“My name is Bond …”
Would you like three and a half billion people to know your main character?
‘Maybe,’ I hear you say, your eyes gleaming.
So how did Ian Fleming do it?
Fleming once said in an interview: “People often ask me, “How do you manage to think of that? What an extraordinary (or sometimes extraordinarily dirty) mind you must have.”
Fleming is a classic case of a writer making the most of what he knows. He was a high ranking intelligence officer during the Second World War. He had first-hand experience of many incidents in his books.
He once said: “I dolled them up, attached a hero, a villain and a heroine, and there was the book.”
The gambling scene in Casino Royale for instance.
Fleming was in Lisbon in 1941 on the way to Washington for secret talks. The chief of German Intelligence in Portugal gambled in the Casino every night. Fleming saw him at the chemin de fer table and had the idea to beat him and rob Lisbon’s Abwehr of all its funds.
Fleming had a modest fifty pounds sterling. He gambled three times and was cleaned out of his travel money.
He wrote a different ending for Bond.
The assassination attempt on Bond’s life outside the Hotel Splendide was based on a Russian attempt to assassinate German ambassador Franz von Papen in Ankara, Turkey.
And the torture scene? Something similar – a very nasty thing called passer a la mandoline – was used on his own agents during the war.
But how did he come up with the name?
Fleming said he wanted Bond to be dull and uninteresting, a ‘blunt instrument.’ This is how Daniel Craig plays him in the latest Bond movies, the anti-Connery that Fleming envisioned.
He thought ‘James Bond’ was the dullest name he had ever heard. The real Bond was a Caribbean bird watcher, of Fleming’s acquaintance. “It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born.”
The 007 symbol dates back to Elizabethan Times: For Your Eyes Only. It was the codename used by Elizabeth I’s spymaster, Dee. John Dee.
It also referred to one of British naval intelligence’s key achievements of World War one, the breaking of the German diplomatic code.
To anyone who knew about such things, ‘007’ signified the highest achievement of British Military Intelligence.
It was, in itself, a code.
Bond’s peccadilloes were his own; Fleming himself liked scrambled eggs, Ronson lighters and had cigarettes custom made by Morland’s. He and Bond shared the same golf handicap. Fleming even used the names of old school friends and lovers in his novels.
Did Fleming date a Pussy Galore? We’ll never know.
But M was based on his wartime boss, Rear Admiral John Godfrey. Hungarian-born British architect, Erno Goldfinger, whose concrete tower blocks became such a feature of post war London, was a man Fleming despised for his Brutalist architecture.
Rosa Klebb of Smersh, “a dreadful chunk of a woman” was based on Major Tamara Ivanova, a real life K.G.B. operative. Ernst Blofeld was a schoolmate at Eton.
But who did he base his hero on?
One was his brother, Peter, who worked behind the lines in Norway and Greece during the war.
There was Commander Wilfred Dunderdale – known as “Biffy” because of his prowess as a boxer in the Royal Navy – who was head of SIS Paris Station in the thirties and had a penchant for pretty women and fast cars. He dined at Maxim’s, drove an armour-plated Rolls Royce, and dressed in handmade suits with Cartier cufflinks. He also played a key role in the cracking of the Enigma code.
There was Pieter Tazelaar, a Dutch agent who actually did emerge from the ocean near a seafront casino in the middle of the night, dressed in a specially designed rubber oversuit which he then stripped off to reveal full evening dress. It happened at Scheveningen in Holland in 1940.
And you thought it was just fiction
And there was Dušan “Duško” Popov, OBE, a Serbian double agent with a Playboy lifestyle who claimed to have informed Edgar Hoover about the attack on Pearl Harbor four months before it happened.
There. It’s as simple as that. As he said, all he did was ‘dolled them up, attached a hero, a villain and a heroine, and there was the book.”
But I have my doubts.
I suspect it was just his cover story.