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Eldollarado: A Transient’s Scrapbook from New York (Sunday Times, June 28, 1953)

From Ian Fleming.

Tipping is a pestiferous business and it would be a wonderful thing if U.N.E.S.C.O. or the U.N. Commission on Human Rights would establish a World Tipping Code. On my last night in the Ocean Belle my advice on the subject was sought by a group of three American couples bearing names which you would know.

My eyes started from my head as each couple showed its hand. “I always give my cabin steward £20.” “We’ve done a lot of entertaining in the Veranda Grill and we're dividing £40 between the head waiter and the two others” “Would £5 be enough for the Turkish Bath man?” “And what about you?”

I was torn between various emotions. My feelings for the working-man triumphed. “I think you're being very generous,” I said. “You’ll certainly all get an extra couple of teeth in the farewell smile.”

Under cover of their rather thin laughter I escaped with my pair of jacks unseen. For the four nights, I tipped my cabin steward £2. He seemed perfectly happy.


These Names Make Bad News

For a time the Coronation (“It’s going to mean a great religious revival round the world” is a comment I have heard several times) ousted McCarthy as topic “A” in New York and I believe throughout America, but now he is top-billing again, and you simply can’t stop talking about him or reading about him.

There are various reasons for this: he has a really expert publicity machine, he is always springing or cooking-up a new surprise, people are terrified and fascinated by him, and “he may be a sonofabitch but, darn it, he's always right.” Homosexuals in the State Department, British ships trading with China, un-American books in American embassies abroad.

Each scandalous broadside has missed with ninety-nine calumnies and hit with one. And that one is enough in a country where every man is born with a chance to be President and where, in consequence, every man aches to prove the Administration wrong. McCarthy is just pressing the trigger of a gun which is loaded and aimed by a huge cross-section of the public.

Walter Winchell has been doing much the same thing for thirty years, and he goes on doing it on radio and TV to a guaranteed public of around ten million every week. Is there a connection between them? And what role does Edgar Hoover of the F.B.I. play in all this, the Washington Fouché who has controlled the American secret police for the amazing span of twenty-seven years? These three men are the recipients of all the private grudges of America. They are the overt and covert crusaders against un-Americanism. The sun would indeed be darkened if history were to bring them together, or any closer together, before this giant country has found itself.


Tales from Kinseyland

But August 20 is K-Day and on that morning one topic will sweep away all others. For on that day will be published Dr. Kinsey’s “Sexual Report on the Human Female,” and on that day every newspaper, every dinner-table, will go hog-wild.

The Report is completed and scarifying tales and rumours are leaking out of the peaceful, beautiful campus of Indiana University where what might be described as semesters are being held to allow newspaper and magazine men (and women) to digest the huge tome and squeeze out the meatiest three-thousand word thesis for release in each paper on K-Day. Not a word more than 3,000 or someone will reach for a lawyer.

So far two semesters have been held. One in May and one in June. And there is another to come.


Jottings on a Nylon Cuff

Canasta has become the favourite card game of America, leading Contract Bridge by ten per cent.—a wide margin. Bolivia is the name of a new variation I do not intend to learn. Bolivia is really a standardisation of Samba, which I have also eschewed. Three packs. Going-out requires a sequence canasta and a regular canasta. Wild card canastas score 2,500 points. Black threes left in your hand cost a hundred points each against you. Game is 15,000 points. Who do you think is touring America promoting it? Who but that Queen of the Green Baize, our old friend Ottilie H. Reilly.


The latest and most deadly way of making a dry martini is to pour a little dry vermouth into a jug, swirl it round and throw it down the sink. Fill Jug with gin and place in ice-box until tomorrow. Then serve (or drink from Jug). Note that there is no wasteful dilution with ice-cubes.


The germ-consciousness of America is rapidly becoming a phobia, battened on by doctors, druggists and advertisers. People actually prefer foods that are frozen or tinned or preserved. They are more hygienic. And what about this? Brown eggs are virtually unobtainable in New York. “Customers won’t touch ‘em,” my Super-Market told me. “They’re dirty.”


Fifty-cent Angels

Broadway Angels Inc. has made a Common Stock issue of 570,000 shares at fifty cents a share to allow “the small investor an opportunity to employ funds in diversified enterprises connected with the Broadway Theatre.” The stock will be traded on the “Over-the-Counter-Market.” The issue was made on March 1 and the President of the Company, a Mr. Wallace Garland, tells me it is already three-quarters subscribed by some 2,000 investors.

“Of course, you can lose 100 per cent. of the capital invested in one show,” said Mr. Garland. “But look at ‘Voice of the Turtle,’ 3,000 per cent, profit. ‘Mister Roberts,’ 500 per cent profit. ‘Harvey,’ 4,000 per cent, profit. Do you think the British would be interested?”

“I’m sure they would be,” I said. “I'll tell them about it.”

(P.S. “Show Business” tells me that normally the angel has a thirty-seventy chance of making his money back. And of course, there’s Treasury permission to get. But it would be fine to own a piece of Ethel Merman.)


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Questions of Colour (Times Literary Supplement, January 01, 1954)

By Ian Fleming

Fernando Henriques: Family and Colour in Jamaica. With a Preface by Meyer Fortes. Eyre and Spottiswoode. 18s.

      There are about 250 million Negroes in the world and one of the great problems of this and future generations lies in promoting their happiness and well-being. Over the centuries, this will only be achieved by an extension of the colour bar so that part of the earth’s surface—perhaps the African continent—becomes a Negro dominion or reserve, or else by progressive removal of the colour bar until, through miscegenation, the entire population of the world is coffee-coloured. In England, until very recently, we barely perceived the problem. The solitary blackamoor was a nursery figure, a pet. In the plural he was a horde of fuzzy-wuzzies to be handled with glass beads or machine-guns.

    But suddenly, almost since the war, the picture has changed; or rather our eyes, educated in humanity by the twentieth-century blaze of social enlightenment, see it differently. Suddenly we perceive the Negro as a tragically unhappy man ridden by a sense of inferiority which accompanies him, like a deformity, from the schoolroom to the grave. In our sympathy we lavish education and culture and medicine upon him only to be pained when, with advancement, he reaches for the weapons we once used against him and turns them upon us—weapons of legal and political argument, weapons of “giant powder” and steel. Floundering, we bomb him in one colony and in another invite him to fork-lunches at the Residency. Here he is a tool of Moscow, there he gets the O.B.E. Now he is pacified with a new constitution, then he is threatened with a battleship. Whichever way we attempt to disintegrate the black cloud on the horizon, it still remains larger than a man’s hand and, to those who think about it, just as menacing as if it were shaped like a mushroom.

    Mr. Henriques is a social anthropologist and, while he might be indulgent towards these generalizations, in Family and Colour in Jamaica it has been his concern to focus a microscope over a small portion of this black cloud and to provide a detailed field-study of the mesh of colour relationships that exist even in a community as politically advanced and socially enlightened as Jamaica. The result is not only a valuable contribution to social science but a work of general interest, written with intelligence and sympathy.

     The author, himself a member of a famous Jamaican family still prominent in the island, is lecturer in social anthology in the University of Leeds. It was thus not difficult for him to return to Jamaica and move among the people with intimacy and yet with eyes wide open. He concentrated on the County of Portland and its capital, Port Antonio, and his minute focus on the habits of and customs of this parish provides some of his most interesting passages of descriptive reporting. But it is his examination of the minutiae of colour relationships within Negro society that brings out the bitter colour warfares that accompany the usual economic class struggles.

    “Colour,” he emphasizes, “is evaluated in terms of actual colour, hair formation, features and skin textures,” allowing for infinite combinations all of which have social significance. Thus, a dark person with “good” hair and features ranks above a fairer person with “bad” hair and features, and so on. Families become divided on colour lines, but in other spheres there are even greater frustrations. Choice of a career, promotion, public and private acceptance by others, marriage, in fact all social position is largely determined by colour. Even poverty plays a secondary part. Always there is that dreadful moment, generally at school, when some incident on the playground, some remark overheard in the street, will suddenly bring home to the little black boy that the fair boy will have the advantage of him for the rest of his life. It is no wonder that the conclusions reached by this stimulating and humane author are not encouraging, and the only disappointing feature of the book lies in the absence of some brave and thought-provoking suggestions for the future which would stir our minds as well as our hearts.


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The Deadly Tube (Sunday Times, Oct. 26, 1952)

One of Our Submarines. By Edward Young. (Hart-Davis. 18s.)

By Ian Fleming

We make terrible mistakes at the beginning of all our wars, but the worst of them is the failure to give the maximum number of people a chance to fight the enemy from the very day war is declared. The National Defence Club is hard to join. Anyone not on a waiting list gets passed, from one “Sorry, old man” to the next until his ardour and patriotism are as scuffed as his shoe leather.

To be a round peg in a round hole in wartime is rare and priceless. Edward Young was one of the fortunate. Of the three Services, the Navy is the shop most tightly closed. It has to be. Irresponsibility or inefficiency by any one man in a ship is far more dangerous and expensive than the failure of his opposite number in the normal run of service in the Army or Air Force. And the citadel of this closed shop is the Submarine Service. A week-end yachtsman, Young was graciously admitted into the R.N.V.R., and then by a fluke had a chance of volunteering for submarines. He was accepted, completed his training, moved from ship to ship just, it seemed, as the one he left was doomed, was given the first R.N.V.R. command in the history of submarines, and dodged depth-charges and disaster in the same ship until he ended the war in her with the rank of Commander and with the D.S.O., D.S.C. and Bar. A wonderful war for one young civilian. How many other fine men were lost on the clumsy machine?

One Of Our Submarines is in the very highest rank of books about the last war. Submarines are thrilling beasts and Edward Young tells of four years’ adventures in them in a good stout book with excitement on every page. He writes beautifully, economically and with humour, and in the actions he commands he manages to put the reader at the voice-pipe and the periscope so that sometimes the tension is so great that one has to put the book down.

The author tells us little about himself, which is a pity, for the hints which penetrate through his modest cloak of self-effacement make us wish for more of his personal reactions as he climbed towards the final solitary pinnacle of command. It is interesting that when he reaches that pinnacle the writing seems to become slightly constrained and the earlier attractive freedom of comment and expression gives place to the voice of authority as he takes his deadly tube against the Japanese.

To anyone who has served in submarines it will not be surprising that the little communities he describes are so happy and so closely knit. A sociologist would probably say that the ship’s company of a submarine represents the highest form of democratic unity—from fifty to a hundred men, the duties of each one vital to the safety of all of them, social barriers impossible, discipline automatic and perfectly comprehended, successes and failures completely shared and always the subconscious framework of permanent danger to override and control the selfish instincts of the individual.

All this comes out in One of Our Submarines and the book is a fine tribute to a happy and gallant Service. But what a wonderful setting for a novel—a Caine Mutiny of the Submarine Service! Mr. Young is exceptionally qualified to write it.


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The Sun Went In (Sunday Times, July 28, 1957)

Man The Ropes. By Augustine Courtauld. (Hodder & Stoughton. 12s. 6d.)

This is the autobiography of a man upon whom it seemed that the sun would always shine.

It is true that innumerable governesses and school-masters beat Augustine Courtauld for various types of rebellion, and that much of his later life consisted of getting in and out of scrapes with authority and equally uneven battles with resistentialist sun, ice, rock and sea: but the tough, gay quixotry of Augustine Courtauld always won.

At one time, in 1931, when the world’s press was full of the youth missing for five months in an ice hut in the Arctic, it seemed that here was another Edgar Christian destined to a young, lonely death in the midst of one of those tom-boy expeditions into the Frozen North. But his hero, Gino Watkins, soon himself to die in the Arctic, found Courtauld as Courtauld knew he would.

There were more adventures in the Arctic; then marriage to Mollie Montgomery, and to Duet, his dream-ship, which is still part of the family. Then came the war. To me these are the best chapters: when Courtauld, Polar Medal, Watchkeeper’s Certificate and all tried to enroll in the exclusive club that was the Navy and could get no further than a Civil Servant’s job in the Naval Intelligence Division. He was put in the Scandinavian Section, which was in charge of an expert on Egypt. One day the latest intelligence on the Swedish Fleet was asked for. Courtauld hunted through the files and produced a solitary, dog-eared “secret report” dated many years previously, which announced that “owing to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease the manoeuvres of the Swedish main fleet would be cancelled.” Many such incidents went into Courtauld’s early attempts to win the war and they make splendid, ironical reading. At last he got into M.T.B.s and then into the abortive Arctic Commando under “Red” Ryder, the V.C. of St. Nazaire, which ended with the murder in Belsen of the small party which finally got to Norway. Courtauld was transferred to a destroyer and then to ferrying landing-craft across the Atlantic.

VE Day came and Courtauld went back to his family, to Spencers, his beautiful house in Essex, and to Duet. It looked as if the sun would go on shining for him until suddenly the Almighty decided that Courtauld’s life had been too happy. He turned off the sunshine. Christopher, the eldest boy of six children, caught polio, from which it took the Courtaulds three years to rescue him. Neuritis struck Augustine and put him in a wheelchair, for the rest of his life. Mollie had a long nervous breakdown. The storms of Fate blew and went on blowing.

Now at last the skies have cleared again and the battered ship is back on an even keel. This splendid, gay little book of very English adventures is one of the results. All Augustine Courtauld’s life is in the Masefield quotation from which the title comes:

The power of man is as his hopes
In darkest night, the cocks are crowing.
With the sea roaring and the wind blowing;
Adventure. Man the ropes.


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Mr. Coward Explains (Sunday Times, March 28, 1954)

Future Indefinite. By Noel Coward. (Heinemann, 21s.)

By Ian Fleming

Noel Coward is one of the most remarkable men of the century whose age (he is in his fifty-fifth year) he shares. Genius is not a word to be thrown about carelessly, but any man who can succeed in giving pleasure, in most of the creative media, to half the inhabitants of the world for thirty years must possess a measure of it.

Much of his secret lies in his passionate professionalism. A master of technique, he works extremely hard and with minute accuracy, discipline and integrity. The second volume of his autobiography shows all these qualities, and it may thus seem very unfair to complain that in this admirably written book it is just these professional virtues that sometimes obtrude upon the narrative. If only he had thrown away those diaries. If only he had not bothered so much about dates and places and ships and planes. If only he had not found it necessary to put the record straight about his war service, his court case on a currency offence, the incident of the “Brooklyn Boys.”

Mr. Coward’s public life has demonstrated that he is a man of courage, devotion to duty and patriotism. If he had done nothing more during the war years than produce In Which We Serve, he would have done as much for the Allied cause as any man in his profession; yet in this vastly readable and entertaining book there occasionally creeps in a rather querulous note of self-justification which seems out of place in a man of his attainments. But when he forgets the critic inside himself who has always been his sternest mentor and when he thinks only of the reader he provides a scintillating picture of his life before and during the war.

On every page there are passages of brilliant observation, wit and humanity, which allow one to hope that when his third volume, Past Imperfect, comes to be written, he will forget his own private pains and write only according to his particular genius, which is to give pleasure to intelligent people.


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Books and Authors Abroad: English Laurels in America (Sunday Times, July 4, 1948)

By Ian Fleming

In the United States the literary event of the year has been the publication of the first of five volumes of Mr. Churchill’s war memoirs entitled The Gathering Storm. The New York Times and Life have published long extracts from the book, as has The Daily Telegraph in England, and now a further huge section of the American public will read this great English adventure story by Britain’s first citizen.

The efforts of our official propaganda organisations are small beer beside the vast American audience created by Mr. Churchill, and it is debatable whether the handiwork of any other single Englishman will bring in more hard currency this year. The Gathering Storm, which has been acclaimed by the critics with “rave” but reverent notices, deals with the prelude to war—in the author’s words, “How the English-speaking peoples through their unwisdom, carelessness and good nature allowed the wicked to rearm”—and with the Twilight War, ending in May, 1940. The volume (nearly 800 pages with the appendices) closes with Mr. Churchill’s appointment as Prime Minister and Minister of Defence.

Due largely to the shortage .of paper and cloth, the majority of the British public will not read this great segment of their own history until Messrs. Cassell publish the volume here in September.

Few other major works of general interest have appeared. "Vinegar” Joe Stilwell’s posthumous and peppery memoirs of the Burma campaign have not been praised, and Mr. Sumner Welles’s We Need Not Fail has made no stir. Dr. Kinsey’s Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male still leads the best-sellers for the worst reasons. In fact, it is a stodgy agglomeration of statistics and graphs whose findings will be treated with respect by the medical authorities to whom it is addressed. The Hatfields and the McCoys, by Virgil Jones, is an exciting piece of folklore retelling the story of the famous family feud on the Kentucky-West Virginia border. The Harvard University Press are publishing the definitive Letters of Edgar Allan Poe in October.

English authors are well represented by Edward Crankshaw’s Russia and the Russians and by Simon Nowell Smith’s scholarly piece of Henry James research, The Legend of the Master, and English novelists easily lead a barren fiction field. Evelyn Waugh’s piece of side-splitting necrophilia, The Loved One, which has so far only appeared here in Horizon (Chapman & Hall are to publish in book form), has been greeted with masochistic ecstasy, and Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter has been chosen as the Book of the Month.

Forthcoming volumes include a new James M. Cain The Moth; The Sky and the Forest, a tale of Africa by C. S. Forester; No High Way, by Nevil Shute; and Ape and Essence, a new Aldous Huxley in his Brave New World vein. Ernest Hemingway’s long new novel is said to be maturing slowly.

American books are only qualitatively absent from this short survey. The output of literary chewing-gum continues apace, but the public is surfeited, probably owing to “an unfortunate combination of higher prices and lower quality,” as the Saturday Review of Literature puts it. The publishers moan and groan, but the drumming of the book clubs, the tireless superlatives of reviewers, and ever shinier book jackets are of no avail and, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, a slump is a slump is a slump.


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West Indian (Sunday Times, June 1, 1952)

By Ian Fleming

Pleasure Island: the book of Jamaica. Edited by Esther Chapman. (Chantry Publications. 21s.)

There should be a series of Baedeker-Michelin guides to the British Empire. I offer the suggestion with respectful urgency to the Ministries concerned and to the Colonial Development Corporation.

Esther Chapman’s guide book to Jamaica provides an excellent model, edited as it is with intelligence and common sense. There should be a better map of the island, and the section devoted to the local fauna could be improved, but in a beautifully illustrated book of twenty-one chapters covering everything of interest to a tourist or a resident such minor criticisms are captious. Esther Chapman has done a great service to Jamaica.


Island in the Sun (Sunday Times, January 12, 1958)

By Ian Fleming

Jamaica. By Peter Abrahams. (Corona Library: H.M. Stationery Office. 25s.)

There ought to be a Baedeker series on the British Commonwealth. Living small lives in this dull little Island at its centre, we have no idea of the fabulous lands and islands in the sun that are linked to us by history, speech and currency. Not even distance separates us now that you can be in the Caribbean in twenty or Singapore in forty hours’ flying time—only poverty and, more important, our cliff-girt mentality.

While waiting for the philanthropist who will finance the series, the next best thing is the Corona Library, sponsored by the Colonial Office, an imaginative and luxuriously conceived project which has brilliantly examined Hongkong, Sierra Leone, Nyasaland, British Guiana, and now Jamaica.

Jamaica is rather more serious-minded than some of the others, and Mr. Peter Abrahams’s treatment is thorough rather than seductive. The flora and fauna, for instance, which, with the landscape, are Jamaica's glory, are given short shrift compared with politics, administration and various aspects of development and welfare; but the latter are admirably handled, generally with entertaining and illuminating scraps of conversation with the Jamaican man-in-the-street.

The production is up to the very high Corona standards, and the line drawings by Rosemary Grimble, daughter of “Grimble of the Islands,” are particularly attractive and apposite.


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Three Men at the Motor Show (Sunday Times, October 21, 1956)

The Sunday Times asked three men to go to the Motor Show and to give their uninhibited views on what they found there. Two are family motorists, the third a famous racing driver. Their views have been kept deliberately non-technical. This was the “panel” of critics:

STIRLING MOSS has owned several small family saloons, the most recent a Standard 8 fitted with a 10 h.p. engine.

IAN FLEMING drives a Ford Thunderbird which is the envy of his friends.

GODFREY SMITH fits a wife and a baby daughter into a 1955 Morris Minor.

The place, Earls Court, on the day of the preview. The critics begin:

FLEMING: Nothing really startling this year. The usual difficulty in choosing between too many models with much the same good English qualities. Most of the cars are, as usual, too good for the drivers.

SMITH: There’s no doubt that this will go down in history as the two-pedal car Show. I think our manufacturers deserve a pat on the back for the way they’ve got them into production.

MOSS: I wish there had been a few more gimmicks to attract people to British cars. Rovers have done it with their turbine. And look at the crowds round that Buick Centurion mock-up. Heaven knows when it will be in production, but it’s full of blueprint ideas. I’m surprised that at least the B.M.C. doesn’t have a “Car of the Future” to get us all excited. Well, we’ve got to start somewhere. Let’s start in the millionaire’s class. The Rolls is still supreme, of course. It’s a name that commands affection all over the world.

FLEMING: I’m sorry the old basketwork Rolls has gone for ever. Incidentally, I gather it’s quite untrue they ever thought of turning out a £2,000 Rolls-Royce. Just a rumour. Their S Series Bentley is the most successful car Rolls have ever built. Waiting list of over a year. I’ve tried one, it’s like driving a Swiss watch.

SMITH: I must say I hanker after the Continental, but there really ought to be more luggage space in a car of that price. You can hardly get one normal suitcase into the boot. I’d like to see what the Italian coachbuilders could do with it.

MOSS: But for real Lord Mayor comfort give me that big Daimler. There’s room for six in the back. It’s practically a drawing-room on wheels.

FLEMING: I’m glad to hear Daimler’s have fitted a new heater. I’ve never known an engine run so coolly, but, as a result, the heater just didn’t heat.

SMITH: I think the companies should give one a total guarantee for accessories and the accessory firms should issue a guarantee to the motor manufacturers. If I buy a new suit and the buttons break my tailor replaces them. He doesn’t send me hunting round London after the button manufacturer.

MOSS: I agree. What I want is a really truthful petrol gauge that doesn't say “empty” when I’ve got another 50 miles’ driving in hand (or vice versa), windscreen wipers that don’t make a noise, and long window handles that move the window up and down with one stroke. But let’s get back to cars. Here’s the Aston Martin. Lovely car, and that body design is truly original. Stacks of room for luggage, all-round visibility and good driving positions. I’m not impressed by that open Superleggera model. Looks nice enough but visibility is poor, and there’s hardly room for anything but a small blonde with a sponge bag. May be all right for Italy. It’s the same old problem: how to marry the beautiful and the practical.

SMITH: Don’t you think the Fords come closest to doing that?

MOSS: I do. I think their styling is probably the most up to date in this country.

FLEMING: The Riley owners used to be some of the staunchest fans in motoring, but I think, since the B.M.C. took over Rileys, the fans have been slipping away. Rileys seem to be rather the ugly duckling of the B.M.C. group. All the brains seem to be going into the Austins and Morrises. Look at the Austin Healeys. They ought to bring out a Riley-Healey, and get a bit of zest back into the car.

SMITH: They’ve let Jaguar get the edge on them.

MOSS: Marvellous cars. Jaguar performance in racing since the war is one of the things we can really be proud of. Wonderful workmanship and finish. I can’t see how they do it for the price.

FLEMING: Pretty imposing front view on the new one but I don’t see why they need all those lamps and horns and traffic signals. There are ten of them altogether.

SMITH: They could have put the horns behind the radiator grille and put the traffic lights into the sidelights.

MOSS: Here’s the new Rover 105. Rover owners are still as faithful as Riley owners used to be. I’m not surprised. They’ve always built a good, car and they’ve always been forward-looking. Don’t know when this turbine model of theirs will be on the road. It’ll be quite a race with Detroit, but it’s going to be a new kind of motoring when it comes. But take the 105. It’s a genuine two-pedal car, and what’s so extraordinary about it is that it’s the only British company with its own automatic transmission and torque converter. Usual good Rover driving lay-out, and plenty of room for parcels.

SMITH: One of the reasons why It has always been a favourite with women.

MOSS: Women don’t have to worry about their comforts so much nowadays. All the big manufacturers look after them. Take the styling of that Austin Estate car. I really like that red and white combination. Their colours are some of the most dashing in the Show. It’s a big selling point, now people are less conservative about colour schemes.

FLEMING: The Armstrong Siddeley is another luxurious affair at a reasonable price. Wonderfully silent engine and as fast as you like, though I think the springing’s a bit soft for really fast driving. You can’t get that comfortable ride and still go round corners at sixty.

MOSS: They’ve tightened it up on the 238, but I think its looks could be improved. There’s a sort of downward slant about the bonnet which I don’t like. Here are Bristols next door. Good fast cars and a clean, handsome body without any nonsense. They make that 2-litre work pretty hard, but it seems to like it. Rather a dull stand with just two drab-coloured cars. One of their competition models would have livened it up.

SMITH: They’ve certainly put some work into my Morris Minor. I’d like to see a long road test between this 1,000 model and the Volkswagen. I hear that the gearbox is a beauty. And I’m delighted to find they’ve put more steam in the engine.

FLEMING: I haven’t tried either of them, but I’d rather have the Morris or the little Austin every time. At least you have an engine in front of you in case you hit something. In the Volkswagen there’s nothing under that bonnet except perhaps a suitcase.

MOSS: But here’s the M.G. I must say I like the appearance of the new hard-top. I only hope that it won’t be too noisy inside. If your father has promised you a sports car for your twenty-first birthday, there are plenty to choose from these days. There's the M.G., the Austin Healey (I like those bright colours they've laid on for the American market) and the new six-cylinder should be a smooth job. Then there’s the Triumph with disc brakes on the front wheels—they’ll all be having them in time I expect—and now there's the little Berkeley, which is pretty good value at £575. It’s stripped to essentials, but somebody had plenty of initiative to put a really cheap sports car on the road. The man on the stand says they’ve got orders of upwards of 5,000 already. Anyway, I'd like to be 21 again with all those to choose from.

FLEMING: What about the Citroen? Have you tried it? I gather they’re having plenty of trouble with it in France. It’s so revolutionary there aren’t many garages who can repair it if anything goes wrong. It came out a bit too quickly, I dare say. But Frenchmen rave about it.

MOSS: It’s probably the most comfortable jar in the show, and packed full of brilliant ideas. Huge boot, wonderful visibility and every kind of gadget. It deserves to succeed and I think it certainly will once it has settled down. Let's have a look at the Skoda and see what they’re doing on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Of course this is very much a Show model. But it’s got plenty of bright ideas too—propeller-shaft running through the main chassis member, independent front and rear springing, and notice those aluminium fittings. I don’t know why we don’t take to them instead of chrome. You’ll find them on that Swiss-bodied Alvis, too. Another fine-looking car. But this Skoda looks a workmanlike Job. Rather austere, but I suppose it’s made for rather austere people.

SMITH: Is there anything else you notice looking round the Show?

MOSS: I like the new Station Wagon models. There’ll be more of them. They’re ideal for a family and particularly for holidays abroad, and the coach builders like Grosvenor and Abbott have got a fine line into them. Wheel trims are much smarter. Take a look at the Austins. There’s still too much chrome about. Vauxhalls make such a good car that I don’t know why they have to smother it in the stuff. The same applies to those tiny chrome strips on the face of the Singer. Finish seems to be getting better and better, and I hope basic workmanship is keeping up with It. Prices on balance seem more or less constant, but we're getting more for our money—extra instruments for example. That’s about all. There’s quite a lot to be proud of here. If we’ve criticised a bit, so will the other people who come to the Show.

FLEMING: If you could have your pick of the cars, what would it be?

MOSS: I’ll have an Aston Martin DB 2.4 saloon, if you’ll quieten the engine a trifle. Off-white and silver-green.

SMITH: I’ll have a Continental Bentley.

FLEMING: An Austin 105 Station Wagon for me. Elephant’s-breath grey.

MOSS: One thing we do agree on, then. We’re all going to go on driving British.


Notes: As we'll see next week, Fleming did not buy that station wagon and did not go on buying British!

The Times obituary for Godfrey Smith, future editor of the Sunday Times notes that "His first job after Oxford was as personal assistant to Lord Kemsley, owner of The Sunday Times. In 1956, he was appointed news editor, where he got to know Ian Fleming, who was the foreign manager. When Fleming’s first James Bond book, Casino Royale, was published he gave Smith a signed copy. Among his reporters was John Pearson...They were to become lifelong friends, with Pearson always referring to Smith as 'the Guvnor'."

Those of you familiar with Ian Fleming's TV treatment "Murder on Wheels" will know that the plot involves James Bond saving Stirling Moss from agents of SMERSH, who hope to sabotage an auto race. Fleming wrote "The whole brunt of this episode is, of course, borne by the motor racing. Stirling Moss has, in fact, provided me with the two crash manoeuves as described and there is little doubt that he and Mr. Vanderwell, who designed and owns the Vanwalls, would co-operate in the filming." Alas, it was never to be.


Re: Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

Connoisseurs’ Choice (Sunday Times, October 21, 1962)

As a further guide to would-be buyers at the Motor Show, The Sunday Times invited some of its contributors and staff, as well as some recognised experts, to say what car they would choose and why.

Ian Fleming:

I would choose a Studebaker Avanti, full four-seater V8 Gran Sport, supercharged by Paxton, styled by Raymond Loewy. Price around £3,000.

Having driven two Thunderbirds for six years, during which not a light bulb has fused and paint and chromium have not wilted, despite a garageless life, I have become wedded to American cars when they have something approximating to European styling.

I am now switching to the Studebaker, which has always produced first class cars, and
has now, with the Avanti, created something really startling—top speed with four up of over 160 m.p.h. and acceleration of 0-60 in 7.4 seconds. My model, packed with intelligent gimmicks such as switches in the roof, aircraft-type levers for the heating, disc brakes and a powerful built-in roll bar in case I turn over, is being delivered in a few weeks.



Note: In his 1964 interview with Playboy, Ian Fleming said the following about his cars:

"I like a car I can leave out in the street all night and which will start at once in the morning and still go a hundred miles an hour when you want it to and yet give a fairly comfortable ride. I can’t be bothered with a car that needs tuning, or one that will give me a lot of trouble and expenditure. So I’ve had a Thunderbird for six years, and it’s done me very well. In fact, I have two of them, the good two-seater and the less-good four-seater. I leave them both in the street, and when I get in and press the starter, off they go, which doesn’t happen to a lot of motorcars.

Now, the Studebaker supercharged Avanti is the same thing. It will start as soon as you get out in the morning; it has a very nice, sexy exhaust note and will do well over a hundred and has got really tremendous acceleration and much better, tighter road holding and steering than the Thunderbird. Excellent disk brakes, too. I’ve cut a good deal of time off the run between London and Sandwich in the Avanti, on braking power alone. So I’m very pleased with it for the time being."


Re: Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

Thanks Revelator, and it's hilarious to see 007 described as "Britain's answer to Perry Mason"!!!


Re: Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

Barbel wrote:

Thanks Revelator, and it's hilarious to see 007 described as "Britain's answer to Perry Mason"!!!

Yes, I'm not quite sure what the writer was thinking there! Are there any similarities at all? I also wonder if Bond himself would have eventually driven a Studebaker Avanti if Fleming had lived longer. After all, Bond drives a Thunderbird in TSWLM.


Re: Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

I don't see any similarities, no.
Felix drives a "Studillac", a Studebaker with a Cadillac engine, in DAF.


Re: Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

Nightmare Among the Mighty (Sunday Times, June 30, 1957)

By Ian Fleming

Every sport has its own nightmare — the dropped baton, the goal scored against your own side, running out your captain when he has scored ninety-nine; and, in your dreams, they all have the same ghastly background—the packed stands, the serried ranks of spectators, the incredulous hush and then the deep condemnatory groan.

In golf the two-foot putt missed on the eighteenth green is quickly over, and you are at once awake, sweating and whimpering. This terror must be common to even the greatest in the game, but for the week-end golfer, there is a far longer, more horrible nightmare—partnership with a world champion over a course black with the crowds.

Last week-end I endured this nightmare, thirty-six holes of it, and I live, but only just, to tell the tale.

It came about like this. Three weeks ago a friend said he wanted me to play in the Bowmaker Invitation Amateur/Professional Tournament at the Berkshire. “It’s great fun,” he said. “All the best professionals take two amateurs each, and you play a threesome against bogey. Each team puts in three cards—the professional’s for the best scratch score and the professional plus each amateur for the lowest better ball score. The amateur plays off full handicap, and if he makes good use of his strokes he and his pro can get a better ball score around 60. You can pick up when you’ve played too many. They have film stars and such like to amuse the crowds. Come on.”

It sounded fun. I said “Yes,” and forgot about it.

* * *

I forgot about it until I got the draw. I was to play with Peter Thomson, three times Open champion, and Alec Shepperson, handicap plus 1, a Walker Cup probable. I was to be on the first tee of the Red Course at 2.15 last Sunday.

That was Tuesday the eighteenth. On the Wednesday, Peter Thomson, fresh from a fine performance in the American Open, equalled the course record of Sand Moor with a 65 in the Yorkshire Evening News tournament. He followed this with a 67, 64 and 68. He won the tournament by fifteen strokes and broke a handful of records. The golfing world gasped.

Apart from praying that the biggest thunderstorm in living memory would deluge the home counties on the following Sunday and Monday (it was a two-day contest ), there was really nothing I could do about It. I am a nine handicap week-end golfer with a short, flat swing that has been likened to a housemaid sweeping under a bed. It is a fast swing with reserves of fantastic acceleration in moments of stress.

The only reason I am nine is that I obstinately try to play down to it rather than take life more easily off twelve, which I should be. I have never had a golf lesson, except from my grandmother at the age of about fifteen, and my only equipment for the game is a natural “eye” and strong forearms. Against these virtues it should be said that I remember to keep my head down only on one shot in three and that, on occasional shots, “everything moves except the ball.”

The greatest weakness of my essentially immaculate game is that I am quite unable to “repeat” my swing. Even on the putting green, my stance and stroke are at the mercy of the moment’s whim. The fact that I have played golf for some thirty years with occasional success and great pleasure is due to enjoying the company, the exercise and the zest of competition. In short, I am the quintessential amateur.

* * *

The virtues of amateurishness are all right in a friendly game, perhaps sharpened by a gamble, in the privacy of one’s home course. There the quick, sharp dunch into a bunker is a matter for hilarity only mildly tinged with bitterness. But how, I wondered feverishly as the dreadful day approached, would my insouciance stand up playing before vast crowds, with the greatest, or at any rate the second greatest, golfer in the world?

But why worry? It’s only a game. The ball won’t move. Just walk up and hit it. These and other specious exhortations were mouthed at me through wolfish grins by my friends. The worst you can do is maim a few spectators, perhaps even kill one. But the club will be insured. Have a double kümmel before you start. Take an Oblivon.

Steeled by the relish of my friends, I assumed a nonchalant mask. I looked to my equipment. The head of my driver (circa 1930, one of the earliest, surely, of the steel shafts and known around Sandwich as “Excalibur”) was loose. I had it fixed. My double-faced chipper (Tom Morris, 1935), a beloved but temperamental club, was rebound. I bought two pairs of expensive socks in pale blue. I reread the red ink passages in Armour’s How To Play Your Best Golf  All The Time, watched Peter Thomson’s unearthly progress through the Yorkshire Evening News tournament and waited queasily for H- (for Horror) Day.

* * *

H-Day dawned bright and clear. No earthquakes. No tornadoes. No thunderstorms. I drove at an even pace to the Berkshire, parked my car among the hundreds, and proceeded to the seventh fairway of the Blue Course, which a number of young gods were bisecting with arrow-straight drives and iron shots using mounds of practice balls.

I retired to an inconspicuous corner with my caddie, six balls and a No.3 iron. It took me about twenty minutes, in my usual ratio of one good shot in three, to lose four of the balls in the woods.

Then came lunch and the unwelcome news that the matches were running over an hour late. I wandered out among the dreadful trappings of my nightmare—the marquees, the huge scoreboard ablaze with the most famous names in professional and amateur golf, and already showing the results of the early starters and, in the background, the loudspeaker giving the position on the near-by 17th tee.

Henry Cotton passed me, his face a mask of concentration, and Locke, majestic, indomitable. Henry Longhurst tossed me a few phrases of gleeful commiseration. And then there were Peter Thomson and Alec Shepperson, and I was explaining who I was and apologising in advance for the dreadful things that they would shortly be witnessing.

* * *

For the first time I felt a ray of comfort. All golfers have their problems. Shepperson was a candidate for the Walker Cup team and he knew the names would be announced the next day and that the selectors were on the course. Thomson knew that every spectator would expect him to go round in level threes. We commiserated with one another over the swelling crowds and in due course there we were standing on the first tee.

The starter's voice rang out — unnecessarily loudly. Thomson drove 250 yards down the centre of the fairway.

“Mr. Iarn Fleming.”

I wiped my hands on the seat of my trousers and stepped forward. Half-conscious, I teed up and gave a practice swing, listening with half my mind for the hiss of astonishment. The crowd was too well bred. I addressed the ball and promptly knocked it off its peg. I put it on again.

Then there was a moment when the world stood still, a brief glimpse of the ball through a mist of tears, a more or less articulated swirl of motion and the blessed ball was well airborne and on its way with a slight draw to come to rest in the rough fifty yards behind Thomson’s.

Shepperson hit a beauty and we were off and away, with the crowd streaming after us. One of my chief tortures, easily foreseen, was that I should always be playing first of the trio. I hacked the ball out of the shallow heather and got it 100 yards on its way down the fairway. Thomson pushed his to the right of the green. Shepperson fluffed with a 4 wood, and there I was having to hit mine again.


I had a stroke at all the odd holes. Now it was vital that I should hit the simplest of simple shots 150 yards on to the green. I took out my blaster, with which I thought I would be safest. There was a respectful hush. Head down, you fool! Slow back! BOING!!! The ball, hit off the sole, whizzed along the ground, bumbled up the green and stopped within three yards of the pin.

Muttering something about “Dundee run-up” I strode after it, and, to cut a long story short, both Thomson and Shepperson got fives and all I had to do was to get down in two putts to win a net 4 for Thomson and our better ball. I putted, or rather twitched, the ball a yard past, missing the hole by three inches. Then, with a thumping heart, stroked, or more accurately topped, the ball into the hole amid heartfelt applause from the agonized crowd.

I will pass over the second hole where I hit a No. 7 over the green and picked up and where Thomson got an immaculate 3.

Another stroke at the 3rd. An adequate drive. A fluffed spoon and a smothered 4 iron which again rattled up on the green. Again I somehow got my net 4 to Thomson’s 5. I had “improved” twice for Thomson, but by the foulest means, and there was no question of my golf having settled down.


I forget what happened at the 4th, but at the par three 5th, having been advised by Thomson to take a 7 Instead of an 8, I at last hit the ball in the middle of the bat and got a net two, which I followed up with another net two, also well played, at the 7th. Again at the 9th, but this time again by foul means, I scrambled a net four. I had helped Peter Thomson five times in nine holes!

Those treacherous crocodiles my friends, who had come to gloat at my discomfiture, changed their tune. Now they edged up and whispered that my handicap would have to be reduced at Sandwich. I brushed them aside. The sun was shining, the course was beautiful. What fun it was playing with the Open champion!

Alas, while by dunch, scuffle and fluff I somehow played the next nine holes. I was no further help to Peter Thomson and all I can remember of the inward half is the most glorious three I have ever seen, by Shepperson, at the bogey five 15th, and an appalling shank by myself at the 17th. It was with a No. 8, off a downhill lie, and the air positively quivered with the horrible clang as the ball sped at right angles through the spectators’ legs into the deep rough.

And then the round was over, with a 72 for Peter Thomson and net 66s for Alec Shepperson and myself. No earthly good, but at least I hadn’t played Thomson’s ball by mistake, or done an air shot or killed a spectator. It was in a mood of euphoria that I returned to London.


Monday was not so good, and I did many terrible things that even now make me shudder, but it had rained very heavily and there were fewer witnesses. Thomson did a 69 and Shepperson, who by this time had been nominated for the Walker Cup, and I, repeated our 66s, which meant that at least I had been able to help Thomson on three holes.

And now the dreadful glory of the occasion is fading and this weekend I shall be playing either a new kind of golf, tempered to the finest steel by its visit to the blast furnace, or, more probably, wilted by the fierce flame.

Alas, when my friends or my grandchildren ask me how Peter Thomson played this shot or Alec Shepperson that, I shall be unable to tell them. I shall have many memories of the two men—of Peter Thomson, justly renowned for a bearing as fine as his golf, and of the modest, charming Shepperson—but of the champion’s golf I shall recall nothing but the immortal words of Leonard Crawley in last Monday’s Daily Telegraph:

“Though Peter Thomson was assisted five times by Ian Fleming, the champion had evidently spent much of his force at Leeds last week.”


Re: Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

Introducing Jamaica (Preface to Ian Fleming Introduces Jamaica)

By Ian Fleming

Jamaica has now been my second home for eighteen years. Since 1946 I have been coming here, as regularly as clockwork, from January 15 to March 15 and, each year when the time comes to leave, I say my goodbye with a lump in the throat. In this long span of time everything has changed and yet nothing. Jamaica has grown from a child into an adult, she has flirted with Federation and then broken off the engagement, she has gained her Independence and Membership of the United Nations, bauxite and tourism have changed her economy, emigration to the United Kingdom, with all its problems, brings around £7,000,000 back into the island every year, the West Indian cricketers have become the darlings of the Commonwealth and a Jamaican girl has been chosen Miss World.

But the Doctor’s Wind continues to blow in from the sea during the day and the Undertaker’s Wind blows the stale air out again at night, and the news in The Daily Gleaner, the "Country Newsbits", is just the same. A family at Maggotty has been wiped out by "vomiting sickness" (the paper still will not add the medical diagnosis of "eating unripe ackee"), — and Cornelius Brown has "mashed" Agatha Brown with his cutlass and has been sentenced to prison and twelve strokes of the tamarind switch. And the people are just the same, always laughing and bawling each other out, singing the old banana songs as they load the fruit into the ships, getting drunk on rum when the ship has sailed, sneaking an illicit whiff of ganja, or an equally illicit visit to the obeahman when they are ill or in trouble, driving motor cars like lunatics, behaving like zanies at the cricket matches and the races, making the night hideous with the "Sound System" on pay night, and all the while moving gracefully and lazily through the day and fearing the "rolling calf" at night.

And yet, against this background of "plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose" my own life has been turned upside down at, or perhaps even by, the small house named ‘Goldeneye’ I built eighteen years ago on the north shore, and by my life in Jamaica. In 1952, I got married here, in the Registry Office in my neighbouring Port Maria. Noel Coward and his secretary Cole Leslie were the witnesses and Noel tied the shoe on to the back of his own car by mistake.

Encouraged by marriage, or as an antidote to this dangerous transmogrification after forty-three years of bachelorhood, I sat down at the red bullet-wood desk where I am now typing this, and, for better or for worse, wrote the first of twelve best-selling thrillers that have sold around twenty million copies and been translated into twenty-three languages. I wrote every one of them at this desk with the jalousies closed around me so that I would not be distracted by the birds and the flowers and the sunshine outside until I had completed my daily stint. (I have interrupted my sticky thirteenth to write these words.)

The books feature a man called James Bond. Here is another Jamaican link. I was looking for a name for my hero — nothing like Peregrine Carruthers or "Standfast" Maltravers — and I found it, on the cover of one of my Jamaican bibles, Birds of the West Indies by James Bond, an ornithological classic. (Only a couple of weeks ago, I met him, the real James Bond, and Mrs Bond, for the first time. They arrived out of the blue and couldn't have been nicer about my theft of the family name. It helped at the customs, they said!) Would these books have been born if I had not been living in the gorgeous vacuum of a Jamaican holiday? I doubt it. Noel Coward has written much of his later music and prose here and other still more famous writers, let alone painters, have been stimulated by Jamaica. I suppose it is the peace and silence and cut-offness from the madding world that urges people to create here. There is certainly enough native talent to support the theory.

And my life has been changed in other ways. I first learned about the bottom of the sea from the reefs around my property and that has added a new dimension to my view of the world. And, a vital postgraduate study, I learned about living amongst, and appreciating, coloured people — two very different lessons I would never have absorbed if my life had continued in its pre-Jamaican metropolitan rut. But, above all, Jamaica has provided a wonderful annual escape from the cold and grime of winters in England, into blazing sunshine, natural beauty and the most healthy life I could wish to live.

My house, Goldeneye, has also lived through many changes. The thirty or so acres in which it stands were a barren donkey’s racecourse when I built it. Now the land is a jungle of tall trees and tropical shrubs and we could live on my citrus and coconuts and the fish from the sea. Couples have spent their honeymoons here, stricken friends have regained their health, painters and writers — Cecil Beaton, Truman Capote, Lucian Freud, Graham Greene, Robert Harling, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Rosamund Lehmann, Peter Quennell, Alan Ross, Stephen Spender, Evelyn Waugh — have stayed and worked here, and a British Prime Minister and his wife, Sir Anthony and Lady Eden, were here for three weeks during his convalescence in the winter of 1956, after Suez. (The Jamaican Government turned my little gazebo on the western corner of the property into a direct teleprinter link with Number 10 Downing Street. The police guards cut ‘God Bless Sir Anthony and Lady Eden’ into the bark of my cedar trees. The detective, sleeping in the back room, shot at the bush rats, beloved by my wife, with his revolver, but the two trees, of a species still wrapped in mystery, which the Edens planted, have flourished mightily.)

But this is name-dropping. Why should this modest house, with wooden jalousies and no glass in the windows, with three bedrooms with shower baths and lavatories that often hiss like vipers or ullulate like stricken bloodhounds, with its modest staff of local help, headed by Violet, my incomparable housekeeper for all these years, have attracted all these famous people to its meagre bosom come rain (which can often fall, as it does in all corners of the world) or shine which it always will in my memory? Noel Coward provides a comment. He is given to hyperbole. In 1948, from March 22 to May 31, he stayed at Goldeneye, at, he claims, an exorbitant rent. He wrote in the visitor's book, and foolishly signed them, the following words: "The happiest two months I have ever spent." He then went off and, as close to me as he could get, built a house (what am I saying? four houses) and — to hell with the charms of Bermuda and Switzerland! — comes here every year. But, before he left Goldeneye, he wrote the ode which I now reprint, not for its merit, which is small, but purely to fill up space.


Alas! I cannot adequately praise
The dignity, the virtue and the grace
Of this most virile and imposing place
Wherein I passed so many airless days.

Alas! Were I to write ’till crack of doom
No typewriter, no pencil, nib, nor quill
Could ever recapitulate the chill
And arid vastness of the living-room.

Alas! I cannot accurately find
Words to express the hardness of the seat
Which, when I cheerfully sat down to eat
Seared with such cunning into my behind.

Alas! However much I raved and roared
No rhetoric, no witty diatribe
Could ever, even partially, describe
The impact of the spare-room bed — and board.

Alas! I am not someone who exclaims
With rapture over ancient equine prints.
Ah no, dear Ian, I can only wince
At all those horses framed in all those frames.

Alas! My sensitivity rebels,
Not at loose shutters; not at plagues of ants,
Nor other "sub-let" bludgeonings of chance
But, at those hordes of ageing faded shells.

Alas! If only common-sense could teach
The stubborn heart to heed the crafty brain
You would, before you let your house again
Remove the barracudas from the beach.

But still my dear Commander, I admit,
No matter how I criticize and grouse,
That I was strangely happy in your house
In fact I’m very very fond of it.

Signed "Noel", February 1949
(Note that it took the man nine months to dream up this insulting doggerel!)

Well, I am still devoted to the monster (misprint for "Master") and the rivalry between our houses (he refers to mine as "Goldeneye, Nose and Throat") has continued all these fifteen years (he wanted to build a swimming bath — his beach is lousy — and asked his "attorney" what strength of pump he would need to keep the water clean. The attorney replied "Hit depend, Mister Cowhard, how much soap you use"). But the point is clear. It is not the rude comforts of my house that appeal nor, I think, entirely my wife, who is as honey to a hummingbird. It is the friendly embrace of Jamaica and of the Jamaican way of life, and the fact, as the advertisements put it, that Jamaica is no place like home. To illustrate what the country is made of and what it has to offer, and as an hors d’oeuvre to the more nourishing fare that follows, I will reprint here my very first impressions of Jamaica, a mood piece which I wrote for Cyril Connolly’s famous Horizon magazine in December, 1947, and specifically for the lively series, entitled "Where Shall John Go?" which was aimed at readers who wished to flee the drabness of postwar Britain. I have made a very few alterations in the light of my experience of Jamaica since it was first written. But these few alterations are only of facts; the mood remains unaltered.

[Article omitted for reason of length and because it is already online]

Well, there you are — the great part of the first article I ever wrote, the writing of which perhaps gave me confidence one day to write a book. There is little that I would alter today. Many facts have dated. The mosquitoes have been almost entirely eradicated, the political background has changed, although those perennial duellists, Sir Alexander Bustamente and Mr Norman Manley, are still at it, and the University has been built, but I would alter nothing of the "mood" of the piece except to add the caveat that some of the many new hotels charge exorbitantly and that shrimp cocktails and steak have followed the almighty dollar into the island.

To write any more would be only to repeat myself and to hold you from the wonderful team of Jamaican writers whom my friend Morris Cargill has assembled to make this the first comprehensive book ever to have been written on Jamaica.

Ian Fleming
February 1964

As you can see from the date, this one of Fleming's last writings--probably his second to last. For greater context, make sure to read the invaluable Goldeneye. Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming's Jamaica, by Matthew Parker.


Re: Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

The Case of the Painfully Pulled Leg (San Francisco Chronicle, September 16, 1963)

By Ian Fleming

Some Caen. Some Caen’t.

No harm in starting off with a really bad joke. Master, or rather Past-master Caen has several times exercised his lamentable sense of humor at my and James Bond’s expense and I am glad of this opportunity to strike back.

But a valid truism lies behind the execrable pun. To the uninitiated, it looks easy enough to be a columnist. What could be more simple than to sit down at the typewriter and ramble on about the passing scene—the human comedy?

After all, Boswell was no genius. He just wrote down what he saw and what he thought—commonplace stuff. He was no Shakespeare, no Shelley—a competent reporter with ink in his veins.

Ah, but that's the point! You must have ink in your veins. You really must love writing and communicating in order to sit down and write around 1000 words a day in such a fashion that people will read them. And that is what a daily columnist has to do.

Every day, come hangover, come flu, come lack of inspiration, come ailing wife or bawling children, he must go confidently and with seeming omniscience on stage and show himself to the public in naked black and white.

No excuses! You are a columnist, and by God you’ve got to fill your column to the satisfaction of your readers and, though this may be rare, to your own.

I know these things because I once wrote a column myself. I did it for three years and chucked it about five years ago when James Bond came to my rescue.

I was Foreign Manager of the Sunday Times (the real one. Not yours!) and I thought that its gossip column, which went, and still goes, by the pompous name of “Atticus,” was so bad that I would have a bash at it in between coping with the future of the world and the marital tangles of my foreign correspondents.

I renamed the column “People and Things” by Atticus, because I am interested in Things, and got into business. It went down all right, though I received more kicks than ha’pence from an editor whose sense of humor differed from mine, and the from readers who appeared only interested in writing in when I made a mistake, and to this day I am proud of two paragraphs of undying merit from that long stint.

The first, through a careful study of the psychology of the drinking American, correctly forecast the winning Miss Rheingold for that year (You see how right the editor was. Perhaps .007 per cent of Sunday Times readers had even heard of Rheingold beer).

The second, revealing the existence of a Grimsby troglodyte who smoked kippers as they should be smoked, brought in 4,700 letters (A record for the paper) and incidentally made a fortune for the old man.

Is there a common denominator between my modest achievement and Herb
Caen’s majestic record? What’s all this about Fleming anyway? We want to hear about Herb. Patience! Pazienza! Geduld!

Yes, there is a common denominator. Every columnist, and Herb Caen is a shining example, must be interested in everything, even in those matters which are outside his readers’ ken, and he must communicate his enthusiasms to the reader, and secondly, he must have some vague social purpose—a desire to help and instruct his readers and if possible right an occasional wrong (rescue the kipper merchant for instance).

But above all, whether exposing a peccant mayor or police chief (a favorite sport in the United States, I believe) or just writing about the smog, he must at all costs avoid being a bore.

For half a generation, and from the evidence of this anniversary accolade, Herb Caen, writing for perhaps the most wide-awake community in the United States, somehow has managed, day in, day out, to avoid being a bore. For what it is worth, we have not, in Great Britain, got one journalist with anything like the same record.

And, in conclusion, I will tell you something else which is even more to his credit, and something which may be news to you. Some time ago, amongst my cuttings (clippings), I received a column by Herb Caen which affectionately but devastatingly sent up James Bond, pulling the author's leg almost out of its socket.

A saboteur in the pay of SMERSH, I surmised, and tucked the author's name away in my “unfinished business” file.

When next in New York, I asked one of the hamlet’s most famous editors about this fellow Caen.

“He's one of America’s greatest columnists,” he said. “We’d all like to get him. Trouble is, nothing on earth will drag him away from San Francisco.”

Well, feed your captive well. He’s good for another 25 years at the coal face.


Note: Caen actually spent 34 more years at the coal face, before his death in 1997. He was one of Fleming's early American fans and helped popularize the books in his column from January 28, 1962, titled "The Thin Cruel Smile."

Well, you can imagine how excited I got recently when I read that President Kennedy’s favorite author of secret service thrillers is Britain’s Ian Fleming. In the twinkling of a trice, I felt closer to the lonely young man in the White House—perhaps even a step along the road toward solving the mystery of those hooded, opaque eyes (Mr. Fleming writes like that)...

Mr. Fleming, whose books sell in the millions, is the creator of James Bond, the classiest British secret service agent ever to purr down the pike in a Bentley convertible with two inch exhausts. Bond's exploits and sexploits are explored (all right, and sexplored!) in a series of adventures with such compelling titles as Moonraker, Goldfinger, Doctor No and From Russia, With Love, to name only a few...

Mr. Fleming is a Mickey Spillane who went to Eton—snobbish, sadistic and inventive, with a fine eye for detail. Hence his James Bond wouldn’t be caught dead in anything so obvious as a trenchcoat; when Bond is caught dying (but soon to make a miraculous recovery), you can be sure he will be wearing something from Savile Row, tastefully old.

After this article, Caen and Fleming met in London. Their lunch was immortalized in Caen's May 16, 1963 column "Conversation at Scott's." Excerpts below:

“Do you know any good villains?” he inquired, flicking an ash off his blue suit (no pocket handkerchief). “Villains are the hardest for me. I was rather fond of Rosa Klebb, but, of course, I had to kill her off. Same with ‘Doctor No.’” I mentioned Blofeld, the evil fellow with the syphilitic nose who almost finishes Bond in his newest book, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but Mr. Fleming merely shook his head over his lamb chops (pink in the middle).

“I kill off Blofeld in the next book, which I just finished,” he said regretfully. “An excruciating death. And as for Bond, I’ve got him in such a devil of a pickle I don’t know how I’m EVER going to get him out. Poor James.”

In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service the dashing Bond, who averages three affairs and an equal number of killings per book, marries a fine girl named Tracy. As they are starting out on their honeymoon in a white Lancia, the unspeakable Blofeld, in a red Maserati, races past and fires at them. At the end of the book, the Lancia has crashed into a field, “and Bond put his arm around her shoulders, across which the dark patches had begun to flower.”

“I hate to ask this,” I said, mindful of previous miraculous recoveries, “but is Tracy REALLY dead?”

Mr. Fleming poured himself a splash of vin ordinaire from a carafe and nodded sorrowfully. “Of course,” he replied. “Blood oozing out the back—sure sign. Too bad, but I couldn’t keep Bond married, you know. He’s on constant call, has to be too many places, get into too many scrapes. Wouldn’t do at all.”

He glanced at the stainless steel Rolex on his left wrist. “Really must go,” he apologized. “Catching a plane for Istanbul, where they’re filming From Russia, With Love. The first picture made from one of my books—Dr. No—has just been released here. Tremendous success. Made all its costs back right away, and I’m happy to say I have a small piece of the action. Sean Connery will play James Bond again—don’t you think he’s a fine Bond?”

We agreed. We had seen a preview of Dr. No, and Connery seemed almost as good as the real thing. Mr. Fleming struggled into a luminous blue raincoat and led the way out of Scott’s into the gray London afternoon. As we searched for a cab, he pointed to a second-story corner window of the restaurant. “See that window?” he asked. When James is in London he always lunches there, at the corner table. That’s so he can look down and watch the pretty girls walking past.”

Caen later devoted an entire column to Fleming's death. In "Farewell to Double Nought Seven" (August 16, 1964), he wrote:

I saw Ian Fleming for the first and last time in London, a little over a year ago. His penultimate book, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, was about to be published and the word was already around that in it, James Bond, the avowed bachelor, had married La Comtesse Teresa di Vicenzo, otherwise known as Tracy. “That's true,” smiled Fleming over lunch at Scott’s, “but of course I had to kill her off at the end. Nasty death, on their honeymoon. It wouldn't do at all for James to be married, you understand—a wife would just be in the way. I may have to kill off Bond one of these days, too—before he kills me. Plots are getting harder and harder to come up with.”

...I didn't realize how closely he identified with Bond till we got around to a discussion of the movie versions of his books (Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and next, Goldfinger). When we agreed that the actor who portrayed M., Bond's chief, was miscast, I suggested “You should play M.—you're about the same age, aren't you?”

Immediately, he looked hurt, and I clammed up. Obviously, he felt he had nothing in common with the aging sea dog who headed the British Secret Service. He gave me a long, cold, ironical look that would have done justice to James Bond.

...Spy critics poked fun at Bond's modus operandi...They snickered at Fleming’s penchant for ticking off Bond’s clothing, smoking and drinking habits by brand name, never letting him forget that he misspelled Bond's favorite champagne...Fleming’s patient report to all this criticism was “Don't they have any sense of fun?”—and, in this gloomy, literal-minded world, Bond was fun, for all his faults...it’s hard to fault a writer who could invent such lovely names as Pussy Galore, Tiffany Case, Sable Basilisk and Emilio Largo. And when James slipped into his faultless evening clothes, patted the .25 Beretta in its chamois holster, filled his gun metal cigarette case with 50 Morlands and got behind the wheel of his Mark II Continental Bentley, with the two-inch pipes bubbling in his wake, we knew we were off to high adventure. For James Bond was licensed to kill. And last week, he killed the man who loved him best—and, in the process, himself. If he were still around, he would have read the news with a cold, ironical smile, creasing the vertical scar in his right cheek.

Caen also wrote about the San Francisco world premiere of A View to a Kill, which he hated: "With the enthusiastic cooperation of the Mayor and the police and fire departments, San Francisco is made to look like a loony-bin in the newest and possibly last James Bond film, A View to a Kill, an awkward movie with an awkward title. As I recall, author Ian Fleming’s original title for the flimsy short story on which this $30-million bombo is shakily based was With a View to a Kill [sic], which scans a little more smoothly. It wasn't Fleming at his best but the movie it inspired may be James Bondage at its worst."


Re: Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

One Man’s World (Sunday Times, April 24, 1960)

By Ian Fleming

Have you murdered anyone lately? All right. How do you know you haven’t?

Watching the Halford-Hewitt Tournament the other day, I remembered my first visit to Deal twenty-five years ago and the murder, or at least culpable homicide, in which I participated.

My accomplices and I, tenderloins in golf and life, stood on the first tee. Halfway down the fairway, moving slowly and hitting the ball erratically, were two elderly gentlemen. One of the caddies said: “You’ll never get through them. That’s Captain Smith and Colonel Jones. They never let anyone through.”

For five holes, despite first courteous requests, then unheeded shouts of “Fore!” and finally mild bombardment, we could only creep forward like angry snails. Finally, at No. 6, Colonel Jones sliced into the shingle and there they both were, scrabbling for their one sphere amidst a million others—but still not waving us through. We played that hole as if it was a fast hockey match, calling sarcastic “Thank you, sirs” as we sprinted past.

When, later, we came out from luncheon for our second round, we expressed the fervent hope that we would not find the Colonel and the Captain ahead of us again.

“No, you won’t that,” said my caddie.
“Why not?”
“Colonel Jones is dead!”
“Good heavens, what happened?”

“He was that mad after this morning, sir, when he finished his round he got into his car and drove off like crazy. When he got to the sharp turn on to the esplanade he stamped on the accelerator by mistake for the brake and went over into the sea.”

As certainly as if with a gun, we had slain Colonel Jones.

To be serious, people, just as unwittingly, are killing their neighbours every day all over the world—by an act of bad driving, after which, perhaps far behind, there is the distant crash of a collision; by blowing germs into people’s faces; by bathing and mountain-climbing “accidents” for which, however remotely, they were the indirect cause. And then there is the slow homicide, by cruelty, neglect, hate, lack of charity.

To go back to the beginning, how do you know you haven’t?

True and Blue

I have no connection with the company (except, that is, for using their products for the past thirty years) so I can’t be accused of payola if I reveal that Gillettes have a splendid new razor blade—the Extra-Blue—coming on the market in a few days’ time. Indeed I almost severed relations with them recently when I found them responsible for squandering some of my small stock of virtue.

All those years, after shaving, I had meticulously washed my razor and carefully cleaned the blade, sneering at the unkempt razors in other people’s bathrooms. Not long ago, I began frequently to cut myself shaving. Reluctantly, because I hate the noise they make, I consulted my chemist about electric razors. He asked me if I had recently changed houses—as in fact I had—and suggested that probably the water in the new house was much harder than in my old. (This turned out to be the solution.) He also asked suspiciously if I cleaned the razor blade after use.

“Of course,” I said proudly.
“Well, you shouldn’t. You blunt the blade. You should just rinse the razor under the tap.”

I was, and still am, aghast at the oceans of virtuous diligence I have wasted because this vital piece of intelligence (confirmed by Gillettes) was excluded from my education. A few printed words by the bewhiskered patriarch on those packets would have saved me thirty years of doing dutifully, laboriously, the right thing—and being utterly wrong!

No Medals

A murrain on the Governor and Company of the Bank of England for slaughtering our pound notes—and so soon after slaying our beautiful fivers. A murrain also on the Big Five, to whom I understand the new design was submitted, and a murrain re-doubled on the Treasury, who lord it over the Bank when it suits them but now publicly disown responsibility for the Bank’s vandalism.

I personally believe that it is nothing but an act of self-aggrandisement by the Bank of England. Not only has she given herself a type several points larger, but she has managed to get her own name on the new notes something like 300 times instead of only twice on the old bit of lettuce.

Only two aspects of the new design commend themselves—the smaller size of the note, slightly more commensurate with its purchasing power, and the “how-dare-you!” expression on the face of Her Majesty the Queen.

Scrambled Ego

I write thrillers whose “hero” is a secret agent called James Bond. Not long ago I was invited to play golf for an Old Etonian side against the school. My young opponent was called Ian Bond. Amused by the coincidence, I asked him if he had ever heard of a man called James Bond. “Oh yes,” he said politely. “That's my uncle. He lives in Essex.”


Re: Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

Eton and Brought Up (Sunday Times, June 3, 1962)

By Ian Fleming

The Fourth of June. By David Benedictus. (Blond. 18s.)

I don’t think the old music-hall gag is inappropriate. In this brilliant first novel Mr Benedictus has swallowed his public school life and regurgitated it because some of its bones stuck in his throat.

It was inevitable that before long we should have an angry young Old Etonian, and Etonians, wincing as they will beneath the author’s lash, will at least admit that the cane is being wielded by a supremely talented hand.

Perhaps The Fourth of June should have been reviewed by one of the author's own generation. The last book on Eton I read, apart from the scintillating fragments by Connolly and Orwell, was One of Us, a romantic novel in verse by Gilbert Frankau, some thirty years ago. To older generations of Etonians, Mr Benedictus’s bubbling, steaming brew of adolescent life, peppered with the á la mode four-letter words, will be almost unrecognisable. But only almost, because beneath the author’s vicious brush-strokes the ancient brickwork, the remembered totems and taboos come through, often with exquisite brilliance.

Briefly, the story is of Scarfe, a grammar-school boy bent and finally broken by the snobbery, sadism and sexuality (hetero-, homo-, and auto-) which, in the Benedictan view, are the devils in the machine of an Eton education, and this theme, for a man with as sharp a pen as the author’s, is, of course, a natural.

Knowing nothing of the strains and stresses suffered by the modern Scarfes beneath the weight of Eton and its customs, it is difficult for an older Etonian not to argue that in his day the psychologically halt and lame boys also went to the wall, and he might complain, I think legitimately, that the author has outstripped the bounds of truth in laying Scarfe’s downfall to the three S’s mentioned above.

I cannot, for instance, swallow the Bishop with his militant religiosity combined with voyeurism. I do not believe in the sadism of Defries, Captain of the House, in the strangulation of the hero’s pet bird, nor in the pusillanimity and downright venality of the housemaster and the headmaster (in a foreword Mr Benedictus makes plain what is obviously true, that none of his characters have any relation to any living person) when faced with blackmail by a boy’s mother who finally pays off the housemaster with her body.

These, and many other incidents, however brilliantly described—an elder boy who hires out his younger brother is a sharp and disagreeable case in point—are sheer caricature, and to give poor Scarfe festering wounds which sent him to the sanatorium after being tanned by the Captain of the House as a punishment for a breach of the rules, which both culprits could have explained, is, to this former target of cane and birch, incredible.

And was it really necessary to be so much involved in the angry swim as to need to direct a harsh side-kick at Royalty?

But these are criticisms of a reader who was fascinated by one of the most brilliant first novels since the war, written with rapier wit, acute observation and a perceptive eye for each of the lesser characters. The style is sharp and professional (though Mr Benedictus will kindly write out “éminences grises”—page 21—a hundred times) and the whole devastating package is embellished by the Jacket of the Year.

We shall hear more of Mr. Benedictus, so I informed myself about him. He is 23, the son of the managing director of a famous London store, and he was Captain of his House at Eton. Then came Balliol and the State University of Iowa to learn play-writing . He is now with the B.B.C.

Which of these institutions will bend next to the harsh block?


The reason Ian Fleming reviewed this novel apparently was its "Jacket of the Year," by none other than Richard Chopping, Fleming's favorite book cover artist:


For more information, consult the article "Blessed by Fleming, Adorned by Chopping – ‘The Fourth of June’".

My crude guess is that Chopping asked Fleming to review The Fourth of June as a favor, and though Fleming hated the novel's portrait of Eton and said so, he sweetened his review with some blurbable praise ("one of the most brilliant first novels since the war").

Interested potential readers should be informed that the most recent reprint of the book dispenses with Chopping's cover. Speaking only for myself, I've never been crazy about Chopping's trompe-l'œil book covers, even for the Bond novels.


Re: Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

Foreword to The Seven Deadly Sins (1962)

by Ian Fleming

I have various qualifications for writing an introduction to this series of distinguished and highly entertaining essays.

First of all, I invented the idea of the series when, a couple of years ago, I was still a member of the Editorial Board of the London Sunday Times. This Board meets every Tuesday to comment on the issue of the previous Sunday, discuss the plans for the next issue and put forward longer-term projects.

It is quite a small Board of seven or eight heads of departments—I was Foreign Manager at the time—together with the Editor and the Proprietor, Mr. Roy Thomson, and we are all good friends, though at this weekly meeting, beneath the surface of our friendliness, lurk all the deadly sins with the exception of gluttony and lust. Each one of us has pride in our department of the paper; many of us are covetous of the editorial chair; most are envious of the bright ideas put forward by others; anger comes to the surface at what we regard as unmerited criticism, and sloth, certainly in my case, lurks in the wings.

The same pattern is probably followed at all executive meetings in all branches of business. When someone else puts up a bright idea, however useful or profitable it may be to the business concerned, traces at least of Envy, Anger and Covetousness will be roused in his colleagues. Yet, on the occasion when I put forward this particular "bright" idea for the future, I seem to remember nothing but approbation and a genial nodding of heads.

The project was outside my own sphere of action on the paper and I heard nothing more of it until I had left the Sunday Times to concentrate on writing thrillers centered round a member of the British Secret Service called James Bond. So I cannot describe what troubles the Literary Editor ran into in his endeavours to marry the Seven Deadly Sins to seven appropriate authors. So far as I can recall, the marriages I myself had suggested were closely followed, except that I had suggested Mr. Malcolm Muggeridge to write on the theme of Anger on the grounds that he is such an extremely angry man. In the event, as you will see, Mr W.H. Auden was the brilliant choice.

My next claim to introduce these essays was my suggestion to Mr. Lawrence Hughes, a friend of mine and a Director of William Morrow & Co., that he should publish them in a book. Usually when one makes brilliant suggestions to a publisher, a dull glaze comes-over his eyes and nothing happens. But in this case Larry Hughes was enthusiastic and, despite all kinds of copyright problems, energetically pursued my suggestion and gathered these seven famous English authors together between hard covers—no mean feat if you know anything about copyright and literary agents.

So you might think I could justifiably allow myself a modest indulgence in the deadly sin of Pride. You would be mistaken. I have read and re-read these essays with pleasure and profit, but their moral impact upon me has been uncomfortable. To be precise and truthful, the critical examination of these famous sins by some of the keenest brains of today has led me to the dreadful conclusion that in fact all these ancient sins, compared with the sins of today, are in fact very close to virtues.

To run through the list. I have always admired the Pride of Dame Edith Sitwell, the pride which, with her proudful brothers, has carried this remarkable literary family through battles of opinion and taste reaching back to my youth.

The Covetousness of Cyril Connolly, which he takes off so brilliantly in his piece of fiction, is one of his most endearing qualities and he would be a smaller and less interesting man without it.

The Gluttony for life, food, drink and women of Patrick Leigh-Fermor are the essence of his tremendous zest for everything. Lust? If Christopher Sykes is lustful, may he, and I for the matter of that, long remain so.

Envy has its ugly sides, but if I, as a second son amongst four, had not been envious of my older brother and his achievements I would not have wished all my life to try and emulate him. As for Anger, surely we all need more rather than less of it to combat the indifference, the "I'm all right, Jack" attitudes, of today.

Of all the seven, only Sloth in its extreme form of accidia, which is a form of spiritual suicide and a refusal of joy, so brilliantly examined by Evelyn Waugh, has my wholehearted condemnation, perhaps because in moments of despair I have seen its face.

How drab and empty life would be without these sins, and what dull dogs we all would be without a healthy trace of many of them in our make up! And has not the depiction of these sins and their consequences been the yeast in most great fiction and drama? Could Shakespeare, Voltaire, Balzac, Dostoevsky or Tolstoy have written their masterpieces if humanity had been innocent of these sins? It is almost as if Leonardo, Titian, Rembrandt and Van Gogh had been required to paint without using the primary colours.

The truth, of course, is that generally speaking these Seven Deadly Sins were enumerated by monks for monks, and one can easily see how mischievous and harmful they could be within a monastery.

We do not live in a monastery, but in a great pulsating ant heap, and this brings me back to the moral confusion into which I have been thrown by these essays and which amounts to feeling that there are other and deadlier sins which I would like to see examined by authors of equal calibre in a companion volume to this.

I have made a list of these Seven Deadlier Sins which every reader will no doubt wish to amend, and these are my seven: Avarice, Cruelty, Snobbery, Hypocrisy, Self-righteousness, Moral Cowardice and Malice. If I were to put these modern seven into the scales against the ancient seven I cannot but feel that the weight of the former would bring the brass tray crashing down.

But is this loose thinking? Could it perhaps be argued that if we are free of the ancient seven we shall not fall victim to their modern progeny? I personally do not think so, but it would need better brains than mine and a keener sense of theological morality than I possess to pursue the argument. As a man in the street, I can only express my belief that being possessed of the ancient seven deadly sins one can still go to heaven, whereas to be afflicted by the modern variations can only be a passport to hell.

And by the same token, what about the Seven Deadly Virtues?

What about the anal-eroticism which the psychologists tell us lies at the base of Frugality? How much is Charity worth when it springs from self-interest? Is political acumen a virtue as practised by the Communists? What hell Sociability can be! Where is the line to be drawn between Deference and, not to use a more vulgar, hyphenated word, Sycophancy? Neatness in excess becomes pathological, so does Cleanliness. How often is Chastity a cloak for frigidity?

But I have held you for too long from these wonderful, and each in its different way exciting, essays and I must at all costs avoid that deadliest of all sins, ancient or modern, a sin which is surely more durable than any of those I have enumerated—that of being a Bore.


Fleming hoped his Seven Deadlier sins would be "examined by authors of equal calibre in a companion volume to this." 57 years later he got his wish...sort of.

At my suggestion, the website Artistic Licence Renewed has run a series of article on Ian Fleming's Seven Deadlier Sins, to examine how they apply to the Bond books and whether Fleming or Bond were guilty of them. It would have been impossible to assemble "authors of equal calibre" (especially since I was part of the new team), but the results are a worthy examples of literary criticism, in my obviously biased view.

The master page for the entire series is here. And here is the roster of Ian Fleming's Seven Deadlier Sins:

AVARICE, by Wesley Britton

HYPOCRISY, by Edward Biddulph


MORAL COWARDICE, by Benjamin Welton




The last three sins were written by me. I had originally intended to write only "Malice," but had to pinch-hit after some authors became unable to work on the project. "Snobbery" was began by the editor of Artistic Licence Renewed, who deserves co-credit but is too modest to give it to himself.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading about the Fleming's Deadlier Sins. If you think we've missed any examples of them, please say so!


Re: Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

Introduction (to All Night at Mr. Stanyhurst’s, by Hugh Edwards, 1963)

By Ian Fleming

An essential item in my ‘Desert Island’ library would be The Times Literary Supplement, dropped to me each Friday by a well-trained albatross. If forced to produce some reason for my affection for the journal, I would lamely say that I am nearly always interested by its front page article, by the letters, although there are not enough of them, and, being myself a book collector, by its back page of bibliophily. But, less lamely, I would praise the anonymity of its writers and reviewers which surely lies at the root of the unshackled verdicts that are, sometimes to the point of splendidly savage denunciation, to be found in the T.L.S.

Not long ago I was flying over the Nevada Desert on my way from Los Angeles to Chicago. It was one leg of a lunatic journey round the world in thirty days writing about its thrilling cities for the Sunday Times. My mail had caught up with me at Los Angeles and it included two issues of The Times Literary Supplement. In contrast with the mushy infant food of the American newspapers and magazines that had been my daily fare since arriving in America, I cannot describe the thrill of excitement with which I read a particularly devastating review of Miss Mary McCarthy’s Venice Observed: I remember that the slashing broadside made me almost lightheaded with pleasure.

All this is to explain the sequence of events leading up to the republication of this forgotten little book which would not have occurred had I not, as a matter of course, read a leading article which appeared in The Times Literary Supplement of April 14th, 1961, and some of which, by permission, I now reprint.


It is cheering when a book of real quality seems to break through a barrier of indifference and bad luck. Ten years ago Mr. Christopher Burney wrote a short work called Solitary Confinement which is one of the classics both of the last war and of that long process of imprisonment, brutality and sudden death in which the war itself was only one extra acute and well publicized stage. The publisher went out of business, the book out of print. The public soon forgot it in favour of the simpler and more immediate, but also more trivial jottings of Anne Frank. Yesterday it was reissued in a new edition by another publisher (Macmillan, 173 pp., 13s. 6d.), and here it is once more...

But how often are books raised from the dead in this way? Nowadays a work of fiction or autobiography or any other non-specialized, non-utilitarian type of literature has only a short time in which to sell or die—sometimes as little as three months. Less than ever, it seems, can publishers afford to keep unprofitable works in print, and in the restless search for new titles it is most uncommon for a publisher, as here, to turn to a more or less unsuccessful work of the past. Why the backward look should be so short-sighted it is difficult to say…Probably everyone has his own mental list of similarly neglected works which he is always pressing on his friends. What happens then? He lends his out-of-print copy; somehow it disappears; he cannot replace it; and within a few months he too has half forgotten what the book was like.

And yet it may be that a book of this kind has merely been published before its time. To take an example from across the page, the English translation of Brecht’s Threepenny Novel was being remaindered in 1939; today it is published by Penguins as a modern foreign classic. Similarly Mr. Beckett’s Murphy, one of a remarkable batch of novels issued by Routledge in the 1930s, quickly dropped into the same limbo, where only word of mouth kept a few worn copies in circulation…

Does this then mean that merit will win through in the end ? It is not at all certain that it will, and for every sleeping beauty that is awakened by a publisher’s kiss there are others that slumber on. Admittedly kisses of this sort are not encouraged by the fact that reprints are so seldom reviewed. But it is a pity if every generation in turn has to treat the more difficult and original works of the past as undiscovered territory. We stagnate if we do not absorb them into our literature and evaluate them; we waste time and energy repeating the same experiments only to arrive, twenty or thirty years too late, at much the same point…

Several times since Jonathan Cape became my own publishers I have urged them to reprint my choice among ‘lost’ books, this short novel by the shadowy, unsung Hugh Edwards, and now, fortified by The Times Literary Supplement, I returned to the attack. The reply was unexpected. Yes, they would do it—if I would write an introduction. I will not discuss here my mixed reactions to this suggestion, but one thing was clear the rebirth of this book now lay, rightly or wrongly, with me. I had only to say "Fly again, little bird", and it would fly. So, of course, I accepted and asked Capes for any material they had about the book and the author. The result was extremely meagre, but among the yellowing scraps, mostly ecstatic reviews, there was one treasure—an introduction by James Agate to the author’s next book Helen Between Cupids. I cannot remember much of this or any other of Hugh Edwards’s books, but what Agate has to say about All Night at Mr. Stanyhurst’s is so apt to the theme of what I now write that, risking the criticism that all my words are other people’s, I must repeat here some of what Mr. Agate had to say twenty-five years ago.

I am not going to pretend that Mr. Hugh Edwards’s All Night at Mr. Stanyhurst’s is the one good story which the readers of today have missed; I can think of half a dozen in the last three or four years over which public apathy began to silt even on the morning of publication. But I also know that on the day when Mr. Stanyhurst appeared we, meaning the Daily Express and me, came out pretty strong. We said: "The word 'masterpiece; is over-used, and one is wise to be shy of it. But I will maintain that here is probably a little masterpiece and certainly a tour de force. So far as my reading goes, it is the best long story or short novel since Conrad."

I did more than review Mr. Edwards's book; I even went to the length of buying a copy or two and sending them to friends. Taking advantage of the fact that I was in communication about something else, I sent a copy to Mr. Max Beerbohm, although I have never set eyes on him. I wrote: "It has been on my mind for some time that I have never answered your last critical and appreciative letter. To repair this I have sent you a novel published this week which has delighted me greatly. I do not know anybody except you who could have written it, and very few other people who are entitled to read it. I know nothing of the author except that he writes and writes and writes. There is no arrière pensée behind this gift except the desire to while away one of your evenings." Max—who has no superior in the art of living, and this includes refraining from unnecessary correspondence—made no allusion to the book for another eighteen months, when, taking advantage of the fact that he was in communication with me about something else, he said he had read it twice, on each occasion with the liveliest pleasure. And surely if agreement is reached by two doctors of letters as dissimilar as the exquisite Max and the burly me, it can matter little who differs? But that’s the whole point! I shouldn’t mind if people differed. What I do mind is that they just don’t take any notice.

The rest of the introduction to Helen need not concern us. Suffice it to say that, despite rave reviews when All Night at Mr. Stanyhurst’s was first published in 1933, and despite Mr. Agate's powerful reminder in 1935, it took more than four years for the modest edition of fifteen hundred to be sold. The author earned £31.3s. and the publisher barely covered his costs, having rashly spent over £50 on advertising.

In 1937 the book was reset and republished in the "New Library" edition at 2s. 6d. (Edwards was in good company here. "The New Library" included Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, and O’Flaherty’s The Informer) and this edition of a further three thousand sold out in seven years, earning £43.17s.9d. for the author. Edwards’s total reward for his "little masterpiece" thus amounted to just under £7 a year over eleven years, to which was later to be added a modest windfall of ten guineas when the little book was published in a Services paperback edition by Guild Books in 1943...

Hugh Edwards died in 1952 at the age of 74. At first I could find out nothing about him except, from his elderly sister, the widow of an Admiral, the following bare bones. He was born in Gibraltar in 1878 of a Naval family, was educated privately and then at Sandhurst whence he joined the West India Regiment and saw service mostly in the West Indies and West Africa. After twelve years in the army, he was invalided out and retired to his sister’s cottage in East Prawle in Devon. A forlorn attempt to render service in the First World War resulted only in a brief spell as an officer of the garrison of Cork. His health proved quite unequal to military duty and he returned to seclusion.

Encouraged by the success of former contributions to his regimental magazine (for which, incidentally, he had designed the cover) he had set about writing professionally, but it was some twenty years before Capes accepted his first novel, Sangoree. This was followed by the present book, then by Crack of Doom (Jonathan Cape, 1934), Helen Between Cupids (Jonathan Cape, 1935), and Macaroni (Geoffrey Bles, 1938). After that, silence! Hobbies: painting, polo, bridge and chess.

With these scraps of biography my researches had come to a full stop when, by chance, Commander and Mrs. E. J. King-Bull heard of my interest in Edwards and swam into my ken.

Commander E. J. King-Bull (who is, incidentally, a descendant of the character said to be the original ‘John Bull’ of old England) is a well-known writer and producer for the B.B.C. and has, with his wife, close connections with members of the Edwards family, notably the Leonards who, as children, sat at the feet of Hugh Edwards and listened to their uncle’s stories.

King-Bull was a great admirer of Edwards and, enjoying All Night at Mr. Stanyhurst’s as much as I do, turned the book into a radio play and persuaded the B.B.C. to allow him to produce it in the Third Programme in 1950. The play was conceived as a tribute not only to the memory of Hugh Edwards but also to the memory of King-Bull’s friend, the late Captain R. F. Leonard, D.S.C., R.N., from whom King-Bull had heard so much about Edwards. The play was a tremendous success, and was broadcast four times.

From what King-Bull told me it is clear that a whole book could be written about Hugh Edwards, but I have insufficient space here to do more than mortar together a few of the loose stones I have already put on display.

Having been at Sandhurst myself, and being thus able to imagine the regimental snobbery that must have permeated the place around about 1900, I was surprised that Edwards had joined the West India Regiment. But apparently about that time his parents lost most of their money and he had to accept a commission in an unfashionable regiment to protect his shallow purse. He was rewarded by seeing the West Indies in their last rip-roaring days, and his memories of the barbaric splendor—a compound of blood, champagne and pretty quadroons— were to inspire all he wrote, culminating in the Kingston earthquake which features in his Crack of Doom. To Hugh Edwards the cataclysm may well have seemed to presage the vanishing of the only era in which he was to live any other than a kind of ghostly existence.

It was the custom in those days for one battalion of the regiment to alternate between the Caribbean and Sierra Leone, and it was while exploring the hinterland of Sierra Leone that Edwards contracted blackwater fever, as a result of which he was invalided out of the army with a meagre pension.

With this, and with his sister to keep house, he retired to the tiny fisherman's cottage in
East Prawle in which he lived the life of an eighteenth-century recluse, confining himself to one attic in which there was nothing but a large bed and hundreds of books. It was at about this time that he inherited from a relative, who had been in his day a West Indian planter, a stack of old documents and diaries of the eighteenth century in which Edwards immersed himself to that extent of total rapport that emerges almost supernaturally in the story from which I am holding you.

It is interesting, perhaps, that he should have been stationed for a while at Cork, that fair Atlantic seaport which, in the heyday of eighteenth-century trade, had had long associations with the West Indies, and which forms part of the back-cloth to more than one of the novels.

At Prawle he lived the remote life of his imagination for many years, reading, writing and composing albums of illustrated nonsense rhymes for the numerous nephews and nieces and cousins who came there for the holidays. One catches a glimpse of the man from the fact that, as I am told, he began the draft of an autobiography, never to see the light of day, by addressing in affectionate gallantry a bevy of his charming nieces and their friends.

In his Edwardian youth he had been, by all accounts, a young blade of tremendous dash and virility and with a zest for all the wine of life, but one of the terrible side-effects of blackwater fever is that it rids a man of all appetite for these things, and there is no doubt that the romantic sexuality and the background of high life to All Night at Mr. Stanyhurst’s are sentimental memories of the young rake-hell he had once been.

Perhaps also the poignancies of this story, which so pierce the heart, are in part tears shed for his brief youth. But these and other secrets of this strange and in some curious sense ghostly figure have gone to his grave with him and will, I fancy, never be disturbed.

I, at any rate, have come to the end of my brief researches into the story of the man who wrote All Night at Mr. Stanyhurst’s and it is now time for him to speak in his own strange and beautiful words.


Note: I read All Night at Mr. Stanyhurst’s several years ago and must confess that it didn't make much of an impression on me. But you can decide its merits for yourself, since the book is available for free online at the Internet Archive.


Re: Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

A Malignant Growth in the Fabric of Society (Sunday Times, June 7, 1964)

The Honoured Society by Norman Lewis (Collins 30s)

By Ian Fleming

The Mafia, the Chinese Tongs and the assassination Apparat of the Soviet K.G.B., great grandspawn of the TCHECKA, are the only deeply evil phantoms of the past that still haunt the world. I have left out America gangsterdorm, for all its many-sided horror, because it is a mere stripling in the sudden-and-slow-death markets and only gained its “official quotation” in this century (unless we count the rough house “Tweed Mob” of the 1870s which, I dare say, was pretty bad news in Keystone Cop days ). The others have been buying and selling murder almost since markets in other world commodities—wheat, bullion, insurance—organised themselves (for greater efficiency) into cooperative groups.

The secrets of the Mafia were bound to be cracked first. Its cohesion was, paradoxically, too tightly knit, its family ties too incestuously woven, its geographical boundaries, though it tried with some success to extend them to the United States, too confined. It had not got the vast backgrounds of China or Russia into which to disappear when the heat, momentarily, was on. The Mafia’s fate was in danger when it began eating itself, stealing its own funds, betraying itself. The phase will no doubt pass.

Norman Lewis is not writing the Mafia’s obituary, only an interim appendix to one secret chapter of contemporary history. “Cosa nostra”—that chummy password from the dripping shrubberies of some schoolboys’ gangland—will continue to be “Our Thing” so long as Sicily stays harsh and poor and its tough people bite back at the world like cornered hounds. But I admit that, in my life-time, I never expected a writer to tell me with quiet, unjournalistic authority what the Mafia is, how it operates, with names and dates, and what it has been up to since the war.

To give a synopsis of the book daunts me. The families, the politicians, local and national, the tortuous double role of the police—of everybody down to A.M.G.O.T. officials—cannot be summarised. Even the foursquare figure of Giuliano, the famous bandit, grows further sides—six, eight, ten—as you tread among the crosses and double-crosses of which he was now the architect and now the pawn. But what interested me as a writer of crime fiction was how in the name of heaven Norman Lewis was able to open this grim and closely guarded safe deposit and get away with the contents. And, since so many of the host who will read this book will ask the same question, here is what I have elicited from him and his publishers.

Norman Lewis served throughout the Hitler war in the Intelligence Corps in the Mediterranean area. He is bilingual in Italian and his first marriage was to a Sicilian from an aristocratic Palermo family who, as automatically as any Lampedusa character, was privy to the secrets of the Mafia. From this and other more secret sources he was able to proceed to the detective work which has occupied him for the past two years. It was then only a question of putting the story down in the exciting narrative style Norman Lewis’s many admirers are accustomed to, and one’s only disappointment is that he didn’t spend another year in America expanding on his over-brief references to the overseas, and particularly American, operations of the Mafia and the links between its empire and its Sicilian motherland.

As I have suggested earlier, Norman Lewis is not greatly impressed by the recent clean-up and the “exile” of Genco Russo. Many Mafiosi have put up the shutters or even pulled out, just as happened to the London gangs who rapidly dispersed into temporary retirement when the heat generated by the Great Mail Robbery was at its height. Unless marina falls from heaven on Sicily, it will be “business as usual” within a matter of months and every Sicilian will once again be in that business at least up to his elbows.


Note: A week after this review's publication, Fleming wrote the following to his Sunday Times editor Leonard Russell:

"I’m afraid I entirely agree with your criticism of my critique of Norman Lewis’s book, but I was not nearly as well up on the subject of the Mafia as you--strangely--appear to be. And though I never see him I am devoted to Norman and am sorry that he always just fails to come off."

Fleming's review was published little more than months before his death, which makes it the last article or literary work Fleming ever wrote. And so this thread comes to an end.


Re: Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

Revelator wrote:

... And so this thread comes to an end.

The end of the thread?!!?
Well hopefully you will find some more Fleming rarities in the future Revelator, and please post them here when you do.
I've sure been enjoying all these articles. Titles I've seen mentioned in the Fleming bios but never thought I'd get a chance to read myself.


Re: Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

caractacus potts wrote:

The end of the thread?!!?
Well hopefully you will find some more Fleming rarities in the future Revelator, and please post them here when you do.
I've sure been enjoying all these articles.

I'm delighted you've been enjoying them! I would very much like to find more of Fleming's literary journalism, but I have the feeling there isn't much unnoticed work left to discover. What's left in my collection are some of Fleming's travel and treasure-hunting articles, but those are too long for online reading, especially on a message board. There are also one or two interviews with Fleming that have yet to be tracked down, including one for the New York Herald-Tribune. Whatever I find I will be sure to post here.