Thanksgiving and Christmas are family movie times for my clan. We have supper, play with the children and dispatch them to sleep, then draw straws to see who has to stay home with the wee ones. Okay that last bit is a lie. Oma always stays home with the wee ones and the other three adults (me, bro, sis-in-law) go to see our lowest- common-denominator feature film. Always the bubble gum, late-fall blockbuster in theatres to distract from all the overwrought thoughtfully emotional (emotionally thoughtful?) Oscar contenders. Last year, that movie was Skyfall.
On the way back to the car the city of Springfield, MA blew up (literally) and my brother does the kind of work for which he gets phone calls when something like that happens, so while he lagged behind like a distracted child my sister and chatted about the movie. She asked me, like she knew I knew, how long Judi Dench had played M. I replied (incorrectly) as if I knew (though I didn’t) that she and Daniel Craig had come along at the same time. But I had that sixth-sense tickle that I might be mistaken (like Bond senses the predatory gaze of his anxious quarry), so to preempt my own shaming I went home and looked it up.
I grew up before Wikipedia, so in general I approach it with skepticism, but for obsessive cultural nerding like identifying the samples in rap songs, or tracking the appearance of a favorite fictional character over varying media, it knows no rival (or its rivals have useless SEO).
The correct answer is Judi Dench began as Pierce Brosnan ended, with Golden Eye. And looking up this little tidbit sent me tumbling down a rabbit hole, or perhaps a gun barrel.
Initially, I just wanted to know if ‘M’ was a position rather than a person in the original books, and if there was a name for this literary device. Whatever my query I ended up here. This very thorough James Bond article alerted me to the facts that: people are still writing Bond (just as people are still writing Bourne); someone wrote a young Bond (chronistic with Bond’s age and history in the original Fleming books); Miss Moneypenny has been developed in writing beyond her original supporting role.
I am an ardent fan of Daniel Craig’s Bond. Even so, I was surprised by the blazing glee that seized me when I took in all this obsessive cultural nerd data, and interpreted it as an invitation to swim in the spy-infested, sun-kissed, luxury hotel pools of the Bond Universe. Even worse, coming up on a year, I’m still in the deep end and not tired of it yet. If you are susceptible to the beckoning index finger of a Bond girl, or the allure of the cars or toys from Q branch, let me share in brief where that Wikipedia article led me and what I learned.
- James Bond tales make me smile. I like to smile.
- Miss Moneypenny is not as interchangeable as M but she has her own minor league swap out.
- John Deaver’s Carte Blanche is really a cut above in this genre. I listened to it as an audiobook and highly recommend this path. Toby Stephens narrates and is wonderful.
- The young Bond series by Charlie Higson is delightful and vivid. The tone is just right. They are fun, yet thoughtfully establish all of the Bondisms we have come to know. It’s clear that Higson did his research, and put in the effort to make the dovetailing of Bond histories seem effortless.
- Ian Fleming’s original novels are brilliant (at least the first four) and I am saddened by the (almost literal) mockery the films have made of these stories.
- There is way more to Bond than booze, broads, and Bentleys. But I’m writing some other posts about that so enough for now.