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Thrilling Cities

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  643 ratings  ·  77 reviews
On November 2nd armed with a sheaf of suitcase...and my typewriter, I left humdrum London for the thrilling cities of the world...

In 1959, Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, was commissioned by the Sunday Times to explore fourteen of the world’s most exotic cities. Fleming saw it all with a thriller writer’s eye. From Hong Kong to Honolulu, New York to Nap
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 4th 2013 by Vintage Classics (first published November 1963)
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Average rating 3.53  · 
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Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Those GR Friends who are kind enough to read my reviews might recall that I’ve recently started listening to library audiobooks. One effect of a limited selection has been to push me into choosing books I wouldn’t otherwise have picked. So it was that I listened to “Thrilling Cities”, originally a set of articles that Fleming wrote for The Sunday Times in 1959-60. He made two trips, the first featuring Hong Kong, Macau, Tokyo, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago and New York. The second wa ...more
Fleming's quick tours & essays of 13 cities in 1959-60 is really enjoyable. The 7 cities of the around the world trip was done in a month, so was somewhat light in details although he had great connections. He managed to find his way to people & areas that the normal traveler would never think of visiting while still seeing major sights. The 6 cities of Europe had far more depth since he'd visited most of them for decades.

While this is 60 years old, that is great in a lot of ways. His discussio
Apr 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historic, non-fiction, ku
This is a book that is a collection of newspaper pieces written before I was born, by someone who died before my 3rd birthday about places that probably aren't there anymore or if they are certainly aren't the insanely low prices he quotes in the articles.

So this is a book out of time and must be read as such. Otherwise it is a sexist, misogynist, probably racist mess. Ian Fleming was the author of James Bond, Chitty Chiity Bang Bang and these essays. And these essays aren't for kids. This is l
Steve Payne
Jun 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, non-fiction
Thrilling Cities is a collection of articles Ian Fleming wrote for The Sunday Times in 1959 and 1960. In the introduction to the book version he describes them as ‘mood pieces’ which ‘focused on the bizarre and perhaps shadier side of life.’ This is true. They couldn’t have been popular with tourist boards, for there’s little of beauty here. ‘I had certainly got into the way of looking at people and places and things through a thriller-writer’s eye,’ he says. And for me, that’s what makes them f ...more
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, nonfiction, kindle
As a big fan of Ian Fleming's James Bond books (and the movies, of course!), I was intrigued to find this book and get an opportunity to learn more about the man behind 007. Thrilling Cities is a collection of essays written for the Sunday Times in 1959 and 1960, describing Fleming's visits to thirteen cities around the world. Written as travel journalism, the essays benefit from Fleming's keen eye and distinctive literary voice, along with (or despite) his somewhat patrician — and dated — preju ...more
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
It’s a bewitching moment when Fleming invites a declining Raymond Chandler, who is ‘fast running out of the desire to write about anything,’ to Naples to meet the notorious gangster Lucky Luciano, in the hopes of reigniting Chandler’s writerly imagination once again. Unfortunately, the plan is a bust. But I love the notion of these two genre legends coming together nevertheless, with Fleming attempting to lend sympathetic aid to my favorite writer of all time.

On the down side, the same sort of d
Tyler Hill
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
I have read all of Fleming's Bond novels, but this is my first foray into his more limited non-fiction writing. First off, let me say that all the criticisms leveled against both Fleming and this book by the other reviews are 100% correct. While Fleming is an often thrilling writer, he is also an often horrible human being. He is racist, sexist and even ageist (the retired senior citizens that populate Honolulu attract his ire, in particular).

In addition, as others have mentioned, the book isn'
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the surface this looks like a typical travel guide by a famous author, but its more of a series of moody essays on various cities around the world. And the title is misleading, in that the James Bond author Ian Fleming doesn't find a lot of these cities thrilling. Some, for instance, New York City, he doesn't like at all.

Hong Kong is his favorite, in fact he seems to be in tuned with Asia in general - except for the sleeping arrangements in Tokyo, he likes the people and food very much in th
Nolan Zaroff
A fun read, but I wouldn't bank on the hotel and dining recommendations.
Dane Cobain
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m going to be honest: I mostly picked this book up because I’ve read every other Ian Fleming book and so it seemed like a shame not to complete the collection. This one is basically a collection of a bunch of different travel writing pieces that he wrote on commission for the Sunday Times, and so the fact that it exists at all is pretty unusual. The fact that it’s printed in a beautiful Vintage paperback edition made it even more enjoyable.

I think the most interesting thing about it was probab
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though this volume was composed over half a century ago, it was still entertaining. The author goes around the world visiting and commenting on his favorite cities. In a style wholly his own, Mr. Fleming relates his experiences and travails in what is essentially an extended travelogue. With exquisite detail, he tells the reader about each cities best hotels, restaurants, and night life. On a personal note, this was the last piece of Mr. Fleming's work that I hadn't read, and in fact one of ...more
Viktor Hauk
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a gem, even more precious because it’s such an unexpected discovery. Fleming wrote the Bond series, but was (couldn’t be) so eloquent,witty,ironic, sharp or devout in those books than here. Here he can show us his own voice, on a grand journey (two actually), seeing the post-war world full in its reconstruction phase, just as the great changes are taking shape. Rare but i enjoyed every page of this book, praying that it never ends. Alas it all good things must come to an en ...more
Matthew Kresal
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With Ian Fleming's reputation tied up so much with the character of James Bond, it's easy to forget he was also a noted journalist of his day. In 1959, the UK Sunday Times sent him on an around the world trip, recording his observations on cities that stretched the world. The world has changed a lot in the last six decades, as have those cities, but Fleming's writing remains as vivid as ever. For within his words is a portrait of those cities as they were, long gone but saved in a painting of pr ...more
Amy Suto
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is silly AF and so outdated but Ian Fleming is a hilarious wannabe spy and as a James Bond fan, I love how he both embellishes his travel stories and also how ridiculous he is as we’re looking back at his obvious political incorrectness and womanizing
Kind of a mixed bag. Neither literary travel nor travel guide but aspiring to both, a little too eclectic at times and sour at others. Most interesting as a take on the world of ca. 1960, with all that implies. It’s entertaining enough, but has aged poorly.

I can’t imagine that Somerset Maugham really wanted to be married to Ann Fleming.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before he was very famous, he got paid to go round the world and recommend hotels and restaurants. But being Fleming, he threw in lots of cynical and lascivious detail. And the travel-guide parts have passed right through "uselessly dated" and come back round to "interesting as history".

As you expect, his cruelty is blunt and monotone, spanning the nations and races. But he is strangely aware of this.

India has always depressed me. I can't bear the universal dirt and squalor and the impression
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, e-book
This book appears to have been out of print for a long time, but I had never heard of it until it became available as an e-book.

This is a collection of essays, basically a travelogue that were written for the Sunday Times around 1958. At that time they were censored to exclude some of the more racy descriptions of prostitution and the like. The edited parts have now been restored so you can now read them as Fleming intended.

What struck me the most was how Flemings' real life adventures detailed
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Travel Man if Richard Ayoade were truly the person at which he ironically plays.

Also shoutout to the person who was supposed to return Moonraker to the Brixton Library on 26th October. Like, come on. Let me have my fun commute reads, and in order, please.
Andrew Foxley
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Thrilling Cities' details James Bond creator Ian Fleming's travels to a variety of foreign locales circa 1959-60 for The Sunday Times. Perhaps not surprisingly for 007's creator, Fleming 'often advocated the provision of roller-skates at the door of museums and art galleries' and tended to focus more on the more exotic aspects of his destinations, and their opportunities for fine living - each chapter is accompanied by 'Incidental Intelligence' detailing his recommendations of the best hotels, ...more
Martyn Perry
A visit to Macau Island and a mysterious gold smuggling millionaire in his mansion, a near plane crash through a failed engine and emergency landing from Tokyo to Honolulu, a thousand feet high flaming eruption from the volcano and the first - at the time - since 1868, beating the Las Vegas casinos and winning big on the one armed bandits, a bomb that goes off in a night club just ten mins after departure, trading roulette strategies with elegant females in Monaco casinos.

There’s little to diffe
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Ian Fleming is given the chance to live the life of his character James Bond. Armed with a sheaf of visas, a suitcase, and a typewriter, Ian Fleming was commissioned in 1959 by The Sunday Times to explore 14 of the world's most exotic locations. His goal was to be guided through these locations by the locals, and experience the culture, the seedy underbelly, and all the key touristic aspects for his newspaper column. Through this book we gain some understanding of the inspiration behind Ian Flem ...more
Bill FromPA
In 1959 and 1960, Fleming was commissioned by the London Sunday Times to take two trips, in the fall of 1959 to the Far East and US and in the spring of 1960 to the continent, and to visit and write a series of articles about the titular metropolises. This book contains expanded versions of these articles, with passages eliminated by “blue pencil” restored and “incidental intelligence” added at the end of each article to bring hotel, restaurant and night-life information up-to-date as of 1964.

Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Travel the world with Bond.

Overall a very descriptive travel memoir by Mr. Ian Fleming. I did not care for the first half of the book. Here Fleming traveled the world in a matter of weeks. It seemed rushed and I felt you could tell Fleming did not enjoy his travel assignment. The second half featured Europe's thrilling cities which I found more enjoyable to read. Fleming takes the reader on a descriptive journey as he travels the European countryside. Within each city he finds a subject to expan
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun and interesting travelogue by Mr. James Bond himself. Go into it with an open mind - it was written during a different time so there are many observations or comments that are sexist, racist, or otherwise inappropriate by today's standards that were socially acceptable back then. That aside, it's a pretty interesting snapshot of major cities around the world and could even still be useful to today's travelers for the buildings, restaurants, and hotels that still stand. Although the prices ma ...more
Jul 02, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look at post WW II travel through the eyes of James Bond's creator, paired with bracing interludes of racism and misogyny!

At its best, it calls to mind Brian Phillip's essay "The Constant Traveller", in which he observed:

"In the same way that the detective movie is a fantasy about city life, the spy movie is a fantasy about tourism. No one is more beautifully adapted to the urban environment than the detective — he knows its secrets, speaks its language, moves freely between its pen
John Braden
Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked up a new copy. My old Pan copies (originally two volumes) are basically mummy dust. Like the Bond books the opinions of the author are not PC. And like the Bond books the descriptive quality of the writing is excellent. That's why I re-read the book after many years. Fleming communicates so much, so well, and so concisely. Nobody does it better (see what I did there).
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you have a yearning for a little Fleming but can't face that James Bond nonsense this may be just the thing.
It's a travel book and obviously they age from day 1 but that actually adds interest to the observations.
It won't leave you too shaken or stirred.
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For completists

Fleming is a talented writer and this is worth reading, if you like his style; however, the travel information is badly out of date. If you are a Fleming completist, then it is a must read.
Ian Hefele
Really dated but stupidly funny to hear all the cheap or expensive prices he was talking about. Seems Ian Flemming just used his own sexism as a basis for James Bond.

Some of the terms used in this book are offensive now.
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Espionage Aficion...: need more nonfiction! 11 23 Aug 24, 2015 02:20PM  

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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Ian Lancaster Fleming was a British author, journalist and Second World War Navy Commander. He was a grandson of the Scottish financier Robert Fleming, who founded the Scottish American Investment Trust and the merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co.

Fleming is best remembered for creating the character of James Bond

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