Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Real James Bond

Spy Extraordinaire

Sidney Reilly
Sidney Reilly

Sidney Reilly was undoubtedly the world's most extraordinary British spy and believed to be the inspiration for Ian Fleming's famous fictional secret agent James Bond. Like his literary counterpart, Reilly was a debonair playboy who lived extravagantly, spoke a multitude of languages, and was as charismatic as he was brilliant. Reilly, who many dubbed 'the gentleman spy', was also a master of disguise and deception, talents he employed most earnestly when trying to manipulate the outcome of the Russian Revolution so as to put an end to Bolshevism once and for all. However, there was also a much darker side to him.

Ian Fleming
Ian Fleming

Reilly was often described as a shifty character with a grandiose sense of self. Many thought him to be a cunning con artist who shamelessly exploited women and anyone else for his own personal financial and political gain. This behavior carried into his work as a secret agent, which made him unpopular with some of his colleagues.

Yet, much of Reilly's true character remains a mystery. The truth is, so much fiction has been intertwined with the facts concerning his life and exploits that it is almost impossible to discern between the man and the myth. In fact, Reilly played a major role in creating his own mythical persona by exaggerating his own accomplishments, if not outright lying, which he likely did either to protect his real identity or simply boost his public image. Moreover, countless newspaper articles, short stories, books and movies about his life further reinforced the myth leading to his near legendary status. Regardless, Sidney Reilly was undeniably a courageous spy who aided the British government in their desperate struggle to try to put an end to the Bolshevik's ever-growing stronghold on the Eastern Front.

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