January 10, 2007


Bonding With a Superhero (OTTO PENZLER, January 10, 2007, NY Sun)

It is unlikely that, back in 1953 when Ian Fleming wrote "Casino Royale," the first James Bond novel, that he, his publishers, or his readers could have anticipated the position into which he would blossom more than a half-century later. The first printing of that landmark volume was fewer than 5,000 copies -- about the same as a guidebook to the edible fungi of Nova Scotia.

In America, his sales languished until President Kennedy publicly lavished praise on Fleming's heroic, if improbable hero. The first film, "Dr. No," starring the charismatic Sean Connery and the luscious Ursula Andress, was released in 1963, after which it was Katy-bar-thedoor.

Sales of the books skyrocketed and the films became the single most successful movie franchise in history. For most of us who grew up reading the books and watching the movies, these adventures seemed about as good as it gets for fantasy and escapism. The slogan that "Bond is who every man wants to be and every woman wants to be with" may end in a preposition, but is no less true for its grammatical shortcoming.

One of the interesting things about Casino Royale is that if you go back and read it now it would seem that Fleming somehow understood that he was laying the groundwork for what would be an enduring character. It reads almost as if it were a prequel, written to explain how the later Bond became who he was.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 10, 2007 9:12 AM
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