Monday, February 25, 2013

Gardner's 007 is James Bond "lite"

In the mid- late 1960s, I was a big fan of James Bond, both the series of spy novels and the movies starring Sean Connery as 007.

During that era I read all of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, and have since reread most of them. I saw all of the Connery-as-Bond movies when they were new, and have watched each of them several times since. I can watch each of them every couple of years without being bored.

Goldfinger is my favorite. Try as I might, I can't recreate the way Connery pronounces the name "Pussy."

As much as I enjoy the seven Bond movies in which Connery starred, my interest in other films in which Bond is played by Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, George Lazenby, Daniel Craig, etc., ranges from mild to non-existent. I'm sure I watched at least a few of the half-dozen Bond movies with Moore, but have not seen any of the more recent Bond movies. For my money, if it isn't Sean Connery, it isn't James Bond.

What brings this subject to the fore is my recent reading of a 1983 book Icebreaker by John Gardner. As you can seen from the dust jacket of the volume I bought for fifty cents at a rummage sale, the book is billed as, "Ian Fleming's Master Spy James Bond in . . . "

My time would have been better spent rereading one of Fleming's originals. Gardner's vision is strictly James Bond Lite. I see by an internet search that Gardner has written more than a dozen novels starring James Bond (that's more than Fleming did) but I'm not going to be in a hurry to read them.

To be fair, some of his other works in the genre may have come closer to the Ian Fleming books that I enjoyed so well, but at my age I have to be more discerning about how I spend my time. Frankly, if I didn't have a near manic compulsion to finish any book that I start, I'd have given up on Icebreaker after the first hour. I suppose it's a good enough action spy book, but the lead character shouldn't be called James Bond.

Perhaps instead of reading another John Gardner Bond book, I'll try to find a showing of the first James Bond movie, the 1954 production of Casino Royale starring Barry Nelson.

As much as I enjoyed the James Bond books and movies of the 1960s, I never collected the 1965 Philadelphia Gum James Bond bubblegum cards. By then I wasn't buying any sports or non-sports cards. I did, however, find the pictured card from that set in a box of miscellaneous cards I bought in the 1980s. I saved it because it is for me the iconic portrait of 007.

 Being as much of a James Bond fan as I was back then, I had to check out the series of parody novels written by Sol Weinstein. The books were a take off of the Fleming books and hero. Such titles as Matzohball and Loxfinger comedically chronicled the adventures of the Mossad spy Israel Bonds, Agent Oy-Oy-7.

I'm sure a lot of the content was over my head at the age of 14-15. I was after all, a Midwestern goy who, to the best of my knowledge, didn't even know any Jews. I'm guessing unless you were Jewish, or very familiar with Jewish stereotypes of that era, you couldn't get the whole worth of these books.

A couple of years ago I poked around on eBay and Amazon to buy copies of the Weinstein books to reread. I was shocked to find that the originals were now highly collectible, and could cost up to $50.

Fortunately, the books have recently been reprinted and can be found at all the usual internet outlets for $10 or less. I've ordered a couple of them and look forward to seeing how they've aged.

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