Bondage

Long-time readers will know that I’m a huge fan of James Bond. As I mentioned in my Tour de Bond series from last Summer and Fall, I’ve been a fan since about age 10. Bond is essentially responsible for my career — I got into role-playing games when a friend gave me a copy of TSR’s Top Secret, because of my Bond-fandom. That led to D&D, which led to Star Frontiers… which, following down a VERY long path, eventually led to my career. I named my son after Ian Fleming.

I am pleased to note that I am currently steeped in Bond — the new novel, Carte Blanche, by Jeffery Deaver arrived on my doorstop this week (the day after my birthday, in fact), and I’m currently reading (and really enjoying) it.

Deaver, a NY Times bestselling author of dozens of thrillers, was tasked with the job of rebooting Bond for the modern day, and I’m pleased to report that he’s pulled it off brilliantly. He presents Bond in his early thirties, a veteran of Afghanistan, and recruited into a new secret organization, independent of MI5 and MI6 — essentially a post-9/11 version of the WWII-era Special Operations Executive (SOE). This neatly circumvents the fact that Bond’s adventures don’t meld well with the increased knowledge we have of how the British intelligence services actually operate, and gives us a fictional (but believable) organization with clear historical precedent that is tasked with “defense of the Realm by any means necessary” — which fits perfectly with Fleming’s original view of Bond as a “blunt instrument” of Her Majesty’s Government.

I’m also listening to a (*gasp!*) bootleg score recording from the recent original Bond videogame from Activision, 007 Blood Stone, which was composed by Richard Jacques — and which includes a brilliant original Bond theme written by Joss Stone and Dave Stewart (yes, of The Eurythmics), which is as good as any that have been done for film. The track, “I’ll Take It All”, will be featured in tomorrow’s Friday Music blog entry, but in the meantime, you can watch the video of the 2-minute title sequence from the video game below, which uses an edited version of the full theme:

I’ll also share with you with the promotional photo that Ms. Stone did for the game…. for reasons which are self-evident:

I have to admit that a Holy Grail of mine, writing-wise, has been the creation of an “American James Bond” — that’s always been something that I’ve pursued, but it has remained a tough nut to crack. Americans seem to like their spies as either ideologically-pure technocrats like Jack Ryan from Tom Clancy’s books, or macho extremist fantasies like Jack Bauer from 24 — neither of which really appeal to me. It’s hard to get the right level of Bondian sophistication in there — generally speaking, Americans don’t really “do” sophistication, or rather, I should say that sophistication is often viewed as suspect (the trappings of “elites”, etc.) — but I think that it’s important as a counter-balance to the required violence.

And, of course, the trick is to avoid making the whole thing just a fan-fiction pastiche.

So, yeah — still beating my brain against that goal, as I have done for years. Just haven’t had my “aha!” moment yet.

7 Replies to “Bondage”

  1. I hear you on the American Bond paradox. If you haven’t already, you should take a look at Barry Eisler’s John Rain books. Rain really hits that sweet spot (though, of course and importantly, not purely American).

  2. Yeah, I’ve got the first three Rain novels. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but they don’t scratch quite the same itch for me.

  3. Thanks for linking that Joss Stone video – I hadn’t heard it before. A very worthy entry into the canon of Bond themes (and if I’m honest, I’m often more an aficionado of the theme music than I am of many of the films). I should give the Deavers a read, though I haven’t cared for many of the post-Fleming novels.

    BTW should that third-last para read “Americans *don’t* really ~”?

  4. I’d argue the original “Mission: Impossible” TV series captured Bond-level sophistication, if not glamour, in an American context.

    The lack of a true Bond equivalent highlights the tendency of some fictional archetypes to wither away. There is no current equivalent of Fantomas, for instance, or of Raffles the gentleman burglar. A few writers have tried for a Fu Manchu without Yellow-Peril racist overtones — Marvel desperately keeps trying to reinvent the Mandarin in some non-stupid incarnation — but the whole “criminal mastermind” archetype is currently in abeyance.

    I’m not surprised that Bond imitators have gone the same way. A Bond archetype is a well-bred rich guy with a huge expense account going out and kicking ass in countries our current empire doesn’t like, picking up and casually discarding beautiful women as he goes. Bond himself has a couple of generations of brand loyalty there, and a few megacorporations with a vested interest in keeping him around. But for a new superspy, among some audiences I think that’s a tough sell.

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