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James Bond Books

James Bond Books

DARREN HARRISON

Born in the UK, James Bond is in my DNA

I was introduced to James Bond through the movies. I recall being barred from watching “Live and Let Die” on television (my grandfather evidently thought it was a little too adult fare for me) and the excitement of seeing “Moonraker” on the big screen (my first 007 cinema experience). I’m not entirely sure when I realized that James Bond had started life as a literary character but I’m sure it was fairly early on because I recall peering over into the “Adult Fiction” section of the Bellingham Public Library (in Northumberland, UK) which I recall was a small one-room affair and noting that Fleming’s 007 books where included among the stack.

“I didn’t intend for Bond to be likable. He’s a blunt instrument in the hands of the government. He’s got vices and few perceptible virtues.”

IAN FLEMING

My curiosity piqued I remember scouring among the piles of books on the used books tables at Bellingham Fete (an annual Spring event) in the early 1980s and snapping up some well-read copies of Flemings work. I also happened across Christopher Wood’s “James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me” which to this day I still believe is the best of the 007 continuation novels. A note on that before I discuss the Fleming work. The screenwriter for the 1977 movie “The Spy Who Loved Me”, Wood adapted his screenplay into a novel form (and indeed he would repeat the process two years later for “James Bond, Moonraker”).

My curiosity piqued I remember scouring among the piles of books on the used books tables at Bellingham Fete (an annual Spring event) in the early 1980s and snapping up some well-read copies of Flemings work. I also happened across Christopher Wood’s “James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me” which to this day I still believe is the best of the 007 continuation novels. A note on that before I discuss the Fleming work. The screenwriter for the 1977 movie “The Spy Who Loved Me”, Wood adapted his screenplay into a novel form (and indeed he would repeat the process two years later for “James Bond, Moonraker”).

You see Ian Fleming had tried something different with his novel “The Spy Who Loved Me”, an experiment that told the story from a female point of view with James Bond only appearing in the last act. He was so disappointed in the results that he had producers of the Eon James Bond series Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman agree to use only the title and none of the content of his book. Hence, when the movie title came along, Broccoli (Saltzman had left Eon after the previous movie) was left without the possibility of producing a movie tie-in (the practice of producing the Fleming novel with movie stills on the cover that had been published for each of the previous movies).

Step in Wood, and to his great credit he didn’t just push out a paint-by-numbers approach to converting his screenplay into a novel. He added depth to his characters, in addition to history’s and motivations. He also treated readers to “deleted scenes” in some cases scenes that we know had been in the original screenplay but were cut before shooting began. The result is a highly entertaining work that rivals Fleming’s lesser works and has since received a Kindle release (I thankfully purchased the Kindle release while it was for sale because as I understand it, it no longer is).

So, I picked up the paperback at one of those tables not immediately realizing what a treasure I held. In total and over successive years I was able to pick up old Pan Book copies for all of Fleming’s 007 novels. The musty smell and emanating from the sun-browned worn pages actually became part of the experience, an experience which (in these days of Kindle readers) is fast disappearing for today’s youth.

Being most familiar with the movies I remember being slightly disappointed with these drier books. I still read them from cover to cover. I remember being thrilled by “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love” and engrossed in the golf game in “Goldfinger” but the fast-faced OTT action of the movies was missing. In the intervening years my appreciation has grown for the literary works. My favorite Fleming book is in fact “Moonraker” which is more of a simple detective novel than some of the more fantastic works such as “Thunderball”. I now own them in paperback, Kindle’s and audiobook. In that sense you could say I have read them multiple times.

My intention for this site is to read the Bond books in order and note thoughts in my blog as we go along when I complete my reviews of the movies. I invite you to read along with me and comment your reactions.

Incidentally Wood did his wonderful job again in 1979, and Bond fans have since noted that his novel “James Bond, Moonraker” does not include the slapstick moments that makes the second half of the movie so painful to watch and have long expressed the wish that the filmmakers had actually filed Wood’s screenplay – it would have been so much better.

“Spies are trained to keep their mouths shut and they don’t often lose the habit. That’s why true spy stories are extremely rare, and personally I have never seen one in print that completely rang true.”

IAN FLEMING

About The Author

Darren

Born on the English-Scottish border I emigrated to the US after graduating college in 1995 and became a U.S. citizen in 2007. I have served in the U.S. military and my past positions include as an Assistant Managing Editor of The Washington Post Company, a technical writer working on technical documentation for both a construction company and a large government contractor, a graphic designer creating graphics in support of government contract proposals, and as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Navy. which included being assigned as the official writer for the Navy and DoD on the assumption ceremony of a new Secretary of the Navy. I am currently a Web Services Writer for a large government contractor in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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