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The origins of 007

By Ray Edwards

Harry Saltman, right, Ian Fleming and Cubby Broccoli pose for a photo after signing their agreement to produce the first James Bond film in 1962, taken from Bond on Bond by Roger Moore. Copyright: 1962-2012 Danjaq LLC and United Artists Corporation

Kent was the inspiration for several of James Bond’s encounters and home to the spy’s creator Ian Fleming. Chris Price looks back.

James Bond has been all over the media this week as the first 007 film Dr No marked its 50th anniversary. When he signed the agreement for the film in 1962, surely author Ian Fleming – who wrote many of his Bond novels in Kent – would never have guessed it would be the start of the longest running movie franchise in history.

Later this month, the 23rd instalment of the spy series will be released. Skyfall, starring the sixth 007 Daniel Craig, hits cinema screens on Friday, October 26, and will add to the £4.9b the series has grossed in half a century – the second highest ever behind the Harry Potter films.

It was in a remote corner of Kent where the story began, as ex-British Naval Intelligence officer Fleming bought a beach-front house in St Margaret’s Bay called White Cliffs in 1952, from playwright Noel Coward. It became his weekend and holiday home for the crucial years when he conceived and wrote his series of James Bond books, inspired partly by his intelligence career.

And Kent was to become the setting for many of 007’s adventures, most notably in Goldfinger and Moonraker.

The latter story follows Bond’s journey from London to Dover in his bid to stop the Hugo Drax from blowing up London with a nuclear rocket, hidden at Kingsdown, near Deal. Bond races his Bentley along the same Kentish roads that Fleming drove.

“Bond did a racing change and swung the big car left at the Charing fork, preferring the clear road to Chilham and Canterbury,” it reads.

“The car howled up to 80 in third and he held it in the same gear to negotiate the hairpin at the top of the long gradient heading up to the Molash Road.”

The book, published in 1955, is the only Bond novel to be set entirely in England and, in fact, only features one city and one county – London and Kent. The duel between Bond and Drax took place on A20 between Leeds Castle and Charing. When the spy received his replacement after crashing his Bentley in the pursuit, Fleming wrote: “The 1953 Mark VI... was battleship grey like the old four and a half litre that had gone to its grave in a Maidstone garage.”

In Goldfinger, Bond visits Goldfinger’s factory Thanet Alloy Research at Reculver and Kent’s most famous moment comes in the memorable golf match between the spy and villain.

It takes place at Royal St George’s in Sandwich – the club where Fleming was a member – although he renamed it Royal St Marks in the book. The match takes up two chapters of the novel. Bond later followed Goldfinger as he flew his Rolls-Royce to France on the Silver City service from Lydd.

Other Kent locations include a Maidstone bridge club and the Dover coast. As Fleming became ill in the mid-1950s, his home in St Margaret’s became an important sanctuary for him, although his wife did not share his views. In 1958 they left and bought the Old Palace at Bekesbourne, outside Canterbury. It was close to the Duck Inn, at nearby Pett Bottom, where the young Bond come to live after his parents died in a skiing accident.

In 1964, Fleming collapsed on Royal St George’s and died in Canterbury hospital, aged 56.

What a shame he did not live to see his movie legacy and the place in film history he bestowed on his favourite county.

A licence to thrill

Bond-lovers can get the complete guide to his creator’s work in Ian Fleming: The Bibliography.

Written by Jon Gilbert, the 750-page book features Kent’s connections with the former spy and covers Fleming’s children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, based on a racing car built by Count Louis Zborowski in the early 1920s at Higham Park, near Canterbury. Written for his son Caspar, the flying car flies across the Channel from the Kent coast.

Jon said: “One interesting item related to Kent is that Fleming originally had the magical car soar high above the spire of Canterbury Cathedral but in June 1961, he took his son Caspar to see the latest Disney film The Absent-Minded Professor.

“It featured a flying car built by a crackpot inventor in his backyard, which was seen circling a church spire. Fleming was infuriated and decided to cut the scene featuring Canterbury Cathedral, for fear of repercussions.”

He added: “Ian Fleming is best known as the creator of James Bond, an icon of 20th century popular culture, but he was also a journalist, publisher, travel writer, motor enthusiast, card player, accomplished golfer and noted bibliophile. Much has been written about Fleming and his legendary creation, but until now there has been no serious bibliographical account of his published work.”

Ian Fleming: The Bibliography is published by Queen Anne Press and is set for release later this month. Costs £175.

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