Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
I step out of the hot Turkish sun. Istanbul city of adventure, a city of intrigue, a city of spies. The only thing cooling down the building’s foyer is an overhead wicker celling fan. I spot a man wearing a fez, he could be Peter Lories’ long lost twin. He eyes me as I go to the front desk. I hand him my card. It reads Dave Heath Blogger for Universal Exports. In a hushed tone I give him the pass code. “I am looking for a hemi for a blue ’67 Chevy Charger.”
He nods then gives me the counter pass code. “An excellent year but could I interest you in 305 big block for a Mercury Montego?”
I give him the counter-counter pass code. “No, but I could use a carbonator for Green Yugo”
Finally the little swarthy man is satisfied I am who I say I am. He pushed a concealed button at his desk. In a moment the lights flicker the all clear sign. “The gentleman will see you now. Follow me.”
He leads me to back room, and pulls back a beaded curtain. “Enter.” He chortles.
The room is heavy with smoke that is being stirred around the room by another wicker bladed fan. A man sets behind a baccarat table. On his lap is a dark skinned beauty. On the table before him is an ashtray, a deck of cards and a loaded gun. A Walther PPK.
He nods and whispers something into the woman’s ear. She is lithe and limber, with legs as long as the Nile, and coffee colored eyes. She wears only a turquoise bikini top and a sarong. On a firm thigh is strapped a knife as long as my forearm. She resents my presences and as she leaves she glares at me like a mad dog. I feel she is as lethal as she is lovely.
I take a seat in front of the man. I get that women would find him attractive, but I am kind of taken back that he is more rugged looking than a pretty boy. He looks to be a young athletic fortyish, with a square jaw and a hair line that is just beginning to thin. He has a suit coat and white dress shirt with no tie. “Hello, my name is Dave heath.” I say.
“Bond, James Bond.” I know who he is. I just wanted to hear him say it. “M, says you want to interview me.”
“Yes.” I reply as he give me a good once over.
“Then go ahead.” He says snubbing out his Turkish cigarette.
“I…actually have a problem with you…” I stumble.
“Really?” He says mildly amused, his eyes flickering to the Walther.
“Yes…” I say gulping. I called captain Kirk out on his womanizing but well I didn’t think he would pull out a phaser on me. “It about the way you treat woman…I mean I have nothing against a story being sexy or sex in a story…But the misogyny and well your attitude about…about how all women want to be raped…or made fell like they are going to be raped for them to enjoy sex…”
He nods and then lights another Turkish cigarette. “Just like children are often slaves to their parents’ messed-uped psyches, issues and prejudices, I am a product of my creator’s inner demons. Ian Fleming was a fascinating person, but he had quite a few flaws that made it into my literary DNA. In the books many of women are victims of sexual abuse as a child and are saved or redeemed in a matter of speaking by sleeping with me. Fleming was defiantly affected by his lover Muriel Wright being killed in the London Blitz. He worked out a lot of the pain by writing, sometimes I was more therapy than a character.”
He looks at the gun then at me, then away. “I am not going to defend the way I am portrayed. It is what it is. That is the thing about being a fictitious character, one moment of your life is caught in black and white forever. As a human you change and you grow but as a character in a book you return to the way you where every time a new person reads your story. Even if you have changed in the next story you go back to the way you were originally when someone else picks up the first book. Now to their credit the movie makers have removed a lot of the darker sexual aspects replacing it with a lighter sexual tone. They even had me and Judi Dench doing an ad for International Women’s day in 2011.”
He takes another puff and continues. “Hemingway, Shakespeare, and Kerouac were as just as much a misogynist as Fleming. You either decide that it bothers you and you find something else you want to read or you just accept it and enjoy the parts of the book you like.”
The argument kind of splits me in half. Yes he has some valid points. The biggest is if you don’t like something in a story or bothered by it, don’t read it. But part of the answer is also elusive and gruff. Still not wanting to be shot full of .38 slugs I decide I will change my line of questions. “As a fifties and sixties icon, are you still relevant in the twenty-first century?” I ask, maybe I should have asked a less antagonizing question.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” He asked with aplomb.
“Well the cold war is over.” I explain.
“Is it?” He rebuffs me. “Ask Alexander Litvinenko, that ex- Russian agent bloke who was poisoned by polonium in England if the cold war is over?” Then he waves away the question with a gesture of his hand. “It doesn’t matter who the bad guys are. Bond has always been about black and white, good versus evil. The bad guys don’t have to be the soviets, it about THEM. Any bad guy will do terrorist, rouge states, corrupt corporations, anyone who is a threat to our way of life. There will always be an enemy, there will always be a THEM. And because there will always be a THEM, there will always need to be a James Bond.”
“It is interesting that you refer to yourself in the third person.” I note. “There was a theory that James Bond was a title or a position rather than a person in the movies. And when the movies changed actors another agent assumed the position of James Bond.”
He chuckled and rolled his cigarette in his fingers. “Interesting theory. It makes since actually until the last three movies which are a complete reboot, the thing that changed the most in the story line was the actor playing me. Recurring supporting characters, merging plotlines, many things stay the same, just the principle changes, makes sense.”
“But is it true?” I ask.
“That dear boy is classified.” He says with a sneer.
I change tracts. “You mentioned Fleming sexual proclivity getting into your literary DNA, but aren’t you in fact actually an author avatar?”
Again a bemused smirk graces his face. “There is much about Ian that is in me. We both are half Scottish, both Lt Commanders in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, both like to drive cars fast. But Ian never saw combat during the Great War where I did. You could say that I am a culmination of several chaps he met while in naval intelligence. He based my physical appearance on the musician Hoggie Carmichael. When he was writing his first book, Casino Royal he couldn’t think of a name. So he grabbed James Bond from the author of his favorite bird watching book.”
“A while back I interviewed Mary Sue…” I start to say.
“Charming girl. I would love to make her acquaintance.” He interjects.
“I am sure you would.” I reply, “But don’t you think you are kind of a Mary Sue, or the rugged male equivalent.”
“Maybe a bit in the movies.” He admits. “Knowing obscure geographical data and trivia and the like. But Fleming purposely wrote flaws into me. Especially when it came to my relationship with women. Modern psychologist would call it the dark triad. Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy. These traits may make you a good agent but they also make you a cocked up human being. I think Fleming never let me forget just how messed up I am. It has been pretty much ignored in the movies until Skyfall. Where having seen my parents’ death at a young age is the closest thing that viewers get to a climatic James Bond backstory.”
Not wanting to dwell on that, I ask. “Your life is so glamorous. You are always eating caviar, with a gorgeous beautiful woman and staying at five star hotels. Now a days agents are pictured as pretty blue color with shows like, 24 or Spooks (MI-5 in the US), what changed?”
“I think that now a days people want to see a slice of the War on Terror. A more realistic view of what is happening.” He muses. “But in the nineteen fifties where I got my start, England was still pretty bad off from the war. We didn’t rebound right away like America did. There was still food rationing when Casino Royal was published. So there was a bit of wish fulfillment in the reading public. The books were a fantasy based solidly on the real world.”
“Fleming was famous for using a fictitious version of real life event in his books, could you give us an example?” I ask.
“Well there was the mysterious case of Buster Crabbe…”
“The dude in the Flash Gordon serials?” I asked shocked.
“No this was Lionel “Buster’ Crabbe. He was an English diver working for MI-6. His mission was to get information on the new type of propeller used on the Soviet cruiser Ordzhonikidze, which was in a British port carrying the Soviet prime minister. He disappeared and his body washed ashore over a year later without a head. No one knows what happened to him but Fleming was inspired by news reports to create the underwater fight in Thunderball.”
“Fleming used a lot of the people he knew or at least heard of as inspiration, tell me about the real Goldfinger.” I ask.
Bond laughs out loud. “Well see Erno Goldfinger was an architect who built a building that Fleming went by on his daily walks. Ian thought the building was hideous, so he used his last name as a villain in his latest book. The real Goldfinger sued to get the name changed but in the end settled the case for court costs.”
“OK, I just thought of something.” I interject mu AADD kicking in. “James Bond, Jack Bauer, Jason Borne. Why do so many spies have the initials J. and B?”
Bond looks at me like I am a crazy person. “I wouldn’t know.”
“OK.” I say and try to think of a question to regain my composer. “The books didn’t do well at first.” I point out.
“No they didn’t.” He agrees. “It wasn’t until the American President Jack Kennedy said that From Russia with Love was one of his favorite books did sales really start to pick up. Also around the time that book was published Sir Anthony Eden the British Premaster was in Jamaica he had some serious health issues and stayed in Fleming abode to recover, that was a tremendous amount of free publicity that helped pushed the novels off the bookstore shelves.”
“When you think of James Bond and guns you think about the Walter PPK, can you tell me about that gun?” I ask.
“Yes the Walther is the iconic weapon for the franchise. In Skyfall Q calls it “…Less of a random killing machine, more of a personal statement.” It practically a character in the series itself. Originally I used a .25 Berretta when gun expert Geoffrey Boothroyd wrote flaming a letter saying the .25 “…was a lady’s gun and not a very nice lady either. So it was changed something with a little more umph but still could be suave and concealable…”
The dark-skinned beauty returns, her eyes on my throat and her fingers on the knife. She leans over and whispers something to Bond. He grunts something and nods. “Sorry but queen and country call.” He grabs the gun and holsters it and he and the woman leave. I am all alone in the room full of smoke with the fan and the baccarat cards.