James Bond: my long and eventful search for his father, Kindle Shorts e-book, 2012
This is the most recent published book by Len Deighton (it is an e-book, which was not published in physical form but came about as a result of a proposal from Amazon, creator of the Kindle e-book).
Len Deighton returned to the world of the published author with this e-book, his fascinating tale of how one of cinema's iconic figures came to be. Produced in the year that saw the 50th anniversary of Ian Fleming's James Bond's first film and the release of Skyfall to universal acclaim, Len was asked to give his perspective - at some length, for the first time - on the origins of this most famous of screen characters and make a further contribution to the Bond mythos.
The Kindle Single reads like a long article that one might read in The Sunday Times Magazine or an essay in The Literary Review. Published solely online - a first for Len - this 10,000-word book is only available online.
As someone who was acquainted with Ian Fleming and Kevin McClory, the film producer who is one of the important figures in the development of the Bond mythos through his work on early drafts of From Russia With Love and subsequently on Never Say Never Again (the Thunderball remake), Len provides an unrivalled insider's view of the development of Bond as the character moved from page to screen.
Len was an insider and witness to much of what went on as the character made this transition to cinema. It is his attention to detail, and his capacity to recall in detail many of the meetings and anecdotes which, story by story, gives this book a ring of authenticity. It is also interesting to read again about the connections between the development of James Bond and the simultaneous development of Len's 'unnamed spy' character, subsequently of course Harry Palmer.
We read in the book about Len's first encounter with Ian Fleming in the White Tower restaurant in Soho, a restaurant that "catered to soft-spoken, dark-suited tycoons, film people, politicians and advertising executives with fat expense accounts. It said a lot about Ian that he preferred such formality." It was over this lunch conversation that Fleming revealed his admiration for the agents he controlled from behind his desk in Naval Intelligence during the war; men like Merlin Minshall who were at the sharp end of the intelligence fight against the Nazis and had many colourful tales to relate.
The book goes on to recount the efforts to get Bond onto the big screen, and it is here that the story becomes interesting as it looks at the myriad elements behind Bond's creation - on screen and on the page - which have kept writers, fans and fiction historians entertained and intrigued.
Why it's enjoyable
The book provides an extensive re-telling of the whole story which has been document elsewhere by other authors and Bond fans in great detail, and also been the subject of extensive legal arguments over the decades. While some of the stories are familiar from previous articles, much of it seems new and refreshingly honest.
In a year in which Bond showed himself to be the 'King Of All Cinema', Deighton mapped out in compelling detail - such as his hint at the origin of the 007 moniker, and fascinating perspectives from Bond ground-zero, the bumpy road by which Bond moved from page to screen. The last paragraph, in particular, is a real peach!
'[Bond was] Fleming's screwball alter ego. Writing provided a chance to depict the forbidden dreams of this outwardly cool, but morose and moody Royal Naval officer.'