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Ian Fleming and CIA chief Allen Dulles discuss spycraft

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Posted 25 February 2016 - 10:42 PM

The following appeared in the June 1964 issue of Redbook. It's especially of interest because it contains Fleming's only recorded thoughts about John le Carré.


A REDBOOK DIALOGUE: Allen Dulles and Ian Fleming


Allen Dulles has served in diplomatic, legal and intelligence posts under eight presidents, beginning with Woodrow Wilson. Now retired, his last post was Director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Ian Fleming, prolific author of chilling spy stories, is a former foreign correspondent, and also served as personal assistant to Britain’s Director of Naval Intelligence during World War II.


It is a raw, rainy day. Allen Dulles and Ian Fleming arrive a few moments apart, Dulles first, accompanied by his publisher's representatives, then Fleming, who is staying in the hotel where the dialogue is to be held. Fleming is also accompanied by a publisher's representative.  Dulles removes his hat and coat, then his rubbers, revealing feet shod in soft bedroom slippers. “I am allergic to wearing shoes indoors,” he says. “I hope no one cares. I believe in being comfortable.”

There is a brief hubbub in the hotel suite as Dulles and Fleming, old acquaintances, greet each other, as coffee is ordered, as appointments are made and as, one by one, the publisher’s representatives, leaving copies of Fleming’s and Dulles’ books, make their farewells. Continuing their small talk. Dulles and Fleming establish themselves in comfortable chairs.


MR. DULLES: Are you staying in this hotel?

MR. FLEMING: Yes, I am.

DULLES: I always did. As long as Uncle Sam was paying the bill. Now my old law office, you know, has a suite in a hotel nearby, so now I use that. It’s excellent.

FLEMING [Sounding like his discriminating fictional hero, James Bond]: It's a good, quiet hotel, without pretensions. But the big hotels, the good hotels, are all gone.

DULLES: Of course, Claridge’s is the best hotel in the world. [Indicating the microphone] Is this thing on?


DULLES [Laughing]: Well, I don’t to advertise or slander anybody at the moment—not without knowing I’m doing it

FLEMING: Well, come on. Let's get this over with, Allen.

DULLES [Humorously]: Give me a chance to get my breath! Now, what do you want to talk about? I wrote down a few ideas...

FLEMING: Well, I’ve got a few in my head. I think the thing to do is to make it as merry as possible.

DULLES: Oh, I agree with you.

FLEMING: If we can avoid being dull…

DULLES [Playfully]: Well, then, let me give you a tip. A few nights ago I was sitting around after a dinner party, and there happened to be three or four ladies about, and I was talking to them. I said I was coming up here to have this talk with you, and they were all fascinated. And then they started talking about your books, and they said, “You know, the only trouble with Ian Fleming’s women is that they're sort of one-purpose women. We don’t object to the one purpose,” they said, “but we'd like to have a book sometime where there is long-lasting love, where the woman not only participates actively in the operations but comes out as a heroine with some sort of character to her.” I give you [Twinkling] that tip.

FLEMING [With mock gravity]: Thank you, Allen. …Well, there have been such women in espionage. They may have existed. But as you know, women spies are difficult people. I mean, they’re emotional. They get involved; and you can't really control a woman’s emotions to the same extent that you can control a man’s, assuming he’s a normal man. I mean it’s very difficult to say to a woman, “Come on—you must go and make love to So-and-so.” How does one know she’s not going to fall in love? And then where are you?

DULLES: That’s often happened. But some women spies have been very good. You know the history of Mata Hari.

FLEMING [With dislike]: She was a hopeless girl!

DULLES: She was very useful, though. She did get information. Women certainly have a part to play in intelligence. And then I've found too, on the analytical side of intelligence—even in order of battle—I've found women extremely good. Meticulously careful! You have that in England too. You remember that marvelous—don't you?—that gal who analyzes the photographs?

FLEMING: Yes, yes. Marvelous! You're right! I've forgotten her name… [Referring to aerial photographs taken from a man-made satellite] “Spy in the Sky.”

DULLES: “Spy in the Sky.” Yes.

FLEMING: Quite right! I don't know your staff breakdown, but I suppose there are a good many women…

DULLES: A great many. They are excellent. Men often are impatient of details. And in intelligence you’ve got to be very careful. Say you have fifteen or twenty reports about the make-up of a certain Soviet army group, and you have all kinds of little pieces to put together like a jigsaw puzzle. What is the true strength of this particular group? How many divisions are there in it? And where are they positioned? And so forth. You give a gal the raw material and I would say that most of the time she’ll be doing it better, if she’s well trained, than a man.

FLEMING: Well, I grant you that. That’s perfectly true. What I meant was that 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…

DULLES [Humorously, still not agreeing]: But Mata Hari got, I would say, a good deal of valuable information from her association with high French officials. She was extremely useful.

FLEMING: Yes. But how does one do it? All right; one is in bed with Mata Hari! And she says [Acting it out]: “Darling, do tell me about that Howitzer that you just developed.” And you say, “Oh, well, my dear, it’s part of a gun,” and so forth, “and it fires quite a big shell.” And she says,“How big, exactly? How many millimeters?” One simply can’t believe that conversation!

DULLES [Amused]: You know, I think it was a London daily that published a most marvelous letter from some gal, going back to the Profumo case—just asking, “At what stage during the amorous dalliance did Christine pop the question about giving the bomb to the Russians?”

FLEMING: That's it, you see, really…

DULLES: Well, the point is that you establish certain connections which can be used otherwise than in bed. They were enamored of Mata Hari. Some of those men who were enamored, they would see her all the time…

FLEMING: Yes. Well, you'll be amused when you see my next film, From Russia With Love.

DULLES: That's the book of yours I like best of all.

FLEMING: Well, it's great fun. I like it the best too, as a matter of fact. And I think there you have a perfectly reasonable operation by a woman. I mean, the whole operation is quite straightforward. She doesn't have to ask about howitzers or missiles or anything of that sort. She has a definite job—to make the man fall in love with her, and I must say it's a lark, this bloody film; you must see it, Allen.

DULLES [Still teasing a little]: I will. I will. But—well, there you have it—your point. She falls in love herself. She turns out to be a very nice girl. But in some of your other books—that's what some of your women readers complain of—they would like to have you idealize a woman a little more than you do. What is your ideal woman, Ian?

FLEMING: The woman one sees from the top of a bus. We've got those double-decker buses in London. Perhaps on a gusty, rainy day, and you're going along on the top, which I rather enjoy doing…You might see half a dozen ideal women from the top of a bus, you know.

[Dulles laughs]

FLEMING [More seriously]: I think I very much like the WREN type of woman. Or—what's the name of your women's naval service?—the WAVES. I like the fact that they seem to want to please, to make one happy. Rather like, you know—if you've ever been to Japan; there's a desire to please among Orientals which I find very pleasant after living in the harsh West. [Pausing] But I think it's very difficult to say. Because in the end, one ends up marrying entirely the opposite of what one thinks, you know, which I have done.

DULLES: But haven't you noticed, in a great many cases, after death or a divorce, the next wife will have certain traits very similar to those of the first?

FLEMING: That's probably true, yes.

DULLES: I've seen it again and again.

FLEMING: You know, wives, marriage…The whole business of marriage…It's a ridiculous institution, really.

DULLES [Laughing]: I'm not supposed to assent to all of this.

FLEMING [Continuing seriously]: I think anybody who has a happy marriage…Well, both of them are heroes! I mean, both parties of a marriage, a successful marriage, have got to be heroes. Because I think marriage is the most difficult thing in life. I mean, Allen, your job in CIA was nothing—

DULLES [Humorously]: I grant that.

FLEMING: —absolutely nothing compared to creating a happy marriage! My golly, it requires intelligence! It requires understanding, it requires intuition, it requires sensitivity, far beyond anything your staff could ever have produced.

DULLES [Again laughing]: That sounds very different from James Bond!

FLEMING: Well, I am different. Oh, Lord, yes. Just as I suspect you are different from a lot of the spies you've employed.

DULLES [Comfortably]: Well, I'm supposed to look like a professor.

FLEMING: A genial professor, yes… But tell me, Allen, how do you like being, so to speak, in retirement? After giving up your tremendous job.

DULLES: Well, one never likes it, really. You adjust yourself to it. I made one big mistake. I thought I was going to be bored when I left, so I took on a good deal more than I can do. I'm on quite a number of boards, and I'm up here—

FLEMING: What kind of boards?

DULLES: Investment companies, things of that kind. They think I know what's going to happen in the world, you know, and I may be useful. And I've written, you know, this book, The Craft of Intelligence, and have two or three more books in the works. And they keep me running around, the publishers. I thought you wrote a book, you know, gave it to the publishers and they did the rest. But they're after you all the time. I'm traveling all over the country.

FLEMING: Well, particularly in America—you’re required to do too much of this editing, over here.

DULLES [Referring to the dialogue]: What I’m talking about is promotion. This is promotion, isn't it?

FLEMING: I suppose it is. Yes…When was it we met, Allen? You gave a dinner, I recall. Four years ago, was it?

DULLES: It was longer. Six or seven years. And we met [Dryly, very casually]—you remember that man, head of one of your unspeakable—I mean unmentionable—British agencies?

FLEMING [Remembering with pleasure]: That's right! And we sat around…We got…Oh, we had great fun!

DULLES: He's still going strong, isn't he?

FLEMING: Yes, he is. Nice chap.

DULLES: Was that about the time you met President Kennedy?

FLEMING: No, no, I met him later. It was in the spring, about March—before he was elected President. I was visiting an old friend, and I was driving along through Washington one day with his wife—a charming person; and there we saw two people on the street and she said, “Oh, there's Jack and Jackie Kennedy!” And so we pulled up, and she said, “How are you?” and so on—she's a great friend of theirs—and, “Do you know Mr. Ian Fleming?” And Jack Kennedy said, “Not the Ian Fleming!” Of course, this is the sort of thing that any author, you know—this is just what we love! You know [Playing it out] “The Allen Dulles!” [Dulles laughs] And I sort of blushed and said, “Well, I'm the chap who writes the books.” And they said, “Oh, you must come to dinner tonight,” and so on and so forth. And we went to dinner and we had great fun; and since then—I mean, we became friends, and I always sent the Kennedys my books. And, of course, he did me a fantastically good turn in America by saying they liked my books.

DULLES: Well, I can testify to that. Because I got one of your books from Mrs. Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy; and then I sent her the next two…

FLEMING [Sadly, almost inaudibly]: A lot of adventure went out of the world when he died.

Dulles: It did. It did. And lightness and quickness…

FLEMING: He was an extraordinary man. It just hit us like a sledge hammer in England.

DULLES [Quietly]: He was—he was extraordinary...In any case, that was when we met the first time, you and I, at that dinner. And then you were kind enough to begin introducing some of our CIA people into your books. In subordinate positions, of course. I say this very politely, you understand.

FLEMING [Also more lightly]: Yes…Well, I've brought you into my next book also. Comparing you favorably with your successor, who, I have said, is a much more difficult man to get on with—from the British, of course, point of view.

DULLES: I hope not too difficult. Because I’m supporting him in every way I can.

FLEMING: Well, in the book he's under jurisdiction of the defense council. And he’s very worried about the leaks in England—about the Vassal and Profumo cases, and so forth. Discovering that Vassal, a highly trusted man, had for six years been leaking information to the Soviet—that was quite a thing.

DULLES: Well, we've had our own leaks in this country too. I’ve always been very cautious about criticizing. Faced with what we have to cope with in the Soviet system, we're all going to have spies in our midst. But what we’re doing now—and I hope sometime you can emphasize the fact—is strengthening our counterintelligence. Counterintelligence is getting very, very much better than it was ten, fifteen years ago.

FLEMING: I'm very glad to hear that.

DULLES: And now we’re picking them up.


DULLES: And the fact that you are finding enemy agents in Great Britain too ought not to be a subject for too much criticism. That you have them, that's damned bad. But you are finding them. And we’ve been finding them here too. But, you know, I think we exchange them too rapidly. I was very much opposed to the exchange of Egorov and his wife before trial. You remember—Ivan D. Egorov, the fellow in the UN who was running a network here…

FLEMING: That's right…

DULLES: …and we let him go home? Some in his network will he tried, but the chief fellow had been exchanged! I thought we ought to have tried him first—then if you want to exchange him, all right.

FLEMING: Quite. But was that for Powers? Or for whom?

DULLES: No. Egorov and his wife were exchanged for a Fulbright scholar. He was arrested over there in 1961. And for a Roman Catholic priest who'd been held since 1940.

FLEMING: Oh, of course. I remember.

DULLES: I agreed to the Powers exchange. I agreed because, after all, we got value for value there. And Abel—Colonel Rudolf Abel, who had been posing as a lowly photographer in Brooklyn—I don't think Abel was ever going to talk! You remember, up to that point the Soviets had taken the position that they had no responsibility for him. And so we also won the point that in his exchange we had an admission by the Soviet that he was their spy.

FLEMING: But what's annoying to me, Allen, is the fact that we work in a democracy and they work in a police state. And nobody makes trouble in their newspapers, Pravda and Izvestia, when they get into espionage trouble.

DULLES: No. It’s never mentioned.

FLEMING: Never! But my Lord, you or I, your country or mine, they've only got to sense trouble and the thing makes banner headlines all over the place.

Dunes: Even more so here than in England. You at least have the Official Secrets Act.

FLEMING: How is it you don’t have it?

DULLES: Well, you see, our Constitution is such that that might be deemed impairment of freedom of the press, which is constitutionally guaranteed. I’ve often discussed this question with the Department of Justice—when I was Director. But they always told me that in their view—and I’m a lawyer too, and understand their position—under our constitutional provisions, we probably couldn't have a National Secrets Act.

FLEMING: Well, I don't know how the hell you operate without it, Allen.

DULLES: We do have espionage laws.

FLEMING: Yes. But, you see, you’ve some terrible leaks, particularly in some of your scientific publications, as you know.

DULLES: Oh, yes, that’s true. In my book I tried to attack that. And then there was a Polish defector, the Polish military attaché here, who defected from the Polish Embassy in Washington. Well, he wrote a book— Really, the subject of that book is how pleasant it is to spy in the United

States! A delightful land for spies! Of course, if they get caught, they can get the extreme penalty.

FLEMING [Worriedly]: No. It is difficult, that. I mean, I've seen things in the press—I'm only on the fringe of these affairs nowadays—but the enemy's got imagination, and I've seen things put out by some of your absolutely top columnists that put my hair on end!

DULLES [Laughing ruefully]: They aged me a good deal too in the days when I was Director.

FLEMING: I'll bet they did.

DULLES: I mean really did. Sometimes it was ignorance, in the sense that the writers did not realize the importance of what they were telling. Take when we were trying to develop defenses against the Soviet missiles—that is, from the point of view of intelligence—finding out where they were shooting, what success they had, and so forth. I'm not disclosing any secrets now, but there was that radar we had near the Iron Curtain. It was very important. You had to place your radar within reasonable distance of where the missiles were being tried to know what was happening. Well, that was all disclosed! Now, that didn't do anybody any good. That certainly wasn’t a bit of information the American public had to have to supervise their government. And the enemy wasn’t raising the issue. And it was all disclosed in our newspapers; and it put the countries where the radars were in a very difficult position.

FLEMING: Well, I think you’ve got your problems and we've got ours, and I don't know what you feel are the main security risks in your country. But I think perversions, sexual perversions—the possibility of blackmail by the enemy of people in important positions—is probably one of the biggest troubles. And they're so difficult for us to find out.


FLEMING [Continuing]: …because there’s a sort of trade union among those people, which makes it difficult…

DULLES: Oh, yes.

FLEMING: I mean, if you and Fleming: I mean, if you and I happened to love girls in mackintoshes, we would get together! We would say, you know [Secretively, acting it out] “Look quickly there! There’s a girl in a mackintosh!”

[Dulles laughs]

FLEMING [Continuing seriously]: But the enemy finds out, and it seems to me that is one of the greatest risks. Now, take this Vassal case we had. It's so difficult to spot them! He seemed perfectly ordinary, a perfectly ordinary man…And for six years he was working for the enemy because he was afraid he’d he exposed.

DULLES: Well, I think in your country—and I ought to be very careful about any criticism—that maybe you're a little slow over there in adopting tactics and techniques that might be helpful in finding out. Naturally, you desire to protect everybody’s rights, and so do we.

FLEMING: That’s quite true.

DULLES: Now, I found that what they call the lie detector, is extraordinarily effective in that field. It was perfectly fantastic.

FLEMING: Did you?

DULLES: Not that you ever convict by this alone. We don't. But, I mean, we get on to them.

You use the polygraph and you and you get traces, and then you’re able to follow these traces, and you get a confession nine times out of ten.

FLEMING: We don't use it—the lie detector—so much, do we?

DULLES: Not so much, but there have been some talks about it.

FLEMING: But doesn't that come under your ruling here against eavesdropping? I was reading something about that in one your newspapers. Surely a lie detector is a maximum form of eavesdropping! I mean, it’s eavesdropping on somebody’s subconscious!

DULLES: This is different. That man knows that he's taking the test. As a matter of fact, I always made it a rule in our shop that you didn't have to take the lie-detector test. [Pausing] But it's perfectly true that if you refused to do it, we were pretty anxious to know why. And it didn’t help you in getting a job if you refused to take the test. [Jovially] I never took it because they couldn't throw me out anyway, so I thought it just as well to not take it. But I've often wanted to since—just to see how it works. I think maybe I’ll ask them to give it to me now.

FLEMING: It would be interesting for me to give it to you—to see if I could put my finger on some of your secrets. It would be rather fun to try.

DULLES: [Laughing]: You might try. I don’t think we've got time this morning, though. [Continuing thoughtfully] The thing is, in intelligence and counterintelligence you have to be careful—you can trip on anything. It's a critical business.

FLEMING: It’s all-out war! People who raise questions about ethics, moral standards, that sort of thing, just don't understand what it’s about. I mean the head of the CIA and his opposite number in in this case Semichastney, head of Soviet State Security—they are absolutely like two commanders in chief in the field! I mean, all right—you see the traffic in the streets and everything's quiet and orderly here. But those two men have been locked in deadly combat—for years!

DULLES: Yes. It goes on just the same, that combat. But I think our people are coming to realize this, and to realize how much we accomplish. Of course, we’ve got a very different problem now from what we had ten or fifteen years ago. For example, I've always been fascinated by Khrushchev’s actions and attitudes. There seems to be something of the shock treatment idea in his actions. You know—surprise them; do something when they don’t expect it! Take the timing of the Belgrade conference of unaligned states. That was the time Khrushchev took to unilaterally break the test ban agreement—oral agreement, the so-called gentleman’s agreement. You would have thought that this was the one time he wouldn’t have done it. Because all those unaligned states were so interested in banning the bomb. But he did. And he took the blame. He just stood up and said, “I'm going to start testing tomorrow!” And he did.

FLEMING: I shall be sorry when Khrushchev goes. I find him sympathetic. I mean, he’s an enemy, an enemy politician, but he's interesting; a devil we’re beginning to know. It's a hell of a start.

DULLES: He’s got a sense of humor.

FLEMING: Yes. He's got a sense of humor.

DULLES: Do you remember that story when I met him at the White House?

FLEMING: Remind me of it.

DULLES [Smiling]: Well, when Khrushchev was over here in the fall of 1959—you remember, he went around the States and complained that we wouldn't let him go to Disneyland, and all that—remember?


DULLES: There was a big dinner at the White House. And I was there, J. Edgar Hoover was there—there were about sixty to seventy people there, quite a big dinner given by the President. And as I went along the line to be introduced to Khrushchev, Khrushchev turned to the interpreter and said something; and then the interpreter said, “Oh, he says he knows you; he reads your reports.”

FLEMING [Grinning]: That's marvelous.

DULLES: Well, you know a reception line isn't a place where you can stop and argue, so I just shook hands and went on. But after dinner, when the men were in that small room next to the dining room having their cigars and cognac and so forth, Dick Nixon came up and said, “Have you had a good talk with Khrushchev?” I said, “No, I just had a word or two as we went along the line.” He said, “Well, come on up,” and he introduced me. And Khrushchev repeated, “Oh, yes, as I told you, I know you well. I read your reports.” “Well,” I answered, “I hope you come by them honestly and legally." And he said, "You know we do. We all have the same agents. The agents report to me and they report to you. We all read the same reports.” [Laughs]

FLEMING: That's terribly funny. And of course, there's a modicum of truth in that story. I mean the spy is a money-maker in the end—at least, a lot of them are in it simply for money—and of course, as we know, a lot of them deal with both sides.

DULLES: I've found that the money-maker is the least dependable type of spy.

FLEMING: Certainly.

DULLES: Sometimes money is important. I can think of a number of cases where a man wanted to keep up a certain social position and got in debt or something of the kind; then money plays a role. And as you say, you get people with some sort of problem, and the enemy gets at them and blackmails them into espionage. But there are also the ideological fellows, those who go into it because they really want to serve their country. By and large I've found that if you get an ideological fellow, you're much safer.

FLEMING: Well, and there are the romantics, the adventurers. The ones who like the excitement...

DULLES: Yes, like James Bond, the hero of your books.

FLEMING: Well, he is more a commando type. He likes adventure.

DULLES: Yes, but he’s working for his government. He’s got patriotic feeling.  He's part of the Service. That's something I tried to build up when I was the Director—esprit de corps; the fact that we had a fine group of people who had high standards and were part of the team.

FLEMING: Well, in spite of James Bond—who represents the romance and adventure of the game—my books are meant to entertain! It's a fact that an awful lot of intelligence work is not flamboyant at all.

DULLES: That's true. The man in my shop in the old days who was largely responsible, I think, for one of the greatest intelligence coups—getting, in 1956, the secret speech of Khrushchev, in which he denounced Stalin to the Twentieth Party Congress—was doing that kind of job.

And that coup had effects all around the world. It hit the Communist parties, you know, like a bombshell; it broke up some of the parties. It contributed to the Hungarian uprising. The finding of that speech was the result of very sophisticated work. You see, we knew the speech had been written down. It was much too long and detailed to have been made extemporaneously, even by Khrushchev, who is famous for long, extemporaneous speeches. We knew that it had been given a very limited circulation to the heads of some of the Communist parties abroad. Now, where could you get it?

FLEMING: Fascinating!

DULLES: And we in CIA took no credit for it. We gave it to the State Department. We spent weeks analyzing—bringing in all the experts to make sure we hadn't got a forgery, because there are an awful lot of forgeries and a lot of paper mills, people who turn out completely worthless stuff…

FLEMING: Yes, and double-agent stuff, useless stuff which they sell to both sides.

DULLES: Yes. But finally we got the unanimous view of the experts that this could not be false. There were items in it that no person other than Khrushchev could know. It was a great coup! And that cost us practically nothing.

FLEMING: There you are! As you say, the great stuff generally doesn't cost a lot of money. It's the small stuff, the swindles, that cost.

DULLES: Well, due to closer collaboration among the services of the Free World, one has been able to cut that down a good deal too. Because some of those people would sell to two or three allied services too, you see, and as soon as you began to compare notes you saw you were being “had.” [Laughs] You were buying the same goods, just mimeographed on different paper.

FLEMING: Whereas the best agents, the real professionals, quietly do their jobs and generally seem very unimpressive.

DULLES: That's sometimes a great problem. It’s no secret that wives who don't know what their husbands are doing sometimes wonder why they don’t do better.

FLEMING: Yes, you get a man who's perhaps got the job of agricultural attaché; maybe in Moscow or somewhere of that sort. Of course his wife is very worried that from the point of view of his social standing he goes on being agricultural attaché year after year and never gets any promotion. And as for the embassy parties—he’s probably not even invited, because he’s not high enough on the protocol. This is very difficult vis-a-vis the other wives. She can't say to the other wives, “Joe's in the Secret Service, you know,” and hear them answer, “Oh, my gosh, is he really!” So Joe goes on as the agricultural attaché, never getting anywhere; and though he may be doing extraordinary work, this means nothing to the wife, and similarly to the children as they grow up. [Acting the question out] “Why is Pa still agricultural attaché?”

DULLES: Sometimes, you know, the wife has to be let in on the secret—perhaps officially—to explain why her husband doesn't get on. And some of the foreigners begin to ask questions too! “Why, Mr. So-and-so is an awfully smart fellow! Why does he stay on as Secretary of the Legation for five years while younger people who are obviously not nearly as intelligent or clever are moving on?”

FLEMING: Yes, it's a real problem. But of course, these covers are generally penetrated fairly quickly. A good thing, too. You know, we had a very, very good spy whose job was in the Latin countries—in Italy, largely, and in Paris. When he went over he was a Commander of the Navy, which was his cover. And everybody said, “Oh, here's dear old—” let’s call him Joe—“Here's dear old Joe from the English Secret Service!” And people used to come out of the masonry and out of the cabinets, you know, and say, “Thank God, at last we know whom we can go and tell things to.” Actually, it's very important to have one or two people who are known spies.

DULLES: You know, I had an interesting example of that when I arrived in Switzerland two days after the invasion in North Africa. I barely got in, because the frontier was closed. You remember, when Hitler moved down at the time our troops landed in Africa in November, 1942.

Well, I arrived in Switzerland. I just barely made it. They threatened me with arrest at the frontier, but I got in. And the next day there was an editorial in the Journal de Genève, an excellent paper, that said I had arrived, and that though I had come as a mere attaché or special assistant in the legation, really I was the special representative of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Well, I thought my career there was fixed; I thought I was “blown”! And I said to myself, “Well, let's accept this.” I had denied, of course, that I was anything special, but the more you deny something, the more they believe it. And the result was, as you say, that a lot of people came to me, thinking that I was a special representative of Roosevelt, and it was very helpful. A lot of crooks came in, but there were a lot of extraordinary people too. And often they came to me after they'd tried to get to other secret· service men and couldn't find them.

FLEMING: Quite. Exactly. It's good to have an occasional chap above the surface. But then you have to keep your operations especially careful.

DULLES: Yes, yes. You know, the Swiss blackout was one of the things that helped me tremendously.

FLEMING: Was it?

DULLES: You could do things at night. Switzerland was a hotbed of international agents. I don't think there was any infra-red camera or anything of that kind. So one was able to have meetings at night with all kinds of people, do a great many things I never could have done without the blackout.

FLEMING: Are you going to write that period of your life?

DULLES: I hope to, yes. It's almost time. There's a little of in my current book.

FLEMING: Yes. Of course, your government being much easier on all this publication than ours is...

DULLES: May I question that?

FLEMING: Well, you have had some books that went too far. We spoke of one earlier, and we agreed—But we've had very interesting book published in England which I see is now on sale here, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. It's a very, very fine spy story.

DULLES: I've read it. I got an advance copy of it. [Playfully] But I thought somebody was invading your field a little bit. You're having some competition there, aren't you?

FLEMING: I don't object to that. Because first of all, I admire this book very much. It’s very well written. But of course, the only trouble about this is, it’s taking the “mickey” out of the spy business.

DULLES [Laughing]: Explain that a little bit. I'd like to get you to explain that.

FLEMING: Well, none of us wants to do it. I mean, none of us professional writers about spies want this to happen. We want the romance—at least I do; I’m talking for myself—I want the romance and the fun and the fantasy to go on. If you reduced the whole thing to police daywork or ordinary secret-service daywork, it would bore the reader to tears.

DULLES: Well, I didn't think this did.

FLEMING: No, no. It didn't. It was well done. But what he does to the spy story is to take the fun out of it. This is a serious, a most depressing, book. I mean, it's a book that one reads with great respect, but it isn't a book I would take an airplane journey. Because it wouldn’t take my mind off the airplane. It might even increase my fears and nervousness—

DULLES: I didn't even know you had any!

FLEMING [Dryly]: Well done, Allen. Now, I've got to go now, Allen—

DULLES: Can’t we put in a word—I would like to put in a word about my book

FLEMING: Yes, come on.

DULLES: Have you had a chance to look at it?

FLEMING: No, Allen. I haven't seen it yet. It hasn't appeared in England yet.  I’ll buy a copy here.

DULLES: Oh, no. You’re going to get an American copy. I'll give it to you.

FLEMING: How much does it cost—four ninety-five?

DULLES: Yes, but I'll give it to you. I can’t take money.

[Fleming laughs]

Moderator: We have one for you.

FLEMING: Oh, hooray!

DULLES [Deliberately]: Well, The Craft of Intelligence is the first effort here to really describe in a book the purposes and objectives of an intelligence service and how it operates, insofar as it can be told. And [Humorously, to the moderator] when you reproduce this dialogue, I want something on the book, because that’s—Well, I'm here to see Ian Fleming, but I’m also here to promote my book.

FLEMING: Hear! Hear! I think the thing to do is to end the dialogue on the sort of lines, “All you’ve got to do is read about it in Allen’s The Craft of Intelligence and the latest Ian Fleming!”


Edited by Revelator, 25 February 2016 - 11:33 PM.

#2 Jim


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Posted 26 February 2016 - 05:19 AM


#3 Napoleon Solo

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Posted 26 February 2016 - 05:18 PM

Dulles and Fleming also exchanged letters. I had the chance to read a few at Indiana University, where many of Fleming's manuscripts and correspondence are kept. Dulles wrote in 1963, congratulating Fleming on the On Her Majesty's Secret Service novel. In 1964, Dulles wrote that he planned to see From Russia With Love, even though he didn't go to see movies much.

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Posted 26 February 2016 - 06:46 PM

Thanks for sharing this, Revelator; a most welcome article.

A few thoughts of my own:

I did read this piece before and could have sworn it was included in the compilation 'For Bond Lovers Only'. Well, obviously not, though that little booklet too has a brief piece by Allen Dulles, a kind of memory of his friend Fleming, of his fad for James Bond (according to Dulles he was introduced to Bond by Jacqueline Kennedy, who gave him a copy of 'From Russia With Love'.) Interestingly, there he also claims to have met Fleming for the first time at a dinner he was invited to in London, not at a dinner he gave himself as the two claim here. Whether this detail may have been changed for security reasons or is simply the result of failing memory I cannot tell. Lycett by the way states that Fleming's trip to Washington was - at least on the surface - to pay a call to Henry Brandon, the Sunday Times correspondent in town. Incidentally, that came also handy to visit 'Oatsie' Leiter, who lived around the corner. But, according to Lycett, there had been plans to bring Fleming to the dinner at the Kennedy's place that evening. Only when she called them to announce Fleming nobody answered the phone. So the 'lucky coincidence' was at once luck - but also a bit of helped luck.

Interesting also that Dulles obviously is ignorant to the fact Fleming had CIA bit-players in his books from square one. The article I referenced above - 'The Spy Boss Who Loves Bond' by Allen Dulles; in 'For Bond Lovers Only' - makes the same mistake of claiming Fleming introduced CIA personnel only after getting in touch with Dulles.

Completely over my head is, how Fleming can display such a level of ignorance and outright idiocy towards female agents. Espionage is the second oldest profession and, likely as not, was probably invented by seasoned professionals of the first. Claiming the gathering of all kinds of intelligence by female agents 'went out with Edgar Wallace*' is probably the dumbest thing ever voiced. I can only suspect Fleming was already drunk, or bored, or warned by his publishers not to delve too deeply into the facts of the matter. Since a lot of intelligence work is outright prostitution the logical conclusion would be that the men at the desks - the Dulles/Fleming-types - are in effect a kind of pimps. Perhaps this uncomfortable truth was not deemed savoury for the readership of that époque. Some other stuff in this talk indicates it was just as much a promotional occasion for both their books as a 'gentle' justification for the whole intelligence apparat the West mounted against the East.**

Dulles in his later piece probably refers to this very meeting as the last time he met Fleming in person, and that Fleming didn't look well to him then.

As for le Carré's 'The Spy Who Came in from the Cold' - I can perfectly see how it appealed to Fleming. 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. In 'The Spy Who Came in from the Cold' the whole operation hinges on Leamas being constantly two sips short of drunk for days on end and squeezed dry at speed by East German debriefers. Everything happening too fast for them to analyse and consider the information given. Which immediately points them in the direction of the Brits' top spy in their apparat and setting up a show trial - only to then fall apart by the involvement of an innocent girl trapped in the whole scheme. That the two of them are then freed by the very spy they helped protect with Leamas confession - the whole tale is just as bizarre and outlandish as Bond's adventures. The difference is, Leamas is a real character, Liz Gold is a real character, Mundt and Fiedler are living, breathing persons.

But Fleming has some of these on his pages, too. There is the guy at the photo desk of the Daily Gleaner in 'Casino Royale'. Just a bit player with no more than five paragraphs, not a single line of dialogue if we don't count the cable he sent under the DASILVA cover to Bond. But he's probably more rounded than many of Bond's love interests in the entire canon. Similar characters appear from time to time, sometimes in the short stories, sometimes as Bond's allies, sometimes as observers from the sidelines, such as the woman whose job it is to massage Red Grant at his SMERSH villa by the Black Sea. They are easily interchangeable with the persons you meet in some of le Carré's work. Their job is to tie Bond's world to ours, to keep it ever so slightly grounded. So Fleming has been playing the keys of 'realism' all along, just not with the same tune and not to the same amount. But 'The Living Daylights' for example could easily have been a story le Carré might have told.

*Edgar Wallace, a popular writer from another age...

**Fleming's other claim, that Tatiana Romanova's job in FRWL is 'a perfectly reasonable operation by a woman' doesn't help his case at all...

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Posted 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.

Edited by Revelator, 27 February 2016 - 12:41 AM.

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 04:11 PM

Excellent article and discussion! Thanks, all!