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Life of a Spy . . . Fun & Games

“The name’s Bond . . . James Bond.”
Is there today a more familiar tidbit of dialogue in commercial fiction? Maybe not.
James Bond, 007, was born in tropical Jamaica sixty-three years ago. That was where he was created by author and bon vivant Ian Fleming in 1952. Like Fleming, Bond was a world-class hedonist – fond of the booze, the women and the tropical milieu that made spying all the more enjoyable.
Compared to the likes of John Le Carre and his George Smiley, the adventures of James Bond are an easy read. Unlike Le Carre, Ian Fleming makes no pretense of writing literary fiction. It’s all fun and games, and an exotic escape from the mundane reality of espionage.
Much the same could be said of Roy Mancini, the undercover Cold War hero in my novel, CHINA SEA, due out next month. (Ah ha. You’ll just have to purchase the book to find that out.)
Back to Bond and Fleming. Ian Fleming grew up in an age of Britain’s waning empire. He spent World War 2 in British naval intelligence and apparently derived his plots from operations that he was familiar with or had heard about from colleagues. Sometime after the war he purchased his plot in Jamaica, all the while working as a correspondent for the Sunday Times. During a two month hiatus from the Times he began writing Casino Royale, his first 007 novel. James Bond was born.
Like a lot of Brits of his generation and posh background, Fleming was depressed by the loss of empire and was, perhaps as a result, more than mildly anti-American. How dare these upstart Yanks replace Great Britain in the scheme of things and demand an end to benevolent colonialism!
Fleming’s xenophobia is revealed through James Bond in the books. At various times Bond states: The Japanese have “an unquenchable thirst for the bizarre, the cruel and the terrible.” The Chinese are “hysterical.” Italians are “bums with monogrammed shirts who spend the day eating spaghetti and meatballs and squirting scent over themselves.” Afrikaners are “a bastard race, sly, stupid and ill-bred.” In From Russia with Love, Bond’s Turkish colleague Darko Kerim makes the following observation about his own countrymen: “All this pretense about democracy is killing them. They want some sultans and wars and rape and fun.”
Jamaica on the other hand remained complacently colonial. It had been a British colony for some 300 years. Ian Fleming was in heaven there. The booze, the promiscuity, the lording over the natives. And thus he continued to live there and to write the semi-autobiographical lore of his fellow hedonist, 007. Fleming died at the age of 56, possibly as a result of either the 70 cigarettes he smoked in a day or the copious amount of alcohol he drank.
And James Bond lives on and on. The seventeen novels and the DVDs continue to sell like hotcakes. Indeed one could rate 007 as the most successful literary creation of the 20th century.
Now, I’d better search for one of Ian Fleming’s books on Amazon or up the road at Barnes & Noble for inspiration (hint: I’m now outlining my second novel of the Roy Mancini series titled JAVA SEA.)

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Filed under: Novel, Thriller

About the Author

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I was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Southern California. I served aboard submarines in the United States Navy. I have lived in the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Bali, Indonesia. During my period living in Southeast Asia I ran an export company and played throughout the region as a jazz musician. My debut novel, China Sea, portrays a plot and settings derived from my experience.

2 Comments

  1. Kitty Salinas

    Great review of an old favorite. I, too, will now need to get another Bond book for a reread.

    Like

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