His name was Fleming, Ian Fleming.
On the hundredth anniversary of his birth, a new exhibition at London's Imperial War Museum looks at a writer whose life was almost as exciting as that of his most famous creation: secret agent James Bond.
"There are many parallels: the cars, the girls, the love of martinis," said Godfrey Smith, who worked with Fleming for a decade on The Times newspaper in London. "My first and last pink gin was bought for me by Ian Fleming. I didn't like it much."
"007 is what Fleming wanted to be," observes CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey. "But then, don't we all?!"
Pizzey added, "The theme music and gun barrel shot may be the most famous and enduring in movie history," even if "the literary value of James Bond is debatable."
Smith said Wednesday that, for the newspaper's young journalists in the 1950s, Fleming was a role model, renowned for dating glamorous women and dashing off in his sports car on Friday afternoons for a round of golf.
"He gave an example of how life should be lived," Smith said.
"For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond" marks the first time the war museum - best known for displays recounting the Battle of Trafalgar and the London Blitz - has devoted a major show to a writer and his fictional creation.
But Bond is larger than life - and so, it turns out, was Fleming.
The exhibition, which opened Thursday and runs until March 1, 2009, has plenty for Bond movie aficionados as well as Fleming fans. There are vintage film posters, models of rocket belts and high-tech car-submarines - even the bikini worn by Halle Berry in "Die Another Day."
The show also traces Fleming's eventful life, from a privileged childhood as the son of a Conservative legislator who was killed in World War I when Ian was 8 through his early career as a journalist. When World War II broke out, Fleming joined British Naval Intelligence as an assistant to its director, Adm. John Godfrey - widely regarded as the model for spymaster M in the Bond stories.
"Throughout the wartime years, he was gathering material for the Bond stories," said Ben Macintyre, author of a book that accompanies the exhibition.
"Fleming was very careful in his writing to anchor the fiction as closely as he could in political reality," Macintyre told CBS News. "Bond is, in a way, a kind of Second World War character in a Cold War context."
Macintyre said Fleming was employed by Naval Intelligence as "an outside-the-box planner," and some of his wartime schemes could have come from the pages of his novels. He dreamed up Operation Ruthless, a plan to capture the codebooks for a German Enigma machine. British agents disguised as a Luftwaffe crew would take a captured German bomber, crash-land in the English Channel and then ambush the German rescue boat when it arrived. The idea was quickly abandoned.
"It was a completely lunatic idea," Macintyre said. "It was never going to work. But in a way, it was the prototype Bond story."
To his regret, Fleming was not a front-line spy - he knew too many secrets to be risked in the field. His only taste of action was accompanying the Allies' failed Dieppe landing in 1942.
"Ian was not a man of action, although he would have loved to have been," said Smith. "Bond did all the things he couldn't."
Fleming put a lot of himself into Bond, but several others have been cited as role models for the suave super-spy. The exhibition includes information on several of them, including Fleming's travel-writer brother, Peter, and commando Patrick Dalzel-Job, whom Macintyre calls "an extraordinary man of quite lunatic bravery."
"He could ski backwards, run a mini-sub, and he personally took the surrender of the city of Bremen during the war," Macintyre said. "He is a large part of the Bond story."
The exhibition also includes evidence of Fleming's high-flying tastes, including items from his elegant London apartment and a recreation of Goldeneye, the Jamaican hideaway where he wrote the Bond books.
Fleming passed his taste for luxury on to 007. Bond is a man of exacting standards. His watch is a Rolex, his shampoo is Pinaud Elixir, his martinis are shaken, not stirred. His villains have champagne tastes, too - the exhibition includes a grateful letter from perfumer Floris thanking Fleming for putting Floris bath essence in Dr. No's evil lair.
The first Bond novel, "Casino Royale," was published in 1953. Its blend of sex, Cold War adventure and exotic luxury was an instant hit with readers in war-battered Britain.
"In a world of austerity and rationing, here was a man on a seemingly unlimited budget, drinking as much champagne and eating as much caviar as he liked," Macintyre said.
Bond brought Fleming fame and wealth. By the time of his death from a heart attack at 56 in 1964, the books had sold more than 40 million copies and spawned a film franchise. But Fleming also felt frustration at becoming famous for books he regarded as potboilers rather than serious literature.
More than 50 years after Fleming's death, 007 is more famous than ever, with the 22nd Bond film, "Quantum of Solace," due out later this year. Fleming's centenary is being marked by a host of events, including the publication of a new Bond book, "Devil May Care," written by novelist Sebastian Faulks. The Royal Mail has even issued a series of James Bond postage stamps for the anniversary.
"You have to hand it to him," said Smith, Fleming's former colleague. "He said, `I'm going to write a spy thriller to end them all.' And he did."