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Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond Hardcover – April, 1996

3.8 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Exhaustive and compulsively readable, Lycett's latest (first published in the U.K. in 1995) is billed as the first full-length Fleming biography to be published in America. Biographer Lycett (Dylan Thomas: A New Life) calls his subject an immature child of the jazz age—a man of wealth and privilege who shared his fictional hero James Bond's fascination with women, gambling, and drinking. Fleming applied to Britain's Foreign Office for a job but to no avail, but thanks to the forceful lobbying of his snobbish and well-connected mother, he was hired by the Reuters news agency in London. During WWII, he worked for Britain's Naval Intelligence Division. One of the book's pleasures is reading about upper-class social life before, during, and after the war: Fleming and his wife, Ann, mingled with statesmen and notable cultural figures in London and at Goldeneye, their Jamaican retreat. But Fleming did have a darker side, collecting sadomasochistic erotica and being callous to women. Lycett uncovers the seeds of Bond in Fleming's life (though perhaps not as thoroughly as diehard fans would wish), as well as addressing the decline of Britain's power in the postcolonial world. In this anecdote-filled account, Lycett pays tribute to Fleming's colorful life, which was cut short by a heart attack in 1964 at age 56, just two years after Sean Connery starred in the film version of Dr. No. 8-page b&w photo insert. (Oct.) --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Fleming was not James Bond, but even before his death in 1964 the character Fleming created had taken on a life of his own in books, films, and myth. Well educated, from a wealthy, upper-crust family, Fleming was a desk-bound naval intelligence officer, mediocre stock broker, and newspaper correspondent before writing Casino Royale at age 44, the same year he married and fathered a son. Thirteen more Bond books followed, two posthumously, and the 17th Bond film came out in 1995. Lycett, a British foreign correspondent for various newspapers, had access to more papers and people than did John Pearson in his Life of Ian Fleming (1966). He has produced a thoroughly researched, definitive portrayal of a complex man who was rarely at peace with himself, a man who had a worldwide network of friends and acquaintances but died at age 56 in self-imposed loneliness. Lycett has also succeeded in separating the author from the phenomenon while putting both in the context of their times. Recommended for biography, literature, and cultural history collections.?Roland Person, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 486 pages
  • Publisher: Turner Pub; 1st edition (April 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570363439
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570363436
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,511,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I had already read the John Pearson biography of Ian Fleming (Alias James Bond-The Life Of Ian FLeming.) when I picked up this Andrew Lycett biography. Because blurbs and reviews of this biography praised it for the access Lycett had, I was looking forward to something more about Fleming's internal life and motivations and more details and first-person accounts of the interesting experiences Fleming did have. I was severely disappointed.

In the Acknowledgements section of this book Lycett thanks Pearson "for material he collected for his book The Life of Ian Fleming." The influence of the Pearson material seems prevalent throughout. Pearson seems to have set the standard for the depth of investigation and the extent of informed speculation, and there are even trivialities that are related in such a way that it seems Lycett and Pearson were writing from the same material. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Lycett almost seems to have simply removed the whitewash from Pearson's book.

The whitewash is mostly related to sexual matters. For example, Pearson makes it clear that Fleming seduced many women, but Lycett relates the seduction of the wife of one Fleming's friends, soon after the marriage, in which Fleming was supposed to be best man. Likewise, Pearson surgically removed Blanche Blackwell from Fleming's life and obscured many unsavory facts about Fleming's wife Ann. Lycett puts these matters on display, but there is no probing of them for understanding.
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Format: Hardcover
In a fashion, Mr. Lycett's biography is as detailed as Carlos Baker's biography of Ernest Hemingway. Nearly every movement of Ian Fleming's adulthood is covered. What is revealed is not a pleasant personality. Ian Fleming was a selfish, egocentric fellow who was very much a rake and a cad, especially in the years before World War Two. Scion of a wealthy family, he was a true-to-life example of England's decadent ruling class as much as the Marchmont family was in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.(Interestingly, Fleming's wife, Ann, was friends with Waugh though Waugh did not know Fleming very well when Brideshead was written). Lycett paints an unflattering portrait of this ruling class. The ruling circle which Fleming was part specialized in divorce, arrogance, selfishness, the lapping up of assorted luxuries. They lacked fidelity and self-discipline. It is also noteworthy that in the middle of the Depression, Fleming was so set in society that he seemed to be able to vacation at a whim and not lose his job. Fleming would have died a spoiled cad if not for the discipline of war, in which he served well as an intelligence officer. Egocentric as always, Fleming later claimed to have drawn up the blueprint for the American O.S.S., later known as the C.I.A.. During the war, Fleming fell in love with Jamaica. This love led eventually to Fleming's routine of writing a James Bond novel each winter at his place, Goldeneye, in Jamaica during his ordinarilly 2-3 month winter vacations. The James Bond pop phenomenon was slow to take off and by the time that it did, Ian Fleming's health was in severe decline due to years of a diet of cigarettes, large amounts of alcohol and greasy foods.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This new and surely exhaustive biography of the fascinating creator of the James Bond series reveals a deep, sensuous, driven man who lived through the end of Britain’s orderly days of world empire and into a modern era that was by contrast morally chaotic and numb.

Andrew Lycett, who has written about varied other luminaries of Fleming’s ilk (Rudyard Kipling, Dylan Thomas) --- brilliant, well educated, moneyed --- has pulled out all the stops here to ensure that his Fleming is the Fleming. A neglected boy, as those of his class often were, troubled teen Fleming jumped ahead as a scholar when sent to a “cramming” school, and, casting about for a career, failing as a banker, he was lucky enough to find himself suited for war at a time when a suitable war was breaking out. He worked in the British Naval Intelligence during World War II, at which point, legend has it, James Bond was born.

But Bond did not see the light of public scrutiny until a few years after the war. Lycett records that Fleming began typing away at this story, “which had been rattling around in his head for so long” while vacationing in Jamaica with his bride-to-be, Anne Charteris, a divorcee and the great love of his not-always-so-happy life. He managed to complete the novel in just four weeks, and “when Ian returned to London, not only was he a married man, but also he carried a typescript of CASINO ROYALE in his suitcase.”

For the next 13 years, Fleming turned out Bond books to satisfy an ever-increasing popular demand. Perhaps the stories reminded readers of the good old days when men were well dressed and deadly, women were submissive and seductive, and enemies were villainous and worth destroying, like the evil Goldfinger.
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