Why The Complete Man Nicholas Shakespeare’s Ian Fleming biography deserves a spot in your Spybrary (even if you have read Lycett and Pearson.)

The Complete Man Nicholas Shakespeare's Ian Fleming biography

If you're a devoted fan of spy books and the legendary James Bond, you've likely explored the biographical works of Ian Fleming by esteemed authors such as John Pearson and Andrew Lycett and are wondering if The Complete Man Nicholas Shakespeare's Ian Fleming biography is worth reading.

In our Spybrary community, Jason King posted this review of Ian Fleming: The Complete Man by Nicholas Shakespeare to help spy book fans to ascertain whether its substantial 800-plus pages are truly worth our time and investment.

For those who are embarking on the exciting journey of discovering Ian Fleming's life for the first time, Nicholas Shakespeare's Ian Fleming biography The Complete Man unquestionably warrants your attention. This meticulously researched biography, as its title implies, provides a comprehensive and well-rounded portrait of the man behind the literary and cinematic icon.

This meticulously researched biography, as its title implies, provides a comprehensive and well-rounded portrait of the man behind the literary and cinematic icon.

Jason King – Spybrarian

Yet, for those well-versed in Pearson's engaging narrative or who've braved Lycett's exhaustive tome, the decision becomes more nuanced. Pearson's biography, if memory serves, offers a captivating and more approachable perspective, treading lightly on Fleming's darker facets. Conversely, Lycett's work is undoubtedly “complete,” yet it may be perceived as dry and labor-intensive by some readers.

Enter Nicholas Shakespeare, whose biography not only excels in its prose but also ingeniously synthesizes and builds upon the foundations laid by his predecessors.

But does The Complete Man Nicholas Shakespeare's Ian Fleming biography genuinely contribute new dimensions to our understanding of Ian Fleming? Undoubtedly, in two pivotal aspects.

Firstly, it grants us profound insights into Fleming's formative years, meticulously dissecting his experiences before, during, and after World War II. Shakespeare convincingly argues that Fleming's real-life intelligence endeavors significantly influenced both the wartime efforts and the inception of the iconic Jame Bond character. While some conjecture is inevitable, it remains firmly grounded and enriches our appreciation of the Bond novels.

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Secondly, Nicholas Shakespeare offers a vivid depiction of the high-society circles Fleming inhabited during the early 20th century. This window into the world of the upper echelons provides a compelling backdrop for understanding the motivations and aspirations that shaped Fleming. He emerges as a maverick who fervently pursued adventure and relished his status as an eternal outsider, a perspective that sheds new light on his creative genius.

Nevertheless, Ian Fleming -The Complete Man leaves room for improvement in certain areas. It does not delve deeply into the intricacies of Fleming's writing process, his intricate relationships with publishers, or the innovative marketing strategies that propelled his work to global acclaim. Notably, the collaborations with artistic luminaries such as Chopping and Hawkey receive less recognition than their contribution merits.

Additionally, the biography could benefit from a more structured chronological narrative, avoiding the risk of excessive detail on minor characters that might be perceived as extraneous.

Notwithstanding these minor shortcomings, “The Complete Man” indisputably stands as the most comprehensive and insightful account of Ian Fleming's life to date. It is an essential read for anyone captivated by the enigmatic genius responsible for the enduring allure of James Bond.

This review of Nicholas Shakespeare's The Complete Man biography of Ian Fleming was posted in our Spybrary community by Jason King and revised for publication

Other reviews of The Complete Man Nicholas Shakespeare's Ian Fleming biography

Written with Fleming-esque brio and insouciance, with a feeling for the tragic aspects of his life as well as the ironic comedy of it..elegant…the research here is impeccable.
The Telegraph

This excellent biography is as worldly and clever as one could wish.
Philip Hensher, Spectator

Elegant and painstakingly researched
The Observer

A monumental record of Fleming’s life. The completeness of the book is beyond doubt. Shakespeare leaves no future biographer much to discover. Fleming’s place in history is assured.
Max Hastings, Sunday Times

A sustained and engrossing homage to the Olympic icon of a beleaguered Britain, and a writer damned to fame. With scarcely a dull page, it’s a chip off the old block… steeped in exceptional research….stitches up the loose ends of Fleming’s story into a satisfying 21st-century biography.
Robert McCrum, Independent

This is a marvellous book about Ian Fleming, but it's also one of the most engaging portraits of a particular period of British history that I have read in a long time
Antonia Fraser

A definitive biography that deepens and reshapes previous versions of Fleming’s life… light-footed and swift-moving despite its copious research… Shakespeare’s Fleming rises from these richly textured pages as a more substantial and sympathetic figure than the preening snob of myth.
Financial Times

The Complete Man is packed with women, their characters and stories carefully filled in…highly accomplished and readabl
The New Statesman

The most comprehensive picture yet of Bond’s creator… definitive

Fascinating, well researched, neatly written
D.J. Taylor, Literary Review

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