The Ebury Street flat that Ian Fleming bought from Oswald Mosley in 1934 is next to my youngest son’s school. I thought of this when I visited Dukes Hotel, tucked away in a court off St James’s Street, the other day: it was a haunt of the author, and a dispute with the barman over the best way to make a martini apparently led to the line ‘shaken, not stirred’. Dukes, as it happens, became a hotel in the year Fleming was born, 1908.
I enjoyed Sebastian Faulks’ new Bond tribute Devil May Care more than I expected, partly because I don’t specially like the Fleming originals as novels. What I relish is the period detail, and the patriotic prejudices they embody (‘the best English cooking is the best in the world,’ observes Bond, a little surprisingly). They’re also full of specific references to place. In Moonraker, the villain Hugo Drax chases Bond along Ebury Street en route to Kent. Fleming had a house on St Margaret’s Bay outside Sandwich, and so Kent features prominently. Driving down to our house at Ramsgate, we pass signs to Reculver, where Auric Goldfinger had his home. Unfortunately, like Drax, I’ve got a Mercedes: the sure sign of a rotter.