Ian Fleming was once called the Man with the Golden Pen, and he was certainly a prolific letter writer, as well as a highly successful journalist and thriller-writer.
This is confirmed again in new revelations about the author, which provide us with fresh perspectives on his life and career. A news story in the London Times newspaper (November 12th) has described how new light has been cast on the James Bond author’s relationship with his future wife through the appearance of a set of mainly unseen letters.
According to journalist David Sanderson, a cache of letters between Fleming and his wife Ann, detailing their love life and the embryonic success of the 007 novels, as well as showcasing their circle of famous friends, are being sold by Anne’s daughter, Fionn Morgan.
More than 150 largely unpublished letters written between Ian and Anne are being sold at Sotheby’s, the famous auction house in London, with an upper estimate of £300,000. The letters, which have been the property of Fleming’s step-daughter Fionn, have been described by Sotheby’s as an ‘unmatchable record of the life of the author’.
Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s books and manuscripts specialist, told the Times: ‘Much more than love letters, this correspondence charts the meteoric rise of Bond and paints a vivid picture of high society living in the postwar world’. Fleming’s biographer Andrew Lycett, also speaking to the newspaper, said the letters ‘provide an extraordinary and intimate insight into the complex relationship between Ian Fleming and his wife Ann’. He added: ‘They are not James Bond related, but if you want to know about Ian Fleming, Bond’s creator, they are gold dust’.
Fleming and Franco
The report in the Times comes shortly after the same newspaper carried a news story on new research that has emerged on the Bond author’s wartime intelligence operations. According to the Times (October 30th), researchers in Spain have revealed that the former Naval Intelligence officer played a critical role in planning the Allied invasion of Franco’s Spain that never was.
Fleming, who visited the British possession of Gibraltar during the Second World War to monitor Nazi spies operating in Spain, worked closely with his boss, Rear Admiral John Godfrey, to develop operation ‘Backbone’. This project saw the pair enlist the help of cartography experts to draw detailed maps of Spanish cities in advance of a planned invasion of Franco’s Spain by Allied forces. Details were also added based on information supplied by spies and collaborators, together with images supplied by the RAF’s aerial reconnaissance division.
Apparently, although Spain had declared itself neutral during the war, Fleming and his boss Godfrey (who was probably the model for ‘M’ in the later 007 books) were unconvinced, and put plans in place for possible Allied action. Two Spanish researchers, Fernando Sanz and Cesar Guardeno, have spent time closely studying the plans and maps, and will publish a paper on the topic called Maps for the War.
Fleming and Goldeneye
Interestingly, as many Fleming aficionados now know, Fleming also drew up detailed contingency plans, code-named operation ‘Goldeneye’, to protect Gibraltar itself from any possible invasion of the Island by Nazi Germany or Franco’s Spain. And, as a number of biographers have pointed out, the creator of James Bond later named his Jamaican home Goldeneye.
In fact, after first visiting the Island during the war, Fleming fell in love with Jamaica, and his annual visits to his beachside retreat allowed him to develop both a work and leisure routine that undoubtedly helped him write what was to become one of the most famous series of spy novels of the 20th century.
It was especially pleasing for both Fleming and Bond fans that the makers of the new 007 movie, No Time To Die, held Bond 25’s first media photocall and launch event at Fleming’s beautiful Jamaican retreat, and some key sequences have also been shot for the movie at nearby locations on the Island.
Ian Fleming in Naval Intelligence in Whitehall, London