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?

On May 28, 1908, Ian Lancaster Fleming was born in London, and in his 56 brief years on this Earth, he would help defeat the Nazis, launch the most successful movie franchise in history, and dream up one of the world's most loveable sentient automobiles. And that's not the half of it.

Fleming is perhaps best known as the creator of fictional British super-spy James Bond, who first appeared in Fleming's 1953 novel Casino Royale. The Bond character has gone on to star in more than 20 major motion pictures, which collectively grossed over $3 billion -- a figure that dwarfs even the twin Star Wars trilogies in earnings. Bond's book series wasn't quite so popular in America when it began -- until John F. Kennedy admitted he was a fan, spiking sales. Fleming's Bond arguably launched the 1960s spy-fiction craze, combining suave super-heroics with gritty Cold War quasi-realism.

Bond was hardly the most fantastic literary creation to spring from Fleming's mind. In 1964, Fleming wrote a children's book for his son Caspar called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang about a sentient car that could transform into other impossible vehicles. Chitty was a bona fide hit, and was adapted into a 1968 film starring Dick Van Dyke, and later into a Tony-nominated stage musical. (Plus, Chitty was way cooler than the flying AMC Matador in The Man with the Golden Gun.)

Yet, perhaps the most amazing character in Fleming's life was Fleming himself. During World War II, Fleming was assigned to be the personal assistant to Britain's Director of Naval Intelligence. From this post, he learned the spy game and planned an untold number of outlandish and effective missions, including Operation Goldeneye, which prepared to defend Gibraltar from Spain should the latter have joined the Axis powers, and an unnamed scheme that involved using occultist Aleister Crowley to manipulate Rudolf Hess. (Seriously.)

Thus, many of the trappings made famous by James Bond were test driven in Fleming's own life, including Bond's famous codename, 007. Fleming had one of those too.


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By Jay Garmon

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...