A brief guide to Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, in London.
Ian Fleming (1908-1964) was born into a wealthy family at 27 Green Street in Mayfair. His father, Valentine, was killed in the First World War, while mother and sons went on to became fixtures within London Society in the inter-war period.
After a period as a journalist with Reuters, Fleming joined a London banking firm and moved to 22B Ebury Street, where he lived from 1936 to 1939.
During this period he amassed an important collection of first editions and surrealist art, whilst leading an elegant life of dinner parties, games of chance and love affairs. His circle of friends included Noel Coward, Peter Quennell, Patrick Leigh Fermor and Cyril Connolly.
When the Second World War broke out Fleming was recruited to Naval Intelligence, and became assistant to the Director. Shortly after the war he built his house, Goldeneye, on the north coast of Jamaica, and in 1952 he married his long-time lover Ann Charteris, Lady Rothermere (previously, wife of Lord Rothermere of the Daily Mail), so becoming her third husband.
In the Spring of 1953 Fleming purchased No. 16 Victoria Square in Belgravia as a London base (see adjacent photo).
That Spring also saw the publication of Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale (1953), introducing the world to the supremely suave and sophisticated secret agent James Bond 007 who drives a 1933 4.5 litre Bentley and drinks champagne and dry Martinis, shaken, not stirred:
"Three measures of Gordon’s one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?"
(Ian Fleming, Casino Royale)
Live and Let Die followed in 1954, with a new James Bond novel appearing every year until the short stories Octopussy and the Living Daylights in 1966.
Amongst the best Bond novels are Moonraker (1955), in which London is at the centre of the plot, From Russia With Love (1957), Dr No (1958), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963) and You Only Live Twice (1964).
In an article in 1962 Ian Fleming wrote ‘My contribution to the art of thriller-writing has been to attempt the total stimulation of the reader all the way through, even to his taste buds…’
Below Ian Fleming on the cover of LIFE magazine, 7 October 1966. (photo: Loomis Dean)