‘He’s what you would expect of an adolescent mind – which I happen to possess’
The name’s... Do we really need to go on? Just those two words are enough to conjure up the most famous fictional character of the 20th century. In this ever-changing world in which we live, James Bond remains essentially the same. His appearance has changed (albeit not as often as his favoured vintage of champagne) but 007 is recognisably the same character Ian Fleming dreamt up in 1952, the man every boy wants to be. He is a superhero without superpowers; a St George fighting contemporary dragons with a handgun and a stream of one-liners; a secret agent as admired by men (even his enemies) as he is irresistible to women; a hero so indestructible his popularity has survived changing political and sexual mores, some formulaic films and (post-Fleming) some deeply average thrillers.
We might not all want to be Bond (or slip between the sheets with him) but a character who started out as one man’s fantasy has become a fantasy enough of us share (or enjoy) to support a small industry, symbolised by the seemingly unstoppable movie franchise which has racked up more than $2 billion at the box office. His global appeal is, perhaps, Bond’s most stupendous feat of all: invented by a middle-aged, upper-middle class Brit, he has become a nationless, classless, ageless icon, as recognisable as Elvis, JFK or Madonna (mother of Lourdes, not of Jesus).
He may not be able to fly but he has proved as indestructible a superhero as Superman. And, in an industrial sense, he has more staying power than winged wonders or men of steel. Although there have been some duff Bond movies, the quality control exercised, mainly by the Broccolis (Cubby and Barbara), has, by Hollywood standards, been exceptional. You only have to look at the various Tarzan movies to see the shambles Bond’s celluloid career could have become in other hands.
His appeal may rest in the fact that we don’t know much about him. At least little that matters. He is a hero who never bores us because after half a century (and 20 movies, 33 novels, various novelisations and short stories) we know less about what makes him tick than we’d discover if we asked him round for dinner.
While this book won’t tell you what makes Bond tick, it hopes to tell you almost everything else you need to know about 007, his creator, the books and movies, the girls he’s bedded, the villains he’s bested and the gadgets he’s tested. So mix yourself a vodka martini (you’ll find the recipe on p109) and enjoy.
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