On the 13th of April 1953 a new kind of hero emerged from the daydreams of Ian Fleming, right onto the pages of his first novel ‘Casino Royale’. So today it’s sixty years since the Cold War got its epitome hero and a cultural icon to boot. CommanderBond.net congratulates James Bond on six decades of playing for keeps, drinking for effect, love for breakfast and death after a hearty dinner. Not Bond’s death, mind you. Although that’s been in the cards more than once, too.
But who would rescue the Secret Service – London, Britain, the world – if it wasn’t for James Bond? No, even when Bond was beaten to pulp, shot, stabbed, poisoned – he had to survive regardless. Let die and live to fight another villain, that was the motto Fleming gave his hero. It saved Bond from the hands of madmen Nazis, Russian spy controllers, deadly Chinese-German Tong-outcasts, scandalously rich Smersh spy bankers and at times even from the accidie of his own creator. For Fleming could get impatient or bored with his creation and threatened to end his short violent life with the deadly strokes of his gold-plated typewriter on more than one occasion.
Thankfully these near-death experiences always proved to be of a merely temporary nature for our hero. His welcome return usually saw him in a refreshed state of fitness – see ‘Doctor No’ – or a reconfigured state of mind, as in ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. When was popular fiction ever more entertaining as when we were allowed to share a hero savour sex, food and drink? Of course when we are invited to watch him killing his own boss – and ours, figuratively.
But all is well and quiet on the Regent’s Park front, no damage is done to top floor personnel. Only the office needs a little fresh air and paint. Such is life in the Bond world: the devious villains brainwash the Secret Service’s best shot into an attempt at the head of Britain’s intelligence. And forget to provide him with a proper gun that would get the job done. Not that it would have helped a lot.
Anyway, within a few pages the washed brain becomes unwashed and England’s least-secret agent is trusted with another suicide mission, with all involved in this decision – a sum total of one miffed M – safe in the knowledge that this time Bond will do better. 007 doesn’t disappoint.
Meanwhile our hero stealthily set out to conquer further levels of existence, developed a life of his own on the silver screen and turned from a successful literary figure to a universally renown popular myth. In the process James Bond became an immortal character only rivalled by Sherlock Holmes, surviving his creator now by almost fifty years and not giving any signs of fading into obscurity in the foreseeable future. Other authors have taken up the challenge to continue the myth’s adventures, to give the readers what they crave: another deadly mission, another exotic locale and at least one more beautiful woman to kiss.
Today James Bond has become its own brand of sometimes exotic, sometimes outrageous thrills and – relatively speaking – chaste sexual encounters, always remaining on the safe – the entertaining – side of violence and action, topped off with gratuitous but highly welcome sex. James Bond – that means an entirely unique mixture of suspense and action, of passion and cold-bloodedness. Somewhere along the road certain elements of this voyage threatened to drown out the original appeal of the character, the sheer physical courage and endurance of an ordinary human in the face of potentially lethal danger. At times it seemed as if the wallpapers and cummerbunds – no comment about means to tell the time of day or get from A to B here – had become more important than the character whose exploits they helped depict.
But time and again Bond managed to leave that baggage behind, to remain relevant for casual and die-hard fans alike and inspire adventurous daydreams with people of all ages and walks of life. Readers still want to read about their favourite secret agent, very much so. Even if he’s on duty for sixty years and longer.
Because nobody does it better.