Home / News / While Bond’s gadgets are now at MSI, a pause to remember Ian Fleming

While Bond’s gadgets are now at MSI, a pause to remember Ian Fleming

It all started in January 1952, when a 43-year-old, heavy-drinking, chain-smoking man sat at his typewriter in his Jamaican home and read a frantic 2,000-word-a-day novel: “The Smell” and the smoke and sweat of the casino are nauseating at three in the morning. Then the erosion of spirit caused by excessive gambling (a mixture of greed, fear and nervous tension) becomes unbearable and the senses are awakened and rebel against it.”

The next paragraph would give the world one of the most enduring and popular fictional characters, Ian Fleming wrote: “James Bond suddenly realized that he was tired. He always knew when his body or mind was full, and he always acted on that knowledge. This helped him avoid vulgarity and prurient frankness that led to mistakes.”

That book, “Casino Royale,” was the birth of Bond and paved the way for a bestseller for more books, a movie series that made billions of dollars, and, as of last week, the Museum of Science and Industry’s “007 Science: Exploring the World of James Bond,It was billed as “the first official exhibition to focus on the science and technology behind the world’s longest-running film franchise.”

This exhibition of gadgets and gizmos runs until October 27th, but in the meantime I thought I’d re-read some of the Bond novels and delve a little deeper into Ian Fleming’s life.

Fleming is fascinating, and many biographies have been written since his death from a heart attack in 1964. I’ve read a few, and just finished the newest (and best), an 864-page triumph by Nicholas Shakespeare titled “Ian Fleming: The Complete Man.” London’s Sunday Times newspaper called it “a monumental record of Fleming’s life.” The integrity of the book is beyond doubt. Shakespeare leaves no future biographer much to discover. Fleming’s place in history is certain.”

With rare access to the Fleming archive, Shakespeare paints a thrilling and often wistful portrait of the man. It is rich with details, such as Fleming’s claim that he wrote the first Bond novel to distract himself from his impending wedding to the aristocratic but eccentric Ann Charteris; He wrote about himself in a letter: “Of course we are not suitable at all. I am not a communicator, I am a symmetrist, with a grumpy and melancholic temperament… Ann is an optimistic anarchist/traditionalist. So China will fly and there will be anger and tears.”

The book was fantastic and put me in touch with a local author who was as knowledgeable about Fleming and Bond as anyone I know.

Her name Raymond Benson and lives in the northwestern suburbs. He first met Fleming and Bond in 1964 when his father took him to see the movie “Goldfinger”. He was 9 years old and addicted all the time, devouring all the novels and watching all the movies.

After college and his theater career, he would write the critically acclaimed “The James Bond Bedside Companion” in 1984.

Raymond Benson, the first American writer chosen to write James Bond books after Ian Fleming’s death, in his home office on November 14, 2022. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

In 1996, Ian Fleming received a call from representatives of his family asking if he would like to write a Bond novel, as others had done after Fleming’s death. “I took the opportunity,” he said.

He would go on to write six original Bond novels, three novelizations of the Bond films, and several short stories. Following Bond, he embarked on a prolific and highly successful career as a novelist, teacher and film entertainer, giving (along with former Daily Herald film critic Dann Gire) public presentations on films called “Dann & Raymond’s Movie Club.”

He expressed his admiration for Fleming to me over the weekend: “He was a man of intense energy, curiosity, and a penchant for detail and organization. He uncovered ideas and nuances with the enthusiasm of a keen detective, taking notes in the small notebook he always kept with him. “He was the kind of person who wanted to know a little bit about everything.”

It’s no surprise that he saw the MSI exhibition and called it fascinating.

“Whether you’re a fan or not, there’s something there for everyone,” he says. “Interactive shows and games will entertain young visitors even if they don’t know the Bond movies. Having grown up with Connery-era paintings, my favorite pieces are his early works, such as Rosa Klebb’s knife-bladed shoe in ‘From Russia with Love’.”

Actor Daniel Craig stars as James Bond.  Craig was introduced as legendary British secret agent James Bond 007 in the 21st Bond film, Casino Royale, which was shot in London, England, on October 14, 2005.  (Greg Williams/Eon Productions)
Actor Daniel Craig stars as James Bond. Craig was introduced as legendary British secret agent James Bond 007 in the 21st Bond film, Casino Royale, which was shot in London, England, on October 14, 2005. (Greg Williams/Eon Productions)

Last year, Ian Fleming Publishing celebrated the 70th anniversary of “Casino Royale” by republishing all of Fleming’s books in the United Kingdom, but also included out-of-print books by some of its sequels, including Benson’s first Bond novel, “Zero Minus.” also republished it. Ten.” Also coming two weeks ago was “James Bond: The Raymond Benson Years.” e-book Summary of all six of Benson’s original Bond novels, published 1997-2002.

There was always speculation that Bond was the inspiration.

“While Fleming certainly knew Bond-like agents during the war, most 007 scholars agree that the character is a wish-fulfilling embodiment of Fleming himself,” Benson tells me. Bond was the man Fleming wanted to be.”

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