Sunday 12 July 2015

More ideas in the Bond books that originated with Thrilling Cities

In a recent post I wrote about an idea or meme that emerged in a James Bond novel, in this case the phrase 'quantum of solace', and reappeared in Ian Fleming's Thrilling Cities (1963). The process was more common in reverse. This is evident particularly with the chapter in Thrilling Cities on Tokyo, a city which provided Fleming with a wealth of material that would subsequently be used in You Only Live Twice (1964). But there are other examples.

In his chapter on Geneva, written in 1960, Ian Fleming describes the fields around Noël Coward's chalet in the Swiss Alps as being thick with flowers (it being summer and the time, Fleming notes, of the Narcissus Festival, which celebrates the flowering of the narcissus). In passing, Fleming wonders when an alp becomes a berg. It was a question, slightly modified, that he later gave to Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963). “What is the difference between a piz, and an alp and a berg?” he asks Irma Bunt. Not much, it seems, a piz being a local name for a peak, but an alp and berg both being used to describe mountains.

Then, in West Berlin, Ian Fleming enjoys a schnapps with a beer chaser known as Molle und Korn, or a 'boiler-maker and his assistant'. James Bond has the same combination (described as Molle mit Korn) when he's in Berlin ahead of his rendezvous with 'Trigger' in 'The Living Daylights', first published in 1962.

Oyster crackers, enjoyed both by Fleming and Bond
The short story '007 in New York' was originally published in 1963, three years after Ian Fleming's report on his visit to New York appeared in The Sunday Times. In that piece, Fleming claimed that creamed oyster stew, served at Grand Central Station with crackers and a Miller High Life beer, was the only dish that had maintained its integrity in New York. James Bond expresses similar views in the short story, musing about the “best meal in New York – oyster stew with cream, crackers, and Miller High Life” at Grand Central.

Anyone interested in the origins of ideas and memes in the later Bond books would not have to look very far in Thrilling Cities before finding them. Some of the experiences Fleming had while visiting cities around the world he would give to Bond. After all, the thrilling and intriguing aspects of Fleming's visits were natural material for Bond. But the experiences Fleming had, which he recorded with his journalist's eye, also give the Bond books a sense of reportage and reality that still make the books so compelling to read.


Fleming, I, 1963 Thrilling Cities, Cape
Gilbert, J, 2012 Ian Fleming: The Bibliography, Queen Anne Press

1 comment:

  1. Marvellously diverting, all Fleming's waffle about how to enjoy jamaican coffee - all total guff of course; try drinking your coffee that way and you'll regret it, try half the routes he suggested (Those that remain) and you'd realise why the man flew everywhere... he remains a firm favourite purely because A: He's the best travel writer I've read and B: As a lazy bugger first class (with bar) I've always admired a man who can make one job pay twice. (Perhaps for the proles rather than yourself I add; he used his job for Kemsley papers to pay for jolly holidays that he then, of course sent Bond on. Only instead of Fleming reclining by the pool hiding his erection it was Bond working Goldfinger's angle and seducing his girl... wonderful!)


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