New Exhibit Honors 007 Creator Ian Fleming

A new exhibition in London celebrates the work of author Ian Fleming and the character he created — the quintessential Cold War secret agent, James Bond. Fleming based 007 on his experiences in the British Naval Intelligence.

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ROBERT SMITH, host:

James Bond never gets old, but this week, we'll be marking a sort of milestone in the life of the super spy. Tomorrow is the 100-year anniversary of the birth of Ian Fleming, the man who created Bond. To mark the occasion, a new Bond book is being issued, even though Fleming died in 1964. Tomorrow, we'll talk to the author of that book, Sebastian Faulks, about what it's like to resurrect James Bond. But first, NPR's Rob Gifford went to the Imperial War Museum in London, an exhibition called - what else - For Your Eyes Only, is commemorating all things 007.

(Soundbite of song, "La Vie en Rose")

Ms. EDITH PIAF (Singer): (Singing in French)

ROB GIFFORD: It's ingenuity back in time at the Imperial War Museum right now, not so much a spin through the Bond movies as through the life of Bond's inventor, Ian Fleming - the music of the time and the influences that led to his most famous creation, told through an interview he gave in 1963.

Mr. IAN FLEMING (Author; Creator, James Bond): I was just on the edge of getting married, and I was frenzied at the prospect of this great step in my life after having been a bachelor for so long. And I really wanted to take my mind off of the agony, and so I decided to sit down and write a book.

GIFFORD: The book was "Casino Royale," published in 1952. An initial print run of just under 5,000 books had, within the 12 years of Fleming's death, become a franchise that had sold nearly 40 million copies. Tame by today's standards, the Bond books back then were considered very racy, though not by the standards of Fleming's own private life.

Mr. FLEMING: All history's sex and violence, and I think it's ridiculous to go on writing thrillers in the old Bulldog Drummond John Buchan way when life has come up fast past us.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) If I didn't care...

GIFFORD: Fleming himself was born into privilege. Just before World War II, he joined British Naval Intelligence, and his experiences there - plus his own flamboyant lifestyle - gave him the perfect basis for Bond, who injected an unthinkable glamour into the austerity years of post-war Britain. Fleming denied that there was much of himself in James Bond.

Mr. FLEMING: I hope not. People do connect me with James Bond simply because I happen to like scrambled eggs and short-sleeved shirts and some of the things that James Bond does, but I certainly haven't got his guts nor his very lively appetites.

GIFFORD: In fact, James Bond and Ian Fleming seem wholly intertwined. And the exhibit displayed love letters and details of Fleming's affairs, and a whole array of articles and letters from Fleming's life, as well as a rouge's gallery of Bond villains and pictures of all the Bond girls. There have been other ghost authors writing as Ian Fleming before, but still, the idea of Sebastian Faulks taking on the mantle in the new Bond novel "Devil May Care" doesn't sit well with museum visitor Benedict Flurta(ph).

Mr. BENEDICT FLURTA: Since he drew most of his inspiration from his, like, childhood, from his time at war and so on, that actually this new author that's going to write it can't really, like, write in the same style and the same way as Ian Fleming did, because he's just from a totally different background. Since James Bond really seems to be like more or less like the alter ego Ian Fleming always wanted to be, this person won't be able to do it.

GIFFORD: But Ann and Jason Innes(ph) visiting from Dallas, Texas, say they'll give it a try.

Ms. ANN INNES: Yeah, why not? I mean, as long as it's not misrepresented, sure.

Mr. JASON INNES: Yeah, I say go for it. He's a great character, and we need more of it.

GIFFORD: The book is out tomorrow, exactly 100 years after the day Ian Fleming was born, and the public can decide for themselves.

Rob Gifford, NPR News at the Imperial War Museum in London.

SMITH: And you can hear an interview with Sebastian Faulks, the author of the new Bond book, "Devil May Care," tomorrow on MORNING EDITION.

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