“At 7.30 on the morning of Thursday, August 12, Bond awoke in his comfortable flat in the plane-tree’d square off the King’s Road and was disgusted to find that he was thoroughly bored with the prospect of the day ahead. Just as, in at least one religion, accidie is the first of the cardinal sins, so boredom, and particularly the incredible circumstance of waking up bored, was the only vice Bond utterly condemned.”
It is a measure of the achievement of what Ian Fleming produced that, for all the criticisms hurled at his 007 adventures for their supposed snobbery, sexism and violence, that no-one ever accused his output of being boring and that he ended up producing the most famous fictional British character of all time, apart possibly from Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes. Born on this day in 1908, Fleming died at the relatively young age of 56 in 1964, just when the movies made out of his books were going into overdrive. Goodness knows what he’d make of the hoo-ha marking his centenary.
Sebastian Faulk’s new book, which he has tried to write in the Fleming style, is in the mail. I’ll put up a short review when I get it. With any luck, the book will be fodder for another great film with Daniel Craig.
Update: here is an article in the New York Times about Fleming and the new book. It is pretty harsh about Fleming, calling him a nasty piece work, including the sin of anti-semitism. Really? I cannot remember anything in the books that refers to Jews in a clearly disparaging way. Considering his depiction of the Nazis in Moonraker, I’d say that Fleming was pretty sound, in fact. As far as I know from reading his books or the excellent biography of him by Andrew Lycett, this was not an issue that came up. Was he a racist? Well, his portrayal of blacks in Live and Let Die is a bit condescending. He writes about people of different races, such as Koreans and Turks, in ways that sometimes paint too broad a brush, but I do not get the sense that he damned whole swathes of humanity because they had different skin colour. The NYT reviewer also refers to Fleming as a “failed” journalist. That is flat wrong. He worked for several years at Reuters and covered the Moscow show trials of the early 1930s with considerable aplomb; after the war, he worked as a senior executive at Kemsley Newspapers, responsible for running foreign news and training up staff as well as checking copy; he also had a column at the Sunday Times. Yes, he was not, by his own frank admission, one of the “greats”, but to say he was a failure is grossly unfair. At least – unlike the NYT – he did not make up news stories and kept his fictional skills for his novels.