This blog is all about James Bond and exploring Bondian ideas and influences. Here, you will also find James bond inspired recipes. The recipes are devised by the author, are modern, but have a period twist.
A website that explores the food of Ian Fleming’s James Bond has been launched. Licence to Cook accompanies the cookbook of the same name, which is packed full of recipes inspired by the food James Bond eats in the novels of Ian Fleming.
More Bondian recipes and articles about Bond’s food (from the books and films) are being added to the website, so be sure to visit regularly to read the latest post, find out how to eat like James Bond, or to get inspired for your next recipe idea.
Last week, I was privileged to visit the College of Arms in London. The principal roles of this world-famous institution are to grant coats of arms, investigate rights to existing ones, and undertake genealogical research. However, to Bond fans, it is best known as a location in both the book and the film of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. James Bond visits the college to learn about Blofeld’s request for its services to support his claim to the title of Count Balthazar de Bleuchamp (or Comte Balthazar de Bleuville, as it is in the book). Naturally, I took the opportunity to investigate the some of the spaces that inspired Fleming’s writing and the college scenes in the film.
The College of Arms
In the film, we are introduced to the college by means of an exterior shot of the front of the building, which is on Queen Victoria Street; Bond arrives in his Aston Martin and parks in the courtyard. This scene was shot on location and the building today is little changed.
The film cuts to an interior view of a hall, where Bond meets a porter in a cherry-red uniform (still worn today, a real-life porter at the college told me), who takes him through a side door to Sable Basilisk’s office. The hall is in fact the Earl Marshal’s Court, which may still, in theory, sit in order to hear and resolve heraldic disputes. The court in the film is a studio recreation, but apart from being larger and having more doors (through the long walls), it is a fair depiction of the real thing. The throne, enclosing rail, wall panelling, portraits, and flags present in the actual court are all represented on screen. The attention to detail is such that the screen court even depicts the crests and other devices above the doors and the radiators along the wall.
The court room in the College of Arms (top) and as depicted in OHMSS (below)
In the novel, Fleming describes the hall as gloomy, with ‘dark panelling…lined with musty portraits of proud-looking gentlemen in ruffs and lace’, and flags of the Commonwealth hanging from the cornice. Clearly, Fleming had visited the college himself.
During my visit, I got talking to one of the officers of the college, the York Herald. We chatted about the film, and he revealed that part of what would become the rooftop chase scene that was later deleted was filmed inside the college. A smaller room off the hall has a door in the corner. In the missing scene, Bond goes through this door ultimately to reach the roof.
Bond goes through this door on his way to the roof
The York Herald also pointed out that a few pages of the original script are on display in the corner of the court under a window. I eagerly went over to have a look and found that they featured dialogue from the deleted scene. (Photography of these pages is, incidentally strictly forbidden.)
Returning to the film, the porter leads Bond through a corridor to the door of Sable Basilisk. It is an ornate door, with an even more ornate name plate to the side. As I discovered as I explored some of the corridors after answering a call of nature, all the heralds’ office doors are rather elaborate. The office of Portcullis, for example, has a golden portcullis within a carved rosette-type device above the door. In the novel, Fleming describes the decoration above Sable Basilisk’s ‘heavy door’ as a nightmare black monster with a vicious beak, accompanied by a name plate in gold.
Doors of the heralds' offices
Today, the College of Arms is open to public enquiries, and I’m told that tours are occasionally given. The Bond connection is very much alive. Apart from the script, Bond-related books are on display on a table in the court room and available to purchase from the receptionist. The York Herald also told me that the college receives regular enquiries from Bond fans.
Picture the scene: a high-stakes baccarat game at the casino. At the table sits our hero, who has come to the gambling resort to ruin his arch-enemy, who now faces him. The game is observed by the hero’s female companion, with whom he has fallen in love and to whom he has explains the rules of the game. The game proceeds, during which our hero wins several coups and his enemy limps off, a little wounded, after losing a lot of money and declining the challenge of our hero’s substantial bank.
Sound familiar? I could, of course, be describing events in the novel of Casino Royale (1953), but in fact this comes from the E Phillips Oppenheim novel, Prodigals of Monte Carlo, published in 1926. Monte Carlo provides the casino (obviously), Sir Hargrave Wendever is the protagonist, Violet is his beautiful companion, and his arch-enemy is called Andrea Trentino (or ‘Trentino – Andrea Trentino’, as Wendever tells Violet). As for their characters, we read that ‘Hargrave, if he lacked the other’s almost flamboyant insouciance, was nevertheless in his way emotionless.’
The novel itself is more romance than thriller, but it shares some of its elements – the contest across the baccarat table, the sophisticated location, the impassive hero, the captivating woman – with Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel. Oppenheim was among the authors whom Fleming admired and credited as providing inspiration for his Bond books.
The similarity of the gambling scene may be coincidental, but it provides a connection between the two books and, it could be argued, places Casino Royale at a point of transition in the evolution of the thriller, being a novel that is set in the world of Oppenheim and others, but one whose outlook and style, shaped by Fleming’s wartime experiences, was distinctly modern.
Being a fan of Lee Child's Jack Reacher books, I was recently given a copy of Match Up, an anthology of short stories that pair up well-established characters from thrillers and crime fiction. The volume is edited by Lee Child, and naturally Jack Reacher makes an appearance, teaming up with Kathy Reichs' forensic anthropologist, Dr Temperance Brennan.
The idea of character crossovers is nothing new, though is largely restricted to television, films and comics, especially of the superhero kind (though I remember a somewhat bizarre episode of Murder She Wrote in which amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher joins forces with Magnum PI). Characters from different novels rarely share the page together.
Unsurprisingly, Match Up got me thinking about James Bond and which other character he could join in an adventure. There are plenty to choose from – the many rivals in 1960s spy fiction for Bond's crown, for example – but there are two characters I'd put on my shortlist: Philip Marlowe and Jules Maigret. Their respective authors, Raymond Chandler and Georges Simenon, both have a connection to Ian Fleming. Fleming certainly admired their work. He knew Chandler well and had met and conversed with Simenon about their respective books.
I would also like to find out the answer of an intriguing question. Raymond Chandler was once asked who would win if they found themselves up against each other, Bond or Marlowe? With a story featuring both characters, we might have a chance of finding out.
Actually, come to think of it, there is already a ‘match up’ of sorts – Clive Cussler’s Night Probe, featuring marine adventurer Dirk Pitt and a British agent called Brian Shaw. Clive Cussler based Shaw on Bond and indeed is reported to have intended the character to be Bond but was prevented by legalities.
There was another aspect about Match Up that interested me. In Lee Child and Kathy Reichs' story, Brennan is framed for the murder of a journalist, who had been investigating the suicide of an air force officer, one Calder Massee. It was believed that journalist had evidence that supported claims that Massee had in fact been murdered and that Brennan was part of the cover-up. But Reacher knows that it was a case of suicide and joins Brennan to get to the bottom of the conspiracy.
How does Reacher know? The air force officer had been exposed as a spy, having passed secrets to the Russians (the back story is set during the 1980s at the tail end of the Cold War). As an officer in the military police, Reacher is sent to confront and arrest Massee. When they meet, they talk. Reacher later recounts, 'I laid out the situation. He begged me to let him shoot himself. He wanted to spare his family the disgrace.'
Suicide to avoid dishonour is a familiar trope in fiction, but I couldn't help thinking of Ian Fleming's Octopussy, in which James Bond, investigating the theft of gold and the death of a mountain guide in Austria at the end of the war, catches up with the perpetrator, Major Dexter Smythe, and offers him the chance to put his affairs in order and commit suicide, thus sparing Smythe the disgrace of a trial.
The beginning of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service finds James Bond on the beach at Royale-les-Eaux reminiscing about his childhood holidays at the seaside – the hot powder sand, the grit of wet sand between the toes, the collection of seashells and ‘wrack’, the small crabs scuttling out of the way of fingers groping in rockpools, the endless swimming and sunshine, the bucket and spade, the Cadbury chocolate Flake and fizzy lemonade.
North Sands, Salcombe
Biographer Andrew Lycett reveals that Ian Fleming was describing Salcombe in Devon, where he had spent three summers in a row as a young child, holidaying with his brothers, his mother, Eve, and Primrose and Dido Harley, the daughters of a friend of Eve’s.
A holiday in south Devon this Easter gave me the opportunity to visit this literary location for myself. Salcombe is a picturesque fishing town on the mouth of the Kingsbridge estuary on the south-west coast. The town is characterised by narrow, hilly streets of brightly painted Victorian houses and tourist shops that look out to the boats moored in the harbour. Art galleries and high-street fashion boutiques compete with fish and chip restaurants, ice-cream parlours, and shops selling the accoutrements of a fun day at the beach.
A view of Salcombe towards the harbour
Salcombe has several beaches, which are situated on the east and west sides of the estuary. I happened to visit North Sands, which is to the south of the town on the west side of the harbour. This is a popular beach, and I expect Ian Fleming and his family sought something more secluded. There was something familiar, though, about the steep, zigzag road down to the beach. It reminded me of the equally steep road that zigzags to the beach at St Margaret’s Bay near Dover, where in later life Ian Fleming had a home. I wondered whether the similarity struck Fleming as well. Possibly the reminder of his childhood holidays added to the attraction of St Margaret’s Bay.
One of the many rockpools
Whether or not the young Ian ever frequented North Sands, the beach (no doubt along with others) matches the description in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with its soft sand, seaweed-fringed rockpools, and fine swimming. And yes, I did have a chocolate Flake and fizzy lemonade.
A Flake and (rather posh) fizzy lemonade
There was one other piece of Bondiana in Salcombe. I noticed a card for a local taxi firm in the parish council noticeboard. The name of the firm was Moonraker Taxis. Of course, the firm was named after the type of sail, rather than the novel or film, but I don’t suppose the association of the name with James Bond does any harm to the bookings.
It’s well known that when Ian Fleming made SMERSH the arch-enemy of the British Secret Service in the James Bond books, beginning with Casino Royale in 1953, the Soviet Union’s counter-intelligence organisation had been disbanded for over ten years. As a literary device, though, the conceit was a good one, and it also proved attractive to EON, who alluded to the organisation in The Living Daylights (1987) in the form of a plot code-named Smiert Spionam (‘Death to spies’), the phrase that gave SMERSH its name and its motto.
Smiert Spionam - a scene from The Living Daylights (1987)
To most people, SMERSH exists firmly in the realms of fiction and is as real as SPECTRE, the criminal organisation that replaced it as Bond’s nemesis. However, recent events in Salisbury – the poisoning of the former Russian double agent, Colonel Sergei Skripal – has reminded journalists and commentators about SMERSH, its activities, and its connection with James Bond.
In an article for The Guardian, Jamie Doward, Marc Bennetts and Kevin Rawlinson write of the implicit threat that Skripal is likely to have faced since coming to Britain in 2010 after being released from prison in Russia as part of a major spy swap. “Many in the FSB [the successor to the KGB] are fond of quoting the motto of SMERSH, Stalin’s counter-intelligence unit: ‘Death to spies.’”
Owen Matthews, writing in Newsweek, similarly writes about the sense of betrayal that Russian agents are likely to have felt: “As a convicted double agent, [Skripal] certainly betrayed the Russian secret world’s honour code of ‘death to spies’ – the actual name of the Soviet wartime counterintelligence service, SMERSH.” (I'm reminded of Gogol's words to Max Zorin in A View To A Kill: "No one ever leaves the KGB".)
Writing for The Conversation website about the history of state-sanctioned assassination, historian Dan Lomas places SMERSH as one of a number of Russian security agencies, from the Soviet Cheka to the current SVR, that have resorted to targeted killings, particularly those regarded as traitors.
In an article in the Daily Record, Torcuil Crichton writes of the message that the poisoning was designed to deliver – that “Britain is a dangerous place for enemies of the Russian state,” and reminds readers that ‘death to spies’ is the phrase associated with SMERSH.
The Bond connection is recalled by Eric S Margolis, writing a piece published in various media outlets, including Malaysia's Sun Daily and Germany's Contra magazine. He describes ‘Death to spies’ as the special unit formed to liquidate traitors and turncoats, adding that “readers of James Bond books will recognise SMERSH.”
James Bond is also mentioned in an article on the Skripal case published in Paris Match. “The years pass, the style remains,” Pauline Lallement writes. “SMERSH, the sworn enemy of James Bond, can still be recognised.” The article concludes with the words, “Bons baisers de Russie”, the French title of From Russia, With Love.
Benoît Rayski’s piece in the French-language news website, Atlantico, reinforces the Bond connection with a photo of Sean Connery as Bond (of Never Say Never Again vintage). He writes, “Forty years ago [sic] in a series of famous films, James Bond faced agents of SMERSH, the armed wing of Moscow. It was at the time of the cold war. Today we are witnessing a fairly successful remake. Out of necessity for a happy ending, 007 always won. But this time?"
The events in Salisbury has brought an organisation that has long been consigned to history and is largely known outside Russia through the Bond books back to global attention. In the note prefacing From Russia, With Love (1957), Ian Fleming wrote: “SMERSH, a contraction of Smiert Spionam – Death to Spies – exists and remains today the most secret department of the soviet government.” Perhaps Fleming’s words weren’t so far from the truth after all.
In her introduction to the Vintage edition of the novel The Lonely Skier, former MI5 head Stella Rimington describes its author, Hammond Innes, as the first of the post-war generation of thriller writers - a group that includes Ian Fleming - whose writing was informed by their wartime experiences and who broke away from the strait-laced style of adventure set by Buchan and others. And indeed, while The Lonely Skier, published in 1947, is Ambler-esque in its plotting and intrigue, it has a more than a dash of the sort of thrills and spills that Ian Fleming would make his own.
In the book, Neil Blair, demobbed and unemployed, is asked by an acquaintance and former British military intelligence officer, Derek Engles, to travel to a mountain resort in the Dolomites in Italy under the guise of a screenwriter and report back with information about what he sees and the people he encounters. He finds himself high up on the snow-covered slopes sharing a ski lodge with a group of dubious individuals, among them a Nazi collaborator, a former prostitute, and a deserter from the British army. Eventually he learns that everyone is there for a single purpose: to find a cache of gold stolen and hidden at the end of the war by a German officer.
As a main character, Neil Blair is too much the everyman to be a true proto-Bond, and the cast-list generally wouldn’t be out of place in an Eric Ambler novel, but the book touches on themes that would later be explored by Fleming. The theft and recovery of gold at the end of the Second World War form the backdrop to the short story ‘Octopussy’, while skiing would be a major element of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Stella Rimington notes that Innes, like Fleming, was a journalist before becoming a novelist, and similarly wrote with first-hand knowledge and convincing detail. That is certainly true; The Lonely Skier includes plenty of information on the technicalities of skiing (Christiana turns and such like) and the mountain landscape. I would say, though, that there is much more detail in Fleming’s skiing adventure; one would probably learn more about skiing in the mid-20th century from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service than Innes’ novel.
Interestingly, The Lonely Skier is set around the ski resort of Cortina D’Ampezzo, and Tofana is mentioned. The location would be visited in the film of For Your Eyes Only, and I must admit that as I was reading the book, I had scenes of the film running through my mind.
The Lonely Skier was itself filmed soon after publication. The film, released in 1948 as Snowbound, starred Dennis Price as Blair and Robert Newton as Engles, and featured Herbert Lom as the Nazi collaborator. Both the film and the novel are tense and exciting, and well worth checking out.
James Bond’s fondness for scrambled eggs is well-known to readers of the novels, and in the short story ‘007 in New York’, Bond is even given his own scrambled eggs recipe. But what’s the origin of this recipe? Was it Ian Fleming’s invention or was someone else responsible for it? Atticus, the Sunday Times column that Fleming wrote between 1953 and 1957, has the answer.
Scrambled eggs 'James Bond'
In the short story, we learn that Bond had a particular recipe for scrambled eggs, which he had instructed the kitchen staff of New York’s Plaza Hotel to make on a previous visit. ‘Scrambled eggs “James Bond”’, given in full as a footnote to the story, is for ‘four individualists’ and requires 12 eggs, 5-6 ounces of butter, and some finely chopped herbs. It also includes the notable instruction to whisk butter into the eggs when the eggs are ‘slightly still more moist than you would wish for eating.’
The short story, along with the recipe, first appeared in the Sunday Herald Tribune on 29th September 1963. However, the recipe had previously been published in 1961 in a collection of favourite recipes of the famous, Celebrity Cooking for You. Ian Fleming’s scrambled eggs recipe was essentially the same as that which appeared in ‘007 in New York’, but suggested that cream could be used instead of the final piece of butter.
But the celebrity cookbook was not the first time that the recipe had appeared in print. Fleming’s Atticus column of 25th December 1955 included a small piece about scrambled eggs under the heading ‘Oeufs Attique’. Fleming began: ‘I suppose that the “Chef of the Year” is Mr Bartolemo Calderoni of May Fair Hotel [in London], for he was chosen to cook this year’s banquet for the International Academy of Chefs.’ Fleming continued: ‘Since, I dare say, that 90 per cent of the adult population believe that their scrambled eggs are better than mine, I made it my duty to obtain from this supreme authority his final five-star word on the vital subject.’
The result, Mr Calderoni’s recipe for scrambled eggs, duly appeared below that piece. There are slight differences between this recipe and later versions. For instance, the recipe is for two, so the quantities are halved, and the recipe suggests that it’s not worth using fewer eggs as too much egg sticks to the saucepan (a tip that would survive to the celebrity cookbook, but not ‘007 in New York’). There is also no mention of herbs. However, much of the recipe is more or less identical to those published subsequently, including the instruction to add butter ‘while the eggs are slightly more moist than you would wish to eat them.’
Thus, scrambled eggs ‘James Bond’ is really scrambled eggs ‘Bartolemo Calderoni’. Ann Fleming recorded in her letters that Ian liked his omelettes very baveuse – moist and runny – so it’s no wonder that he was so taken with Bartolemo Calderoni’s recipe.
The recipe demonstrates once again that Atticus is a rich source for information on the Bond books, with many of the ideas and memes that appear in the novels having their origins in Fleming’s Sunday Times column.
References: Amory, M (ed.), 1985 The Letters of Ann Fleming, Collins Harvill, London Chancellor, H, 2005 James Bond: The Man and his World, John Murray, London Gilbert, J, 2012 Ian Fleming: The Bibliography, Queen Ann Press, London
After almost eight years, I've decided to hang up my metaphorical Walter PPK (or should that be put away my golden typewriter?) and call it a day with James Bond memes. In that time, I've somehow managed to publish a blog post on an aspect of James Bond almost every week. It's been a lot of fun and I've discovered stories, facts, and connections that demonstrate, if nothing else, that the cultural impact of Ian Fleming's creation is profound and far-reaching. James Bond is alive and well. I've also enjoyed reading the comments (well, most of them), and am grateful for the opportunities that the blog has given me to connect with fellow Bond enthusiasts and make life-long friendships.
While this will be my last post on James Bond memes, I won't be leaving the world of James Bond. I'll continue to write occasionally about James Bond for other outlets (check out my article on Ian Fleming and golf in the latest MI6 Confidential) and post on Twitter (@bondmemes). I also have an idea for another Bond-related blog that might see the light of day.
Though I'm taking a 'station break', James Bond memes will stay on the air, and so all my articles will remain available to read. If you'd like to get in touch, look me up on the 'contact information page'. So, in the immortal words of James Bond in Thunderball, 'See you later, alligator.'
The title of Anthony Horowitz’s second James Bond novel, due to be published in May by Jonathan Cape, was announced last week. The book, Forever and a Day, is set before the events of Casino Royale and sees James Bond earn his licence to kill and develop into the man we know from Ian Fleming’s novels. What else can we learn from the tantalising hints offered by the official press release?
Anyone familiar with the novel of Casino Royale will remember that James Bond earned his double-O status during the Second World War by killing a Norwegian agent in Stockholm who was doubling for the Germans, and a Japanese cipher expert operating out of the RCA Building in the Rockefeller Centre in New York. Presumably the episodes will be referenced in the new novel, but the latter is especially interesting, as the Rockefeller Centre was also the headquarters of the British Security Coordination (BSC) headed by William Stephenson. The BSC represented British intelligence in the US during the war and was concerned with intelligence gathering, counter-espionage and special operations. If Horowitz’s novel describes or alludes to the killing of the cipher expert, will it link Bond more explicitly to the BSC?
Probably not, judging by the synopsis:
‘007 floats in the waters of Marseille, killed by an unknown hand. It’s time for a new agent to step up. Time for a new weapon in the war against organised crime. It’s time for James Bond to earn his licence to kill. This is the story of the birth of a legend, in the brutal underworld of the French Riviera.’
This appears to be a different narrative to that presented in Casino Royale, and it will be interesting to see how the two origins are reconciled.
In any case, the Marseille setting and mention of the underworld of the French Riviera are intriguing. We know from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service that this is Union Corse territory. Are the members of that criminal organisation involved in the death of 007? Will we be introduced to Bond’s future father-in-law, Marc-Ange Draco? There is no suggestion in OHMSS that Bond knew Draco before the events of that novel, so it seems unlikely that Bond and Draco would meet in Forever and a Day, but Draco could certainly be in the background.
It’s worth bearing in mind, too, that Marseille was home in the early 1950s to Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s operation to excavate two ancient wrecks. Ian Fleming reported on the underwater excavation for the Sunday Times and even attempted to dive to the site. It’s possible that this will inform Horowitz’s novel to some extent (just as it informed Fleming’s Live and Let Die), and indeed the author confirmed in a tweet that the book involves ‘lots of water.’
And will Bond eat one of the regional specialities? In OHMSS, Bond asks a Marseille taxi-driver whether the bouillabaisse (ideally made with rascasse or scorpion fish) chez Guido is always as good. Bond is clearly familiar with the dish and the local restaurants, and it might be in Horowitz’s adventure that he is introduced to them.
One thing we do know is that the novel will, like Anthony Horowitz’s first Bond adventure, Trigger Mortis, contain original material by Ian Fleming. How it will contribute to Forever and a Day has not been revealed, but it makes the novel an even more mouth-watering prospect.