To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Ian Fleming The Man Behind James Bond
|New from||Used from|
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Top customer reviews
The most obvious is to get a look at the man who created one of the greatest iconic figures of the 20th Century. "Bond, James Bond" is usually on every list of popular and enduring characters from the previous century and his simple introduction is normally cited as the most memorable movie line in cinema history. The 007 machine is still very much alive in the 21st Century with all of Fleming's adventures in print and the secret agent still drawing millions at the box office with last year's "Casino Royale."
The second fascinating reason for reading this biography is the author's frank and open access to Fleming's family and friends. A great deal is revealed through their interviews as well as their diaries and letters.
When I read through the reviews for the hardcover edition, I found some complaints about the constant name-dropping throughout the book, but that was their world. Ian's wife Ann seemed to live to socialize and while most of the names probably mean very little to most readers today, some still jump out--from mobsters like Lucky Luciano to real intelligence figures like Allen Dulles, former CIA boss.
This is a sharp, genuine look at Bond's creator after decades of mythmaking about the life of Ian Fleming.
As the quote on the cover says, "This is an exemplary biography, beautifully written, fast-paced and extremely perceptive."
Lycett's book suffers from a lack of examination. Let's take Fleming's childhood, for example. Lycett wraps that up in about 60 pages or so. Now, this is a 400 page book, and Fleming didn't even live to be 60. Childhood was over a third of the man's entire life, and when it's clear the subject had some serious "issues" as we say these days, it's not gossip, it's appropriate, in a popular biography to examine the origins of anything that is out of the ordinary.
Let's take the S and M as an example. Lycett writes as if he is terrified we'll find out what HE thinks of it. Is he embarrassed to believe we'll think he likes it? Or embarrassed at being a prude and not participating? Look, I don't care either way, but you don't have to reveal your own opinion on S & M to note that Fleming himself was conflicted by it. He participated, found a partner that claimed she couldn't live without it (what she did in Fleming's declining years we don't know) but when he wrote about it, it was generally the bad guys who make it part of what they do. The bad, ugly, coarse and stupid characters are the ones who own sting ray tails. (There is one Bond ally that enslaves his lover, but he doesn't live to the end of the book. And while Fleming himself owned a ray tail, his character is horrified to see another possess one, and warns he could be arrested.)
Lycett's writing also suffers from--and how is this possible, in 400 pages?--not enough information. He tells us that child Fleming tries to get rich from ambergris, but doesn't tell us what it is. He tells us that a relative had a lint factory (a lint factory? Is this a joke?). Yes, I was able to look it up, but no I do not think these bits are common knowlege. Also Lycett translates all the German phrases but not the French ones--I guess he figures we all speak French but not German. We're not you, Andrew, you DO need to write for a common audience.
The author's lack of thinking things through is amusing. Like most Fleming biographers, Lycett maintains that Fleming "ignored" his doctors' advice to cut down on the vices that killed him, not even suggesting that you know, maybe the man had an addiction or two. And in another great example of obliviousness, Lycett tells the story of how Fleming felt forced to marry Ann because she was pregnant, and how Fleming's half-sister hated Ann and tried to talk him out of it. Lycett is astounded that Amarylis talked back to Ian, because he was nearly 20 years older. It doesn't occur to Lycett to point out that maybe Amarylis felt Ian didn't have to marry his pregnant lover when their own mother didn't marry when SHE got pregnant out of wedlock. Talk about missing the point.
As another reviewer pointed out, in the lack of good information, there is plenty, plenty of useless information, like who had lots of money at the time and some tenuous connection to the Fleming family. Although it was nice that Blanche Blackwell was restored to the story.
One thing you do learn from this book--although again, it is not pointed out, you have to figure it out--is that the biggest Mary Sue trait of James Bond isn't the swashbuckling adventure. It's that Ian Fleming's sexual propositions(unlike James Bond's)occasionally got turned down. It's also rather painful to read how Fleming tried to escape Bond with the weird little romance The Spy Who Loved Me. He overreacted to its failure, ordering that it never come out in paperback (it has, since his death). (Personally, I wish it had done well. The non Bond based writing of the short story Quantum of Solace is some of the best I've ever read. If Fleming had been brave enough to abandon Bond after he made a lot of money what wonders would his golden typewriter have produced? We'll never know, and Lycett doesn't treat the abortive flee from Bond as anything other than a mistake.)
If you choose to read this, you'll also need James Bond Dossier (written by Fleming's friend Kingsley Amis), The Man Who Saved Britain, and probably the Pearson biography.
Which is to say, the definitive Ian Fleming bio has yet to be written.