Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quantum of Solace - The Real Story

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Series: The week in booksPrevious | Next | Index The week in booksThe male desire for explanation; the real Quantum of Solace; and merchandising fiction

Andrew Lycett writes:

It has been half-term, but I was not expecting the eager hordes when I visited the Imperial War Museum's exhibition on James Bond's creator. Ian Fleming's centenary has put him firmly back on the cultural map. Strange, then, that Quantum of Solace, the Bond film released this week, should bear no relation, bar the title, to Fleming's short story of that name. The title has a Hollywood portentousness, but the story - about a bitter matrimonial struggle in the colonies - is most unBond-like: no action; rather, a tropical mood piece in the style of Somerset Maugham.

By 1959, Fleming had written seven well-received 007 novels. But he was not satisfied with his success. His books might be popular, but not with the people he wanted. The previous year, Paul Johnson in a New Statesman essay had described Dr No as "without a doubt the nastiest book" he had ever read. Closer to home, Ann, Fleming's high-born wife, could not disguise her distaste for Bond - a standing joke with literary friends such as Evelyn Waugh and Cyril Connolly.

Every winter, Fleming would go for three months to Goldeneye, his house in Jamaica, where he knocked out the latest of his Bond stories. But in 1959 his fire had gone. Ann had refused to accompany him and, unable to concentrate on a full-scale novel, he attempted a book of short stories, published the following year as For Your Eyes Only. But even a quota of five mini-007 tales proved beyond him. So he turned to his girlfriend in Jamaica, Blanche Blackwell, for the real-life tale that became his story "Quantum of Solace". Blackwell revealed how, in 1938, she had visited her then husband, Joe Blackwell, in Mandeville, where he had been seconded to the local constabulary at the time of a rebellion that threatened to bring the colony to its knees. She had been appalled to witness one of his fellow officers being humiliated by his wife's very public extramarital affair.

She had been reminded of these events when her friend, Sylvia Foot, the wife of a recent governor general, asked her to help an unfortunate woman who had been abandoned by her husband, a former deputy police commissioner on the island. This was Elspeth Smith, the brazen adulteress of Mandeville. According to Foot, the police officer, Clive Smith, had become deputy commissioner in Jamaica. But his wife's infidelities rankled. After a trip abroad, he told her he would no longer communicate, except in writing. When, a year later, she asked for a divorce and alimony, he informed her she would be financially secure since she had the house, the car and all the furnishings. Soon afterwards, he moved to Barbados as commissioner of police. When Elspeth Smith came to sell up, she found nothing paid for. Thus Foot's appeal for charity. But Blackwell, recalling Elspeth's behaviour in 1938, felt no inclination to help.

Fleming changed the Smiths' home to Bermuda and made the policeman a diplomat, but kept the gist of the story, which in his version was told to Bond in an after-dinner conversation in Nassau about the nature of marriage. He had the narrator, the governor of the Bahamas, defining the Quantum of Solace as a precise equation of the amount of comfort necessary between two people if love is to flourish. If this figure is zero, there can be no love. Bond clearly understood, for he added that "when the other person not only makes you feel insecure but actually seems to want to destroy you ... you've got to get away to save yourself".

In taking this line, Fleming was commenting on his own parlous marriage. The new film makes some small obeisance to this idea by insisting that Bond is inspired by a residual sense of love to find the killers of Vesper Lynd, his girlfriend in his previous cinematic outing, Casino Royale

Blackwell at least received recompense for her authorial help. Fleming acknowledged her role by giving her what he called "a fat present" - in reality a slim wristwatch from Cartier. At last, a true Bond touch.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

James Bond with Nazis in Haiti

Jeff Morley, in Our Man in Mexico, (p19), writes:

“With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, America went to war. The FBI, with its network of offices throughout the Caribbean and South America, had the job of keeping track of Germans in Latin America as well. In February 1943 he was loaned out on ‘Special Confidential Assignment’ to the U.S. embassy in Cuba, an unusually rapid promotion. Win loved wartime Havana at first. He served as assistant to the embassy’s legal attaché, an FBI man named Raymond Leddy, and liked him immediately. Leddy was a trim, correct man, a native of New York City and a product of the finest Jesuit schools: Xavier High School, Holly Cross College, and Fordham Law School. Astute about FBI office politics, Leddy spoke fluent Spanish and moved with ease both in the world of the embassy and among the Cubans.”

“He took Win to the jai alai arena and introduced him to the famous writer Ernest Hemingway whose leftist political sympathies made Leddy suspicious. The bearded novelist’s alcohol-fueled reports of German submarines in Havana Bay had become the gag of the office. Win rented a room in Leddy’s tidy seaside house in the Miramar section of Havana, and their friendship grew. ‘He was well-educated, had good, even if accented, Spanish – and he had a car. He had proved to be one of my best friends, and we have kept in contact,’ Win wrote, though there was much, much more to the story than that.”

Indeed there was, as Ian Fleming, an officer in the Royal Navy, was soon to be posted as assistant to the Director of British Naval Intelligence, but was then responsible for the tracking of Nazi submarines in the Caribbean. And Hemingway was an agent of the United States Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) at the time, keeping track of Nazi subs while posing as a fisherman on his yacht the Pilar. Later Hemingway would go to Europe and cover the land war with OSS Col. David Bruce and write reports for Colliers and the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA).

NANA was owned by Ernest Cuneo and Ivor Bryce, two other OSS officers who hired Fleming after the war to run their European correspondents.

Early in the war, while on a conference on Nazi U Boat warfare in the Caribbean, Bryce took Fleming to visit his Jamaican estate, and Fleming decided to return and live there.

While Win Scott may have crossed paths with Ian Fleming when they were both keeping track of Germans in the Caribbean, Scott may have also received reports from James Bond Authenticus, the American ornithologist whose name Fleming acknowledged appropriating for his fictional secret agent 007.

Bond’s book Birds of the West Indies was a reference kept by Fleming’s breakfast table at Goldeneye, his Jamaican home where he wrote all of the Bond novels.

James Bond’s wife, Mary Wickham Bond, a journalist and publisher, wrote a non-fictional book, To James Bond With Love (Sutter House, 1980) in which she details some of her husband’s bird hunting adventures in the West Indies.

On one trip to Jamaica, James and Mary Bond rented a car and took a drive along the scenic North Shore, and stopped in to visit Ian Fleming. Fleming had them for lunch, and they joked about how the fictional 007 likes his meals cooked, and what he real James Bond preferred.

In her book To James Bond With Love (p. 56), Mary Bond reflects on some other experiences of the real James Bond, reports about which may have crossed the desk of Win Scott and Raymond Leddy in Havana, keeping track of Germans in the Caribbean.

“If Ian Fleming had lived longer, it’s a safe guess that he and Jim (Bond) would have met again,” Mrs. Bond wrote. “Fiction writers are scavengers when seeking material for their fabrications, and Fleming might have easily extracted from Jim his enigmatic experience in World War II in Haiti. He arrived in Port-au-Prince in May 1941 for the sole purpose of studying birds on Morne La Selle, a plateau over 6,000 feet high. He put up at the little Hotel de Reix at Kenscoff, a small settlement at about 4,000 feet and tried to obtain two porters to carry his camping material. No one would so. A German, he was told by the habitants, had built an airstrip high on the ridge and would not allow anyone to go up there. Jim asked where the German lived, and the natives pointed to the summit of nearby Morne Tranchant which is covered by low scrubby woods. Jim was doubtful of this, for he was used to near enough gestures from the islanders when asked the location of some rare bird, but decided to go up and see for himself.”

“He climbed to the top of the mountain and found on the edge of a small clearing a very neat cottage well hidden in the foliage. The German who came out was very pleasant, spoke excellent English, and although he did not say, ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume,’ to Jim’s astonishment he knew who he was and told him to go ahead wherever he pleased on the La Selle ridge. Jim was so absorbed in his own objectives he forgot all about the alleged airstrip and went on his way without even asking about it.”

“When leaving Haiti for home, he was forced, owing to the war, to travel on a freighter from St. Marc to New York. Back in Philadelphia he told his friend Brandon Barringer about the encounter with the German, and Brandon took it up with the authorities in Washington. Jim was promptly visited at the Academy of Natural Sciences by Army, and then Navy, Intelligence officers. Fleming would have been intrigued with the final twist to the story. The Intelligence people asked a lot of foolish questions and seemed far more suspicious about Jim’s reasons for climbing Morne La Selle, than about the German’s activities.”

“Another episode Fleming might have adapted for his as yet unborn 007 was during Machado’s regime in Cuba.....”

James Bond & the Cambridge Spy Ring


More secrets emerged after the death of James Bond in 1989, and a few were publicized when new academic biographies of both Bond and Ian Fleming were published - The Private Life of James Bond, a profile of James Bond the ornithologist, by history professor David R. Contosta (Sutter House, 1993), and The Man Behind James Bond (Turner Books, 1995) by Andrew Lycett.

With the official approval and cooperation of Fleming’s estate, family and friends, Andrew Lycett continued to promote the false myth that Fleming began his spy novels on a lark, to take his mind of marriage, and despairingly refers to James Bond as an “unknown academic.”

Yet Lycett teases with the truth by brining the Cambridge spy ring to the table. During World War II Fleming had said he wanted to write “the spy story to end all spy stories,” and when he sat down to is desk at his Jamaican beach house in January, 1952, the biggest spy story of the century was slowly unfolding in back alleys, capitol offices and headlines around the world.

It was unthinkable that the best and brightest of England’s native sons could betray their nation’s most precious secrets to the Soviet Union, yet that was what was just beginning to be understood. One year earlier, on May 28, 1951, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess disappeared shortly before McLean was to be arrested for espionage, setting off a search for a “Third Man,” suspected of tipping them off as to MacLean’s impending doom.

Since both Burgess and Mclean attended Cambridge University, suspicion immediately fell on their former schoolmate and friend Kim Philby, the MI6 British Secret Service liaison to the United State’s CIA, former head of the MI6 bureau responsible for Soviet counter-intelligence, and one of the few primary candidates to head the British Secret Service. While the suspicions put a strain in U.S. – British relations, it also strongly affected Ian Fleming, a Philby colleague whose generation of friends and associates were caught exposed and vulnerable by the betrayal their own friends, associates and countrymen.

Four months after Burgess and Maclean escaped to Russia, Ian and his wife Ann visited their friends Prime Minister Anthony Eden and his wife Clarissa. According to Lycett, “The Prime Minister was unwell, largely as a result of the anguish he was experiencing about the enduring subject of the ‘Missing Diplomats’. A White Paper on Burgess and Maclean’s defection to Moscow had just been published and the government was being forced to lie about the case, falsely denying that the two traitors’ colleague Kim Philby was the ‘Third Man’. Clarissa Eden begged her guests not to mention any of these names in front of her husband. When they were alone, Ian and Ann asked her for more details.”

The subject was also taboo when Fleming sat down with his old friend and mentor, Sir William Stephenson [The man called INTREPID], reports Lycett, as “Curiously, Ian did not mention…the intelligence-related matter which obsessed the chattering classes of the time – the disappearance in May of two senior Foreign Office officials, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, who were suspected of being communist spys. When Ian and Ann had entertained Cyril Connolly and Noel Coward in September, they had spoken of little else. How could such pillars of the Establishment nurtured an ideological commitment for Marxism?”

Connolly was actually with Maclean on the day before he fled, and [in Douglas Southerland’s The Fourth Man – The Story of Blunt, Philby, Burgess and MacLean, Arrow Books, 1980], Connolly is quoted as saying, “…I knew them both and actually
Lunched with Maclean the day before he disappeared. The point I wanted to mention to you was that on that day I am sure he had no intention of leaving the way he did. He spoke to me so normally as to his private affairs…this makes me feel that, subsequent to meeting me on May 24th, he received some warning that he was under suspicion, and immediately left the country with Burgess. It may be, therefore, that someone in the Foreign Office told him….” Now we know that person was Kim Philby.

The Sunday Times had commissioned Cyril Connolly to write a story on the missing diplomats, and Fleming wanted to expand the article into a book for his publishing house, Queen Ann Press, whose offices share the same Queen Anne’s Gate underground stop with those who work at the offices of the British Secret Service.

While mocking Fleming’s actual intentions and motives, Lycett acknowledged that Fleming’s first novel was inspired by the betrayals of the Cambridge syps when he wrote, “What raised Casino Royale out of the usual run of thrillers was Ian’s attempt to reflect the disturbing moral ambiguity of a post-war world that could produce traitors like Burgess and Maclean. Although Bond is presented like Bulldog Drummond with all the trappings of a traditional fictional secret agent (such as his Bentley), in fact he needs ‘Marshall Aid’ from Leiter to enable him to continue his baccarat game with Le Chiffre. Bond is rescued from his kidnappers not by the British or the Americans but by the Russians, who complete the job he should of done of eliminating Le Chiffre. Bond does not even get the girl: [ Vesper ] she has been duplicitous throughout, betraying not only him personally but all Western Intelligence’s anti-Soviet operations. No wonder, feeling let down and abandoned, he fails to conceal his bitterness at the end and spits out, ‘The bitch is dead now.’”

Casino Royale was Ian Fleming’s response to the betrayal of the Cambridge spy ring, portraying the women who loved James Bond as the sexy snake who actually worked for the opposition, much like the sexual ambiguity and background of the Cambridge spies. After writing Casino Royale in Jamaica in January, Fleming and his wife returned to England for the birth of their son Casper.

After dropping her off a the hospital, Fleming visited an old friend from school days, the American born Whitney Straight, chairman of the BOAC airlines. Both Whitney Straight, described as a playboy race driver, and his younger brother were personal friends of Guy Burgess and according to Lycett the case of the Missing Diplomats is what they discussed.

Ian Fleming’s father had established the family banking interests in America with J. P. Morgan, a firm that included Whitney and Michael Straight’s father, and with whom Fleming himself was affiliated with for a while. Both Whitney and Michael Straight attended Cambridge, where they knew Guy Burgess from the hunting and drinking social set at the Pitt Club. Straight considered Burgess an “alcoholic adventurer, a name dropper and a gypsy.” At Cambridge Michael Straight, was recruited into the Cambridge spy cell by art historian Anthony Blunt, the Fourth Man.

Although a reluctant Soviet spy, Michael Straight retained his friendship with Blunt, Philby, Burgess and Maclean. As editor and publisher of the New Republic Michael Striaght published some of Philby’s commentaries from Lebanon, where he was exiled to in 1956.

Ian Fleming even went so far as to reach out to Burgess and Maclean, after they defected, asking his friend and associate Dick Hughes, the Far East correspondent, to try to contact them. Hughes, also a character in Fleming’s novels, introduced both Fleming and Somerset Maugham to the intricacies and lifestyle of Tokyo, as reflected in their novels. Hughes, one of Fleming’s Mercury team, obtained the first ever interview with Burgess and Maclean in exile, by urging the Russians to produce the two defectors before a planned summit conference. In February, 1956, Burgess and Maclean met Hughes in the lobby of a Moscow hotel and handed him a statement, the first acknowledgement that Burgess and Maclean were spys, had defected and were living comfortably behind the Iron Curtain.

The summit itself was interrupted in true Flemingesque fashion, when a frogman, “Buster” Crabb, was sent into the Thames to inspect the hull and propellers of the Russian cruiser that brought diplomats to London. When Crabb failed to surface, and his headless body later washed ashore, exposing supposedly secret operations, heads rolled at St. James Gate. The subsequent public scandal became almost as significant as the U2 incident that later cancelled the Eisenhower-Kruschev summit. Nicholas Elliot was second in the chain of command on the operation, and had personally selected Crabb as the frogman. So that stain on Elliot’s career, and his steadfast faith in Philby, would set him up to put an end to the Philby problem. It was Elliot, Fleming’s primary contact with MI6, who was selected to confront Philby when evidence of his duplicity would be undeniable.

Although you wouldn’t know it from reading his official biographies, which promote the real James Bond as an “unknown academic” and the 007 novels as being written, in ornithological terms, “on a lark,” Ian Fleming was actually in the thick of the double-agent duplicity.

In November, 1956, Sir Roger Hollis of MI5 visited Washington D.C. to brief the Americans about the missing diplomats and Third Man affair. Driving Hollis around Washington, Richard Helms of the CIA asked Hollis, “Who’s this writer Ian Fleming?” Helms mentioned the recently published book Live and Let Die, but Hollis simply replied, “Don’t know.”

A few days later it was revealed that Prime Minister Anthony Eton had flown to Jamaica to spend some time at Fleming’s Goldeneye beach house, sparking Helms to assume “The man lied. Hollis must have cleared the prime minister to stay with Fleming,” writes Tom Bower [in The Perfect English Spy – The Unknown Man In Charge During The Most Tumultuous, Scandal-Ridden Era In Espionage History], a biography of Sir Dick White.

Bower also notes, “Michael Straight, an accomplished American whose family boasted East Coast wealth and influence, had known Anthony Blunt in 1934 while studying at Trinity [College, Cambridge]. Already inclined towards socialism, Straight had become immersed in Cambridge’s communist movement. Before returning to America in 1937, he had been invited to join Blunt and Burgess’ conspiracy but had refused. Even thirteen years later when he met Burgess again in Washington, he volunteered that he had never betrayed his friends. But in 1963 Straight was offered a government post and, apparently fearful of exposure, he had spent June closeted with FBI officers….By any measure, the confession was a major breakthrough. Not surprisingly, the MI5 officer returned to Britain excited about the disclosure. The molehunt had been legitimized.”

Michael Straight kept his secret knowledge of the Cambridge spy ring until John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, wanted to appoint Michael Straight director of the National Endowment for the Arts, which he first accepted and then turned down when confronted with an FBI background check.

According to John Costello (Mask of Trechery – Spys, Lies and Betrayal, Warner Books, 1988), Straight confessed to the FBI and told them about his attempted recruitment while a student at Cambridge. Costello, who died suspiciously while writing about these things, Straight “…was given a list of eighty-five Americans who attended Cambridge University between the years 1930 and 1934, from which he picked out one American, who he knew casually at the Department of State. He then named two more Americans with whom he had studied at Cambridge between 1936 and 1937 and whom he knew to have been Trinity cell members or Communist sympathizers…The FBI representatives in the U.S. embassy in London recommended a full review of all Americans who studied at either Oxford or Cambridge before the war.”

As head of the FBI, responsible for counter-intelligence in the United States, J. Edgar Hover inexplicitly, according to Costello, balked at “the political repercussions of an investigation of over 500 American citizens with no basis for such an inquiry in fact…”.

The CIA however, had no such qualms, and says Costello, “as a result, the records of nearly six hundred American who had attended either Oxford or Cambridge before World War II were carefully compiled, examined and scrutinized,” among them James Bond, who not only attended Cambridge, but was a member of the exclusive Pitt Club.

Born in Philadelphia on January 4, 1900, Bond attended the exclusive St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, but because Bond’s father had business in England and eventually married an Englishwomen, James Bond attended Harrow and Cambridge, before returning to America and embarking on his ornithological pursuit and survey of birds that led to the publication of his book Birds of the West Indies.

It was not the first time the American intelligence agencies had taken an interest in James Bond. During World War II Bond went to Haiti on an ornithological expedition to a remote area of the island country, where he encountered a German on Morne La Selle mountain, a recluse who maintained an airstrip. Bond told his friend Brandon Barringer about the German, and Bond was subsequently interviewed by Army and Navy Intelligence investigators at his office at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. According to Mrs. Bond, “The intelligence people asked a lot of foolish questions and seemed far more suspicious about Jim’s reason for climbing Morne La Selle than about the German’s activities.”

As one of the American students at Cambridge before World War II, James Bond was one of the over 500 such students who fit the profile of those being investigated, although Bond was there a decade before the Cambridge spy cell was first organized. If recruited by a professor however, others students could have been to Cambridge, been recruited and left without being uncovered, and remain as sleeper agents in high government offices.

With Michael Straight’s confession to the FBI and then to the British MI5, Philby could no longer bluff his way out of being exposed at the Third Man after all. Chosen to go to Beruit to confront Philby and get his confession, Nicholas Elliot was Ian Fleming’s contact at MI6, where Fleming’s older brother Peter also worked as a special agent.

Nicholas Elliot’s father, Charles Elliot, was the headmaster at Eton, where the old school ties began with the original “C,” Sir Stewart Menzies, and continued with other Etonians, including Ian Fleming and Guy Burgess. As Maclean lunched with Cryil Connolly on the day before he fled, Burgess returned to his old school and visited with a former history professor, ostensibly to discuss the biography Burgess was writing about the Earl of Sandwich.

Their defection would spark Philby’s relocation to Lebanon, where Philby would remain in Beruit until confronted by Elliot, and finally acknowledge his betrayal. But before Philby was allowed to flee on the heels of Burgess and Maclean, Fleming himself visited Beruit.

Before the civil war, Beruit was the jewel of the Mediterranean, with hotels, casinos and a bustling nightlife. When Fleming arrived he immediately checked in with Elliot. According to Lycett, “Their conversation ranged over a variety of intelligence-related topics, including Kim Philby, a key participant in the Missing Diplomats affair, who had been working in Beirut as a newspaperman since 1956. Ian told Elliot that he had his own minor freelance intelligence assignment to perform: the then NID chief Vice Admiral Sir Norman Denniung had asked him for information about the Iraqi port of Basra…Ian did not delay…. he asked to leave, saying he had a rendezvous with an Armenian in the Place de Canons in the center of town.”

“Perhaps,” speculates Lycett, “Ian was meeting Philby,” But again belittling the situation, he writes that, “Elliot had the distinct impression his dinner guest had arranged to see a pornographic film in full color and sound.” Shortly thereafter, Philby, like Burgess and Maclean before him, disappeared, only to surface a few months later in Moscow, sending back postcards, from Russia, with love.

Whether Fleming went to Beruit to see a porno film or meet with Philby, the betrayal of the Cambridge spy cell weighted heavy on Fleming, and undisputedly affected his work, both professionally and his literature, and by extension, the mass market movies based on his stories.

In Die Another Day, the last James Bond film starring Pierce Brosnan, 007 stops at a cabana beach bar in Cuba where he orders a drink while perusing a book, which if you look closely, is clearly Birds of the West Indies by James Bond.

“I’m here for the birds,” 007 announces, as Halle Berry walks out of the water in a scene from the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, in which 007 masquerades as an ornithologist, and Ursula Andress emerged from the surf as the first “Bond Girl.”

The next movie, a throwback to the original Casino Royale, Daniel Craig will portray the new 007 in the 21st Bond film, which reportedly will return to Fleming’s original portrayal of James Bond, without all the “guns, girls and gadgets,” that came to dominate the later movies.

In a fictional “biography of James Bond,” Fleming’s original, official biographer, John Pierson, claims that in the course of his researching the life of Fleming, he discovered the existence of the real James Bond, who he met in the lobby of an island hotel. Pierson wrote that Fleming’s real purpose in writing the James Bond stories was to make James Bond such a comic book super hero that the Russians would fail to take the real James Bond seriously, allowing him to continue his secret work anonymously.

Such a secret, literary psychological warfare operation was not unique, as Jim Hougan demonstrates [in Secret Agenda – Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA (Random House, 1984) ], where he mentions that Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt is also, “The author of more than four dozen pulp thrillers and novels of the occult.”

According to Hougan, “Hunt left the agency in furtherance of a counterintelligence scheme that revolved around his literary efforts. The purpose of the scheme, according to government sources familiar with Hunt’s curriculum vitae at the agency, was to draw the KGB’s attention to books that Hunt was writing under the pseudonym David St. john. These spy novels alluded to actual CIA operations in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, and contained barely disguised portraits of political figures as diverse as Prince Norodom Sihanouk and the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy. It was the CIA’s intention that the KGB be led to believe that the books contained security breeches, and towards that end the agency created a phony ‘flap’ that was capped by Hunt’s supposedly ‘forced retirement.’…”

Hunt’s literary scheme, that “contained barely disguised portraits of political figures” was unoriginally based on Fleming’s success with James Bond, and a web of fictional characters based on real people whose stories wove a web of intrigue that is more incredible than the novelized account.

In retrospect, unlike other mythical super heroes like Sherlock Holmes and Superman, whether purposely contrived or by coincidence, its kind of reassuring that there was a real James Bond. A James Bond who really was an anonymous hero, who did go far into the field and discover something new, reported what he learned, and as a proficient naturalist, made the world a better place to live.

And that’s more important that the idea he may also have been a secret agent who played a major role in cold war double-agent duplicity, the Bay of Pigs, Cuba and Grenada. Now, in days of equally impearling crisis, where is James Bond, now that we really need him?


Felix Leiter = Henry Pleasants


After discovering James Bond, and the true identify of some of Ian Fleming’s other fictional characters, I was particularly interested in Henry Pleasants, whose CIA music critic background bears a striking similarity to the fictional 007’s CIA sidekick Felix Leiter, a recurring character in many of Fleming’s stories.

Part of the riddle of Goldeneye is why Fleming based three of his characters on real people from Philadelphia – James Bond, Cummins Catherwood and Henry Pleasants.

It took me quite a while to track down Henry Pleasants, the former Philadelphia Bulletin reporter and music critic, OSS interrogator of Nazi General Gehlen, CIA cold warrior in Bonn, Germany, internationally renowned music critic and model for Fleming’s Felix Leiter, 007’s CIA sidekick.

Considering I had to criss-cross continents to find him, the idea that he had eluded my quest for over a decade only made the meeting more satisfying.

I originally read about Pleasants in 1974 in the paperback edition of “The Invisible Government,” by David Wise and Thomas Ross, who wrote, “…When the CIA was casting about for a network in West Germany, it decided to look into the possibility of using (former Nazi Army General Reinhardt) Gehlen’s talents. And while they were making up their mind about the ex-General, Henry Pleasants, the CIA station chief in Bonn for many years, moved in and lived with Gehlen for several months.”

“Pleasants, once the chief music critic of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, and a contributor to the music pages of the New York Times, was a highly literate and respected musicologist. His wife Virginia was one of the world’s leading harpsichordists. He also probably had the distinction of being the only top U.S. spy to become the center of a literary storm. He had continued to write books after joining the CIA, and in 1953 his Agony of Modern Music (Simon & Schuster, N.Y.) caused considerable controversy for its attacks on all contemporary music except jazz.*”

The * asterisk referred to a footnote at the bottom of the page that read: “As recently as April 15, 1962, while he was till the CIA station chief in Bonn, Pleasants had a by line article in the New York Herald Tribune, filed from Zurich. It told of the state theater’s production of Meyerbeer’s Le Prophete.”

That was enough to peak my interest in Mr. Pleasants to obtain a copy of his book, “Agony of Modern Music,” and take note of other books he had written. Besides being historically interested in General Gehlen and his role with the CIA during the Cold War years, Pleasants and I shared musical tastes, particularly blues and jazz.

In “Agony,” Pleasants maintains that, “Serious music is a dead art. The vein which for three hundred years offered a seemingly inexhaustible yield of beautiful music has run out. What we know as modern music is the noise made by deluded spectators picking through the slag pile.”

“…Thus jazz accomplishment is simply defined,” writes Pleasants, “It has taken music away from the composers and given it back to the musicians and their public…This is obviously something the serious composer cannot admit…For deep down in his heart he knows that jazz is modern music – and nothing else is.”

In the back of the book, under the Author’s profile, it says: “Henry Pleasants began his career as music critic as a specialist in contemporary music. Following studies in voice, piano and composition at the Philadelphia Conservatory and the Curtis Institute of Music, he joined the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin in 1930 as assistant music critic. Arthur Tubbs, the paper’s veteran theater and music editor, cared little for modern music. The result was that Mr. Pleasants, as a neophyte second-string critic, got the first string assignments if modern music were involved. Thus he covered such important premiers in the early thirties as the Philadelphia Orchestra’s productions of Wozzeck, Stravinskyu’s Oedipus rex, Prokofiev’s Pas d’Acier, Chavez’s ballet H.P. Louis Greuenberg’s The Emperor Jones, etc., along with the host of experimental orchestral compositions with which Leopold Stokowski was making a name for himself as champion of modern music at that time.”

“In 1935, at the age of twenty-five, Mr. Pleasants succeeded Tubbs as Music Editor of the Evening Bulletin, and continued in that post until entering the Army in 1942. In addition to his work for the Bulletin, he was a regular contributor to Modern Music and was an occasional music correspondent for both the New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune. In 1940 he collaborated with Tibor Serly on the first definitive article on Bela Bartok to appear in the United States. It was published in the April issue of Modern Music.”

“Since the war Mr. Pleasants has remained in Europe, first with the Army and subsequently with the Foreign Service, continuing his association with music as correspondent of the New York Times. In this capacity he has covered the festivals in Vienna, Salzburg,…including such premiers as…Alban Berrg’s Lu Lu…and Rolf Lieberman’s Penelope.”

Although Pleasants’ duel role as music critic and spy somehow struck a peculiar cord that rang kind of spooky, I really didn’t begin looking for him until a few years later, after I had made some even more peculiar discoveries.

With a renewed interest in Fleming’s fiction I began to read, or in some cases re-read his spy thriller novels, discovering two more characters with peculiar attributes similar to real persons, some of whom happened to be from Philadelphia.

Besides Bond, the long-time curator of birds at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, whose name Fleming acknowledge appropriating for his secret agent 007, there’s Cummins Catherwood. In Fleming’s “Hildebrand Rarity,” one of the short stories that make up the anthology “For Your Eyes Only,” the villain, Milton Krest, takes some scientists, including Bond, on an expedition seeking rare fish specimens for the Smithsonian Institute.

Like Catherwood, Krest established the Krest Foundation, which like the Catherwood Foundation, provided tax shelter for his nefarious activities.

Fleming’s use of Bond’s name and the peculiar developing pattern followed by Catherwood and Fleming’s fictional Mr. Krest, could have been a coincidence, or it could be the first insights into a larger network of Fleming’s fictional characters that are based on real people known to Fleming.

Then I came up with a third example of Fleming’s duplicity. In “Live and Let Die,” when 007 and his CIA sidekick Felix Leiter go to a black nightclub in Harlem, Leiter is quoted as saying, “I wrote a few pieces on Dixieland jazz for the Amsterdam News…Did a series for the NANA on the negro theater about the same time Orson Wells put his Macbeth on with an all-negro cast at the Lafayette. I knew my way around Harlem pretty well…..It’s the Mecca of jazz and jive.”

That OO7’s CIA associate wrote music and theater reviews and loved jazz struck the final off-key note that sent me on the trail of Henry Pleasants.

I began my quest for Pleasants at the Philadelphia Academy of Music, where as a music critic for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, Pleasants had spent many an enjoyable evening. There, after a performance of blues acts B.B. King and Bobby “Blue” Bland, I asked for the oldest usher in the house, and inquired if he remembered Henry Pleasants.

“Mister Pleasants,” he informed me, “is living in London with his wife Virginia, the harpsichordist.”

In July 1990, returning from Berlin where I covered the fall of the wall as a journalist, I found myself in London, where the peculiarities of the London phone system lent itself to my investigation. After making reservations from a pay phone in a restaurant, I had some change left from the deposit that I could use, but not receive the change. So I looked up Pleasants in the phone book and called the one on Palace Lane.

A women answered the phone, and when I asked for Mr. Pleasants, she said he was out of town at the moment but would be returning the following week. “I’m looking for Henry Pleasants from Philadelphia,” I said.

“Yes, he’s out of town now. He’s in Vienna at a music festival,” she said. “This is his wife.”

When I explained I was a journalist from the Philadelphia area seeking an interview, she said she was sure he would be glad to talk with me, and gave me an address in Vienna and their address in London, requesting I write.
Now armed with his phone number, I called Pleasants again when I got back to the States and he had returned to London from Austria. Having missed him in London, he told me he would be in New York that November to address a meeting of the Record Collectors Society, and asked that I call him at his hotel then to arrange a meeting.

“Could I attend the lecture?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said. “Just tell them you’re my guest and introduce yourself to me before or after the meeting.”

On Friday, November 2nd 1990, I drove the two and half hours to New York, parked across the street from Christ’s Church and descended three flights of stairs to the Church’s community hall in the basement.

I was a few minutes late and the lecture had already started. Walking briskly past the first door, I stood in the back of the room, past a table where old albums and sheet music were being sold. The room was nearly full, every chair taken by over a hundred people. I glanced around and noticed they were an odd assortment of people – the Vocal Record Collector’s Society. Those who weren’t elderly were of an eccentric sort, highbrows, teachers, students, and one particularly young and gorgeous blonde who seemed out of place. Many had Tower Records bags at their side.

As Pleasants’ voice trailed off and an old scratched recording of an opera singer was played, I sat on the end of a table and picked up some leaflets that were lying there.

One was the Christ Church News, another was an order form for one of Pleasants’ books, “Opera In Crisis,” (Thames and Hudson, N.Y.) and a third gave a listening for recordings that were to be sold at live auction that night, such as “Alice Clery (M.S.) Carman: Sabanera/Seguedille AC. ZONOPHONE 83227/8 No wear, but some scratches, few clicks. She recorded only 3 sides solo. V.G. to Fine.”

Then there was a program announcing: “The Vocal Record Collector’s Society Presents ‘The CANARIES’ by Dr. Henry Pleasants.

“It will indeed be a pleasure to welcome back to these shores our good friend and fellow VRCS member, Dr. Henry Pleasants, who, for the fourth year in a row, conducts our November outing. During the last two years, he had devoted his programs to the lower region low male voices in 1988 and low female ones in 1989. In a complete turnaround, this year’s program will be devoted to The CANARIS (and we don’t mean the islands). Despite the title, Dr. Pleasants assured us that there will be some make voices on the program. Perhaps he will bring with him the famous five hundred pound canary who sings anywhere he wants to? Anyhow, that’s all we can tell you about November as, like most of our members who give programs, the good doctor wishes to keep his program contents shrouded in secrecy, the better to surprise you with. Do plan to be with us for what will be an outstanding evening.”
The recording of the opera song lasted about five minutes, and when it was over the audience politely applauded. I had never seen it before – an audience applauds a very bad recording of a dead opera star. I wondered if, fifty years from now, some octogenarian hippie would be giving a similar lecture on psychedelic rock music, playing only a five minute sample of “Inda God Da Vida.”

As the evening wore on however, I too found myself applauding as Mr. Pleasants explained that many of the recordings were originally replayed on now obsolete and somewhat extinct punctured tubes, like music boxes and player pianos, that dated to the 1890s.

Extremely knowledgeable, he also added tidbits of detail, often humorous insights into the background of the once famous and now obscure singers.

A few people arrived late, but no one left early, and some two hours later, when the lecture was over, Pleasants stayed around to mingle with the crowd and autograph copies of his books.

As Pleasants signed my copy of his book, “The Agony of Modern Music,” I introduced myself as the reporter who called him in London requesting an interview. He smiled assuredly and made a date with me for the following Thursday afternoon, when he would return to New York following a jaunt to the Midwest.

When he inquired about my interest in music I told him I wrote a weekly music column primarily reviewing live music, and had recently returned from Berlin where I had seen Roger Water’s rock opera “The Wall” performed before 500,000 people at Potsdam Platz, Berlin while the real wall was being disassembled.

The following Wednesday I took a train to New York and stayed with my friend, the same lawyer who went to Jamaica with me the previous March. The next morning I walked downtown to the Windsor Hotel, where Pleasants was staying (one block south of Central Park, near 56th Street).

Calling him from the lobby, I went up the elevator to his room, where I found the door ajar, went in and announced myself. After shaking hands he offered me a drink as he poured one himself. “Whisky and water,” he said. “It’s all I have.”

First off I told him how much I appreciated the “CARANIES” lecture.

“The audience was great!” he said enthusiastically.

“Yes, no one left early,” I quipped, before he added.

“And no one coughed.”

I explained my musical interests leaned more towards blues, jazz and rock and roll than to classical and opera, but still appreciated the lecture all the same, particularly because of his interesting background briefings.

“Tido Puente, Jr. is now playing in a rock band in Italy,” Pleasants noted, an item I found particularly amusing.

After we settled in comfortably enough, I came right to the point.

“Did you ever know or meet Ian Fleming?”

I was going to add – the British spy fiction writer, but hesitated a moment because I figured Pleasants knew who I meant.

“No he said, without too much thought, but obviously puzzled. I didn’t make him ask me why.

Pleasants was genuinely surprised when I told him that Fleming had appropriated some personal traits in creating one of his fictional characters – Felix Leiter, 007’s CIA associate in a number of stories.

“Which book?” he asked, and although unfamiliar with the particular passage, when I told him, “Live and Let Die,” he seemed to recognize it, saying, “Oh, yes.”

When I quoted the particular line, “The Mecca of jazz and jive,” and mentioned the reviews of classical pieces for NANA and Amsterdam News, he smiled and sat back on the couch, clinking the ice in his glass, he only said, “I haven’t a clue.”

As he mixed some more drinks, one for each of us, he seemed to be piecing something together in his own mind, then threw me a curve that I knew would have to be figured out later.

“But I did meet Fleming’s sister, a cellist who performed on occasion with my wife, in the same chamber orchestra,” Pleasants said, then added, “but that was in 1968, after Fleming had died.”

So he knew Fleming’s sister and when Fleming died. He was more familiar with Fleming then just the titles of his books, but there were a few clues to the mystery.

“You were CIA station chief in Bonn, Germany when you wrote, ‘The Agony of Modern Music,’ I asked.

“Yes,” he said, “but how did you know?”

“From Wise and Ross and their book, ‘The Invisible Government,” I said, as he smiled in recognition once again.
“I haven’t talked about these things in 15 years,” he said.

He preferred not to talk about Gehlen.

So I mentioned how I learned he was in London from an usher at the Academy of Music, who also recalled Mrs. Pleasants, and the days you reviewed shows for the Bulletin.

“The Bulletin,” Pleasant mumbled, as we both thought briefly of the old and now defunct Philadelphia Evening Bulletin newspaper. I told him the Charter Company, out of Florida, which was mixed up in the Watergate scandal, bought the paper and then folded it.

“Yes, I know,” Pleasants said. “I was born in Philadelphia, lived on the Main Line, took voice and piano lessons at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and worked at the Bulletin for many years.”

“I did everything there. I worked as a police reporter in the ‘30s, from the 23rd district, a precinct that stretched from down to Front Street.”

Although the program listed him as a doctor, “I never really went to college,” Pleasants said. “But the most valuable course I ever took was in English composition,” (taught by William Haberman at the University of Pennsylvania).Besides working as a police beat reporter in center city Philadelphia, Pleasants also made time to write reviews of the popular music of the day for the entertainment section. “Often, I didn’t get paid for it, but that didn’t matter,” he said. “I loved it.”

“At the Bulletin I also worked in the news center on the radio, doing “the Voice of the Evening Bulletin,” where I learned to pronounce all of the German and Russian names. I also took a Berlitz course in Russian and I already knew some German from the time I spent in Austria.” So when the United States entered World War II, Henry Pleasants could write well enough and pronounce the German and Russian names, so served in liaison with the Russians and then made a translator and interrogator.

Joining the Army in 1942 Pleasants was stationed in Alaska as a second lieutenant and assigned to duties as a liaison with the Russians. “We were to develop a joint US-USSR offense against Japan, but that never materialized,” Pleasants related.

“In 1943 I was transferred to the European Theater of Operations after being trained as an interpreter and interrogator, and assigned to the 5th Army under General Mark Clark, in Naples, Italy.”

“I was also a specialist in the German order of battle, that I knew from memorization, which I’m good at.”

At the end of the war, Pleasants said, Clark attended the first postwar music festival in Austria and gave a speech there.

In the course of his postwar interpretation and interrogation work Pleasants dealt with former Nazi General Reinhardt Gehlen.

Although at the time Gehlen’s name was virtually unknown outside of military and intelligence circles, he probably influenced, more than any one man, the Cold War strategy that engulfed Europe for the better part of a half-century. From the German order of Battle, Pleasants knew him as the German army’s chief of intelligence for the Armies East – the Russian front.

According to Pleasants, “Gehlen was G-2 for the eastern front. He foresaw the situation at the end of the war when it became Us against Them, the United States versse the USSR. And he made a very important decision – to turn himself over to US troops and make himself and his knowledge of the Russians and his files, available to us. It was good for both. He went on to establish the German Intelligence organization that we recognized.”

“An organization that turned out to be penetrated and compromised by the Russians,” I noted.

“Yes,” he said, noting that the Russians did the same thing to the British with Kim Philby and his friends.

Pleasants said he joined the CIA in 1950 and stayed on with the agency until 1964, working at first in Berne, Switzerland and later in Bonn, the capitol of West Germany, as chief of station, until he retired.

“I knew Allen Dulles very well,” he said, and as for Gehlen, “I liked him. We were good friends.”

Pleasants pointed out that, “I wasn’t involved in covert operations. I was strictly liaison was my specialty and I was good at it.”

Pleasant didn’t mind missing the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban fiasco that ended Dulles’ career. “Thank God I wasn’t involved with that. That was a real mess. I only worked in Germany and Europe.”

When I asked him about the mysterious “Frank Bender,” from the CIA German desk who helped organize the Bay of Pigs, he looked at me suspiciously and said, “Let’s talk about music,” and I obliged.

“I left the foreign service to get back into music,” he said.

Pleasants passion for music began in Philadelphia where he first went to the theater and discovered Mario Lanza, Ethel Waters, Eugene Ormandey and many other entertainers who the regular Bulletin music editor, Ernest Tubbs, failed to appreciate.

The thing about Pleasants that struck me the most, compared to other music critics, is the diversity of his interests. And the one thing that bothered him the most, he went out of his way to tell me, is the lack of appreciation of the varied types of music in the world today.

His tastes ran the gamut from Bach and Beethoven, opera, blues, jazz and rock & roll. He considers “Serious Music and All That Jazz” his best original work, but is also proud of “Great American Pop Singers” and “The Agony of Modern Music,” of which he said, “Stands up very well today.”

“I found jazz music to be the most amiable people,” said Pleasants. “Their music often appears easy but is actually very difficult to perform. They just make the difficult seem easy. And when you ask them about it, they say, “Oh, you’re interested in the music, not my sex life? The music? Well, I’ll talk about the music.”

“I stayed with pop music through Elvis, the 5th Dimension and what’s the group – CTA – Chicago Transit Authority,” he laughed, “then as my hearing decreased, I pulled back.”

I felt that we were on the same cord when we talked about the blues, B.B. King and jazz, and felt a profound disinterest when we talked about the Cold War days. Reflecting on the collapse of Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the union of Germany and the end of Cold War, Pleasants merely said, “I have no opinion on it. I keep up with it, and I am interested, but what can you say?”

The main thing in Henry Pleasants’ life was his profound passion for music.

As I shook his hand to say goodbye, he reiterated once again his regret over the lack of appreciation for the wide variety of music in the world today. I thought then that his work as a police beat reporter in the heart of Philadelphia somehow gave him his unique perspective that prepared him to be open minded, and accept a more varied taste in music, and I sensed life.

Meeting James Bond


I decided to confront James Bond the same way he met Ian Fleming, walk up to his front door unannounced.

Having obtained a copy of his book “Birds of the West Indies,” from the Princeton Antique Book Shop in Atlantic City, I used it as an excuse to get Bond to sign it.

I drove to Chestnut Hill, parked on the street, and went to Hill House, the only high rise apartment building next to the railroad station. The Bonds lived on an upper floor, so I took the elevator up and paused in front of the door with the simple nameplate that read: BOND.

I knocked lightly, and a few moments later Mrs. Bond opened the door hesitantly, opening a crack as I held up the book and asked her if Mr. Bond could sign it. She smiled, opened the door, and invited me in as she called out to her husband in the back room.

“Jimmy! There’s a young man here to see you.”

The Jimmy threw me off for a moment, making me think that perhaps I had the wrong man, before I realized that Bond is very American, and not the prim and proper Englishman we’ve come to know as “James.”

It being the summer of 1976, I was rather young, at 25, while Bond was 76.

Just insides the apartment, to the left of the foyers, among a wall of old, hardcover books, W. Somerset Maugham’s name jumped out at me. There on the shelf was “Of Human Bondage,” “The Razor’s Edge,” “Ashenden – The Secret Agent” and other hardcover books by Maugham.

I quickly scanned the rest of the roomy, modern apartment, peculiar for its lack of any ornithological art, as Bond himself walked briskly out of the back room where he had been watching a golf match on television.

A broad smile on his face, a cigarette in one hand and the other outreached to sake my own, Bond, tall and lanky, is unlike Fleming’s 007 in that he wears shores with laces and smokes a typically American brand of cigarettes.

“He wants you to sign his book, dear,” Mrs. Bond said as she stood off as I handed the book to him. “Let’s see what you have here,” said Bond, opening the book’s cover flap. “1961, a first American edition.”

Placing the book down on a small table, which also contained a row of each of the books that Bond and his wife had written, he quickly scribbled his signature while asking me if I had ever been to the West Indies.

“No,” I hadn’t, I said, “but I plan on going there someday, Jamaica and Cuba, and this book will come in handy.”

“There’s still a lot of work to be done down there,” Bond said, asking that I get back in touch with him so he could brief me as to where to go.

Mrs. Bond reminded him that the golf match he had been watching on television was still in progress, but he waved her away, saying he was no longer interested. It seemed that he really wanted to talk with this young stranger.

I told Mrs. Bond that I had also acquired copies of and read some of her books, and found them fascinating, particularly “How 007 Got His Name.”

Her eyes lit up as she said, “That book is very hard to get now Someone recently told me that it’s worth $75 a copy to collectors.”

I mentioned that I had paid $50 to Princeton Antique Books to find that copy of “Birds of the West Indies,” but kept silent about finding the same book at the used book store on South Street for under $10, already signed.

Bond seemed enthusiastic when he said he recently finished updating his book, and that a new edition of “Birds of the West Indies” would be published soon. Bond then walked me into another room in the apartment and pulled out an advanced proof copy of the latest edition, pointing out some additional illustrations and some places on the map in Cuba where some rare birds had been recently sighted.

When I told him I was a student of Cuban history, and planned on going there some day, he said, “Well, there’s a lot of fine work being done there, particularly by Czech naturalists.”

“When I was there, in the early ‘60s, everybody was suspicious. But I stayed out of politics,” Bond said.

Waylaying his own suspicions that I perhaps I was not interested in birds altogether, I told Bond that I had an apartment in Cape May Point, New Jersey, which is on the East Coast migratory flyway and is considered the birdwatcher’s Mecca.

The latest report from the Audubon Society outpost in Cape May was that a band from a Marlin hawk, tagged at Cape May Point, was found and removed from the bird in Cuba, and returned by a Freedom Flotilla refugee, as if it were some extremely important message.

Bond smiled at that and swamped me his own Cuban bird story. He said that he recently heard from some friends in Cuba with whom he corresponds with on occasion. They were perplexed by the behavior of a hawk they were watching that landed on the shoulder of one of the startled birdwatchers. “I knew right away,” Bond said, “that it must have escaped from a falconer and migrated with the wild hawks.”

Sitting there on the couch across from him in his living room, I told Bond that before I went to the West Indies I would be sure to stop by and get some advice from him. “You have to know where to go, and when” Bond said, “and I will gladly try to help you.”

After a short pause, Bond said something about even helping to finance a serious expedition, if it went to the right places.

I used that as an excuse to ask him about the Catherwood expedition in 1948.

He looked at me awkwardly for a moment and smiled, saying, “You know those millionaires and how they like to do things.”

Knowing how Bond seemed to enjoy sleeping in a hammock on a deserted island beach, rather than the millionaire’s preference for hotel rooms and tablecloths, I knew what he meant. When I mentioned Catherwood’s CIA ties, he shrugged and said, “I wouldn’t know anything about that.”

Without any alarm concerning Catherwood’s CIA connections Bond mentioned some details of the trip that hadn’t been published in the news clippings, including the fact that the captain had died during the trip, making the rest of the voyage difficult. Catherwood’s CIA ties seemed to be of no interest to him.

I also brought up the subject of W. Somerset Maugham, mentioning the voyage they took together in 1938. “I didn’t meet him,” Bond said, “although we were on the same boat together. He kept pretty much to himself.”

Then as a tease, without elaboration, Bond said, “He was on his way to Devil’s Island, the French penal colony,” while raising his eyebrows in a dramatic fashion.

But Bond’s lack of interest in Catherwood and the CIA and politics in general, along with his passion for the birds, convinced me as I was sitting there with him that he had no connection with clandestine espionage operations, and I left him that night with that conviction.

Before leaving Philadelphia however, I drove through center city to South Street and stopped by the used bookstore where I had found a signed copy of “Birds of the West Indies,” thinking I might get lucky again. I did find another copy of “Birds,” as well as an interesting biography of Somerset Maugham.

Opening Maugham’s biography to the chapter where he was sent to Russia in 1917 by William Wiseman, I read how he accidently encountered some exiled partisan agents aboard the trans-Siberian express. Although they could have shared some valuable information, Maugham purposely ignored them to avoid blowing his cover.

I realized that even if James Bond were in fact a real spy, or had been one, he certainly would never readily admit it anyway, especially to a stranger who had sought him out.

I had no real proof, one way or another, that Bond was a spy. He did attend Cambridge University, where many British, as well as Russian spies were recruited, including Kim Philby, Donald MacLean, Guy Burgess and Sir Anthony Blunt.

Bond had sailed the Caribbean with British writer-spy W. Somerset Maugham, as well as CIA bagman Cummins Catherwood.

James Bond was at the Bay of Pigs shortly before the CIA invasion, and he knew Grenada well, so I would think that our intelligence agencies were probably negligent if they didn’t consult Bond before invading those places.

The facts at that point, were inconclusive as to whether James Bond was a spy, and we may never know for sure.

James Bond has contributed much to the body of knowledge about life on earth. He was a professional naturalist who sought no acclaim, and tried to complete his work of surveying the birds of the West Indies as much as possible before he died in 1989.

The consolation in not knowing the whole truth behind the mystery is the quiet contentment that comes with the knowing that there really was a James Bond. A real anonymous hero who merely went about his job as quietly and thoroughly as possible.

Perhaps it is best to leave James Bond where most of us first met him and memember him best, and as Ian Fleming so vividly portrayed him – sitting down at the bar of his favorite Caribbean haunt, lighting up a cigarette and ordering a double-dry vodka martini, shaken, not stirred.

Goldeneye for Beginners


“I was forcibly struck by a marked similarity of many West Indian bars, waterfronts, personalities and even incidents described by Ian Fleming, to those Jim had related to me as his own experiences. I felt that my husband was being shadowed in a fantastic, surreptitious fashion…” Mary Wickham Bond (How 007 Got His Name, Collins, 1966)

The opportunity to visit Ian Flemings Jamaican estate Goldeney presented itself in the spring of 1990 when I joined a friend on a holiday jaunt to Montego Bay. James Bond had died the previous year, so I couldn’t check in with him as promised.

While my friend’s main interest was playing golf, I intended to visit Goldeneye, some sixty miles east of Montego Bay, on the north coast highway.

Fleming seasonally spent two months a year in Jamaica, in January and February, escaping the cold and damp English winter for the island sun and private beach.

I first went there in March, 1990, for only a short excursion. I discovered right away however, that it doesn’t take long to learn everything you have to know about Jamaica to enjoy it to its fullest.

Bob Marley tunes played on the Air Jamaica flight out of New York, and native girls in flower print dresses danced and sang a welcome tune as we disembarked at Montego Bay airport. A small bus met us at the door and took us to our hotel, the Wyndam Rose Hall, which was selected mainly because it sports an in-house golf course with links to the ocean.

When we arrived a doorman outfitted with a white safari hat opened the door and a sharp featured, friendly bell hop with an engaging smile grabbed our bags and put them on a dolly. Then he slapped his feet together, in true Gunga Din fashion, and introduced himself, “I’m Billy Love. Welcome to Wyndam Rose Hall. If I can be of any assistance, just let me know. You can contact me at the desk.”

“Billy Love,” his engraved nameplate read, as I thought how Fleming would have certainly loved that name and appropriate it for one of his more engaging characters.

“Yes,” I said to Billy Love, once we were settled into our room, “I’ll need a car and a driver to take me to Orcabessa in the morning.

“I’ll have the best driver on the island ready for you,” Love promised. “Just call the desk shortly before you have breakfast and he’ll be waiting for you at the door when you’re ready.” And Love didn’t let me down.

My old high school friend Mark, a New York corporate attorney, read the Daily Gleamer, Jamaica’s daily newspaper, as we enjoyed breakfast on the patio overlooking the pool and the beach. I had picked up two books at he hotel gift shop, a rare whitebound hardcover edition of James Bond’s “Birds of the West Indies” and a copy of Timothy White’s biography of Bob Marley, “Hold A Fire.”

A friendly blackbird, eating the leftover toast on a tray a few feet away, seemed to be mocking us with a laugh. I opened up my newly acquired copy of “Birds of the West Indies” and quickly found Bond’s description of our tormentor.

Bond reports that this is a “GREATER ANTILLEAN CRACKLE,” that’s also known in scientific circles as a “Quiscalus niger,” but had such coloqual local names as “Tinkling and Cling-cling,” and in Jamaica, “Ting-ting,” based on the mocking sound it was making at us. It’s also known as a “Ching-ching” in the nearby Cayman Islands.

Bond’s fitting description: “1-12 inches. Male: Black with a violet or steel-blue gloss; iris light yellow, appearing white. Female: Smaller and duller than the male. Immature individuals have light brown irides. Crackles have a V-shaped tails, most evident in the male. They are gregarious.”

Gregarious. Gregarious is a fitting description of all Jamaica.

While my friend went off to play a round of golf, I went to the front desk, where Billy Love introduced me to Mr. Douglas Scott, “the best driver on the island.”

The doorman in the white safari hat handed Scott a similar white hat and chastised him for not wearing it, as I got in the front passenger seat of a quite old but well kept classic station wagon. He took the hat off as soon as we turned the corner. The first stop was just over a mile away, the roadside stand of a local “doctor,” manned by his son, a ten year old boy. The good doctor came out and sold me some natural herb medicine, including some suntan lotion, vitamins and a sex potion, which I didn’t know if you took internally or applied locally, but was too embarrassed to ask. Then it was back on the road, as we had about a sixty mile ride to Orcabessa, just east of Ocho Rios.

The stunning beauty of Jamaica jumps out at you from the moment you touch down, but it doesn’t really come alive until you leave the tourist areas and take a drive along the coast highway, Jamaica’s main road.

Although it is only a two-lane blacktop, it hugs the shoreline the entire circumference of the island of Jamaica. Off to one side there’s birds flying about colorful tropical trees that bend gently in the breeze, while on the other, waves break silently along the beach before the bright blue horizon.

One of the first visions that struck me was that of two scantly clad teenage girls wading knee deep in the gentle surf, pulling a net through the shallow tide, which I thought quite reminiscent of Fleming’s own vision of Honeychile Rider, played by Rachel Welch, the first Bond Girl in the first 007 movie, “Dr. No.”

Between the scenes of tropical beauty however, were stark reminders of the devastation raked by Hurricane Hugo. Although the storm had struck over a year earlier, many beachside cottages were left roofless and abandoned. Others didn’t seem fit for human habitation. Poverty and destitution run hand in hand along the beach in paradise.

Not all of the small cottages are derelict or primitive. Some are even rather stately, with gatehouses, servant’s quarters, and neat, well-trimmed gardens. Some of these private estates are leased out during the peak tourists season, which runs from November through March.

Besides the tourist hotels, small cottages and private villas, there are the large estates, former Great Houses that have been, for the most part, renovated and converted into gated resort hotels.

Wyndham Rose Hall for instance, where we were staying, is adjacent to the recently restored Rose Hall Great House, now a museum and tourist attraction that gives keen insight into the history of this part of Jamaica. Rose Hall, they say, is inhabited by the ghost of former resident, a matron who it is said murdered each of her three husbands.

There’s also Bellview Great House, which was owned by Fleming’s friend and business associate Ivor Bryce, an American.

There’s Bob Marley’s estate, Island House, at 56 Hope Road in uptown Jamaica.

Then there’s one of the most exclusive resorts in all of Jamaica, the Tryall Club, which sports a world class golf course near Montego Bay, and was once owned by Sir William Stephenson (aka INTREPID).

Many new resorts are periodically spaced along the coast road on the North shore, like Sandals, Couples, Hedonism, Boscobel Beach and Grand Lido. Some are geared towards singles, others couples and a few cater to families, and all are either all-inclusive or pay-as-you-go operations. They are surrounded by high, chain link fences, and are quite self-sufficent, containing everything a visitor on a holiday could possibly need – beach, pool, bar, disco, restaurant and room with a view.

But what they lack is a feeling for the spirit of Jamaica, the gregariousness expressed by the steel blue Crackle bird and the people on the street, which you can only experience by getting out and exploring the country.

Besides the major city of Kingston, the capitol, in the south, also a major airport, there’s Montego Bay, or “Mo Bay,” as the locals call it, and Ocho Rios, both along the scenic North Shore, where most of the tourist resorts are also located.

Ian Fleming’s Goldeneye is near the small town of Orcabessa, just a few miles east of Ocho Rios, and some sixty miles east of Montego Bay. My driver and native guide, Mr. Douglas Scott, slowed down as we approached the town of Duncan.

He pulled up in front of a small hotel, the Sober Robin Inn, which any bird watcher could appreciate, and had a large billboard sized marquee that advertised it as, “The Childhood Home of the Singer of ‘Island in the Sun.’”

“Of course you know who that is,” Scott said, making me wonder, then guess, but I just didn’t know, and I sensed his disappointment in my ignorance. After a long pause, “Harry Belafonte,” he says, before unnecessarily adding, “a very famous singer and actor.”

“I know who Harry Belefonte is,” I shot back with a hint of sarcasm, before I explained that, rather than from the song, “Island in the Sun,” a relatively obscure tune, Belafonte is best known in the United States from “Day-Oh,” or the “Bannana Boat Song,” and his civil rights and charity work.

“Day-Oh” is a song that stems from the “field holler” style that the cargo boat workers sang. It was even popular with the tourists to go down to the docks and take pictures of the heavily muscled, bare chest black men as they tossed around bundles of green bananas, and watch the women in their long dresses carrying bushels of fruit in baskets on their heads.

“Island in the Sun” on the other hand, is a song, equally melodic, that’s more of a love ballad. Little did I know at the time, as we passed the Sober Robin Inn, “Home of the singer of “Island in the Sun,” that the tune, its title, and the novel based on that name and theme plays a role in the mystery of Goldeneye.

Besides Belafonte’s song, and the book by the same name, by Alec Waugh, which was made into a major motion picture in 1957, and starred Harry Belafonte (as well as James Mason, Joan Fontain, Joan Collins and Michael Rennie), there’s Island Records, which takes its name from Waugh’s book and Belafonte’s song.

Island Records was founded in 1962 by Christopher Blackwell who, besides being Bob Marley’s manager, now owns Goldeneye.

The novel and the movie based on the book concern an American journalist who takes a working vacation to an unnamed tropical Caribbean island, which bears a striking similarity to Jamaica. It focuses on the disruptions that his stories make on the daily lives of the people who live in a poor paradise, and the interrelationships between the natives, aristocratic governors and the tourists.

My driver, Mr. Scott, explained at length, the on-going conflicts between these dynamic forces that are still at work. It being Saturday, market day, the streets of Duncan were filled with people taking goods to the market. There were carts filled with fruits and vegetables, men on bicycles and women with baskets on their heads. But native Jamaicans don’t like being the subject of tourist camera lenses any more than the men did at the Bannana boat docks, so I am careful of what I take pictures of.

Also on the coast road between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios are more popular tourist and historic sites, like Discovery Bay, where Columbus put ashore on his second voyage to the New World. There are also bauxite mines of rusty red girders – the scene of one of James Bond’s movie escapades filed on location in Jamaica.

As we pulled into Ocho Rios however, it was apparent that this town is being developed to cater to tourists. Most of the people on the streets were Americans and street vendors selling wood carved statutes, shells, wind chimes and other crafts.

Once on the other side of Ocho Rios we stopped a Rastafarian, distinctive because of his long, matted dreadlock hair and red, green and yellow knit hat, and asked him directions to Orcabessa. He tried to sell us an over-priced bag of coffee, then directed us down the road. A gardener, trimming the hedges of a large estate, told us that Goldeneye was just beyond Orcabessa, the next town down the road. “Make a left turn at the Esso gas station,” he said, “and Goldeneye is 50 yards down the street on the right.”

Orcabessa is a very small town, consisting of a post office, police station and general store, a place where the primary occupation seems to be sitting on the porch steps and talking with neighbors. It is a sleepy fishing village that is known primarily, as being the place where Ian Fleming built Goldeneye and wrote his James Bond novels.

Just as the old man trimming hedges told us, we made a left at the gas station, and found the gates to Goldeneye just off the coast road. As James and Mary Bond had found them twenty-five years before, the wraught iron gates were “hospitably ajar,” left open between the concrete pillars, one of which simply read: GOLDENEYE.

Mr. Scott pulled in and drove down the short, winding, gravel road and stopped before a clothes line, where multi-colored flower print skirts and dresses were drying in the sun. Scott got out and leaned against the hood of the car while I approached a black women sitting in the shade.

“Is Violet here?” I asked, wondering about Fleming’s long time maid and cook who I knew lived at Goldeneye.

“No,” she said. “Violet passed away two years ago.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I replied. “What about the owner, is he here at the moment?”

“Mr. Blackwell is in Ocho Rios on business today, but he will be back later this evening,” she said softly. Nor did she mind if I took some photos of the house and the grounds, as long as I didn’t disturb anything.

Although I would have enjoyed meeting Mr. Christopher Blackwell, I was glad I didn’t since I would have been embarrassed for not knowing then what I know now. That he was Bob Marley’s manager, founder of Island Records and one of the most prominent businessmen in all Jamaica.

The shutters of the glassless windows were open so I could see inside the living room, where a movie poster of a 007 film hung on one wall. A bar was set up, and the sparsely furnished house looked much like it was described by Mrs. Bond and it seems that it has been maintained very similar to the way Fleming kept it.

Outside there seemed to be little evidence of the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Hugo. Some of the roof had been repaired and the canopy that covered the patio walk was gone, but otherwise, Goldeneye seemed much the same as when Fleming lived and worked there.

The patio walk leads to an iron railing, where you can stand and view the steps that descend to the private beach cove, and overlooks the scenic small boat harbor and horizon. Just beyond the beach is the reef, which keeps the sharks out and provided an abundance of sea life for Fleming to probe when he snorkel dived in the cove.

Leaving Goldeneye, we drove down the coast road away from Orcabessa and Ocho Rios and towards Noel Coward’s home Firefly, not far from Goldeneye. Firefly, I had learned, was now a museum and tourist attraction where Coward’s butler still resided. We never made it to Firefly however, because we stopped at a small café to have a cold drink.

As I had a Red Stripe beer Douglas Scott drank a soft drink as we talked with the barmaid. She had known Violet, in fact was her niece, and she talked about the native dishes Violet prepared for Fleming and his guests, like conch gumbo and fried octopus tentacles with tarter sauce.

I asked the barmaid about Aubyn Cousins, the local fisherman, son of a native Jamaican and a Belfast schooner boat captain who often took Fleming shark fishing out beyond the reef. Cousins, who Fleming’s first biographer John Pearson called, “…the nearest to the original for James Bond’s faithful Cayman islander Quarrel….” Unfortunately, he too had died a few years earlier.

But his brother was still alive and living nearby, and the barmaid sent a little boy off to get him while she entertained us with some local gossip. Christopher Blackwell, she said, was well known as Bob Marley’s manager. Less known was that Marley himself had purchased Goldeneye from Ian Fleming’s widow. After Fleming died, his wife wanted to sell Goldeneye. She never really liked Jamaica, and only went there with Fleming. She wanted to sell Goldeneye, but not to Blackwell, whose mother Blanch Blackwell was an acquaintance of Fleming. In fact, Blanch Blackwell was the real life counterpart to Pussy Galore, and too close of an acquaintance to Fleming for his wife to appreciate. So her son Christopher Blackwell used Bob Marley as a straw buyer to purchase Goldeneye, and then resell it to him.

When the young boy returned with old Mr. Cousins, I bought him a beer and asked him about Fleming, who he referred to as, the “Commander.” Cousins had nothing bad to say about the Commander, and “very fine man,” still revered in the community.

His brother Aubyn, he said, would take the Commander shark fishing, with a lasso. They would attract the sharks with fresh meat, then lasso one with a rope from the end of a bamboo pole. Tying the rope to the front of the small boat, they would then let the shark take the boat on a “Nantuckett Sleigh Ride,” as the old whalers called it.

But Fleming would never let Cousins kill the shark. After their fun they would let the big fish go on its way.

Mrs. Blackwell they said, lived at Bolt House, not far down the coast road towards Port Maria. Leaving the café, we passed Coward’s Flyfly, intending to stop back there some other day, and drove up to the sprawling green grass hill to Bolt House, Pussy Galore’s residence.

Although described as a mansion, it is actually not unlike Goldeneye – a small, one story, Spanish style home with a panorama view of the ocean on three sides. Mrs. Blackwell, however, was visiting the Cayman Islands at the time we visited.

So we headed back to Montego Bay, along the same north shore coast road that provides so much beautiful scenery, my eyes washed by the setting sun, and my mind reconsidering the mysteries of Goldeneye and the role Christopher Blackwell plays in the whole affair.

Character Meets Author


Calling the Chestnut Hill Local, a weekly neighborhood newspaper once published by Mrs. Bond, I obtained the address of the Mr. and Mrs. James Bond. They had lived in a small home in the popular suburban Philadelphia community, but had moved into a high-rise in the center of town next to the railroad station, called Hill House.

I wrote to him directly, asking a number of questions, but Mrs. Bond intercepted my letter and replied, “No one sympathizes more than I with another writer’s desire to focus on the subject of his choice, so it is difficult to write the following.”

“My husband has always resented the invasion of his private life through the ‘theft’ of his name by Ian Fleming. Had Fleming not identified 007 with the American ornithologist, my husband would have been teased etc., like many other men named James Bond, and nothing more would have come of it. But as episodes kept recurring over the years, my husband put the entire situation into my hands, and refused to have anything to do with it.”

In her letter, Mrs. Bond noted that her husband had been fighting cancer since 1975, “and his activities and stamina are greatly curtailed. He wishes he could be left alone to do his work, which means everything to him, and put 007 behind him.”

“Recurring episodes,” stuck out in my mind as I recalled how Mrs. Bond, in her books, related how she accompanied her husband to Jamaica and to Goldeneye, where Bond confronted Fleming and got across the point of how much he actually did resent “the theft of his identity.”

It was while in Jamaica on an ornithological field trip during the winter of 1964 when Mrs. Bond suggested to her husband that they rent a car and take a drive along the scenic North Shore coastal highway. Bond said that he immediately recognized the ploy as an attempt to get him to meet Fleming, but he acquiesced, and they took the trip.

Arriving unannounced, they found the front gates invitingly adjar, and drove past the pink pillars simply inscribed: Goldeneye. Down the vine-covered dirt drive to the custom built, Spanish revival, one story cottage.

Stepping over some wires from a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television crew there to film a documentary interview with Fleming, James Bond knocked on the side door. The Bonds were met by Fleming’s housekeeper, Violet.

Flustered when the guests announced themselves, Violet backed off as if she had seen a ghost. “Mister and Misses James Bond are here, Commander,” she informed Fleming, and stood in the doorway in her flower print dress as Fleming stepped outside to meet Bond.

Mrs. Bond took a photograph of the two men shaking hands on the door step. The stern, shyly smiling Bond silently got across the feeling that Fleming’s impulsive use of his name went entirely unappreciated, and in fact was resented. Fleming got the point.

After a quick handshake and an awkward smile, Fleming invited the visitors to lunch. Walking out to the back patio overlooking a private cover and beach, Fleming yelled down to some friends on the beach. They waved back, holding a copy of Bond’s book, “Birds of the West Indies.” They were using the guide to try to identify a swarm of small birds flying about the surf.

Fleming tested Bond, just as his fictional 007 counterpart has been tested in his novels and movies, asking what kind of birds they were. “Cave swallows,” Bond replied, beginning a bantering between the two men that carried through lunch.

Fleming elaborately described how his 007 preferred his meals, while Mrs. Bond recounted some humorous, albeit sometimes obnoxious confrontations that she and her husband had to endure because of Fleming’s indiscretion in using his name. There were the strange, lonely girls calling at odd hours of the night, having found James Bond’s phone number listed in the public directory. And then there were the times when traveling abroad, Bond was suspiciously detained and kidded by border guards.

Before he left Goldeneye, Fleming gave Bond a copy of his latest book and personally enscribed it: “To James Bond, from the thief of his identity!”

To Bond, the quick witted humor of the situation somehow made it seem that Fleming may have missed Bond’s contempt for the notoriety he created. James Bond really distained the celebrity Fleming gave him.

Seven months later however, while they were spending the summer at their Mount Desert Island, Maine cabin, the Bonds were saddened to learn that Fleming had died. They felt that somehow, he had left them holding the bag.

Bond, James - American Ornithologist


The clipping files at the morgue of the old Philadelphia Evening Bulletin contained two separate envelops labeled: BOND, JAMES, one thicker one contained articles and reviews of the popular 007 movies.

The other envelope contained published references to James Bond, the ornithologist.

I first noticed that the clip about the 1948 trip with Catherwood was not among them. Most of the articles were reviews of his book “Birds of the West Indies,” or reviews of novels, poems and books by his wife, Mary Wickham Bond, who also had an envelop of her own.

Besides her books of fiction and poetry however, Mrs. Bond also wrote, “How 007 Got His Name,” a very compact, little hardbound book that is very rare and hard to find. In it she explains how Fleming appropriated Bond’s name for his secret agent, how it affected their lives, and what happened when they went to Jamaica to visit Fleming.

Mrs. Bond claims that they were quite unaware of Fleming’s fictional spy until 1962, when a London Times review of a new edition of Bond’s “Birds of the West Indies” made bizarre and unexplained references to “guns, girls and gadgets.”

This review perplexed the Bonds until a friend, Cummins Catherwood’s sister, Mrs. Charles C. G. Chaplin, provided them with a copy of Fleming’s “Dr. No,” compliments of their friend, Peter Fleming, Ian’s older brother, the MI6 agent who just happens to be an amateur ornithologist.

Nor did Bond, the ornithologist, realize that Fleming borrowed his name for 007, rather than from someone else named Bond, until a local camera shop clerk point out an interview with Ian Fleming in the risqué men’s Rogue Magazine. In this interview, Fleming acknowledges that he appropriated the name James Bond “from the distinguished American ornithologist.”

“Dr. No,” the book Peter Fleming gave to Mrs. Chaplin, who in turn passed on to Bond, concerns 007’s investigation of the murder of the British Secret Service Chief-of-Station K – Kingston, Jamaica. Taking the assignment, which includes a Spanish dubloon, a clue from Morgan the Pirate’s treasure, Bond goes to Jamaica posing as an ornithologist by the name of Bryce, as in Ivor Bruce, the American millionaire who first introduced Fleming to Jamaica during World War II.

Besides the “How 007 Got His Name,” Mrs. Bond wrote two additional books that chronicle some of the travels about the West Indies with her husband. “Far Afield in the Caribbean,” subtitled, “The Migratory Flights of a Naturalist’s Wife” was followed by “To James Bond, With Love.”

Famed birdwatcher Roger Tory Peterson helped promote Mrs. Bond’s books with the blurb, “The saga of the real James Bond is fascinating to those who are bird oriented. Although his activities might read like fiction;, they are the true-life adventures of a very remarkable person who had become an authority on the birds of the West Indies. Exploring little known wildernesses, island by island, he has found adventure equal to that of 007, but of another kind.”

In her most comprehensive book, “To James Bond With Love,” Mrs. Bond reveals that in 1938 her husband sailed aboard a tramp steamer in the Caribbean with English writer W. Somerset Maugham.

Besides being one of the most famous writers of his generation, writing such classics as “A Razor’s Edge,” Maugham also served as a secret agent for Sir William Wiseman, the director of British Intelligence in the United States during World War I. Wiseman was Sir William Stephenson’s predecessor. In 1917 Wiseman sent Maugham to Russia to try to prevent the Communist Revolution and keep Russia in the war with Germany. Not a simple assignment, but one would trust to only the best agent.

Having Bond and Maugham on the same boat together in 1938 presents the possibility that Bond, like his fictional counterpart, was recruited as a British, rather than an American secret agent, a full decade before he sailed with the CIA’s Catherwood.

Perhaps it was also more than just another ironic coincidence that the promotional flyer for the movie “The Spy Who Loved Me” has a profile of secret agent James Bond, purportedly “stolen from the files” of a foreign service. It reports 007 was recruited into the British Secret Service in 1938, the same year James Bond sailed on the same tramp steamer as Somerset Maugham.

Mrs. Bond, in her books, also recounts a visit to the Bahia de Conhinos, Cuba, the Bay of Pigs. “Shortly before we left Philadelphia,” she writes, “he heard about a private collection of birds in Havana he hadn’t seen and we decided to stop off in Cuba first. While there, why not a short trip to the Isle of Pines?”

“It’s a dramatic little island,” Bond explained. “This is before the Bay of Pigs when Castro was trying to lure the tourist trade to Cuba by lowering hotel rates, mailing letters back to the States for free, and similar devices....”

“When the (bus) conductr left, Jim said, ‘That’s a very interesting fellow. I think he’s a rebel, but of course I didn’t ask. He told me a lot of roads are being built all over the place…but he spoke of one that surprises me, for it makes no sense.’”

“The road the conductor spoke of,” Bond said, “went….to the Bahia de Conhinos – the Bay of Pigs. I asked him why there? And he replied, ‘for the tourists.’”

“But that’s ridiculous. The Bay of Pigs is down in the Zapata Swamp where I’ve collected, and there’s nothing there for tourists. It’s most peculiar.”

Six months later the CIA backed brigade of anti-Castro Cubans invaded that very beach.

The CIA was negligent if it didn’t know what James Bond knew, that new roads were constructed that led directly to the swampy beach they were preparing to invade.

Most peculiar indeed.

In Search of James Bond


I first came across a reference to the real James Bond while doing research in the clipping files at the morgue of the now defunct Philadelphia Evening Bulletin newspaper.

It was during the summer of 1976 when the news was full of post-Watergate espionage headlines, including the Rockefeller Commission on CIA abuses, the Congressional investigations of illegal domestic intelligence operations and the CIA’s own secret report on the illegal activities it admitted to which was being called “The Family Jewels.”

The main allegations were that the CIA attempted to assassinate foreign leaders, including Cuba’s Fidel Castro, that it conducted mind control experiments with LSD and other drugs on unsuspecting subjects, and had used journalists as spies.

Among the news reports that year was the revelation that the CIA used private foundations, including the Catherwood Foundation, as fronts for covert CIA operations.

As a history student in college I had focused much of my research on Latin America, specifically Cuban-American relations, and did my thesis on the Bay of Pigs. When I learned that the Catherwood Foundation was based in Philadelphia, near where I lived, I was interested in whether the Catherwood Foundation sponsored any of the CIA’s Cuban related activities.

As a research technique I had found the clipping morgues of the daily newspapers a fantastic source of information on practically any subject. And while access is usually limited to employees, I found it fairly easy to get to the rows of filing cabinets. I knew my way around the Philadelphia Bulletin building adjacent to 30th Street train, and timed myself to go when few people would be around.

An afternoon daily that dated back many decades, the clipping files were accumulated by a small group of dedicated old ladies who, with quick fingered sewing sissors, clipped every article published in the Bulletin, and often the Inquirer, the city’s leading morning paper.

Every name mentioned in every published article was circled, and a copy of the clip was dated and placed in a plane white envelop with the person’s name on it. The envelops were then filed away in alphabetical order. I never went there when they were busy, but late at night the security guards would wave me through and I would make a bee line to the clipping morgue.

It would be a quick, hit-and-run mission this time, as I was only interested in Catherwood, and went directly to the cabinets labeled “C” and quickly found one that had the typewritten name CATHERWOOD, CUMMINS. Thick with dozens of folded clippings, some yellow with age, there were many stories there – birth announcement, family in the munitions business, a considerable inheritance, service during the war and travels around the world, including behind the iron curtain.

Many of the articles were society columns that mention Catherwood’s attendance at various Main Line charity balls and blue blood weddings. There was a clip noting the incorporation of the Catherwood Foundation in 1947, and others that I was interested in, including Catherwood’s sponsorship of the anti-Castro Cuban Cuban Aid Relief (CAR), which assisted exile Cuban professionals who fled the Cuban revolution. There was also a reference to Catherwood’s financing of the International Division of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Columbia-Catherwood Award for journalists.

Catherwood also financed a University of Pennsylvania study that helped set government foreign policy in Southeast Asia, Vietnam and the Phillipines. Former CIA officer Joseph Smith, in his book “Portrait of a Cold Warrior,” identifies the Catherwood Fund as providing cover for CIA projects in the Phillipines.

According to the Bulletin clips, Catherwood’s fund paid for the construction of the yacht Vigilant, a sailing yacht that Catherwood used for “scientific expeditions.”

One clip, about a trip Catherwood took to the Caribbean in the spring of 1948, mentions that one of the four scientists aboard, was “James Bond, whose main interest is birds.”

At first I thought that one of Catherwood’s CIA agents had a sense of humor and used the name James Bond as a cover as a joke. But quickly glancing at the date, May 1948.

I realized that the story was published years before Ian Fleming wrote his first spy novel featuring secret agent James Bond, now a world wide household name.

Then I considered it an ironic coincidence that someone named James Bond went sailing around the Caribbean with the CIA’s bagman Cummins Catherwood.

I appreciated the irony of the situation, and left the Bulletin into the rainy streets of Philadelphia. Visiting a friend and fellow journalist, WMMR FM radio news director Bill Vitka (Now with CBS News Radio), I related the James Bond and Cummins Catherwood story. Vitka said that he recalled, from a girlie magazine interview, Ian Fleming took the name for his fictional 007 hero from an American ornithologist named James Bond. “Whose main interest is birds,” the news report said.

Acquiring a copy of John Pearson’s authorized biography, “The Life of Ian Fleming,” I read: “James Bond was born at Goldeneye on the morning of the third Tuesday in January, 1952, when Ian Fleming had just finished breakfast.”

“He had already appropriated the name for his hero: James Bond’s handbook, ‘Birds of the West Indies,” was one of the books he liked to keep on his breakfast table,” wrote Pearson. He then quoted Fleming as saying, “I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest sounding name I could find. James Bond seemed perfect.”

After putting in a request to find me a copy of James Bond’s “Birds of the West Indies” at the Princeton Antiques Book shop in Atlantic City, I went to New York City to canvas the used books stores there. At one store on the upper east side, I found “A Naturalist In Cuba,” by Cambridge professor Thomas Barbour, and discovered James Bond’s name in the index.

Turning to the indicated page I read: “My friend James Bond of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, who had been to Santo Tomas since and has seen it in life, writes that he found (the Cyanolimnas Cervari) common about three miles north of the sawgrass stretches in a rather high and dry territory….The bird at first looks like a stumpy, very short-tailed gallinule. It is olivaceious blue with feathers of the abdomen, chin and throat white, while the undertail coverts are also conspicuously white….”

While completely uninterested in the “Cyanolimnas Cervari,” I now had a make on Bond. I knew that he was affiliated with the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, back where I started. Besides giving me a clue as to Bond’s whereabouts, Barbour quoted Bond directly, reporting that: “the southern border of the great Zapata Swamp in Cuba is the home of the rare rail. The Swamp at this point is very different from the interior of the Cienaga. There are no trees, but dense area of bush, relieved here and there by open stretches of low swamp grass. To enter the morass is difficult, except towards the end of the dry season in the spring, since, though the footing is for the most part firm, there are places where one may sink up to one’s neck in the soft mud and it is only by holding onto bushes that progress can safely be made through the swamp.”

The Zapata Swamp is the Bay of Pigs, and I suddenly realized, by reading this, how Bond, an ornithologist – bird specialist, could have been of use to the CIA. His knowledge of the area, the terrain and weather would have been of great value to those who were planning to invade there. Years later, during the Faulkland war, the British troops enroute to their invasion to retake that island were briefed by someone familiar with the terrain – a local birdwatcher.

Since I was from Camden, New Jersey, just across the river from downtown Philadelphia, I was quite familiar with the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. I had been there many times as a school boy and recalled the natural habitat exhibits of stuffed animals in glass cages.

School children ran about as I approached a secretary, who informed me that, “Yes, Mister Bond was Curator of Birds here for many years, but he is now retired.”

A copy of his book, “Birds of the West Indies,” was removed from a cold storage vault for me to look at, but I was disappointed that it was a handbook on the features and habitats of birds of that region, rather than a story book of his travels.

Returning to the clipping files at the Philadelphia Bulletin, where I first began, I realized I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if I had just looked up James Bond’s name in the clipping files in the first place.

I found and pulled out two envelops labeled: BOND, JAMES. One contained reviews of the books and movies about 007 while the other, thinner envelop contained references to the renowned American ornithologist and author of the book “Birds of the West Indies.”

The envelop with the film reviews contained one peculiar item, a promotional flyer for the movie “The Spy Who Loved Me,” which included a profile of James Bond – 007, purported to be stolen from the files of an enemy secret service.

Written in large print, teletype style, it read: