Analysis

Ten things about James Bond

Mail & Guardian Correspondent

This year is the 50th anniversary of the James Bond movie franchise, which began with Dr No in 1962.

A man stands in front of a poster advertising the latest James Bond movie Skyfall in New York. (AFP)

1.  Dr No was actually the sixth Bond novel, first published in 1958.

2.  The novels were written by Ian Fleming, who had worked in naval intelligence during World War II. He wrote 11 Bond novels and two collections of Bond stories, two works of non-fiction and a children's book, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. His works have sold 100-million copies around the world. He died of a heart attack in 1965.

3.  After Fleming's death, his estate commissioned new authors to write Bond novels. Kingsley Amis, the author of a critical appreciation of the novels, The James Bond Dossier, published Colonel Sun under the pseudonym Robert Markham. Later, John Gardner wrote an extraordinary 16 new Bond novels (including novelisations of film scripts) between 1981 and 1996 and in 2008, the centenary of Fleming's birth, Sebastian Faulks published the Bond novel Devil May Care.

4. Charlie Higson has written five Young Bond novels, starting with Bond's arrival at Eton in 1933, aged 13.

5. Bond's age varies across the novels. In Moonraker (1955), Bond is said to be facing retirement in 1963, when he reaches the age of 45, apparently the mandatory retirement age for a secret agent in MI6. That gives him a birth date of 1918 and he would have been 15, not 13, in 1933.

6. Bond is described by Fleming as having a "dark, clean-cut face, with a three-inch scar showing whitely down the sunburned skin of the right cheek", with black hair "brushed so that a thick black comma fell down over the right eyebrow". None of the movie Bonds have either scar or comma.

7. Bond is a heavy drinker and smoker. At the start of Thunderball (1961), he is sent to a health farm to detox, having been observed by MI6 medical officers to smoke 60 handmade Balkan cigarettes and to drink half a bottle of spirits a day. In the movies, Bond no longer smokes.

8. He lives in a small flat in Chelsea and has a housekeeper called May. He drives a Bentley.

9. The heroines in the Bond ­novels have really strange names. As Amis notes, "the roll call induces a stupefied admiration". Among them are Vesper Lynd, Solitaire, Tiffany Case, Honeychile Rider, Kissy Suzuki, Mary Goodnight and, most notoriously, Pussy Galore.

10. In On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963), Bond falls in love and gets married for the first and last time. His bride is Tracy Vicenzo, who is soon murdered. He first sees her driving her car and gives chase, but people in Bond novels do not just drive cars; brand names are very important. Tracy drives a Lancia Flaminia Zagato Spyder two-seater. And she drives it fast.

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