There have been so many biographies of Ian Fleming that surely there cannot be room for yet another? But Oliver Buckton has demonstrated that there is. Through his extensive research he has succeeded admirably in providing an extraordinary major new study of Fleming and explores in more detail the key points of Fleming’s life that are often missing in other biographies. In so doing he provides an exciting and refreshing read of a path well-trodden, and offers us the first in-depth exploration of the entire process of Fleming’s writings from inception to conception. It is great to see a thoroughly researched chapter on Kitzbühel, the mountain ski resort in the Tyrol, that had such an impact on a young Fleming and where it is likely he was recruited to the world of espionage. An instrumental part of that period of his life were Ernan Forbes-Dennis (former British passport officer in Vienna) and his wife, the author, Phyllis Bottome. Their influence on him in the 1930s is discussed, along with new material on the long-lasting personal impact of Kitzbühel on Fleming. Buckton explains the link of Kitzbühel to the scene of the violent killing of Tracy in You Only Live Twice, which parallels the death of Fleming’s girlfriend, Muriel Wright, whom he had met there in the 1930s and who tragically died in 1944. Kitzbühel never really left Fleming’s deep consciousness and yet it is habitually largely absent in previous studies of the influences on his life and writings.
In any discussion of Fleming, it is never going to be possible to escape his most famous and enigmatic creation James Bond. In Bond, Fleming has clearly written something of himself and Buckton analyses how Fleming’s own life parallels that of his fictional character. Of interest are the parallels which Buckton draws between Bond’s relationship with M in the books and films and how this in fact reflects Fleming’s relationship with his boss, John Godfrey, head of Naval Intelligence. So much of Fleming’s role in the Second World War has not been examined previously in such depth as Buckton has in his new biography. Fleming’s career often dismissed previously as unremarkable. But that assessment may be far from the truth. So much has remained hidden over the decades as to the sheer extent of Fleming’s hand in major Naval Intelligence operations and deceptions of the war.
What is energising about Buckton’s biography is his exploration of Fleming’s life such that is not eclipsed by an obsession with his women. They are present in the book, but this account moves beyond them to include a new look at the post-war period of Fleming’s career when he was recruiting and running his own agents. The biography provides a critical analysis of the Bond films and how Eon Productions has both influenced and distorted how the public view Fleming’s writings.
Buckton is to be applauded for his pacy, flamboyant, finely balanced, well-researched biography of one of the most famous spies in the history of espionage.
The World is Not Enough: A Biography of Ian Fleming, by Oliver Buckton is out now and published by Rowman & Littlefield. Helen Fry is the author of MI9. Her latest book, Spymaster: The Man Who Saved MI6.