Ian Fleming was, in the words of Noël Coward, “almost suspiciously overemphatic about sex… he loved f***ing women. It was as simple as that and he was quite unscrupulous about it.” The James Bond author’s famously “cut-and-run” attitude to sex – which he passed on to 007 – may have come from his mother, says Nicholas Shakespeare in a new biography. Eve Fleming “stamped on any blossoming romance” as her son grew up – until, aged 22, Ian fell head over heels for Monique Panchaud de Bottens, a 19-year-old Swiss girl with dark hair, blue eyes and a “strong sense of humour”. They were engaged for three years and often went skiing together.
But when Fleming failed his exams for the Foreign Office in September 1931, his mother blamed Monique, and put “unrelenting” pressure on him to break off the engagement. She even issued an ultimatum: he would have to choose between the girl and his allowance. Finally, in October 1933, he cut short the relationship, and spent his late twenties going after women “in the alternately determined and careless manner with which he collected first editions: the hunt, the acquisition, the shelving”. A journalist friend of his, Mary Pakenham, saw this as an “ugly response” to his mother forcing him apart from Monique. “He was always looking for his mother in women,” said another friend, Morris Cargill, “and then hating them when they gave in.”
🍍🥂 Fleming’s sexual excess carried over into the Bond novels, says Philip Hensher in The Spectator. And in response to the post-World War Two atmosphere of rationing and “moral disapproval”, the books were full of culinary excess too. The young heroine of The Spy Who Loved Me buys a £10 tin of caviar to entertain her pals one evening (it would cost “north of £10,000” now). Bond and M’s club dinner in Moonraker “surely passes all precedent for extravagance”: smoked salmon, caviar, lamb cutlets, asparagus with béarnaise, a slice of pineapple, strawberries, and finally a marrow bone, along with some Benzedrine in a glass of champagne. “The novels are full of such moments of fantasy countering the grey dullness of real existence.”
Ian Fleming: the Complete Man by Nicholas Shakespeare is available to buy here.