Ian Fleming by Nicholas Shakespeare assessment: real-life spying | EUROtoday

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That stated, it’s a richer studying expertise, written with Fleming-esque brio and insouciance, with a sense for the tragic elements of his life in addition to the ironic comedy of it. The quantity of latest testimony Shakespeare has truffled up a few man almost 60 years lifeless is dizzying; he has secured fruitful interviews with the customarily tight-lipped Fleming household. Fleming’s niece Gilly experiences that she was solely allowed to satisfy him when she was previous 18 as he was such a demonic affect, along with his womanising and ingesting; however all people Shakespeare speaks to who knew him properly adored him. “Like him? I’d go down on the knees and say prayers for his afterlife,” says Len Deighton, not at all times straightforward to please.

Shakespeare, a spy novelist himself in addition to the writer of an impressive biography of Bruce Chatwin, is a chic author, though the ebook just isn’t freed from the odd duff metaphor – “Fleming… is [often] left out of the picture entirely, like the missing comma in the film From Russia with Love” – or complicated sentence: “On 15 January 1910, [Fleming’s father] was elected Conservative and Unionist MP for Boris Johnson’s former constituency of Henley.”

The analysis right here is impeccable, though Shakespeare mangles issues barely when he says that the primary Bond dramatisation was a 1958 South African radio play “with a quiz show host as James Bond”: in truth, it was Bob Holness, then an actor and later well-known as host of Blockbusters. Could a lack of information concerning the profession of Holness be a symptom of the identical excessive seriousness that stops Shakespeare from totally appreciating the Bond novels? He quotes a lot reward for Fleming’s books from the likes of Betjeman and Larkin, however conveys little sense of actually having fun with them himself, and presents surprisingly little detailed evaluation of them. Still, his enthusiasm for Fleming the person, if not Fleming the writer, has been adequate to provide a ebook so buoyant and scrumptious that you simply really feel it is going to be a buddy for all times.

It is, nevertheless, in the end a tragic story. After a number of years of so-so gross sales, when the Bond books lastly caught the general public creativeness, Fleming was too unwell to get pleasure from his new-found fame – “I’d swap the whole damned thing for a healthy heart” – and the exceptional success of the early Bond movies solely took an additional toll. He died in 1964 at 56. It was, writes Shakespeare, “as if Ian had become the girl in Goldfinger, coated with gold so that he could not breathe.”

Ian Fleming: The Complete Man is revealed by Harvill Secker at £30. To order your copy for £25, name 0808 196 6794 or go to Telegraph Books