The opening of any James Bond movie gears up the Hollywood marketing hype. Leading up to the November 2015 worldwide premier of the latest blockbuster 007 adventure “Spectre,” one TV movie channel rebroadcast its Bond movie marathon as liquor advertisers cashed in on the fictional spy’s jet-set, cocktail lifestyle.
Like most James Bond motion pictures, 2015’s “Spectre” big-screen feature has no resemblance to the various 007 printed stories which inspired it. That’s too bad for most fans of J.B. in print—of which there are still millions around the world.
U.S. President John Kennedy was an avid James Bond fan. The Camelot president had met Ian Fleming at a 1961 Washington, D.C. party and as soon as he publicly discussed their meeting in Life magazine-with Fleming’s humorous suggestion about deposing Cuba’s Castro by forcing him to shave-off his iconic beard-the meeting created a run on James Bond novels across the U.S.
Fleming, at the height of his literary powers, died in August 1964 nearly a year after JFK was assassinated.
The published 007 stories, unlike many of the later celluloid versions, were jaunty spy tales set in exotic locales with verisimilitude. In several 007 capers, the reader can actually nail down the story to within a month or two of a particular year set in the 1950s or early 1960s. Bond’s creator insisted on believability; after all, he had been a top British spy master. Fleming served as assistant director of Naval Intelligence in the U.K. during World War II.
James Bond in print involved a lot of intrigue, sexy situations and intellectual fun to readers. The literary J.B. was imagined more as a mid-20th century version of British “ace of spies” Sidney Reilly than a Hollywood action hero.
Known mostly by hardcore Bond fans, Ian Fleming set two James Bond spy adventures in our region.
In “For Your Eyes Only”, Bond visits Vermont on an unofficial assignment for spy boss M, and in “The Spy Who Loved Me”, he falls for a sexy woman managing an Adirondack motel north of Lake George Village, N.Y.
In the 1960 short story “For Your Eyes Only”, Bond flies to Montreal, Canada, and then crosses the border into Vermont via car to track down a bad guy named von Hammerstein. The German thug lives on a guarded estate overlooking Echo Lake in Plymouth, Vt. Without spoiling the location details or plot, we will report that a violent shootout occurs between Bond and some nasty Cuban gunmen.
It’s fun to imagine a famous spy on a secret mission in Vermont; it’s too bad the 1981 film of the same title had little in common with Fleming’s print version. The Vermont Film Commission would have appreciated the true-to-the-book location business.
Goldeneye, on the northern coastline of Jamaica, where Fleming wrote “The Spy Who Loved Me”. The 007 spy novel is set in a motel located along Route 9N in Lake George Village.
In the 1962 novel, “The Spy Who Loved Me”, Bond is again in the land of northern lakes, this time he checks into the Dreamy Pines Motor Court located along Route 9N in Lake George, N.Y. But don’t bother checking into this motel to get a feel for Bond-it’s fictional.
Bond appears in only a few chapters of “The Spy Who Loved Me”. Again, without spoiling the plot, we’ll at least reveal that the story involves, sex, gangsters and a certain British spy.
In rereading both Bond tales, it’s easy to see that Fleming wrote about the greater Champlain Valley region with some authority. Vermont freelance writer and long-time 007 fan Beth Schaeffer reports that Fleming had motored through Vermont and upstate New York for several weeks while on a vacation during the early 1950s. The goal of Fleming motor trip was to visit an old wartime buddy, Ivar Bryce, who owned a farm near Arlington, Vt. More about Bryce below.
As with nearly all Bond novels-to-film projects, the 1977 film version of “The Spy Who Loved Me” bears the book’s title but neither its plot nor its sophistication.
A pulp novelization of the film by Christopher Wood was published with a title similar to Fleming’s, but it too had no connection with the 1962 novel except for the name of the 007 character. What a shame.
During the early 1950s, Fleming spent considerable time exploring Vermont from Bryce’s summer base in the Arlington area. During his Green Mountain sojourns, Fleming connected with other writers and wartime buddies.
British online blogger Edward Biddulph recounts Fleming’s Vermont reunion with his friend, the late Norwegian author and screenplay writer Roald Dahl.
Both men knew each other and led exciting lives in Allied intelligence during World War II.
The meeting between the two writers took place in an undisclosed southern Vermont restaurant near Arlington, as Fleming was a frequent summer visitor of Bryce’s Black Hole Hollow Farm.
The farm, its exact location a well-kept secret even today, was somewhere along the Batten Kill on the west side of Big Spruce Mountain—literally straddling the Vermont-New York state line near Cambridge.
Fleming knew Bryce for more than a decade, possibly since World War II but the origin of their friendship is murky, although a connection through the old Allied spy community is likely.
“A recent visit to the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, reminded me of the varied connections between Dahl and Fleming,” according to Biddulph. “There was the obvious, of course... Dahl’s experience writing the screenplay of ‘You Only Live Twice’... and an image of a page from Dahl’s handwritten script for ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. Then there was some information about Dahl’s role in the Second World War as assistant air attaché at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., where he was drawn into intelligence work and was introduced to Fleming; the two would become firm friends.”
Biddulph has collected a considerable dossier on Fleming’s life, both during and after the war.
“In his introduction to the (1970s British) T.V. series, ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ adaptation, Dahl tells the audience that Fleming was responsible for the story ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’, which had come about during dinner they had together one weekend in Vermont. The roast lamb they had been eating had been very dry and tough, and Fleming remarked that the meat must have been in the deep freeze for 10 years. He suggested that whoever was responsible (the cook, maybe? The recording is a little unclear) should be shot, but Dahl suggested that there must be a more interesting punishment. The story was generated in the subsequent discussion.”
During the now celebrated Vermont leg-of-lamb dinner, Fleming suggested the following to Dahl:
“Why don’t you have someone murder her husband with a frozen leg of mutton which she then serves to the detectives who come to investigate the murder?”
Dahl took Fleming’s macabre idea and developed a short story thriller which has been anthologized by television’s “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “Tales of the Unexpected” as well as appearing in dozens of horror book collections.
“Dahl doesn’t tell us when his conversation with Fleming took place in Vermont, but sometime in the early 1950s is most likely, possibly the summer of 1951,” Biddulph suggests. “Dahl had moved to New York in that year, and since 1950, Fleming spent almost every summer in Vermont, staying at Black Hole Hollow Farm....”
John Pearson, another Fleming friend and biographer wrote that, “Even in his last years, when illness had put an end to most of the temptations he might have punished himself for, he would still struggle, sweating, purple in the face, to the top of Big Spruce, the 1,200 foot peak that juts above the Bryce farm in Vermont.”
In a 1960s account, Bryce wrote that, “It was at Black Hole Hollow Farm that Fleming first thought of the plot for ‘Diamonds Are Forever’. The book... is dedicated to three of the people who were his daily companions throughout that warm and eventful summer in Vermont.”
Today, years after the August 1964 heart-attack death of 007’s creator at the age of 56, Vermont and James Bond are cemented firmly in literary culture.
The most recent example of the 007 mystique in Vermont was reported in the local news in August 2015—at least, it was 007 in the guise of Pierce Brosnan. The Hollywood import actor portrayed secret agent James Bond on the big screen during the 1990s.
As told by various news accounts, Brosnan was stopped at the Burlington International Airport after a TSA security officer noticed the actor carrying a 10-inch-long knife. Brosnan had been visiting Vermont on vacation. According to one account, Burlington Police Department Lt. Shawn Burke said that Brosnan was upset and embarrassed about the incident. The knife was confiscated and the actor went on his way. One wonders if the former 007 movie star ever heard of the Fleming-Vermont connection?
For all the exotic international locales visited by Secret Agent 007—from Nassau to Turkey—it’s nice to know that the creator of the legendary spy of fiction found Vermont and upstate New York worthy of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
007 Action in Vermont & New York
To visit the real-life Vermont setting of Ian Fleming’s original OO7 story, “For Your Eyes Only”, visit Echo Lake, located near Plymouth. Some Fleming fans contest this Echo Lake as Fleming’s locale, pointing to another Echo Lake near the Canadian border, as the true setting. Read the story for yourself and then decide.
From U.S. Route 4, travel south on Vermont Route 100 for 10.5 miles. At Echo Lake Inn (on your right), turn left onto Kingdom Road. Drive 0.7 miles and turn left onto Camp Road. State Park is 0.5 miles up road on your left.
Plot: “For Your Eyes Only” begins with the murder of a British couple who have refused to sell their estate to a former Gestapo officer who is the chief of counterintelligence for the Cuban secret service. They are killed by two Cuban hitmen at the direction of their leader, James Bond travels to the ex-Gestapo officer’s Vermont compound along Echo Lake and assassinates him.
To visit the real-life Adirondack setting of Fleming’s other 007 adventure, “The Spy Who Loved Me,” travel along New York Route 9N north of Lake George Village. The fictitious Dreamy Pines Motor Court is located on the west side of the highway, somewhere near where Finkle Road intersections with Route 9N.
Plot: “It is... the first person story of a young woman, evidently beautiful and not unskilled in the arts of love. According to her story, she appears to have been involved, both perilously and romantically, with the same James Bond whose secret service exploits I myself have written from time to time,” Fleming writes, tongue-in-cheek, in the forward to his “The Spy Who Loved Me”.