Dr. Michael VanBlaricum, University alumnus and founder of the Ian Fleming foundation, gave a presentation April 12, kicking off a series of events and displays planned for the 60th anniversary of Fleming’s first novel featuring the iconic man of mystery, Casino Royale.

There are exhibits set up across multiple locations on the University of Illinois campus, including the Spurlock Museum, which contains an Aston Martin used in the films and the tuxedo worn by Daniel Craig in the 2006 remake of Casino Royale, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where you can see hard-to-find first editions of all the Bond books and an early manuscript of Casino Royale, and the Harding Building, which houses rare Bond-themed recordings in the Sousa Archives.

“He was the son of a World War I hero and member of Parliament, a journalist, a playboy, a very, very famous book collector. He was a soldier. He was a spy, a travel writer, and, obviously, a novelist,” said Dr. Michael VanBlaricum to a lecture hall full of James Bond fans. Most of those things could likely describe the suave, characteristically cool spy that’s been a household name since the 60s, but VanBlaricum was really speaking of Ian Fleming, the author of the Bond novels. VanBlaricum himself even accidentally referred to Fleming as “Bond” and joked, “It’s sometimes hard to tell the two apart.”

Fleming was born into a wealthy, influential family in London in 1908, the son of a Member of Parliament. He lost his father at an early age in the trenches of World War I, which, as VanBlaricum noted, would have a profound effect on his life. Fleming didn’t keep a single job for too long, working as a journalist, banker and stockbroker, and led a lifestyle of heavy drinking, heavy smoking and womanizing.

Due to the connectedness of Fleming’s family, he got a job in the Royal Navy as assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence. It was in this position that Fleming could flourish and gain the experience that would later serve as inspiration for James Bond. Fleming worked with the Special Intelligence Service (aka MI6 – Bond’s workplace in the canon) and helped the Americans set up the Office of Strategic Services, which would later become the CIA.

Fleming published Casino Royale in 1953 to above-average reviews, but it wasn’t until nearly a decade later, when President John F. Kennedy listed From Russia With Love as one of his favorite novels, that the Bond series became a hit in the United States. This led to the series garnering international attention, which eventually led to the phenomenon that we know today, which includes the many films, continuation novels, toys, video games and other memorabilia.

Unfortunately, Fleming died young. He had a heart attack on August 12, 1964 from which he couldn’t recover. However, he left behind 14 James Bond novels, the famous children’s book “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang” and a legacy that has inspired generations of readers and moviegoers.

Dr. VanBlaricum is the co-founder of the Ian Fleming Foundation, whose mission is the “preservation of the history of Ian Fleming’s literary works, the James Bond phenomenon, and their impact on popular culture.” “Casino Royale and Beyond: Sixty Years of Ian Fleming’s Literary Bond” will be running from April 12 to July 12.

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