Eye on the Spy: Happy Birthday, Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

Happy birthday to Ian Fleming, born May 28, 1908!

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Fleming is the author behind the James Bond series of thrillers, but did you know he also wrote the children’s classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? He also wrote several non-fiction books, some of which, like The Diamond Smugglers, arose from his background research for his stories, in this case, Diamonds are Forever.

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Fleming was not necessarily the inspiration for James Bond, but he had more than enough experience to rely on for creating his character. Educated not only at English prep schools but in Munich and Geneva as well, he was pulled into the British Naval Intelligence during World War II. He worked on several secret missions – including one code-named Operation Goldeneye, the name he would give to his home in Jamaica.

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Fleming’s 1950’s, post-war design of Bond was to have a dull, every-man character that events seemed to the-10-highest-grossing-james-bond-films-of-all-timehappen to. He stole the name James Bond from the author of an ornithology manual he owned, a name he thought was as dull and plain and ordinary as could be. It wasn’t even until the second film that he began to give Bond a nationality and sense of humor. His books have had mixed reviews over the years, yet sold more than 30 million copies before his death. Two were published posthumously – Man With the Golden Gun and Octopussy and the Living Daylights. He ranks number fourteen on the list of “50 Greatest British Authors since 1945.” Fleming was a notoriously heavy smoker and drinker, and died of a heart attack at age 56.

Although he wrote only twelve novels and 10 short stories, his stories have inspired more than 23 major films spanning fifty years. Their total adjusted gross is more than $10 billion, placing them behind only the Harry Potter series as most profitable film series in history. Fleming, however, left little family to benefit from his fortune. He had a daughter who died at birth, and his son Caspar, for whom he wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (also a classic film), died in 1975 at the age of 23. His widow, Ann, died in 1981.

 

For a dull, middle-aged nobody, James Bond continues to entertain us for more than 50 years, 25 films, and 7 actors and inspire generations of authors and fans. In addition to his original novels and films, there are several licensed tie-in series, such as Charlie Higson’s “Young Bond” children’s novels.

Who is your favorite Bond?

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Author Tom Clancy Dead at Age 66

Tom Clancy

Tom Clancy

Prolific writer Tom Clancy died Tuesday night, Oct 1st, at the John Hopkins Hospital in  Baltimore, Maryland.  The cause of death has not been released.

He was best known for his technically detailed espionage and military thrillers.  Several were made into movies including The Hunt for Red October, The Sum of All Fears, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present DangerThe first Net Force book was made into a television movie and the first Op-Center book was made into a mini-series.

He was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1947.  He attended Loyola College as a physics major, but switched to English in his sophomore year.  Before becoming an author, he ran an independent insurance agency.

In 1979, he began writing Patriot Games where his hero CIA agent Jack Ryan was introduced.  In 1982, he set aside that book and started The Hunt for Red October which was based on a real incident in November 1979 about a Soviet missile frigate attempting to defect.

Seventeen of his novels have appeared on the New York Times bestsellers list.  Besides his stand-alone novels, he has written several series available in paperback format.  They are:  Op-Center, Net Force, Net Force Explorers, Power Plays, Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, and EndWar.

He was a part owner of a baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles, author of several non-fiction books, developed three board games, and co-founded the video game developer Red Storm Entertainment.  He is one of only three authors to sell two million copies on a first printing (other two – J.K. Rowling and John Grisham).

His newest book, Command Authority, is due out in December.

Book Buzz : Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

jason matthewsJason Matthews is a 33 year veteran of the CIA, who has turned his considerable knowledge of espionage into a fantastic debut novel.  Reviewers have said it is the best thriller you will read this year.

Jason and his wife (who also worked for the CIA) appeared on CBS This Morning on June 4th.  They gave a fascinating interview recounting their lives as CIA agents.  You can view it here.

Mr. Matthews is the first American spy to take a turn at writing fiction.  Authors John le Carre, John Buchan, Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, Ian Fleming and Stella Rimington all worked for the British intelligence community.

Red Sparrow is about a hotheaded rookie spy, Nathaniel Nash, who is pitted against a gorgeous Russian intelligence officer, Dominika Egorova.  The story takes place in Moscow, Helsinki, Athens and Washington.  Mr. Matthews is very skilled with his writing – smart, fluent, great dialogue and extremely knowledgeable.  The book is filled with seemingly classified information –  both American and Russian.  It’s a wonder the manuscript got past the redacting committee at Langley!

If you like thrillers, you’ll want to put Red Sparrow on your summer reading list!