Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ian Fleming

In September 1925 Ian Fleming received seven blackballs when his brother Peter put him up for membership in Pop, the exclusive Eton social club. The future author of the James Bond novels was 17. It must have rankled to be found not up to standard, not the right sort. He got his own back via Bond's arrogant perfection.

Fleming's life reads like a good novel. He was a scoundrel, a lowlife among the uppercrust, a borrower of other men's wives. In 1939, his great coup as a spy went awry when he was caught smuggling condoms out of the Soviet Union; his cunning idea was to have them analyzed to learn the state of the Soviet rubber industry. He was 30 and a bit old for a spy, really. In his novels he could fantasize about how a competent spy might operate. He named his hero James Bond after an ornithologist, an expert on the subject of West Indian birds, something Fleming was an expert about too, in a manner of speaking. Ian Fleming appears seven times in A Book of Ages.

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