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100 Years of James Bond

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It was 100 years ago today that author Ian Fleming was born. Fleming, best known for creating James Bond, lived a life almost as interesting as any of his novels. A spy for the Allies during World War II, a world traveler and a bit of a ladies man, Fleming lived life to the fullest.

Fleming wrote 9 Bond novels, twelve short stories and ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,’ (which Bond producer Cubby Broccoli also made into a movie starring Dick van Dyke that scared the Dickens out of me as a child.) He also wrote a travel book, (‘Thrilling Adventures,’) and ‘The Diamond Smugglers,’ a case study.

But it is for Bond that Fleming is best known. Taking the character’s name from the author of field guide book, ‘Birds of the West Indies,’ supposedly because he wanted the blandest name possible, Fleming created one of the most memorable spies ever.

The first Bond book was ‘Casino Royale,’ which pitted Bond against Le Chiffre in a game of baccarat at the casino at Royale-Les-Eaux, France. (The film is surprisingly close to the book, {save the coda at the end designed to keep the series open} which is interesting because most of the films are not.) Fleming followed up with ‘Live and Let Die,’ ‘Moonraker’ and ‘Diamonds are Forever.’ It wasn’t, however, until 1957’s ‘From Russia With Love,’ that the books took off in popularity in the US. The interest was raised after President John F. Kennedy released a list of books that he was currently reading for fun and ‘Russia’ was at top of the list.

The films started in 1962 with ‘Dr. No.’ Sean Connery starred as Bond. Fleming wasn’t thrilled with the idea of casting Connery, saying that he had based the character’s looks on American song writer and bandleader, Hoagy Charmichael. Producers considered Cary Grant and Fleming’s neighbor Noel Coward before settling on Connery.

However, after seeing Connery perform in the movie, Fleming was sold and ended up writing subsequent books to fit the description of him, and to honor Connery, made Bond’s late father of Scottish descent.

So, what, you might be thinking? Well, it’s 100 years after Ian Fleming’s birth and James Bond is very much still around. This week, noted novelist Sebastian Faulks released ‘Devil May Care,’ the latest book in the continuation of the series. Since Fleming’s passing, authors John Gardner and Raymond Benson have written books continuing Bond’s story. Other series inspired by Bond have also been published by the Fleming estate including the recent popular series, ‘Young Bond,’ and ‘The Moneypenny Diaries,’ each book meeting the high expectations of Bond fans.

BBC radio adapted ‘You Only Live Twice’ as a radio play in the early 1990s. In a radio play broadcast this past weekend, the BBC adapted ‘Dr No.,’ with former film Bond foil Toby Stephens playing 007.
And, of course, this November, the latest Bond film, ‘Quantum of Solice,’ hits theaters. With director Marc Forester behind the camera, the usually non-action director seems to promise Bond fans that, as they always promise at the end of each film, ‘James Bond will return.’ -Sam

For the latest on Bond, be sure to check out the following sites:

The Ian Fleming Foundation is, of course, the main site for Ian Fleming’s estate. They’re doing a ton of stuff to celebrate the 100th birthday of Bond, so keep an eye on them.

There’s also the official Quantum of Solace site which has updates on the most recent Bond adventure. I can’t say much about the site since I try not to visit it, lest I learn too much about the movie. I like to walk into these sorts of things cold.

Commander Bond is a good site for updates on all things Bond. From the movies to the books to comic books and radio adaptations, CBN covers it all. They also have a ton of cool interviews with people connected with the Bond name. Definitely worth a visit.

And finally Being James Bond is a website, a message board and, most importantly a podcast. Want to know what it takes to do what Bond does? Being James Bond tells you step by step how to jump out of a plane, ride a horse or mix a martini. The podcasts are informative and, the bonus podcasts where they discuss and debate the films sound just like my friends and I.

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