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Geek Trivia: Spy versus spy-fiction

What was author Ian Fleming's codename when he worked for British military intelligence, an inspiration for the 007 moniker that Fleming would assign to his own most famous fictional creation, James Bond?
What was author Ian Fleming's codename when he worked for British military intelligence, an inspiration for the 007 moniker that Fleming would assign to his own most famous fictional creation, James Bond?

Fleming was agent 17F during his days with British Intelligence. Originally a junior officer in Scotland's storied Black Watch infantry battalion, Fleming was recruited by Rear Admiral John Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence for Britain during World War II. Under Godfrey's command, Fleming created a special intelligence-gathering unit known as 30AU -- the Red Indians -- which specialized in cat burglar-like covert actions. For his works in the Royal Navy, Fleming would eventually achieve the rank of commander -- coincidentally, the same rank held by James Bond.

Yet it wasn't mere covert operational experience (and an alphanumeric codename) that Fleming shared with his signature creation. Like Bond, Fleming hobnobbed with society's elite. As mentioned previously, JFK was a Fleming fan, made so on the strength of a mutual friend prodding the future President to read some Bond books in 1955, whilst Kennedy was recovering from an operation. Fleming and JFK finally met in 1960, when the latter was running for President.

Fleming's list of influential friends hardly stops there. Actor Christopher Lee -- for the older crowd, Dracula to Peter Cushing's Van Helsing; for the younger readership, Saruman from Lord of the Rings and Count Dooku from Episodes II and III -- is Fleming's cousin. Fleming encouraged producers Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli to cast Lee as either Bond's nemesis Dr. No or even Bond himself in the film version of Dr. No. The producers declined, though Lee eventually was cast as assassin Francisco Scaramanga, the titular Man with the Golden Gun.

Lee wasn't the only famous friend Fleming tried to get into his movies. Neighbor Noel Coward (whose Jamaican estate bordered Fleming's) was another of the writer's choices for Dr. No. It didn't quite work out, though Fleming's preference for Roger Moore over Sean Connery would eventually be tested onscreen. (The Trivia Geek prefers Connery, by the way.) Sadly, neither Moore nor Lee's casting occurred before Fleming's death in 1964, so the author never saw those suggestions honored.

As is so often the case with great writers, Fleming's creations outlived and outshined him, but only because the world never had the chance to get to know the man who was in many ways more James Bond than Bond himself. That's not just artistic irony, it's criminally classified Geek Trivia.

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About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

18 comments
RealGem
RealGem

I preferred Roger Moore. I tend to like the more "bad guy" Bonds and Roger looked a little more dangerous. Ahem. Although all of those earlier movies had a good dose of silly built into them.

techie
techie

"She liked imaginary men best." Yet, would have entertained Mr. Fleming for cocktails without notice. Wow - and I thought only geeky things aroused me... thanks for Bond trivia. Think I'll pop in a few DVDs this morning and continue the fantasy...

rucb_alum
rucb_alum

Even better...It appears that many of the torture scenes in the novels were acted out - by Fleming and his lover then wife - who were both apparently into S/M. Or so says the new bio coming out from the BBC to celebrate IF's 100th birthday. He kept a book of bondage photos on the bookshelf and when visitors would naturally enough take it off the shelf and give it a look he was quoted as saying "I say, is that turning you on?". Try the audiobooks with Simon Vance reading. They are great.

techie
techie

.... (gasp) Oooh, how titillating! Love bios, adore Bond. Audio books - make for curious background noise at a party. A def investment then for Simon Vance's reading. Cheers!

devGuy
devGuy

Giggle, giggle. Oh, 'titULAR', as in, related to the title. Um, nevermind.

Dr. Solar
Dr. Solar

You're missing the oh-so-subtle wordplay here... the use of "titular" is wonderfully apt, since Scaramanga, the Man With the Golden Gun, has three nipples.

cl_fart
cl_fart

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who giggled a little and did my best Beavis and Butthead "He said titular, heh heh heh".

oeflynn
oeflynn

I want to nitpick - you say that 'Fleming?s creations outlived and outshined him' - the correct past tense of shine (and hence outshine) is shone - so 007 outshone Ian Fleming!

Dr. Solar
Dr. Solar

Hey, get it right! The correct mispelling of "grammar" is "grammer", NOT "gammar"! :)

lammwa
lammwa

Dr. Solar, Nothing to do with the forum, but just noticed you are from my home town. Were you born a "Pretzel"?

oeflynn
oeflynn

you are wrong! I know I misspelt it (I left out the 1st R - even after checking it) - but there is no word 'grammer' - check it out at www.dictionary.com or www.oed.com . For Grammar, it references a number of US & UK sources (including the American Heritage Dictionary http://www.bartleby.com/61/ for those of you who don't speack 'English') - none for 'Grammer'. Check your facts before starting a flame war!

david.bell
david.bell

Obviously you didn't get the joke Dr Solar made in that statement.

bgiroux
bgiroux

Sorry, oeflynn. Outshined is proper, at least in the US.

Snak
Snak

'Outshined' just sounds wrong to me. I know Americans are supposed to speak 'English', but it isn't really is it? 'Outshined' is a common 5-year-old's mistake here in England, quickly corrected. Of course language evolves and no matter how we may not like it, it does. Interestingly, type 'outshined' into this 'Body of reply' text area and it is automatically underlined as incorrect. The options (on a right click) do not include 'outshone' (which, for me in my obvious dotage will remain correct), but several other 'wrong' options.

Snak
Snak

Nor will I. 'English' is nearly spoken in many countries across the globe, and this is a good thing. A common language is sort of important, really. As for losing the Empire; that was a good thing too. Whilst I'll campaign for a single world government, abolishing all national boundaries, 'Empire' is not the way to do it. (Before rampant patriotism gets on its high horse, let me add that a One World government does not mean you can't keep your culture :o) )

j_eyon
j_eyon

"English" in "the English language" is not a brand of ownership. The influence of the US over the English language overwhelmed that of Britain when the US population exceeded that of Britain. And Brits have been disheartened ever since -- first they lose the language -- then the Empire...

computerblue
computerblue

oeflynn, i think you intended to write "grammar" not "gammar". at least in the US, we spell it that way.