Dulles comes off much better in his advocacy of female spies, though today that praise would be patronizing.

Incidentally, I have a copy of Edgar Wallace's The Four Just Men on my shelf of unread books. I'd very much like to read it someday, along with books by all the authors who probably influenced Fleming more than Sapper or Buchan--such as Dornford Yates, Sax Rohmer, E. Phillips Oppenheim, Leslie Chateris, Peter Cheyney, and Dennis Wheately--but life is short and there's a limit to how much forgotten genre fiction one can ingest as a jaded adult. Actually, I have read Oppenheim's The Great Impersonation, but it wasn't very Bondian...
 

Le Carré is often claimed for the school-of-realism of the espionage novel, but if you look closer his plots are seldom much less fantastical than Fleming's.

 

Which makes Le Carre's ability to convince middlebrow critics of his realism and seriousness all the more impressive. Fleming saw the writing on the wall--"what he does to the spy story is to take the fun out of it." Just how he'd have reacted against that in future Bond novels is a tantalizing mystery. Though TMWTGG (the book which features Bond reading Dulles's The Craft of Intelligence) seems to have been written after Fleming's reading of Le Carre, the book is too weakened by Fleming's failing health to stand as a forecast of the future that never was.
 

But he's probably more rounded than many of Bond's love interests in the entire canon.

 

A very interesting point--I'd never seen Fleming's walk-on characters in that way. I suppose their ordinariness is a necessary part of the world-building process, which creates a background of plauisbility for the more flamboyant elements. As for well-rounded love interests, that's also a interesting to consider. I would probably nominate Tiffany Case, Honeychile, Domino, Vivienne Michel, and Kissy for that club. I definitely would not include Vesper, Solitaire, Pussy Galore or Mary Goodnight! As for the real women in Fleming's life, I find his impromptu rant about how rare good marriages are to be quite revealing and somewhat poignant. Dulles's reaction is slightly perplexed and amused, not surprising for a man who got away with over a hundred extra-marital affairs (his wife and mistresses called him "the shark").

 

Dulles comes off as quite avuncular and charming, but his reputation today has sunk very far from its early 60s apex. The most recent book on the man (The Devil's Chessboard) paints him as near-psychopath who coddled ex-Nazis and may have played a role in Kennedy's assassination. The last charge is bunkum in my opinion, but Dulles has genuine black marks on his record: the Iranian coup that deposed Mossadeq and installed the Shah, MK-ULTRA, and the Bay of Pigs fiasco, which made Kennedy demand his resignation. Whereas Fleming's grief over Kennedy seems both real and touching ("sadly, almost inaudibly"), I have my doubts about Dulles's.

 

Oh, and for anyone who's interested, the "Vassal" Fleming refers to is John Vassall, a civil servant who worked in the Admiralty and Naval Intelligence and was blackmailed into spying for the KGB after being photographed "in compromising positions with several men in Moscow," where he was serving on the staff of the Naval Attaché at the British embassy.