Bond, James Bond. By just the way in which he introduces himself, you imagine a man who is suave and all the associated synonyms.
I recently read Casino Royale, the book in which Ian Fleming introduced James Bond. Some of the elements that define the character as we know him in the movies are there. He drives a fancy car, plays Baccarat expertly, meets a glamorous woman with an odd name, and thwarts a memorable villain.
Missing from Casino Royale are the ultra-sophisticated toys we remember from the movies. The fancy car is a Bentley convertible, not an Aston Martin decked out to resemble a jet fighter on wheels. Baccarat is key to the plot of the book, not just a passing moment. He meets a glamourous woman with odd name, Vesper. But unlike the movies, Bond falls for her and wants to marry and settle down. He’s severely tortured by the bad guy. This bad guy is killed by an even worse bad guy, all due to luck. No spy craft involved.
But there is enough in Casino Royale to entice the cold-war reader. Remember, this was 1953. There was nothing else like it.
Casino Royale was not the first Bond novel made into a movie. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman bought the movie rights to all the Bond books, except for those for Casino Royale. Those rights had already been sold to a producer who brought it to television in 1954 staring Barry Nelson as Bond. (Ah, the golden age of television).
Broccoli and Saltzman brought Bond to the big screen in 1962 with Dr. No starring Sean Connery as Bond.
In the twenty-first century, Broccoli’s daughter Barbara hired Daniel Craig to portray Bond. She understood it was a new age with new political sensitivities. She acquired the rights to Casino Royale and rebooted Bond in that film as less sassy and chauvinistic.
But Bond is still Bond. During the sixties when the success of Goldfinger promised Bond would be around in the cinema for the long haul, a critic hit it on the mark. He said ‘men don’t want to watch Bond. They want to be Bond.’
I grew up with James Bond and his influence. I like to think I admire the heroic elements, but Bond has flaws. Don’t we enjoy flawed characters? Samson had that hair issue (and hanging out with the wrong women) and Achilles had his heel.
My new hero, Nicholas Foxe, in my imagination he looks somewhat like the sketch Ian Fleming made of what he thought James Bond would look like (left). Nick is tall, rich, and suave, but has issues. He is a team leader, but the team found him more than the other way around. Then there are control issues.
There are other influences that shaped Nick and his Code Hunters team, but those are for future entries. Stay tuned.