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Ian Fleming

The smallest, dullest link in the fateful chain binding John F. Kennedy and his assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is that both men were big fans of the fictional spy James Bond. In the immediate aftermath of Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, when investigators searched the tiny boarding room in Dallas that Oswald rented for $8 per week, they found the four Bond books that citizen Oswald had assiduously borrowed from a local library.

One of these was From Russia with Love, Ian Fleming’s novel from 1957, which has at its heart the cat-and-mouse relationship between Bond and the crack SMERSH assassin Donovan Grant, who is tasked and determined to take out Bond, and with him the agency he represents.

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In describing the enduring cultural impact of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold – published fifty years ago and often nominated as the best spy novel ever written – a good place to start, strange though it may sound, is James Bond. John le Carré’s squalid yet subtle world of Cold War spies may appear antithetical to the glamorous fantasy of Bond. But it is clear from the last three Bond films, and especially the latest, Skyfall (2012), which of the two visions of espionage, Fleming’s or le Carré’s, is the more mature and compelling.

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