Dennis Wheatley's influence on Ian Fleming

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Charles
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Dennis Wheatley's influence on Ian Fleming

Postby Charles » Tue 5 Jan, 2010 22:02:32

Dear All,

I've just been alerted to an excellent article on Wes Britton's Spywise.net website - a 16 page piece by Jeremy Duns entitled "The Secret Origins of James Bond", which explores DW's not inconsiderable influence on Ian Fleming.

Amongst other things, the article discusses their dinner together on 10th November 1942 - the source for which was DW's typed list of his wartime dinner engagements, which was one of the exhibits in our 'travelling Museum' at the 2008 Convention.

You can find the article at

http://www.spywise.net/pdfs/wheatley.pdf

It goes into quite a lot of detail about similarities of plots and descriptions (including descriptions of the leading characters)and I certainly found it stimulating.

I'll be most interested in your own thoughts and comments.

I'm grateful to Wes Britton for pointing it out.

Best as always !
Last edited by Charles on Thu 25 May, 2017 20:44:02, edited 1 time in total.
Charles

Alan
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Postby Alan » Thu 7 Jan, 2010 09:19:09

An excellent article - many thanks. Only criticism is saying that DW smoked Hoyos - His autobiography makes it clear that he didn't, and that he was often embarrassed at dinner parties by his host producing such a cigar at great cost, thinking that because the duke liked them, his creator would too.

That Fleming was influenced by DW is no great surprise - after all, if you were writing spy novels in the sixties, why *wouldn't* you emulate one of the best selling authors in that field. I'm sure there's a gazillion hopeful fantasy writers doing Hairy Porter ripoffs at this very moment.

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Postby Jeremy » Thu 7 Jan, 2010 14:47:41

Thanks Charles and Alan, I'm glad you both enjoyed my article, which has taken me about five years to research and finally complete. Alan, you are of course right that DW didn't smoke Hoyos in 1942 - I'm not sure how I missed that. But looking up the passage you mention, it seems he did smoke them prior to Baron Wheatley's closure, and that when Sir Noel Charles offered him the Hoyo in Rome in 1935, once he had explained that he had got them because of the duke, DW relented and had one anyway! And I hope the point still stands that he and Fleming were both bon vivants of a similar stamp, with similar tastes, and one can well imagine them puffing away a few hours discussing the war, thrillers and their splendid Wilkinson's blades.

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Postby Charles » Thu 7 Jan, 2010 15:44:30

Dear Jeremy,

It was a terrific article, and a very warm welcome to The Library !

I must confess, if I could be a 'fly on the wall' at any one moment of DW's career, if it wasn't his lunch with Aleister Crowley, it would almost certainly be that dinner with Ian Fleming. Wouldn't it be fantastic if one day we discovered his 'meeting notes' ... Here's dreaming ...

On a more serious note, have you had any reaction to your article from the 'Ian Fleming fraternity' ? I'd be most interested to know if they accept the - to me - very persuasive points you make in your article ...
Charles

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Postby Steve Whatley » Thu 7 Jan, 2010 21:08:34

Hello Jeremy,

A very scholarly piece, if I may say so, and well worth the wait. No wonder it took you five years - there were so many novels to read and obviously much research to do.

It certainly makes fascinating reading and gives plenty of food for thought. I agree with Charles that your points are most persuasive - nay, convincing.

It's fun to think that our favourite authors were influenced by other, earlier favourites, or at least, that they too enjoyed the works of their predecessors as much as we do.

It made me recall the way Jack Smithers dragged Hannay, Drummond and Berry & Co out of retirement for 'Combined Forces', and started me thinking of a fictional world in which Grauber might enlist Clubfoot to help him catch Sallust, or Jonathan Mansell might run into the Marquis and Madelon on the Riviera, whilst on the trail of Sir Joseph Londe. Surely the Duke de Richleau must have encountered Cheri-Bibi and Cecily at some time?

Anyway, I'm rambling again.

Best Wishes, Steve [font=Courier New] [/font]

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Postby Alan » Fri 8 Jan, 2010 04:22:05

Jeremy's article (Which, by the way, was excellent despite the single niggling point I made) brings all sorts of such ideas to mind. Imagine Roger Brook coming up against Brigadier Gerard, or the young Armand Duplisse (before he was the Duke, maybe) encountering Sherlock Holmes or Raffles, or even an Elderly Harry Flashman. Rex Van Ryn and Richard Eaton flying alongside Biggles. The possibilities are endless...

Hope this isn't too off-topic here, but I can think of at least four writers who have used other authors' characters to good effect (and this is not to mention all the times Holmes has met Jack the Ripper, Dracula or Annie Oakley)... One is William Rushton, who wrote a fantastic book about Raffles and W G Grace touring America with the England team. Another is H P Lovecraft, who regularly dragged in the nasties from his fellow Cthulhu Mythos authors to expand his own, already formidable, team of tentacled monsters. There is also Michael Moorcock, who revealed in one novel that his angst-ridden Melnibonean, Elric, once popped up in the early twentieth century and was mistaken for Zenith the Albino. Perhaps the best known is Philip Jose Farmer, who had a carriage party struck by lightening, and go on to be the ancestors of just about every well-known character in fiction including Tarzan and Doc Savage!

Ah, remember that copyright only extends to 50 years after the author's death - can't wait till 2027 and someone writes more about the Duke and Gregory Sallust!

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Postby Jeremy » Fri 8 Jan, 2010 09:47:03

Charles, I would certainly love to have been a fly on the wall when Wheatley and Fleming met! I've had some positive feedback on the article from a few Fleming fans, but it's still a little early to judge the impact - it's so long that some people may still be reading it!

Thank you for the comments, Steve, and nice to make contact again. I think there have been quite a few attempts to mix characters a la Combined Forces (which I seem to remember you put me onto!) and Alan mentioned some - Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is another that springs to mind - but of course the possible variations are endless. I imagine we will see more of that sort of thing as more familiar characters' copyrights fall by the wayside and publishers rediscover lost authors. There's also the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies trend that's just begun - very odd!

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Postby ken68 » Sat 16 Jan, 2010 19:31:42

very interesting article. i only ever read casino royale but did not find it my taste at all and even the bond films leave me cold. although there is some far fetched incidents in DWs books i can't say that i agree with the author that DWs plots were far fetched. well very few of them.
as a matter of interest has any of the "conventioneers" tried there hoyos?
ken

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Postby Jeremy » Sat 16 Jan, 2010 21:02:18

Hi ken68, glad you found my article interesting. When I said Wheatley's plots were often improbable, I was thinking particularly of the likes of Strange Conflict and Star of Ill-Omen, both of which take the thriller in very peculiar directions, and their plots into extremely outlandish territory. With that in mind, I just found it a slightly odd comment of Wheatley's that he thought Dr No 'improbable': it not only has a villain with the same name as Strange Conflict, but its plot is significantly more probable than that novel! That was all.

K R Cope

Postby K R Cope » Tue 19 Jan, 2010 11:49:25

Very interesting article, Jeremy. Many thanks for posting.

Undoubtendly some of DW's plots are "improbable", in the same sense of some of the Fleming books (not to mention Agatha Christie and even some Conan Doyle). All good reads, though, have a quality of writing and description which absorbs us so that we suspend any disbelief while we enjoy them. Of any author, I enjoy DW most, perhaps because, however "improbable", he gives us the research and data to support the plot. Some would say that "Strange Conflict" is unbelievable, but the supporting information on occult matters is there for a reader to form an opinion, even research and read more for him/herself, or, at the simplest, just accept it and enjoy the story as a great yarn.

ken68 - The Hoyo was excellent...a Christmas treat with a glass of brandy. My thoughts were away with Simon and the Duc for an hour! Actually, I have never smoked other than enjoying one good cigar each Christmas, a tradition passed on to me by my late Father. He also never smoked otherwise, even back in the 1930's when more or less everyone else did!

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Postby Jeremy » Tue 19 Jan, 2010 12:02:34

Thanks, K R. I agree with you on the research supporting improbable plots, and Fleming did much the same thing: the voodoo in Live and Let Die supported by Patrick Leigh Fermor's book, which he quoted at length; convincing details on the workings of Soviet intelligence in From Russia With Love from interviews with a defector... and so on. Fleming was a journalist with the Sunday Times, and used extensive research to bolster improbable plots. He has been given rather a lot of credit for being the first to do that, and as I point out, Wheatley did it, too. The Bond novels, of course, feature improbable plots, but I still think it's a slightly odd complaint to make if you're Dennis Wheatley! That was my point - nothing wrong with being improbable, and I enjoy the books precisely for the reasons you say. Anyway, I think perhaps we agree. Thanks for the comments.

K R Cope

Postby K R Cope » Tue 19 Jan, 2010 12:23:23

Jeremy - I agree with you entirely on your point about the research for the detail in the Bond books. Perhaps many people now only watch the Bond movies and never read the books, and cannot then form any valid opinion of Fleming as an author.

There are, of course, few films of DW's novels, but the same applies. IMHO, "The Devil Rides Out" is probably as true-to-the-book as any 90-minute screenplay could be. "The Forbidden Territory", "The Secret of Stamboul" and "The Lost Continent" are "worth-watching-once" films, but give less idea of the standard of the original novels. While "To The Devil a Daughter" and the more recent TV adaptation of the Gifford Hillary tale were travesties which would most likely
put any reasonable person off ever sampling DW's work!

Ken (in Derbyshire).

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Postby Jeremy » Tue 15 Jun, 2010 09:06:38

Hi, everyone. As a bit of a post-script to this, I've published another article on my blog in which I look in some detail at how the scene in Wheatley's Faked Passports, in which Gregory Sallust receives a blow to his head and loses his memory, along with Manning Coles' Drink To Yesterday, published just a few months later and featuring a British secret agent who loses his memory and rises through the ranks of the Nazi party, both influenced Ian Fleming - and how, in turn, his use of this very specific plot idea influenced Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Identity and the massively successful film franchise based on it. See what you think of my hy hypothesis here:

http://jeremyduns.blogspot.com/2010/06/ ... erday.html

(I hope nobody minds but I've used one image of Faked Passports from this site - if so, please let me know and I'll remove it. The Arrow version is my own scan. And if anyone has a sharper version of that terrific 1956 cover, please do let me know, because I'd love to use it!)

Jeremy

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Postby Charles » Wed 16 Jun, 2010 22:13:01

Dear Jeremy,

I have no problem with your reproducing the image of Faked Passports from this website - books like this get copied regularly on sites such as eBay, so I don't see there can be an issue. I regret I don't have a better scan of the other edition.

Great article, and a worthy sequel to the previous one. It's nice to see the roots of another Fleming episode have a DW origin, and it will be fascinating if you ever track the antecedents of the 'lost memory' plot further.

I'm sure everyone will join in looking forward to your next discovery ...

Best as always !
Charles

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Postby Alan » Thu 17 Jun, 2010 06:44:55

Jeremy wrote:There's also the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies trend that's just begun - very odd!


Apologies if this is off-topic, but Jeremy DID mention it. I've just read PP&Z and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was passed on to me by my partner's son, who loathed it - says it ruined BOTH genres for him - but I found it a most entertaining literary joke. Mind you, one really has to have read the original to really "get it", and even then it's strictly a "one-off" jape - I hope we don't now get a plethora of imitations ("Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters , by a different author, seems to be the only one so far) - I couldn't stand to see "Oliver Twist meets the Daleks" or "Hamlet and the Vampires" (though that work already has a ghost!)...

Obviously the work is a commercial version of a thing I've done myself for fun - download an established (out of copyright) work and change it around. Obviously he kept the story as it was (Most of Austen's dialogue is untouched) and simply cut and pasted the zombie references in to enliven otherwise slow parts of the story, such as carriage trips. (Poor Elizabeth and her sisters can't go anywhere without having to unsheathe their Katanas to defend themselves against the "dreadfuls") - for the first three quarters of the book these (and some distinctly modern repartee between Elizabeth and Darcy about the latter's balls (!) ) are about the only changes. The last part needed much more extensive plotting to fit in with the other changes, and we have the unfortunate Charlotte Collins (nee Bingley) dying of the plague and becoming a zombie, and poor Mr Wickham submitting to a beating from Darcy that leaves him paralysed and incontinent, a rather unfortunate sadistic/sensationalist touch in an otherwise well conceived idea.

I hear that the author, Seth Grahame-Smith (no relation) has now written a real novel, using the "Pride and Prejudice" characters, telling of how the whole zombie thing started. This looks like being a good read, and if I get my hands on a copy I'll let you all know if it lived up to expectations.


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