Wednesday, April 10, 2024

When A 24-Year-Old Ian Fleming Went To Moscow To Cover a “Show” Trial: “Russia is ruled by an army of executioners with the Lubyanka as the headquarters of death.” offers a chapter from Nicholas Shakespeare’s Ian Fleming: The Complete Man, the latest biography of the late, great thriller writer and the creator of James Bond. 

The chapter deals with the 24-year-old Ian Fleming, then a Reuters reporter who covered the Soviet spy trials in Moscow.     

In the late 1960s, the screenwriter Jack Whittingham, who had collaborated on the writing of Thunderball, started to write a screenplay based on the life of Ian Fleming. Whittingham’s daughter Sylvan says: “He had Fleming as a Reuters correspondent travelling on that train across Russia. Fleming was sitting in a compartment, and this alter ego like a ghost came out of him, and this whole adventure took place. That was how Dad played it—that Fleming had this other life that was Bond.” 

The project was aborted, yet it reveals something of Whittingham’s perception of Bond that he saw his origins in Ian’s first important foreign assignment. During his fortnight in Moscow, Ian confronted a system that crystalized in his twenty-four-year-old mind the kind of enemy Bond would take on in the 1950s and 60s. 

Ian had been forewarned from reading Leo Perutz that “Russia is ruled by an army of executioners” with the Lubyanka as “the headquarters of death.” He understood the truth behind these remarks as he sat for six days in the packed Moscow courtroom and observed from a few feet away “the implacable working of the soulless machinery of Soviet Justice.” 

In July 1956, after delivering From Russia, with Love, Ian told his editor how it was based on what he had witnessed personally, “a picture of rather drab grimness, which is what Russia is like,” and a portrait of state intimidation on a scale that he could never have imagined in Carmelite Street. 

During his time in Moscow, Ian formed a hostile picture of the Soviet state that, twenty years later in the context of the Cold War, the rest of the world was ready to gobble up. A system built on fear, routine arrests, the terrorizing of innocent men and women in a show trial dominated by a pitiless Stalinist prosecutor, who, in his appetite to break and dehumanize the accused, compared them to “stinking carrion” and “mad dogs.” 

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

When a 24-Year-Old Ian Fleming Went to Moscow to Cover a “Show” Trial ‹ Literary Hub (

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