Sunday, October 1, 2023

Ian Fleming: The Complete Man By Nicholas Shakespeare Review – The Other International Man Of Mystery

I've always thought that Ian Fleming, sans fist and gun fights, was a more interesting character than his creation, James Bond. 

A naval intelligence officer during WWII and a journalist before and after the war, Fleming led a most interesting life. 

So I look forward to reading Nicholas Shakespeare's biography of Ian Fleming and covering it in my Washington Times On Crime column when the book is published in America later this year. 

Anthony Cummins at the British newspaper the Guardian offers a review of Nicholas Shakespeare’s biography of Ian Fleming: 

Nicholas Shakespeare’s elegant biography of the James Bond author Ian Fleming takes its subtitle from a journalist’s observation, quoted halfway through, that its subject was “for a moment of time, a complete man” while working for British naval intelligence in the second world war.


Yet you can’t help read it as a promise to give the reader what was left out of previous biographies such as John Pearson’s crisp, more portable authorized life from 1966. And is there a claim, too, for the alpha male credentials of the man called “Flemingway” by his friend Noël Coward? Journalist, stockbroker, thriller writer and – like his famous creation – a playboy and 70-a-day smoker, who died of a heart attack in 1964 at the age of 56 after a plagiarism row over the origins of Thunderball, the ninth Bond novel.


After a dutiful account of how Fleming’s Scottish financier grandfather became a millionaire – later cutting Fleming and his brothers out of his will – Shakespeare gets going with his subject’s troubled boyhood in the shadow of his father’s death in the first world war. Family friends in Switzerland take his education in hand after hasty exits from Eton (hanky-panky with a woman) and Sandhurst (gonorrhea). His exams aren’t good enough for the Foreign Office; an engagement to a Swiss lover ends amid maternal threats to cut off his allowance.


He falls on his feet at Reuters – it was that kind of life – further honing his knack for a scoop at the Sunday Times, a handy source of contacts for his war work.

Shakespeare goes to great lengths – not least tracking down a 94-year-old veteran, the last surviving member of a covert commando unit that Fleming organized – to dispel the idea that Fleming’s service, occluded by state-sanctioned secrecy, was just “in-trays, out-trays and ashtrays”. 

The book’s first half puts the future author at the heart of military and journalistic history – a search for German weapons of mass destruction; the race to get an inside scoop on the Cambridge spies – as well as the bedroom shenanigans of the English well-to-do.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

Ian Fleming: The Complete Man by Nicholas Shakespeare review – the other international man of mystery | Biography books | The Guardian 

Note: Below is a photo of Commander Ian Fleming during WWII:

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