"He had a small but comfortable flat off the King's Road, an elderly Scottish housekeeper -- a treasure called May -- and a 1930 4.5-litre Bentley coupe, supercharged, which he kept expertly tuned so that he could do a hundred when he wanted to.
"On these things he spent all his money, and it was his ambition to have as little as possible in his banking account when he was killed, as, when he was depressed he knew he would be, before the statutory age of forty-five."
-- Ian Fleming, Moonraker
2014 marks the 50-year anniversary of the premature death of Ian Lancaster Fleming, creator of the James Bond spy novels, one of the best-selling fiction series in history. Born in 1908 to a wealthy London family, Fleming was one of four brothers and one half-sister. Although an indifferent student, he attended the elite Eton College and later Sandhurst, a prestigious military college.
He eventually became a journalist at Reuters, and covered the 1930 Le Mans race, when Bentleys were luxury muscle cars (before Rolls Royce took them over). So he put Bond behind the wheel of a 1930 Bentley at the beginning of the series, only to have to replace it (after various spy carnage) with later models and then the Aston Martin, famous in Goldfinger.
Fleming learned the subtleties of espionage after he received a commission for the Royal Navy. He worked with Naval Intelligence as assistant to Admiral John Godfrey, whom the character "M" is loosely based on. James Bond was based partly on himself (both shared a love of gambling and golf, and smoked the same brand of cigarettes) as well as "a compound of all the secret agents and commando types I met during the war."
Although he had thoughts of writing a spy novel during the war, Fleming waited until 1952 to write Casino Royale, the first of his 12 Bond novels and 9 short stories.
Fleming was a fatalist, declaring, "I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them." Indeed, he suffered from heart disease, which he admitted was because of smoking seventy cigarettes and drinking a bottle of gin a day. He died of a heart attack in August of 1964, so was only able to see two Bond movies: Dr. No, released in 1962, and From Russia with Love the following year. His last recorded words were to his ambulance driver: "Awfully sorry to trouble you chaps."
If you'd like to learn more about Ian Fleming, don't miss the new BBC America miniseries Fleming, starting January 29th.