The earliest Bond experience I remember came via License to Kill by John Gardner. Either my father or uncle was reading it, a hard back library copy with a dark green cover displaying a picture of a gun and a playing card. I don’t know how old I was exactly, but based on the fact that my father was still on the scene, let’s say around eight or nine. So I wasn’t allowed to read it, of course; that was no more likely than my mother happily handing over her copy of whatever Jackie Collins novels she had. But (as with the Jackie Collins in later years), prohibition was a sure-fire guarantee I’d go there, so I sneakily read a few pages. I didn’t really understand what I read, but did understand that here, in fiction, was the character from the films.
I’ve been sort of faithful to James Bond ever since, through some admittedly dodgy novels and some incredibly bad films. I’ve never dipped a toe back in the waters of the non-Fleming books, but I’ve read the real Bond books many times. They’re a comfort read in the same way that detective fiction can be, a portrayal of a world greatly disturbed and then set to rights again. Sometimes, a woman just needs a hero for a few hours.
Sean Connery was my favourite Bond, until Daniel Craig came along and there was finally a decent film version of Casino Royale, long my favourite of the novels. I could certainly stand to see more of Daniel Craig in a dinner jacket, or out of it, but in fact what I like about the films is the cars, the gadgets, the action sequences, the fights and the sharp shooting. A good Bond film is more than the sum of its parts, which is why the attempted reduction to Bond cliches in the dire Pierce Brosnan years became a reductio ad absurdam.
And so to Skyfall, which doesn’t open in the US until next week, so no spoilers for Mr W. All I will say is that, after the disappointment that was Quantum of Solace, this is Bond back on form and I was pretty happy with it. It ticked all the appropriate boxes, but it had added warmth and humour, and some good homages to the Bond heritage. After 50 years, I think Bond spoke truthfully when he said his hobby was ‘Resurrection’.