Bond…James Bond. Those three words have meant quite a few things to millions of people for the last 55 years. Action, espionage, globe-hopping, beautiful women, suave, tuxedos, kick-ass cars…the list goes on and on.
When Ian Fleming created James Bond in 1952, he probably didn’t realize that he was creating a world-wide sensation that would hold the imagination for decades to come. He certainly didn’t know that he was starting a story that would end up being the most financially successful movie series in history, second only to a certain magical teenager.
What he did know was that he was pouring himself into his work. Bond may have borrowed his name from an American ornithologist (His Birds Of The West Indies is the book that Fleming saw that inspired him to use the rather boring name), but he got his life from Fleming himself. Fleming was a member of the British Navy and did quite a bit of work in the spy business. Sure, Bond is a highly romanticized version of Fleming, but it’s close enough for government work. He had a house in Jamaica (where Bond says that he lives in Casino Royale) called Goldeneye. He was a womanizer. He traveled extensively. But he didn’t like violence and was very sensitive to his wife’s plight when she was having their only son, Caspar. (Who, unfortunately, killed himself with a drug overdose in 1975 at the age of 23.)
It took him a year to get Casino Royale published, but it became a hit in England almost immediately. It took President Kennedy telling the world that From Russia With Love was one of his favorite books for them to finally hit in the US. Then it was just a short jump to the screen. Dr. No was the first film made of Fleming’s dashing hero in 1962. (Why not start with Casino Royale? Well, there’s just not a lot of action in that one. Most of it takes place in a casino. More on that later.)
Unfortunately, after twelve novels, two short-story collections and two movies, Fleming had a heart attack and died on August 12, 1964. The character, of course, lived on. Just about all of the titles have been used for the movies (even if the stories weren’t attached…more on that later) and there have been plenty of books written about James Bond by various official authors.
Of course, I’m a big fan of the movie series. But I had never really read any of the books. (I read Thunderball years ago, but I don’t remember it too well. We’ll see what I think now.) So, this is my attempt to reconcile the books and the movies. I’m going to read each book (in the order of publication) and then watch the movie. Then I’ll let you know what I think of each one. Should be fun, right?
For the sake of time (and my sanity) I’m going to skip the books not written by Fleming. He created the series, so, to me, he’s the only true author. The movies, however, are fair game and I’ll get to them all.
Watch out for some spoilers. I’m not doing unknowing reviews here. These are more like comparisons. So, if you’ve never seen the movies or read the books, you might not want to read on. But, seriously, who hasn’t seen most of these movies? It’s kinda like saying, “Vader was Luke’s father!” and expecting people to be shocked. Bond wins and gets the girl…usually. There are two pretty famous exceptions.
So, shake up a martini, grab your Walther PPK and take a ride with into another time. A simpler time. A time when we knew who the bad guys were…or did we?
- Casino Royale (book: 1953; movies: 1954, 1967, 2006)
- Diamonds Are Forever (book: 1956; movie: 1971)
- Dr. No (book: 1958; movie: 1962)
- For Your Eyes Only (story: 1960; movie: 1981)
- (From) A View To A Kill (story: 1960; movie: 1985)
- From Russia With Love (book:1957; movie 1963)
- Goldfinger (book: 1959; movie: 1964)
- Live And Let Die (book:1954; movie: 1973)
- Moonraker (book: 1955; movie: 1979)
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (book: 1963; movie: 1969)
- Quantum Of Solace (story: 1959; movie: 2008)
- Random short stories
- Skyfall (2012)
- The Spy Who Loved Me (book: 1962; movie: 1977)
- Thunderball (book: 1961; movie: 1965; remake: 1983)
- You Only Live Twice (book: 1964; movie: 1967)