The crux of the James Bond book "Casino Royale" was inspired by a true story. It was 1939 and Ian Fleming, then a British intelligence officer, faced a gaggle of German spies in a Lisbon casino.
"I suddenly had the brilliant idea that I would take on these Germans and strip them of their funds," Fleming said in a 1964 interview, shortly before his death.
In the novel and the movie, Bond's plan pays. Not so for Fleming, who said he was "cleaned out" … but not for long. Bond made Fleming and his heirs very rich.
The James Bond franchise includes 12 novels, nine short stories, 21 movies, $4.5 billion at the box office and now the glitzy launch of another Bond novel, "Devil May Care." The book, which hit stores Wednesday, was written more than 40 years after Fleming's death by best-selling English author Sebastian Faulks, commissioned by the Fleming family.
"What I wanted to do was imagine if Ian Fleming had lived a couple of years longer and rather recovered his joie de vivre and recovered his interest in this character, what book might he have written," Faulks said. "So I tried to get Fleming and Bond at the top of their game."
What is the secret of Bond's success?
"His task is a straightforward one and he goes about it in a straightforward fashion," Fleming said in the 1964 interview. "And I think people like the action."
"As for sex, well … sex is a perfectly respectable subject as far as Shakespeare was concerned, and I don't see why it shouldn't be as far as I'm concerned," Fleming said.
Some 40 years later, the formula hasn't changed.
"It's a very childish thrill," Faulks said. "You're worried about the safety of the hero."
But Faulks added that James Bond's life was never truly in jeopardy in "Devil May Care."
"I don't think I'd have remained on very good terms with the Flemings if I'd killed off Bond," he joked.
All of the Bond adventures offer sex, thrills, action and immortality — most of it loosely based on Fleming's time as journalist and spy.
"I had great fun," Fleming said. "I went round the world twice and got involved in a lot of escapades, which were very exciting at the time."
Is Bond half Fleming and half the man Fleming wishes he had been?
"People do connect me with Bond because I like scrambled eggs and short-sleeved shirts and some of the things Bond does," Fleming said. "But I certainly haven't got his guts, nor his very lively appetite."
And the moniker? How was Bond, James Bond, born?
"I wanted to find a name that wouldn't have any of the romantic overtones of let's say Peregrine Caruthers or whatever it might be," Fleming said. He had a book at his home called "James Bond's Birds of the West Indies."
"I thought, well now, James Bond, that's a pretty quiet name and so I simply stole it and used it."
Casino Royale, Fleming's first offering, received mixed reviews from friends. He went on to write one book a year, always at his house in Jamaica, always following the same routine of a thousand words before lunch and snorkeling.
"In the evening he'd sit down, another 1,000 words, that's his 2,000 done for the day, couple more martinis then dinner with some glamorous women," Faulks said. "I was able to follow that routine fairly closely in London."
"Although I did have to cut down on the snorkeling a bit," he joked.
And dinner with his glamorous wife?
"Dinner with my glamorous wife and of course other women as well."
Perhaps we all wish we were a little bit like James Bond, or a little bit like Ian Fleming. Maybe that's the secret.