Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities

‘All my life I have been interested in adventure and, abroad, I have enjoyed the frisson of leaving the wide, well-lit streets and venturing up back alleys in search of the hidden, authentic pulse of towns. It was perhaps this habit that turned me into a writer of thrillers.’

– Ian Fleming, Thrilling Cities.

One of the favourites on my bookshelf, is this beautiful first edition of Thrilling Cities by Ian Fleming, which wafts out a glorious odor of ancient library every time I lift the book jacket. Round the world with the creator of James Bond, is certainly something to look forward to. Hong Kong, Macao, Tokyo, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna, Geneva, Naples and Monte Carlo all feature.

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Thrilling Cities was initially a travelogue which Fleming wrote for The Sunday Times. The series of travel articles were based on two trips the writer took in 1959 and 1960. The first saw him take a round the world trip, the second, he hopped in his car (a four -door Ford Thunderbird) and drove around Europe. Fleming describes the features as ‘mood pieces’, focusing on the ‘bizarre and perhaps shadier side of life.’ He goes on to say: ‘The essays entertained and sometimes scandalised, the readers of The Sunday Times, and the editorial blue pencil scored through many a passage which has now been impurgated (if that is the opposite of expurgated) in the present text.’

Below, at Yugawara. After the bath:

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When Leonard Russell, the then Features Editor of The Sunday Times asked Fleming if he would take the five-week, all-expenses-paid trip around the word, the writer declined: saying he was a terrible tourist who ‘often advocated the provision of roller-skates at the door of museums and art galleries’. Russell persuaded him, pointing out that Fleming could get some good material for the Bond books.

The first trip certainly didn’t lack drama. Flying from Tokyo to Hawaii, 2,000 miles into the Pacific, one of the Douglas DC-6’s engines caught fire and the plane nearly crashed, before it managed to make an emergency landing on Wake Island.

Below, Coney Island circa 1963:

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‘Nothing remains but to dedicate this biased, cranky, but at least zestful hotchpotch to my friends and colleagues on The Sunday Times in London and abroad, and particularly to a man called ‘C.D.’ who pulled the trigger, and to Mr Roy Thomson who cheerfully paid for these very expensive and self-indulgent peregrinations.’

Buy a copy of Thrilling Cities here.

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