I was fully prepared to begin writing my review of Michael Di Leo’s first book, The Spy Who Thrilled Us: A Guide To The Best Of Cinematic James Bond, when my friend Pat came over to hang out for the evening. It wasn’t until later that night that I discovered the true genius of Di Leo’s Book.
The Spy Who Thrilled Us
I handed the book to Pat, with whom I have discussed Bond long enough to have conversations like ‘What do you think of Eon planning to bring Jaws back for a second movie?’, and told Pat that I was getting ready to write a review. As he thumbed through the book I explained the various things I planned to say in this review, really more for my benefit than Pat’s. “It’s really quite a fun book,” I told my friend, “but I’m really not sure of its usefulness. Essentially,” I went on, “the book is a series of subjective lists of the best—and sometimes worst—of all of the major elements of the Bond series. The book starts with an ordered list of the nineteen official movies,” (It does not include Die Another Day), “and then the rest of the book is made up of top five lists from different categories such as villain deaths, Bond girl names, cold-blooded killings, sexiest moments; nearly fifty in all. Each listing has a few paragraphs explaining the author’s choices.“
My friend continued to read through the book as I continued to explain that while I enjoyed the book immensely, it was hard to say that it is a book that must be on the shelves of all Bond fans. It does contain a series of insets titled ‘Did you know that?’ with interesting information about the film series placed strategically amongst the book’s lists and black and white photographs, but it’s not really a reference book. Mostly the book is Di Leo’s opinions. And I give serious points to him for not trying to disguise his opinions in a reference book as has annoyed this reviewer with other Bond books. “But,” I asked Pat, “why would a fan need to have a book of lists of another fan’s opinions?“
Engrossed into the book, Pat did not answer. Instead he stated, “I can’t believe he lists The Man With The Golden Gun eighteenth.” (Pat shares my belief that Roger Moore’s second film is vastly underrated.) With that we began to discuss Di Leo’s list of films and how each of us would rank the films in comparison to the book. We then went on to the next list, The Villains, and compared our feelings to the books, reading the author’s explanation of his choices when they either greatly disagreed or were similar to our thoughts. And then we went to the next list. And then the next. And again and again. Sometimes Di Leo, Pat, and I were all on the same page. Other times all of our opinions were off dramatically. (There are three villains that the book in its top five that wouldn’t make my personal top fifteen.) On a couple of occasions, Di Leo even managed to alter our opinions with his arguments. (Most notably that ‘The Stare’ in Goldfinger is one of the great moments of the series. Page 219. Look it up.) At last, we had gone though the entire book only to realise that it was now nearly 1:00am in the morning.
As Pat said his goodnights, I realised that we had discovered The Spy Who Thrilled Us‘s true genius; the ability to stir a conversation about James Bond and add another well-educated opinion to that conversation. And I knew, while I couldn’t nescarilly say this book must be on every Bond fan’s bookshelf, I can easily say The Spy Who Thrilled Us should be in the pocket of every Bond fan when meeting other fans.