Literary 007 meme: Jimmy Cannon

Jimmy Cannon (1909-1973)

Thanks to .@JB_UnivEx on Twitter, the blog was reminded of a major U.S. sports writer, Jimmy Cannon (1909-73).

In the novel Diamonds Are Forever, Bond hangs around quite a bit with former CIA agent Felix Leiter.

Leiter gives Bond a New York Post sports column he clipped from the newspaper.

“This Jimmy Cannon is their sports columnist,” Leiter tells Bond. “Good writer. Knows what he’s writing about. Read it in the car. We ought to be moving.”

A couple of sentences later, there’s this passage:

“Bond settled himself down with Jimmy Cannon’s tough prose. As he read, the Saratoga of the Jersey Lily’s Day vanished into the dusty, sweet past and the twentieth century looked out at him from the piece of newsprint and bared its teeth in a sneer.”

What follows is a supposed Cannon column. (h/t to the Fleming’s Bond website, which wrote about Cannon in 2014.) Afterwards, Leiter comments. “And Jimmy Cannon doesn’t let on the big boys are back again, or their successors.”

Cannon, in his day, was a celebrated U.S. newspaper sports columnist. He wrote short, punchy sentences. It was said Cannon never wrote a sentence longer than 10 words.

One of his fans was Dick Schaap (1934-2001). Schaap began as a newspaper man but managed to transition into television. He was the host of an ESPN show called The Sports Reporters. It consisted of Schaap and (mostly egoist) newspaper columnists. That show ended in May 2017.

Going into commercial breaks during the early years of The Sports Reporters, viewers saw images of Howard Cosell, one of the most famous U.S. sports casters of all time. Another was Jimmy Cannon.

When Cannon died, Dave Anderson of The New York Times did his obituary.

He was perhaps the first sportswriter aware of the sociological impact of the black athlete. Of Joe Louis, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, he once wrote:

“He’s a credit to his race—the human race.”

Of all his assignments, Mr. Cannon appeared to enjoy boxing the most, even though he criticized it as “the red‐light district” of sports. He was content with his role as a sports columnist despite editors who sometimes derided the sports pages as the “toy department” of their newspapers.

When Diamonds Are Forever was written, Ian Fleming was still a working journalist. In his case, Fleming was the foreign editor of The Sunday Times. Of course, earlier in his career, Fleming wrote from the Soviet Union for the Reuters news service.

The fact that 007’s creator was familiar with leading U.S. journalists was not a surprise. Fleming would drop other references to U.S. journalists later in his novels.

Still, Dick Schaap, a Cannon admirer, is barely remembered today. Cannon didn’t live to the era when sports writers became celebrities.