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Goldeneye, Jamaica 1952 – a strikingly beautiful woman in scuba gear explores the reef in an azure blue sea. Gradually we see a figure closing in on her – with a harpoon gun. He fires. And beside her a huge squid explodes in a cloud of ink. This is Ann Fleming – and as they surface the shadowy figure, now helpless with laughter, reveals himself as her new husband, Ian.
Later that night as Ian types ‘The End’ on to a large manuscript. James Bond has been born. In their bedroom Ann probes Ian. She is not sure she likes James Bond, and many of his attributes seem all too familiar. Is this Bond actually Ian – his ego? His shadow?
Kitzbuhel, Austria 1938 – Ian and his brother Peter race each other down the mountain, Ian nearly killing himself to keep the lead. Heading home on a train, they’re approached by an attractive young woman, Muriel Wright. Ian’s flirtation is cut short when their attention is caught by the refugees outside the carriage, and the Hitler Youth inside. War is looming.
Back in London, Ian Fleming is a dissolute playboy, living in the shadow of his dead war hero father, his adventurer/author brother and his domineering mother. When he loses his one and only client with his stock-broking firm, Ian’s mother Evelyn decides it is time for an intervention.
Evelyn puts in a call to Winston Churchill himself, and it just so happens that with a war impending, Naval Intelligence is looking for bright young things with imagination and the ability to think outside the box.
Working as assistant to Rear Admiral John Godfrey, Ian is put to work in ‘Room 39’ at The Admiralty, whipping the team into shape with his Etonian charm and confidence. He even manages to impress Second Officer Monday (Godfrey’s secretary). The war has begun.
With London in a heightened state, promiscuous, hedonistic Fleming meets and is immediately intrigued by Ann, a wealthy and connected socialite who – unlike many of his conquests – is more than a match for him. But she already has a husband and a lover, Esmond Rothermere.
Instead he finds solace in the arms of Muriel Wright, who we met on the Kitzbhul train, and who is now a dispatch rider who he treats appallingly.
Fleming offers to make up for his behavior with a meal out. But it’s part of an elaborate scheme. Desperate to be a man of action and yield some results, he side-steps the ‘red tape’ and smuggles two captured German submariners out for a boozy, expensive lunch – in a bid to get them drunk and sweet talk precious information from them. Muriel realizes she’s been used and is heartbroken.
Rear Admiral Godfrey is furious. He bluntly takes Fleming aside – this isn’t a game or some Buchan novel, the threat is real and there are civilian lives at stake. Fleming takes this on the chin and refocuses.
He discovered something about how the submariners had managed to avoid the mines in the Skaggerak. By intelligence. Every time a British post, field office, or any other base falls to the enemy, Nazi soldiers have special men that collect and recover intelligence on the enemy.
The Germans knew where the mines in the Skaggerak were, that’s how they avoided them. Godfrey quickly tasks Ian with re-writing the official protocol on evacuating a field office. It’s a very small but notable victory for Ian. And as Monday says to him, things aren’t going to be boring with him around.
Later, Ian takes Monday to the Dorchester for dinner, but finds himself exchanging furtive, charged glances with Ann across the room. She heads upstairs, luring Ian to follow her. And when they are alone, the two find themselves uncontrollably drawn into a rough, passionate kiss. But their games are cut short by an Air Raid, which shakes the building and shatters the windows.
Britain is under attack and ‘The Blitz’ has begun…