The photograph above is of the MI6 building and even though it was not built during Ian Fleming’s lifetime, it is easy to imagine his hero James Bond striding through its corridors. 2008 is the centenary of the birth of Ian Fleming; see his official website to learn about his career as an intelligence officer, novelist and journalist. There will be a number of events to commemorate the creator of the most famous British fictional spy.The Post Office will be issuing commemorative stamps. A new one-off Bond novel written by Sebastian Faulks – Devil May Care will be published on May 28th by Penguin Books. Fans of the Bond movies will be glad to know that the latest film Quantum of Solace will be released on October 31st this year. There is also an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum : For Your Eyes Only which opened on April 17th 2008 and will run until March 1st 2009. Among the items featured for the first time are Fleming’s Colt Python revolver, Daniel Craig’s bloodstained shirt from Casino Royale as well as prototype of the villainous Rosa Kleb’s flick knife shoes from the film of From Russia with Love. On a more serious note, the exhibition attempts to explore the extent to which the Bond novels reflect the reality of the Cold War era.
An interesting footnote to Fleming’s career is the case of the Thunderball screenplay (and an object lesson on the perils of plagiarism) which resulted in a court case, betrayals and deaths. In 1959 Fleming was given the commission to write an original screenplay. Since he found the the task of writing for the screen particularly onerous, he gave the task to a professional screenwriter. When the script had been completed, plans for the making of the film were temporarily shelved. When Fleming came to write his next annual Bond novel, he was suffering from writers’ block and so with a deadline from his publisher looming decided to lift large extracts from the Thunderball screenplay to put in his book. The owner of the rights to the script, Kevin McClory proceeded to sue him for violation of copyright. The stress of the ensuing court case affected Fleming’s health and led his premature death at the age of 56 so he did not live to see his hero become a cultural phenomenon. To read more about this fascinating case see Robert Sellers’ article in the Sunday Times, December 30th 2007: James Bond would have shot the judge