There are just 14 days to go until our latest contribution to the book world In the Beginning comes out, so we figured we'd start excerpting short bits from it. The book covers the origins of everything, from big hair to the big bang, and today we're sharing some insights on Bond. (James Bond). Enjoy!
Today's lesson on the history of James Bond is brought to you by the letters Q, M and the number 007.
The Bond Market
"Bond, James Bond" may sound suave to us now, but when Ian Fleming was dreaming up the name, he thought it was anything but. "I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could think of," he said. "James Bond seemed perfect."
The Book of Job(s)
At the time Fleming was doing his brainstorming, he was recovering on Jamaica from an uneven career that encompassed, among other things: a military education but no officer's commission, a failure at the Foreign Service exam, a few years as a middling journalist in Moscow, a few years as a banker, and a post during World War II as a high-ranking naval officer in the British intelligence service.
It was at this that he finally excelled. Among Fleming's tasks was a training exercise that had him swim underwater and attach a mine to a tanker, a plot development that fans of his book Live and Let Die will recognize. He also conducted a number of other risky, Bond-esque activities "“ including some racy affairs with women who were otherwise attached.
After the war, Fleming worked as a manager at a newspaper organization, but his heart was in writing. In 1952 he married a very recently divorced socialite and moved to Jamaica. In his new manse, dubbed Goldeneye after one of his military operations, he found a book called Birds of the West Indies by one James Bond, an ornithologist. (In the film Die Another Day, Bond happens across a copy of the same book in Cuba and poses as, yep, an ornithologist.) With a suitably bland name found, Fleming forged ahead on writing the first of his 12 Bond novels, Casino Royale. The novels weren't a huge hit at first, although President John F. Kennedy did give From Russia With Love a nod in a speech, resulting in a slight uptick in sales. It was only later, when the movie Dr. No came out, that Fleming started to get a reputation as the man with the golden pen.
A Study in Character(s)
Several of Fleming's characters were based on real life people:
"¢ DuringWorldWar II, Fleming was a personal assistant to Admiral John H. Godfrey, who served as the model for "M," the head of MI6.
"¢ Vesper Lynd, the first Bond girl (introduced in the book Casino Royale; you probably know her from the movie of the same name), was partly based on the Polish-born British agent Christine Granville, famous for defending France against the Nazis.
"¢ What about Bond himself? Although Fleming's own louche lifestyle certainly served as a model, several others have also been cited. There's William Stephenson (or as he was
known to his spy friends, "Intrepid"), a high ranking British agent who Fleming himself
referred to as "the real thing;" a colleague, Commander Patrick Dalzel-Job, who joined
Fleming in extremely risky super-secret operations during World War II; and Dusko Popov, a Serbian double agent nicknamed Tricycle who was known for his wealth and playboy tendencies.
"¢ And what about that number? There are several theories on why it's 007 and not, say, 123. The one we like best is that Dr John Dee, a 16th century agent who would have been a sort of predecessor to Bond, used the code to send messages to Queen Elizabeth. The two zeros meant "for your eyes only."