By any measure, Robert Harling was a remarkable man. His obituary in The Sunday Times describes him as ‘a handsome man of energy, kindness, a certain raffishness and great talents; typographer, graphic designer, advertising executive, novelist, editor and intelligence operator.’ The Observer called him a ‘brilliant typographer and editor whose imagination helped transform domestic taste in Britain” and “a key-figure in mid-20th century graphic design.’ For The Times he was ‘perhaps the most innovative and distinguished typographical designer of the last century,’ his work leading ‘to a range of typographical journals and books which were visionary at the time and unequalled today.’
In addition to a post-war career that included twenty-eight years as Editor of House & Garden magazine and almost forty as The Sunday Times’ typographic adviser, Harling was also the author of some eighteen books, of both fiction (seven novels, all published by Chatto & Windus between 1951 and 1979), and non-fiction (with subjects ranging from the works of Eric Gill and Edward Bawden to Modern Furniture and Decoration.) Fiona MacCarthy has described one of his novels, The Paper Palace (published in 1951), as having ‘become a Fleet Street classic’, and Nicolas Barker writes of another in The Independent “His masterpiece (not too strong a word) was undoubtedly The Hollow Sunday (published in 1967), which […] manages to be a superb thriller as well as a compelling study of vicious power-politics in both Westminster and Fleet Street.”
'Robert Harling was a man of many talents, who worked with Ian Fleming in naval intelligence and journalism, as well as being a thriller writer himself. He has produced a memoir of his close friend that is full of fascinating anecdotes, and that, without glossing over the imperfections of its subject, manages to be affectionate, humorous and insightful. The result is a wonderful treat - a welcome addition to the literature about 007's creator.'
Andrew Lycett, author of Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond
'This book not only explains the extraordinary success of Ian Fleming; it is an eyewitness account of the growth of design and fashion after the Second World War by the man whose genius created both.'
Nicholas Rankin, author of Ian Fleming's Commandos: The Story of 30 Assault Unit in WWII
With a foreword by Fiona MacCarthy OBE
Forged during the Second World War, the close and abiding friendship of Robert Harling and Ian Fleming, one of the twentieth century's most iconic authors, would go on to define the lives and literature of both men significantly.
Their paths first crossed in 1939, and Harling later became Fleming's deputy in the commando unit dubbed 'Fleming's Secret Navy', which was tasked with obtaining equipment, codebooks and intelligence from the enemy. The war made fast friends of the two writers, and Fleming would go on to immortalise Harling in his hugely popular Bond novels Thunderball and The Spy Who Loved Me.
Yet beneath the pair's charm, charisma and creativity was an altogether darker reality. Documenting in vivid detail his private exchanges with Fleming, Harling exposes the personality behind his protagonist - one tempered by debilitating bouts of depression and a deep-rooted distrust of women.
This extraordinary memoir provides a fascinating and unprecedented insight into the mind of the creator of James Bond - from one of those who knew him best.