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An interview with Ian`s nephew: Fergus Fleming

03-Nov-2009 • Literary

Paul Davis from the American weblog, When Falls The Coliseum has an interview with Mr. Fergus Fleming, nephew of author Ian Fleming, Director of Ian Fleming Publications and co-publisher of Queen Anne Press.

DAVIS: Would you explain your personal and professional relationship with Ian Fleming?

FLEMING: Personally, I am his nephew. Professionally, I am a Director of Ian Fleming Publications (IFP), the company which manages his literary estate. Also, with my cousin Kate Grimond, I am the co-publisher of Queen Anne Press, the firm of which he was once Managing Director. I’m the son of Richard, Ian’s younger brother. My cousin and co-publisher Kate is the daughter of his older brother Peter.

DAVIS: Are you old enough to have known him?

FLEMING: I don’t remember meeting Ian - he died when I was five years old - but his books were on the family shelves and of course every new Bond film was a must-see.

DAVIS: Can you tell us about your professional background?

FLEMING: My background is unglamorous. Having trained as an accountant and barrister I worked as a furniture maker before becoming a writer and editor at Time-Life Books. Since the 1990s I have written several works of narrative nonfiction, including Barrow’s Boys, Killing Dragons and Ninety Degrees North.

DAVIS: Please tell us about the Queen Anne series of Fleming’s novels and the compilation of Fleming’s jounalistic pieces, Talk of the Devil?

FLEMING: Talk of the Devil is a collection of rarely seen material, some of it unpublished. The contents are mainly journalistic but they also include two short stories. One of them, A Poor Man Escapes, is Ian’s earliest known attempt at fiction. The other, The Shameful Dream, was written in 1951 and has as its hero a journalist named Bone - a year and a letter-change later the hero would be Bond. For fuller details, see our web site, www.queenannepress.com The book is restricted currently to the Centenary Edition but it will be available as a single volume sometime in the future.

DAVIS: I read The Diamond Smugglers andThrilling Cities again and I enjoyed them. I thought the new editions and covers were smart-looking. Would you please tell us about the genesis of these non-fiction books and why they’ve been reprinted again.?

FLEMING: They are pieces of extended journalism that were first published by the Sunday Times in the late 1950s. of the two, Thrilling Cities is probably the most entertaining but The Diamond Smugglers was something of a hit at the time - remarkably, it was the first of Ian’s books to be optioned (by Rank). They have been reissued by IFP not only to mark the centenary but because they are good books in their own right which have been overshadowed by the more glamorous Bond novels.

DAVIS: Ian Fleming’s Centenary, 2008, was a good one, I thought. What were the highlights for you?

FLEMING: Yes, the Centenary Year was excellent, its highlights many and varied. The Ian Fleming Gala evening was outstanding. My personal favorite was the launch of Sebastian Faulkes’ Devil May Care.

DAVIS: Considering Ian Fleming’s WWII service as a naval intelligence officer and his father’s death in WWI and his brother’s death in WWII, do you think he would have been pleased with the Imperial War Museum tribute to him?

FLEMING: Ian would definitely have been pleased with the Imperial War Museum exhibition. He was brought up in the shadow of WWI, served in WWII and created a fictional spy for the Cold War. He never forgot that his father and brother had died defending their country. The Imperial war Museum was therefore a perfect place to celebrate his life and works.

DAVIS: I believe thrillers are an art form, with thrillers being like jazz to literary fiction’s classical music. I also believe that Fleming was a first-class thriller writer. Although he said numerous times that he unabashedly wrote the Bond books as entertainment and wrote primarily for money and personal pleasure, he was also a serious craftsman who took thriller-writing seriously. Do you agree?

FLEMING: I couldn’t comment on the jazz/classical analogy! I agree that Ian wrote for a living and avoided any hint of pretentiousness. He drew a sharp line between those who called themselves “authors” and those who called themselves “writers,” numbering himself in the later. In a 1960s Who’s Who entry he described himself as having written “several novels of suspense.” In my view he wrote novels not of suspense but sensation. In this respect he took his job seriously and at the same time made money and had a lot of fun.

DAVIS: Has a new writer been selected to pen a new James Bond novel? Do you have input into the selection? If so, may I suggest that you pick a thriller writer this time. Frederick Forsyth would be my pick.

FLEMING: No comment on the next Bond author. But Frederick Forsyth is an interesting idea.

DAVIS: I first read Fleming’s thrillers when I was about 11 or 12 in the 1960s after I saw the first couple of Sean Connery-Bond films. I became a Fleming aficionado then and I remain one today. When did you first read the Bond thrillers and what did you initially think of them?

FLEMING: Like you I first read the Bond books aged 11-12, but in the early 70s. I thought they were excellent (naturally) and re-read them constantly for the next four years. Then didn’t them up again until 2005. What struck me the second time around was how colorful, vibrant and dramatic they were.

DAVIS: What do you think of the Bond films?

FLEMING: The films are very good and very entertaining but after a while one tends to assume they are the be-all and end-all of Bond. This is probably why the books seemed so fresh on a second approach.

Click here to read the complete interview at whenfallsthecoliseum.com.

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