Was Ian Fleming James Bond?
Many think so.
Certainly the super-hero and his creator had similarities - an aristocratic background, sophisticated tastes, a fatal appeal to women, and an intimate knowledge of the of international spy rings.
Still Fleming disclaimed any relation to "that cardboard body" he so felicitously invented.
And while he might, as readers of John Pearson's breath-taking biography of Fleming will soon find out.
For most of what James Bond could do Fleming did better.
Unlike Bond, the author inspired great love as well as lust; unlike Bond he was brilliant, sensitive, and highly talented.
And finally, unlike Bond, Fleming shunned violence as a solution to human conflicts.
In this fascinating book, which is a profound psychological study, Pearson separates the creator from the created.
He masterfully unravels the essential Fleming from the golden cocoon of illusion he wove around himself.
He reveals that while Fleming incorporated his own adventures in James Bond's - his car accident in Munich becomes Scaramanga's lethal railway in The Man with the Golden Gun - Fleming also uses his creation to fulfill his own daydreams, and to alleviate his very real - and quite baseless - sense of failure.
The most startling example of this bizarre transformation is the character "M," icy and omniscient head of British Secret Service.
Pearson, in one of the truly great feats of biographical research, identifies the real - and surprising - counterpart to this character.
Fact, fiction; illusion, reality; confidence, insecurity; love, repulsion - these mirror images that pursued Fleming/Bond all his life will haunt the reader of this audacious biography, surely one of the most remarkable portraits of "a hero of our times."
Pearson, became acquainted with Fleming while working with him on The Sunday Times.
To gather material for this book he traveled more than 100,000 miles, interviewed almost 150 people, and made an extensive study of Fleming's private papers.