Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What I have learned from the Bond books

As you all may have realized, my reading for the past couple of months has been almost exclusively Bond novels. I started with Casino Royale and recently finished with Octopussy/The Living Daylights. I’d read a little Fleming prior to this, but not enough to really get a good idea of what the book Bond was like. Now I know. As much as I wanted to create several posts on Bond: a list of every drink and meal he eats in the novels, a reading list of book titles mentioned throughout the series, a description of all the Bond women - I did not keep adequate notes. So this is a brief list of what I learned:

Bond relies less on gadgets and more on his wits and physical endurance. For the most part, I knew this going into the books – but I didn’t realize how much it changes the action. Throughout the entire series I can only name a handful of gadgets, usually very low tech: the attaché case (in From Russia with Love - mostly the same as the movie), steel toed shoes with knives hidden in the heels (mentioned in a couple of books, most prominently used in Goldfinger), hidden compartments on the Aston Martin (again, Goldfinger. But alas, no machine guns or other perks). And that’s basically it unless you want to include the Geiger counter in Dr. No.

Bond prefers single breasted suits, wears steel toed loafers and prefers an under the shoulder holster, first for his Berretta with a skeleton grip, then for his Walther PPK.

Bond usually needs at least a month of recuperation after each adventure to heal from the injuries he has sustained.

Bond has a scar on his cheek, a comma of hair on his forehead and cruel lips. He’s not particularly good looking, but does manage to strike a handsome figure and usually gets the girl (I said usually, not always).

Bond is a sympathetic womanizer. He tends to stick with one girl per book and he actually is very devoted to that girl. He is also something of a kissing bandit. Often, in the middle of danger, before he’s shagged the gal, he’ll abruptly kiss the girl full on the lips.

Bond gets his heart broken a few times.

The novels are much more in line with the hardboiled detective genre than the playboy spy genre of the movies.

Bond rarely drinks martinis. He’s a bourbon man. And he can drink a stiff bourbon and branch at virtually any time of the day. When I was reading the books, I tried to emulate his drinking habits, but I soon had to give that up. Bond can be drugged by the enemy for 3 straight days and left in a confined space, and when he comes to, the first thing he wants is a whisky and then a shower (Goldfinger). His drinking does vary, however. He’s had his share of vodka on ice, champagne and whatever the local specialty is. When in the Athens airport, he’ll drink ouzo. When in Japan, he’ll drink sake. So on and so forth.

Bond does not like to be dirty. He takes lots of showers. Four in one day in Live & Let Die. He also takes ice cold showers.

Bond does not have uppity tastes. While they are particular, they tend to be simple and often plebian.

As in the films, Bond loves to gamble. Because it is fiction, he usually wins. When it’s for queen and country…or for M, he will cheat. He’s the best card player in MI6.

MI6 maintains about 3000 employees and is a relatively small outfit.

There are two other double 0s.

Bond enjoys the low rumble of an older car. He drives older Bentleys that are painted dull gunmetal gray and have rough suspension. At first, it’s an early 30’s model, then an early 50’s model, then a customized job. All the other cars tend to be from the motor pool or rentals.

Bond does not like killing. Especially in cold blood. He frets about this all the time.

Bond is always thinking and calculating. If you have a gun on him, he’s gauging the distance between you and him and figuring out what tools are immediately available to disable you.

Bond also thinks more long term. When he’s up in the ski resort in OHMSS, he knows he will likely have to ski down the mountain in a hasty escape, so he starts exercising at night to get into condition to make the demanding run.

Bond has many friends that are outright outlaws or somehow between the law or otherwise amoral – this includes smugglers and crime bosses and his father-in-law.

Felix Leiter is one person.

Bond is very loyal to M. He fears, likes and respects him...and curses him on several occassions.

M likes Bond, though Bond is from a different generation. M does not care for Bond’s womanizing.

I thoroughly respect M's worldview, more than Bond's, thought Bond's worldview is similar. However, Bond is not quite a mature as M (see conversation with Mathis in Casino Royale about good guys and bad guys).

Bond’s friend in France is Mathis. His friend in the U.S. is Felix. His friend in Japan is Tanaka.

Mary Goodnight is not a hopeless idiot.

M in the book could very well be Bernard Lee (brilliant casting)

Jamaica is a central spot in Bond's world: Live & Let Die, Dr. No, Man With the Golden Gun all take place there. Also, the double murder in "A View to a Kill" from For Your Eyes Only takes place there.

Tracy is the ultimate Bond girl. Bond chose wisely to marry her.

Solitaire is the runner up.

Tiffany Case was a little neurotic for my tastes.

The Spy Who Loved Me, followed closely, would make an excellent film.


Ross Ruediger said...

Jeffrey -

This was a great piece that I've reread several times and will likely come back to for future reference. Nicely done!

(Now which book would you say is your favorite?)

Anonymous said...

nice piece

Jeffrey said...


Glad to hear you've returned to this post. I should have made it more definitive.

As for a favorite book - not sure I could name just one. Live & Let Die, From Russia With Love, and Dr. No probably top the list. I also particularly enjoyed The Spy Who Loved Me (very adventerous of Fleming) and The Man With the Golden Gun.

The Hook said...

I greatly enjoy your Bond posts, Jeffrey!!

Would you perhaps be interested in being interviewed by me via email? I'd like to put your thoughts regarding Bond on my blog since I link to your articles at times. I'm a lover of the Bond movie series but not quite an afficianado.

Jeffrey said...

the hook -

Thanks for the kind words and the links. I hate to think I've oversold my Bond fan credentials. But I'd be happy to participate in an interview. You can email me at