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Fleming on JFK

9th December 2013

Fifty years ago, Ian Fleming was interviewed about being named as one of President Kennedy's favourite authors

MI6 logo By MI6 Staff
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Ian Fleming is JFK's Favourite Fiction Writer by Hal McClure, Istanbul (AP) - July 31st, 1963

How does it feel to be President Kennedy's favorite mystery thriller writer? "It's quite flattering," says author Ian Fleming, whose melodramatic adventures of British secret agent James Bond have sold millions of books throughout the world. Fleming, who at 54 is a somewhat older version of his suave fictional hero, was sitting outside the tiny Turkish railroad station of Yarimburgaz, where recently a British film company was shooting the latest James Bond movie, "From Russia, With Love." The author had come down from London to watch. He brushed lank gray hair from his eyes and smile creased his ruddy face as he recalled his only meeting with President Kennedy.


"It was six months before the 1960 election and I was introduced to them as they walked along a Washington street. Both Mr. Kennedy and Jackie asked me, 'Are you THE Ian Fleming?’ "That's music to any writer's ears." The President recently placed Fleming's "From Russia. With Love", a spy thriller that starts in Istanbul and goes behind the Iron Curtain, on a list of books he has most enjoyed reading. Fleming said he has not seen Kennedy since, but sends him autographed copies of each new Bond book. "It's the least I can do," he added. How did he start the James Bond books? Fleming was foreign manager (he prefers manager to editor) of the Sunday Times of London when he began the series in 1952. He drew on his own experiences in British naval intelligence in World War Two. "I was about to be married after 43 years of bachelorhood and it had been a momentous decision for me," he said, then quipping: "I suppose I needed a diversion to get over the shock."


He wrote his first book in Jamaica on his honeymoon. In all, he has written a dozen books at his Jamaica retreat. He smiled and continued telling about his writing habits. "I never look back when I'm writing," he said.


Above: Ian Fleming on location with 'From Russia With Love' in Turkey.

"That's good advice for young writers. If you start correcting and revising the previous day's work, you waste another day. I revise only after I've finished the book."' He said it takes him about six weeks to write the first draft, turning out about 2,000 words a day in two stints—from 10 a.m. to about noon and from 6 to 7 p. m. Has his books' success changed his life? "Surprisingly little," says Fleming. He said he still contributes a piece to the Sunday Times now and then and continues to make his home in England. He admits if it weren't for the high British income tax he'd be a millionaire today. Fleming writes lovingly and knowingly of gambling and good eating in the Bond stories and admits he, like his hero, likes to gamble. But as for being a gourmet "I'd as soon eat scrambled eggs." He says people like to read about exotic foods and he continues to write about them.’

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