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Ian Fleming

Few authors can claim to have as exciting and adventurous lives as their characters but Ian Fleming drew on many of his life experiences and the people he encountered to create the world of debonair secret agent James Bond.

Born into privilege in Mayfair, London in 1908 Ian Fleming was the son of a wealthy land-owner and Member of the British Parliament, Valentine Fleming.

His early education was taken at Durnford School in Dorset near the estate of a family named Bond whose family motto was "The World Is Not Enough". 

Like Bond, he attended Eton College but was forced to leave prior to graduation due to an incident involving a girl.

Fleming briefly trained at Sandhurst Military Academy before being sent to study languages at a private school on Kitzbuhel, Austria. He also studied at Munich University and the University of Geneva. 

He applied to work for the Foreign Office but was rejected so turned to journalism instead. He worked for the Reuters news service for a few years but realised that journalism would not keep him financially comfortable, so left to become a stockbroker.

Some suggest that Fleming was working covertly for the Foreign Office all along as a spy, as he took several trips to Russia during his banking and reporting careers. 

Fleming was formally recruited into the military just prior to the start of World War II. He worked within Naval Intelligence and became the personal assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence, Rear Admiral John Godfrey.

He was promoted to Commander, just as Bond was in his novels, and his code name was 17F. Admiral Godfrey is considered to be Fleming's inspiration for Bond's boss M.

During the war he developed many inventive and ingenious missions to thwart the Germans. One mission in 1940 saw Fleming behind enemy lines in France. With typical James Bond style he spent one of the last nights of his mission wining and dining on the best French cuisine.

Later he took charge of the 30 Assault Unit, a group of specialised commandos. He coordinated their covert missions onto the continent to retrieve enemy intelligence for the Allies.

Following the war he went back to journalism and became foreign manager for The Sunday Times, supervising foreign correspondents.

In his spare time he began working on a novel based on his experiences and the people he encountered during his time in Naval Intelligence. In 1952 Fleming completed Casino Royale and James Bond was introduced to the world.

The first few Bond novels were well received but it wasn't until From Russia With Love was released in 1957 that Bond's literary popularity took off.

Fleming continued writing a new 007 novel every year and in 1961, sold the film rights for Bond to Harry Saltzman, who produced the first Bond film Doctor No with Albert (Cubby) Broccoli.

Fleming was initially sceptical of Sean Connery as 007 but after seeing the first film and visiting on set, he came to approve highly of Connery's portrayal of his secret agent. He even gave Bond Scottish heritage in the later novels as tribute to Connery.

By 1962, as James Bond became a hit on the silver screen, Fleming's health began to deteriorate after a heart attack a year earlier.

He continued writing Bond stories and also wrote the children's story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for his son Caspar.

But his lifestyle of heaving drinking and smoking finally caught up with him and he died of a second heart attack on 12 August 1964.  He left a much loved legacy with James Bond and reinvigorated the spy thriller genre with his novels.