My new novel DEATH IN THE FACE centers on James Bond creator Ian Fleming and two 007-driven excursions he made late in life while a very unwell man.
|James Bond sometimes smoked dozens of cigarettes daily in|
the original novels. Ian Fleming seemed driven to match
his character's smoking habits.
Like fellow macho author Ernest Hemingway, Fleming was a man who seemed driven to live the larger-than-life escapades he put down on paper.
In my series of novels about Hector Lassiter (DEATH IN THE FACE is the 9th in the 10-novel series), novelist-screenwriter Hector Lassiter is often dubbed “The man who lives what he writes and writes what he lives.”
While the Lassiter series make it clear there is harrowing truth in this assessment, Hector is far more circumspect than Hemingway or Fleming. In the end, as a man and an artist, Hector is a survivor, and his groping towards continued existence is his larger character arc that binds and drives the series to its conclusion.
Hemingway has been an on-the-page character, sometimes even a kind of “co-star,” in four of the Lassiter novels. Actor-director Orson Welles has also appeared in several of the novels in a similar context.
For me, Fleming represents the third and final of Lassiter’s major artist companions—three tragic men whose self-destructiveness point a light for Hector toward his own salvation.
Ian Fleming has been name-checked in previous Lassiter novels; his role in Hector’s later life deliberately foreshadowed: With DEATH IN THE FACE, he at last arrives to the Lassiter series in person.
My new novel is patterned to replicate the kind of structure Fleming himself often used in his James Bond novels. I’ve tried to evoke some of Fleming’s narrative voice while remaining true to the tone of the Lassiter novels that have come before.
|Ian Fleming in Beppu, Japan. That city, and this|
statue, figure in DEATH IN THE FACE.
DEATH opens with Hector accompanying Fleming on a research trip across Japan for his penultimate Bond novel YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. The second half of DIF takes Ian and Hector to Istanbul, to witness some of the filming of the second Bond film, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.
In a passage cut from the final version of PRINT THE LEGEND, I referenced an anecdote repeated in several Fleming biographies and articles about the way in which a dying Fleming bonded, so to speak, with actor Pedro Armendariz, the fine actor who plays Bond’s companion Kerim Bey in FRWL. (He also played another real life character central to my series, one Pancho Villa.)
|Pedro Armendariz and Ian Fleming in Istanbul|
during the filming of
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.
During their mutual stay in Istanbul, Fleming and Armendariz purportedly talked at length about Ernest Hemingway and his then-still-relatively recent suicide by shotgun.
Upon returning to North America, Armendariz smuggled a firearm into the hospital that he used to end his own life.
For his part, Fleming continued to kill himself just as surely, but more slowly, with forbidden cigarettes and liquor.
At the end of the novel (spoiler alert!) YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, Bond is presumed dead and his obituary printed. It incorporates a quote from Jack London that surely spoke to Ian Fleming’s own sense of fatalistic bravado:
“I would rather be ashes than dust. I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than that it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to LIVE. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
My novel of Ian Fleming and Hector Lassiter and their last journey together as authors, former spies and friends takes its cue from a quote Fleming placed at the beginning of his Japan-centric Bond novel:
“You only live twice: Once when you are born
And once when you look death in the face”
Next time: Author Yukio Mishima, and his role in DEATH IN THE FACE.