Before James Bond There Was Duckworth Drew

Before James Bond There Was Duckworth Drew

July 27, 2012 10:50 am 3 comments

Duckworth Drew
Above: Derek Jacobi as Duckworth Drew on The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes.

The latest issue of Wired has a small write-up by Marco Calavita on British novelist, propagandist and “paranoid xenophobe” William Le Queux and his creation Duckworth Drew, a char,acter who may have influenced Ian Fleming’s creation of James Bond. The article isn’t on Wired’s website yet, is online here now, but there’s surprisingly little about the Duckworth Drew character on the web.

From a Telegraph article on espionage:

What a strange bunch those early fictional spies seem now. One might expect that spy stories would feed on reality, but surely no reality can ever have touched Duckworth Drew of the Secret Service, the 1903 creation of William Le Queux. This was a man “upon whom rested the onerous and most perilous task of obtaining the well-guarded secrets of other nations and combating the machinations of England’s enemies”.

Duckworth Drew carried drugged cigars and poisoned pins to knock out the enemies of state long enough to read the secret treaty lying on the desk. England’s enemies reciprocated. Otto Kremplestein, chief of the German Secret Service, used to pop over the Channel to fox hunt in the shires as a cover.

From the Wikipedia entry on invasion literature:

William Le Queux was the most prolific author of the genre; his first novel was The Great War in England in 1897 (1894) and he went on to publish from one to twelve novels a year until his death in 1927. His work was regularly serialised in newspapers, particularly the Daily Mail, and attracted many readers. It is believed Ian Fleming’s James Bond character was inspired by Le Queux’s agent “Duckworth Drew”.

Calavita notes that Drew’s boss is named “MM,” and this knowledge base of fictional crime fighters lists Drew’s boss as “Marquis of Macclesfield.”

Duckworth Drew isn’t mentioned on the Wikipedia entry on Le Queux nor the entry on spy fiction.

You can buy Secrets of the Foreign Office from Amazon.com. Surely this is in the public domain – can anyone find the text online?

You can read more about Le Queux here.

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