The Book Collector was launched by Ian Fleming in 1952 at about the same time as he started working on his first James Bond novel. A new book is now giving some insightful information on Fleming and his biographer John Pearson - a book about writing a book.
Ian Fleming - The Notes by John Pearson refers to his notes while he was researching The Life of Ian Fleming in 1965, the first biography of Fleming published in 1966.
Pearson had been Ian Fleming's assistant at the Sunday Times and was as such the perfect choice to write about Fleming. He later also became the third official author of the James Bond series and wrote James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007 in 1973. It was a first-person fictional biography, but it was to be the only one he wrote in the series. He is best known for his many biographies, including of the Kray Twins.
This makes this book particular valuable as the reader gets access to the notes that John Pearson made during his research. They chart not only Fleming’s life – with details that never made it into the finished biography - but John’s own journey while investigating his subject. As such they form less a series of aides memoires than a book about writing a book. Compelling, insightful, irreverent and written in John’s inimitable style, they make an outstanding read.
A taster clip from John’s interview with Admiral Godfrey, Fleming’s boss at Naval Intelligence and reputedly the model for ‘M’:
‘I’ll be wearing a check cap and will meet you off the 9.45 at Eastbourne Central,’ he had said. And there he was, a large, pink-faced man in his early seventies with heavy brown shoes and a grey Rover car. ‘Don’t judge John Godfrey by what he looks like now,’ Harling had said. ‘In his day he was formidable. Very formidable indeed. Since then, of course, he’s had a heart attack and he’s nothing like the man he was.’
But it wasn’t just a heart attack and the passage of a quarter of a century that accounted for the sadness of the occasion. It was partly that he had this air of helplessness, of the best part of life being over, that all naval officers seem to have when they retire. Those brown shoes haunted me throughout the interview.
But more than this, of course, was the fact that Fleming had so grossly oversold the product. Instead of the steely-eyed ‘M’ with his ruthlessness and his wealth and his deeply-lined face, there was this sad old man who found difficulty getting the car parked and looked like Cecil Parker.
The only surviving piece of M-ness one could see were the eyes. They were very pale blue, very cool.’
The 376-page book is published by Queen Anne Press with an introduction by Fergus Fleming and is available this month. Never before published it has been printed in two editions – the Regular Edition, numbered 001-150 is available at £125, while the Deluxe Edition, lettered A-Z and signed by the author (£275) has already sold out.