After the holidays, Bond found it hard to settle back at Eton. He proved troublesome. Then came the “alleged trouble with one of the boys’ maids”. Apparently, Bond told Pearson that the girl in question was not a housemaid, but Burglar’s illegitimate half-sister who was staying with her father at the Dorchester. Bond, who looked older than his fifteen years, borrowed a motorbike and a fiver and rode up to London to take this beautiful seventeen-year-old French girl out for dinner. Henry heard about it and reported him, and James was expelled.
After Fettes, Bond went to Geneva University to be near his grandparents. He studied psychology and law, and read widely. In Fleming’s books, however, Bond reads little more than books on golf, card-sharping and the occasional thriller by Fleming’s friends Eric Ambler or Raymond Chandler – though it has to be said, in The Man with the Golden Gun, he has John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage in his suitcase.
Despite the city’s puritanical mores, Bond felt at home in Geneva. His landlady on the Quai Gustave Ador was supposed to keep an eye on him. But he charmed her and was soon in a position to do whatever he pleased. There were girls, of course, and it was in Geneva that he fell in love with winter sports. When mocked by a skiing instructor for his lack of style, Bond challenged the man to a race down the dangerous Aiguille du Midi run at Chamonix, risking his life. He gained the reputation of being the wildest skier at the university and took a bobsleigh down the Cresta Run, a feat he revisited in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. And he climbed. In From Russia With Love, Bond was flying over the Alps when he recalled being a young man in his teens with a rope round his waist, bracing himself against the top of a rock chimney on the Aiguilles Rouges as his two companions from the University of Geneva inched up the smooth rock towards him.
In Geneva, Bond met a Russian anarchist and was intrigued by his critique of society, but refused his offer to play Russian roulette with a rusty .32 Smith and Wesson. He was understandably indignant when a psychiatrist told him he had a death wish.
At the end of term he went to Paris with Brinton. There, he recalled, after reading an advertisement in the Continental Daily Mail, he visited Harry’s Bar. It was one of the most memorable evenings of Bond's life, culminating in the loss, almost simultaneously, of his virginity and his notecase. Pearson says that this happened in an upmarket brothel called the Elysée on the Place Vendôme where a girl called Alys from Martinique introduced him to the pleasure that would feature so largely in his subsequent adventures. At the same time, she stole his notecase containing his passport, 1,000 francs and pictures of his parents. Outraged and slightly drunk, he decked the doorman and called for the manager. This turned out to be Marthe de Brandt, who seems to be a younger version of prostitute-turned-madam-cum-spy Marthe Richard. She slapped Alys and sacked her, returned Bond’s possessions and took him as her lover. The teenage Bond became a toy boy. She gave him a crash course in the arts of love and indulged him lavishly, even buying him his prized Bentley with the Amherst-Villiers supercharger that appears in Fleming’s books. In her hands, Bond lost all modesty when it came to sex. When he suspected she was seeing a former lover, she invited the man to her apartment and made him watch while she and Bond made love.
Another of Marthe’s former lovers was a man named Maddox. Officially the British military attaché in Paris, he was head of the SIS in France. It was 1937. War was looming. Someone had been leaking details of co-operation between the French and British high commands to the German newspapers. Maddox suspected Marthe. He took Bond to dinner and showed him pictures of Marthe in compromising positions with the German military attaché. At Maddox’s behest, Bond agreed to kill Marthe. On the eve of her thirtieth birthday, on a weekend in the countryside, Bond staged a car crash. He went through the windscreen, giving him the distinctive three-inch scar on his right cheek. But Marthe was dead. This murder did not count towards his double-O rating. A few days later, Maddox discovered that Marthe was not to blame. There had been a German spy in the British embassy all along.
Maddox took care of everything. He installed Bond in a nursing home and got the Bentley fixed. Once Bond was back on his feet, Maddox inducted him into the Secret Service. Bond was then given a crash course in card-sharping by an American named Steffi Esposito which would stand him in good stead throughout his career. They tried out what he learnt at Casino Royale in Royale-les-Eaux on the French coast where Bond used his new-found skills to win at baccarat. He was then sent to Monte Carlo with René Mathis from the Deuxième Bureau, whom he worked with again in Casino Royale, From Russia With Love and Thunderball, and the film Quantum of Solace. Their assignment was to stop a team of Romanians who were breaking the bank at the casino: it seems they were using special glasses to read normally invisible signs marked on the back of the cards. After seducing the leader’s mistress, Bond got her to switch the glasses. Using the villain’s glasses himself, Bond taught them a lesson at the tables. The Romanians were forced to return all the money they had won and were deported from France.
Bond was instructed to return to Geneva University and use it as a cover for spying activities that would take him routinely into Germany, Italy and Spain. One night in Berlin, Bond found, instead of the contact he had taken as his mistress, in his bed was a male assassin. In the ensuing struggle, Bond killed him, gashing his throat open with a broken perfume bottle. He then escaped through the window and high-tailed it back to Switzerland.
According to Pearson, Bond made some youthful errors. Sent to deliver money to the Secret Service’s network in Istanbul, he handed a briefcase containing £20,000 to the wrong man. Pearson says that Bond met the man again when he was in Istanbul in From Russia With Love. Outside the action of the book or the film, Bond discovered that the man had used the money to open a restaurant. As a result, Bond and his guest ate for free.
Bond travelled to Moscow to help a scientist to defect, but the man died after falling from an eighth-storey window. This reminded Bond of the death of his parents and he resorted to drink and sleeping pills – as he does in You Only Live Twice after his wife Tracy has been killed by Blofeld at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. To recuperate, he took a break in Kitzbühel where he renewed his acquaintance with Ian Fleming. Fleming helped Bond pull out of his depression by introducing him to a lot of girls. Somehow Fleming also knew about Bond’s work for the Secret Service. While he was there, Bond learnt to ski under the tutelage of Hannes Oberhausen, the man Major Smythe has murdered in the short story “Octopussy”.
“He was something of a father to me at a time when I happened to need one,” Bond tells Smythe.
However, Pearson reckons that Fleming got this wrong in the story. Bond already knew how to ski, though Oberhausen might have helped him refine his style. Pearson also says that Oberhausen, who had been close to death many times in the mountains, taught Bond to live for the moment without looking back, with no regrets or remorse. It was a lesson well learned.
On the other hand, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, after Bond has escaped from Blofeld’s Alpine lair, M says to Bond: “Didn’t know you could ski.” So presumably it was not in his service record. Bond, self-effacing as ever, says that he only just managed to stay upright and he “wouldn’t like to try it again”. In the movies, Bond – or at least his stunt double – is an expert skier.
Bond then moved to Paris where he was taught unarmed combat and how to shoot. Twice a week he would play bridge for money with Maddox at the fashionable Club Février. The routine was supposed to tough him up. But he was not entirely without feeling. In Casino Royale, when he hears “La Vie en Rose”, it brings seduction to mind. The song would continue to haunt him in Diamonds Are Forever.
After a holiday with a married woman, Bond was ordered back to London where he went to work for Fleming at Naval Intelligence. He was sent to observe the shipping coming out of Wilhelmshaven. After secondment into the Navy, he was trained as an agent at William Stephenson’s camp in Canada. Alongside standard weapons training and more unarmed combat instruction, Bond was trained as a frogman, specializing in underwater combat. Then Fleming commissioned Bond to assassinate the Japanese code-breaker intercepting British intelligence traffic in New York’s Rockefeller Center – a murder Bond admits to in Casino Royale.
Bond worked in occupied France, then countered the one-man submarines attacking Allied shipping in Alexandria harbour. Then he was sent to Stockholm to kill a Norwegian double agent, a man he knew. Again he admits to this in Casino Royale. This second murder earned Bond his double-O status. He smuggled Jewish scientists out of Switzerland, fought behind the lines in Italy, co-ordinated the French Resistance in the run-up to D-Day and thwarted the left-behind Nazi Werewolves in the Ardennes, as mentioned in Dr No and alluded to in other stories.
When Admiral Sir Miles Messervy – M – took over SIS after the war, he was unsure whether to keep Bond on. During a probationary period, Bond was sent to Washington to liaise with what was left of the OSS. He worked with “Wild Bill” Donovan and Allen Dulles in the formation of the CIA, while spending most of his time bedding politicians’ wives in Georgetown. This led to a scandal. M disapproved and Bond was sacked. He found it difficult to find another job. The rent due, he decided to try making money by gambling at his wartime club Blades, resisting the momentary temptation to reverse his fortunes by employing the card-sharping techniques he had been taught. Then he bumped into Maddox, who took him back to Paris. Employed as a “security director” for French bankers, he travelled widely in Francophone Africa. But Bond fell for Maddox’s wife and Maddox had him set up to be killed in Algeria. Bond foiled the plot and resigned. He played around in Kenya for a while, then travelled to the Seychelles where he became involved in the search for a rare fish related in “The Hildebrand Rarity”. After the millionaire fish-hunter from the story was dead, Bond lived with his widow. Then Fleming turned up in the islands. He said things had changed at MI6 and persuaded Bond to return to London.
Fleming arranged for Bond to met M for lunch at Blades. Over steak-and-kidney pie and a carafe of the Algerian “Infuriator of the Fleet” red wine M inflicted on Bond too in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and The Man with the Golden Gun, M offered Bond his old job back. This time he would be in the double-O section recently reformed to counter SMERSH’s assassination squad. Bond had misgivings. He had had enough of killing, but Fleming persuaded him to take the job.
Bond soon found it was good to be back. Although he was a loner, he needed to be part of an organization. It gave his life context. First he had to undergo three months' intensive training in unarmed combat, weaponry, gadgets and the latest in intelligence techniques. Passed fit for duty, he selected a .32 Beretta as his personal weapon and underwent a three-day interrogation session where faceless inquisitors tried to break him. There it was discovered that his “pain threshold” and “co-efficient of resistance” were extraordinarily high. Then he went before a number of Civil Service boards before he was finally taken on as a Principal Officer attached to the Ministry of Defence. He was given his official pass to the offices of Universal Export near Regent’s Park, where he had his own office and a shared secretary. His salary was £1,500 a year. He had another £1,000, tax free, of his own. On assignment he could spend as much as he liked and, according to Fleming in Moonraker, for the remaining months of the year he could live very well on an annual £2,000 net.
Bond had little to do with other members of the Service, though he occasionally lunched with M’s Chief of Staff, Bill Tanner. He found a flat off the King's Road in Chelsea and Aunt Charmian found him his Scottish housekeeper, May, who had previously worked for Uncle Gregor. Bond’s domestic arrangements were paid for by an inheritance from his great-uncle Ian, who had died recently.
Bond was given his 007 code name – the post had been vacant for some time – and sent to Jamaica after the station chief had been sending bizarre reports about a Cuban assassin named Gomez who had taken over the labour unions and the sect of the Goddess Kull. In Kingston, Bond discovered that those summoned to visit the Goddess Kull were found dead; others were terrorized.
Investigating Gomez’s beach house, Bond saw a beautiful girl naked, oiling herself on the terrace. Later, when swimming, he rescued her from a shark. Bond then disguised himself as Kull’s next victim, a wealthy businessman named Da Silva, and attended a bizarre ritual when he is ordered to make love to the goddess, who is lying naked on the altar. It was the woman he had just rescued. But before he could be killed, Bond killed Gomez and his henchmen. The spell of Kull has been broken and Bond spent several days making love to the now defrocked goddess around Montego Bay. This pattern of killing the villain and bedding his girl was set to continue. Da Silva showed his gratitude at the beginning of Casino Royale by sending Bond ten million francs to play the tables.
According to Pearson, Bond’s next assignment was to blow up a ship carrying arms to the EOKA terrorists on Cyprus. He spent the evening drinking with the ship’s captain; he liked the man, but showed no emotion when the ship went down with all hands. After a brief holiday with Aunt Charmian in the South of France, Bond was recalled to be briefed about Le Chiffre in preparation for Fleming’s first novel Casino Royale.
Later Pearson has Bond confront the SMERSH agent who left him alive at the end of Casino Royale and kill him. In revenge, SMERSH makes several attempts to kill Bond. In one, the wife of a Conservative MP Bond was having an affair with is injured. M strips Bond of his double-O status and his Beretta, and posts him back to the Caribbean. But before he goes, Fleming gets in touch. He invites Bond to join him at Blades where he is having lunch with M the following day. Over lunch, Fleming persuades M that the only way to save Bond’s life is to convince SMERSH that he doesn't really exist by turning him into a fictional character. This was a tactic borrowed from Sefton Delmer and “black propaganda”. When the Soviets discovered the truth, they tried to have him killed again in From Russia With Love. But they botched it. After that, they have their own reasons for letting Bond remain a figure of fiction. Then M decides that the Bond books provide indispensable publicity for the department. At least, that was the story as Pearson told it.
In real life, Fleming did not have just one Bond to base his stories on, but several. There was Fleming himself, of course, who lent the character many of his personal tastes and traits – though Bond, he admitted, had more guts. There were numerous candidates for the prototype Bond among Fleming's colleagues in Naval Intelligence; and Peter Fleming knew an SIS officer named Rodney Bond, who had saved his life during a clandestine operation in Greece.
Bond may also have borrowed something from Peter, who was involved in a number of wartime escapades with SOE. In the 1930s, in Kitzbühel, Fleming met mountaineer, artist and spy Conrad O’Brien-Ffrench, who was setting up network Z of journalists and businessmen, which provided invaluable information on the Nazis’ preparations for war. Then there was Patrick Dalzel-Job, a member of 30AU, who dived, skied, piloted mini-submarines and parachuted behind enemy lines. He kept a compass in a button of his jacket and carried a pipe with a hidden compartment containing maps. Like Bond, he was a daredevil with a rebellious streak. However, Dalzel-Job dismissed the claim that he was Bond. “I only ever loved one woman, and I’m not a drinking man,” he said.
There is a James Bond in the Agatha Christie short story “The Rajah’s Emerald” published in 1934, which Fleming is known to have read. There is also a St James-Bond Church in Toronto, which Fleming could conceivably have seen on his visit to Canada. Then there was the eponymous ornithologist James Bond, who once visited Fleming at Goldeneye. A Canadian TV crew was there at the same time and Fleming introduced the author of A Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies as “the real James Bond”. In Dr No it is ostensibly an interest in birds that leads Bond to the villain’s lair on Crab Key, while in the film Die Another Day Bond, in the person of Pierce Brosnan, claims to be an ornithologist and is seen holding a copy of the other Bond’s Field Guide. Fleming himself said: “I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find – brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine.” The reason was that he wanted his protagonist to be “unobtrusive. Exotic things would happen to and around him, but he would be a neutral figure – an anonymous blunt instrument wielded by a government department.”
His code name, 007, was simpler in origin, according to Fleming.
“When I was in the Admiralty during the war,” he said, “all the top-secret signals had the double-O prefix. Although this was later changed for security reasons, it stuck in my mind and I decided to borrow it for Bond.”
It was only natural that Fleming should give Bond a code number. At Naval Intelligence Fleming himself was17F. On another occasion Fleming said that he had taken 007 from the zip code 20007, which covers Georgetown in Washington, DC, where many CIA agents lived. Then there is Forster’s explanation, given above.
Bondologists have come up with other explanations. During World War I, Naval Intelligence had intercepted the Zimmermann telegram from the German foreign secretary urging Mexico to attack the US. This helped bring America into the war. The telegram had been encrypted in the German diplomatic code prefixed 007. So the number 007 was associated with British intelligence’s greatest achievement, it is said. However, the number group appears nowhere in the telegram and the code identification number is 13042.
Another theory is that 007 originated with the sixteenth-century English mathematician, scientist, occultist, numerologist and, possibly, spy, Dr John Dee. Several authors mention that, in his coded messages to Queen Elizabeth, Dee was identified as 007. The two 0s looked like two eyes sheltered by an elongated 7, which was generally regarded as a mystical number. Fleming had been introduced to the works of John Dee by Aleister Crowley.
The truth is, the real James Bond is to be found in Ian Fleming’s books.
Chapter 4 – Bond: The Books
Ian Fleming wrote twelve Bond novels and two books of short stories. The first novel, Casino Royale, introduces us to James Bond late at night, in a casino – a place where he would spend much of his professional life.
Casino Royale (1953)
Fleming’s first draft read: “Scent and smoke and sweat hit the taste buds with an acid thwack at three o’clock in the morning.” Then he tried: “Scent and smoke and sweat combine together and hit the taste buds with an acid shock at three o’clock in the morning.” Finally, he came up with: “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning …” And he was up and running. “…Then the soul-erosion produced by high gambling – a compost of greed and fear and nervous tension – becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it.…”
We are in the sophisticated, high-voltage world of the casino and James Bond is watching his quarry, the Soviet agent Le Chiffre. Within the first few pages we are told that Bond is a secret agent, working for M who occupies a “deadly” office building near Regent’s Park. The action switches to the office, where M, head of the British Secret Service, has received a memorandum outlining the situation. Le Chiffre works for SMERSH. We are told that the murderous organization's name is a contraction of Smert Shpionam, or “Death to Spies”. He is the undercover paymaster of a trade union in Alsace, but has diverted Soviet funds into a private venture: a chain of brothels. However, he has been caught out by the Marthe Richard law, curtailing prostitution. SMERSH will kill him if they find out he has stolen their money, so he intends to win it back at the gaming tables of the fictional town of Royale-les-Eaux. As Bond has already proved adept at gambling, defeating the Roumanian team in Monte Carlo, he was despatched to stop him.
The Deuxième Bureau sends René Mathis to help him, while Section S send the beautiful Vesper Lynd. Bond does not approve of women agents, but falls for her anyway. Felix Leiter from the CIA also turns up. Soon we are introduced to Bond’s 1930 4½-litre Bentley, his passion for scrambled eggs, his fondness for champagne and dry Martinis and his eye for pretty women. We also share his danger when two Bulgars blow themselves up while trying to bomb 007 – an incident Fleming said was based on the attempted assassination of Franz von Papen, the German ambassador to Turkey, by the NKVD in 1942. There too the bomb went off prematurely, killing the Bulgarian assassin while von Papen was only slightly injured.
Bond confronts Le Chiffre at the baccarat table. Bond is soon cleaned out, but Leiter slips him another thirty-two million (old) francs. A gunman sticks a pistol disguised in a malacca cane in Bond’s back and whispers that he must withdraw his bet. Bond launches himself backwards and breaks the cane, disarming him. Bond then pretends he has been overcome by the atmosphere and resumes his place at the table. This time he beats Le Chiffre, who leaves the table without a word.
After Bond and Vesper celebrate, she is kidnapped by Le Chiffre and his men. Bond pursues them. There is a car chase. Bond is captured after running across a bed of spikes laid across the road. To recover Bond’s winnings, Le Chiffre tortures him by sitting him on seatless chair and beating his genitals with a carpet-beater. Bond won’t relent, even though he is certain he is going to die. At the last moment, a SMERSH assassin arrives and kills Le Chiffre. He lets Bond live as he has no orders to kill him. However, he cuts an inverted M in his hand: this is the Cyrillic letter “Ш” for шпион or shpion, meaning spy.
Bond spends three weeks in hospital recovering and considering whether to resign from the Secret Service. Then he drives off down the coast to convalesce with Vesper. A man called Adolph Gettler turns up, wearing a black eyepatch. Knowing that he is an assassin from SMERSH, Vesper kills herself, admitting in her suicide note that she had been a double agent all along. Bond rebukes himself for playing “Red Indians” when “the real enemy had been working quietly, coldly, without heroics, right there at his elbow”. He decides to stay in the service to fight SMERSH. He then receives a call warning him that Vesper is a double agent. He replies: “The bitch is dead now.”
Casino Royal was published in hardback in the UK by Jonathan Cape in April 1953. It came out in paperback in the US as You Asked For It in 1955, then reverted to the title Casino Royale in the US in 1960.
Live and Let Die (1954)
James Bond reappears flying into Idlewild Airport (renamed JFK in 1963) at the beginning of Live and Let Die, which Fleming had originally entitled “The Undertaker’s Wind”. This became the title of Chapter 17, where Bond’s sidekick from the Cayman Islands, Quarrel, explains that the “Undertaker’s Wind” blows the bad air from Jamaica from six at night until six in the morning. It is followed by the “Doctor’s Wind” that blows sweet air in from the sea.