In 1959, Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, was asked by the Sunday Times to explore some of the world’s most exotic cities. Travelling to the Far East and then to America, he left the bright main streets for the back alleys, abandoning tourist sites in favour of underground haunts, and mingling with celebrities, gangsters and geishas. The result is a series of vivid snapshots of a mysterious, vanished world.
Fleming wrote, “On November 2nd, armed with a sheaf of visas, one suitcase and my typewriter, I left humdrum London for the thrilling cities of the world. 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.»
In BBC’s Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities Fleming flies to Hong Kong –the most vivid and exciting city he had ever experienced. He enjoys a massage at the hands of an expert, and his senses are enchanted by the smells of the streets at night– from the exciting dash of sandalwood in a joss-stick factory to the scent of frying onions and sweet perspiration. The USA and visits the garage in Chicago where the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre took place; in New York, he thrills at the sight of the traffic lights changing from red to green in unison all the way down Park Avenue. And finally, Tokyo where he witnesses an astonishing ju-jitsu demonstration, has his fortune told and is attended in a bath-house by one of the prettiest girls he has ever seen.
Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities in now available to listen online on BBC iPlayer Radio clicking here.
Joanna Lumley is also reading On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in which she had a part being simply referred as “The British Girl”, listen it here.
Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities (A Pier production for BBC Radio 4) is read by Simon Williams, abridged by Mark Burgess and produced by David Blount. Text copyright: Ian Fleming Publications Ltd 1963
On her Majesty’s Secret Service has been abridged by Michael Bakewell, produced by David Benedictus and headed by Joanna Lumley.