The opening of a new James Bond movie always stirs up a tsunami of Hollywood marketing hype. Leading up to last month's premier of the newest blockbuster 007 adventure, "Quantum of Solace," one TV movie channel rebroadcast its Bond movie marathon as liquor advertisers cashed in on the fictional spy's jet-set, cocktail lifestyle.
This year, 2008, marks the centenary of the birth of author Ian Fleming. And the current installment of his classic British spy with the 007 numbered license to kill - who first appeared in a series of novels and short stories - borrows its odd title, "Quantum of Solace," from a J.B. short story of the same title. A quantum of solace, one of the characters says in the 1959 tale, is that measure of peace a couple finds in a loving relationship.
Like most James Bond motion pictures, the current release bears no resemblance to the story that inspired it. And that's too bad for most fans of J.B. in print - of which there are millions around the world.
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 publically 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 spymaster. 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.
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.
As with nearly all Bond novels-to-film, the 1977 film version of "The Spy Who Loved Me" bears the book's title but neither its plot nor sophistication. A pulp novelization of the film by Christopher Wood was published with a title similar to Fleming's, but it has no connection with the 1962 novel except for the name of the 007 character.
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.