The adventures of James Bond have held my captivation for years. The books by Ian Fleming, that is. I enjoy the movies just as much as the next guy but long before I ever had the opportunity to watch Sean Connery on screen (or TV) I read the books. I was introduced to Ian Fleming around the time I was eight-years-old. That may seem a bit young, but I have been an avid reader since I was about four, and the rule in the house was that if I was old enough to understand it and look in the dictionary, I could read it. The first one I ever read was Casino Royale and boy was I hooked.
When I was ten or so, I read ‘James Bond: The Authorised Biography of 007’ by John Pearson. Being extremely gullible and only ten, I was convinced that it was a real biography. The premise of the book is that he was real, and Ian Fleming met him and modeled 007 after a real spy. It was always fiction and never meant to be more than that, but tell that to a ten-year-old. Most Ian Fleming fans I know consider this book to be part of the official series as well.
In 1981 John Gardner took up the James Bond mantle. I read the first couple he wrote (he penned 16 in all I think) and perhaps the third, but I gave up on his writing after that. James Bond under the hand of John Gardner became a shadow of himself. He pussified Bond, just like most of the movies did. Smoked light cigarettes. Cut down drinking. Started driving a sensible Saab. As we get older these are all sensible things to do, but James Bond is a fictional character and the books sort of ruined themselves for me.
I think that the biggest thing that I really liked about Ian Fleming’s Bond is the same thing that made me hate Gardners. I like pulp fiction. Hard boiled detectives. My father made me wait until I was a teenager for them, but Richard Prather’s Shell Scott books are along the same vein. Short easy reads full of action, killing, and titties. Maybe with a bit of gambling and dead Russians and Frenchmen to boot. John Gardner ‘novelized’ Bond. I don’t mean that Ian Fleming didn’t write novels, but I mean that he wrote pulp fiction in the same vein as Prather, Mickey Spillane, and maybe even Dashiell Hammett.
I miss books like that. Strangely enough Stephen King writes the same way, just in a different genre. Pulp Horror Fiction I guess you could call it. That may be why I like him so much.
So anyway, what got me thinking about James Bond is that the Boy and I watched Casino Royale last night. It kicked some serious ass. It was a stretch to fit the story into modern events, and they only partially succeeded, but the movie itself was true to the Bond character. Much more so than the other movies. Somewhere around here I have the original Casino Royale with Peter Sellers and David Niven, and it is no farther away from the Bond character than the flicks with Sean Connery and Roger Moore. The only reason I don’t mention the other actors is because I can’t pull their names out of my ass right at this moment.
Not that I don’t enjoy the movies, I just don’t equate them with the books as much as I did this one. The early ones with Connery came closest, but there is still quite a bit of artistic license with them, particularly the later ones.
If you like Ian Fleming’s James Bond then I would definitely recommend renting Casino Royale, but be prepared for the cold bastard that is in the books.
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