Thursday, February 23, 2012

Commander Bond's London

Ian Fleming


"The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.  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."  So opens Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel, Casino Royale published in 1952.   http:/www.amzn.com/014200202X

Ian Fleming was born in 1908 and educated at Eton and Sandhurst.  His father, Valentine Fleming was killed on the Western front in 1917.  His grandfather, Robert Fleming, was a successful banker.  Ian worked for a short time as a journalist with Reuters and as a stockbroker.  He served in British Naval Intelligence during World War II.  He was the secretary to Admiral John Godfrey who was the Director of Naval Intelligence and the real-life model for "M".  Fleming was a regular at Bletchley Park who was well aware of the Ultra secret.  His principal villain in Casino Royale is "Le Chiffre" which means "the cypher or "the number" and is a veiled reference to code breaking from the Second World War--Fleming died in 1964 long before the secrets of Enigma became public.


Fleming's genuine understanding of the spy trade fully informs the Bond novels giving them a crisp verisimilitude in spite of their flights of fantasy.  He helped to conceive Operation Mincemeat--the disinformation scheme that placed a corpse dressed in Royal navy uniform and loaded with bogus misleading intelligence for the Germans to find on the shores of "neutral" Spain (http:/www.amzn.com/0307453278).  He was waiting off the coast of France during the raid on Dieppe in 1942 for news of his specially trained commandos.  Tragically, one of Fleming's pretty girlfriends was killed by a V2 rocket attack during the war.

Fleming's Bond novels have sold over 60 million copies.  The series of films inspired by the Bond books has a unique position in the history of film-making accounting for billions of dollars of box office revenue.  Every one made has been a world-wide hit.

Reading or re-reading the original Bond books is a wonderful way to while away the hours.  These were the ultimate beach/holiday books of the 1950's and 1960's.  Both John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald were each reading an Ian Fleming novel at the time of the assassination in November of 1963.  The books are full of politically incorrect stereotypes and crude misogyny, but are also an enormous source of sheer reading pleasure.  Flemings' books are clearly to the right of the Bond Movies--Fleming is a determined anti-communist.  His first villain, Le Chiffre, is a sadistic communist paymaster who works as a go- between the Soviets and radical French trade Unions.

In Casino Royale Fleming also affirms his belief in the "special relationship".  After Bond is initially cleaned out at the Baccarat table it is the American agent, Felix Leiter who comes to his rescue with a timely loan.  Bond reads on the envelope, "MarshallAid.  Thirty-two million francs.  With the compliments of the USA."

The movies are, while more PC than the books, to the right of most Hollywood productions--a key to their long-standing success.  Good triumphs over diabolical evil and Bond manages to always get a girl, or two, or three!  Don't look for the tortured ambivalence of John Le Carre here!

Fleming's novels were a hedonistic escape for a generation that had been accustomed to wartime rationing and deprivation.  James Bond, "the blunt instrument" drinks his way through oceans of  champagne and martinis; he eats his way through mountains of caviar and lobster.
MI6 Vauxhall

The Conservative tour of London finds traces of Bond and Fleming all over London.  You can go to Floris (http://www.florislondon.com/gbp/) and purchase Bond's favourite soaps!  In Vauxhall on the Thames you can see the famous MI6 building that was utilised in 1999's "The World is Not Enough" with Pierce Brosnan.  The notion of James Bond was allegedly conceived over drinks in the bar of the famous and trendy Ivy restaurant (http://www.the-ivy.co.uk).

St Paul's, London
You will find my favourite Bond spot in London in a corner of St Paul's cathedral.  The great St. Paul's is the final resting place of Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington.   Ask for directions to the "dirty corner" of St Paul's.  Here you will find a single stone that was left uncleaned after the thorough cleaning given to St. Paul's unveiled in 2002 after years and years of candle smoke had blackened the inside of Wren's cathedral.  The cleaning was paid for, in part, by the Fleming family.  So James Bond helped to clean up St. Paul's! (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1384682/St-Pauls-reveals-a-fresh-new-look.html)


Commander Kelly recommends the Vesper as the ultimate Conservative cocktail.  Here is the recipe courtesy of Ian Fleming...

"Three measures of Gordon's (gin), one of vodka, a half measure of Kina Lillet.  Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?"


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