A good place to start would be Carlyle Mansions, known locally as The Writers’ Block. At the time of its creation, in 1886, local historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle had recently died, hence the name. And why the nickname, 'Writers’ Block'? Because an amazing set of famous authors have lived here over the years. Henry James lived and died at no. 21, on the 4th floor. Years later T.S. Eliot moved into the floor below, and shortly after that, Ian Fleming moved in and wrote 'Casino Royale' on a gold typewriter bought especially for the project, Bond’s first adventure; yes, this is where James Bond was born.
Another great literary resident in Carlyle Mansions, at no. 27, was W. Somerset Maugham. What does the author of ‘Of Human Bondage’ have to do with James Bond?
Too old and sickly to serve in the army, Maugham offered to serve the British as a spy during World War I. The government thought it was a great opportunity, because who would suspect a middle-aged, unhealthy, famous novelist of being an agent?
Maugham published 'Ashenden' in 1928, a group of short stories based on his experiences. For the first time, a spy was portrayed as gentlemanly, sophisticated and aloof. Ian Fleming, later a friend of Maugham, said that Ashenden influenced his own writing of spy stories. So could it be said that Maugham himself inspired the character, James Bond??
In 1960, Ian Fleming published 'For Your Eyes Only', a collection of short James Bond stories. Fleming undertook some minor experiments with the format, including the story, Quantum of Solace, written in the style of and as a direct homage to Maugham.
Below: Carlyle Mansions, known locally as The Writers’ Block, where Bond was 'born'. And below that, some lovely murals on the side of the building.
Augustus John had an affair with Eve Fleming, socialite and mother of James Bond, Ian Fleming. They had an ‘illegitimate’ daughter together, Amaryllis Fleming (i.e. born out of wedlock, due to the culture of the time, she was told she was a foster daughter until she became an adult). Amaryllis became a famous cellist, and her half brother Ian pays tribute to her in his short James Bond story, Living Daylights (also part of the ‘For Your Eyes Only’ collection). While being a sniper, Bond sees a cellist and observes: ‘There’s something indecent in the idea of a bulbous ungainly instrument between splayed thighs. That girl Amaryllis managed to look elegant.’