By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
With the release of “The Secret World of Espionage” on Wondrium, it’s the perfect time to take a look at Ian Fleming’s James Bond—an iconic spy-archetype with classic style and sophistication. Now featured in 25 films by multiple actors, what has made this character resonate with audiences for so long?
James Bond is one of the most enduring and endearing characters in modern fiction. Ian Fleming’s debut novel with Agent 007, Casino Royale, was first published in 1953. In Fleming’s books and the 25 Bond movies that have been produced, the character is known for his savoir faire, spy games, success with women, and fancy gadgets. No Time to Die, the fifth and final Bond film to star Daniel Craig, releases Friday.
Nearing his 70th year of existence, James Bond is now a household name. What made him such a compelling character to readers to begin with? In his video series Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters in Literature, Dr. Thomas A. Shippey, Professor Emeritus at St. Louis University, said that Fleming wrote Bond into the right place at the right time.
How much does pop culture get wrong about espionage? Meet some real-life figures who inspired fictional spies like James Bond. Gain insights into how spies work, the jobs they hold, and the organizations they belong to, in “The Secret World of Espionage“, on Wondrium.
My License Is Just for Driving
After World War II, Ian Fleming believed that the future wouldn’t simply be a worse version of the present. On the contrary, Dr. Shippey said, Fleming “thought we could return to the past.” We’d still have enemies, but they’d be foreign enemies in the forms of spies and saboteurs, which we would deal with accordingly.
“The traditional authorities would still be in control,” he said. “That’s the point, really, of being ‘licensed to kill’—it’s a kind of reassurance. Obviously, democracies are not supposed to use murder or assassination as a political tool, but if the other side does, aren’t we inflicting a handicap on ourselves?”
To this end, Bond is a killer but not a vigilante. Although the exact details of 007’s system are rarely given, it’s a given that there is one and it is relatively democratic.
Yesterday Never Dies Either
On top of traditional authority, Bond also appealed to pre-war nostalgia, a time which Dr. Shippey said must have been fresh in the minds of Fleming and his readers. This would have been very popular due to the extended recovery time Britain required after World War II.
“What kind of car does Bond drive?” Dr. Shippey asked. “He starts off driving a 1930 Bentley. He has his cigarettes specially made for him, by Morlands of Grosvenor Street in London. The movers and shakers in his world still operate in the gentleman’s clubs of London, like Blades, where Bond plays the bridge game with Hugo Drax in Moonraker.”
Additionally, and not coincidentally, there’s the setting of the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. Most of the book takes place in a French seaside town that has decided to revitalize its economy by reopening its casino. As Dr. Shippey pointed out, an exact quote from the novel states the town is attempting to “regain some of its Victorian renown.”
“Gambling, of course, is another old aristocratic pastime from back when aristocrats were rich, and the Fleming novels have Bond or his enemies playing high-stakes games of baccarat, bridge, golf, and canasta, all very well and knowledgeably described.”
Set up for success from his first novel, James Bond has survived 12 original Fleming novels and 20 more by other authorized novelists.