Literary 007 meme: Arthur Krock

Kentucky historical marker for Arthur Krock (1886-1974)

In the 12th chapter of Thunderball (The Man From the C.I.A.), James Bond is waiting to make a contact after an aircraft with two atomic bombs has been hijacked.

Bond “went to the souvenir shop and bought a copy of the New York Times. In its usual discreet headlines it was still leading with the loss of the Vindicator,” Ian Fleming writes.

“Perhaps it also knew about the loss of the atom bombs, because Arthur Krock, on the editorial page, had a heavyweight column about the security aspects of the NATO alliance.” Before Bond can finish Krock’s column, he’s surprised by Felix Leiter. “007? Meet No. 000.”

It’s a passing reference to a figure who was once among the most significant figures in American journalism.

Krock was a reporter, columnist and Washington bureau chief for the Times. He won four Pulitzer Prizes, two regular awards, a special commendation and a special citation.

Krock also worked in a much different era, the insider journalist. One of his Pulitzer Prizes was for an exclusive interview with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“So great was his knowledge of politics and government that Presidents sought his advice and, possibly in return, granted him exclusive interviews,” according to his obituary in the Times.

What’s more, some have written that Krock was too close to some of his subjects. The Columbia Journalism Review wrote in 2013 that Krock’s friendship with Joseph Kennedy, father of President John F. Kennedy, “showed in his coverage.”

Thus, when Bond is musing whether the Times knows more than its telling in Thunderball, it’s fiction based on fact.

As the blog has noted before, Fleming had been a working journalist, including being foreign editor of The Sunday Times. The 007 creator likely was familiar with Krock’s work.

“Unquestionably, Arthur Krock was conservative in his outlook on matters political, social and economic. His editorial page column, ‘In the Nation,’ was widely regarded as a major voice of conservative America,” according to the Times’ obituary.

“But as a reporter, any partisan leanings he may have had were submerged in his independence as a professional journalist.”

Krock was born in Glasgow, Kentucky, in 1886. After working in Washington for Louisville, Kentucky, newspapers, Krock joined the New York Times in 1927. He was given the task or reorganizing the paper’s Washington bureau in 1932.

Krock yielded the Washington bureau chief title in 1953 so the paper could keep the up-and-coming James Reston, according to The Kingdom and the Power by Gay Talese. But Krock continued writing the “In the Nation” column until his retirement in 1966.