Late in my career at Columbia over 50 years ago, my roommate and I faced an exam next day in American literature. Instead, we quizzed each other on trivia in the James Bond novels we'd been devouring—and we both, I'm sorry to say, knew our Bond trivia far better than we knew our American lit. Now the British Medical Journal shows me just how misplaced my priorities were: Were James Bond’s drinks shaken because of alcohol induced tremor? The abstract:
Objective To quantify James Bond’s consumption of alcohol as detailed in the series of novels by Ian Fleming.
Design Retrospective literature review.
Setting The study authors’ homes, in a comfy chair.
Participants Commander James Bond, 007; Mr Ian Lancaster Fleming.
Main outcome measures Weekly alcohol consumption by Commander Bond.
Methods All 14 James Bond books were read by two of the authors. Contemporaneous notes were taken detailing every alcoholic drink taken. Predefined alcohol unit levels were used to calculate consumption. Days when Bond was unable to consume alcohol (such as through incarceration) were noted.
Results After exclusion of days when Bond was unable to drink, his weekly alcohol consumption was 92 units a week, over four times the recommended amount. His maximum daily consumption was 49.8 units. He had only 12.5 alcohol free days out of 87.5 days on which he was able to drink.
Conclusions James Bond’s level of alcohol intake puts him at high risk of multiple alcohol related diseases and an early death. The level of functioning as displayed in the books is inconsistent with the physical, mental, and indeed sexual functioning expected from someone drinking this much alcohol. We advise an immediate referral for further assessment and treatment, a reduction in alcohol consumption to safe levels, and suspect that the famous catchphrase “shaken, not stirred” could be because of alcohol induced tremor affecting his hands.
If you ever read the actual Fleming novels, you saw his arrogant racism and sexism, which were perfectly OK at the time (even to JFK—maybe especially to that famous womanizer). I well recall the time at Fort Ord, watching Goldfinger at the base movie theatre, when Honor Blackman introduced herself as Pussy Galore, and a hosanna rose from the all-male audience.
Last year, trapped on a flight to Scandinavia, I watched the original Dr. No. I couldn't believe how dull it was, despite the young Sean Connery's obvious appeal to women. But at the time, such espionage derring-do distracted a generation about to be pitched into the Vietnam War and half a century of violence.
It did seem cool at the time.