By Guest Blogger Charles Benoit
We’ve been promising ourselves to give it a try and after years of chickening out, my wife and I finally decided to jump in and just do it. Rose admits to nodding off now and then and at times I found it a bit like flogging a dead horse, but overall it’s been fun and, for me at least, highly educational. I highly recommend you give it a try. Start at the beginning, do a little bit each day and before your know it you’ll be totally into bondage.
For the past month and a half, we’ve been listening to Ian Fleming’s James Bond books on CD as we make the daily 35-minute commute. We started with Casino Royale moved onto Live and Let Die and Moonraker, and this morning started disc one of Diamonds Are Forever. We’ve listened intently as James has been beaten with a pole, shot at, scalded with hot steam, threatened with a blowtorch, dragged behind a speedboat and nearly buried in a rockslide at the cliffs of Dover. He’s totaled two cars, tangled with an octopus, cheated at cards, and nearly been killed in three assassination attempts. It’s been a pleasant way to spend the time.
Naturally the books are quite different from the films. Every page is crammed-full with details, both telling and mundane, and enough name brands to make you wonder if Fleming wasn’t the father of product placement. Where some authors would simply just write, “He ordered breakfast,” Fleming let’s us know that in New York, Bond ordered “Half a pint of orange juice, three eggs, lightly scrambled, with bacon, a double portion of café Espresso with cream. Toast. Marmalade.” I love these kinds of details and I certainly make use of them in my books, but every dish of every meal? I don’t know what I eat half the time.
Fleming’s attention to the minute isn’t limited to food. We learn all the unique technical details of his car – not some super-secret spy details, just the greasy facts about his 4½ liter Bentleys with a supercharger by Amherst Villiers. I find this quite tedious as my eyes glaze over when a mechanic explains what he’s doing with my car, and Fleming could be making all those words up for all I know (I mean, come on, crankshaft?). Naturally we hear about the guns he carries, but we get the same amount of details about the kind of shirts he wears. I’m afraid that that kind of detail obsession will start influencing me as I type away on my jet black, spill-resistant Logitech 350 Keyboard with silver-accented hot key buttons and polished side panels.
Then there are the women. Based on the movies I expected a bedding or two a chapter, but that’s not in the books. In Moonraker the best he can manage is one kiss with a woman who lets him know quite clearly at the end of the book that she’s ‘just not into him’. And any sex (so far, remember, we’re only up to book 4) has all been so far off camera to not count at all. The womanizing cad of the movies has yet to appear.
Another unexpected element in the books is the strong racial overtones, especially in Live and Let Die. While you wouldn’t call Bond racist, his views are clearly more in line with his time (early 1950s) than ours. As an American I guess I was surprised to see so many stereotypes about Americans in general, few that would be considered complimentary. I’m not saying they’re not true, I’m just saying that there are a lot of them.
But what we both found most wonderfully surprising is that Fleming’s Bond is not some super hero, he’s a guy doing a job – a job with a lot of monotonous paper work. When he’s not on assignment – which we learn is only two or three times a year – he has to fight commuter traffic, sit at his desk as he plows through files and reports, go to meetings and attend the occasional training exercise. I never would have imagined that I had so much in common with the man.
I love listening to Fleming’s books while I drive, but Rose doesn’t agree. Oh, it’s not the books, it’s my driving.
“The hotter the action,” she claims, “the more you drive like an old man.”
I think the exact opposite is the case. When the pace of the story picks up I can feel my pulse pick up steam and my mind start to race. I’m into the moment, part of the action, living on the edge. Old man? Hardly. I am Bond.
Driving home on the expressway yesterday, just as the last disc of Moonraker ended, I looked over at Rose to see the smile, that contented smile all Bond women flash. Then she pointed at the speedometer.
I was doing 38 in a 55.
Charles Benoit is the Edgar-nominated author of Relative Danger, and its superb follow-up, Out of Order, both from Poisoned Pen Press. His next novel, Noble Lies, will be available in September 2007. Visit his website at: www.CharlesBenoit.com.