The Reading Room

For Bond Lovers Only

James Bond and Beyond…

b-fiveAs the latest billion dollar, record-breaking Bond blockbuster hits our cinematic screen I find myself looking for solace in the written Bond word, not just by Fleming but associated ephemera from Bond’s heyday in the 1960s. I say solace because that is what it is. The incumbent Daniel Craig will be no more unless they add another million or so to his pay check. He will be gone as fast as that promise to ‘return to its origins’. Remember the opening scene to Casino Royale? Violent fight scene filmed in monochrome, a bit ‘Jason Bourne’ but a lot less Roger Moore. Well, that promise lasted as long as the fight. I cannot help but wonder if DC isn’t a little embarrassed by the whole thing. The screenwriting is as bad as the later John Gardner Bond novels, the casting is equal to it. So I shall refrain from sitting through it and go back to the written word.

Here then, are a selection of Bond goodies from my collection.

For Bond Lovers Only published in 1965 by Panther is a wonderful collection of amusing short essays featuring authors and actors discussing Bond, Fleming and key Bond subjects (girls and guns) its cover has long been regarded by Bond lovers as one of the best of the associated paperbacks.

b-threeKingsley Amis is by far the best of the associated authors relating to Bond. Writing under the pseudonym of Robert Markham he produced the very acceptable Colonel Sun (1968) and in the James Bond Dossier he writes as literary critic of the Fleming novels, first published in 1961 it is dedicated and due credit acknowledged to Robert Conquest for his help in ‘various details’. It is hardly surprising that this was and remains one of the better ‘Books on Bond’ in what was already in the mid-sixties a flooded market.

b-sixJames Bond-His World of Values by the grandly named Lycurgus M Starkey Jr is a remarkably terse reflection of Bond and his moral character in the context of today’s modern world. That modern world was in fact, 1967 when Starkey Jr, a professor of church history wrote it. Unsurprisingly then, it finds no favour with Fleming’s character and he sets out in gloriously Christian biased fashion to show the reader how this man’s persona and actions attempt to devalue society in general. There are numerous references to ‘the Lord, Jesus Christ’ to explain where the author’s moral compass points to.

b-fourShortly before the hardback edition of this next book 007 James Bond- A Report by O.F. Snelling was published, news came to the author of Fleming’s sudden death. This cover is from the Panther paperback edition published in 1965 and deals with Bond in all his published glory up to but not including You Only Live Twice. In what was yet another homage to the phenomenon of the time the book is further proof, if ever needed, of the money that was and continues to be made off the back of the books and films. What is different today however, is the format in which we see and read about Bond. Gone are critiques such as these and in their place are irritating television interviews with clearly irritated actors, glossy stills of the Bond girls in middle shelf men’s magazines and biased book reviews by literary friends of the current Fleming estate agreed author of yet another pointless novel.

b-sevenBut it wasn’t all about Bond the character. His creator, Ian Fleming was a man of great interest to an adoring public who bought his books in, during his lifetime, the hundreds of thousands. Fleming was almost as interesting in his own right with a remarkable early life and an envious middle age devoted to fine food, wine and women. Richard Gant’s book Ian Fleming: The Man with the Golden Pen published in 1966 is a harmless, well-meant if somewhat lightweight account of Fleming’s life. For those wishing to scratch a little deeper then one should look no further than Andrew Lycett’s voluminous work or the earlier and more collectable biography, The Life of Ian Fleming by John Pearson.

b-twoFinally, two alternative foreign print versions of Fleming’s novels. Fleming/Bond fans are suckers for alternative artwork and there are some wonderful examples of foreign publications including movie posters. Chauds les Glaçons is the 1957 French paperback edition of Diamonds are Forever. I was particularly drawn to the ‘noir’ style cover just as I was to this 1965 Portuguese edition of Live and Let Die

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