Book Review: My Word is My Bond by Roger Moore

In 2008 Sir Roger Moore released his first book, a memoir entitled My Word is My Bond. The book is an enthralling tale that takes readers through his early childhood, his many years as a venerated actor with such prominent roles as The Saint and James Bond,  up through his present day role as an elder show business statesman and more importantly a celebrity ambassador for UNICEF.  Moore has often been described as a raconteur and this book lives up to that expectation. As a reader you feel like you’re seated with him at your favorite restaurant sipping wine as he relates colorful anecdotes of his long storied career as well as his early childhood. Born in Stockwell, his childhood was plagued by illness and having to evacuate his home town to live in Devon while the threat of bombing raids loomed over London. Moore paints a colorful portrait of his early life and career and provides a rather insightful view into the latter days of the Hollywood studio system where actors would be under exclusive contract to a film making studio and the heads of these studios wielded enormous power and control over the careers of the actors employed by them.

Moore is charmingly self-deprecating throughout holding no delusions as to his actual acting prowess.  One gets the sense that he sees himself as someone  who was extremely lucky having the right look and obtaining the right contacts, friendships, and show business relationships to mold his career over the span of decades. His one literary vice seems to be name dropping, and that is actually the one consistent flaw throughout the book.  Oftentimes an amusing anecdote is accompanied by several tangents where the name dropping can get irritating, but once you get used to it, it can get rather amusing.  Moore is also a self-confessed practical joker.  On his James Bond sets, he would often prey upon Desmond Llewelyn who played Q.  Knowing that Q’s dialogue was rather intricate and full of technobabble, he’d often get hold of the script and change Llewelyn’s lines hours before shooting forcing him to learn new dialogue.  On other occasions, Moore was a peacekeeper as on the set of The Persuaders a TV show where he costarred with Tony Curtis for 1 season as a mismatched duo who went on adventures.  When Curtis called the episode’s guest star Joan Collins the “C-word” Moore was called onto the set on his day off to diffuse the situation.

Upon getting the much coveted role of James Bond, he recalls:

I’d be the first to admit that I’d been living the good life in the previous year or so…. That was brought home to me rather curtly when Harry [Saltzman, co-producer] called me one day.

‘Cubby [Broccolli, co-producer] thinks you need to lose a little weight.’

Okay, I thought. So I started a strict diet.

The phone rang again. ‘Cubby thinks you’re a little out of shape.’

So I started a tough fitness regime.

Again the phone rang, this time it was Cubby. ‘Harry thinks your hair’s too long.’

‘Why didn’t you just cast a thin, fit, bald fellow in the first place and avoid putting me through this hell?’ I replied.

The stories he tells about making the Bond films are quite fascinating as a fan and Moore’s rather unique insight into this experience is always quite compelling and amusing:

Cubby and I visited Maurice [Binder, title designer for the Bond credits sequences featuring naked ladies ofttimes in silhouette] on his shooting stage one day and found him on his knees, lovingly spreading Vaseline over the private parts of one of his female nudes.  He said it was to keep her pubic hairs flat in front of the wind machine, so as not to incur the further wrath of the censor.

I turned to Cubby, ‘And I thought that was one of the producer’s perks?’

In a scene where Bond quips about Egyptian builders knowing full well that a representative of Egypt’s government was on set monitoring their every line, Roger suggested that he simply mouthed the line by moving his lips and not actually saying anything so that they could add the line later in post-production.  Many such stories are cleverly regaled throughout the book, however, when Roger doesn’t have something nice to say about someone he tries to keep it diplomatic by simply stating that he has nothing to say about them as is the case with Grace Jones his co-star on his final Bond film, A View to a Kill.  Jones reported took a large black dildo into the bed with her for their love scene, which seems to have perturbed Roger despite his penchant for practical jokes. At the same time, one gets the sense that he may have glossed over his failed marriages although he admits to sharing in some degree of fault for how they ended.  One of his ex wives spent many years denying him a divorce.

What drives the latter third of the book is his commitment to UNICEF, and we learn that despite his life of privilege Moore has done a remarkable job giving back to the world at large through his dedication to UNICEF bringing awareness to the struggle to help children in need around the globe. His major cause since he joined the organization in 1991 is to raise funds and awareness for Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD) in many third world countries. It’s a preventable problem that can be resolved by simply ensuring that every household uses iodized salt to avoid all sorts of maladies and mental disorders. Moore frequently meets with heads of state on behalf of UNICEF to urge them to combat IDD in their poorest communities. Roger has led a fascinating life and he is to be commended for his commitment to UNICEF. He has received many honors for his humanitarian work, and in 2003 he was Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II particularly for his work with UNICEF.  Roger Moore may not be everyone’s favorite Bond actor, but he’s lived a fascinating life.  Reading this book, you can’t help but develop a profound respect for the man. On his work for UNICEF he writes:

I’ve often been asked just how much UNICEF receives from the United Nations and why we need to raise funds.  The answer is UNICEF receives nothing from the UN, it is completely self-funded and that is why I – and others like me – go out banging the drum.  Of the money we raise, less than nine percent goes in administration costs around the world; the rest goes directly to the children

 

Advertisements

VARGR Review for Issues 5 & 6

Vargr issue 5 headerApologies for taking so long to finish off this series review of VARGR.  I actually finished reading this compelling series as soon as the last issue arrived, but I didn’t have time to sit down and write a review.  Before I knew it I found myself occupied by other things and this final review just slipped away from me. By now I realize that the latest issues of Eidolon have already hit the shelves, but for now I’ve decided to wait until the hardcover edition comes out as it’s much easier to review the story as one complete work rather than review the individual issues.

When we last left Bond in issue #4, Bond was trapped in a decontamination chamber behind bullet proof glass by the main villain Kurjak who had synthesized a new lethal drug now wreaking havoc in the UK.  The decontamination process started at the end of the last issue and now we begin issue 5 wondering just how our favorite hero will get out.  Not only does he manage to escape, he finds time to enjoy a cigarette afterwards.  Remember, the good ol’ days when Bond smoked?

Bond-smokes

We then get a nice little “Peter Franks” call back as Bond returns to London.  Many Bond fans will remember that Bond used the Peter Franks alias in Diamond are Forever.  I thought that was a nice little touch. M. informs Bond that a possible contaminated IMG_20160810_140959842package had just been tracked by MI5 at the local docks.  Bond pursues the lead only to run into Dharma, Kurjak’s accomplice who now seeks revenge for the death of her lover Bryan Masters who Bond killed in the previous issue.  A fight ensues with Bond cleverly dispatching her using her metallic prosthesis to his advantage.  It’s a little disarming watching Bond fight with a woman even if the comic makes Dharma out to be an assassin in her own right.  Usually, we would either see Bond convert her to the side of good, or we would witness her death at the hands of the villain or a female Bond ally.  While, I didn’t expect the writers of VARGR to follow typical Bond tropes from the films, I was expecting something different for this character since they invested so much in her back story in the previous issues.  Later Bond remarks, “and then the batteries in her prosthetic arms explosively combusted” while pouring himself a drink.

IMG_20160810_141225848

IMG_20160810_141608522We then learn that bond must travel to Norway to pursue a battleship called VARGR where Kurjak’s main operation is based. In issue #6, Bond is equipped with a sniper rifle and a suppressor for his Walther PPK.  The RAF airdrop Bond and he easily infiltrates the ship sets up his explosives and goes about well . . . being Bond.  It’s nice to see Bond in stealth mode for a while as he sneaks about the battleship without anyone taking notice.  When they finally do realize there is an intruder, it’s far too late.  Bond kills just about every guard Kurjak’s sends to pursue him.  We also get a nice helping of hand to hand combat before Bond bolts off the ship and triggers the explosion leaving Kurjak alone and defenseless. Bond demands to know the reasons for Kurjak’s villainy, but Kurjak offers only a feeble response.  Bond kills Kurjak in cold blood and that is the end of the VARGR story.

IMG_20160810_141703693

Overall, I think there are strengths and weaknesses to VARGR.  I think writer Warren Ellis and artist Jason Masters have done a good job with the characterization of Bond as well the MI6 team.  Even though this is an original story taking place in the present day, it’s easy to tell that they took plenty of inspiration from Fleming as well as the cinematic franchise inVARGR-4 this piece and it shows in how Bond relates to M., Bill Tanner, and Miss Moneypenny.  The repartee between Bond and the MI6 team is damn near perfect.  The action sequences are very well crafted and many panels stand out as great Bond artwork sure to attract many Bond fans.

The story and the villains themselves are a little murky.  I think I was mostly impressed in the early issues before I Meeting-Dharmaknew where they were going with it, but as we got to the end, I felt there are certain things that they could have done more with and certain plot choices that could have been better executed. I think Dharma turns out to be a bit of a wasted character. It would have been nice to have more than just a fatal fight between her and Bond as her final moments in the story.  Also, I think the ending with Kurjak’s demise seemed a bit weak.  I think we had sufficient reasons earlier on to know why Kurjak was engaged in his experiments, and I don’t know why Bond would ask him to clarify his motives at the end rather than just go for the kill.  I also think that the MI6 segments that focus on new regulations prohibiting Bond from carrying a weapon within the UK weigh down the plot quite a bit.

Despite my criticisms, I really enjoyed VARGR and look forward to a new era of Bond comics commencing with Eidolon, which promises the return of SPECTRE for the first time in this comic incarnation of Bond.  I’m glad Bond has returned to the comics medium, and I know there is more to come including a brand new adaptation of Casino Royale.  Furthermore, there is a brand new series called Hammerhead by Andy Diggle and Luca Caslanguida. Indeed, it’s safe to say James Bond will return . . . or rather he’s here to stay.

Heads You Die Review

James-final-with-background-2-300x188

Young James

Heads You Die is the 7th novel in the Young Bond series and the second book written by Steve Cole after Charlie Higson’s monumental first five novels in the series.  This book picks up right after Cole’s last offering, Shoot to Kill, where Bond thwarted a dangerous Hollywood blackmail scheme. James (about 14 or 15) and his new school friend Hugo, a 16-year-old boy afflicted with dwarfism, are now in Cuba staying with family friend of Aunt Charmain, Dr. Hardiman prior to embarking on their return trip to Europe.  We know from Fleming’s brief writing on Bond’s youth that Bond will eventually end up going to Fettes College in Edinburgh to complete his education, but Heads You Die has other plans in store for young Bond.  This is quite simply Steve Cole’s best Young Bond novel so far especially for those readers who may have been discouraged by the Hollywood setting of the previous book.  The Caribbean is prime Fleming territory and Cole knows this and utilizes it to optimum effect.

The plot is set in motion when Dr. Hardiman is harassed and then kidnapped by a dastardly villain named Scolopendra, a native of the island who has achieved wealth and power by acquiring a vast and comprehensive knowledge of the island’s botanical treasures.  He needs Dr. Hardiman to work on a mysterious secret project and uses his henchmen to intimidate anyone who stands in his way. James suffered through several encounters with the aptly named El Puňo so christened due to the fact that after the massive man lost his hand, he had a block of granite fixed on to his stump carved into the shape of a fist.

The-Fist-final-with-background-4-300x188

In addition to Hugo, Bond works with a new set of allies.  Jagua is Scolopendra’s daughter

Jagua-final-with-background-1-300x188

Jagua

who has grown disgusted with her father’s cruel methods and Maritsa is Jagua’s best friend.  Jagua is probably the strongest female character of all the Young Bond books.  She’s fiercely rebellious and is able to handle multiple dangers to achieve her goals.  She’s actually very reminiscent of Judy Havelock from Fleming’s For Your Eyes Only short story. Their motivations are different of course but their determination and their strong wills are very much similar. Together the group figures out that the only way to rescue Hardiman and end Scolopendra’s mysteriously cruel secret project is to get some kind of leverage to use against Jagua’s father. A strong box on a sunken cruiser may hold the key to foiling Scolopendra’s plans, but first they must dive.   Here’s where Cole unleashes his inspiration from Fleming. The primitive diving equipment utilized by Jagua and Maritsa, who have grown accustomed to diving provides quite a challenge for young James. With a primitive diving helmet attached to hoses and bellows for air, Bond must dive deep down into the water to recover a mysterious strong box with Hugo pumping the bellows to provide air to the homemade helmet under water.  As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge to navigate, young James promptly discovers he isn’t alone and a thrilling underwater action sequence ensues.

Scolopendra-final-with-background-1-300x188

Scolopendra

Bond must also contend with the mysteriously veiled woman named La Velada who has Scolopendra under her spell much to Jagua’s contempt and decipher what to make of her connections to Russian Secret Police. Multple dangers are in store for Bond to contend with including many chases, being shot at by La Velada, and hiding while a murder takes place.  The following sequences gives us a glimpse at how Cole invests the readers in the psyche of Bond much like Fleming had done.

“ One thought kept spinning around in his head:  If La Velada’s bullet had hit me yesterday, I’d be a corpse on the floor myself. Now Scolopendra had executed a man, and she hadn’t even flinched; clearly they were two of a kind. James shuddered. To shoot a man dead in cold blood, at point-blank range . . .

I could never do that.

While demonstrating just the right amount of restraint, here Cole invests us in Bond’s youth and innocence in a way that foreshadows the man that James will become.  These experiences throughout the Young Bond novels are slowly shaping who James will be, but at this stage the concept of killing in cold blood is shocking to the young man and appropriately so. Clearly, Bond doesn’t know how any human being could possibly commit an act of brutality without remorse or any emotional effect whatsoever.  At the same time, Bond is constantly finding himself in dangerous situations in circumstances far beyond his control.  Take this quote from an earlier chapter:

“Heart hammering as he raced away, James knew that he would never get used to the thrill of danger.  That was its allure.  So much of life was routine and boring, but danger had no rules.  It happened anywhere, could take so many forms.

‘And it looks me up wherever I go,’ he muttered to himself.”

Note the italicized emphasis on the word “never.” Danger is something he would “never” get used to, but he still relished the thrill of it.   For now, in James’s psyche the dangerous situations are not thrills that are sought after but when he happens to come across said danger he enjoys it on some level because he contrasts it with “boring” and “routine” regular life.  It should therefore come as no surprise that the adult Bond would subscribe to a life that guarantees danger with every mission perhaps to relive the same childhood thrill.

Heads You Die is a fantastic novel and I look forward to Steve Cole’s 3rd book, Strike Lightning due out in September where we will finally see how Bond settles into life at Fettes College.  While I don’t blame anyone for missing Charlie Higson, Heads You Die has convinced me that Steve Cole has put Young Bond on the right course.  Not only is able to deliver thrilling action sequences for young james, he also delivers on building upon the character we’ve gotten to know in the previous books.  I highly recommend this latest book and I have no doubt that Strike Lightning will continue to provide the kind of suspense and thrills to exceed our expectations as Bond fans.

  • As a side note, I highly recommend acquiring the limited edition hardcover of Heads You Die available only as an import if you live in the US. Cole provides his insights about where he drew his inspiration for the diving sequences with a notable selection from Fleming’s short story, “The Hildebrand Rarity.”  He also provides a deleted / altered scene from his book for context, which gives the lucky reader a brief glimpse at the creative process involved in writing a Young Bond book.

review by Jack Lugo

jack-lugo-300x150

How Stephen King’s JFK Novel Echoes Fleming’s Least Known Bond Novel

Proof that Bond follows me everywhere: I decided to take a little break from reading all things Bond so a while ago I began reading Stephen King’s time travel novel 11/22/63 about a school teacher who ends up going through a portal that takes him to 1958. I wanted to read the book before watching the miniseries on Hulu which deviates a bit from the original novel (fans of King’s novel IT will find the return of few key characters). The owner of the diner where the portal resides implores Jake, the protagonist, to live in the past long enough to thwart the Kennedy assasination (hence the title). So, I’m  about 600+ pages along (the book is about 853pgs long) and I come across this paragraph:
“… at five that afternoon I was sitting across from the Greyhound terminal on South Polk Street, near the intersection of Highway 77 and the still-new fourlane I-20. I was reading (or pretending to read) the latest James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me.”
FlemingTSWLM

Richard Chopping’s dust jacket for The Spy Who Loved Me

Jake then goes on to describe Lee Harvey Oswald’s arrival in Dallas in 1963. It just goes to show that Bond seems to pop up in places where I least expect it, in this case it turned out to be a direct reference to literary Bond. I was initially surprised that King didn’t go for From Russia with Love, which had been published a few years earlier but received a very considerable boost after endorsement from Kennedy. Spy was first published in the UK on April 16th 1962 with Viking Books publishing the US edition on April 11th 1962. In the timeframe of the novel King’s protagonist was actually just a few months shy of the US publication of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which was published on April 1st in the UK by Jonathan Cape while the US edition was held up until August of 1963 once Fleming switched his US publisher to New American Library after leaving Viking Press who published the US editions of the previous Bond books.

Strangely enough, The Spy Who Loved Me is probably the least renown or regarded Bond book in the Fleming series.  I wrote about this over at my own blog some time ago.  It was written from the perspective of a 23 year old Canadian woman in the first person.   Vivienne Michel recounts the story of her life and her woeful relationships with men for about two thirds of the book before James Bond even shows up.  It’s a Bond novel where the focal point is not about espionage or even about Bond at all. It’s about the story of a young woman who had been treated horribly by men her whole life and how such a woman finds herself in the precarious circumstances to be in need of a heroic man like Bond.  Bond eventually arrives and through wit, cunning, and physicality saves her from being brutally raped and killed by gangsters at a secluded hotel.
Kennedy_fleming_pd
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but I couldn’t help but see the parallels between Fleming’s novel and King’s novel.  For one thing, on a very basic level there’s this switching of narratives going on in both stories.  Both are told from the 1st person perspectives of their protagonists although King’s protagonist is a young male teacher.  Both books, however, set up expectations for the readers only to divert the reader away from what a reader thought he was getting when he picked up the book.  In 1962, most readers picked up the latest James Bond novel expecting yet another spy thriller.  SPECTRE and Ernst Stavro Blofeld had just been introduced in the previous book Thunderball, but that novel has its own sordid history.  The word “Spy” is even in the title so a reader who just picked up the

51Lvn5aHZrL

alternate cover for The Spy Who Loved Me, Penguin Edition

book as a literary Bond fan would have undoubtedly expected a new spy thriller.  Instead, readers were treated to a personal narrative about a young woman struggling for independence and respect in her relationships with men in a time where most women were not afforded the same regard as men especially when it came to how they were expected to conduct their personal and professional lives.  Needless to say, this may have been a bit ahead of its time for mainstream readers in the early 1960s. In Stephen King’s book, you have a story about time travel with one of the most infamous days in United States history as the title.  Readers might expect an in depth analysis of the assassination and the historical figures involved.  Well, 600 pages in and the reader spends more time with Jake teaching in a suburban High School romancing the young librarian he was set up with rather than tracking Oswald or Kennedy or engaging in any activity that might alter the the timeline.   The book is more about the personal journey than the historical event that triggered the novel.  King does indeed deliver on some things that readers who began reading this book for the historical fiction involved, but it’s not nearly as much as I expected.  Strangely enough I actually find myself enjoying the parts of the story that are completely about the fictional characters more than the instances where the novel returns to the apparent business at hand preventing the assassination.

In one instance, Jake is supposed to be tracking Oswald’s movements when an emergency happens in a crucial moment.  As Jake often reiterates in this novel, “the past is obdurate.  It doesn’t want to be changed.”  Jake is supposed to see if Oswald either acted alone or if he was part of a larger conspiracy.  One way to determine this is by tracking Oswald’s movements during his previous unsuccessful assasination attempt on General Walker who had been widely criticized for supporting racist policies. Jake determines that if he follows Oswald and he attempts to assassinate Walk alone then he most certainly must have acted alone on the fateful day in question.  So, Jake is about to leave his apartment when he gets a phone call and it’s the deranged ex-husband of Jake’s love interest, Sadie.  Jake hadn’t expected to meet Sadie before going into the past so he had no idea that her ex-husband was going to try to kill her on the very pivotal day that would have set the stage for his mission to save JFK. Of course, Jake opts to abandon his plans to follow Oswald in order to save Sadie. If this sounds a bit familiar it’s probably because in a way it’s a little similar to how Bond encounters and saves Vivienne Michel in Fleming’s novel.  Of course, Bond wasn’t a time traveller but he was a man who came to the rescue of a woman in need, a woman at the mercy of dangerous men.  Rather than being of the mindset of having more important fish to fry (if you recall SPECTRE and Blofeld are active threats at this point in the literary Bond timeline), Bond decides that saving Vivienne is the most urgent thing to do at that moment in time.
Sadie’s own history with men even parallels Vivienne’s to some degree because while Vivienne’s life hadn’t been threatened by her former lovers we learn about in the first two thirds of the novel, she had certainly suffered through abusive relationships.  In King’s book, Sadie recounts her husband’s suppressive attitudes towards sex to the degreee that he put a broom in between them on the bed and only allowed her to sexually gratify him with her hand instead of engaging in any kind of affectionate behavior. Indeed, Sadie could have easily arrived in the Texas town of Jodie with the same mindset that Vivienne used to open the start of The Spy Who Loved Me. Reading Vivienne’s words after learning about King’s character in his book almost feels like the two characters are echoes of each other.
“I was running away.  I was running away from England, from my childhood, from the winter, from a sequence of untidy, unattractive love-affairs, from the few sticks of furniture and jumble of overworn clothes that my London life had collected around me; and I was running away from drabness, fustiness, snobbery, the claustrophobia of close horizons and from my inability, although I am quite an attractive rat, to make headway in the rat-race. In fact, I was running away from almost everything except the law.”
Although I haven’t had a chance to properly dive into the Fleming letters in The Man with Golden Typewriter just yet, for this occassion I decided to peruse what I could find regarding The Spy Who Loved Me.  Here’s what I found. In a letter dated April 18th, 1962, Fleming replies to a Mrs Florence Taylor from Ford’s Book Stores,Ltd who wrote back a rather negative review of the novel after reciving an advance copy.  In her letter she described the novel as “a great disappointment” and went on to say that “I do hope that this is not a new trend in your style of writing.
Ian Fleming replies with grace and decorum:
Ian-Fleming-in-his-Study-009
” It was really very kind of you to have taken the trouble to write to me and I was touched by your affection for James Bond.
The point is that if one is writing about a serial character one’s public comes to want more or less the same book over and over again, and it was really to stretch my writing muscles that I tried to write like a twenty-three year old girl and put forward a view of James Bond at the other end of the gun barrel so to speak.
But this is a unique experiment and I have just completed the next Bond book, I think the longest yet [he doesn’t say this but he’s referring to OHMSS], in which he appears from the first page to the last.
Again with many thanks for the kindly thought behind your letter.”
The very next letter to Michael Howard of Jonathan Cape further illustrates Fleming going into a rather defensive mode about The Spy Who Loved me to the point of declining a 2nd print run for the novel and for the book to be witheld from the Pan editions.  Clearly, Fleming felt that his experimental approach to this Bond book failed to resonate with readers the way he had hoped. Of course, the next novel would be On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which resulted in a resounding return to form, but I still wonder what other Fleming books might have been like if his experiment with The Spy Who Loved Me worked.  The possibilities would have been limitless at least for the few more Bond novels that remained to be written before Fleming’s life was cut short in August of 1964.
All those purist out there who think Bond stories must all conform to Fleming’s blueprint should also realized that even Fleming himself was open to experimentation with his books.  As for the similarities between Stephen King’s novel and Fleming’s disavowed Bond book, perhaps they are merely coincidental, but even if they are it’s impossible to deny that certain echoes exists within common story threads.  Whether we choose to see them or not, these echoes are out there for us to find if we want to, not just as they pertain to Bond but as they pertain to life in general.  Anyhow, I just found it rather strange that while I had embarked on a rather decisive non-Bond reading experience, it all came back to Bond in the end.
I initially published this piece on the James Bond Radio Podcast site but I have recreated the piece here for your convenience.
Sources:
1. King, Stephen 11/22/63. Scribner, 2011
2. Fleming, Ian The Spy Who Loved Me. Jonathan Cape, 1962
3. Fleming, Fergus The Man with the Golden Typewriter. Bloomsbury USA, 2015

The Next Threat for Bond 25

Aside from all the click bait articles surrounding Daniel Craig’s status as Bond, the one recent article containing an actual relevant quote pertaining to the future of the Bond films came from the Norwegian film / media site filmweb.no . (update: you can find a proper translated version here)

James Bond Spectre auksjon

Michael G. Wilson

Once you let Google Translate work its magic, you’ll find an article largely focused on the recent London auction of SPECTRE props and vehicles, most notably an Aston Martin DB10 which sold for £2,434,500 (or $3,375,896.81). The article goes on to mention that they had the opportunity to chat with Gregg Wilson, son of EON producer Michael G. Wilson.  Both Gregg and his brother David have done extensive work in the Bond films.  David went on to become the executive producer of the Bond video games while Gregg has worked as both assistant and associate producer since Quantum of Solace (2008). Gregg goes on to briefly describe his earliest experiences in the Bond universe.  He is quoted as saying:

The first memory I have of the Bond films is from set of “Octopussy” (1983). I remember that I visited the huge circus set. It was a very magical moment for a little boy. Later, I also remember that I visited the sets of the Timothy Dalton films “The Living Daylights” (1987) and “Licence to Kill” (1989). There is something very special about walking into a Bond set, you feel right away that you are in a different universe.

He recounts working with David Arnold on the soundtrack to The World is Not Enough (1999) and then working on every film since Die Another Day (2002).  He also describes script development as a real passion of his, and it sounds like SPECTRE (2015) marks the first time that he had the opportunity to get involved in this process.

Gregg Wilson and Michael G Wilson

Gregg Wilson and Michael G. Wilson

The most fascinating part of the article comes at the very end, however, which is something I can’t imagine any reasonably competent British or American editor allowing in this day in age.  The topic is none other than “The Future of Bond.”  Here Gregg gives us the first glimpse into what the thought process is right now at EON during the earliest stages of planning for Bond 25:

“We’ve just begun to doodle with ideas for the next movie. Each script process begins when we ask ourselves the question: ‘What is the world afraid [of] now?.’ In the case of “SPECTRE” was the theme global monitoring and utilization of information. So now we are trying to find out what will be relevant in the coming years.”

280_gregg_wilson

Gregg Wilson

He further elaborates:

“We always want to do something new with the Bond character and see him in situations we have not seen him in the past. We must give the audience something new every time. After noon movies are not always easy. But often it helps to go back to Ian Fleming’s novels for inspiration, whether you’re talking about grades or mood, says Wilson who is pretty sure Daniel Craig reprising the role agent 007 in “Bond 25”.

Now of course this isn’t much to go on.  I suppose we have all figured that EON has always thought along these lines in order to make each new film relevant, viable, and interesting to modern audiences, but to actually hear someone from the inner circle talk about the process even in the vaguest terms … well, that’s enough to send most hardcore Bond fans into a bit of a frenzy.

So, let’s take a moment to consider real world threats that might somehow potentially play a role in Bond 25.  It’s safe to assume that if Craig returns, SPECTRE / Blofeld will be the main source behind the threat, but let’s set them aside for now and just look at what threats are out there assuming that SPECTRE is malleable enough that it can manipulate any number of disastrous occurrences within the Bond universe.  The threat that probably springs to everyone’s mind immediately is that of terrorism.   It’s a horrible reality of living in our times that the threat of terrorism has become something that we have to contend with and confront no matter where you live. In the Bond universe, we already know that SPECTRE were planning to blow up a stadium full of people in Mexico City before Bond intervened.  In the real world, there is state sponsored terrorism, rogue non state-sponsored terror cells, and lone wolf attacks, any of which can result in enormous tragedy.  There is also cyber terrorism, which Skyfall touched on to some extent before Silva’s motivations were revealed.

How could Bond 25’s theme explore a terrorism threat?  Well, that’s easy. Bond would have to thwart a potential terrorist attack James Bond runningsomewhere in the world hopefully outside of the UK.  I have no doubt that a decent movie could be constructed from such a basic plot, but doesn’t that sound like the plot of a lot of other typical action movies?  Surely, there would have to be more to it than that for it to work as Bond film.  There would have to be global consequences at stake, exotic locations, and a beautiful woman or three to either help or impede Bond’s progress.  Still, this is Bond and while I’m sure we all would want 007 on our side to protect the world from terrorists, I think it’s safe to say that EON might want to go with a more complicated threat.

Beyond terrorism, there has always been a threat of an attack from a rogue government.  Recent rocket testing in North Korea as well as the treaty brokered with Iran have made governments and citizens around the world extremely nervous about the threat of either of these countries achieving nuclear capabilities.  While I’m sure EON would like to avoid inserting real world global politics into Bond, the idea of Bond thwarting a potential rogue country’s nuclear strike is one that I think might have appealed greatly to Ian Fleming.  Of course, in Thunderball we witnessed Bond thwarting SPECTRE’s plan to hold the world to ransom by stealing nuclear warheads. In that case, it wasn’t an actual government Bond was up against because it was SPECTRE behind the threat, but what if Bond had to go up against a government.

ian_fleming_19640817_hr

Ian Fleming, 1964

Was it not Fleming himself who said, “Spying has always been regarded as (a) very romantic one-man job, so-to-speak. A one man against a whole police force or an army.” It’s been a long while since we’ve seen Bond go up against the army of an enemy foreign government.  Craig’s Bond has gone up against Le Chiffre, Quantum, Silva, and now SPECTRE but never has he really butted heads with the armed forces of a sovereign power.  This could potentially also bring back the naval intrigue that has been missing from Craig’s Bond films.  Wouldn’t we all love to see Craig put on a British naval uniform aboard a naval vessel or submarine heading into enemy waters?  I know that’s something I’d like to see.

Moore-Large_1200_603_81_s

Imagine Daniel Craig in a scene like this.

Of course SPECTRE could figure into it in some way by somehow lending aid to the rogue government in question, but I’d like to see Craig’s Bond topple the forces of an enemy despot even if it’s a fictional one.  This potential plot intrigues me a lot more than just having Bond thwart a terrorist threat alone.

One other plot that might hold some resonance for modern audiences has sprung to my mind very recently. It involves the recent terrorist lone wolf attack perpetrated in San Bernadino, California by a despicable married couple in December last year.  The reason why this has resurfaced in the news lately has to do with Apple’s refusal to allow the FBI access to hack into the phone owned by the murderers.  There’s a highly contentious debate being held both in the media and very soon in the court rooms about the liability of allowing the government a backdoor channel into privately owned encrypted technological devices.   Both sides to this debate have very legitimate concerns.  On one side, the government wants to have this access so it can potentially save lives while on the other side people are concerned with government surveillance of the private information and correspondence of its own citizens.

Ben-Whishaw-as-Q-and-Daniel-Craig-as-James-Bond-in-SpectreGetting back to the Bond universe, I believe that while SPECTRE touched on the issue of government surveillance it failed to really focus on it in any meaningful way.  The film doesn’t really delve into the actual implications of Denbigh’s and SPECTRE’s plot to obtain control over the intelligence networks of nine governments.  Bond 25 could potentially rectify this shortcoming by actually framing a fictional plot around a scenario similar to the one happening between Apple and the FBI.  They could go the conspiracy route. If you think about it, do we actually believe that the government lacks the means to hack into one iPhone?  Maybe the government (the fictional one in the film- that is) has already hacked into the phone, but now feels the need to use the situation as leverage to get legislation to have the means to do this on a broader basis.  I could imagine a scene between Q , M., and the Prime Minister like this one:

M: Were you able to hack into the device?

Q: Of course, Sir. . . I didn’t even have to get out of my pajamas.

Prime Minister: Very well, then. Carry on . . . oh and let’s go ahead and send a writ to (Fictional Company’s Headquarters) ordering them to help us construct a back channel to all their devices.

Q: But sir, I have everything we need.

Prime Minister (to M.): You heard me. Do as I ordered.

Please forgive my quickly and inadequately constructed dialogue, but you must get the gist of where a plot like this must be going.  In this case, it’s the Prime Minister and whoever he’s working with (DUN-DUN DUNNN!!-SPECTRE!!!) who is trying to subvert the political power of the government for their own potential gain or profit.  Perhaps SPECTRE is trying to acquire the technology company in question or maybe they just want to continue with their original plan for global surveillance only instead of nebulous platitudes about democracy and drones we have an actual plot with real characters who have a personal stake in the conflict.  There could even be a sympathetic Bond girl who is on the side of protecting the privacy of citizens or aBond Girl sil femme fatale who might lure Bond into doing her bidding as a counter measure to what M. decides is the right thing to do.

There is so much they can potentially do and I’m sure there are many fascinating ideas I may not have included here.  That’s where you come in.  Please, use the comments section below to discuss what you believe should be the next real world related threat for Bond 25?  More than just plot, what themes would you like Bond 25 to explore? What kind of scenarios would you like to see 007 thwart or infiltrate? After all, Fleming even had Bond work for the enemy temporarily in some stories such as in Moonraker and The Man with the Golden Gun and we haven’t seen that in the film franchise since Licence to Kill (1989).  Feel free to use this space to bandy about ideas. I know you could come up with good ones.

Editor’s Note:  I originally wrote this article for the James Bond Radio podcast website.  You can check it out on their  site

VARGR: Issues 2-4 Reviewed

For my review of VARGR Issue #1, please click here. 

When we last left Bond after Issue #1, he was headed to Berlin to investigate the origins of a new dangerous narcotic drug that has now reached the streets of London.  Both M. and Tanner briefed Bond on a mission and sent him off to pursue a lead given to them by Felix Leiter, an informant named Slaven Kurjak who happens to be a wealthy Serbian doctor with a formidable reputation in prosthetics and genetic development.  Due to a new law enacted by the UK stipulating that British agents could not carry guns within the UK, Bond must commence his travel to Berlin unarmed.

Vargr-Dharma-cover

Dharma

When he arrives, he’s greeted by a mysterious woman named Dharma Reach, who tells him that she and her driver will take him to Berlin Station. Bond is instantly attracted to her and quite expectedly lays on his classic charm although he also notices that something appears to be off about her.  Something is strange bout her hands.  She wears thick black leather gloves, and Bond notices that the grip of her hand feels “armored” or “weighted.” As I read this I couldn’t help but think of Dr. No’s hands.  Dharma then tries to kill Bond by seducing him in the back of the car using her armored hands to choke him, but Bond fights her off causing the car to veer out of control and crash into an oncoming truck.  Bond survives the ordeal although Dharma escapes.

VARGR-Dharama-Bond

Bond gets himself to Berlin station to meet up with his real allies before heading over to meet Slaven Kurjak at an experimental prosthetics laboratory. We learn that Kurjak also lost an arm and a leg in the Serbian concentration camps and now wears the same “powered prosthetics” he seems to be developing. It doesn’t take long for the reader to figure out that there must be some

VARGR-Kurjak-300x121

Kurjak

kind of link to the woman who attacked Bond earlier given the presence of the same kind of prosthetic limbs in both Dharma and Kurjak, the supposed informant.  Something most certainly seems off and as we see Bond walk past one of the glass enclosed rooms on his way out of the laboratory, our suspicions are confirmed. Dharma emerges behind a muscular man who appeared at the end of issue #1, a henchman afflicted with anhedonia named Mr. Masters with orders to kill Bond. Much like Renard in The World is Not Enough, Mr. Masters’ condition leaves him with the inability to feel pain or even pleasure when we later learn that Dharma and Masters are also lovers.

VARGR-Dharma-Kurjak-and-Masters-300x205

Dharma, Kurjak, and Masters

In Issue #3 we learn that both Dharma and Mr. Masters work for Slaven Kurjak, who has just sent Bond into a trap by telling him that the drugs are being manufactured out of a garage run by members of the Al-Zein Clan, who happen to be a powerful

VARGR-jamesbond-shoots-300x116

Bond shoots an Al-Zien Clan member

European criminal cartel.  Kurjak has Masters and Dharma follow Bond to finish him off in the unlikely event that Bond makes it out of the garage alive.  Of course, we all know 007 doesn’t die very easily as we are treated to a really fantastic action sequence featuring Bond eliminating all the Al-Zein Clan members in the garage despite being outgunned and outnumbered.  He sleekly maneuvers himself around various scaffolding to get leverage on each member kicking over boxes and eventually gunning them all down.

Dharama informs Kurjak who now says that he is activating condition “VARGR,” which seems to consist of killing not only all of his workers at his laboratory but also killing everyone over at Berlin Station.  Mr. Masters heads over and ambushes all of Bond’s Berlin Station allies leaving us to wonder what Kurjak’s scheme could possibly be that would lead him to such drastic measures.

Issue 4 starts with Mr. Masters greeting Bond very much reminiscent to how Red Grant greeted Bond in From Russia with Love.

VARGR-Masters-300x169

Masters greets Bond

Masters attempts to earn Bond’s trust the same way Dharama did, but it doesn’t take long for Bond to figure out that something is off about him as well.  Bond uses his cell phone and tells Masters that he’s making a personal call to ward off Masters’s concerns about Al-Zein tapping all the phones.  Of course Bond is really speaking to Tanner and M. using discreet language to inform them of the status of the mission pointing them to “my cousin’s friend.”  In this case, the cousin is of course the CIA and Leiter and the friend is Kurjak, the supposed informant.  M. also informs Bond that the cocaine that had been causing problems in London had been altered or synthesized in some way to also carry a highly infectious disease.

Masters leads Bond back into Kurjak’s laboratory where everyone working there has been slaughtered. Bond tries to get the jump on Masters but Masters is able to counter Bond easily because he is impervious to pain.  No amount of punching, stabbing,

Vargr-Bond-fights-Masters-300x238

Bond fights Masters

or kicking could possibly overtake Masters until Bond happens upon a hypodermic needle and some oxytocin.  Just as Masters is about to finish Bond off, Bond injects the needle into the back of Masters’ thigh and plunges the drug into his system.  The highly concentrated dose stimulates the dopamine levels and leaves Masters helpless.  Bond interrogates Masters only to find out about some project named “VARGR” before administering a lethal dose of oxytocin into his neck.   He then turns around to find Kurjak standing behind a plated glass partition, which he quickly learns to be bullet proof.   Kurjak confirms his involvement in the synthesis of the new drug and informs Bond that he wasn’t so much of a victim in the Serbian concentration camps as he was a participant.  His fascination for controlled experiments was born out of watching the inmates drink from a contaminated water supply and determining how long it would take for many of them to get sick and for the dysentery to spread.  Kurjak coldly informs Bond of the decontamination cycle about to commence in Bond’s section of the room as he leaves Bond to die with the room expected to reach 300 degrees Celsius.  Bond must urgently use his wits to escape the burning inferno that is about to engulf the room.  He reaches for some tools and a chemical canister and tries to burn a hole through the glass partition in order to escape.  Will he escape in time?  He’s Bond so we know he will, but in order to find out how, we must wait for Issue #5.

VARGR-Kurjack-safety--300x104

Kurjak behind the bullet proof glass

So far, I’m very impressed with the story and the artwork of this series.  Warren Ellis has constructed a suitable classic spy thriller with a very clever balance of the realistic and the fantastical.  I’m interested to find out more about Kurjak’s plot with the synthetic drug and what his ultimate end game might be.  Is there some personal motivation for what he’s doing and how does everything tie back into his work in prosthetics?  Obviously, both Dharma and Masters were working for him out of some personal sense of duty because they both needed his services.   I feel bad for the victims over at Berlin Station.  They were all killed off quite quickly and they seemed like a friendly bunch who might have come to Bond’s aid had they been able to figure out what was happening.  Artist Jason Masters does a great job with the action sequences.  All the action is very easy to follow in addition to containing some very remarkable artwork.  There are some frames that I imagine many Bond fans will greatly admire.

I look forward to seeing how this VARGR storyline will resolve.  It’s great to see Bond make a comeback to the comics medium because Bond is an ideal kind of character for comics.  There’s a visual aesthetic that is integral to Bond that is unique to him and I’m glad to see both Warren Ellis and Jason Masters tap into that and put it right there on the page for Bond fans to appreciate.  I’m someone who doesn’t regularly read comics so it’s a very different experience than reading a novel or seeing a film, but as a Bond fan all of my favorite elements are there.  The visuals are all well executed and the story has enough intrigue to keep me interested to find out more.  I suppose in a novel, we might have been treated to more information about the motivations of certain characters. I’d like to know more about Dharma’s role in all this as I think she’s the most fascinating of all the original characters. Will she remain loyal to Kurjak or will she switch to Bond’s side?  That’s why I suppose I enjoy reading a story as a novel as opposed to a comic.  In a comic, you’re getting the action and the dialogue and you must wait from issue to issue to have your questions answered.  In a novel, you can just read it and you get all the character motivations and a perhaps a better sense of where the story is going as you read it.  It takes a little more patience when reading a comic because each issue ends with more questions and you have to wait for the next issue to hope your questions will be answered.  I definitely encourage Bond fans to check out VARGR and get a hold of the issues if you haven’t already.  It’s a 6 issue story so I will probably wait until after the 6th issue to complete my review.

Editor’s Note:  I originally wrote this review for the James Bond Radio podcast website.  You can check out my review on their site here. 

 

Some Kind of Hero – Book Review

With its meticulous research into the history of the Bond film franchise and close attention to many of the franchise’s little known details, Some Kind of Hero is the ultimate nonfiction book for Bond fans. Authors Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury conducted over a hundred interviews with noteworthy participants in the Bond film saga, uncovered countless little known facts, shed light on many of the franchise’s unsung heroes, and poured years of research into a well-crafted epic tome. It’s a worthy addition to anyone’s library whether you’re a hard core Bond fan familiar with the franchise’s history or a casual fan looking to read and learn more about the Bond phenomenon.

The only thing that would have cemented this book as even more definitive would have been an interview with Sean Connery himself.  Rest assured, the authors landed interviewssean-connery_8814825-original-lightbox with every other Bond actor and then some. Connery, however, has become notoriously elusive in recent years. Although he has been seen a number of times in public, I imagine it would be a challenge to land an interview with him particularly if the sole topic was to be about Bond and not say Scottish independence.  The authors recount their efforts to get an interview with Connery in the Introduction and they did in fact come very close.  I suppose an in-depth interview with Connery relating his side of the story in regards to his experience as 007 might make for a book of its own.  Even without Connery’s participation, I think the authors did a fantastic job of informing the readers about many of Connery’s concerns and issues with the franchise as well as the producers without necessarily taking sides.

fleming_producers_gf

Ian Fleming with producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli

The personalities of Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman permeate this book.  In fact, I feel I have better sense of who those two individual men were as people than I did before reading it.  Each of these men whose names have become synonymous with the James Bond film franchise has an early chapter devoted to them before the main crux of the book continues with a chapter devoted to each Bond film.  As the narrative unfolds, the authors impart many subtle details and personality traits of each of these men along with the roles they took on as the partnership progressed.  There are quirky details like Saltzman’s unenthusiastic reaction to Paul McCartney’s condition that he be the one to perform the song he wrote for Live and Let Die when Saltzman would have preferred Thelma Houston.  Prior to that Cubby Broccoli described Ian Fleming’s disappointment at having had his meal pre-ordered for him at a restaurant in Turkey. The most fascinating chapter, however, is devoted to the ultimate breakup of their partnership after The Man with the Golden Gun.   The complex details concerning the dissolution of their partnership are explored in a chapter the authors call “Two Scorpions in a Bottle – Broccoli vs Saltzman.”  Here, we learn from Harry’s son Steven that film title designer Maurice Binder served as a “back-channel” between the two producers when they were most at odds.  We also learn a great deal more about the circumstances that led to Harry Saltzman being forced to sell his shares and controlling interests to United Artists.

Some Kind of Hero also gives us a very compelling look at some of the unsung heroes in the Bond franchise.  Of particular note is Johanna Harwood whose screenwriting contributions remain largely unrecognized within Bond fan circles.  The authors were

johanna harwood

Johanna Harwood

lucky enough to sit down for an interview with Harwood, who has not frequently spoken publicly about her role in the Bond saga.  She enters the story as Harry Saltzman’s assistant but her actual role was to write scripts. She described Saltzman’s personality at one point saying, “[His] big fault was that he was tactless. He was always rubbing people  up the wrong way because he was saying things, unkind things but he wasn’t actually unkind.  He never thought this might upset this person . . . He was an extraordinarily good salesman.  If he had one really big quality, I would say it was he could sell anything.  He could go off with an idea and sell it to anybody. What he couldn’t do later was develop the idea.”

Saltzman first tasked Harwood with writing synopses of all the Ian Fleming books and it would appear that Harwood did a considerable amount of work prior to Richard Maibaum coming on board submitting her own scripts and developing early adaptations of Fleming material.  She even wrote her own Bond short story called “Some Are Born Great.”  Harwood went on to receive screenwriting credits on Dr. No and From Russia with Love but her work on Goldfinger remains uncredited.  Although many of her contributions may have been changed by subsequent writers especially on From Russia with Love, the authors of Some Kind of Hero have done Bond fans a tremendous service by getting her story down and shedding light on the important role she played during the creative process of those early Bond films.  Harwood also co-wrote EON’s early non-Bond movie during the sixties called Call Me Bwana.

Also of note are some of stories the authors have uncovered which have garnered media attention over the past several months.  First there was the story of how Amy Winehouse might have done the theme song for Quantum of Solace were it not for her untimely death.  David Arnold had “sketched out” some musical ideas leaving the lyrics for Winehouse to complete.  The authors were also able to get Pierce Brosnan to unleash a few more details about his departure as Bond. Brosnan describes the phone call he received after his agent informed him that negotiations for him to star in his fifth Bond film had stopped.  Brosnan told the authors that he “was utterly shocked and just kicked to the kerb with the way it went down.”

some kind of hero 1

All in all Some Kind of Hero reads very swiftly despite its rather thick appearance.  Although the book clocks in at over 700 pages, the main narrative is actually just over 600 pages with the notes and index taking up the last 100 pages.  It could be read either from start to finish or one might decide to read chapter by chapter as you watch the films chronologically. I’m glad to have read it once all the way through, but I could easily see myself returning to Some Kind of Hero as I re-watch the Bond films re-reading each chapter that corresponds to whichever film I decide to put on.  I feel like this book tells the story about the key people involved in the Bond saga better than most books on the subject.  You get a real sense of the personalities involved, the various conflicts that ensued, and a rationale behind many of the decisions that were made.  Each chapter in the Bond saga is given its due and although it’s obviously way too vast to convey the entire scope of this book into one review, it’s safe to say that I believe most Bond fans would benefit from reading Some Kind of Hero regardless of how well-versed they believe themselves to be regarding the history.

Review by

Jack Lugo

jack with some kind of hero

 

 

 

 

 

I originally posted this review over at the James Bond Radio podcast website but I recreated the review here for your convenience. You can find the original review posted over at jamesbondradio.com here: http://jamesbondradio.com/some-kind-of-hero-book-review-by-jack-lugo/?utm_content=bufferdc0eb&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer