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Ian Fleming's Inspiration (Hardback)

The Truth Behind the Books

British History P&S History Social History

By Edward Abel Smith
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526757692
Published: 17th June 2020

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In the press!

As featured in the Daily Express, July 2020.

As featured in the Daily Express, May 2020: 'James Bond author's secret mission to "save Britain from losing WW2" exposed'

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James Bond is possibly the most well known fictional character in history. What most people don’t know is that almost all of the characters, plots and gadgets come from the real life experiences of Bond’s creator - Commander Ian Fleming.

In this book, we go through the plots of Fleming’s novels explaining the real life experiences that inspired them. The reader is taken on a journey through Fleming’s direct involvement in World War II intelligence and how this translated through his typewriter into James Bond’s world, as well as the many other factors of Fleming’s life which were also taken as inspiration. Most notably, the friends who Fleming kept, among whom were Noel Coward and Randolph Churchill and the influential people he would mingle with, British Prime Ministers and American Presidents.

Bond is known for his exotic travel, most notably to the island of Jamaica, where Fleming spent much of his life. The desk in his Caribbean house, Goldeneye, was also where his life experiences would be put onto paper in the guise of James Bond. As the island was highly influential for Fleming, it features heavily in this book, offering an element of escapism to the reader, with tales of a clear blue sea, Caribbean climate and island socialising.

Ian Fleming might have died prematurely aged 56, but so much of him lives on to this day through the most famous spy in the world, James Bond.

Anyone fascinated by spies and spying will be captivated by this look at the life and experiences of the creator of the most famous spy in popular literature - James Bond. Superb.

Books Monthly

This book is well researched and well written and held my attention from beginning to end.

As a lifelong James Bond fan, I particularly enjoyed the way that the author shows the comparisons between Ian Fleming’s own life and his books. It was almost as if the creator of this ‘super spy’ wanted to take his own amazing, decadent, life up a notch.

There are chapters listing each book and the real-life events which shaped each story. In ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, which, to me, was the only Bond Book with a sad ending, we learn that the death of a close lady friend shaped the ending of the book. In Fleming’s own life, Edward Abel Smith shows we have the bases for not only James Bond, but that M and Q were based on war time colleagues.

Fleming was hard drinking, a lover of many women, brave, intelligent, influential and, possibly, narcistic too; just like his character, James Bond. In reality, plenty of wit and charm but probably a not very likeable person, whereas, in his alter ego, Bond, we let the character get away with those flaws.

An excellent book on an amazing person.

For the Love of Books

I’m not particularly a James Bond fan, and certainly enjoy the books more than the films, but this fascinating exploration about Ian Fleming’s life and how it relates to the fictional character he created I found both absorbing and enlightening. If some of Bond’s exploits seem far-fetched then this book shows how real-life can also sometimes seem far-fetched. It’s an insightful biography, demonstrating how Fleming drew on his own experiences for his books and one that will appeal both to the die-hard Bond fan, who will find much to interest them here, as well as to the general reader. A really good read.

NetGalley, Mandy Jenkinson

Ian Fleming’s Inspiration: The Truth Behind The Books is a biography and shows us how much of Fleming’s real life experiences influenced and can be found in his creation of the James Bond stories.

Written in easy-to-read chapters which show the connections between either a novel or short story written by Fleming, Edward Smith has formulated an interesting look at one of Britain’s most famous fictional spies.

I was fascinated by Fleming’s career through journalism, then in a role as assistant to the Head of Naval Intelligence during the war. Here he gained much of his inspiration for the spy elements of his books. After the war, Fleming bought a property in Jamaica, and his love for this country shone through in his books, with several of them featuring Jamaican settings.

I also discovered that Fleming wrote Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. Thinking back to the film version of this book, I can now recognise some of Fleming’s themes such as gadgets and inventions, plus the darker side of war and spying, and of course a beautiful leading lady.

With the legacy that is James Bond living on, even after the author’s death, this book would make an ideal gift for Bond fans.

Read the full review here

Rosie Amber

All in all, it's quite a page turner considering that's a non-fiction work – this is partly down to the subject, but it's also a product of the ingenious way the author tells the tale.

Read the full review here

Lost Cousins

Although much of James Bond’s life, and many of his adventures seem implausible, Ian Fleming’s Inspiration reminds us of the life of his creator. What lay behind the world’s most famous spy, was a man of great wit, a man who enjoyed the finer things in life, and a man who lived a life of fascinating experiences.

Read the full review here

Cellophaneland

As featured in

Daily Express 04/07/20

A very well researched retelling of the life of Ian Fleming, framed using events which inspired his Bond novels.

Like his famous character, Ian Fleming is an interesting and complex character. The first half of this book mostly covers his military career which I found fascinating, Fleming played important parts in the background of many key events during WWII. At times I did find that for a casual reader, these chapters a bit detail heavy at points but this is great for anyone with an interest in the subject.

There’s a shift in tone for the second half of this book, focusing on the relationship between Fleming and his wife as well as the life he built at his Jamaican home, Goldeneye. I am more familiar with this period of Flemings life but enjoyed this take of events.

While not the main focus, it was good to see mention of Flemings flaws. I would have liked to see his beliefs and attitudes further explored, as these certainly inspired the Bond we see on the page, but perhaps that is for another book with this one mainly focusing on the external factors that shaped Flemings life and Bond’s.

NetGalley, Sophie Reid

As featured onJames Bond Australia

James Bond Australia

As a longtime fan of the James Bond movies and books I always like to read about the way they were made and the creative process. Usually, though, the information is repeated ad nauseum and presented in different ways, but still rehashed. In Ian Fleming’s Inspiration: The Truth Behind the Books by Edward Abel Smith the author presents the stories in a manner which gives it a fresh spin, in a presentation package for the fan instead of a straight through biography.

I really liked the way this book was presented, each chapter deals with one Bond book that Fleming wrote, and which parts of it were inspired by the author’s life. Whether it’s the women, the cars, guns, or drinks the author takes the relevant parts of the book and connects them to experiences in Fleming’s life.

Each section starts with a short synopsis of the book, and goes on from there drawing parallels to where Fleming might have gotten his inspiration from. I have to admit that sometimes those parallels were stretched a bit too much, but they were fascinating nonetheless.

Ian Fleming’s charm is lost on me, from everything I read he seems like a real jerk, but man can he write. He was a chain smoker, heavy drinker, serial philanderer with an eye for married women, and doesn’t suffer company very well.

One of the most famous operations that Mr. Fleming was part of, and parts of it made it to the books, was Operation Mincemeat. During this deception operation, a dead body dressed as an officer of a Royal Marines and dropped into the sea with fake documents for the enemy to find.

Much have written about Operation Mincemeat, but the book has many other anecdotes about the parts of Fleming’s life that made it into the books. For example, a section which deals with the book From A View to a Kill (included in the For Your Eyes Only a collection of short stories), in which Bond’s investigation has him finding a hostile enemy base hidden in the rocks, has a basis in one of Fleming’s World War II plans. The plan was called Operation Tracer, a secret mission created to send six British commandos to hide in the Rock of Gibraltar for a year. The plan was devised by Mr. Fleming, who knew for certain he was sending these man on a suicide mission if Gibraltar was ever to be taken over my Axis forces. Mr. Fleming believed that Gibraltar would be a key asset resupplying ships during the war.

This was a fascinating, well written, and a quick read. One does not have to be familiar with all the Fleming Bond library since the author recaps the books, and touches on the relevant parts – but it doesn’t hurt.

NetGalley, Zohar Laor

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As a big Ian Fleming and James Bond fan, I had very high expectations towards this book. And I am very happy to say that this book exceeded these expectations! It is well researched and it is clearly demonstrated in it. The author took great care to preserve Fleming’s life using factual statements. And I loved the format of the book: each chapter is dedicated to one of Fleming’s Bond books. It was a great read! Bond and Fleming fans won’t be disappointed!

NetGalley, Kamila Bouvier

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Unlike common biographical studies, this one begins with the man's life prior to WW2 complete with his foibles and bad habits and then shifts to the chapters headed by the titles of his James Bond series in chronological order (he also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). In each chapter the author explains the relevant incidents and people in Fleming's life as related to characters, habits, attitudes, and hijinks in each Bond book. It is a very detailed work and acknowledges all of the other biographies which have been written and all sources of information used to create this fascinating and very readable book.

NetGalley, Jan Tangen

About Edward Abel Smith

Edward Abel Smith published his first book, Active Goodness, in 2017 through Kwill Publishing. The book followed the remarkable and relatively unknown true story of Doreen Warriner, Trevor Chadwick and Nicholas Winton’s quest to save over 7,000 political and Jewish refugees from the advancing Nazis in Prague. The profits from the book go to Young Roots, a refugee charity focused on supporting juvenile people in the United Kingdom.


Born in 1991, Edward lives in London with his wife and their puppy, Vesper.

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