RRB: How much of the Kremlin’s targeting of Fleming’s Bond novels could have been connected to the fact that President John F. Kennedy publicly endorsed them?
JF: Of course the chance to have a go at ‘the West’ via JFK’s endorsement of Bond was probably a factor in the Kremlin’s campaign but I suspect of equal importance was the need to find a diversionary target to take people’s minds off the appalling living conditions in the USSR. Look at the banner that was carried in a Mayday parade: CUT KHRUSHCHEV UP FOR SAUSAGES.
RRB: What most surprised you in your research?
JF: What most surprised me were the circumstances around the birth of the fake Bond novels – the Kingsley Amis one, Colonel Sun was the first. The KGB paying a Bulgarian to write a novel in which a Red agent kills off Bond and then sending him (with his minder) to London to sell the book internationally? Launching 07 to take the place of 007, which was copyright protected? You couldn’t have made it up. No wonder the Fleming family rushed to protect their franchise.
RRB: James Bond remains such a force — in book publishing and collecting, certainly, and also in film — and his popularity relies in large part on Cold War dichotomies. How has that changed between the 1960s and today? Is he loved or hated in Putin’s Russia?
JF: Everyone loves the Bond films, regardless of nationality, but the books are a different matter. Translation rights (English into Russian) weren’t sold until 2005, years after the Soviet Union was dissolved. It may be that Russians are more reserved than Western nations and that Bond’s antics appear silly to them and his promiscuity immoral. Besides, they have their own equivalent to James Bond, the Stierlitz books written in the 1960s and the subsequent films and television series. Moreover, the Stierlitz plots, which tend to have German opponents, are more congenial to the Russians than the glamorous international scenarios of the Fleming novels.