Title: Shaken, Not Stirred (The Secret Files of I__ F______, Code Designate 17F)
Author: Aaron Cooley
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Yes / Book 1
Rating: 5 out of 5
My Copy: Complimentary copy won via Melnore Press
Imagine for a moment Ian Fleming writing the opening scene of his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. Do you ever wonder where he got the inspiration for the world’s most famous spy? Several candidates have been named, but in Aaron Cooley’s Shaken, Not Stirred, the spy who helps a young Fleming is none other than Dušan Popov. Names are changed, Popov becomes Dusan Petrović and Fleming is Ioan Phlegm. Cooley’s Shaken, Not Stirred is a fictionalized account of Ian Fleming’s wartime work, but it’s easy to imagine it really happening.
In Shaken, Not Stirred, a young Ioan is working for the Naval Intelligence and he’s sent to the Congo to find and report back to MI6 the whereabouts of double agent Dusan Petrović. His naiveté is apparent and he stands out like a sore thumb. While Petrović could have easily looked the other way, he takes Ioan under his wing and teaches him how to be a spy. At first Ioan isn’t sure what to make of Petrović and even the reader isn’t sure. Does Petrović have a master plan or does he feel sorry for Ioan? Perhaps this is the nature of a double agent. Together Ioan and Petrović navigate the perils of being agents and Ioan gets a little more than he anticipated. Throughout the novel, we get glimpses of what would eventually become Fleming’s James Bond. Ioan gets a code name and is introduced to gadgets Bond would be happy to use. We’re also introduced to would be Bond Girl, Christine who has a preference for martinis. It’s through Christine, Ioan quickly learns how women play a role in espionage. Petrović tells him, “ ‘ If you take one lesson from me, Phlegm, never forget the number one rule of espionage: Women are a business expense. You allow yourself to expect anything more out of them, you lower your defenses. To a knife in the back.’ ” It’s at this exact moment, a reader can understand Fleming and why women are the “business expense,” in a Bond novel.
I really enjoyed Cooley’s Shaken, Not Stirred. It’s thoroughly researched and well written. It’s a different take on the life of Ian Fleming. Wouldn’t it be awesome if Fleming himself had experienced everything Cooley writes? Fiction mixes with reality and as I stated, Cooley does a superb job with the research. Several events included are based on true events such as the Heisenberg and Diebner rivalry and it goes hand in hand with Hitler’s pursuit of the bomb. Petrović and several other characters bring up the ‘what if’ Hitler gets the bomb, which is a question a lot of people asked themselves at the time. Cooley kept me on the edge of my seat and afterwards all I could think of was, “thank god Hitler didn’t get there first.” It’s something you’ll be thinking as you read. A note on the spelling used: it is British and might throw off the reader and mistake it for spelling mistakes. Keep in mind Cooley is writing as Fleming and hence the reason for the use of British spelling.
Readers will easily recognize aspects of the Bond novels and films. In fact, if you’ve read Casino Royale or seen the film version, the scene where Bond watches Le Chiffre at the card table is familiar in Shaken, Not Stirred. This time it’s with Ioan and Petrović and a set of cards with Skorzeny and a game of Baccarat. Prior to Ioan joining Petrović and Skorzeny, Petrović sends him a suit and Ioan asks why. Petrović says it’s to seduce Christine and here we can see the birth of the immaculate Bond in his tux. It works well enough for Ioan since Christine waits for him in his room and says, “ ‘Why Ioan. I thought spies were meant to be suave. Deboniar.’
‘I was ill that day at spy school.’ ”
‘If you fictionalized my character, I could live a bit longer.’
Aaron Cooley’s Shaken, Not Stirred is without a doubt a must read for any James Bond fan. If you’ve wanted to try a spy thriller, this is a good starting point. I eagerly anticipate the next installment.