OO7 Essential James Bond Film Books

❉ Top picks of big-screen Bond brought to book. Now, pay attention 007!

I’ve loved the Bond films for years and with the very exciting proposition of a Danny Boyle helmed Bond feature reportedly in the works, I imagine I’m going to love them for many more to come. Until 2019 comes, here are some works I recommend to tide the time away. To be drank with martinis. Obviously.

OO1: ‘The 007 Diaries: Filming Live and Let Die’ (1973)

Out of print for years, it was re-published in 2018 to pay tribute to the debonair Roger Moore, the most press-friendly James Bond and the only one yet who published a day-by-day diary of his filming experiences. We’ve all heard the Bond myths – Sean Connery wearing a toupee from day one, Diana Rigg eating garlic because she thought George Lazenby was a total prat- but this is a journey into the mind of a star on the set of his very first Bond adventure. He plays producer Harry Saltzman for “his salary” in gin rummy, writes of his determination to play the love scene with black actor Gloria Hendry after Louisiana declare they won’t watch an interracial scene and hints at reading some classified FBI materials regarding the John F. Kennedy assassination. It’s written with the droll prose we expect from the legendary raconteur.

OO2: ‘James Bond: The Legacy 007’ (2001)

It misses the Daniel Craig era, but this is an excellent look at the differing cultural zeitgeists the Bond films found themselves in year after year, project after project. It writes of the Aids epidemic of the eighties (partially the reason why Timothy Dalton was more monogamous than his predecessors), the fall of the Cold War (which many felt signalled the end of Bond before Pierce Brosnan arrived) and a humorous anecdote of Bruce Lee informing George Lazenby that he must be poor if he was travelling by bus. John Cork & Bruce Scivally have a punchy style to their writing, detailing the enduring influence the Bond series has had on popular culture.

OO3: ‘The Battle For Bond’ (2007)

Now, this is a book they tried to ban you from reading. The Ian Fleming estate and the Ian Fleming Will Trust protested the inclusion of several Fleming letters in the book, claiming they were used without permission. Tomahawk Press later re-published the book without the letters to re-distribute the book. Robert Sellers writes about Thunderball, the Bond book with the most convoluted history. Having worked on a screenplay with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham for an Alfred Hitchcock adaptation, Fleming turned this script into a Bond novel- neglecting to credit his fellow scriptwriters. They sued, and McClory kept the film rights, adapting the book twice; once with EON (Thunderball, 1965), once without (Never Say Never Again, 1983). Robert Sellers writes of a fascinatingly sad Irish filmmaker who spent an entire lifespan on one project, spending much of his time on numerous courtcases, alienating many, but gifted with charm and locquasity, who counted Sean Connery as one of his close friends.

OO4: ‘The Making of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ (2009)

Charles Helfenstein spent a decade researching this book (based on this writer’s favourite Bond film) before following it up with The Making of The Living Daylights (based on this writer’s second favourite Bond film), but this is undoubtedly the better buy. Helfenstein spends rigorous amounts of glorious detail going through the many differing angles the script (first pitched in 1964) would take, dispelling many of the myths that George Lazenby was as egomaniacal as many retrospective commentators have painted him as. Helfenstein spoke to director Peter Hunt and editor (and future director) John Glen amongst his interviewees and delves into the mind of Ian Fleming, explaining a working title for the 1963 novel was “The Belles of Hell”. Maybe he’d watched too many St. Trinian films!

OO5: ‘The Music of James Bond’ (2012)

If you ask me, the musical legacy is one of the facets the Bond series should be proudest of. Jon Burlingame looks through the series relationship with music, paying tribute to the many composers who have written Bond scores. There are tidbits galore (Shirley Bassey struggled with the high notes on Goldfinger, Harry Saltzman had never heard of Paul McCartney when he first heard Live and Let Die, Eric Clapton worked with Michael Kamen on an unreleased Licence To Kill theme) without it being too exclusive to the casual Bond fan. And any book that features an anecdote where Tim Rice sings Octopussy to the “dun dun dun didle dun dun” sound of the Monty Norman/John Barry theme is worth a browse.

OO6: ‘Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan’ (2012)

Objective? Subjective? Why not both? Mark O’Connell writes from the perspective of an eighties gay teenager fascinated by Octopussy and A View To A Kill, which inevitably led him onto the other varied entries in the series. He writes with pretty prose, but makes some valid comments about the zeitgeist of eighties video culture and the appeal James Bond held for the many fans who haven’t always identified as the red blooded heterosexual males Ian Fleming proclaimed his books were meant for. It’s a particularly well articulated novel, and a fitting tribute to Jimmy O’Connell, producer Cubby Broccoli’s chauffeur and grandfather to this book’s author.

OO7: ‘Some Kind of Hero’ (2015)

Think Mark Lewishohn’s Tuned In and that’s what you’re getting here. Authors Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury write with meticulous objectivism as they trace through each and every film, leaving any personal biases they may have aside, for a thorough look through the fifty something year saga. They interviewed four out of six Bonds, and while Sean Connery has been publicly retired for a decade, Timothy Dalton is sadly absent in his thoughts, but for his legion of fans a whole chapter is dedicated to his proposed third film which was supposed to feature a three way production from Cubby Broccoli, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G.Wilson, a fascinating look into one of the book’s many “what if’s”. Other highlights include a welcome foreword by George Lazenby, Lee Tamahori admitting the awful Die Another Day surfing CGI as his doing and a thorough examination of the many women who contributed to the Bond series (often with little due) before Barbara Broccoli took over as one of the Bond custodians in the mid-nineties. A must read.

 


Eoghan Lyng is a writer, part-time English teacher and full-time lover of life.

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