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The Literary James Bond

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Born 1908, died 1964, Ian Fleming was an author of popular fiction, most notably the James Bond 007 series of novels.

These included:

  • Casino Royale (1953)
  • Live and Let Die (1954)
  • Moonraker (1955)
  • Diamonds Are Forever (1956)
  • From Russia With Love (1957)
  • Doctor No (1958)
  • Goldfinger (1959)
  • For Your Eyes Only1 (1960)
  • Thunderball (1961),
  • The Spy Who Loved Me2 (1962)
  • On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963)
  • You Only Live Twice (1964)
  • The Man With The Golden Gun3 (1965)
  • Octopussy, The Living Daylights and The Property Of A Lady4 (1965)

Bond also features in the short story 007 in New York, which was originally published in the now out of print non-fiction volume Thrilling Cities and has fortunately been reprinted in the 2002 and 2006 Penguin editions of Octopussy and The Living Daylights.

The Nature of the Hero

These novels were popular at the time of their publication principally because of the nature of the hero. Secret agent James Bond, agent number 007, worked for international spy brigade MI6, and who is portrayed as a callous, heartless 'lone wolf', a man quite unlike the typical English gentleman of the '50s.

In the first novel, Bond realises that the only thing that can sustain any sense of motivation in his life is to hunt down the villains of the world. And many of Bond's enemies are connected with the Soviet Union in some way - an echo of past cold war times. Bond's main foe is SMERSH, the Soviet organisation partial to execution and assassination. Indeed, SMERSH actually existed, and are faithfully described in From Russia With Love, much to the delight and surprise of many readers at the time.

The Love in Bond's Life

Bond does find love once or twice, most notable in Tracy Di Vincenzo, whom he actually marries. But this marriage, alas, ends in tragedy, and Bond, Fleming tells us, frequently engages in relationships with several married women at the same time - not to mention the various beauties he meets on his travels, all of whom he casts aside after only a few months. What seems to fill the void where real love no longer exists, is Bond's marriage, almost, to the endless life-threatening missions set for him by his boss, M, usually calling upon his 'licence to kill'. In these missions he finds a degree of absorption, a chance to escape and to forget the pains of the world. It is here he experiences one of the few things left to him which he actually enjoys - a sense of extreme danger.

Attention to Detail

Ian Fleming's writing style contributes strongly to the general excellence of the Bond novels. His vast and precise knowledge of all things to do with the high life is impressive. Bond always knows which wine or champagne or vodka to have with which dish; he knows the rules to all the casino games (his favourite being Baccarat, although he has played almost every casino game imaginable); he has intimate knowledge of cars, weapons, local customs. These little facts, figures and minute observations on on life make the Bond novels irresistible, and very readable.

Fleming's Successors

Ian Fleming was succeeded as 'The Man With The Golden Typewriter' by several authors since his death. In 1968 Kingsley Amis wrote one novel, Colonel Sun under the pseudonym Robert Markham. Christopher Wood wrote two film novelisations, James Bond - The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977, and James Bond and Moonraker in 1979, which deserve to stand as Bond novels in their own right.

John Gardner wrote 14 novels between 1981 and 1995, including:

  • Licence Renewed
  • Icebreaker
  • Nobody Lives Forever
  • Scorpius
  • Win, Lose or Die
  • Cold

Raymond Benson is the current Bond author; his novels include:

  • Zero Minus Ten (1997)
  • Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
  • The Facts Of Death (1998)
  • High Time To Kill (1999)

James Bond short stories written by Benson also appear now and again in Playboy magazine.

All in all, while the magic of Fleming's original novels is not always evident, James Bond is back on his feet, has survived the cold war, and is still very much the enigmatic man of steel that Ian Fleming envisioned him to be.

1A collection of five short stories, namely From A View To A Kill, Risico, For Your Eyes Only, Quantum of Solace and The Hildebrand Rarity.2Written under the nom de plume Vivienne Michel.3Purportedly completed by Kingsley Amis when Fleming left the work unfinished.4A short story collection published posthumously.

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