The man with the golden typewriter

Taittinger champagne, Rolex watches, Beluga caviar and Sea Island underpants: Ian Fleming's Bond nov

Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds Are Forever, From Russia with Love, Dr No, Goldfinger, For Your Eyes Only, Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, You Only Live Twice, The Man with the Golden Gun, Octopussy/The Living Daylights

Ian Fleming, Penguin, £6.99 each

It is morning in the London home of James Bond and the secret agent is between missions. Waking - alone, for once - he can hear his housekeeper busy with the Chemex coffee machine. Slipping off his Hong Kong silk pyjama coat he makes for the bathroom, where, after shaving with his Hoffritz safety razor ("patterned on the old-fashioned, heavy-toothed Gillette"), he steps into the shower - ice-cold, of course - and luxuriates in his Pinaud Elixir, "that prince among shampoos".

Drying off, he takes two Phensics and a dash of Enos for his customary hangover and dons his Sea Island cotton underpants, Sea Island blue shirt, worsted trousers, socks and casual shoes ("he abhorred shoe-laces"). Around his wrist he clips his Rolex Oyster Perpetual Chronometer, with its expanding metal bracelet.

Breakfast consists of a speckled brown egg from a French Marans hen, served in a Minton egg-cup, followed by wholewheat toast with Jersey butter and Norwegian honey from Fortnum's, washed down with a very strong coffee blended by De Bry of New Oxford Street.

Pausing only to collect his Walther PPK 7.65 automatic with its "Lightning" Berns-Martin triple-draw holster in chamois leather, 007 pops downstairs, climbs aboard his Bentley 1933 Continental - the one with the 13:40 axle ratio - and roars off to Universal Export to see Moneypenny and M.

Hold on a minute. We may live in the age of product placement, but this is going too far. And whose Bond is this anyway? Piers Brosnan's? No, not in slip-ons. Roger Moore's? He had the narcissism, but even he would have drawn the line at Jersey butter. Daniel Craig's? Surely not. In fact it can be only one Bond, the original and for many still the best: Ian Fleming's.

After 20-odd movies, it is becoming easy to forget that 007 began life in print, with the series of bestsellers Fleming wrote half a century ago. Fleming gave us the guns, the girls, the gadgets and the derring-do - that much we might just remember - but he also gave us something more unexpected, something that was far ahead of its time: the secret agent's devotion to labels and other supposed badges of quality.

In scattering these across his pages, Fleming brilliantly anticipated the brand fascination of our own age. Indeed, he did it almost too well. Though the description above combines details plucked from several books, the literary Bond was such a fussy consumer that you get the impression that every minute not spent saving the world must have been devoted to studying catalogues.

So, as you watch Daniel Craig pick his way through the brands in Casino Royale - Smirnoff, Virgin, Sony, Ford and Heineken will all be there - don't blame the product-placement industry. Fleming's last Bond book may have appeared as long ago as 1966, but the hero is a name-checking 21st-century man right down to his underpants.

He knows a Wilton carpet when he walks on one and an Adam mantelpiece when he leans against one. Morlands of Grosvenor Street supply his cigarettes, a special blend of Turkish and Balkan which Bond transfers - 50 at a time, mark you - into the gunmetal case that, along with his Ronson lighter, is his constant companion.

When Bond goes shooting it is with "one of the new Savage 99Fs, Wetherby 6x62 scope, five-shot repeaters with 20 rounds of high-velocity .250-3.000". When Bond is scuba-diving he carries not just a harpoon gun, but a Champion harpoon gun; and not just an ordinary Champion, but the one with "double rubbers". When he packs for an assignment, it is in a Revelation pigskin case, "battered but once expensive", and he has a matching attaché case. Nice.

Some of these preferences were Fleming's own. The author wore Turnbull & Asser shirts, had his suits made by Benson, Perry & Whitley and kept his own standing order at Morlands for an awesome 600 cigarettes a week. He may not have used the Wetherby rifle or driven the Bentley Continental (a great battleship of a car, by the way, useless in any act of stealth), but he was a travel writer and foreign correspondent, and he fairly wallowed in style when it came his way. Like Bond, Fleming could go too far: when the first 007 book became a bestseller he treated himself to a gold-plated typewriter - a Royal de Luxe, of course.

Bond is no less fussy about his food than he is about his kit. Visiting France in Goldfinger, 007 dines on oeufs cocottes à la crème, followed by sole meunière and "an adequate Camembert". Run-of-the-mill stuff, you may say, except that the sole is chosen only after careful thought: "Orléans was close enough to the sea. The fish of the Loire are inclined to be muddy."

Only Beluga caviar will do, and always at least $50-worth because "anything less would be no more than a spoonful". Scottish Highland smoked salmon beats all rivals, the benchmark mousseline sauce has to be that served at Maxim's, and foie gras is best from a Strasbourg porcelain pot with thick toast and a knife warmed in hot water.

The greatest care of all, however, goes into picking Bond's drinks, and there is much more to this than whether the vodka Martini is shaken or stirred. (The shaking, in fact, is less important than the right vodka - grain, not potato - and the proper twist of lemon peel.) You can't sip Martinis everywhere, so in Rome Bond prefers a Negroni made with Gordon's, while at Fouquet's on the Champs Élysées it must be an Americano - bitter Campari, Cinzano, lemon peel and Perrier.

Even with beer, Bond cares about loca- tion - Red Stripe in Jamaica, öwenbräu in Germany, Miller High Life in the US - while in Switzerland he is not afraid to sip an Enzian, "the firewater distilled from gentian that is responsible for Switzerland's chronic alcoholism". As for bubbly, he recommends Taittinger Blanc de Blancs Brut, "probably the finest champagne in the world" (not a bad slogan), while the best vermouth, surprisingly, is Californian, the Cresta Blanca. These he drinks with manly vigour: Bond thinks nothing of sinking half a bottle of Taittinger, half a bottle of Mouton Rothschild '53 and a ten-year-old Calvados before heading off to confront a villain.

And then there are the girls. From someone who judges other men by their clothes (Brooks Brothers? Abercrombie & Fitch? Charvet? Tripler?) we should expect even greater discrimination when dealing with women, and we get it. Tracy, whom he marries and loses in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, catches his eye when she roars past in her Lancia Flaminia Zagato Spyder (a car) and 007 informs us that "it was his experience that girls who drove competitively like that were always pretty".

Reaching the hotel after her, Bond is further impressed by her Louis Vuitton suitcases and warms to her even more when he catches a whiff of Guerlain's Ode. (This, by the way, is fine for foreign girls like Tracy, but 007 prefers Balmain's Vent Vert or Caron's Muguet on an Englishwoman.) And if Tracy's Ferragamo sandals were not enough to seal it, her father then produces Waterford pint glasses and offers a choice of Pinchbottle Haig and Harper's bourbon. No wonder Bond proposes.

By now you have had enough. The diet can be too rich, and it can bring out the worst in Fleming - his gold-plated typewriter side. Even Kingsley Amis, who loved Bond so much he wrote a 007 adventure of his own, complained that "prince of shampoos" read like sub-standard advertising copy.

And what about this, Emilio Largo's transport in Thunderball? "The motor yacht, Disco Volante, was a hydrofoil craft, built for Largo with SPECTRE funds by the Italian constructors, Leopoldo Rodrigues of Messina, the only firm in the world to have successfully adapted the Shertel-Sachsenberg system to commercial use . . ." Shertel-Sachsenberg is certainly an impressive brand name but, as Amis pointed out, no reader would ever know whether its system made the boat go faster, froze the ice for the cocktails or flushed the lavatories.

The new film will have no room for a Shertel-Sachsenberg; for every brand you spot in Casino Royale will be one you can buy next day if you can afford it. And perhaps it is here that something has been lost. Product placers have no time for the deliberately obscure and the invented; everything must pay its way. Like his connoisseur secret agent, who appreciated his Blanc de Blancs Brut the more because "it is not a well-known brand", Fleming would have been just a little disappointed.

Read this, now buy this

Fifty years after Bond's adventures, brands have become big business in literature:

Cathy's Book: if found call (650) 266-8233 by Jordan Weisman and Sean Stewart (Running Press, 144pp, $17.95)

American purist feathers have been ruffled by this teenage tale pushing "a killer coat of Lipslicks in 'Daring'" or "eyecolor in 'Midnight Metal'" to readers. It may win Cover Girl big bucks, but raises questions about the vulnerability of younger audiences.

Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson (Fig Tree, 336pp, £12.99)

"I clamber out of my Savoir bed," Johnson begins. "I reach for a David Mellor tumbler . . . put on a white Agnès B long-sleeved T-shirt and slip on my fleece-lined, lace-up, nut-brown Ilse Jacobson boots." Here, in one handy volume, is a comprehensive catalogue of must-have accessories for west Londoners.

The Bulgari Connection by Fay Weldon (Flamingo, 224pp, £6.99)

With this novel, written at the behest of fashion giant Bulgari, Weldon became the first major author to auction off her literary credibility. "Have I betrayed the sacred name of literature? Well, what the heck!" she exclaimed, seeming bored with the argument. After all, with such a mammoth contract, who needs readers?

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (Picador, 416pp, £7.99)

Patrick Bateman, murderer and psychopath, is a violent distortion of the 1980s Manhattan yuppie and the consumer fervour that fuelled a generation. He looks not at his watch, but at his Rolex; he drinks not whisky, but J&B.

The Jason Love books by James Leasor (Various publishers)

In a savvy twist on whoring your literary integrity, James Leasor furnished his hero Jason Love with an extremely rare Cord car, of which Leasor was one lucky owner. When screen adaptations followed, Leasor extracted a hefty fee for the use of his automobile on screen.

Olivia Shean

Brian Cathcart is Director of Hacked Off. He tweets as @BrianCathcart.

This article first appeared in the 13 November 2006 issue of the New Statesman, Rumbled!