“70th Anniversary of James Bond, Special” - with Alexis Albion on 007 (Part 1 of 2)
Erin Dietrick: Welcome to SpyCast, the official podcast of the International Spy Museum. I'm Erin Dietrick, your host, Dr. Andrew Hammond's content partner. Coming up next on SpyCast.
Alexis Albion: There are lots of examples of people being inspired to go into intelligence because of their interest in spies that was -- came from popular culture. I mean, one of my favorite examples of this is actually Vladimir Putin.
[ Music ]
Erin Dietrick: On April 13, 1953, Ian Fleming published the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. He would go on to publish a new book in the Bond series annually, culminating in 12 novels and two short story collections. Now, 70 years later, the franchise has grown to include 25 movies featuring six different actors portraying James Bond. This week on SpyCast, curators Andrew and Alexis Albion joined forces to put the past 70 years of Bond into historical perspective. To help frame their conversation, our collections team, Laura and Lauren, brought out a fantastic selection of Bond artifacts for Andrew and Alexis to interact with during the recording of this episode. If you enjoy the show, please tell your friends and loved ones. Please also consider leaving us a five-star review. The original podcast on intelligence since 2006, we are 17 years strong. We are SpyCast. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
[ Music ]
Andrew Hammond: Well, I'm so pleased to do this episode on the anniversary of James Bond, and I think you've got the perfect guest to do it with, my colleague Alexis Albion. And so I think it'd be good to start off, Alexis, and let's discuss your favorite movie, No Time To Die and the bionic eye that we have, which is a prop from the movie in our collection. I'm being playful, of course. Tell us about your interpretation of No Time To Die?
Alexis Albion: Well, that's a loaded question if ever I heard one. Well, my interpretation of it, I -- yeah. I guess it's the -- I can't say anything that hasn't probably been already written about in many, many magazines and blogs and websites and so on. Clearly, it's the last Daniel Craig movie and kind of the coda in a string of Craig films. And, you know, spoiler spoiler, James Bond dies at the end, which is the big surprise. And, you know, I think it's the -- it's sort of finishes that arc of the Craig films. Obviously, Bond's emotional journey has been the big feature of the Craig films, and that's a large part of No Time To Die, his relationship. And, you know, coming to an end and sort of him putting family, actually, above his own self is the denouement of Bond. It's hard, you know, not to sort of take a step back and see, you know, if Craig has to leave, then Bond has to die as well, which is one way of looking at it. I must say it isn't my favorite. And I'm not sure -- I still have a lot of inner conflict about that particular ending. But, you know, it is what it is. I think it'll be really interesting to see how the series gets rebooted afterwards because we know it is. And, if you stayed in the cinema till the bitter end, as I did, after I saw No Time To Die in the movies waiting to see if Bond returns, which is always on the screen at the end of any Bond film, indeed he does. So it'll be interesting to see how that series is rebooted with not just with Bond but, you know, maybe with the whole cast of characters because it's hard to see continuity after No Time To Die when James Bond is dead. So we'll have to reboot it. We'll have to start from some point, just as the Craig series did because, you know, Ian, I'm really interested to see -- to see where they start from.
Andrew Hammond: Yeah. Me too.
Alexis Albion: How about you, Andrew? What's your interpretation of No Time To Die? You don't get to just throw out that question without having it thrown back at you?
Andrew Hammond: Well, I mean, there's a few things that I want to pick up on there. But one of them as where does Daniel Craig rank for you in the list of James Bonds?
Alexis Albion: Oh, another hard question. You know, I have to put Sean Connery first because that's where my heart is. I think Daniel Craig has been terrific. I mean, I'm not --
Andrew Hammond: Number 2?
Alexis Albion: It's really hard because I think Casino Royale, the first Daniel Craig films is in, you know, the top five of all the Bond films. I think it's a fantastic movie, and I think he's amazing in it. I have to say after that nothing really lives up to Casino Royale for me. So -- but on the basis of Casino Royale alone, I think -- I think he might come second. Roger Moore is not exactly my taste, though, you know, I realize that he is for some. Connery is more my taste. So he's number one. Oh, go with Craig number two. And then I guess we have to go with Roger Moore number three just because, well, he's so likable and charming and had such a run of films. And then, I guess Pierce Brosnan. I know I'm leaving out George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton. It's hard because they -- obviously, Lazenby only did one film and Dalton too. So we'll give them equal -- equal last place.
Andrew Hammond: I think that's one of the interesting things about the Bond series. Because they've been going for so long, there's different generations have attached themselves to different bonds. And, you know, there's an Olympian movie critic review of all of this array, which one makes the most aesthetic sense, has the best acting, the best script and stuff. But sometimes it's just, I was a kid, and this was my Bond that I grew up with. And I don't really care what the critics say.
Alexis Albion: Absolutely.
Andrew Hammond: This is my favorite. So there's both the objective and the subjective going on here, right?
Alexis Albion: Yeah. Absolutely. And, you know, I do think you put too much thought into it and it sort of spoil things. So I like that subjective, you know, just what you feel. And it might be the first Bond movie you saw and who starred in it. And that's fine.
Andrew Hammond: So just to go back to your -- to go back to your question, Alexis.
Alexis Albion: Yes.
Andrew Hammond: So I really enjoyed the movie. I thought it was a good movie. When it got to the end, I guess they had some existential anxiety because I thought what happens in a world without James Bond because that's all I've ever known my whole life. James Bond has been in the background of the culture. And I'm wondering -- maybe you have some thoughts on this -- he does reappear, so can he come back? Is Bond really dead? Or what is the franchise all about if there's no James Bond. Is it about 007. And is 007 a strong enough platform to lay a movie franchise on? And I'm also thinking, you know, it's a huge gamble, right? It's the most successful movie franchise in history. Why kill the golden goose? But then there's also -- and we're going to go on to discuss this. There's certain cultural contradictions in the Bond franchise. When Fleming wrote the books, the '50s and the '60s, the very different culture just in terms of gender, class, imperialism, and so forth. So I think that, increasingly -- and this comes up in one of the movies, I think, is M, Judi Dench says, you know, you're a dinosaur from the Cold War. So there's this kind of sense that Bond is increasingly backed into a corner in terms of his cultural norms and the cultural norms of the audience that are watching him. So I don't know where it's going to go. I'm kind of excited to see, but I really hope that the franchise doesn't die off because it's clearly one for the ages. Even if -- even if it stopped now, it's like the Beatles. It's just -- it's going to live on. So those are some of the thoughts that I had on it.
Alexis Albion: I think, you know, the Bond films, you're right. The different films, different eras have sort of reflected, you know, different social, cultural, political themes of the times. So, you know, this existential crisis that you experienced with No Time To Die, I mean, you know --
Andrew Hammond: Sounds a bit dramatic.
Alexis Albion: -- maybe it's a reflection of our times, frankly. We've been going through sort of an existential crisis. I know the film was made before COVID. But, you know, Bond has always been good at anticipating some of the themes of our day. So maybe it's appropriate in a way that you feel that and we feel that, and we're sort of going through this reckoning at the moment. You know, who am I, what do I want, what makes me happy, do we need Bond, and so on. So maybe it's appropriate in that sense. The other thing is, you know, this idea of continuity was sort of changed with Casino Royale with the Craig era. I mean, there was always this sense that we know that the actors change. But there was always this idea of some continuity going on so that you get references to Bonds past from other films and other experiences. And that all stopped with Craig who, again, rebooted it when we saw the early Bond, you know, Bond learning to be Bond in Casino Royale, which I think they did wonderfully. So there is a precedent in that sense for not having continuity. Now, also, there is a precedent for Bond dying or maybe not dying. In the Fleming books, You Only Live Twice, in the novel, Bond actually -- the novel begins with Bond being dead. But, of course, he's not dead. And there's -- it begins with an obituary of Commander Bond, and then we find out he's not actually dead, I don't think that's going to be the case for this film, it's really hard to see how Bond comes back from this particular death, an island exploding. I mean, it's a possibility. I think that would be a disappointment in a way because I think the film meant to kill him definitively. So I think he's dead. But I don't think that means you can't come back again at a different point in time, and that's the -- it's sort of an open book now. The writers, you know, can bring -- can bring him back at any point. Again, it could be in the midst of his career, the beginning of his career, whatever they want. And that'll be really interesting to see. But I don't think Bond is dead. As you said, I think he's shown an amazing ability to adapt to the times. And I believe the success of the last film and others means that I think it's very unlikely to stop having that, to stop the movies. The franchise, just frankly, is just too successful and makes too much money.
Andrew Hammond: Bear with me on this. So also it seems to me that Bond is -- he's often called, like, you know, English or British and a term that people use when they're describing someone who's English, they use British. But it seems to me that he is British in the more thoroughgoing sense of the term. So Ian Fleming's grandfather was Scottish, came down to England. The family made money. Fleming stops moving in a particular social milieu. The first Bond, Sean Connery, and then Fleming goes on to write Bond's backstory, which is half Swiss, half Scottish. But then, you know, recently during the Daniel Craig era, we've had the Scottish National Party be the majority party in Scotland. Even my home constituency went from being the safest seat in the entire UK for labour to becoming an SNP seat, which I never thought would have happened in my lifetime. So I wonder about the Daniel Craig era of Bond, I wonder if there's also something going on there underneath about the nature of Britain and/or British identity or a British figure. So when Scotland and England, the union of the crowns in 1606, James VI of Scotland and 1st of England and then a century later, 1707, the union of the parliaments. So there's no such thing really as a British national identity. There's a great book Linda Colley, the historian, Forging a Nation. And she talks about how British national identity was forged around ideas of the royal family, the Empire, trade, opposition, to Catholicism on the European continent, so forth. So all those things that held the British identity together, you could make an argument that a lot of them have dissolved, and Bond is born in a high watermark of all of this, the Second World War, the good the war. And Fleming's an intelligence officer then. This is where a lot of the ideas that he goes on to use come from. So I'm probably reading massively too much into it. But I just wondered if you had any thoughts on that?
Alexis Albion: Well, I mean, Bond is quintessentially British, as you said. There have been attempts to have, you know, an American Bond, let's say, and -- and other countries as well. But they're not Bond. They're just -- you know, they're just attempts to copy some of that formula. The Britishness Bond is part of who he is, and I think that's still true. It's been true in the last few films. You think of even the settings in London, the symbols, the Bulldog, the flag, the crown, and so on, there's -- it's still rife with those figures, those symbols. So I think his Britishness is essential. Again, yeah. I mean, that sort of changed. I think he's adapted to different maybe interpretations or different concerns about British identity, patriotism, and so on over the years. I mean, interestingly, the actors who have played Bond have -- you know, we've had -- obviously, Connery's Scottish, though I have read that, you know, he -- one of the things I liked about Connery I found because they were thinking about the film. It was important for that film to appeal to American audiences, as well as British audiences. They thought his accent was kind of mid Atlantic, you know. Wasn't too British but would sort of appeal broadly. But, you know, he's -- he's Scottish. And we have George Lazenby who is, of course, Australian, part of the British Empire. Then we've got quintessentially English Roger Moore. Who am I missing here?
Andrew Hammond: Timothy Dalton.
Alexis Albion: Timothy Dalton who's Welsh, I believe. And then Pierce Brosnan is Irish. And then back to Craig, who's English. So we kind of have covered, you know, the whole United Kingdom there and Ireland. And so, again, it will be very interesting to see who they choose. And, you know, maybe that -- maybe this is just a coincidence because they've certainly gone for the best actor for the job. But they have covered that whole range. And it would be fascinating to see who is chosen next and whether they reflect, you know, a degree of diversity of Britishness within that next actor, whoever that might be. I don't think it'll be American. I think they will be British. But, you know, I don't know. British Indian would be really interesting.
Andrew Hammond: It really would. I was just thinking Leiter. Felix Leiter doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it?
Alexis Albion: No. He's -- no.
Andrew Hammond: So what the listeners don't know is that we've got a table beside us with some of our holdings that relate to James Bond. Some of them are merchandise from the movies. Some of them are based on cigarettes, the in Fleming hot Bond smoke from the place where he got them made in Morland's in London. We have the book. We have the name James Bond, where it comes from. We have a number of other artifacts here. But just before we go on to those, Alexis, like, at the Spy Museum, most people's ideas of espionage that come through our doors, their ideas really come from movies from popular culture. And that's just -- that's just the way it is. So we're in this place where we meet them there, and then we're trying to inform them about the real-world of intelligence and espionage. And you get some people that are involved in the real-world of intelligence and espionage that pour a lot of cold water on Bond and are quite dismissive of it. But, actually, the links are really, really interesting. And Fleming's a former intelligence officer, of course. But here in our collection we've got the John Walker case, the code for which was 007. We have a Walther PPK that belonged to Robert Hanssen because Robert Hanssen was a huge James Bond fan. I can think of another couple of dozen examples like this off the top of my head. So I know that this is something that you've studied in the past. So just before we move on to the rest of the artifacts, the real-world of intelligence and espionage and Bond, help us understand that connection between them.
Alexis Albion: Well, yeah. I think sometimes people think there's this impervious wall between fact and fiction in intelligence, and that's simply not true. We know that intelligence officers read spy novels and go and see, you know, TV shows about spies and movies, perhaps more than most people because they're interested in that topic. And, you know, there are lots of examples of people being inspired to go into intelligence because of their interest in spies that was -- came from popular culture. I mean, one of my favorite examples of this is actually Vladimir Putin was so inspired by a Soviet spy movie and has actually, you know, claimed that that's what really got him interested in this idea of sort of serving this cause bigger than himself and so on. But there's lots of examples of that. And I think it's this idea that, oh, that's fiction, and this is reality, that they're two completely separate worlds is not realistic, frankly. And, you know, the public learns a lot about intelligence, what they think happens in the intelligence world, who spies are, how they act, you know, intelligence officers from watching TV and reading books and seeing movies. And of course they do. How would they not? I mean, the intelligence world isn't exactly, usually forthcoming in trying to educate the public about what intelligence really is and what it does. That's what we do here at the Spy Museum. But I think we fill that really -- that big gap, frankly, of trying to explain what intelligence is and what the realities are. But, of course, most of our visitors walk into this building, you know, with ideas in their heads about who spies are and how they act, even if they kind of know that's not -- that's not really true. And I think that those expectations and assumptions, it's really important to recognize those. And there's, again, lots of examples of how that kind of spills over into the real-world. I've studied the 1960s, which is the era when Bond really just explodes in popular culture internationally. And one of my favorite examples, there's a great article about the popularity of Bond in Italy at this time. And they did these -- this questionnaire that came out in an Italian magazine where -- I think it was an article, sorry, in an Italian magazine about spies and things. And they -- and they got all these letters coming in from the public asking questions about spies and about becoming intelligence agent with very specific questions, which are clearly influenced by popular culture, like, do I get an expense account? Exactly how many people do I have to kill in a year? I mean, that kind. And these are serious questions. And they were obviously inspired by the movies. And I think to ignore that influence is just -- you know, is ignoring the reality of how people learn about what intelligence is and what intelligence officers do. So I think, as you put it, nicely meeting the public and our visitors where they are is really important in that sense and saying, Look. You know, we understand what your expectations are and where it comes from, but now let's break that down a little bit, and let's start showing you what the reality of -- in the intelligence world really is. And that's what we do at the museum. And we fill that educational space, which I think is a really important role.
[ Music ]
Erin Dietrick: Oscar Wilde once said that life imitates art far more than art imitates life. In the case of James Bond, I think we can agree it's a little bit of both. Both the novels and the films borrow heavily from real life. Ian Fleming is said to have based many of the characters in the Bond franchise after people he knew during his time in naval intelligence, most notably gaining inspiration for the character M from his own boss, Admiral John Godfrey. Casino Royale was directly inspired by one of Fleming's wartime trips to Portugal when, after leaving a packed casino one night, Fleming reportedly said to Godfrey, what if those men had been German Secret Service agents, and suppose we had cleaned them out of their money. Now, that would have been exciting, end quote. Real life has often seemed to take a page out of Bond's book as well. Just add in this episode, Andrew and Alexis will discuss the links between some of Bond's famous gadgets and real spy tools used in the field. And while MI6 has yet to adopt Bond's invisible car, I, for one, still hold out hope.
[ Music ]
Andrew Hammond: Just to start digging into the artifacts, lots about Moore. So this eye that we have, a bionic eye, it's a prop on loan from EON Productions have been involved with all of the movies and just going on to how the real-world of espionage and popular culture intersect. To me, this is basically -- there's a strong connection here to the growing fusion between human beings and machines or synthetic or artificial materials, which are often called cybernetic organisms or cyborgs. So this is something we're increasingly seeing where people are getting implants or machines that can augment the way in which they interact with the world. And this eye in the movie helps you record, see audio-visual material. And then, in the movie, this goes to Blofeld who is and prison. And through this eye, Blofeld can be somewhere that he physically isn't. So I'm not saying that we have something exactly like this, but this is the general trend that we're heading in terms of espionage tradecraft and so forth. Would you agree?
Alexis Albion: Yeah. I think so. I mean, this is, you know, the gadgets, the technology in Bond, I think it doesn't work unless it's credible in some sense. And we do know that, at least in the films, you know, sometimes the Bond films have been ahead of their time in terms of technology. My favorite example of this is in From Russia With Love. At the very beginning of the film, we see Bond canoodling by the banks of a river in -- somewhere in England, and his satellite phone or his car phone goes off. Actually, it's not a satellite phone. It's a pager goes off in his car. And, of course, he has to answer that, and it's calling him back to headquarters for a mission. And it's a huge thing. It's probably about, I don't know, a foot and a half long or something like that. It looks like one of those sort of satellite phones from the '90s. It's actually a pager. And it was a prototype. And, you know, at that time, that was, wow, really cutting edge technology. And I think the Bond films have been innovative in that sense. And, again, I think it doesn't work if it's so outlandish people say, Oh, it couldn't possibly be. Had a few examples of that, you know, invisible car. We won't talk about that too much, though. You know, you can find things. It's, well, you know, it's kind of feasible in this sense, mirrors and so on. But the bionic eye in No Time To Die, I think we can all sort of say, Yeah, I can see that. Right? I mean, I'm not sure if it's -- if it -- how feasible it really is. I doubt if there's such a thing exists today. But I think we can kind of, you know, see, yeah. I can see how that might work. Now, we do have an eyeball in the museum on display. It's actually a concealment device from I believe the World War II era. It's, you know, if you had a -- you have a cavity there, if you didn't have an eyeball, that's a great place to hide something. And it's sort of a fake eyeball that goes on top there. So there is some precedent in using the body, right, to conceal things. We certainly have a number of examples of that in the museum. But this idea of a bionic eye that allows, you know, you to sort of remotely spy on somebody, it's both a camera and a -- an audio device or a bug, basically, I guess you can see that as one step toward becoming cyborgs. But, you know, the Bond movies have been -- have used that for a long, long time since Doctor No who had a prosthetic arm, right, which was a hook.
Andrew Hammond: That's a good point.
Alexis Albion: So when we think of other examples, Jaws is obviously one that comes to mind. So I think there's been some precedents in that case, and this is kind of the latest in technology. It's a great little piece here that we've got, sort of definitely, I think, the most memorable piece of technology from that film.
Andrew Hammond: And it's quite interesting to me. So the way that the villain dies is because Bond has a watch that emits an electromagnetic pulse. And this is something that's actually from the real-world of intelligence, espionage, national security. You can get nuclear weapons that send out electromagnetic pulses to try to basically disable the other side's ability to communicate with itself and these types of things. So there's always a kernel of truth in there. Otherwise, it's just completely outlandish. It's not believable at all. But, I mean, even thinking about self-driving cars, I can't remember which Pierce Brosnan movie it is, but he's got the little remote control and self-driving his car. Now you can get -- you can go and lease a Hyundai, get out of the car, and it will reverse park it for you to save you having to spend five minutes completely butchering the operation yourself. So, in some ways, I think that people are often pour a lot of cold water again on these movies. But I think quite often they're prestaging technological developments that are coming down the lane that the general public aren't aware of. I would contest that, quite often this may be the first place where they encounter this type of stuff.
Alexis Albion: Yeah. And I think the genre, in general, of the spy genre always has to have one foot, often two, in the real-world. It's part of what makes that genre appealing and not science fiction. It takes place in the real-world. And whether that is, you know, some of the technology or real-world threats, it has to be relatable, I think, and recognizable in that sense. It's part of what makes the spy film that fits into that whole genre. And I think that's what we like about it. And, again, it's a fictional space, for thinking about, talking about those tensions, those international tensions in national security that, you know, most of us -- most people don't get to discuss all the time or even think about. And it's kind of a safe space where we can explore those tensions. And that's, I think, what spy fiction is all about. And, yeah. I think being ahead of its time, cutting edge, you know, I think we'd like to think that our intelligence agencies are on the cutting edge, right, and do have technology which we don't have any more. Sorry; any more. We don't have at the moment, that we like to think that they're a few steps ahead of us. I think it makes us feel better about our national security. And so I think in that sense, again, it's credible to think, oh, wow. They've got some cool stuff, you know, that I haven't seen yet. So, yeah. I think that that is important. And, yeah. I mean, there's -- again, there are actually examples from the movies of them using actual prototypes that hadn't been released yet that weren't on the market yet.
Andrew Hammond: And I think there's another example that I came across, and I think it's about Casey, the CIA director under Ronald Reagan. And I think he goes to watch a Bond movie and comes across biometrics. And, apparently, he comes out and says, What the heck is this stuff? You know, we need to get on top of it. So there is this --
Alexis Albion: Yeah.
Andrew Hammond: -- this interplay between fact and fiction. And, of course, we have one of John F. Kennedy's favorite books was From Russia With Love. We have a copy of it here in the museum.
Alexis Albion: And, you know, Jonna Mendez, former CIA Chief of Disguise, good friend of the museum, has certainly told us that she would come to work the night after Mission Impossible, really popular TV show had been on, and with lots of innovative technology and especially disguise. And her team, you know, would get asked, Hey. Can we do that, you know, after having seen something on TV. And she certainly told us that. So I think, yeah. Some of the movies, TV, they're sometimes ahead of reality, and reality is inspired. So I guess, again, it's not as simple as just facts and fiction. There is a sort of relationship there between them and borrow from each other.
Andrew Hammond: And I think I also recall the KGB. I remember reading somewhere that after a Bond movie would come out, they would watch it. And then they would be saying to themselves, you know, does the West really have this? Or is this something that we can do or, you know, what's going on here, so it also plays a centrist and mediating role in the cold wars, I think. But just to go back to your point about one foot in fact and one foot in fiction, Ian Fleming is the perfect example, right, naval intelligence officer and then he goes on to become an author who writes all these James Bond novels.
[ Music ]
Erin Dietrick: Ian Fleming was born to a wealthy family in London on May 28, 1908. He was educated at some of the finest institutions in England and across Europe but was never known to be the highest achiever or brightest scholar in his class. He much preferred skipping class and spending his time on sports, driving cars, and solidifying his reputation as a womanizer. You can see where some Bond inspiration came from. After a decade of work as a journalist and later a banker, Fleming was recruited into the Naval Intelligence Division during World War II. He was directly involved in Operation Mincemeat, a deception operation aimed at disguising the Allied invasion of Sicily; Operation Ruthless, a covert attempt to gain access to German Naval Enigma codes; and, yes, Operation GoldenEye, which was a real operation devised by Fleming that outlined the plan to monitor Spain during the Second World War. He died at a young age of 56 years old, but left behind an indelible mark on the world that continues to grow even today. In Part 2 of this episode, Andrew and Alexis take a closer look at Fleming's life and his inspirations, aided by a 1966 Life magazine. We'll release the second half of this episode next week. But, for now, please enjoy the rest of Part 1.
[ Music ]
Andrew Hammond: Let's go on to the beginning of that story and Fleming going to Jamaica, writing the books, and min this book that we have here, Birds of the West Indies. So could you just tell us what about -- more about that and about why this is important for the story of James Bond.
Alexis Albion: Well, because Fleming himself has a -- had a background in intelligence and so we know that he was writing or with a certain knowledge of intelligence in his head. This has been during World War II naval intelligence. And there's been all this interest in looking and trying to find elements in the -- in Fleming's novels, like this was inspired by this, this was based on this, whether it's characters or missions and everything. And one of the interesting questions is who's James Bond? Who inspired Fleming to write this character. And the name itself, James Bond, people were interested, where does that come from? And, luckily, I think Fleming's really put that to rest. He himself said that he was he had this book, Field Guide of Birds of the West Indies, authored James Bond. And he chose that name James Bond because he literally thought it was the most dull and boring name possible. He thought just sounded dull. And he thought that's the name I want for my character. So that's apparently where he took that name of James Bond. That's what Fleming said. Fleming said lots of things. And that doesn't mean that people necessarily believe him. But if, for example, there's been lots of speculation about where 007 comes from, lots of speculation as to whether James Bond was based on a real person or not. And it drives me absolutely mad, I have to tell you. It's one of those things that I just cannot stand because you'll see it everywhere, you know, certain people. He was the inspiration for James Bond. And I don't -- you know, I don't think we'll ever really know. And I believe that Fleming might have said at some point he was an amalgamation, which seems to make sense to me. He really wasn't based on any one person. But we know that the name -- I think that it makes a lot of sense -- came from the book I'm holding in my hand right now by James Bond.
Andrew Hammond: And it's quite interesting because Fleming, just for our listeners that don't know, he buys some land in the north coast of Jamaica. He builds an estate that goes on to become the Golden Eye estate. He writes I think all of the books there.
Alexis Albion: Yeah.
Andrew Hammond: He spends --
Alexis Albion: He'll write one a year.
Andrew Hammond: One a year.
Alexis Albion: That was his schedule. I believe he was working at the Times London newspaper. And he would take off time during the winter, go to his estate in Jamaica with his wife. And he had a routine of getting up early in the morning, going for a swim, you know, writing for a number of hours, not that many, churning out a certain number of words, words or pages every day. And that's what he did continuously. He wrote these quite quickly on his typewriter in Jamaica. Didn't work too hard at it. And he managed to turn out one a year.
Andrew Hammond: Wow. And I have this quote here, actually, and I believe this is what Fleming wrote to the widow of the James Bond that wrote the book, Field Guide of Birds of the West Indies. He said, It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed. And so a second James Bond was born.
Alexis Albion: Nice.
Andrew Hammond: Which I guess is pretty nascent. Actually, just the other week, I was rereading Dr. No, the novel. And Dr. No, one of the parts of that book has -- there was an island off the coast of Jamaica, which is a place where lots of guano is, which is basically bird poo. And there's this whole part of the novel where there's a couple of members of the American Audubon Society, like a bird watching, bird preservation society. They go to this island, and they disappear. And The Audubon Society have a very powerful lobby that's, you know, involved in preserving and looking after birds in the Western Hemisphere and so forth. So that's actually does creep into the novels as well, and Dr. No, the Audubon Society, bird watching, or ornithology.
Alexis Albion: And Jamaica, of course.
Andrew Hammond: Jamaica. Yeah, yeah. Very, very fascinating. And I think that this is a good point to jump on to the 007 question because, as I understand it, the James Bond one is more or less, you know, we could probably find a couple of other places. But more or less, this one was put to bed about the 007. This is much more of a reading the tea leaves one. So let's go on to that. And one of the artifacts that we have here is one of the theories -- So do you just want to describe the artifact for our listeners and tell us what this theory is.
Alexis Albion: Yeah. So what I have here is a pen. It's a KGB pen commemorating the 60th anniversary of the KGB's 00 section. And it's, you know, sort of the traditional shape of a shield here. And in the middle we've got a star, a kind of sash or at the bottom, which has 00 and then KGB in Russian letters and at the top 60, commemorating that 60th anniversary. I'm not 100 percent sure what the 0O section was. I believe it might have had something to do with counterintelligence. But we've got -- it's got the sword and a shield and all that kind of thing. But, you know, again, it's -- it's very tempting to think that Fleming might have found his inspiration for the 00 section which, importantly, is that section in MI6 with a license to kill. That's how you earn your 00. Maybe Fleming was inspired by the KGB. But there are so many theories about the 00 and where that comes from that, you know, this is -- it's a possibility this might be one of them. It's a lovely artifact we have here. But, you know, there are theories, for example, from Rudyard Kipling had a story about an American train that was called 007, Kipling, of course, also having written that famous story about Kim, spy who we know Fleming would have read that. You know, the oldest theory goes back to a 16th century English explorer John Dee who was said to have spied for Queen Elizabeth of England, who would sign his communiques with two circles and a sort of elongated 7, the circles apparently kind of like, you know, a symbol for your eyes only. And the theories that Fleming took that code after reading a biography of Dee. No evidence of that, but that's a theory. The Zimmermann telegram famously intercepted and decoded by British intelligence in 1917, helping to get America into World War I, was coded 0075. Apparently 007 was the international dialing code for the Soviet Union.
Andrew Hammond: I think this one's quite interesting.
Alexis Albion: And then, of course, Georgetown and Washington, DC, bastion for spies in the nation's capital, ZIP code for that, 20007. Now, Fleming himself claimed in an interview -- and they say Fleming said lots of contradictory things in interviews, said he took the idea of the 00 section from the fact that, at the beginning of World War II, all top secret signals from the Admiralty had a 00 prefix. That sounds quite compelling to me. And I believe there's also a 00 as part of SOE. That's the body created by Churchill which did lots of sabotage abroad. And I think there was a 00 involved in that. So I -- it seems to me quite -- if I had to guess I would say it was probably inspired by something from World War II, which offered a lot of inspiration for Fleming. That's when he worked in intelligence. But there are many other theories. I only named a few of them. I'm sure people listening to this may have heard of others as well. We don't really know. There is no 00 section in MI6, as far as I know. And there is no license to kill, which is earned by being an MI6 officer.
Andrew Hammond: And the eyes only, that's something that, like, comes from the real-world, you know, For Your Eyes Only or for these people's eyes only or Five Eyes Only so it's only five countries that can -- people that are cleared that can view that information and so forth. I feel like it's a stroke of genius on Fleming's behalf, and it's difficult to know whether this was just because I've been culturally conditioned into 007. But it seems to me that 007 just has a ring that any other one just doesn't have, 005, 006, 008, none of them -- there's something about that number 7, as well, right, like it's almost a transcultural phenomenon where 7 is seen as a magic number or a special kind of number for many different people in different cultures. But, again, this could just be because I've been raised in the world of 007 that that makes sense to me.
Alexis Albion: It's possible. I mean, Fleming is not a great writer, in my opinion. No literary genius. But he did have a way with names, didn't he. I mean, I think some of his characters have fantastic names that we're all familiar with: Goldfinger Hugo Drax, of course, some of the women's name.
Andrew Hammond: Scaramanga.
Alexis Albion: Scaramanga. Did have a -- you could say maybe he had a way with words. Perhaps he -- he knew that that sort of, you know, fell off the tongue in a very sort of engaging way.
[ Music ]
Erin Dietrick: Thanks for listening to this episode of SpyCast. Remember that, next week, we'll release Part 2 of this special episode celebrating the 70th anniversary of James Bond. Please follow us on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have feedback, you can reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at IntlSpyCast. Coming up in next week's show.
Alexis Albion: Bond was a Naval Officer. Commander Bond, that was -- you know, Fleming -- Fleming was borrowing from what he knew. I think that's what's important. And I think it must have been fun for Fleming to sort of revel in this idea that Fleming and his lifestyle in some way echoed Bond and his -- and his lifestyle as well.
Erin Dietrick: If you go to our page, the cyberwire.com/podcasts /spycasts, you can find links to further resources, detailed show notes, and full transcripts. I'm Erin Dietrich, and your host is Dr. Andrew Hammond. The rest of the team involved in the show is Mike Mincey, Memphis Vaughn III, Emily Coletta, Afua Anokwa, Elliot Pelzman, Tré Hester, and Jen Eiben. This show is brought to you from the home of the world's preeminent collection of intelligence and espionage related artifacts, The International Spy Museum.
[ Music ]