Growing up in the shadow of a feted elder brother (Peter Fleming), Ian Fleming seems to have taken to the role of disreputable younger brother with relish. After failing as an army officer, and spending some time as a journalist, Ian Fleming was recruited into British Naval Intelligence in 1939, working mainly as a desk operative. His experiences and acquaintances during this time are said to have influenced his later spy novels.
The first of these, Casino Royale, introduced the character of Commander James Bond, the spy with a licence to kill. Bond has copped a lot of flak over the years, mainly for being a womanizing, alcoholic, gambling, vain snob … many traits that he shared, apparently, with his creator. But Bond is, essentially, just a cold-blooded killer, and Fleming introduced many of Bond’s other traits just to distract us from this fact.
In Dr. No, for example, Bond callously uses several people as pawns in his game against his nemesis – two innocent men are set up to impersonate Bond and his offsider Quarrel and are assassinated, and then Quarrel himself is killed in a botched reconnaissance mission. In fact, the one character who ends up better off as a result of associating with Bond is his romantic interest, Honey Rider.
A lot is made of the improbability of Bond’s magnetic attraction for women. Often quoted is his instant ability in Goldfinger to change the sexual orientation of the lesbian Pussy Galore; certainly ridiculous, but no more so than the scene in Dr. No where Bond is attacked by a killer squid. You can argue that Fleming’s depiction of Bond’s women is based on an idea generally accepted in works of fiction from Madame Bovary to Gone With the Wind – that women who should know better can still find themselves attracted to ‘bad boys’.
“Against the background of this luminous and sparkling stage Bond stood in the sunshine and felt his mission to be incongruous and remote and his dark profession an affront to his fellow actors.”
– Ian Fleming (1908-1964)