February 2, 2013


Since 1942 the BBC has hosted an interview segment called Desert Island Discs, originally created by Roy Plomley. According to the show's website: "That first Desert Island Discs was recorded in the BBC’s bomb-damaged Maida Vale studio on 27th January 1942 and aired in the Forces Programme at 8pm two days later.   It was introduced to the listening public as 'a programme in which a well-known person is asked the question, if you were to be cast away alone on a desert island, which eight gramophone records would you choose to have with you, assuming of course, that you had a gramophone and an inexhaustible supply of needles'. " On August 5th, 1963, their guest was author Ian Fleming.

The surviving nine minutes and thirty-three seconds of Ian Fleming's appearance on Desert Island Discs is available on the series website. He chats about his career and about how his wartime experience taught him how "the intelligence machine works". When they get to the James Bond books, Fleming mentions that his newest novel had just been sent to the publishers. I must assume that, as On Her Majesty's Secret Service had already been released in April '63, that the manuscript was You Only Live Twice, to be released in April of 1964. Listening to the recording, one hears familiar sound bytes that have appeared in other documentaries. In the recent doc film Everything or Nothing, for example, we hear why Fleming began to write Casino Royale in the face of marriage. The writer admits that he was "frenzied at the prospect of this great step in [his] life after having been a bachelor for so long, and [he] really wanted to take [his] mind off the agony." He describes James Bond as a "fictional mixture of commandos and secret service agents that [he] met during the war. 

The interview continues on to Fleming's need to stick to a routine as a writer, both for his own discipline and, in a broader sense, to guarantee the success of his sales. He talks about how The Spy Who Loved Me, which deviated from expectation, was not a great seller.  They touch on the films and Fleming mentions his visit to the set of From Russia With Love. When asked about the criticism that his books were sadistic, he says that history itself is all "sex and violence", and how it would be ridiculous to carry on the style of boyhood adventure stories like Bulldog Drummond. He is asked how long he thinks he can keep at writing new Bond books... Ian Fleming died one year later on August 12th, 1964 (his son's birthday). Posthumous releases followed with Bond short stories, his final feature-length 007 manuscript, The Man With the Golden Gun, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. As you would expect, Fleming is absolutely charming to hear in the interview. I am such a fan that I watch the Ian Fleming documentary special feature on The Living Daylights disc over and over again. It's cool to discover additional archive material and to hear more of this famous interview. You can listen to this surviving audio segment over at the Desert Island Discs website. Now, what would he take to a desert island?

Ian Fleming's Desert Island Discs: Celia (Whispering Jack Smith), Dinah (The Revellers), La Vie en Rose (Edith Piaf), If I Didn't Care (The Ink Spots), This Ole House (Rosemary Clooney), A Summer Place (Billy Vaughan), Harry Lime Theme (Anton Karas), Darktown Strutters Ball (Joe Carr).

Book: War and Peace by Tolstoy

Luxury Item: Typewriter and paper.

CONTEST ENDING: Only ONE day left to enter to win cool prizes in Spy Vibe's birthday give-away contest. As a thank you to all Spy Vibers, you have a chance to win a rare Academy-screening brochure for Tinker,Tailor,Soldier,Spy, as well as some vintage books for your collection: Ian Fleming, James Bond, Honey West, The Saint, and Doctor Who. Your entry must be received by the end of the day, February 3rd. Details on the contest page here.

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