- - Wednesday, December 18, 2019

I’ve been a James Bond fan since I first saw “Dr. No” back when I was a pre-teen. I was hooked the moment I saw actor Sean Connery introduce himself with what would become his signature line, “Bond. James Bond.”

Viewing the early Bond films with Connery led to my reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels as a teenager. I was pleased to discover that the novels were darker, more complex and more interesting than the films.

I’ve been an Ian Fleming aficionado ever since. I’ve read all his novels and short stories and nearly all of his journalism. I’ve been to the building in London where Ian Fleming once lived, and I even spent a week with my wife at the Mecca for James Bond fans, Ian Fleming’s Jamaican villa Goldeneye, where he wrote all of the Bond stories.  

I love Ian Fleming’s vivid descriptions of exotic locales, beautiful women and evil villains. The stories are suspenseful, atmospheric and compelling. Dedicated to queen and country, Fleming’s Bond is a British patriot and a modern knight who fights the good fight against Soviet assassins, international criminal syndicates and megalomaniacal masterminds who would wreak havoc on the world if not for Bond. And along the way, he enjoys a good drink, a fine meal and the companionship of attractive women.

So, what’s not to love?  

Mark Edlitz, another Bond fan, albeit from a later generation, offers a book for Bond fans called “The Many Lives of James Bond: How the Creators of 007 Have Decoded the Superspy.”    

“Pick a Bond, any Bond. When you hear the name James Bond, what comes to mind? For many, it is likely to be a favorite Bond movie or one of the actors who has portrayed the secret agent,” writes Mark Edlitz in his introduction. “After all, it is natural to think first of the cinematic Bond. The multibillion-dollar franchise has retained its remarkable box office power for nearly 60 years — the first Bond movie, “Dr. No,” appeared in 1962 — and its popularity shows no sign of waning. Still, another Bond aficionado might think first of the twelve novels and nine short stories written by Bond’s creator Ian Fleming.

“But the movies and books are just the most prominent facets of the diverse and ever-expanding James Bond universe. Bond fandom extends to continuation novels, video games, comic books, comic strips, radio dramas, and even to an animated television series.”

Mr. Edlitz goes on to note that despite his lifelong passion for Bond, he desired to discover more about the character. In “The Many Lives of James Bond,’ he offers a series of interviews with the writers, directors, actors, and other creators of the Bond films and other creative outlets.

In the book Mr. Edlitz offers Timothy Dalton’s take on Bond. Mr. Dalton, who in my view, is the second-best Bond after Mr. Connery, portrayed 007 in two films in the late 1980s, “The Living Daylights” and “License To Kill.”

“He can be ruthless and determined, yet we’re constantly shown what a serious, intelligent, thinking, feeling human being he is,” Mr. Dalton explained. “He’s a man of principle too, almost an idealist, but one who sees that he’s living in a world without principle, in which ideals are cheaply bought and sold. He’s a man who wants human contact; the need for love seems to overflow from him. Yet he can’t afford emotional involvement, he can’t fall in love or marry or have children, because that would prevent him functioning in a world where the possibly of his death is ever-present.”

Mr. Edlitz also offers Daniel Craig’s take on the character. Mr. Craig made his last Bond film, “No Time To Die,” which will be out in 2020. (I thought the film should be called “No Time to Think of a Better Title.”)

“I wanted to play around with the flaws in his character. It was much more interesting than having him be perfect and polished and so suave as to be flawless,” Mr. Craig said. “I got most of my inspiration from Ian Fleming’s books. I reread them. In the books Bond is suave and sophisticated, yes — Sean Connery really nailed it — but there’s also a flawed aspect of Bond. In the novels, he is quite a depressed character. When he’s not working, he’s at his worst.”

Ian Fleming wrote the books for pleasure — his own and his readers. The stories are highly romanticized and entertaining thrillers about the world of espionage and crime, and the world of Bond, James Bond.

“The Many Lives of James Bond” is an interesting book, especially if one is a James Bond fan.

• Paul Davis covers crime, espionage and terrorism.

• • •


By Mark Edlitz

Lyons Press, $27.95, 312 pages

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