A book about 007’s inspiration

Cover for Into The Lion's Mouth

Cover for Into The Lion’s Mouth

Author Larry Loftis has come out with a book, Into The Lion’s Mouth, about real-life World War II spy Dusko Popov, who was said to be an inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond.

The blog had a chance to ask some questions of Loftis by e-mail. The exchange follows.

What interested you in the subject in the first place to do a book?

I was working on an espionage novel four years ago and I started researching “greatest spy ever.”  Dusko Popov’s name kept … ahem … popping up.  The more I read, the more intrigued I became. The man’s real life was more entertaining and thrilling than what I was making up. After reading my manuscript, my editor (Tom Colgan, famously Tom Clancy’s editor) remarked, “It’s a good thing this is nonfiction. This story is too incredible to be a novel.”

Over the years, different people have been argued to be the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond. What makes you sure your guy is the one?

The short answer is … read my book! :)  To fully explain, I’d need to include all 400 pages here. What I can say is that most people confuse two entirely different questions, namely: 1) Who was the model (or who were the models) for James Bond?; and 2) Who was the inspiration for James Bond.  Both questions can be answered with certitude. As to the model(s) from whom Fleming borrowed characteristics for Bond…there were numerous individuals. Fleming repeatedly stated this.

However, as to the man who inspired 007, there is only one name—Dusko Popov. He is the man we see in Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale. Everything about James Bond (MI6 agent, playboy, handsome, charming, intelligent, daring, crack shot, etc.) matches Popov … and Popov only. And the famous casino scene? That came from what Fleming saw in Casino Estoril (Lisbon) when he shadowed Popov (MI6 agent “TRICYCLE”) in August 1941. For a short explanation, see my website (LarryLoftis.com or RealJamesBond.com).

Fleming, of course, couldn’t reveal a word about this. To do so would have landed him in prison for violating Britain’s Official Secrets Act.

Not a word was published about what MI5 or MI6 (working in tandem with Fleming’s Naval Intelligence department) had done during the war until MI5’s Double-Cross Committee chairman, J. C. Masterman, published his report in 1972, long after Fleming had died. Masterman only referred to agents by code names but MI5 nevertheless objected to the release (which was eventually published by Yale University Press).

Following Masterman’s book, others began to reveal tidbits of Popov’s activities through fictitious code names—BICYCLE, TALLYRAND, and IVAN (Popov’s German code name).

My book details exactly where, when, and how Popov and Fleming met, and what Fleming knew of him.  Suffice it to say that people in Estoril (especially at the Palacio Hotel) know that Popov was Fleming’s inspiration and, as you’ll see in my book, so does the Fleming family.

Since I knew that people would ask this very question, I have included in my book a chart which gives the men most often suggested as either the model or inspiration for James Bond, and how they compare to the Bond we see in Casino Royale. Only one man matches all categories—Dusko Popov.

After you began researching, what was the biggest surprise you encountered?

Just the sheer amount of data to process. There are thousands of pages on Popov in the U.K. National Archives, and an equal amount in the U.S. FBI files. And if you want to be thorough, you have to read primary sources about everyone involved: Fleming’s files in the National Archives, Admiral Godfrey’s memoirs at the Churchill Archives, FDR’s files in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, memoirs of key Germans, memoirs of MI5, MI6, and Naval Intelligence officers, and biographies of Popov, Fleming, Menzies (“C”), Godfrey, Hoover, Stephenson (BSC), and Donovan (OSS and later, CIA).

Then we have the secret police files and embassy information from Lisbon, the WWII information about Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, and Brazil … and on it goes.

What differences are there between your subject and Fleming’s literary Bond?

Most importantly, women. As Fleming told a BBC reporter, Bond typically romances just one girl per book.  Popov had two or three girls per city—London, Lisbon, Madrid, New York, Sun Valley. The MI5 archive files include numerous love letters written to him that were intercepted by British Intelligence. MI5 also asked the army if they had a female who could provide Popov “companionship” while keeping an eye on him.

He seduced enemy spies. He received letters from girls he couldn’t remember. In short, Popov’s irresistible charm, animal magnetism—whatever you want to call it—was well known throughout all British Intelligence (MI5, MI5, Naval Intelligence).  Without question, Fleming was well-aware of the incorrigible playboy who was Britain’s best spy.

Second, as impressive as Bond is, Popov excelled him in every way.  Bond speaks three languages in Casino Royale; Popov spoke five. Bond is highly intelligent; Popov had a doctorate in law; Bond is a crack shot; Popov won two snap shooting contests. Later, in Dr. No, we see that Bond’s cover is as an import/export businessman. Popov not only had that cover in WWII, he had to use it, and did. MI5 files reveal that Popov consummated a $14 million (in 1940s dollars!) shipping deal, for example, and numerous other transactions involving tons of turpentine, pewter, and other commodities. After the war he structured a $15 million bond deal between South Africa and Switzerland.

After your research, did your ideas about Ian Fleming change? If so, how?

Only slightly. As you’ll see in my book, Fleming himself couldn’t have been the model for Bond since he was never an agent and, as BSC’s William Stephenson said, Ian wasn’t a “man of action.”  Fleming was actually tested by Stephenson for his potential as an operative and failed. But while Ian lacked operative skills and disposition, he had administrative and planning skills in spades. Fleming’s boss, Naval Intelligence Director Adm. John Godfrey, was so impressed with Ian’s work that the admiral said that he, Godfrey, should have been Ian’s assistant and not the other way around.

After your research, did your evaluation of Fleming’s original stories change? If so, how?

Since I was only concerned with the inspiration and creation of James Bond, I only studied Casino Royale. I don’t want to spoil the reading of my book or Casino Royale for those who haven’t yet read it, but let me say that if you know 1941 Estoril—the Palacio and Parque hotels, the Cascais cliffs, and the casino—you will see that Casino Royale is a thinly-veiled re-creation of Casino Estoril.

A recurring theme, in both fiction and real life, is whether human intelligence is still important. What are your feelings on the subject after doing this book?

Unquestionably, yes. Case in point … During WWII, the Allies had two star double agents—GARBO (Juan Pujol) and TRICYCLE (Popov). Both were highly valued by the Germans and both were instrumental in deceiving Nazi intelligence about D-Day. Popov was the more valuable of the two because he was the only agent who actually met with—and was grilled by—seasoned Abwehr, SD, and Gestapo interrogators. It’s one thing to receive radio reports, or to intercept an enemy’s message and decode it; both sides did that. It’s quite another to interrogate for seven or eight hours someone who claims to have eye witness details. That’s what Popov did, often when the Germans almost knew for certain that he was doubling.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Four things excited me about Popov’s story, and why I wrote the book: 1) the James Bond connection; 2) the fact that this man is probably the greatest spy ever; 3) the fact that the story is very much a thriller  (suggested by reviewers to have a Vince Flynn pace); and 4) Popov warned the FBI on Aug. 18, 1941 that the Japanese would be attacking Pearl Harbor (Hoover told no one).

As an aside, Popov made appearances on television shows in 1970s promoting his own book, playing up how he was Bond’s inspiration. One such appearance took place in an installment of the syndicated version of To Tell The Truth.

 

Thrilling Cities, the series?

Ian Fleming's Thrilling Cities book

Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book

Actor Michael Weatherly’s production company is trying to turn Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book into a television, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The story is mostly about Weatherly’s impending departure from the popular NCIS television series and Thrilling Cities only gets a passing reference.

“In the meantime, however, Weatherly said he’s busier than ever with his production company, Solar Drive Productions, which is working on turning the book Thrilling Cities, from James Bond author Ian Fleming, into a possible series,” the story by THR’s Kate Stanhope reads.

Thrilling Cities was a non-fiction book by Fleming. It was based on a series of stories he did for The Sunday Times about important cities around the world.

“Fleming saw it all with a thriller writer’s eye. From Hong Kong to Honolulu, New York to Naples, he left the bright main streets for the back alleys, abandoning tourist sites in favour of underground haunts, and mingling with celebrities, gangsters and geishas,” according to a summary on the Ian Fleming Publications website.

Fleming’s short story 007 in New York was included in the U.S. edition of Thrilling Cities. The author had a harsh opinion about New York City and the short story was a bonus for American readers.

In 1962, there was an attempt to turn Thrilling Cities into a television series. The result, ended up being The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series.

Craig Henderson’s 1962 page for his U.N.C.L.E. Timeline website notes that producer Norman Felton was asked to read galleys of the upcoming Fleming book concerning whether it could be made into a TV show.

At a meeting, “Felton rejects the possibility of developing a TV series from Thrilling Cities — but he’s inspired to ad lib an idea about a mysterious man who travels the world on sensitive secret missions,” according to Henderson’s website.

That was the genesis of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Fleming himself was involved with U.N.C.L.E. from October 1962 until mid-1963 before withdrawing under pressure from 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

Also of note, one of Weatherly’s co-stars on NCIS is David McCallum, who played Illya Kuryakin on U.N.C.L.E. Irony abounds.

 

Civil War is like You Only Live Twice, the book and film

Spectacle phase of Captain America: Civil War

Spectacle phase of Captain America: Civil War

No real spoilers, but your mileage may vary.

To use a James Bond reference, imagine a movie that had both the sprawling spectacle of You Only Live Twice, the movie, plus the personal elements of Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice novel.

That’s what you get with Captain America: Civil War.

The film, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and scripted by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, goes through a progression:

–More or less standard super heroics with serious undertones.

–Expansion to a spectacle phase, fueled by the introduction of Spider-Man into the proceedings.

–A surprisingly personal climax, which ties up plot threads dating back to when Marvel started producing its own movies eight years ago.

With You Only Live Twice, there has been a half-century fan debate whether Fleming’s 1964 novel could actually be filmed versus a disappointment of fans of the novel there wasn’t an actual attempt.

Civil War walks a similar tightrope with style. Marvel is drawing upon multiple stories (but especially a 2006-2007 story line that crossed over various titles), rather than a single novel. So perhaps it’s not the fairest comparison.

Regardless, Civil War traverses that tightrope in style. Truth be told, the Spy Commander was wondering whether Marvel could maintain its momentum heading into its “Phase III.”

As it turns out, Civil War launches Phase III into new territory.

Civil War has the equivalent of two 007 pre-title sequences, one a short period piece, the other a more elaborate one set in the present day. In the latter, there have been some collateral casualties, spurring a move among United Nations members to rein in the Avengers, the team led by Cap (Chris Evans).

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is in favor but Cap isn’t convinced.

So far, so good. Along the way, the audience meets a new character, T’Challa, the Black Panther, who becomes the ruler of the advanced African nation of Wakanda after his father his killed during a terrorist attack during a U.N. ceremony.

As a result, a big conflict breaks out, with the two heroes recruiting allies. It’s here where the latest Spider-Man (Tom Holland) makes an appearance and he immediately ramps things up. The scene where Tony Stark recruits a teenage Peter Parker is one of the highlights of the film.

The major fight, as impressive as it is, only sets up the climax, where we get into intense personal conflict (albeit with super heroics) delivered with a wallop.

One criticism of the movie (from Los Angeles Times and NPR reviewer Kenneth Turan) is that it’s harder for viewers who aren’t hard-core Marvel fans to get up to speed. Perhaps so.

Still, the Russo brothers get the audience’s attention from the beginning. By the end of the two-and-a-half hour movie, Marvel fans will be especially pleased but there’s something for everyone. To again use a 007 reference, it’s like seeing Thunderball or You Only Live Twice (or later film) as your first James Bond film. It’s easy enough to get up to speed.

One more thing: There are *two* scenes in the end titles. The first wraps up things from Civil War, the latter sets up a future Marvel production. The very last image of the end titles utilizes a page from the playbook of the early Bond films, something the 2011 Thor and Captain America movies did as well.

GRADE: A

Plants named for real James Bond, watch the puns fly

Bird expert James Bond

Bond, James Bond kept a bird’s eye view.

Ornithologist James Bond (1900-1989) has had four plant species named for him. Given that Ian Fleming took the name of the author of Birds of the West Indies as the name of his fictional hero, you might expect there’d be lots of puns used.

And you would be right.

Science magazine website: “There’s no word yet on how they’ll take their martinis, but a new subgenus of plants has been named Jamesbondia,…”

CNET (headline):  “Bondia, Jamesbondia: This plant likes its martinis shaken, not stirred.”

Fox News: “Scientists have christened a subgenus of plants with a killer name: Jamesbondia.”

CNN: “Sure, it’s not as exciting to Bond fans, but sometimes in life you get the Bond girl, and sometimes you get the Bond plant.”

Other outlets, while noting how Fleming took Bond’s name for a fictional character, were a little more straightforward in their descriptions. Here’s an except from SCI-NEWS.COM:

The four Jamesbondia plant species — Alternanthera costaricensis, A. geniculata, A. olivacea, and A. serpyllifolia — are mostly found in Central America and the Caribbean Islands.

Dr. Iamonico and Dr. Sánchez-del Pino have built on the research of Dr. J.M. Mears, who identified a group of Caribbean plant species as ‘Jamesbondia’ from 1980 to 1982 in unpublished annotations on Alternanthera specimens.

Molecular phylogenetic analyses and observations of the flower morphology justify the official separate naming of this group.

Dynamite to reprint one 007 story, start another

Cover of Issue 7 of Dynamite's James Bond comic book

Cover of Issue 7 of Dynamite’s James Bond comic book

Dynamite Entertainment plans a hardcover reprint of the first six issues of its James Bond comic book while issue seven starts a new story line called Eidolon. The two story arcs are by writer Warren Ellis and artist Jason Masters.

Both the hardback reprint and issue seven are scheduled to go on sale in June, according to Dynamite’s website.

The first six issues featured a story called Vargr in which Bond following “a mission of vengeance in Helsinki” takes up “the workload of a fallen 00 Section agent,” according to a plot summary. “Bond has no idea of the forces gathered in secret against him.”

The hardcover reprint is priced at $19.95.

Here’s the plot description for the new Eidolon story:

After World War Two, army intelligence groups created ghost cells called “stay-behinds” across Europe in the event of a Warsaw Pact surge. “EIDOLON” is the story of a SPECTRE stay-behind structure – ghost cells of SPECTRE loyalists acting as sleepers until the time is right for a SPECTRE reformation and resurgence. The time is now.

The regular monthly comic is priced at $3.99.

Ian Fleming Publications, which controls rights to the literary 007, announced a licensing deal with Dynamite in 2014. Dynamite said last year  that Ellis and Masters would be the initial creative team on the title.

Peter Janson-Smith, Fleming’s literary agent, dies

Peter Janson-Smith

Peter Janson-Smith

Peter Janson-Smith, Ian Fleming’s literary agent and a behind-the-scenes figure in the success of the literary James Bond, has died according to multiple social media posts by friends and family members.

Janson-Smith, 93, helped raise the visibility of Fleming’s original novels and short stories during the author’s lifetime. After Fleming’s death, eventually he became the chairman of Glidrose, now known as Ian Fleming Publications.

In that capacity, Janson-Smith helped launch the 007 continuation stories penned by John Gardner and Raymond Benson than ran from the early 1980s into the early 2000s.

The literary Bond had its ups and downs after Fleming died in 1964. Kingsley Amis wrote Colonel Sun under the pen name Robert Markham. But that proved to be a one-off. In the 1970s, Fleming biographer John Pearson took a stab with a “biography” of Bond that was again a one-off. 007 screenwriter Christopher Wood wrote novelizations of the Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

It wasn’t until Gardner’s 1981 007 debut, Licence Renewed, that the Bond continuation novels began publishing on a regular schedule. After Gardner’s run, Janson-Smith helped recruit Benson, author of a non-fiction work about the 007 film and novels/short stories, to continue.

Benson wrote a 2010 article describing Janson-Smith’s life published on the Commander Bond 007 fan site.

Janson-Smith told Benson how the Christopher Wood novelizations came about.

“We had no hand in that other than we told the film people that we were going to exert our legal right to handle the rights in the books,” Benson quoted Janson-Smith as saying. “They chose Christopher Wood because he was one of the screenwriters at the time, and they decided what he would be paid. We got our instructions on that, but from then on, these books-of-the-films became like any other Bond novel—we controlled the publication rights.”

Near the end of the piece by Benson, Janson-Smith reflected on his career.

“At age eighty-seven,” Janson-Smith told Benson, “it is time to call it a day, but I am still a consultant where my experience has a value. I suppose you could say I’m on the ‘inactive duty’ list of the Double-O section!”

About that whole ‘Blofeld Trilogy’ thing…

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE teaser image

This blog’s recent post about suggestions for Bond 25 included the idea that it may be time to let the “Blofeld Trilogy” idea pass. But many don’t want to let go. So here’s a closer look.

What is it? The phrase was popularized by Raymond Benson in his 1984 book The James Bond Bedside Companion, referring to Ian Fleming’s novels, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice.

The term “Blofeld Trilogy” isn’t mentioned in the index. On page 123, the author introduces his analysis of Thunderball thusly:

The ninth James Bond novel, Thunderball, is a terrific book. It is the beginning of what could be called the Blofeld Trilogy, which also includes On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice. Thunderball also marks the change from the earlier novels to the later, more mature books.

Anything wrong with that? Not wrong, but perhaps more complex.

How so? First, Fleming almost certainly didn’t plan a trilogy. The Thunderball novel was Fleming’s way of recouping time spent on the unsuccessful film project spearheaded by Kevin McClory. McClory sued after the novel came out. In the resulting settlement, future editions of the novel indicated it was based on a screen treatment by McClory, screenwriter Jack Whittingham and Fleming.

Second, Fleming wrote four novels during this period. He also penned The Spy Who Loved Me, published in 1962, written from the perspective of a woman who encounters Bond in the last third of the novel. Bond is on the trail of SPECTRE but this only is mentioned in passing. Again, a sign this wasn’t a planned thing.

An important part of the Blofeld Trilogy: At the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond’s new bride, Tracy, is dead. Early in the You Only Live Twice novel, we’re told how Bond has fallen apart and is about to get his walking papers. He’s given a last chance to salvage his career. The unlikely mission leads to Blofeld and a final confrontation.

Yeah, so? The 007 film series adapted the novels out of order (as hard-core fans know all too well), so the Blofeld Trilogy, per se, wasn’t done. However, Eon Productions already has clearly cherry picked from the Blofeld Trilogy.

Example: In Skyfall, Bond has fallen apart after being shot by Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). He’s a shell of former self when he finds out MI6 has been attacked. Even then, it takes quite a bit of screen time before Bond is back to his former self.

I repeat, yeah, so? Some fans would like Bond 25 to adapt the setup of the Blofeld Trilogy, have Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) killed and have 007 have a proper “revenge” story.

Initially, SPECTRE was a bit of a remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. During the scripting process, there was a henchwoman named Irma Bunt and the last line of the movie was Bond saying, “We have all the time in the world.” Both were deleted from the final film.

A couple of things, regarding Bond 25:

1) Do we really want Bond to fall apart for the second time in three movies? Remember, it’s not the Blofeld Trilogy if he doesn’t fall apart.

2) We’ve had either revenge story lines or elements of them in Licence to Kill, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day and Quantum of Solace. Does the film series really cry out for another revenge story?

Nobody is going to change their mind based on this post. Just something to think about.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 237 other followers