Ian Fleming on Crime and Spy Fiction (and non-fiction!)

RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
edited July 14 in James Bond Literature
This series of posts was established share the journalism of Ian Fleming, with a special focus on Fleming's book reviews of thrillers, spy novels, crime stories, and even non-fiction works on those topics.

Here is an index of links to each review for ease of access.

Review Listing (in order of original publication date):

The White Cheat (Gamesmanship, by Stephen Potter)

Books and Authors Abroad: English Laurels in America (a round-up of stateside British bestsellers)

Bestsellers in America: “Beautiful, Beautiful Books” (negative short reviews of four prominent American authors)

Partner! You Have Triumphed My Ace… (The Complete Card Player, by Albert Ostrow)

“BANG-BANG, KISS-KISS” (“An American Miscellany,” My Gun is Quick, etc.)

An Open Letter to the Transport Minister (on the deadly issue of road signs)

West Indian and Island in the Sun (Pleasure Island: the book of Jamaica, edited by Esther Chapman, and Jamaica, by Peter Abrahams)

The Deadly Tube (One of Our Submarines, by Edward Young)

Eldollarado ("A Transient’s Scrapbook from New York")

Some Uncollected Authors: Raymond Chandler and Raymond Chandler (Two articles on the great American mystery novelist)

Questions of Colour (Family and Colour in Jamaica, by Fernando Henriques)

Mountaineering Downwards (British Caving: An Introduction to Speleology, by Members of the Cave Research Group)

Mr. Coward Explains (Future Indefinite, by Noel Coward)

Mudscape with Figures (The Riddle of the Sands, by Erskine Childers)

The Secrets of Interpol (Preview of its ill-fated Istanbul conference)

The Great Riot of Istanbul (An eyewitness report)

Delinquents and Smugglers (post-mortem of the Istanbul Interpol conference)

Birth-pangs of a Thriller ("How I Came to Write Casino Royale")

Dangerous Know-How (Scarne On Cards, by John Scarne)

Gangs C0ck a Snook at Interpol (report from the organization's Vienna Conference)

Forever Ambler (The Night Comers, by Eric Ambler)

Three Men at the Motor Show (Ian Fleming, Godfrey Smith, and Stirling Moss talk cars)

Wonders of the Deep (Man Explores The Sea, by James Dugan)

Girl's Best Friend (Diamond, by Emily Hahn)

Nightmare Among the Mighty (account of Fleming's performance in a Berkshire charity gold tournament)

The Sun Went In (Man The Ropes, by Augustine Courtauld)

The Tragic Spy (The Spy’s Bedside Book. An Anthology edited by Graham Greene and Hugh Greene)

The Secret of Edgar Hoover (The F.B.I. Story, by Don Whitehead)

Introduction to The Education of a Poker Player, by Herbert Yardley

Trouble in Havana (Our Man in Havana, by Graham Greene)

The Thriller Trend (A Twist of Sand, by Geoffrey Jenkins)

Full Fathom Five (Captain Cousteau’s Underwater Treasury, by Jacques-Yves Cousteau & James Dugan)

One Man's World (a personal column)

Adventure in the Haggard-Buchan School (The Pass Beyond Kashmir, by Berkely Mather)

The Russians Make Mistakes, Too ("Some Russian Intelligence boners")

Foreword to Airline Detective, by Ronald Fish and John Pearson

Foreword to The Seven Deadly Sins, by W.H. Auden, Cyril Connolly, Patrick Leigh-Fermor, Edith Sitwell, Eric Sykes, Angus Wilson, and Evelyn Waugh

Gary Powers and the Big Lie (commentary on the U2 spy scandal)

Eton and Brought Up (The Fourth of June, by David Benedictus)

How to Write a Thriller (President Kennedy’s favorite fiction writer, the creator of secret agent James Bond, offers his recipe for best-selling suspense)

A Thundering Yarn (A Grue of Ice, by Geoffrey Jenkins)

Intrepid: Silhouette of a Secret Agent (introduction to The Quiet Canadian: The Secret Service Story of Sir William Stephenson, by H. Montgomery Hyde)

Connoisseurs’ Choice (Ian Fleming describes his last car)

Books of the Year, 1959-1962 (selections including Eric Ambler, Len Deighton, John MacDonald, and more)

Introduction to All Night at Mr. Stanyhurst’s, by Hugh Edwards

The Case of the Painfully Pulled Leg (a tribute to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen)

Introducing Jamaica (Preface to Ian Fleming Introduces Jamaica, edited by Morris Cargill)

A Malignant Growth in the Fabric of Society (The Honoured Society, by Norman Lewis)

Stay tuned for more each week!


  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    The Tragic Spy
    (Sunday Times, Nov. 17, 1957)

    The Spy’s Bedside Book. An Anthology edited by Graham Greene and Hugh Greene. (Hart-Davis. 15s.)

    I cannot understand why the great spy novel has never been written. The true spy is a fascinating figure—a lonely, nervous, romantic controlled by an organisation which is hobbled by Security, lack of funds and official skepticism. Tragedy—the tragedy of the futile—is inherent as much in his successes as in his failures. If, by some brilliant stroke of luck or craft, he discovers a vital truth, even if it is believed, by his Service, it will almost certainly be disbelieved by his Government, because it is a Secret Service report. For Secret Services are rarely trusted by War Ministries.

    I remember the early reports of the V.1s reaching the Admiralty and subsequently being debated by the Joint Intelligence Committee of the Chiefs of Staff. These reports, from Vienna, where many of the components were being manufactured, from the environs of Peenemünde, and from workers in the Todt Organisation who were constructing the launching sites on the Channel coasts, were obtained by Secret Service agents at great risk. How many lonely men and women ran the gauntlet of how many dangers to get this vital intelligence through the maze of couriers and cut-outs to the secret wireless transmitter that, under the ears of the enemy D/F vans, transmitted it to London?

    For weeks, even months, skepticism greeted these priceless messages. Finally the sheer weight of them demanded a check by the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit. The results confirmed the Secret Service reports, and the bombing of the V.1 sites and factories began at the eleventh hour.

    This is not to criticise Whitehall—we should have lost the war if we had sent out our bombers every time a secret agent reported a secret weapon—but to underline the tragedy of the spy. He gets a poor salary and little, if any, reward for his services. He has no social standing in the community and remains all his life “something in the War Office” while his wife, watching her friends’ husbands climb the ladder, remains just the wife of something in the War Office.” And, on top of it all, the fruits of his dangerous labours rarely give satisfaction outside the department of the Secret Service which controls him.

    Here, it seems to me, is the stuff of a great novel which no one, has attempted and whose fringes have been only touched on by Somerset Maugham, Eric Ambler and Graham Greene.

    Seduced from the drab truth by the emotive lushness of espionage, most writers of spy fiction (or spy fact for the matter of that) choose the easier and more profitable thriller approach and, with the exception of the three I mention above, it is only the best of the others—Buchan. George Griffith, and O. Henry—who can reread except as a joke. They do date so terribly, these fairy stories of our teens—their language, their steam-age wars, their moustaches, their exclamation marks! Even their gimmicks lack the high seriousness with which the thriller writer should approach his subject. One shivered pleasurably at Khokhlov’s explosive cigarette lighter, but, surely, even in those days of other smoking habits William Le Queux’s explosive cigar which blew the Privy Councilor’s face off must have made our fathers chuckle rather than shiver.

    In fact, it is these lowlights of spy literature which make The Spy’s Bedside Book required reading for anyone who likes thrillers or detective stories. It is all here: the hazards, the tricks, the delights of the profession, wrapped up in an attractive package which includes an authentic old-time advertisement by The Stereographic Camera Company, “For Accurate Copies of All Documents. A Necessity for Blackmailers, Spies, and Gentlemen of the Press.”

    It is probably that note, the note that makes the book such fun, that inspired the rather incongruous reflections at the beginning of this review. They were the reactions of one of the fifty or so contributors to this anthology who is reminded that the art of thrilling ought to consist of rather more than shouting “Bang!” in an authoritative voice.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    edited July 2018
    The Secret of Edgar Hoover: 33 Years at the F.B.I.
    (Sunday Times, Dec. 15, 1957)

    The F.B.I. Story. By Don Whitehead. (Muller. 30s)

    By Ian Fleming

    “I heard Jack say he had searched the town to find the kind of kit he wanted, and he had gift-wrapped it and placed it in his mother’s luggage as a surprise for her when she reached Alaska.” It was a dynamite bomb that Jack had gift-wrapped and it blew to kingdom-come Jack’s heavily insured mother and forty-three other people in United Airlines Flight No. 629, eleven minutes out of Denver. When the Federal Bureau of Investigation had pinned the crime on Jack Graham he said to his guard, “You can send my mail to Cannon City Prison until next, month. After that you can send it to Hell.”

    The modern F.B.I. is Edgar Hoover. Hoover joined the Bureau at the age of twenty-two, shortly after the greatest sabotage act of all time, when Von Rintelen and Boy-Ed brought off the Black Tom explosion of two million pounds of dynamite stored on an island in New York Harbour. Hoover was put in charge of enemy alien registration until, at the end of the war, the entire personnel of the Bureau was swamped with the round-up of American deserters who, by June, 1918, had reached the staggering total of 308,489.

    Wartime Meeting

    Then came the scandals of the Harding administration, in which the head of the F.B.I.,
    William Burns, and the grimy detective Gaston B. Means were deeply implicated. President Coolidge’s first step in house-cleaning was to appoint Harlan Stone as Attorney-General, and in 1924 Stone summoned twenty-nine-year-old J. Edgar Hoover to his office, scowled at him and appointed him head of the F.B.I., a position that Hoover has held to this day.

    How has Hoover, in defiance of all history, remained head of a national secret police force for thirty-three years, surviving almost unchallenged five Presidents and eleven Attorneys-General?

    I met Edgar Hoover in 1940. I was in Washington with my chief, Admiral Godfrey, who was on a mission to co-ordinate the Naval Intelligence effort before America came into the war. In the confusion of fledgling Intelligence organisations, there were two solid men in America—the brilliant Canadian, “Bill” Stephenson, who represented British Intelligence, and Edgar Hoover. Hoover, a chunky, enigmatic man with slow eyes and a trap of a mouth, received us graciously, listened with close attention (and a witness) to our exposé of certain security problems and expressed himself firmly but politely as being uninterested in our mission.

    Hoover had his channels with Bill Stephenson, and his commonsense, legalistic mind told him it would be unwise to open separate channels with us. He was, of course, quite right. Our constitutional link with American Intelligence could only lie with the Office of Naval Intelligence of the Navy Department.

    Hoover’s negative response was soft as a cat’s paw. With the air of doing us an exceptional favour he had us piloted, through the F.B.I. Laboratory and Record Departments and down to the basement shooting range where, at that time, his men had their training in the three basic F.B.I. weapons—pistol, automatic shot gun, and sub-machine gun. Even now I can hear the shattering roar of the Thompsons as, in the big dark cellar, the instructor demonstrated on the trick targets. Then, with a firm, dry handclasp, we were shown the door.

    My impression of the F.B.I then, and my Impression of the occasional agents I have since met, is that discipline and thoroughness, rather than intuitive brilliance, is the backbone of the Bureau. These virtues, together with incorruptibly and absolute loyalty to his superiors, are the reasons for Hoover’s long survival. Add to these absence or greed to political power and, despite his bachelorhood, a life totally untouched by scandal, and you have a Civil Servant whom any government would welcome as guardian of its secrets (not quite all its secrets: Hoover knew nothing of the atomic bomb project until his own undercover agents in Communist cells on the West Coast began picking up gossip about the Manhattan Project!).

    Resisted McCarthy

    In England, we are inclined to think the F.B.I. played a dubious role at the time of the McCarthy purges. It would be wrong to tar Hoover with that brush. The F.B.I. had to obtain and give evidence, but Hoover refused to open his files to the McCarthy investigators. Hoover’s point of View was that a raw file, containing unconfirmed suspicions, is a weapon which should never be used against an individual except to build up a case that will subsequently stand in law. He successfully resisted all McCarthy’s attempts to gain access to his records on any man, while accepting his duty to provide the Senate Inquiry with normal security checks.

    No doubt the F.B.I. has its grimy secrets and certainly, as all police forces, it has made mistakes, but the impression I have, now strongly reinforced by reading The F.B.I. Story, is that the Bureau is probably the best-run Department of the American Government. In a country where a serious crime is committed every 13.9 seconds it would be bad news if it wasn’t!

    Mr. Whitehead has written in admirable prose a first-class documentary which can be read with real excitement by the crime addict, but which will also serve as good contemporary history.

    Commentary: Ian Fleming would have been astonished to know J. Edgar Hoover continued serving as director of the F.B.I. until his death in 1972. The reason for Hoover’s long survival was that multiple Presidents feared his retaliation. As Lyndon Johnson legendarily said, "it’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in." Richard Nixon chose not to remove Hoover because he feared Hoover would "bring down the temple" by releasing damaging information about him. In a wonderful irony, Hoover's death brought down the temple instead, since the man Nixon passed over to succeed Hoover became Deep Throat!

    The F.B.I.'s "grimy secrets" were also grimier than Fleming knew: illegal wiretapping, COINTELPRO, the persecution of the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King ( to whom an anonymous blackmail letter was sent, urging him to commit suicide), and much more.

    Fleming also doesn't mention that he was among those "in England" who were "inclined to think the F.B.I. played a dubious role at the time of the McCarthy purges." Evidence is in the following excerpt from an earlier article, where Fleming compared Hoover to Napoleon's secret police chief.

    from Eldollarado: A Transient's Scrapbook from New York
    (Sunday Times, June 28, 1953)

    These Names Make Bad News

    For a time the Coronation (“It’s going to mean a great religious revival round the world” is a comment I have heard several times) ousted McCarthy as topic “A” in New York and I believe throughout America, but now he is top-billing again, and you simply can’t stop talking about him or reading about him.

    There are various reasons for this: he has a really expert publicity machine, he is always springing or cooking-up a new surprise, people are terrified and fascinated by him, and “he may be a sonofabitch but, darn it, he’s always right.” Homosexuals in the State Department, British ships trading with China, un-American books in American embassies abroad.

    Each scandalous broadside has missed with ninety-nine calumnies and hit with one. And that one is enough in a country where every man is born with a chance to be President and where, in consequence, every man aches to prove the Administration wrong. McCarthy is just pressing the trigger of a gun which is loaded and aimed by a huge cross-section of the public.

    Walter Winchell has been doing much the same thing for thirty years, and he goes on doing it on radio and TV to a guaranteed public of around ten million every week. Is there a connection between them?

    And what role does Edgar Hoover of the F.B.I. play in all this, the Washington Fouché who has controlled the American secret police for the amazing span of twenty-seven years? These three men are the recipients of all the private grudges of America. They are the overt and covert crusaders against un-Americanism. The sun would indeed be darkened if history were to bring them together, or any closer together, before this giant country has found itself.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,271Chief of Staff
    Great reading- thanks, as ever, Revelator.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    edited July 2018
    American Miscellany: “BANG-BANG, KISS-KISS”
    (Sunday Times, March 19, 1950)

    By Ian Fleming

    Stoddard turned angular, wind-whipped features in her direction. “It’s none of my business—I know, but you are, well, sort of gone on Hugh? Or is it my over-active imagination?” Under the restless breeze light brown curls lashed softly at the smooth curve of Jingles Lawson’s strong cheekbones as she started a quick reply, but, instead, paused and smiled a taut little smile. “I kind of get unglued inside when Hugh’s around, and me a growed-up gal of near thirty. Silly isn’t it? Silly, silly!”

    Two hundred and seventy pages of this come to you by courtesy of Mr. Van Wyck Mason in Dardanelles Derelict. It is a “Major North Story” by the author of seventeen other (in Hollywood’s jargon) “Bang-Bang, Kiss-Kiss” tales, and it was pressed into my hand by a formerly reliable friend in Brentano’s in response to a request for the best American “toughie” since Christmas. I recommend Mason for this year’s “Prix Amanda Ross.”

    For another pound’s worth of the local currency I fortified myself for the stratocruiser flight home with My Gun is Quick, by Mickey Spillane, which the New York Times had just reviewed with horrified awe. Alas, on leaving Gander, I found that “The moonlight on the white V of the plunging neckline made it hard to concentrate” for Mike Hammer, private eye, of whom the Miami Herald critic says: “In a long and misspent life immersed in blood, I don’t believe I have ever met a tougher hombre.” For my money, they come tougher in Teddy Lester’s Chums.

    The Saturday Review of Literature reports that “They’ve been shuffling the big brass in the Brentano book chain,” and my message to the new president is that the homespun American folk-tales of Raymond Chandler, John O’Hara, James M. Cain, “Little Caesar” Burnett and others have many admirers, and if the day comes when the harsh voice of the .38 Police Positive is stilled and the office bottle has yielded its last pint of rye, one customer will no longer darken the portals at 5th Avenue and 47th.

    Sentimentality in America very easily becomes mawk, and it mav be that some of the tears being currently shed in New York at Mister Roberts and Death of a Salesman are spilling over into the book business. Personally, I will pay folding money not to see either of these plays, and still haye some to spare to protect my heartstrings from books about repenting gangsters.

    The rest of the American literary scene is also disappointing. John O’Hara’s A Rage to Live is selling far better than it deserves. John Bowles’s much discussed The Sheltering Sky was poorly reviewed, but is now a best-seller, and Mrs. Roosevelt’s This I Remember heads the general list. British authors, for instance, Daphne du Maurier, Joyce Cary and the late George Orwell, are best-sellers, shortly to be joined, I expect, by Mr. Churchill’s The Grand Alliance, and Fitzroy Maclean’s Eastern Approaches.

    “Stuffers” (promotion material which the book traders stuff into magazines and other books) are going out for Miss Kathleen Winsor’s Star Money, successor to her Forever Amber. This will presumably satisfy two types of American customer recently unearthed by the Saturday Review of Literature—the lady who demanded “a light, entertaining novel she could read while knitting and watching television,” and the woman columnist of the New York Post who claims that women can lose some of their “middle-aged spread” by balancing books on their stomachs.

    The horizon is bleak. Ernest Hemingway’s short novel, Across the River and into the Trees (to be published here by Cape) appears in the spring; and John Hersey’s The Wall, on a Polish-Jew theme, is coming shortly, but from a quick glance at an advance copy it looks to me the most difficult reading since the Rosetta Stone.

    American publishers are biting their nails over a recent Gallup Poll which asked the adults of six democracies: “Are you now reading any books or novels?” (a piquant differentiation). America was easily bottom of the list; England was top. Fifty-five per cent. of our population are now reading a book (or novel), compared with forty-three percent in Norway, forty percent in Canada, thirty-five percent in Australia, thirty-three percent in Sweden and (stop sniveling, Scribner!) twenty-one percent in the U.S.A. What puzzles the publishers is that only thirteen percent of the British adult population are alleged “to have gone beyond elementary or grade school,” compared with over fifty-three percent in America, and that “mass education and a high degree of literacy in the United States” does not seem to be paying off.

    Could be there’s a horrible answer in definitions of “education” and “literacy.” Probably is.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    Trouble In Havana
    (Sunday Times, Oct. 5, 1958)

    Our Man in Havana. By Graham Greene. (Heinemann. 15s.)

    By Ian Fleming

    Spies are rapidly getting the same old-fashioned look as the rest of the bric-a-brac of pre-Sputnik wars.

    Somehow there does not seem to be much point in stealing plans of aircraft, tanks and submarines when every year, and almost every month, the distance between the blueprint and the junk-heap gets less and less.

    Already this summer the “Terriers,” rattling down the roads on their summer manoeuvres, have seemed like something out of a rich boy’s play-box, or the windows at a print shop. Surely nobody could be seriously interested in purloining one of those antitank weapons they carry so proudly! After all, couldn’t one buy the whole outfit at Hamley’s with, of course, a crib to their radio code thrown in?

    It is rather pathetic that the glamorous trimmings of war seem as dated as the busby. What shall we dangle in front of our grandchildren’s eyes instead of a V.C.? Or will they award it for Vigorous Citizenship?

    The modern military spy is a ticking instrument in a stark room on a mountain top, measuring gigantic explosions across the roof of the world. The quiet-spoken linguist with a cyanide pill in his coat button has gone out with the rat-catcher and the chimney sweep, and Mr. Graham Greene gives him a last savage kick down the steps of the big anonymous building near Maida Vale.

    Mr. Wormold, “Our Man In Havana,” is a typical Graham Greene reluctant hero—troubled, anxious, sensitive, loving—with a vacuum-cleaner agency in Cuba. Abandoned by his wife, he dotes on his daughter, an adorable nymphet in her teens who has caught the eye of the villainous, and admirably drawn, Segura, Chief of the Secret Police.

    Wormold is recruited by the British Secret Service without quite knowing what is happening to him. He sets up a cursory and entirely notional network of agents, using names picked at random from the local Country Club members’ list. He earns good money with his farcical secret reports and spends it on his daughter’s whims.

    Unfortunately, Wormold is in turn spied upon, and suddenly two of the Country Club members whose names he has been using are assassinated. Caught in this ghastly web, an H-Certificate Charley’s Aunt situation develops which I, for one, would prefer to have seen worked out to its logically horrific climax, but the author is kindly and allows us and his reluctant hero to escape to a more or less happy ending.

    Mr. Greene has chosen to heighten, rather than lower, the grotesque temperature of his story so that what could have been terrible and true becomes a savage farce. To my mind, the almost Wodehousian treatment of the Secret Service (its Chief wears a black monocle over a glass eye) is a weakness, and the only weakness in the book. For the rest, this is brilliant and utterly compulsive reading and in the highest class of what the author describes as his “Entertainments.”

    As with all Mr. Greene’s books, what delights most of all is the sheer intelligence of the writing. To watch an intelligence of this quality at work on every page, in every sentence even, is a freshet in the desert, a blessed island in the Sargasso Sea of post-war letters. In his latest book, this high intelligence, never, I think, so evenly sustained by the author, is as easy to recognize as pre-war whisky.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,271Chief of Staff
    Thanks Revelator, nice to read IF's thoughts on Greene. I read the book many years ago, and re-watched the movie version (great cast) just recently.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    You're very welcome Barbel! Here's a relevant passage from Andrew Lycett's biography of Fleming:
    Ian saw in the new decade with a typical marital mix-up. On New Year’s Day he had an appointment with the poet George MacBeth, who was also a producer at the BBC Third Programme, to record a six-and-a-half minute review of the new Carol Reed film, Our Man in Havana, based on Graham Greene’s novel. The previous evening he booked two tickets to see the film, one for himself, and one for his wife who he thought might enjoy seeing Noël Coward playing Hawthorne. Somehow, however, Ian had neglected to inform Ann of this, and she had invited Frederick Ashton, William Plomer, Diana Cooper and Cecil Beaton to Victoria Square for a small party to welcome in the 1960s. Thus Ian had to arrange for his wife’s guests also to be accommodated at the cinema [...] they all saw the film which, according to general consensus, was not very good.

    When Ian went into the studio the following day, the film was barely discussed. He earned his ten guineas’ fee by using his review as a platform from which to deliberate on weightier matters; in this case, the business of espionage. His line was that the old-fashioned idea of spying, where the code-book was always purloined by the Embassy valet, was dead. Today, “and for as long as war is a threat, the spy is a ticking seismograph on top of the Jungfrau measuring distant atomic explosions on the other side of the world, or instruments carried in aircraft that measure the uranium or plutonium contents of the atmosphere”. Generally speaking, today’s secret services did not need to know about the numbers of tanks or the design of bombs. “The big people have the big weapons and the small people have them not. Details of the weapons are unimportant. They are known.” Therefore, any book or play about the Secret Service had to be either incredible or farcical, he concluded. He admitted he himself tended towards the former. “Personally I am sufficiently in love with the myth to write basically incredible stories with a straight face.” Graham Greene, however, had adopted the latter “more truthful approach and a more modern one. He takes the splendid myth of centuries and kicks it hilariously downstairs.” Ian felt Greene’s SIS agent Wormold, who managed to satisfy his bosses in London by concocting an imaginary spy-ring, was “almost too close to those who served in wartime intelligence to be funny”.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,271Chief of Staff
    Long time since I read that one, must do it again. It's a must have for anyone interested in Fleming.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    Forever Ambler
    (The Sunday Times, July 1, 1956)

    The Night-Comers. By Eric Ambler. (Heinemann. 13s. 6d.)

    By Ian Fleming

    There are not many authors one can automatically buy “sight unseen,” and it seemed for a time after the war that Eric Ambler had crossed himself off the short list. With The Night-Comers (what a good, eerie title!) we can again buy Ambler blind.

    The story is set In Indonesia. The opening pages are slow and read like an ABCA briefing for an invading army, but at last we have learnt and quickly forgotten the intricacies of Sundanese politics. Major Suparto appears, and we meet that favourite creation of Ambler’s—the dangerous, rather villainous, foreigner whom we and the hero get to like.

    And then Ambler’s typically reluctant hero, Fraser, an English construction engineer, picks up the delicious Eurasian Rosalie at the New Harmony Club and takes her back to his flat, and almost before has made love to her we are in the middle of bloody rebellion. Prisoners of the National Freedom Government in the radio station building, the man and the girl are on the losing side, caught up in its treacheries, and forced to obey the sinister Colonel Roda and the slowly crumbling dictator General Sanusi.

    One of the best scenes in the book, reminiscent of the silent safe-breaking in Rififi, is Fraser’s effort at pistol-point to get the bombed radio-station generator to work again. How much one enjoys these long, deadly struggles with machinery: in this book, the drama of those wet generator windings that had tripped the no-volts circuit breaker!

    The bombers come, and “not very far off an 88 was slamming away like a pair of double doors in a gale.” “Like a dull-witted bull blinking in the sunlight of the arena” the enemy tank comes into the square, the attacking troops get into the building, and Fraser and the girl wait for the lobbed-in grenade .and the panicky spray of a machine pistol. It is a really splendid piece of battle writing, set around a love affair which, at the end, does not let us down. The girl is tidied up on a note of unsentimental realism.

    All Ambler's other gifts are in this excellent thriller—the well-drawn minor characters, the simple, easy prose; the exact ring of the dialogue. It is very good to have this fine writer back with us again.

    Note: Fleming was less enthusiastic about the book than his review indicated, as seen in a letter to Raymond Chandler:
    "Eric Ambler has a new thriller coming out next week, which no doubt Prince’s Bookshop will send you. If not, I will. It is better than the last two but still not the good old stuff we remember. I have done a review for the Sunday Times headed Forever Ambler which struck me as a good joke." ( June 22, 1956)

    Chandler responded:
    "I have already ordered Eric Ambler's new thriller since he told me about it some time before it came out. I think the title of your review, Forever Ambler, is a pretty good joke of the third class division." (July 4, 1956)

    According to Wikipedia, "Forever Amber (1944) is a historical romance novel by Kathleen Winsor set in 17th-century England. It was made into a film in 1947 by 20th Century Fox."
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,342MI6 Agent
    thanks for sharing these reviews Revelator! keep on Revelatin'

    It's good just to see some more examples of Fleming's writing. But also his reading of Ambler (or Greene, or any other thriller writer) gives us clues as to what he thinks is important in his own writing. Like this sentence:
    ...we meet that favourite creation of Ambler’s—the dangerous, rather villainous, foreigner whom we and the hero get to like...
    I know in a couple of the pre-war Ambler books I've read, there is a husband and wife pair of Soviet agents who are actually the good guys. Is this the character type Fleming is referring to?
    In Fleming's own books, some of the most memorable characters he ever wrote are Darko Kerim, Enrico Colombo, and Marc-Ange Draco, all of whom fit that description.
    And the choice of books Flemings reviews solves the problem of "once I've read Fleming, what else should I read that's similar?"

    I've only read pre-war Ambler myself, because those half dozen books are the ones people always talk about. But if Fleming himself says The Night-Comers is a return to form, then I will add that to my list.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    thanks for sharing these reviews Revelator! keep on Revelatin'

    Haha, will do! You're very welcome.
    I know in a couple of the pre-war Ambler books I've read, there is a husband and wife pair of Soviet agents who are actually the good guys. Is this the character type Fleming is referring to?

    I can definitely say that the sinister Colonel Haki in The Mask of Dimitrios is an example of that character type. He also shows up in Journey Into Fear.
    And the choice of books Flemings reviews solves the problem of "once I've read Fleming, what else should I read that's similar?"

    Definitely! And plenty more reviews are on the way.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    Dangerous Know-How
    (Sunday Times, April 22, 1956)

    Scarne on Cards: With a Photographic Section on Cheating at Cards. (Constable. 35s.)

    By Ian Fleming

    Although cheating at cards is not numbered among the cardinal sins, I suppose it is the only antisocial act that remains as heinous and as severely punished today as it was during the last century.

    Card cheats still have to resign from their clubs and suffer social ostracism, and there is not a woman who reads this who would not tremble at the idea of a husband or brother being caught in the act.

    Yet the polite card cheat sits at many a friendly bridge or whist table, squinting onto his neighbours’ hands, signalling to his partner with voice or expression or gesture, and in games where this is possible, fudging the score.

    It is not with these humble practitioners that John Scarne deals in his Cheats’ Encyclopaedia, but with the card hustler who knows just that bit more about the game than you and I, the professional gambler who makes his living by operating games of chance, and the straight card sharp, known in the profession as a “mechanic.”

    Scarne can do anything with cards. Nate Leipzig and Harry Houdini, now both in the Magicians’ Valhalla, once put their signature to the statement: “John Scarne is the most expert exponent of wonderful card effects and table work that I have ever seen in my life”; yet he uses no apparatus except ten steel-spring fingers and fifty-two playing cards. He moves up close to you. You tear the wrapper off a new pack of cards and shuffle it as much as you like. You give it to Scarne and he cuts it four times. At the aces. He counts that his greatest trick. Trick? It is a work of art on which he practiced six hours a day for several years.

    During the war Scarne worked for the American War Department, writing a weekly article for “Yank” to educate the G.I. into not losing his pay to card sharps, and this book is a distillation of his knowledge not only of cheating but of strategy and other aspects of popular American card games.

    This is not perhaps a book for the general public. It is expensive and, although pleasantly written, highly professional. Moreover it concentrates largely on American games such as the poker and rummy families, and—a grave fault—bridge is not mentioned; but every club and library should have a copy to be issued to the accredited card lover with the proviso “For Your Eyes Only.”

    Why? Because this is a dangerous book to leave lying about.

    Note: Eagle-eyed readers will recognize that the beginning of this review repeats what M tells Bond in Moonraker: “And don't forget that cheating at cards can still smash a man. In so-called Society, it's about the only crime that can still finish you, whoever you are.”

    And Fleming fans of course know that Scarne on Cards also appears in Moonraker:
    He was home in fifteen minutes. He left the car under the plane trees in the little square and let himself into the ground floor of the converted Regency house, went into the book-lined sitting-room and, after a moment's search, pulled Scarne on Cards out of its shelf and dropped it on the ornate Empire desk near the broad window.

    “…Ten minutes later…he was sitting at his desk with a pack of cards in one hand and Scarne's wonderful guide to cheating open in front of him.

    “For half an hour, as he ran quickly through the section on Methods, he practised the vital Mechanic's Grip (three fingers curled round the long edge of the cards, and the index finger at the short upper edge away from him), Palming and Nullifying the Cut. His hands worked automatically at these basic manoeuvres, while his eyes read, and he was glad to find that his fingers were supple and assured and that there was no noise from the cards even with the very difficult single-handed Annulment.

    At five-thirty he slapped the cards on the table and shut the book.

    That's not the only reference--here's a quote from the Bridge game at Blades:
    M. snorted and threw his cards down. Bond automatically gathered in the pack and as automatically gave it the Scarne shuffle, marrying the two halves with the quick downward riffle that never brings the cards off the table. He squared off the pack and pushed it away.

    Scarne is also referenced in Diamonds Are Forever. Bond watches Tiffany false-deal him at blackjack in Vegas:
    The girl snapped the pack with a fluid motion of the hands, broke it and put the two halves flat on the table and executed what appeared to be a faultless Scarne shuffle. But Bond saw that the two halves did not quite marry and that when she lifted the pack off the table and carried out an innocent reshuffle she would be getting the two halves of the pack back into their original order.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    The Great Riot of Istanbul
    (Sunday Times, September 11, 1955)

    From Ian Fleming, Special Representative of The Sunday Times at the International Police Conference.

    This week’s great riot of Istanbul—the worst insurrection in the history of modern Turkey—is a reminder that Great Britain is very fortunate in being an Island nation. She has never built up those hatreds that fester between neighbours in a suburban street and lead to fisticuffs and end up in court and a shameful half column in the evening paper—the hatreds that gather and come to a head between two families or even two generations in the same house, and that sometimes end in murder—the hatreds between Arab and Jew, German and Frenchman, Pole and Russian, Turk and Greek.

    This was to have been a great week for Turkey. Obedient to the undying memory of Ataturk, she has continued to mould her destiny away from the East and towards the West, perhaps in defiance of her stars and certainly in defiance of her true personality, which is at least three-quarters oriental.

    To begin with, she successfully changed her spots. She abolished the fez, the harem, her Sultans. (Only twelve eunuchs remain in the “Association of Former Eunuchs” that held its annual reunion here last Sunday. Thirty years ago there were one hundred and ninety. Fifty years ago the Sultan had four thousand.)

    She turned her fabulous palaces—and they really are fabulous—into museums. She imported large quantities of French and English culture, German machinery and American taxicabs. She played her cards carefully during the last war. Then she joined N.A.T.O. She bolstered her currency with a tough exchange rate (difficult and dangerous for the operators).

    The educated Turk became a carefully dressed provincial Frenchman with a Homburg and a briefcase and a ballpoint pen. Mr. Conrad Hilton, a man who considers even England a bad risk for an hotel, built the Istanbul Hilton, the most fabulous modern hotel in Europe. The International conference delegates flocked, like the quail whose season opens also this week, into the Golden Gates and this was to be the sixty-four dollar week in a record season.

    This week would surely have made the recently joined member of the European Club eligible, even for the committee, for the prospect of busy modern Istanbul would surely please even those most sensitive confidential agents of the modern State—the police and the economists.

    On Monday in an atmosphere of friendly efficiency began the Twenty-fourth General Assembly of the International Police Commission (Interpol), and the police chiefs of the world went into a conclave on such matters affecting the public safety as I described last Sunday. That was Monday. On Wednesday the 200 delegates to the conference of the International Monetary Fund started coming in to discuss that very delicate matter, the credit of nations—including the credit of Turkey. Between these two days the Turkish Common Man broke out from behind Turkey’s smile of welcome and reduced Istanbul to a shambles.

    On Wednesday morning martial law was declared, and the official Interpol lunch arranged by the Chief of Police of Istanbul had to be cancelled as its venue, a restaurant, had been razed to the ground. That evening the heads of the police of fifty-two countries, after getting off cables to their wives, were confined for their safety to their hotels. There, with the banker economists of the International Monetary Fund, the two congresses lugubriously danced at the centre of the curfew.

    The whole damage, a small fraction of which I witnessed, was done in eight hours of darkness by the peaceful light of a three-quarter moon. At six o’clock the fuse of hatred against the Greeks that had been creeping through the years reached the powder with reports that Ataturk's birthplace at Salonika had been bombed by Greek terrorists. (In fact only a window had been broken by a bomb thrown at the Turkish consulate on Salonika. The proprietor of the leading evening paper and his editor are among the 2,000 rioters now under arrest.)

    Spontaneously on both sides of the Bosphorus in every noisome alley and smart boulevard hatred erupted and ran through the streets like lava.

    Several times during that night curiosity sucked me out of the safety of the Hilton Hotel and down into the city, where mobs went howling through the streets, each under its streaming red flag with the white star and sickle moon. Occasional bursts of shouting rose out of the angry murmur of the crowds, then would come the crash of plate-glass and perhaps part of a scream.

    A car went out of control and charged the yelling crowd and the yells changed to screams and gesticulating hands showed briefly as the bodies went down before it. And over all there was the trill of the ambulances and the whistling howl of the new police cars imported from America.

    When, nauseated, I finally got back to my hotel a muddy, tough-looking squadron of cavalry were guarding the approaches, but they never fired their 1914-18 Mausers and I think there was no shooting by either side during the riot. It was a night of the long staves and these were quickly put away at dawn when the Sherman tanks came in and the first Turkish Division got a grip of the town. For it is broken, and millions of pounds’ worth of damage was done that night. Countless businessmen are wiped out. Including several British merchants, and the Consulate and the rest of the British community are rallying to their help.

    And now the normal disorder of Istanbul is being re-established and on a higher level Ankara and Athens are doing their own mopping-up. In a day or two the police chiefs and their cohorts will depart. As for Turkey, her splendid progress in the International game of snakes and ladders has suffered. She has landed on a snake and must now go back and wait patiently until she can throw a six and get back into the game again.

    Commentary: Since Turkey is back in the news and in turmoil again, this seemed like a good time to share Fleming's eyewitness report. Some background information on how he ended up in the eye of the storm:

    In September 1955 Fleming accompanied joined Sir Ronald Howe, Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, to Istanbul for the International Police (Interpol) Conference.
    Bond fans might remember that Howe had appeared in Moonraker as Superintendent Ronnie Vallance (the surname was that of Fleming’s accountant, Vallance Lodge). After From Russia With Love was published, Howe glowingly reviewed it for the Sunday Times and called Fleming was called “the most readable and highly polished writer of adventure stories to have appeared since the war.” But, Andrew Lycett revealed decades later, Howe’s review was actually written by John Pearson--who had recently graduated from Cambridge before joining the paper.

    Like James Bond in From Russia With Love, Fleming flew to Istanbul with a copy of Eric Ambler’s The Mask of Dimitrios on his knee. Unlike Bond, he avoided the dingy Pera Palace and stayed in the luxurious Hilton. The Interpol conference turned out to be dull and Fleming wrote to Admiral Godfrey ‘The trouble with these policemen is that they have no idea what is really interesting in their jobs and regard criminal matters as really a great bore.’ But on Tuesday, September 6, as the policemen met in the Chalet of Yildiz Palace, the seeds of the riot were germinating.

    As Pearson so aptly put it:
    Here at last then, in Istanbul, we have Fleming confronted with that face of violence which had haunted and fascinated him since boyhood. Here in reality was what he had written about so many times from his imagination – the smell of death and the tumult of danger – bloodshed, chaos and carnage. And how did he react? He was, he wrote, ‘nauseated’ by what he had seen. …Fleming the symmetrist had seen real violence at last. Fascinated yet appalled by it, he had retreated gratefully to the side of order and tranquillity. For the riot brought out in him the strange quality which was at the root of all his fantasies and all his books – that ‘threat of doom’, that ‘atmosphere of suspense married to horrible acts’ – which he had thrilled to at Eton in the stories of Robert Louis Stevenson and Edgar Allan Poe and which was really the thrill and horror with which the obsessively ordered mind reacts to apprehensions of chaos.

    There is in fact a touch of supreme irony about these few days of his in Istanbul. He had come prepared to gather material for an imaginary act of violence and cruelty. Instead he found the real thing…

    The riot played an important role in the making of From Russia With Love, because it introduced Fleming to Nazim Kalkavan, the Oxford-educated shipowner who became the model for Darko Kerim, “one of those rare characters whom Fleming’s hero respects and admires as a fellow spirit," as Pearson notes. The pro-British Kalkavan was horrified by the impression the riot made on foreigners and called at the Hilton the morning after to invite the conference goers to his villa on the Bosphorus. Fleming accepted and the two men quickly became good friends.

    "I have rarely met anyone in my life," Kalkavan said of Fleming, "with so much warmth and with a personality so full of life, an alertness encompassing all. He was always inquiring; we used to have endless talks mooching about the city.” Over the course of several days Kalkavan showed Fleming across town. What they saw was incorporated into From Russia With Love, and Fleming even wrote down his friend's words to give them to Darko Kerim. The following dialogue by Kalkavan will sound familiar to anyone who's read the novel:

    “I have always smoked and drunk and loved too much. In fact I have lived not too long but too much. One day the Iron Crab will get me. Then I shall have died of living too much. Like all people who have known poverty, my chief pleasures are the best food, the best servants and changing my underclothes every day.”

    Perhaps Fleming knew the Iron Crab would get him too.

    One last note: I have an additional reason for posting this article: next week I'm flying to Istanbul. Posts in this thread will resume in mid-September.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    Birth-pangs of a Thriller

    (W. H. Smith’s Trade News, March 31, 1956)

    By Ian Fleming

    I can remember more or less why I started to write thrillers. I was on holiday in Jamaica in January 1951—I built a house there after the war and I go there every year—and my mental hands were empty. I had finished organizing a foreign service for Kemsley Newspapers and that side of my life was free-wheeling.

    My daily occupation in Jamaica is spear-fishing and underwater exploring, but, after five years of it, I didn’t want to kill any more fish except barracudas and the occasional monster fish, and I knew my own underwater terrain like the back of my hand. Above all, after being a bachelor for 44 years, I was on the edge of marrying and the prospect was so horrifying that I was in urgent need of some activity to take my mind off it.

    So, as I say, my mental hands were empty, and although I am as lazy as most Englishmen are, I have a Puritanical dislike of idleness and a natural love of action. I decided to write a book.

    It had to be a thriller because that was all to be a thriller because that was I had time for in my two months’ holiday, and I knew there would be no room in my London life for writing books. The atmosphere of casinos and gambling fascinates me and I know enough about spies to write about them. I am also interested in things, in gadgetry of all kinds, and it occurred to me that an accurate and factual framework would help the reader to swallow the wildest improbabilities of my plot.

    Dare Not Look Back

    Writing about 2,000 words in three hours every morning, Casino Royale dutifully reproduced itself. I re-wrote nothing and made no corrections until the book was finished. If I had looked back at what I had written the day before I might have despaired (and how right I was) at the mistakes in grammar and style, the repetitions and the crudities. I obstinately closed my mind to self-mockery and “what will my friends say?”, savagely hammering on until the proud day when the last page was done. The last line in the book “The bitch is dead now” was just what I felt. I had killed the job.

    Then I started to read it. And I was appalled. How could I have written this bilge? What a fool the hero is. The heroine is the purest cardboard. The villain is out of pantomime. The sex is too sexy. And the writing! Six “terribles” on one page. Sentences of screaming banality. I groaned and stubbornly started correcting.

    When I got back to London, I did nothing with the manuscript. I was too ashamed of it. No publisher would want it and, if one did, I would not have the face to see it in print. Even under a pseudonym, someone would leak the ghastly fact that it was I who had written this adolescent tripe. There would be one of those sly paragraphs in the Londoner’s Diary! Shame! Disgrace! Disaster! Resign from my clubs. Leave the country.

    One day I had lunch at the Ivy with an old friend and literary idol of mine, William Plomer of Jonathan Cape’s, and I asked him how you get cigarette smoke out of a woman once you’ve got it in. “All right,” I said. “This woman inhales, takes a deep lungful of smoke, draws deeply on her cigarette—anything you like. That’s easy. But how do you get it out of her again? ‘Exhales’ is a hopeless word. ‘Puffs it out’ is silly. What can you make her do?”

    William looked at me sharply. “You've written a book.”

    I laughed. I was pleased that he had guessed, but embarrassed. “It’s not really a book,” I said, only a sort of boys’ magazine story. But the point is,” I hurried on, “I filled my heroine full of smoke half way through and she’s still got it in her. How can I get it out?”

    A new identity!

    I needed only slight pressure from William. He was a friend and would tell me the horrible truth about the book without condemning me or being scornful or giving away my secret. I sent him the manuscript. He forced Cape’s to publish it. The reviews, from The Times Literary Supplement down, were staggeringly favourable. People were entertained, excited, amused. I wrote “Author” instead of Journalist in a new passport.

    And so it went on. I took Michael Arlen’s advice: “Write your second book before you see the reviews of your first. Casino Royale is good, but the reviewers may damn it and take the heart out of you.”

    More adventures

    In 1953, in Jamaica, I wrote Live And Let Die; in 1954, Moonraker, and then, last year, Diamonds Are Forever.

    When I sent the manuscript of Diamonds Are Forever to William Plomer, I said: “I’ve put everything into this except the kitchen sink. Can you think of a plot about a kitchen sink for the next one? Otherwise I am lost.”

    This time William couldn’t help me.

    Now I am off to Jamaica again with a spare typewriter-ribbon and a load of desperately blank foolscap through which James Bond must somehow shoot his way during the next eight weeks.


    The original manuscript of this article (titled “Bang Bang, Kiss Kiss—How I Came to Write Casino Royale”) is reprinted in Talk of the Devil, a book less easy to find than the holy grail.

    In case you're interested in what word Fleming decided on for emitting cigarette smoke, here's a passage from Casino Royale:, here's a passage from Casino Royale:

    "She accepted one of Bond's cigarettes, examined it and then smoked it appreciatively and without affectation, drawing the smoke deeply into her lungs with a little sigh and then exhaling it casually through her lips and nostrils."

    I guess "exhale" wasn't so hopeless after all!

    In an article published shortly after Fleming's death (“Ian Fleming Remembered,” Encounter, January 1965), William Plomer quoted Fleming's article and confirmed the cigarette story. He also added some interesting details:

    'Once during the War, when some of its worst phases were past, we were feeding alone together and found time to speak of what we intended to do when it was over. With a diffidence that came surprisingly from so buoyant a man, he said he had a wish to write a thriller. He may not have used exactly that word, but made it quite plain that he had in mind some exciting story of espionage and sudden death. I at once made it equally plain how strongly I believed in his ability to write such a book, and in its probable originality. “But,” I said, “it’s no good writing just one. With that sort of book, you must become regular in your habits. You must hit the nail again and again with the same hammer until it's driven into the thick head of your potential public.” He gave me a long and thoughtful look.'

    '...It did please him to pretend that I was a sort of only begetter of his books, which was nonsense. Or was it just an indication of his characteristic capacity for gratitude? As somebody who knew him well reminded me lately, “Ian always said thank you.” Some of the inscriptions in the copies of his books he gave me repeated the unearned but recurrent compliment—for example, in my copy of Goldfinger, “To William, who started these balls rolling.”'

    'In fact I used to be the first person to whom his books were shown, partly for professional reasons. When I found things to praise, he seemed pleased; when I suggested emendations, he was attentive—sometimes too attentive. I once said to him, just after reading a new James Bond typescript, that although the persons in it often made exclamatory remarks, these were never followed by a point of exclamation. I said this half-teasingly, but he took it so seriously that when the book came out, the New York Times took him to task for peppering his pages, like a schoolgirl, with exclamation marks.'

    '...The best and most entertaining analysis of his thrillers ever likely to be written is to be found in Kingsley Amis’ forthcoming book. My own summary view of them is that they are brilliant, romantic fairy-tales in which a dragon-slaying maiden-rescuing hero wins battle after battle against devilish forces of destruction, and yet is indestructible himself: an ancient kind of myth skillfully re-created in a modern idiom. They are, like life, sexy and violent, but I have never thought them corrupting. Compared with some of the nasty stuff that gets into print, they have a sort of boyish innocence.'
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    Adventure in the Haggard-Buchan School (The Bookman, Nov. 1960)

    The Pass Beyond Kashmir by Berkely Mather
    Reviewer: Ian Fleming

    The Achilles Affair, Berkely Mather’s first book, was one of the best thrillers of 1959. The Pass Beyond Kashmir takes the author triumphantly over the hump of the ‘second book’ and into the small category of those adventure writers whose works I, for one, will in future buy ‘sight unseen’.

    The author belongs to the Haggard-Buchan school, or at any rate to its Search/Chase subdivision, in which English writers are supreme. The essential requirement in the contemporary craftsmen in this idiom is that they should be truthful and accurate reporters, for nowadays we know the world, and the scenery and background over and against which the hero journeys must not only hold the attention but be credible. Berkely Mather’s India seems to me totally so. I believe every word of his local knowledge and I greatly admire the art with which he informs one of sects, secret police, smells, language, dust, mud and flies without overdoing the expertise—a weakness into which Hammond Innes, for instance, occasionally lapses. With Berkely Mather one never feels ‘crammed’, or irritated by ‘knowingness’. The background unrolls, as we follow the cheap but likable private investigator on the way from Bombay to the foothills of the Himalayas, with a truly remarkable narrative ease. And what a ghastly trek we take in search of those secret oil surveys! Fights and muggings in the stews of Bombay—ghastly encounters with police and rivals (with every man’s hand against us!) all the way up to Kashmir and there—the last straw—the damnable Chinks to cope with! And the going! Hard! Nothing to eat, torrents of rain, mud, stench, filth, every foot of the way!

    To make the hardened reader feel these things, really to put him through the wringer, is the art of the writer of thrillers. Mr. Mather has this ability, backed by a quiet, unemphatic prose style, a contemporary eye, and, most important, a heart.

    I'm going to be charitable and assume that Fleming was echoing the author's language when he wrote that racial epithet...

    Berkely Mather himself is an overlooked and important figure in the history of James Bond. Fleming was a genuine fan of novels and recommended Mather to Broccoli and Saltzman as a screenwriter for the Bond films, starting with Dr. No. Mather's obituary in The Independent adds "In fact a script was already in existence, and Mather lightened it considerably...Although offered a percentage of the take for his work on the script, Mather disastrously opted for a flat fee." His work on Dr. No, included his drafts and detailed notes, was later auctioned off.

    Mather also co-scripted From Russia With Love and contributed an uncredited rewrite of Goldfinger. So he had a hand in the all of the classic three Bond films and the exact nature of his contributions deserves further study.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    The Thriller Trend (Sunday Times, Sept. 20, 1959)

    A Twist of Sand. By Geoffrey Jenkins (Collins. 15s.)

    By Ian Fleming

    I think the art, or craft, of writing thrillers has come to be despised because the great American thriller writers, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, led the practitioners off into a cul-de-sac. Poe, Stevenson, Buchan, Rider Haggard, Oppenheimer, Edgar Wallace and, of course, Eric Ambler, in their different ways wrote thrillers of originality and distinction. But, then came the American school of the private eye and the millionaire’s nymphomaniac daughter, the Syndicate and Mr. Big in his nightclub, and suddenly, on both sides of the Atlantic, everyone was doing it.

    That vein, until we move on to the Teamster Union boss with the daughter at Vassar, is almost extinct. The reader of thrillers has got tired of the office bottle, the kick to the groin, and the beautiful girl beside the swimming pool. One has turned to true-life thrillers about the war or to strange tales which seem true, like The Long Walk. But still, occasionally, for an aeroplane or a train journey one is tempted by a recommendation and buys their teen shillings’ worth of teenage pillow-fantasy beginning in a drab Soho and ending in a drab Tangier—badly documented, illiterate, but worse, naive.

    This year, apart from good old reliable Simenon, I have read only one thriller which I could unreservedly recommend to my friends, The Achilles Affair, by Berkely Mather (Collins). But now, with A Twist of Sand, by Geoffrey Jenkins, I think we have a writer who, with encouragement and self-discipline, may become a thriller writer on whom we can rely.


    Geoffrey Jenkins has the prime gift of originality. Above all, his setting is original—and how important the background is in these books! He writes about the Skeleton Coast, one of the last truly secret places in the world, that dreadful stretch of South West Africa where the rich alluvial diamonds are mined by De Beers and where the survivors from the Dunedin Star acted out one of the great survival epics of all time. Against this roasting, sand-blasted backdrop, Jenkins tells the story of Geoffrey Peace, D.S.O. and two bars, a court-martialled English submarine commander.

    Peace is bequeathed a lost island off this coast by a Buchan-ish uncle. It was here that, under secret orders from the Chief (Director, Mr. Jenkins!) of Naval Intelligence he sank Germany’s prototype atomic U-boat. He sank it by firing a recognition flare into the pool of oil while it was cleaning its fuel tanks. He then shot down the survivors—all but one! He was alone on the bridge when he did these things. Under his vow of secrecy, he could not tell even his second-in-command what he was doing in these suicidal waters, so he was dismissed [from] the Service for hazarding his ship.

    Lured back by his inheritance arid his memories, he earns a living fishing off the Skeleton Coast. Until a certain Dr. Stein appears. Stein knows about Peace through the sole survivor of the U-boat and he blackmails him into taking his trawler to land on the forbidden coast, ostensibly in search of a rare beetle—onymacris. The half-crazed U-boat mariner comes too, out for Peace’s blood, and the desirable Anne-with-a-crumpled-eyelid, a Swedish entomologist who alone can recognise the beetle.

    Stein tricks Peace ashore with the party arid they set off through the desert into the sinister mass of the Hartmannberge.

    There follows a desperate journey, the climax of the book, in the course of which the reader is dealt such a series of highly expert jolts to the solar plexus in the Geoffrey Household style that he reaches the last page panting.


    Now, this is a badly organized book. Geoffrey Jenkins tries to cram in too much—the plot, the Skeleton Coast, excellent snatches of natural history, sex, and whole chapters, exciting though they are, of Peace’s wartime experiences. The D.S.O. and two bars are thrust too often down our throats, the court martial chapter should have been cut in toto, and Anne, she of the crumpled eyelid, talks with a peach stone in her mouth.

    But these are small criticisms of a literate, imaginative first novel in the tradition of high and original adventure.

    Note: Geoffrey Jenkins is best-known nowadays for his lost Bond novel Per Fine Ounce. Two of its surviving pages have been posted by MI6-HQ.com.

    Further information from wikipedia:

    "After Ian Fleming's death, Glidrose Productions commissioned Jenkins to write a James Bond novel in 1966. Jenkins claimed in the late 1950s he had discussed the idea of a James Bond novel set in South Africa with Fleming, and even written a synopsis of it, which Fleming had very much liked. Jenkins’ synopsis, found by John Pearson in Fleming’s papers, featured gold bicycle chains, baobab tree coffins and the magical Lake Fundudzi. Fleming had said he would come to South Africa to research the book, but he died before this happened.

    "Jenkins finished the manuscript for Glidrose entitled Per Fine Ounce, but it was rejected. Peter Janson-Smith later recalled that he thought it was badly written, although he admitted that Glidrose may have been 'stricter in those days.'

    "The novel is believed lost, except for 18 pages now in the hands of Jenkins' son David.
    In them we learn that the Double-O Section has been closed down and James Bond defies M on a matter of principle, resigning from MI6 to pursue his mission in South Africa alone."

    Next week I'll post Fleming's second review of a Jenkins novel.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    A Thundering Yarn (Sunday Times, Aug. 26, 1962)

    By Ian Fleming

    A Grue of Ice. By Geoffrey Jenkins. (Collins. 16s.)

    I greatly enjoyed Geoffrey Jenkins’s first thriller A Twist of Sand, but I got bogged down in his second, The Watering Place of Good Peace, which suffered from turgidity and a kind of almost hysterical hypertension. The “Grue” in the title of his latest book gave me a moment of unease. I need not have worried. This is fully up to, the standard of Mr. Jenkins’s first book and is in every respect in the highest tradition of the Buchan-Household-Hammond Innes school of adventure story.

    Once the characters have been introduced—fashionably, at Tristan da Cunha—the plot hurtles into a positive maelstrom of action and suspense centering on the mysterious and illusive Thompson Island in Antarctica. Wetherby and his Man Friday, Sailhardy, are likeable heroes, the villain and his cohorts are suitably villainous (there is an admirable sub-villain, the radio operator Pirow, “The Man with the Immaculate Hand”), and Helen reminded me, with a pang, of Leni Riefenstahl in her heyday.

    But what will make the book memorable, particularly for those who like myself are sea-struck, is the vivid expertise of the oceanographic background to the story—the Blue Whales, plankton, ice-floes; that solidity of stage and props which gives integrity to the fantastic (though I wonder if an albatross really would attack a sea-leopard!).

    A note of caution for the worldly reader. This a thundering good yarn, with all that the phrase connotes. Geoffrey Jenkins must beware of the yarnish streak in his prose that produces “Dear God! There has been enough violence already! What are we to do?” and similar fumed-oak passages. That having been said, one can welcome Geoffrey Jenkins’s return to the ranks of the great adventure writers.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    Note: Below are two of Fleming's articles on Raymond Chandler. The first is unsigned but was attributed to our man in John Gilbert's Ian Fleming: The Bibliography. As you can see, it has characteristically Flemingian diction.

    The second article, from London Magazine, originally quoted many of Fleming and Chandler's letters to each other. All of these have been subsequently reprinted in The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming's James Bond Letters, so I have omitted them. I encourage you to buy Golden Typewriter instead, because it belongs on every Fleming fan's bookshelf. And now on with the show...

    Some Uncollected Authors. I: Raymond Chandler (The Book Collector, Autumn 1953)

    [by Ian Fleming]

    Since the First World War there has developed in America an approach to the writing of fiction very different from that which produced the stately, civilized novel in English of the preceding age. Modern American novelists have been more concerned than were their predecessors with the failure of western civilization to withstand the corruption of its own technological progress, and their books have tended to be brutal and outspoken where earlier novels were gentle and decorous.

    This changed outlook required new techniques for its expression; and the mastery of one such technique, which may be termed the de-civilization of prose style in fiction, is the particular talent of Raymond Chandler. Whatever may be the merits or defects of Chandler in his exposition of character or Weltanschauung, as a stylist he is outstandingly brilliant. Few other authors have handled so faultlessly the supple, sour, conversational prose that has grown up with the modern American novel.

    Chandler's early short stories, mostly written for pulp magazines, were generally no more than tough and thoughtless after the manner of their kind; but Red Wind (1938) already showed the clean construction and powerful style that was to characterize Chandler's work in the ’forties, and Finger Man had been a good deal better than average in 1934. The five Philip Marlowe novels 1939-49 contain nearly all of Chandler's best work; and of them perhaps Farewell, my Lovely (1940) and The Little Sister (1949) are the most admirable. The prose style of the articles is more conventional and less interesting.

    The collector who turns his attention to Chandler may find himself in an unfamiliar world. It will be hard, for instance, to discover odd copies of Black Mask and Dime Detective; and he will have to decide how to deal with Chandler’s film scripts, a not unimportant aspect of his work. The following check-list i]omitted[/i will give some idea of what there is to be found; it lists only first publication in America and England.
    (The Editor is indebted to Mr Chandler for information included in this check-list.)

    Raymond Chandler (London Magazine, Dec. 1, 1959)

    By Ian Fleming

    (I knew Raymond Chandler for about four years and these are all my memories of him, together with some random comments and reflections and most of the letters we exchanged. Not many people knew Chandler, so I will not apologize for the triviality of our correspondence. It fitted in with our relationship—the half-amused, ragging relationship of two writers working the same thin, almost-extinct literary seam, who like each others work. But I do apologize for dragging my own books and what he wrote about them into this biographical note. Unfortunately, there is no alternative. We came together over my books and not over his, and our friendship would not have existed without them.)

    I first met Raymond Chandler at a dinner party given by Stephen and Natasha Spender some time in May 1955. He was just coming out of the long spell of drinking which followed the death of his wife. She died after a three years’ illness in their house at La Jolla, in California. When the police arrived they found Raymond Chandler in the sitting room firing his revolver through the ceiling. Chandler never recovered from the tragedy and, whatever the reality of his married life, his wife became a myth which completely obsessed the following years.

    He sold his house in California and every scrap of furniture that reminded him of her and came to England, perhaps in one of those flights back to one’s youth and childhood (he was educated at Dulwich and worked for some time in London) that badly hurt people sometimes resort to.

    He was very nice to me and said he had liked my first book, Casino Royale, but he really didn’t want to talk about anything much except the loss of his wife, about which he expressed himself with a nakedness that embarrassed me while endearing him to me. He showed me a photograph of her—a good-looking woman sitting in the sun somewhere. The only other snapshot in his note case was of a cat which he had adored. The cat had died within weeks of his wife’s death and this had been a final blow.

    He must have been a very good-looking man but the good, square face was puffy and unkempt with drink. In talking, he never ceased making ugly, Hapsburg lip grimaces while his head stretched away from you, looking along his right or left shoulder as if you had bad breath. When he did look at you he saw everything and remembered days later to criticize the tie or the shirt you had been wearing. Everything he said had authority and a strongly individual slant based on what one might describe as a Socialistic humanitarian view of the world. We took to each other and I said that I would send him a copy of my latest book and that we must meet again.

    Chandler had taken a flat in Eaton Square and he rang me up in a few days to say that he enjoyed my book and asked if I would like him to say so for the benefit of my publishers. Rather unattractively, I took him up on this suggestion…

    …I wanted him to come to lunch to meet my wife, who had not been at the Spender’s, and at last it was arranged.

    The luncheon was not a success. The Spenders were there and Rupert Hart-Davis and Duff Dunbar, a lawyer friend of mine and a great Chandler fan. Our small dining room was overcrowded. Chandler was a man who was shy of houses and ‘entertaining’ and our conversation was noisy and about people he did not know. His own diffident and rather halting manner of speech made no impact. He was not made a fuss of and I am pretty sure he hated the whole affair.

    Almost a year later he was back again in England and Leonard Russell invited him to review my next book, Diamonds are Forever, for the Sunday Times. It was the first review Chandler had ever written. I quote these extracts to show the sharp, ironical mind…I wrote and thanked him for the review…

    …He then went off abroad. Since the death of his wife, he was lost without women and, in the few years I knew him, he was never without some good-looking companion to mother him and try and curb his drinking. These were affectionate and warm-hearted relationships and probably nothing more. Though I do know this, I suspect that each woman was, in the end, rather glad to get away from the ghost of the other woman who always walked at his side and from the tired man who made sense for so little of the day.

    …Whenever we were together, I would try and make him write, but the truth of the matter was that it had nearly all gone out of him and that he simply could not be bothered. He had an idea for a play, though I do not know what it was about, and he finally put together his last book Playback, which began splendidly and then petered off into a formless jumble of sub-plots, at the end of which Philip Marlowe is obviously going to marry a rich American woman living in Paris. I asked Chandler if this marriage would come off and he said he supposed it would. This would be the end of Marlowe. She would come along and sack his secretary and redecorate his office and make him change his friends. She would be so rich that there would be no point in Marlowe working any more and he would finally drink himself to death. I said that this would make an excellent plot and that perhaps he could save Marlowe by making Mrs. Marlowe drink herself to death first.

    I pulled his leg about his plots, which always seem to me to go wildly astray. What holds the books together and makes them so compulsively readable, even to alpha minds who would not normally think of reading a thriller, is the dialogue. There is a throw-away, down-beat quality about Chandler's dialogue, whether wise-cracking or not, that takes one happily through chapter after chapter in which there is no more action than Philip Marlowe driving his car and talking to his girl, or a rich old woman consulting her lawyer on the sun porch. His aphorisms were always his own. “Lust ages men but keeps women young” has stuck in my mind.

    Mr. Francis, Chandler's bookseller in London and one of his closest English friends, told me that in the old days, before Mrs. Chandler died, Chandler would carry on a non-stop, ironical commentary on people and books and Fate in exactly Philip Marlowe's tone of voice. He corresponded a lot with Francis and I have borrowed the letter in which he talks about his particular craft.

    October 30th, 1952

    “ ... As to Maugham's remarks about the decline and fall of the detective story, in spite of his flattering references to me, I do not agree with this thesis. People have been burying the detective story for at least two generations, and it is still very much alive, although I do admit the term ‘detective story’ hardly covers the field any more, since a great deal of the best stuff written nowadays is only slightly if at all concerned with the elucidation of the mystery. What we have is more in the nature of the novel of suspense. I’m going to write him a long letter one of these days and take up the argument with him. I may even write an article in reply if anybody wants to print it. I should have valued his references to Philip Marlowe even more if he had remembered to spell Marlowe’s name correctly. Some of this stuff of Maugham’s was published a long time ago. The fascinating and acid little vignette of Edith Wharton for example was published in the Saturday Evening Post, and I still have the tear sheets (I think) from the issue. And I seem to recall that Edmund Wilson took rather nasty issue with Maugham about Maugham’s claim that the writers of straight novels had largely forgotten how to tell a story. I hate to agree with…Edmund Wilson, but I think he was right on this point. I don’t think the quality in the detective or mystery story which appeals to people has very much to do with the story a particular book has to tell. I think what draws people is a certain emotional tension which takes you out of yourself without draining you too much. They allow you to live dangerously without any real risk. They are something like those elaborate machines which they used to use and probably still do use to accustom student pilots to the sensation of aerial acrobatics. You can do anything from a wing-over to an Immelmann in them without ever leaving the ground and without any danger of going into a flat spin out of control. Well, enough of that for now.”

    …He came back to London in the Spring and we saw more of each other. He was in a bad way, drinking heavily. Like other heavy drinkers, he had been told to stick to wine instead of spirits and he consumed innumerable bottles of hock which cannot have been good for his liver. We had lunch together at Boulestin’s one day with the charming English literary agent with whom he was proposing to go to Tangier to get some sunshine. I told him that I had been in Tangier in April and that it rained the whole time. I persuaded him that he should go to Capri instead. The idea came to me that he should meet Lucky Luciano in Naples and write a piece about him for the Sunday Times. I thought this would be a great scoop and I took a lot of pains arranging the meeting. The whole thing was a failure. They duly met in a hotel in Naples which is Luciano’s favourite hideout and Chandler completely succumbed to Luciano’s hard-luck story. Chandler had an extremely warm and sentimental heart, just as Philip Marlowe attractively has in the books. Luciano admitted that he had laid himself open to prosecution, but said that he had been made a fall-guy by the then District Attorney because he had the right sort of gangsterish name, because the big boys were too hard to tackle, and because plenty of convictions, of which Luciano’s was one, would be good for the political careers of some of the Government officials involved.

    Chandler wrote a lengthy article on this theme. It did not contain any of the visual reporting I had hoped for and nothing of the drama of the meeting between these two men. Instead, it was a long exculpation of Luciano and a plea for cleaner Government. This was sheer bad writing and, since it would not suit the Sunday Times or America, I doubt if it has ever been published.

    When Chandler came back a month later he was full of the idea of writing a play about a wronged gangster. This would have been very much in Chandler’s later vein and I did all I could to encourage him, but he refused to go forward with the idea until he had obtained Luciano’s sanction. It was again typical of him that, although he need not have involved Luciano’s name or the details of his case in any way, he felt the man had been kicked around enough and must now be treated gently. Luciano replied that he would rather Chandler did not write this story and that was that.

    About this time, Chandler and I were booked to give a 20-minute broadcast for the BBC on "The Art of Writing Thrillers." When the day came, it was very difficult to get him to the studio and when I went to pick him up at about eleven in the morning his voice was slurred with whisky.

    However, the broadcast went off all right because I kept out of the act and concentrated on leading him along with endless question. Many of Chandler’s replies had to be erased from the tape and, in particular, I remember that, in discussing Mickie Spillane and his retreat to expiate his “guilt” into the arms of the Seventh Day Adventists, Chandler commented “in a way, it’s a shame. That boy was the greatest aid to solitary sin (he used a blunt word for it) in literature.” Later he apologized to the two pretty girls in the control room and one of them said, “It’s quite all right, Mr. Chandler, we hear much worse things than that.”

    At lunch together that day we talked about our writing techniques. While waiting for him, I had jotted down some questions on the back of Boulestin’s cocktail price list (from which I now note with surprise that a Sidecar costs 6s. 6d.). I could not think of anything except the usual stock questions. He said he wrote his books in long-hand, very slowly and going back again and again over what he had written the day before. He often got stuck for weeks and even months. I said I could not do any correcting until the book was finished. If I looked back at what I had written the day before I would be so appalled by its badness that I would give up. He commented that my system probably gave the book pace which he regarded as the most important quality of any thriller. He worked, as one can see, endlessly over his dialogue and most of the wisecracks, as one can also see, were his own. He did not work to a particular routine a day, but in sprints and often sat up all night and kept going. The Big Sleep, which first made him famous, had been written quickly in about two months and this had made him the most money because it was written before taxation killed the rich writer. It was also made into a film and he had earned enough to retire on through it. He agreed that Dashiell Hammett was his first love among thriller writers and that he had learnt most from him and from Hemingway. Hammett, he said, had never let his work decline. He had just written himself out like an expended firework and that was that. In the end, said Chandler, as one grew older, one grew out of gangsters and blondes and guns and, since they were the chief ingredients of thrillers, short of space fiction, that was that. He picked his names from the Los Angeles telephone directory and his chief source of inspiration was a particular friend in the Los Angeles Police Department. (He told me his name but I have forgotten it.) Marlowe? Well yes, one put a certain amount of oneself into one’s hero because one knew more about oneself than about anybody else, but be also put his own unattractive traits into his gangsters and other subsidiary characters. The women were just women he had seen on the street or met at parties. He would never kill Marlowe because he liked him and other people seemed to like him and it would be unkind to them.

    That was the last time I saw him or heard from him. I went abroad and, when I came back, I heard that he had had D.T.s and had gone back to California. Such news as I had of him remained bad and it was only a week before his death that I called on our mutual friend, Mr. Francis, of Prince’s Arcade Bookshop, who had a permanent order to supply Chandler blind with any book that caught Francis’s fancy. I told him I had sent Chandler a copy of my last book and asked him what else he had sent. Francis told me that he had not sent anything for months. He had not been asked to do so. We agreed that this was the worst news we had heard. “That's bad,” I said and left the bookshop thinking that it was, in fact, very bad news indeed.

    The long and perceptive obituary in The Times would have given him real pleasure. I wish I had been the author so that I could have repaid him for the wonderful tribute he had written out of the kindness of his heart for me and my publishers. How pleased he and his publishers would have been with the final sentence in The Times: “His name will certainly go down among the dozen or so mystery writers who were also innovators and stylists; who, working the common vein of crime fiction, mined the gold of literature.”
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,271Chief of Staff
    Lovely to read more of Fleming on Chandler, being a big fan of both. Of course, Chandler's then uncollected short stories have been compiled many times since Fleming's day.
    In some ways Chandler's Philip Marlowe can be seen as a predecessor of James Bond- check out how most of the female cast in the Howard Hawks version of The Big Sleep find Marlowe attractive (a taxi driver, the book shop clerk, etc). Chandler also handled Marlowe's age in much the same way as Fleming handled Bond's.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    Intrepid: Silhouette of a Secret Agent (Sunday Times, October 21, 1962)

    In the higher ranges of Secret Service work the actual facts in many cases were in every respect equal to the most fantastic inventions of romance and melodrama. Tangle within tangle, plot and counter-plot, ruse and treachery, cross and double-cross, true agent, false agent, double agent, gold and steel, the bomb, the dagger and the firing party, were interwoven in many a texture so intricate as to be incredible and yet true. The Chief and the High Officers of the Secret Service revelled in these subterranean labyrinths, and pursued their task with cold and silent passion.

    — Sir Winston Churchill in Thoughts and Adventures.

    By Ian Fleming

    In this era of the anti-hero, when anyone on a pedestal is assaulted (how has Nelson survived?), unfashionably and obstinately I have my heroes. Being a second son, I dare say this all started from hero-worshipping my elder brother Peter, who had to become head of the family, at the age of ten, when our father was killed in 1917.

    But the habit stayed with me, and I now, naively no doubt, have a miscellaneous cohort of heroes, from the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh through Sir Winston Churchill and on downwards to many Other Ranks, who would be surprised if they knew how much I admired them for such old-fashioned virtues as courage, fortitude, and service to a cause or a country. I suspect—I hope—that 99.9 per cent. of the population of these islands has heroes in their family or outside. I am convinced they are necessary companions through life.

    High up on my list is one of the great secret agents of the last war who, at this moment, allowing for the time factor, will be sitting at a loaded desk in a small study in an expensive apartment block bordering the East River in New York.

    It is not an inspiring room—ranged bookcases, a copy of the Annigoni portrait of the Queen, the Cecil Beaton photograph of Churchill, autographed, a straightforward print of General Donovan, two Krieghoffs, comfortably placed boxes of stale cigarettes, and an automatic telephone recorder that clicks from time to time and shows a light, and into which, exasperated, I used to speak indelicate limericks until asked to desist to spare the secretary, who transcribes the calls, her blushes.

    The telephone number is unlisted. The cable address, as during the war, is INTREPID. A panelled bar leads off the study, and then a bathroom. My frequent complaints about the exiguous bar of Lux have proved fruitless. The occupant expects one to come to see him with clean hands.

    People often ask me how closely the “hero” of my thrillers, James Bond, resembles a true, live secret agent. To begin with, James Bond is not in fact a hero, but an efficient and not very attractive blunt instrument in the hands of government, and though he is a meld of various qualities I noted among Secret Service men and commandos in the last war, he remains, of course, a highly romanticised version of the true spy. The real thing, who may be sitting next to you as you read this, is another kind of beast altogether.

    We know, for instance, that Mr. Somerset Maugham and Sir Compton Mackenzie were spies in the first world war, and we now know, from Mr. Montgomery Hyde’s The Quiet Canadian, that Major-General Sir Stewart Menzies, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., D.S.O., M.C., a member of White’s and the St. James’s, formerly of Eton and the Life Guards, was head of the Secret Service in the last war—news which will no doubt cause a delighted shudder to run down the spines of many fellow-members of his clubs and of his local hunt.

    But the man sitting alone now in his study in New York is so much closer to the spy of fiction, and yet so far removed from James Bond or Our Man in Havana, that only the removal of the cloak of anonymity he has worn since 1940 allows us to realise to our astonishment that men of super qualities can exist, and that such men can be super-spies and, by any standard, heroes.

    Such a man is “the Quiet Canadian,” otherwise Sir William Stephenson, M.C., D.F.C., known throughout the war to his subordinates and friends, and to the enemy, as “Little Bill.”

    To strip him to his bare and formidable bones, he was born on January 11, 1896, at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers, just outside Winnipeg, where the Scottish Highlanders established the first British settlement in the name of the Hudson’s Bay Company towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars. It was from one of these early Scottish settlers that “Little Bill” was descended. He was good at mathematics and boxing, but before he could choose a career it was August, 1914, and he went straight from school into the Royal Canadian Engineers, and was commissioned before his nineteenth birthday.

    In 1915 he was badly gassed and invalided back to England, but during his convalescence he was seized by the flying bug and in due course received his wings in the Royal-Flying Corps. By the time he was shot down (in error by the French) he was credited with twenty German planes, including that of Lothar von Richthofen, brother of the famous German ace. These exploits earned him the M.C., D.F.C. and the Croix de Guerre with Palm.

    Before he was shot down and captured by the Germans (he escaped, of course, from Holzminden), in his spare time, and fighting for the R.F.C., he won the Amateur Lightweight Championship of the World (he retired from the ring, undefeated, in 1923).

    After the war, having built up a bit of capital, he went into business for himself in various technical companies, for one of which he invented a new system for the transmission of radio pictures and for another of which, in 1934, he entered the winning aircraft in the King’s Cup air race. In the City of London he will be particularly remembered for his connection with Sound City Films, Earl’s Court, Alpha Cement and Pressed Steel, and it was through private intelligence work in Germany connected with the latter that he was able to give his old friend Winston Churchill the figure of a German expenditure on armaments amounting to £800 million annually. This figure was used by Churchill in a Parliamentary question to Neville Chamberlain and was not denied by the latter.

    “Little Bill” developed his sources of intelligence in Scandinavia and Germany, and it was quickly arranged that the fruit of these should be passed to the Secret Service with which, from then on, he became ever more closely associated , until he was appointed—by the then Colonel Menzies—Head of the British Secret Service for all the Americas. In the end it was Churchill who gave him his marching orders. Churchill told him, “Your duty lies there. You must go.”

    He went. Well, that is the man who became one of the great secret agents of the last war, and it would be a foolish person who would argue his credentials; to which I would add, from my own experience, that he is a man of few words and has a magnetic personality and the quality of making anyone ready to follow him to the ends of the earth. (He also used to make the most powerful Martinis in America and serve them in quart glasses.)

    I first met him in 1941 when I was on a plain-clothes mission to Washington with my chief, Rear-Admiral J.H. Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence, the most inspired appointment to this office since “Blinker” Hall, because, when the days were dark and the going bleak, he worked so passionately, and made his subordinates do the same, to win the war. Our chief business was with the American Office of Naval Intelligence, but we quickly came within the orbit of “Little Bill” and of his American teammate, General “Wild Bill” Donovan (Congressional Medal of Honour), who was subsequently appointed head of the O.S.S., the first true American Secret Service.

    This splendid American, being almost twice the size of Stephenson, though no match for him, I would guess, in unarmed combat, became known as “Big Bill,” and the two of them, in absolute partnership and with Mr. Edgar Hoover of the F.B.I, as a formidable full-back, became the scourge of the enemy throughout the Americas.

    As a result of that first meeting with these three men, the D.N.I, reported most favourably on our Secret Service tie-ups with Washington, and “Little Bill,” from his highly mechanized eyrie in the Rockefeller Centre and his quiet apartment in Dorset House, was able to render innumerable services to the Royal Navy that could not have been asked for, let alone executed, through the normal channels.

    Bill Stephenson worked himself almost to death during the war, carrying out undercover operations and often dangerous assignments (they culminated with the Gouzenko case that put Fuchs in the bag) that can only be hinted at in the fascinating book that Mr. Montgomery Hyde has, for some reason, been allowed to write—the first book, so far as I know, about the British secret agent whose publication has received official blessing.

    “Little Bill” was awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit, and I think he is the only non-American ever to receive this highest honour for a civilian. But it was surely the “Quiet Canadian’s” supreme reward, as David Bruce (today American Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, but in those days one of the most formidable secret agents of the O.S.S.) records, that when Sir Winston Churchill recommended Bill Stephenson for a knighthood he should have minuted to King George VI, “This one is dear to my heart.”

    It seems that other and far greater men than me also have their heroes.

    Note: This article was actually a reprint of Fleming's introduction to the 1962 book The Quiet Canadian: The Secret Service Story of Sir William Stephenson, by H. Montgomery Hyde (published in America as Room 3603: The Story of the British Intelligence Center in New York during World War II). Hyde had worked as a wartime censorship officer attached to BSC.

    Rear-Admiral J.H. Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence was the "real" M, and General “Wild Bill” Donovan was the spymaster who gave Fleming the .38 Police Positive Colt revolver inscribed "For Special Services," either as a reward for lobbying for Donovan's selection as head of the O.S.S. or for writing that organization's charter.

    The "Gouzenko case that put Fuchs in the bag" refers to Igor Sergeyevich Gouzenko (1919 – 1982) a cipher clerk for the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, Canada. He defected in 1945 with treasure trove of documents that revealed the extent Soviet espionage activities in the U.S. and Canada and helped kickstart the Cold War.

    The Canadians were initially skeptical of Gouzenko--an exception was William Stephenson, who argued strongly for taking in Gouzenko before his life was endangered. Stephenson arranged for Gouzenko to be taken into protective custody and transferred to Camp X, where the SOE and OSS trained their agents for secret service work.

    Among the spies rumbled by Gouzenko was Emil Julius Klaus Fuchs (1911 – 1988), a German theoretical physicist who had worked on the Manhattan Project and at Las Alamos. After the war Fuchs moved to Britain and head of the Theoretical Physics Division at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment. In 1950 he was convicted of supplying information from the Manhattan Project to the Soviet Union (to whom he'd given the principal theoretical outline for creating a hydrogen bomb) and imprisoned.

    According to John Pearson, the shooting of the Japanese cipher expert in Casino Royale was inspired by one of Fleming's adventures with Stephenson. A Japanese cipher expert, on the staff of the Japanese Consul-General in New York, was located in an office in Rockefeller Center on the floor below Stephenson, who had the Consul’s office cased and the movements of the cipher expert studied. After duplicate keys were prepared, Stephenson and Fleming, along with two assistants, entered the office at three in the morning to make microfilms of the Japanese code books.

    Andrew Lycett notes that "Stephenson, in his dotage, made much of his claim that Fleming was a graduate of Camp X...Ian, according to his mentor, was supposed to have been the camp’s star pupil. He passed the key agent’s initiative test--placing a bomb in the main Toronto power station--by bluffing his way into the complex and disarming everyone with his plummiest Old Etonian accent. He did the self-defence and unarmed combat courses, and performed an arduous underwater swim at night from the camp to an old tanker moored offshore, where--shades of James Bond in Live and Let Die--he fixed a limpet mine against the hull. But the historian David Stafford, who examined these claims, found no evidence that Ian had ever completed a course at the camp. Ian may have taken a day-trip to view an important establishment and may even have participated in some training."
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,342MI6 Agent
    awesome stuff as always Revelator. there's a monument marking the approximate location of Camp X a couple hours down the road from me, along the lake at the edge of what is now outer suburban sprawl.
    Here it is in GoogleMaps, you can see the monument if you toggle to StreetView
    People often ask me how closely the “hero” of my thrillers, James Bond, resembles a true, live secret agent. To begin with, James Bond is not in fact a hero, but an efficient and not very attractive blunt instrument in the hands of government, and though he is a meld of various qualities I noted among Secret Service men and commandos in the last war, he remains, of course, a highly romanticised version of the true spy. The real thing, who may be sitting next to you as you read this, is another kind of beast altogether.
    this is a good quote, especially when we start arguing whether Bond should be a role model for us impressionable young viewers.
    Revelator wrote:
    According to John Pearson, the shooting of the Japanese cipher expert in Casino Royale was inspired by one of Fleming's adventures with Stephenson. A Japanese cipher expert, on the staff of the Japanese Consul-General in New York, was located in an office in Rockefeller Center on the floor below Stephenson, who had the Consul’s office cased and the movements of the cipher expert studied. After duplicate keys were prepared, Stephenson and Fleming, along with two assistants, entered the office at three in the morning to make microfilms of the Japanese code books.
    Number24 was just asking about possible real life inspirations for the first kill in another thread. Hope he sees this.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    Thanks very much Caractacus. How neat that you've seen the location of Camp X! It all looks so normal now.
    this is a good quote, especially when we start arguing whether Bond should be a role model for us impressionable young viewers.

    It is a good quote, though I think it's only partially accurate. The Bond of Casino Royale certainly was a not very attractive blunt instrument, but with each book he became more human, more like Fleming, and more straightforwardly heroic. Fleming was troubled by this--hence the denunciation of Bond at the end of The Spy Who Loved Me--but was unable to stop the process.

    The Bond of the post-CR books is a much more thoughtful and humane character than the Bond of the films (even Craig's Bond), which further complicates the issue of the character's inappropriateness as a role model, especially when the stories practice fantasy-fulfillment.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    FOREWORD to Airline Detective

    By Ian Fleming

    One day in the summer of 1955 I was sitting in the innermost sanctum of Scotland Yard—the private office of the head of the C.I.D.—admiring, with Sir Ronald Howe, some forged five-pound notes and gossiping about crime in general. It was a chance, purposeless visit. I had had to do with Ronnie Howe during my wartime years in Naval Intelligence and the friendship had continued.

    Ronnie Howe said that he would be flying to Istanbul in a few days’ time for the annual meeting of Interpol, why didn’t I come?

    I had imagined that these meetings of Interpol would be top secret affairs held in remote and heavily guarded police headquarters. In fact it transpired that they were much like the meetings of other international organisations in smart hotels with banquets and speeches and open sessions during which the top policemen of the world read learned papers from flower-banked podiums. Their main object was friendly contact and, if secrets were discussed, they would be confined to private luncheon parties or hotel bedrooms.

    Ronnie Howe said that the only other journalist who ever bothered to attend was Percy Hoskins of the Daily Express, and it crossed my mind that if he, by far the most brilliant crime reporter in England, thought these meetings worth while, so should I.

    I was at that time Foreign Manager of the Sunday Times and, thanks to the kind heart of Lord Kemsley, more or less able to write my own ticket so far as foreign assignments were concerned. So I fixed things up and in due course flew off in the same plane as Ronnie Howe, Percy Hoskins and a man called Donald Fish who, it turned out, had something to do with airline security.

    It was great fun in Istanbul and by scraping together fragments from official papers and speeches and tying them up with informed gossip, I was able to write two long dispatches on “The Secrets of Interpol” whose success was assisted by the Istanbul riots which took place conveniently over that week-end and on which I was able to give a scoop to my paper.

    The next year I went again to the conference, this time at Vienna, but my “revelations” of the year before had put the police chiefs on their guard and, on this occasion, I was only able to produce a pretty thin three-quarters of a column. The learned papers read by the police chiefs had been more rigorously censored than before and were more carefully guarded, and the gossip dried up in my presence.

    I skipped the next year’s meeting in Lisbon, and that was the end of my acquaintanceship with Interpol.

    At the two earlier meetings the British quartet saw a lot of each other and I was interested, and rather annoyed, to note that on no occasion was I able to extract a single grain of news or information from Donald Fish. Ronnie Howe was always generous in providing Percy Hoskins and me with snippets of background, though he was always careful to distinguish between what was secret and what might be published. In fact I think he cannily used me on one occasion to warn the British public about forged travelers’ cheques. But at least he “gave,” and he realised that Percy Hoskins and I had somehow to justify our existence at these conferences.

    Donald Fish couldn’t have cared less. No amount of wheedling or badgering would persuade him to yield one word of information about the work of his little air security sub-committee, which got on with its business far from the madding throng of the conference hall. He ate and drank and chatted with us, this tall, rangy man with the poker player’s eyes, but he revealed nothing, and both Percy Hoskins and I had to admire him for it, knowing what we had been able to extract from national police chiefs temporarily in their cups, or suffering from that suppressed vanity that affects men who know many secrets for which an audience is always forbidden them.

    No, Donald Fish was one of the securest security men I have ever met, and now that he has retired and is free to tell some of his stories, the reader can be pretty certain he is getting the real stuff. There is nothing wishy-washy in these seventeen chapters, which are some of the best I have ever read in any language on police work.

    Security, except when it becomes counter-espionage, is a dreary subject, and I have never envied the security men I have met in my life because so much of their work is of the “policeman on the beat” variety—testing door handles and window frames, and investigating mysterious noises that are always loose shutters. The reward for the work lies in the occasional scoop, and it is the hallmark of the true security officer that when the scoop comes along his mind is not so dulled by previous routine that he fails to recognise it.

    Donald Fish and I had dinner together one evening at Sachers in Vienna at the end of the 1956 Interpol meeting, and he did admit that he had had exciting times with B.O.A.C. in between stretches of drudgery. He was due to retire in two or three years’ time and I urged him to think of writing his memoirs, but, like so many expert technicians, he admitted that he couldn't really distinguish between the wood and the trees in his job, and that anyway there was something magical about writing, and he couldn’t master the art. This or that incident had of course been exciting, but he simply couldn’t get it down on paper. I told him not to despair, but just to do his best and then find a professional writer to smooth the corners of his prose and prune out the irrelevancies and the libel.

    In the event he followed my advice. Donald Fish teamed up with John Pearson of the Sunday Times to produce a text that reads true and yet is attractively written. A highly successful series in the Sunday Times resulted, a promising television series is in the offing, and there is this book.

    Many people who have led exciting lives had talked to me, as they will with any author, “about writing something when they retire.” Donald Fish’s book, with its solid writing, unobtrusive background and local colour, is technically an example of how a man, himself untalented in story telling, can yet contrive a thoroughly expert distillation of some of the exciting things that have happened to him.

    To say anything more about the book would be to write a review of it. This is not my task, and what I have written so far is merely to explain how I came to be asked to write this introduction. I will now leave Donald Fish and his book with my blessing and, quite out of context, tell two stories about “security” that have always stuck in my mind.

    During the war one of the Assistant Directors of the Naval Intelligence Division in which I was employed was responsible for security—the physical security of ships and dockyards, the prevention of loose talk, the security of communications and so forth—thoroughly dull work that was often allotted to rather dull individuals. In 1942, Noel Coward had obtained Admiralty permission to use one of H.M. destroyers for the film In Which We Serve and he was naturally anxious to discover her name and when she would be available for filming.

    Noel Coward, who told me this story, knew the Assistant Director of Naval Intelligence of that date and he frequently rang him up to find out when the ship would be available, but since the whereabouts of H.M. ships was deadly secret, he always received a dusty answer, until one day Coward was delighted to get a call from the Admiralty. The Assistant Director of Naval Intelligence himself was on the telephone, and immensely mysterious.
    “I say, Noel, you know what they do in India, hunting I mean?”
    “What the hell are you talking about?”
    “Well, you know people go on safari and they shoot things?”
    “So I'm told.”
    “Well, now, the thing they shoot will be available at Portsmouth next week.”
    At last Noel Coward got the message. “Tigers!” he called excitedly. “You mean she’s called The Tiger?”
    “For God’s sake be careful, dammit! This is an open line.”

    Those who were in the war will have their own stories along these lines, but I think the saga of Mohammed Ali, the green tea merchant, was probably unique in its example of security gone mad.

    The political warfare experts, picking up the strings from the end of the 1914-18 war, began dropping leaflets over Germany almost as soon as war was declared, and we all remember how asinine many of those leaflets were. For some idiotic security reason the leaflets were known by the code word of “Nickel,” though why they should have a code word at all nobody could understand. Anyway, when the time came for the invasion of Africa, it was decided that a “Nickel” should be prepared to rally the North African Arabs to the Allied cause. Something simple was devised with a crude picture of Winston Churchill on one side and Roosevelt on the other, and some such slogan as “Victory rests with the Allies.” In a “Top Secret” folder this project was put into the machinery of the Political Warfare Department, finally reaching, by devious routes and under a watertight cover story, the sole Arabic expert in the Political Warfare Department—a certain Mohammed Ali, a green-tea merchant from Casablanca who had rallied to the Free French and had come over to England after the collapse of France.

    Mohammed Ali was instructed to translate the English slogan into Arabic characters and the finished product was then printed in its millions and trillions and shipped out to Gibraltar in cases marked “oranges” or “beer,” and carefully stored in some top-secret depot in the Rock in preparation for the great day.

    When the day came, fighters from the Fleet Air Arm were loaded up with consignments of the vital “Nickel” and took off again and again all through the day of the landings, sprinkling the whole of Morocco and Algiers with the leaflets.

    After the invasion had succeeded, an American intelligence officer who had taken part in the landings came over to Gibraltar and found his way to the leader of the Allied Political Warfare group. He had a handful of the leaflets and he said to the propagandist in charge, “What the hell’s this stuff you've been dropping all over the country?”
    Stiffly the political warrior replied, “Those are leaflets to rally the Arabs.”
    “Do you know what they say?” asked the American.
    “Yes,” said the propagandist, “of course I do. They say ‘Victory rests with the Allies’.”
    “No they don’t,” said the American. “They say ‘Buy Mohammed Ali’s Green Tea’.”

    Well, those are two stories about “security”—the Evelyn Waugh model, so to speak. The Donald Fish marque is something very different indeed.

    6th June, 1961
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    The Russians Make Mistakes, Too (Esquire, Nov. 1960)
    Some Russian Intelligence boners that make the U-2 fiasco seem trivial

    By Ian Fleming

    Soviet Russia has the greatest espionage machine in all history. U.S. Secretary of State Christian Herter said recently that the Communist countries had 300,000 agents operating throughout the world. I assume he was referring to centrally organized agents, each with a code number, a specific task and some kind of pay roll. But a powerful ideology such as communism has a vast unseen army of sympathizers. These may be more or less secretly convinced Communists who are “agin” their national government of the day, or they may be those hosts of faceless ones with a grudge. The small, mean man seeking revenge can strike his little blow by looking up the address of the nearest Soviet consul or ambassador in the telephone book and writing him a letter like this:

    “Dear Sir: You may be interested to know that in Workshop No. 25, Department of Hydraulics, Aeronautics Division, of the Magnum Combine factory at Blankville, we are working on a lightweight fuel pump with the following specifications....

    “Since my pals tell me this is probably designed as part of the fuel system of an Intercontinental missile I think you should know about it. A Well Wisher.”

    This kind of letter in the hands of the central evaluating machine in Moscow or Leningrad can be worth diamonds, and it costs not a dime. And the interesting point about free-lance espionage is that it is chiefly one way from the Western bloc to the Eastern bloc.

    The sort of Liberal Socialist society in which we in the West live seldom attracts the man who has a grudge he wants to work off by way of revenge. But communism is militant; the man with a grudge thinks “they” will know what to do with a letter like this. “They” will put it to good use and hit back with it, hurting my country, hurting my factory, hurting my foreman, who said yesterday that I was a useless incompetent.

    This is only a tiny side issue in the great espionage battle between the East and the West—a small bonus the revolutionary always picks up from the camp of order and establishment. Russia has other advantages. She has almost complete control of her frontiers and of her communications and postal systems. She herself has one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn, while the cultivated Russian is probably the best linguist in the world. Apart from the Communist parties and organizations which democracy allows to flourish in her midst, Russia can call upon several nationalities—Poles, Czechs, Balts, Hungarians, for instance—who can disappear quite easily into the communities of these nations in the West, whereas to send a White Russian into such a highly stereotyped country as Russia is tantamount to murder.

    Having all these cards in her hand, the weaknesses in the Russian espionage system are few, but often fatal. Probably the greatest is that the Russians, like the German Secret Service in the last war, are biased evaluators of Intelligence.

    Stalin refused to believe that Hitler would attack him, despite documented warnings supplied him by the West. Excessive Nazi ravage of European Russia, with millions of unnecessary casualties, was the result.

    Stalin refused to believe that the West would resist in Greece, Turkey and Berlin. Major defeats of Soviet purpose followed.

    Stalin grievously misread the evidence of U.S. readiness to reply in Korea, despite the historical proof of the American “Pearl Harbor complex,” i.e. the sharp reaction to plain provocation.

    The Soviets, whether under Stalin or Khrushchev, guessed wrong even in Communist countries—Yugoslavia, Poland and Hungary, to name only their most drastic errors.

    Preferring the “pretty picture,” the Russians too often will be given too pretty a picture by overzealous agents. (One of the chief dangers for Russia today is in allowing herself to underestimate the West by incorrect evaluation inspired, for instance, by the much publicized Nuclear Disarmers in England or by the equally publicized failure of individual American missiles, and, above all, by the constant breast-beating in the West.)

    The other source of weakness for Russia is the intoxicating effect that contact with Western freedoms may have on even the most highly trained Soviet agent who was one hundred per cent Communist when he was posted as assistant military attaché to Ottawa, Washington. London, or Paris, but whose loyalty to the system gradually disintegrates. It is in this latter realm that the West has had some of its greatest victories in the espionage war.

    The blackest day for the immense Russian spy organization was probably September 5, 1945, when a humble cipher clerk in the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa walked out with more than a hundred top Secret papers revealing the Soviet network in Canada.

    Igor Gouzenko’s defection came like a thunderclap. At first Canadian officials would not take him seriously. But the Royal Commission which was eventually set up to investigate his revelations led to the conviction of six Canadian traitors, including a Communist M.P., Fred Rose, who was one of Russia’s key men in Canada.

    But more than that—the Gouzenko defection not only alerted the U.S.A., Britain and Canada to the existence of a hitherto largely unsuspected Russian spy organization, it resulted in a remarkable chain reaction which in the end led to the discovery of more vital spy-traitors. Among those to whom Gouzenko eventually brought disaster were Dr. Klaus Fuchs, Dr. Allan Nunn May, Harry Gold, David Greenglass and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

    Today, Gouzenko is a Canadian. No picture or official description of him has ever been circulated. He lives with his wife and two children somewhere in one of Canada's vast farmlands. Always within reach are the Canadian Mounted Police. He has a job and a life income of $100 monthly from a trust fund set up by a grateful Canadian millionaire. His autobiography, a best-seller which was made into a film, brought him well over $100,000.

    It was the young Briton, Dr. Allan Nunn May, who was the first victim of Gouzenko’s revelations. Born on May 2nd, 1911, at Kings Norton, near Birmingham, England, May had a brilliant record at Cambridge. In 1942 he joined the Cavendish Laboratory there, where many early atomic discoveries were made. In 1943 he was moved to Canada and in due course saw much top-secret atomic experimental work in Chicago and various vital U.S. installations.

    Colonel Zabotin, official the Russian military attaché in Ottawa, actually their chief spy in Canada, was instructed by Moscow to contact May, who had never made any secret of his left-wing sympathies. Zabotin used a subordinate, Lieutenant Pavel Angelov, to make the contact.

    From then on May gave the Russians all the information on atomic research in the U.S.A. and Canada that he could find.

    Then May was told he was to return to London, where elaborate arrangements were made by the Russians for renewed contact with him. He got back to London just after Gouzenko defected, but he never kept the appointments made for him. Did he fear that the net was closing? We shall never know. Five months after his return he was arrested. At the Old Bailey on May 1, 1946, he pleaded guilty to giving away secrets to “a foreign power.” He was sentenced to ten years’ penal servitude. The information he gave the Russians has been valued at a million pounds in terms of research costs. In return he received $700 and two bottles of Scotch.

    May’s conviction was a blow to the Russians, but they also achieved some kind of gain. The U.S. clamped down for the time being on giving further secrets to their allies.

    Klaus Fuchs has been described as the most deadly and baffling spy in all history; his capture came four wars after May’s.

    Fuchs was born in 1911 near Frankfurt, Germany.

    As a youth he joined the Young Communist League. After Hitler came to power and the Communists went underground, he came to Britain, where he was befriended, and studied at Bristol and Edinburgh universities. As an alien he was interned when war broke out, first in the Isle of Mann, then in Canada. He was later released and was brought back to England for scientific research. Shortly thereafter he made contact with Russian agents, and handed over information. In December, 1943, he went to America, and before long had a comprehensive picture of U.S. atomic projects.

    This was a wonderful scoop for the Russians. They contacted him in New York through Harry Gold, whom Fuchs knew only as “Raymond.” Fuchs gave Gold a flow of major intelligence hidden in newspaper wrappings. Gold passed them on to Yokovlev, Russian
    vice-consul in New York and top spy. Soon Fuchs was at Los Alamos, New Mexico. He told Gold, and thus Moscow, when the first trial of the atomic bomb was about to be held.

    In 1946 Fuchs returned to Britain. He made no attempt to contact the Russians until early 1947 and then had eight meetings with their agents in two years, His illness in 1948 probably prevented him from having more.

    By this time the F.B.I. was hot on the trail of the leakages which were now so apparent. All clues pointed to Fuchs. The British were told of America’s suspicions in 1949. But there was no evidence for action. There followed two strange interviews with the top British security officer, William Skardon. The first got nowhere. The second, a few months later in January, 1950, was at Fuchs’ own request. He talked. He was arrested. The Lord Chief Justice sentenced him to fourteen years, the maximum sentence possible.

    Harry Gold was next to come under suspicion. He had joined the Russian network in the days of the great Depression, long before Stalin and the atom bomb. He was an old hand by 1943 and was regarded as a first-class operative. That was why he was chosen to contact Fuchs when the latter arrived in the United States.

    He did his job with his usual cunning and resourcefulness. When Fuchs was sentenced he may have had some uneasy moments. But he had gotten away with it for twenty years: why not this time?

    But Fuchs, in his prison cell, was still willing to talk. For hours F.B.I. men grilled him. Literally hundreds of pictures of suspects were shown to him in an effort to get him to identify his contact man. A picture of Gold, now under suspicion as a result of information from a woman, Elizabeth Bentley, who had become disillusioned with the Communist cause, was shown to Fuchs. He failed to recognize him. The F.B.I. then took moving pictures of Gold, and Fuchs recognized him from his walk and mannerisms of posture. Gold was sentenced to thirty years’ imprisonment.

    Among Gold’s contacts had been a David Greenglass. He was a sergeant in the U.S. Army—a machinist technician. His sister, Ethel, had married Julius Rosenberg, a Communist. In 1944 Greenglass was sent to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on secret atomic work. The red network went into action. The Rosenbergs were asked to persuade Greenglass to “co-operate.” Although in a subordinate position, Greenglass was smart enough to glean many of the most vital details of the atom bomb.

    When the war ended, Greenglass started an engineering concern with his brother and Rosenberg. He must have forgotten most of his spy work—until he read in the papers of Fuchs’ arrest. Rosenberg realized the danger: Gold would come under suspicion, then Greenglass. He gave the latter money to decamp to Mexico, but Greenglass preferred to stay in the U.S. In time he was arrested, pleaded guilty, and sentenced to fifteen years. Above all he talked, and that meant the end for the Rosenbergs.

    Unlike Greenglass, the Rosenbergs fought to the end, but were sentenced to death on April 5, 1951, the first American citizens ever to receive the death sentence in peacetime for spying. Through legal delaying devices and appeals they avoided their fate for another two years. They died in June, 1953.

    It was the end of the Fuchs spy ring. Who knows when it might have been discovered—if at all—but for Igor Gouzenko?

    The bitter spy war went on. The F.B.I. picked up many useful small fry, but its next big catch, in August, 1957, was Colonel Rudolf Ivanovich Abel of the Russian Counterintelligence Service. The F.B.I. triumphantly described him as “the highest-ranking Soviet national ever arrested in the United States as a spy.”

    Abel had slipped into the United States illegally from Canada in 1948 and had used short-wave radio for direct communication with Moscow. It wasn’t until nine years later that he was given away by a self-confessed Russian spy who fed him information—Lieut. Colonel Reine Hayhanan. Abel was tried, found guilty and received concurrent sentences of thirty, ten and five years, and fines totaling $3,000. This was a nasty setback for the Russians.

    In 1954 the Russians had another serious setback—this time in Europe. A Russian secret police agent and two East German secret police surrendered to the Americans. The Russian was Captain Nikolai Khokhlov of the M.V.D. He said he had been sent from Moscow to Frankfurt in West Germany to murder an anti-Communist Russian named Georgi Okolovich.

    The three men carried guns disguised as cigarette cases. These guns had special silencers, were electrically fired, and for good measure their lead bullets held a deadly poison. The plan was named Operation Rhine.

    Not only did Khokhlov give a full account of his mission, he gave much useful over-all information on the workings of the M.V.D. and details of the murder of Leon Trotsky in Mexico. He said he surrendered to the West because his wife, whom he had left behind in Russia, told him she would have nothing to do with an assassin.

    The same year, far away in Australia, the Russians had perhaps the worst setback of all. Vladimir Mikhailovich Petrov, the forty-five-year-old third secretary of the Soviet Embassy in Canberra, asked for political asylum. It was the biggest break since the Gouzenko case, for Petrov was head of the Soviet Secret Police in Australia. Australia might seem unpromising ground for spying, but it held vital secrets in the 1,500-mile desert rocket-testing range at Woomera, the desert atom-testing ground at Emu field, the missile and rocket development establishment at Salisbury near Adelaide, and the great uranium mines at Rum Jungle and Radium Hill.

    Following the Gouzenko precedent, Mr. Menzies, the Australian Premier, commissioned an investigation of Petrov’s revelations.

    This time the Russians seemed really worried. As with Gouzenko they claimed that Petrov had embezzled money and should be handed over to them as a “criminal.” They charged the use of “brutal violations of the generally accepted norms of international law.” And they broke off diplomatic relations with Australia, hastily recalling their entire Canberra staff.

    One of the first results of Petrov’s disclosures was the arrest in New Caledonia, France's most distant colony, of a French woman diplomat, Madame Rose-Marie Ollier, who was named as having told Russia about arms shipments to Indo-China.

    While Petrov’s disclosures showed that his spy ring had failed to secure any military or strategic information of vital importance, the great value of his evidence was its detailed description of the complicated setup of the Soviet spy organization, its efforts to secure informants, and its methods of keeping contact with Australians who had visited the Soviet Union. It resulted in a useful tightening up of Australian security methods.

    Today the Petrovs are Australian citizens. Like the Gouzenkos in Canada, they are living quietly, having assumed another name.

    It was five years before Moscow recovered from this rebuff and resumed diplomatic relations with Australia.

    One man who duped the Russians successfully is Russian-born film producer Boris Morros. For twelve years he posed as a Soviet spy, and was a most successful American secret agent. He made some of the Laurel and Hardy films and won fame with his Carnegie Hall. He was born in St. Petersburg and came to the U.S. in 1922 as producer of Chauve-Souris, a musical comedy. He has said that in his counter-spying activities he made sixty-eight trips to Europe, including visits to Moscow and Berlin.

    He was closely connected with the arrest in New York in 1957 of Jack Soble, his wife, Myra Penskaya Soble, and Jacob Albam on charges of handing over information to the Russians.

    In 1957, Morros also named Mrs. Alfred Stern, formerlv Miss Martha Dodd, daughter of Professor William E. Dodd, a pre-war U.S. ambassador to Germany, as a Soviet spy. Before the Sterns could be arrested they escaped to Mexico, from where they are believed to have made their way to Russia.

    Morros has stated that the Russians told him they had fifty-five business firms in the U.S. as spy covers. They wanted him to expand his Boris Morros Music Company in Los Angeles into another cover.

    Morros first became entangled with the Soviet spy web in 1945, a few years after he accepted an offer made by a Russian to bring his father from the Soviet Union to join him in America. But he lost no time in informing the F.B.I. of his entanglement, and from then on played his perilous double game.

    But what does all this amount to? Mr. Herter has proudly announced that in recent years some three hundred sixty persons in eleven free countries have been convicted of espionage for the Soviet Union. Two hundred forty-one were in West Germany, sixty-five in Finland, fifteen in Norway, thirteen in the United States, eleven in Sweden, seven in Denmark, six in Britain, two each in Turkey and Holland, one each in France and Japan.

    Numerically, it should be noted, this haul, mostly from West Germany, amounts to only about one per cent of the Soviet espionage army at home and abroad. But statistics are meaningless in the matter of numbers, for Gouzenko, although only a cipher clerk, was worth a whole division of miscellaneous spies.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    Books of the Year (The Sunday Times)

    Dec. 27, 1959:

    Pirates and Predators By Col. R. Meinertzhagen, (Oliver & Boyd. 70s.)

    This is rather a cheat. Pirates and Predators is not the most interesting book I read in 1959, but I am using it as a peg to introduce Colonel Meinertzhagen’s writing to a wider public, because his Kenya Diary, 1902-1906 (surely the flattest title of 1958?) was by far the most exciting autobiography I have read since the war.

    Pirates and Predators is a book for “the naturalist who has everything.” It consists of highly personal and often bloodthirsty notes, with plenty of illustrations, of the chief gangsters among birds, divided by Colonel Meinertzhagen into professionals (hawks and owls) and amateurs (certain passerines, storks, herons, cormorants, gulls, etc.). The whole book adds up to a study of violence among birds.

    Colonel Meinertzhagen was once more famous as a spy than as a naturalist, and there is a thrilling passage in T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom giving an account of one of Meinertzhagen’s most famous exploits—the planting of a false set of General Allenby’s plans on the Turks; and there is a quality of acute and highly intelligent observation in all his writing. He also has totally uninhibited views on everything from birds to humans and, on the first page of Pirates and Predators, he lets fly, typically, with “The greatest vermin of all is Man himself.” Just the stuff for the feather-pates in the featherbeds of today!

    Dec. 25, 1960:

    After the Shoals of Capricorn, South Latitude and Isle of Cloves, it has been a long wait for Dr. F. D. Ommanney’s fourth travel book Eastern Windows (Longmans), but he continues to write as beautifully, shrewdly and surprisingly as ever and, as usual, one can almost warm one’s hands at his zest for living.

    For Thrillophiles, two crackerjack Westerners by something of a mystery man, Evan Evans, who was killed at Cassino—Song of the Whip and Montana Kid (Penguin).

    Dec. 24, 1961:

    My happiest discovery has been two real-life adventure stories by William Travis, a very odd fellow indeed who lives in the Seychelles—Shark for Sale and Beyond the Reefs— extremely intelligent, well written, out-of-this-world books which, for some incredible reason, have escaped the reviewers. George Allen and Unwin should put their shoulders behind this potentially best-selling writer.

    Thrillers: The Wrong Side of the Sky by Gavin Lyall (Hodder & Stoughton); News of Murder by Anthony Lejeune (Macdonald); Season of Assassins by Geoffrey Wagner (Quadriga)—each for a different reason.

    Dec. 23, 1962:

    It has been a good year for the kind of thrillers I enjoy. The Hour of Maximum Danger, by James Barlow (Hamish Hamilton), was only spoilt for me by the author's use of the word “toilets” after having run the gamut of most of the Lady Chatterley words. The Ipcress File, by Len Deighton (Hodder & Stoughton), was a brilliant firework, but rather too “scatty” for my taste. I don’t think thrillers should be “funny.”

    Outstanding were Eric Ambler’s The Light of Day (Heinemann), full of vintage Amblerisms and a perfect example of the European thriller. Equally notable, in the transatlantic vein, was The Only Girl in the Game, by the ever reliable John MacDonald (Robert Hale).

    Both these books, totally different in idiom, do what I think a thriller should do—see you through a train or aeroplane journey and provide temporary escape if you are ill.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    Gary Powers and the Big Lie (Sunday Times, March 11, 1962)

    by Ian Fleming

    I have strong views about the Powers Case. It will go down to history, I think, as one of the classical espionage cases, classical in the sense of its majestic mishandling. I have nothing against Powers himself. He wasn’t a spy, he was just an extremely good pilot employed to operate an espionage device, one of the finest ever invented, a high-altitude photographical reconnaissance aircraft called the U2.

    In connection with this aircraft, which in fact was nothing but a very good “Spy in the Sky,” I have the impression that Americans can lie more safely in their beds today, and Englishmen, too, because of the intelligence brought back by planes of the U2 class piloted by young daredevils such as Powers. These planes, I believe, brought back target information whose possession by America, more voluminous and more accurate than could have been obtained by a million ground spies—if one could have got them in there and out again, which one couldn’t—has made it as possible as any other factor for America to negotiate from strength with Russia—to be able to tell Russia, or perhaps just to leak it discreetly, that in the case of a mass blast-off of I.C.B.M.s by Russia the sources of the attack and other military objectives in the U.S.S.R. could be devastated within minutes, bringing her, however much damage she might do to America and England, militarily to her knees.

    So let us take off our hats to the Spy in the Sky and move on to what went wrong in the case of Powers.

    Everyone knows that a spy gets paid danger-money for doing a very dangerous job. He knows that if he is caught he is going to get tortured in his most sensitive parts—and, believe me, it is those things the professional spy thinks of far more than of death itself—and then he is going to be killed. It has been so ever since the man from the opposition crept under the tent flap in the desert and listened to the plans of the enemy tribal chiefs and then, with luck, ran all night with the news, to where the camp fires of his own side were burning away in the hills. It has gone on like that through all history, and it is one of the most exciting of all human adventure stories—the single man, in the darkness, facing death alone for the sake of the great mass of his own countrymen.

    But the essence of the game—for, in a way, it is a tremendous game—is that, if the spy is caught, and whatever truth is tortured out of him, he is totally disavowed by his own side. Spying is a dirty business, why I have never quite understood. But the convention has always been maintained. If you are in uniform, you are okay. If you’re in civilian clothes you’re a pariah. Smith? Never heard of him, and Bang! You’re dead.

    Now every country in the world employs spies and always has done. Nowadays the big corporations employ them also, to spy on the other fellows' plans and designs—but that is another story. And it is total hypocrisy for any country to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude, to get on a high horse if they catch one of the other fellow’s spies. They’re damned glad they caught him, and the chief of the Red secret service chuckles at the discomfiture of the chief of the Purple secret service, and that’s that.

    But in the Powers case things went badly wrong. Powers was in fact a skilled pilot and not a spy—though he probably got plenty of security briefing and knew what he was in for, as he confessed straight away to the Russians, in accepting the huge sums of danger money. What went badly wrong was the handling of the case by the American Government (and here let me say that I am discussing this espionage case purely as a writer of spy thrillers. Let’s keep politics out of it. We in England made almighty fools of ourselves sending a middle-aged romantic called Crabbe out on a ten-mile underwater swim in Portland Bay to examine a Russian cruiser of the Sverdlov class. The only good thing that came out of that mess was that we kept our mouths shut and stuck to our story that we’d hardly ever heard of a man called Crabbe.)

    What happened in the Powers case? The Russians broke the story first, though presumably the C.I.A. knew, or guessed, that something bad had happened to Powers (I am told, by the way, that two or perhaps three other U2 planes had been lost before this one, though in these cases the pilot had either been killed or taken his death pill). The next move was with America, and now was the time for The Big Lie.

    This is how I, or rather M., the fictional head of the secret service in my James Bond stories, would have handled it. He would have said, through our Foreign Office, as follows, “Thank you very much indeed. One of our experimental aircraft is indeed missing from our Turkish base and your description of the pilot fits in with a man who escaped yesterday from detention at that base. This man Powers is a most unreliable person who has a girl friend in Paris (to explain the foreign currency Powers carried) and he hijacked our plane with the object, presumably, of flying to her. You are quite correct to hold him in detention, and he must clearly suffer all the rigours of Soviet law in the circumstances. Please return our plane and equipment in due course. Sorry you’ve been troubled. P.S.: Powers suffers from hallucinations and delusions of grandeur. Pay no attention to them.”

    Or something like that—bland, courteous, firm, but throwing Powers cold-bloodedly to the dogs. After all, it was against a contingency like that that he had been paid several thousand dollars a month. That was danger money. He was expendable. Expend him!

    Instead, what happened? Endless havering by the State Department, lies, half-truths and finally admissions from on high that led at least in part to the total collapse of the Summit meeting in Paris. If The Big Lie had been spoken, and stuck to, it would have been in the true traditions of espionage. The democratisation of espionage has muddied the ancient stream that dates back to the man crawling under the tent flap to spy in the sheikhs. Just look at the trouble it caused!

    And, just by the way, I don’t for a moment believe that Powers was shot down at 68,000 feet by Russian rockets. I believe it was sabotage at the Turkish base—delayed action bombs in the tail section. Turkey is a bit too close to Bulgaria for comfort. And the Bulgars are the best bomb technicians in the world.

    Finally, as an Englishman, I sincerely hope that a U3 is already flying and that a U4 is on the drawing-board. But may they be backed by the Big Lie as well as by young chauffeurs like Powers. This mess wasn’t Powers’s fault, or his plane’s—least of all that of Allen Dulles. It was the fault of the men who think that espionage is a dirty word. It isn’t. It has got to be done well, that’s all—from the Powers of this world, all the way up to the Presidents and the Prime Ministers.

    Note: You can read more about the Powers-U2 incident at Wikipedia and the BBC. Fleming was completely wrong about the cause of the plane's crash. The U2 was indeed brought down by an S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missile. The Soviets already knew about the U2 flights and were expecting Powers to show up.

    The Americans attempted an elaborate cover-up and pretended the U2 was actually a NASA weather research plane. But they did this under the impression that Powers had died and his plane was destroyed. Khrushchev delayed revealing the truth to entrap and embarrass the Americans. He succeeded. Eisenhower found himself in the dilemma--admitting responsibility for the U-2 flight would sour the Four Powers summit in Paris, but denying it would indicate to the press and Congress that he did not control his own administration. Fleming kept politics out of his article, but domestic pressure played a large part in forcing Eisenhower's hand.

    I could go into more detail, but that would get in the way of wishing all my fellow Fleming-fans a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I'll be back with more Fleming in early January. Until then, Happy Holidays!
  • Mr SnowMr Snow Station "J" JamaicaPosts: 1,733MI6 Agent
    Revelator wrote:

    I could go into more detail, but that would get in the way of wishing all my fellow Fleming-fans a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I'll be back with more Fleming in early January. Until then, Happy Holidays!

    And a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (well that's still to come) to you also.

    I've been reading these excerpts for ages and wanted to say thanks as they are more than interesting and an enjoyable read. The one I was most interested in was 'The Tragic Spy' (The Spy's Bedside Book) as this is the only book I have read you have listed. To be totally honest, as much as I enjoyed it some of the stories went over my head. I'll give it another go and take more time. It's a great looking book though - I bought this from the Folio Society years ago and is beautifully illustrated.

    Interesting thoughts on Raymond Chandler as well. I read 'The Big Sleep' years ago which was enjoyable and the film was equally as good - what's not to like that has a well written plot, a great story and a cast with Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Dorothy Malone among others. Talk about on screen chemistry with Bogart and Bacall - that's as good as it gets in my view. 'Our Man in Havana' is on its way so I'm looking forward to that and once again interesting to read Fleming's comments. I haven't read any of Eric Ambler's work but I will get 'The Mask of Dimitrios' simply because Bond is reading this on the plane in one of Fleming's novels. I hope I got that right, if not please correct me.

    Finally, it's a shame Fleming died in 1964 as I would have loved to have known what his thoughts would have been on 'The Human Factor' by Graham Greene. From what I've been told that book is the closest comparison as to what life is really like working at MI6. That I also thought was an excellent novel.

    Thanks again and look forward to the next excerpt. :) -{
    "Everyone knows rock n' roll attained perfection in 1974; It's a scientific fact". - Homer J Simpson
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    Thanks OGG007! Glad you've been enjoying the posts.
    OGG007 wrote:
    I haven't read any of Eric Ambler's work but I will get 'The Mask of Dimitrios' simply because Bond is reading this on the plane in one of Fleming's novels. I hope I got that right, if not please correct me.

    That's correct. Mask is a classic and I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Almost all of Ambler's pre-war thrillers are excellent and worth reading. The same goes for Chandler's post-Big Sleep novels.
    Finally, it's a shame Fleming died in 1964 as I would have loved to have known what his thoughts would have been on 'The Human Factor' by Graham Greene. From what I've been told that book is the closest comparison as to what life is really like working at MI6.

    He might have reacted as he did to Le Carre's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, which he discussed with ex-CIA chief Allen Dulles (https://www.ajb007.co.uk/topic/47497/ian-fleming-and-cia-chief-allen-dulles-discuss-spycraft/):

    FLEMING: We've had very interesting book published in England which I see is now on sale here, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. It's a very, very fine spy story.

    DULLES: I've read it. I got an advance copy of it. [Playfully] But I thought somebody was invading your field a little bit. You're having some competition there, aren't you?

    FLEMING: I don't object to that. Because first of all, I admire this book very much. It’s very well written. But of course, the only trouble about this is, it’s taking the “mickey” out of the spy business.

    DULLES [Laughing]: Explain that a little bit. I'd like to get you to explain that.

    FLEMING: Well, none of us wants to do it. I mean, none of us professional writers about spies want this to happen. We want the romance—at least I do; I’m talking for myself—I want the romance and the fun and the fantasy to go on. If you reduced the whole thing to police daywork or ordinary secret-service daywork, it would bore the reader to tears.

    DULLES: Well, I didn't think this did.

    FLEMING: No, no. It didn't. It was well done. But what he does to the spy story is to take the fun out of it. This is a serious, a most depressing, book. I mean, it's a book that one reads with great respect, but it isn't a book I would take an airplane journey. Because it wouldn’t take my mind off the airplane. It might even increase my fears and nervousness—

    DULLES: I didn't even know you had any!
    Thanks again and look forward to the next excerpt.

    You're very welcome, it should arrive tomorrow!
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    Girl’s Best Friend (Sunday Times, Dec. 09, 1956)

    Diamond. By Emily Hahn. (Weidenfeld & Nicolson.18s.)

    By Ian Fleming

    I am one of those people who actually buy books. I think I have done this all my life because I like bookshops and booksellers, and I certainly used to like all the books I bought which, up to the war, were 90 per cent. fiction.

    After the war I started buying books again, but the proportion of fiction dropped very rapidly. I don’t think it was because I was getting older, I think it was because novels became increasingly introspective and “difficult” and stopped having plots. Instead I read more stories of travel and adventure and reportage. In these there are no wastes of introspective dialogue and none of those contrived psychological situations which I, the hero, would have solved in the first chapter by emigrating to Canada and getting away from the dreadful woman.

    So books like Diamond have become my escape-reading where, before the war, I would have bought, apart from the obvious ones, the latest T. F. Powys, Liam O’Flaherty or A. E. Coppard. Of course, the technique of reportage has improved out of all knowledge. Miss Emily Hahn is a graduate of the New Yorker Profile school, which has for thirty years been turning out the best contemporary history. She also holds degrees in mining engineering and mineralogy, which explains American advertisements describing Diamond as “the sparkling new book by the world’s most beautiful mining engineer.”

    Miss Hahn’s story is not the whole history of the diamond. The Indian and Brazilian fields are barely mentioned. It is the story of the great diamond fields and mines of Africa where the first diamond was found in 1866 or 1867—by the Boer child who picked up the pretty pebble. The rush was slow in developing and expert geologists who scouted the Kimberley veld poured typically professional cold water on the myth of the pretty pebbles.

    One of these, a. Mr. J. R. Gregory, representing a London diamond firm, reported dogmatically that the veld was not diamondiferous. The few stones that had been picked up, he announced, were brought to the locality in the crops of ostriches. His firm, without wondering where the ostrich had found the diamonds in the first place, accepted the expertise and dropped all interest in the veld. A year later the rush was on. And then came the great diamond names—Barnato, Belt, Joel, Dunkels, Robinson, Wernher, and, finally, the Oppenheimers, who head the industry today.

    Emily Hahn examines them all with a sharp, neat pen. She quotes the music-hall lyrics about them at the tum of the century when the South African millionaires were collectively known as “Piggy.” “Piggy will pay, pay, pay!” the ladies of the chorus caroled blithely as they went through their dance routines.

    She tells the story of the discovery of the Cullinan—a great heavy chunk of blue-white diamond so big that the finder could not close his hand over it—and of that other huge stone found a few years ago in the Premier mine that somehow got into the crusher and was pulverised. She writes about the early prospectors, IDB, and about Hannay, the man who “made” diamonds.

    All the hot romance surrounding the hard, cold stone is in this book. The writing is clear, humorous, excited. This, to me, is the perfect literature of escape.
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 290MI6 Agent
    Introduction to Herbert Yardley's The Education of a Poker Player (1957)

    If it were possible to have worse laws than our sex laws they would be the laws that regulate gambling...To deal only with what is relevant to this brief note, while twenty million adults gamble on the football pools each week, ten million on horse-racing and five million on premium bonds, playing poker for money, a legal game over half the world including most of the British Commonwealth, is illegal. And really illegal. The Hamilton, a respectable private London card club, found this out in a police action which effectively warned the whole of England off the game. In 1945, at Bow Street, it cost them £500. The grounds for this action? That poker is not a game of skill! Of course an old woman who marks her football coupon and wins £70,000 for her shilling bet has done nothing but study football form for 50 years. No luck in that little gamble! Moreover, she and the other 20 million experts bring in £22 million a year to the Exchequer while the poker player brings in nothing. So the pools are legal and poker isn’t. Balderdash, and hypocritical balderdash at that, to the power of n.

    Which brings me, after the smoke has cleared, to this book. It is a book whose publication in London I am proud to have fathered. The circumstances were these. Knowing that I love cards, a friend sent me a cutting from an American magazine that handsomely ‘trailed’ The Education of a Poker Player with some of the late Mr Yardley’s most intriguing hands. I at once sent to America for the book, was delighted with it and gave some copies away for Christmas. The next time I talked to my publishers, Messrs Jonathan Cape, I urged them to publish the book here. They demurred. No one in the British Isles played poker. It would not do well. I said that the book contained only a dozen pages of instruction—brilliant instruction—and that the rest was a hatful of some of the finest gambling stories I had ever read. It didn’t matter that the game was poker. These were wonderful, thrilling stories about cards. The book would certainly become a gambling classic. English card players would read it and love it. The book had zest, blood, sex, and a tough, wry humour reminiscent of Raymond Chandler. It was sharply, tautly written. It would be a bestseller—well, anyway, it would look very well on the backlist. The mention of this holy word in publishing was, I think, the clincher. Cape’s readers, that sapient, humorous, receptive duet, read the book. Yes, it was certainly all that I had said. Perhaps, if I would write a preface...I said I would and here it is and here is the book that Mr Yardley wrote.

    Myself, as fine writers phrase it, I am not a good poker player. I drink and smoke and enjoy the game too much. You shouldn’t do any of these things if you want to win at poker. Poker is a cold-hearted, deadly game that breaks and bankrupts men today just as, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, écarté, backgammon, ombre and faro bankrupted our rakehelly ancestors. The last time I played poker, I lost more than I could afford in rich brassy company in a house at Sunningdale in what is now known as ‘The Canasta Belt’. These people would introduce variations which I was mocked for not understanding. In the end, numb with martinis and false bonhomie, I pretended I understood the intricacies of ‘Minnie Everley’. I remember the name but not the variation. It was named in memory of one of the Everley sisters, who in Chicago at the turn of the century kept the finest brothel America had ever known. The chamber pots were of solid gold and the sisters paraded their girls through the town, be-feathered and be-flounced, in open landaus, every Sunday morning when the bells were ringing and the quality of Chicago were on the streets and making for the churches. I learned all this afterwards. At the time and in the name of Minnie, I played a ragged, brash game that cost me dear. I was fleeced and deserved to be. I would not have been fleeced if I had read Mr Yardley's book and if I had, above all, digested the card-playing philosophy which lies behind his stories and his instruction. Every fine card player I have ever known has this philosophy, but I will caution you that very few fine card players are the sort of people you and I would like to play with. It’s not fun playing against cold-hearted butchers, however soft their words, and as you read about them in these gay, smoke-filled pages I think you will often feel a chill of apprehension. But it will be an authentic chill. That is why, not as a poker player, but as a writer of thrillers, I can recommend this book to every consenting adult card player in Great Britain.

    Note: Herbert Yardley led a fascinating life and wore many hats: spy, father of American cryptography, whistle-blower (in his book The American Black Chamber), Hollywood scriptwriter, playboy, agent for hire by Canada and China, and accused traitor. For more, consult the article "Gambling with his Life" at Artistic Licence Renewed. For even more, consult "The Many Lives of Herbert O. Yardley," uploaded by the National Security Ageny. And for a lot more, there's the 2004 book The Reader of Gentlemen's Mail: Herbert O. Yardley and the Birth of American Codebreaking, by David Kahn.

    Perhaps it's not a surprise that a professional code-breaker and man of mercenary motives should turn out to one of the "cold-hearted butchers" gifted at poker. Neither Fleming nor Bond fit that description, which is partly why poker doesn't fit in their world. I wish someone had told the filmmakers that in 2006.
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