You would think after 25 James Bond films we’ve come to know agent 007. Turns out there’s a lot more to know.
For instance, we think Bond prefers to drive an Aston Martin and only drinks ‘vodka martini, shaken not stirred.” But he only drove an Aston Martin in one Ian Fleming novel, Goldfinger (1959), choosing to drive a Bentley in all the other books.
If you’ve only seen the films, there’s a whole lot about Bond you’re missing.
Regarding his preferred libation, researchers sifting through 14 Bond novels found 007 drinking 19 vodka martinis but 21 scotches and 37 bourbons. Same goes for his supposed weapon of choice, the Walther PPK, which doesn’t make an appearance until the sixth novel Dr. No (1958). Bond in fact, prefers a .25 Beretta with a sawn-off barrel and keeps a .45 Colt in his car.
The James Bond found in the Ian Fleming novels reveal a complex man even more prone to violence, gambling and sexism than is portrayed by his cinematic counterpart. The biggest revelation, however, may be that 007 was a pill popping speed freak who often jacked up before missions by dosing on amphetamines.
The first instance of Bond using speed occurs in Ian Fleming’s second novel Live and Let Die (1954) when 007 pops Benzedrine tablets before embarking on an underwater mission through a coral reef off the coast of Jamaica toward the island of Surprise. Bond, Fleming writes, “Still felt perfectly fresh, and the elation and clarity of mind produced by the Benzedrine were still with him.”
In Moonraker (1955), Bond prepares for a confrontation with the villainous Hugo Drax by availing himself of some powdered courage. Bond “took a silver fruit knife off the table and dipped the tip of the blade into the packet so that about half its contents were transferred to the knife. He reached for his glass of champagne and tipped the powder into it. ‘Benzedrine,’ said James Bond. ‘It is what I shall need if I’m going to keep my wits about me tonight. It’s apt to make one a bit overconfident, but that’ll help too.’ M smiled at him indulgently. “It’s your funeral,” he said. “How were the cutlets?”
In The Spy Who Loved Me (1962), Bond needs a bounce during a long night at the Dreamy Pines Motor Court whilst dispatching two gangsters, “. . . He took out two and when I gave him the coffee, he swallowed them down. ‘Benzedrine. That’ll keep me awake for tonight,’ says Bond.”
Bond was a composite of various real life secret agents Fleming encountered during his stint in the Naval Intelligence Division during World War II, including his own brother Peter Fleming, who operated behind enemy lines. Fleming’s depiction of agents on drugs is in fact spot on, as Allied forces during World War II extensively utilized methamphetamine for performance-enhancing effects.
Nazi’s were notorious speed freaks as well, gobbling prodigious amounts of Pervitin and “tank chocolates” during Blitzkrieg campaigns. The Benzedrine inhaling villain Le Chiffre from both the book Casino Royale (1953) and the 2006 film of the same name is a direct reference to drug addled Nazi’s.
Researchers have suggested the incorporation of Benzedrine into 1950’s espionage fiction demonstrated how the then new science of pharmacology could augment the spy’s natural ability and “award a decisive advantage in the Cold War conflict.”
The question is, would Money Penny approve?
Tumble further down the rabbit hole and we find the first agent of the British crown designated 007 was a strange mystical figure named John Dee, a mathematician, occultist and royal astrologer to Queen Elizabeth 1.
By the time of the Queen’s coronation in 1558, Dee had become Elizabeth’s closest personal advisor. He would counsel Her Majesty on everything from science to nautical navigation. Dee was a staunch imperialist and in fact is credited with coining the phrase “British Empire.”
When corresponding with the Queen, Dee would sign his name “007.” The zeroes represented two eyes, designating the letter as being for the Queen’s eyes only. The seven was considered to be a lucky number in occultism, one which offered protection to the person endowed.
Protection was something that Queen Elizabeth could use in abundunce, being in constant threat from conspiracy plots, in the wake of the Pope declaring her an illegitimate ruler in 1570. These plots however, were invariably quashed by her formidable secret service, which included John Dee.
It has been alleged that Dee was a master spy and his many travels throughout Europe on spiritual conferences were actually intelligence gathering missions for the Queen.
As mysterious a character as Dee was, his assistant, Edwarde Kelley, was stranger, by far. Angels would dictate books, through Kelley, by way of an angelic language known as Enochian.
Dee took Kelley into his confidence and the two would use the Enochian cipher as a means to communicate with Ultraterrestrials from another dimension, which Dee was convinced would bring great benefits to mankind, and especially, the Crown.
A few centuries later, occultist Aleister Crowley would claim that he was the reincarnation of Edwarde Kelley. Crowley himself was suspected by some to be a secret agent, although he wasn’t associated with the code numbers “007,” preferring the digits “666” instead.
Crowley however, was a notorious drug addict, imbibing in cocaine, heroin, and hash. Would it strain the bounds of credulity to think that maybe, Ian Fleming put a little Crowley into his 007 as well? Not so much.