Fleming, James 1944-
Fleming, James 1944-
Born 1944, in London, England; son of Richard Fleming (a banker); married (divorced); children. Education: Oxford University, graduated.
Writer. Has worked as an accountant, farmer, forester, bookseller, and publisher.
The Temple of Optimism, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
Thomas Gage, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 2003.
White Blood, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 2006, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2007.
James Fleming comes from a family of writers, including his uncles Peter and Ian Fleming, the latter being the famous creator of the James Bond spy novels. In his own right, Fleming has become a noted author of historical novels. On his Web site, the author lists several reasons why he writes historical fiction, including his idea that "to imagine how one would behave oneself if caught at a great turning point in history, such as the Russian Revolution, is irresistibly frightening."
In his first novel, The Temple of Optimism, Fleming sets his story in eighteenth-century rural England. The novel revolves around Edward Home, who grew up in the countryside but has found a new and more exciting life in London. He returns to the family's old country estate with plans of selling it. When he falls in love with Daisy Apreece, the wife of his neighbor Sir Anthony Apreece, Edward soon finds himself in a dangerous affair while trying to protect his land from being taken over by Sir Anthony. "Fleming's style is so befitting to the period … that the story … becomes completely absorbing," according to Grace Fill in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that the author's "prose pushes the melodrama in startlingly unconventional directions … gentility devolves into near-violent hostility, exposing the greed and solipsism that lay beneath the 18th-century class system."
Fleming tells the story of an 1850s English country landowner in his novel Thomas Gage. Married to a wealthy heiress and with two loving children, Thomas spends his time painting and hunting and believing that his life is safe and secure. However, the railroad soon threatens to run tracks across Thomas's land, and his beloved son is killed in a horrific train accident. The pressure sends Thomas into depression and a misguided attempt to run from his grief by living a life of debauchery in London. "James Fleming writes lyrically about the countryside and almost as well about the Victorian town," reported Eric Anderson in the Spectator. Anderson also appreciated the author's ability to create a variety of interesting characters, and added: "Fleming is best of all, though, at the moments of stress and elation."
White Blood takes place in Russia in 1917 and features naturalist and womanizer Charlie Doig, who returns to his family home in Russia from scouring primitive jungles for plant and animal life. He has come back to take a job for the Tsarist government but soon finds that this whole aristocratic way of life is threatened. Charlie is eventually trapped in all the horrors of the Bolshevik revolution. "The action sequences virtually sing with energy, and the novel's blistering pace never lets up for a moment," observed a Kirkus Reviews contributor. In her Library Journal review, Barbara Conaty further remarked: "Charlie Doig, a Nabokovian figure of Russian heritage … is an unforgettable character."
When asked what kind of effect he hopes his books will have, Fleming told CA: "It's the most important piece of self-examination for any writer of fiction. In order to keep a well-balanced temper and digestion, a writer's default position must be none. There can be no exceptions to this rule.
"However, in moments of elation, he or she must also be able to reach the absolute conviction that their skills are second to none, that when justice is done, their genius will be acclaimed universally, and that this will be entirely correct.
"I subscribe wholeheartedly to both these positions."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 2000, Grace Fill, review of The Temple of Optimism, p. 322; December 1, 2006, review of White Blood, p. 20.
Guardian (London, England), May 6, 2006, Sam Thompson, review of White Blood.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2006, review of White Blood, p. 1033.
Library Journal, October 15, 2000, Kathy Piehl, review of The Temple of Optimism, p. 101; December 1, 2006, Barbara Conaty, review of White Blood, p. 109.
Publishers Weekly, October 16, 2006, review of White Blood, p. 32; September 25, 2000, review of The Temple of Optimism, p. 84.
Spectator, October 11, 2003, Eric Anderson, review of Thomas Gage, p. 42; April 8, 2006, Honor Clerk, review of White Blood, p. 47.
James Fleming Home Page,http://www.jamesfleming.co.uk (April 17, 2007).