Everyone knows James Bond, but not everybody knows the man who created him: Ian Fleming.
Ian Lancaster Fleming was born to a wealthy family in the district of Mayfair in London. As a young boy, he attended Durnford School in Dorset where he had been subject to bullying. He then enrolled at Eton College in 1921, where he excelled in athletics. In Eton, he also edited the Wyvern, the school’s magazine. However, disapproval from his housemaster led to his removal from Eton. He then transferred to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, which he attended for less than a year. Fleming’s mother sent him to Austria for private study in preparation for possible entry into the Foreign Office. After improving his language skills in Austria, he studied briefly at Munich University and the University of Geneva. Sadly, he failed the entrance examination for the Foreign Office, so instead, he entered Reuters News Agency as a subeditor and journalist. Eventually, Fleming entered the banking industry because of pressure from his family.
During World War II, Fleming was recruited as a personal assistant to Rear Admiral John Godfrey, then the director of Naval Intelligence. Fleming excelled in the position, acting as a liaison to different sections of the wartime administration. After the war, he entered the Kemsley newspaper group as a foreign manager. In 1952, he started penning his first spy novel, something that he had always wanted to do. This became Casino Royale, the first novel to introduce super spy James Bond.
Casino Royale is about Royal Naval Reserve Commander and Secret Intelligence Officer James Bond, also known as MI6 or 007. The first Bond novel was followed by twelve more novels and two short-story collections. Fleming wrote mostly from experience, even creating characters inspired by real people he had met. Other than fiction, Fleming also tried his hand at nonfiction writing. He published his first nonfiction book The Diamond Smugglers in 1957. He also wrote a children’s book called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which was equally popular.
Despite the popularity of the first few Bond novels, the latter half of his Bond series received negative reviews. Most people cited the novel’s disregard for ethics as a major issue. Nevertheless, both Fleming and Bond survived the criticism. Fleming lived long enough to see the first James Bond film in 1962. Dr. No starred Sean Connery as the first of what would be a long line of James Bond actors. To date, the James Bond franchise is one of the longest-running film franchises in history.
Like many popular creations, sometimes the creation outlives the creator. In 1962, Fleming suffered his first serious heart attack, and he never fully recovered from it. Two years later, he suffered a fatal heart attack after spending a day in Canterbury. After his death, two more Bond books were published: The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy and the Living Daylights.
Just as Fleming passed away, Bond was slowly gaining traction in pop culture. James Bond became the most popular spy in the whole world. There are 26 James Bond films to date, the last being Spectre from 2015, and seven actors have played the super spy in the film’s 55-year history. Some of the most notable James Bond actors include Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and the current man playing 007, Daniel Craig. James Bond has become so influential in pop culture that it inspired other popular spy franchises such as Austin Powers and Jason Bourne.
Fleming has been named one of Britain’s greatest writers by multiple publications. An award was also named in his honor in 2002, the Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for the best thriller, adventure, or spy novel first published in the UK.
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