MI6 previews "The Life of Kinglsey Amis" by Zachary Leader, a definitive biography of the controversial figure and one-time James Bond continuation novelist...

The Life Of Kinglsey Amis - Preview
18th May 2007

The Life Of Kingsley Amis - Zachary Leader
Here is the authorized, definitive biography of one of the most controversial figures of twentieth-century literature, renowned for his blistering intelligence, savage wit and belligerent fierceness of opinion: Kingsley Amis was not only the finest comic novelist of his generation–having first achieved prominence with the publication of Lucky Jim in 1954 and as one of the Angry Young Men–but also a dominant figure in post—World War II British writing as novelist, poet, critic and polemicist.

Bonding With Kingsley Amis

Kingsley Amis became associated with Ian Fleming's James Bond in the 1960s, writing critical works connected with the fictional spy, either under a pseudonym or uncredited. In 1965, he wrote the popular The James Bond Dossier under his own name. That same year, he wrote, The Book of Bond, or, Every Man His Own 007, a tongue-in-cheek how-to manual about being a sophisticated spy, under the pseudonym "Lt Col. William ('Bill') Tanner", Tanner being M's Chief of Staff in many of Fleming's Bond novels.

It is widely claimed that after Fleming died in 1964 following completion of an early draft of The Man with the Golden Gun, the publisher commissioned Amis and possibly other writers to finish the manuscript. Bond historians and Fleming biographers have in recent years debunked this theory, indicating that no such ghostwriter was ever employed, though Amis did provide suggestions on how to improve the manuscript, later rejected.


In 1968 the owners of the James Bond property, Glidrose Publications, attempted to continue the series by hiring different novelists, all of whom were to publish under the pseudonym "Robert Markham".


In the event, Amis's Colonel Sun was the first and only Bond novel to be published under that name. It is widely believed that Amis had planned to write a second Bond novel but was talked out of it. Colonel Sun was adapted as a comic strip in the Daily Express in 1969. In a 2005 Titan Books reprint volume of the comic strip, an introductory chapter (penned by the editors of mi6-hq.com) stated that Amis planned to write a short story featuring an elderly Bond coming out of retirement for one last mission, but Glidrose refused him permission to write it.

Amis was unsuccessful at persuading Eon Productions to adapt his novel as a film. The article states that Amis was told that Harry Saltzman (co-producer of the Bond series up until 1974) had "blackballed" any use of Colonel Sun as a Bond film, apparently in response to Glidrose having rejected the publication of the post-Fleming Bond novel, Per Fine Ounce by Geoffrey Jenkins, which Saltzman had championed.

In 2002, however, Colonel Sun was clearly referenced in the James Bond film Die Another Day in which the villain was named Colonel Tan-Sun Moon.

Official Blurb
In The Life of Kingsley Amis, Zachary Leader, acclaimed editor of The Letters of Kingsley Amis, draws not only on unpublished works and correspondence but also on interviews with a wide range of Amis’s friends, relatives, fellow writers, students and colleagues, many of whom have never spoken out before. The result is a compulsively readable account of Amis’s childhood, school days and life as a student at Oxford, teacher, critic, political and cultural commentator, professional author, husband, father and lover.

Even as he makes the case for Amis’s cultural centrality–at his death Time magazine claimed that “the British decades between 1955 and 1995 should in fairness be called ‘the Amis era’”–Leader explores the writer’s phobias, self-doubts and ambitions; the controversies in which he was embroiled; and the role that drink played in a life bedeviled by erotic entanglements, domestic turbulence and personal disaster.

Amazon UK - Hardback
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Above: Front cover artwork (UK hardback)

“Very thorough and very straight-talking. It’s also very clear in its aims. [Leader] displays the facts of each matter plainly, allowing readers to deliver their own praise and blame, and counterbalances them with his attention to the work. It’s an impressively well-judged response.”
– The Guardian

Data Stream
Title: The Life Of Kingsley Amis
Author: Zachary Leader
Publisher: Jonathan Cape (UK), Pantheon (USA)
Released: 16th November 2006 (UK), 24th April 2007 (USA)
R.R.P: £25.00 (UK) / $39.95 (USA)
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 600 (UK) / 1008 (USA)
ISBN: 0224062271 (UK) / 0375424989 (USA)

About The Author
Zachary Leader is a professor of English literature at Roehampton University in England. Among his books are studies of Romantic poetry and modern British fiction. Leader edited The Letters of Kingsley Amis (“One of the last major monuments of the epistolary art)”
– The Sunday Telegraph.