In January 1956 Fleming travelled to his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica to write From Russia, with Love, returning to London in March that year with a first draft manuscript. This was 228 pages long and was eventually heavily altered by Fleming, with a number of significant re-writes. One of the re-writes was Bond's fate at the end of the novel; Fleming had become disenchanted with his books, and decided in April 1956 to alter the ending to make Klebb poison Bond, allowing Fleming to finish the series with the death of Bond if he wanted.
Fleming's trip to Istanbul in June 1955 to cover an Interpol conference for The Sunday Times was a source of much of the background information in the story. In Istanbul Fleming met the Oxford-educated Nazim Kalkavan, who became the model for Darko Kerim; Fleming wrote much of Kalkavan's conversations into a notebook, which he then used verbatim in the novel. Whilst in Istanbul, Fleming wrote an account of the Istanbul Pogroms, "The Great Riot of Istanbul", which was published in The Sunday Times on 11 September 1955.
Other elements of the novel came from people Fleming knew or had heard of: Red Grant, the name of a Jamaican river guide described as "a cheerful, voluble giant of villainous aspect", was used for the half-German, half-Irish assassin, while Rosa Klebb was partly based on Colonel Rybkin of Soviet Intelligence. The Spektor machine used as the bait for Bond was not a Cold War device, but had its roots in the World War II Enigma machine, which Fleming had tried to obtain during his time in Naval Intelligence Division.
Using the Orient Express as a plot device came from two sources: Fleming had returned from the Istanbul conference in 1955 on the train, but found the experience drab, partly because there was no restaurant car. Fleming also knew of the story of Eugene Karp and his journey on the Orient Express: Karp was a US naval attaché and intelligence agent based in Budapest who, in February 1950, took the Orient Express from Budapest to Paris, carrying a number of papers about blown US spy networks in the Eastern Bloc. Soviet assassins were already on the train. The conductor was drugged and Karp's body was found shortly afterwards in a railway tunnel south of Saltzberg.