The Politics of James Bond: From Fleming's Novels to the Big Screen

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U of Nebraska Press, Jan 1, 2005 - Literary Criticism - 227 pages
The adventures and antics of James Bond have provided the world with many of the most gripping story lines of the last half-century. Fleming?s novels were bestsellers in their day, and the Bond films have been even more popular, becoming the most enduring and successful film franchise in history. By some estimates, half of the world?s population has seen a James Bond movie. A fascinating and accessible account of this global phenomenon, The Politics of James Bond uses the plots and characterizations in the novels and the blockbuster films to place Bond in a historical, cultural, and political context. ° Jeremy Black charts and explores how the settings and the dynamics of the Bond adventures have changed over time in response to shifts in the real-world environment in which the fictional Bond operates. Sex, race, class, and violence are each important factors, as Agent 007 evolves from Cold War warrior to foe of SPECTRE and eventually to world defender pitted against megalomaniacal foes. The development of Bond, his leading ladies, and the major plots all shed light on world political attitudes and reflect elements of the real espionage history of the period. This analysis of Bond?s world and his lasting legacy offers an insightful look at both cultural history and popular entertainment.

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Black shows great initiative in identifying the theme - the politics of James Bond - and writes a useful reference book. But he hasn't finished! The book's structure is a bit dull to follow and too often he summarises Fleming's stories and related events without tying them together in a way that is easy to read. In places it reads like an amalgamation of the author's notes, rather than a flowing text. I enjoyed it and would love to re-read a revised version - then again, this is only because I already found the topic interesting.  

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A Review by James Chapman ,
University of Leicester, UK
There are three kinds of book about James Bond. First, there are the glossy, large-format, analysis-lite 'histories' of the Bond films
, most of which repeat familiar anecdotes about the production of the films and generally endorse received wisdoms about the Bond series (such as Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964) was the archetypal Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Peter R. Hunt, 1969) has been unjustly neglected and the Roger Moore films spoiled Bond by their recourse to comedy). Sometimes, most recently in the case of John Cork's James Bond: The Legacy (Boxtree, 2002), these books have been endorsed by the films' producers and can themselves be seen as part of an 'official' discourse around the films. Then there are the likes of Tony Bennett and Janet Woollacott's Bond and Beyond: The Political Career of a Popular Hero (Macmillan, 1987) and the recent collection Ian Fleming and James Bond: The Cultural Politics of 007 (Indiana University Press, 2005), edited by Edward P. Commentale, Stephen Watt and Skip Willman -- highly academicised cultural studies interpretations of the Bond phenomenon that are heavy on the theory and short on anything that resembles crisp, clear prose. Jeremy Black's The Politics of James Bond -- published in hardback by Praeger in 2001 and now making a welcome appearance in paperback -- falls, fortunately, into a third category, one that takes its subject matter seriously and adopts a duly scholarly approach but which is refreshingly free from the jargon of culture-speak and does not require a dictionary of critical theory to rest by the reader's elbow. It is to be hoped that, just as Fleming's novels first appeared as 'quality' hardbacks before being paperbacked, the publication of Black's monograph in paperback will earn it the wider general readership it deserves.......
Full text in Scope Issue 7


The Later Bond Books
The World of Bond
The Novels and Films

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About the author (2005)

Jeremy Black is a professor of history at the University of Exeter. His books include Maps and Politics; War for America: The Fight for Independence, 1775?1783; and War and the World: Military Power and the Fate of the Continents, 1450?2000.

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