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Ian Fleming: The Complete Man

19th January 2024

Listen online to an abridged version of Nicholas Shakespeare's fascinating biography

MI6 logo By MI6 Staff
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Ian Fleming's greatest creation, James Bond, has had an enormous and ongoing impact on our culture, but Fleming was only a thriller writer in his last twelve years. Fleming's personal life and impressive career in Naval Intelligence put him at the heart of critical movements in world history, whilst providing rich inspiration for his fiction. Exceptionally well-connected, and widely traveled, from the US and Soviet Russia to his beloved Jamaica, Ian had access to the most powerful political figures at a time of profound change.

Nicholas Shakespeare's fascinating biography, with unprecedented access to the Fleming family papers, uncovers new material and throws new light on an extraordinary man. Ian Fleming would strive all his life to throw off the shadows of his gifted older brother, and be a complete man, but ultimately was then overshadowed by his own famous creation.

BBC Radio 4 has created an episodic abridged version of the biography, read by multi-Olivier Award-winning actor, Alex Jennings.

Episode 1. A Stormy Childhood: tips back to Fleming's turbulent and stormy childhood.

Episode 2. A Secret Service - The War Years: Ian Fleming's work in Naval Intelligence in WWII was at the centre of Churchill’s main strategies. His unit managing to infiltrate and acquire key German naval enigma settings.

Episode 3. Writing Bond: All the elements that motivated and inspired Fleming to create Bond conspire at Goldeneye, his Jamaican retreat, where he can at last start writing his novels.

Episode 4. Dinner with JFK: Soon to be President, John F. Kennedy at dinner with Fleming, seeks advice on Fidel Castro, "What would Bond do?"Fleming's response becomes close to what's deployed by the CIA.

Episode 5. Filming Bond: Fleming's final years: When Fleming signed the film deal, producer Cubby Broccoli called it, ‘the most successful series of movies in motion-picture history’, and world events seemed to imitate a Bond .

Click here to listen to all 5 episodes via BBC iPlayer.

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