Fleming’s Daily Grind

Ian Fleming
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Every writer is different. Each has his or her own way of working, a method for getting words down on paper. Some are procrastinators, some are methodical, some write in between juggling a daytime job and caring for a family.

Ian Lancaster Fleming (May 28 1908 –August 12 1964) was an English author, journalist and naval intelligence officer who is best known for his James Bond series of spy novels. Fleming came from a wealthy family connected to the merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co., and his father was the Member of Parliament for Henley from 1910 until his death on the Western Front in 1917. Educated at Eton, Sandhurst and, briefly, the universities of Munich and Geneva, Fleming moved through several jobs before he started writing. (Wikipedia)

After a distinguished career in naval intelligence, finishing up with the rank of commander, Fleming left the armed services and joined Kemsley Newspapers as Foreign Manager. The post included eight weeks vacation per year, which Fleming spent in the Caribbean during the months of January and February, thus avoiding the dismal London winters. He bought a piece of land on Jamaica (which was then, a British Colony) with a private beach and a reef, and paid a local contractor to build a one-story house there. The house had a wonderful view of the Caribbean Sea and he christened it Goldeneye. During this time he had several girlfriends, but ran aground when one of them, Lady Anne Rothermere, became pregnant. A shotgun wedding ensued and Fleming was later to comment that in order to take his mind off the shock at getting married at the age of forty-three he decided to write the spy novel to end all spy novels. He gave it the title Casino Royale.

When Fleming was at Goldeneye, he always started his day with a swim in the ocean as the sun came up. Then he breakfasted with his wife, Ann (who, for some unaccountable reason dropped the trailing ‘e’ from her name), and always shouldered up to the day fortified by the same meal: scrambled eggs, bacon, and coffee. At 9 a.m. he would give his wife a kiss and disappear into the interior of the house, commandeering the living room for the next few hours. He would close the shutters on the windows, sit down at his old portable typewriter and type away for the next three hours.

At noon, he stopped, got up and went outside into the sun, where he and Ann would wander down to the beach to sunbath and swim before lunch. After lunch was siesta time for a couple of hours. About 5 p.m. he resumed his work in the living room by rereading what he had just written, making any required corrections, and then placed the finished work in a drawer. By 6.30 his work was done and he sat down with a cocktail waiting for the dinner hour and, sometimes, the arrival of guests.

Using this regime, Ian Fleming completed his first novel, Casino Royale, in six weeks. And he employed the same routine for all his novels, disappearing from the London fog and rain into the hazy sunlight of the Caribbean each winter and returning with the manuscript of his next novel. It was the life any writer dreams about – apart from the tedious sunshine, the copious girlfriends, the cocktails, and of course the spectacular book sales. Some of us are happy just to be writing a blog.