I love James Bond. I’d always imagined that Ian Fleming based some of his famous spy’s derring-do on his own wartime exploits, so I was terribly disappointed to learn that during World War II Fleming was actually a spy supervisor. As personal assistant to the British Director of Naval Intelligence, he saw combat only once, and I mean that quite literally; he and his boss watched from afar as Canadian and British troops carried out an assault at
It was 1941, and unfortunately the German defenses were excellent.
Not that Fleming’s contributions weren’t valuable, but he was a thinker and a planner, not a doer. So while researching the lives of World War II spies for my next novel, Heart of Deception, I was intrigued to discover that after the war Fleming allegedly had an affair with one of
The daughter of a Polish count and wife of a diplomat, Christine and her husband came to
During her career as a spy she evaded capture by the Germans multiple times. Once she pretended to have tuberculosis by biting her tongue so hard that she “coughed up” blood; another time she was stopped by two German soldiers at a border crossing and lifted her arms to reveal two live grenades, pins already pulled. The Germans fled; Christine pitched the grenades and dashed across the border.
Among other accomplishments she saved the life of Francis Cammaerts, the man who headed up the behind-the-lines S.O.E operations in southern
Men were quite simply mesmerized by Christine Granville; as one ardent admirer explained, “Even though she was very quiet, there was something about her that put other women in the shade.” And like James Bond, fidelity was never her strong suit.
Fleming supposedly told a close friend that Christine "literally shone with all the qualities and splendors of a fictitious character,” and he eventually used her as one; it’s now generally assumed that Christine was Fleming’s inspiration for the first Bond girl, Vesper Lynd. “Vesperale” was Christine’s nickname when she was a child, because (just like Vesper Lynd) she was born during an evening thunderstorm. Moreover, Fleming’s description of Vesper is similar to that of Christine, both physically (dark hair, wide mouth, no make-up) and in terms of her personality (“She was thoughtful and full of consideration without being slavish and without compromising her arrogant spirit…She would surrender herself avidly, he thought, and greedily enjoy all the intimacies of the bed without ever allowing herself to be possessed.” *)
But while Fleming always maintained that Bond was a “compound of all the secret agents and commando types” he’d encountered during the war, I think that composite also included one spy he met after the war. Given what I’ve learned about Christine Granville, it’s clear to me that she was more than just the inspiration for the first Bond girl; Fleming also incorporated her abilities and attributes into the actual James Bond character.
Vera Atkins, who was the second-in-command of the SOE section responsible for helping the French resistance, described Christine as “a woman of quite unusual character. She was very brave, very attractive, but a loner and a law unto herself.” *
Sound like any other superspy you know?
Inspired by the author’s family history, M.L. Malcolm’s first novel, Heart of Lies, tells the story of Leo Hoffman, a dashing young Hungarian with a gift for languages whose life is destroyed by WWI. When his attempt to rebuild it inadvertently embroils him in an international counterfeiting scheme, Leo escapes to with his lover to the decadent city of
From Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale.
From Christine: SOE Agent and Churchill’s Favourite Spy, by Madeleine Masson.