I was sad to read Raymond Benson’s Facebook post that Ian Fleming’s literary agent, Peter Janson-Smith, has died at the age of 93.
Janson-Smith became Fleming’s literary agent in 1956 and was tasked with the foreign translation rights of the James Bond books. As well as acting as agent to Fleming, Janson-Smith also represented thriller writer Eric Ambler and the author of A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess and just before the death of Fleming became the chairman of Glidrose Productions (now Ian Fleming Publications). He occupied that role until 2001 and was instrumental in signing Raymond Benson to continue the Bond series after John Gardner retired.
Born in Essex in 1922, Janson-Smith learnt his trade after the Second World War. He became particularly interested in translation and foreign rights and in 1949 he moved to Curtis Brown to head the foreign language department. It was there he sold Eric Ambler’s translation rights and got to know the author, who asked him why he didn’t set up on his own. Explaining that he simply couldn’t afford to do it, Ambler loaned him the money to do just that.
It was also Ambler who suggested Fleming get in touch with Janson-Smith to sell the foreign language rights to the James Bond novels, telling him he made more money from the translated editions that he did from his British publisher.
I was lucky enough to meet Janson-Smith at a 40th anniversary screening of Thunderball in London in 2005. I spoke to him for perhaps ten minutes or so and told me how much Ian Fleming would have liked the event, which was attended by a number of James Bond alumni.