Wednesday, 24 October 2012

From Bognor with Love. The Bargain Bond...


‘Bugger Bognor!’ Yes, the last words of King George V – and presumably a sentiment often shared by horrified British Dads. Although a trip to Butlins might not top everyone’s list of holiday destinations, the King was doing the town a dis-service with his reaction to a suggested curative visit  - living about fifteen miles away, my wife and self often drive over – yes, I rinse round the Charity Shops and she grits her teeth a lot…

Yes, an odd place to find 007 – Singapore, perhaps, Rio de, possibly, but Bognor Regis?; you must be joking… well, the Skyfall production did indeed film there for the imminently-imminent movie (The Royal Premiere was last night at the Royal Albert Hall, London, with the usual hoo-hah, an Aston Martin DB5 and a rather slinky Berenice Marlohe doing her best not to laugh at the ridiculous Alex Zane.). Apparently a need for cost-cutting led to the choice of the beach there – it really is a lovely beach, with a wide horizon, some BIG sky (At times) and it could pass for anywhere – which would fit with EON practice. Remember that lovely Korean hut by the sea in Die Another Day?; Cornwall. I’m reserving all judgments until I’ve seen Skyfall.

Off on a tangent – (What’s new?) – I really am quite a cynical person, but I can’t see the point in slating a movie that isn’t even out yet – really, why?. You know the type; Daniel Craig is announced as Bond for Casino Royale and off they go – he’s Blond, Bond should be dark, he’s a wuss, broke a tooth filming (Oddly, Roger Moore cracked a tooth on day one filming Live and let Die) – Bond wouldn’t wear a life-jacket… it’s depressing; why even bother to see the bloody film?...

And we’re back in the room… if you can think back that far, there was something about a book review, et voila!;
Being on a tight budget is something I share with EON; not that I call $140,000,000 ($200 Million according to some) particularly tight, but I do have to watch them pennies. Sometimes though, I venture into shops that actually sell new books – one of these, a chain called The Works , has a shop in Bognor. You get the idea; they sell cheap reprints and editions alongside kids paint sets and lets-make-a-stegosaurus kits as well as the sort of DVD you dread receiving for a present. Not that I’m not grateful to Great Aunt Fanny for ‘Steamy Tunnels III; Sweaty Shovellers’… just wasn’t expecting three hours of a Welshman throwing coal into a boiler on some old loco.

Anywhile; I bought a book. About Bond. In Bognor. Tenuous isn’t the word, eh? – onwards dear friends, onwards.

So, ‘For Your Eyes Only, Ian Fleming+James Bond’ by Ben Macintyre (Bloomsbury, Hardback) Priced intriguingly at $34.99 this cost me a whopping £7 – it’s a Bloomsbury USA edition that the chain was selling. Quite often the reason these places are cheap seems to be someone somewhere ordered a crate-load of books and they eventually find their way onto the shelves of bargains by the bucket shops. The book itself is 224 large (I think A4, not sure) pages with an index. Nice paper, well presented and packed with piccies, often whole page or double-spread – often a sign of cheap ‘filling’, but here actually a nicely balanced work.
(Yes I know; but what better way to illustrate my point? - Fleming's Jamaican retreat, Goldeneye. Not all the pics are colour, but where they are it is lavishly used to good effect, as here.)

The blurb about the author reveals him to be a journo and associate editor of the London Times, whose other works include a personal favourite of mine; Agent ZigZag, the true story of one Eddie Chapman, a remarkable spy who played both sides during the Second World War – a real cad, a charmer who could well have influenced Fleming’s ideas about what a spy should be. (This idea gets more than a passing mention in Macintyre’s For Your Eyes Only)

At first glance I misunderstood, but this isn’t a re-write, it’s an in-depth look into the (sometimes) parallel world’s of Ian Fleming and EON Productions. Coverage of Fleming and his family is exhaustive, cradle to the grave in fact. We get a clear picture of the man behind Bond, right down to where he got those amusing names from (Who’d have guessed he went to school with a boy called Scaramanga?) and offers intelligent opinions on who Fleming chose as the models for characters such as ‘M’, Moneypenny et al.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one, at first I bought it for the quality photos – many of which I haven’t seen (And have a guess how many I have seen…), but I hadn’t noticed the author. I had already read Agent ZigZag so I had a clue this might be better than the run of the mill ‘Bond by Numbers’ mulch that gets foisted off on credible fans, as it so patently is. The author educated me in the subject as if I hadn’t even heard of Bond – not a frequent experience. 

I chose ‘Giggles etc’ as a title because of a comment in the book – during a visit to the shooting of Dr.No, Fleming and party arrived on the beach just in time to see Ursula Andress merging from the waves. The interlopers were told to get down by the Director; they complied, with Macintyre stating he can never see the scene without also hearing Fleming, ‘giggling in the sand, just out of camera shot’.

As a final thought – I do realize that many of you lovely folks probably never bother with my efforts at review. Fair enough; variety is the spice, but with the advent of E-buy and suchlike, there’s an excellent chance of actually buying the tomes in question, often at reasonable prices. No point reviewing something if no-one can ever find it…

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