A popular annual literary festival held in Kent, England, will have this year an ‘Ian Fleming evening’, where the creator of James Bond will be the topic of discussion by two of his major biographers, together with his stepdaughter.
The special evening will take place on Friday, 13th May, at the Whitstable Literary Festival in Kent (otherwise known as WhitLit), which this year also covers the world of spies in general, both in fiction and in fact.
The author, broadcaster and Fleming biographer Andrew Lycett will speak on ‘The Man Behind Bond’, while writer and historian Matthew Parker will talk about the major influence of Jamaica on the 007 author’s life and novels. Fionn Morgan, Fleming’s step-daughter, will round off the special evening by recalling some of her memories of her step-father, in conversation with Andrew Lycett. Ian Fleming had strong connections with Kent, and also used the area as a setting for his third 007 novel Moonraker (1955). The Moonraker rocket project in the novel was located at a site between Dover and Deal in Kent, close to where Fleming had a country cottage near the sea.
Andrew Lycett, of course, penned a highly-acclaimed biography, Ian Fleming, in 1995, and has since been in demand as a leading expert on all things Fleming and Bond. He recently acted as a consultant on the ‘Designing 007 – 50 Years of Bond Style’ exhibition. Similarly, Matthew Parker’s Goldeneye: Where Bond was Born – Ian Fleming’s Jamaica was published by Hutchinson in the UK in 2014, and also received excellent reviews from the critics.
Interestingly, Fleming biographer Lycett, whose 1995 book Ian Fleming remains the most recent serious study of the full life of the Bond author, himself penned a review of Parker’s new book for a popular monthly magazine in 2014. Writing in the British literary and cultural magazine Literary Review (August, 2014), Lycett offered his thoughts on Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born and was clearly very impressed with Parker’s ‘close and intelligent’ reading of Fleming’s work.
Parker’s book was a combination of part-biography of Fleming, a history of Jamaica, and a critical analysis of the James Bond novels, many of which were developed in Fleming’s rather austere island retreat Goldeneye. As many Bond aficionados know, Fleming had fallen in love with the beautiful Caribbean island when he first visited the location in the War, and had subsequently purchased a plot of land on the north coast for his new home there in 1946, which was named after one of his secret wartime intelligence operations. The very first James Bond adventure Casino Royale was written there in 1952, and the island featured in three Bond novels and also some short stories.
Lycett opened his review of Parker’s new study by asking an intriguing question: where does one look for James Bond’s origins? Are they to be found in Fleming’s wartime experiences as a Naval Intelligence officer in London? Or further back in the 1930s? Parker’s thesis, as Lycett noted, is that the main origins of Bond actually lie in Jamaica, and Parker identified in his book the extent to which Fleming drew on the island and its culture, together with its changing politics, to develop much of the atmosphere and incidental background detail to the Bond novel series.
Jamaica, for Fleming, offered a haven of personal peace and exotic life, and an escape from the grey reality of ration-book Britain; however, as Lycett noted, Parker described how, at the same time, the evidence of declining British power in the post-war world was reflected in the plots to the Bond books and in the playful relationship between Bond and his CIA buddy Felix Leiter. And Jamaica itself was changing dramatically, with its politicians cannily playing off Britain against America in the context of the Cold War and Anglo-American competition in the Caribbean. In fact, by 1962, Jamaica had become an independent nation, no longer subject to British control. According to Lycett, Parker had also rightly explored how Fleming’s own deteriorating physical condition was mirrored in Bond’s own health problems, and was possibly a metaphor for the wider problems faced by the British empire at the time.
Towards the end of his review, Lycett also commented: ‘One of the strengths of Parker’s skilfully turned book is to highlight Fleming’s achievements as both an author and a commentator’. Some of these themes will undoubtedly be covered by both Lycett and Parker at the special Fleming evening at WhitLit, while the opportunity to hear some unique memories by one of Fleming’s close family members will also be equally fascinating.
WhitLit’s Fleming Evening
The special Ian Fleming evening at Whitstable Literary Festival will be arranged as follows:
18.30-19.30: Andrew Lycett: Ian Fleming: The Man Behind Bond.
19.45-20.45: Matthew Parker: Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming’s Jamaica.
21.00-22.00: Fionn Morgan: in conversation with Andrew Lycett: Ian Fleming: My Step-Father.
The event takes place at Whitstable Community College, in Bellevue Road, Whitstable, in Kent. Tickets are still available. The Festival will also see another Bond author in attendance: Steve Cole, whose second novel in the ‘Young Bond’ series has just been published.
Did You Know?
In February, 1964, while staying at Goldeneye, Bond author Ian Fleming wrote a short piece entitled ‘Introducing Jamaica’, in which he described his life on the island over the previous eighteen years, including some of the people he had encountered and the wonderful sights he had seen. This was a preface to a new book on Jamaica, edited by his good friend Morris Cargill, which was eventually published in October, 1965, as Ian Fleming Introduces Jamaica (Andre Deutsch publishers).
Regrettably, Fleming did not live to see the book in print, as he passed away in August, 1964, just a few weeks before the premiere of the third smash-hit EON Bond movie Goldfinger.