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It’s dark times for fans of the most enduring movie franchise of all time. Much like 2016 was the “Year without the Doctor” for fans of Doctor Who, the James Bond fans have seen nothing since 2015´s Spectre. Plans for a new movie are in pre-production limbo, a most fearsome place to be, and one that has claimed Bond for up to six years—from License to Kill (1987) to Goldeneye (1995). This has left fans with not much choice but dusting off the old DVD or newer Blue-Ray copies of the previous 24 movies. I’m here to offer another lifeline, one that perhaps has already occurred to some, but not to all fans: Get to meet James Bond, literarily, by reading the books. You can start with Ian Fleming’s, then carry on to recent authors like Raymond Benson and Jeffery Deaver. 

Once decided to visit the origins of the character, the next question is where to begin. For this I’d suggest two options: Follow the publication order and start with Casino Royale, or use the movies as a reference. I won’t go into Casino Royale because chances are many people read the commemorative edition published when the first Daniel Craig movie came out in 2006. The latter option would mean to start with Doctor No

Among the iconic scenes from the movie that were not present in the novel are two that stand out the most: the whole scene in the mountain retreat with one Ms. Taro, a Chinese spy for Dr. No. The other one, and perhaps one that marks the difference for the movie is the use of quips that became a staple of the franchise. In the book you won’t find the line, “I think they were on their way to a funeral.” 

Doctor No is the sixth book in the series, originally published in 1958. The movie follows the plot considerably well, except for the last third. Thus, even if you know the movie by heart, you’ll still be surprised by the ending. The novel is quite good, very fast paced, and filled with more exquisite details than the movie. In this book Ian Fleming followed the advice of one of his fans and had the character of M order Bond to switch handguns, disregard the Beretta and armed him with not only the Walter PPK, but also a Smith & Wesson revolver! Yes, I know the movie doesn’t even mention the .38 Special. 

The novel is not without its faults and it’s a byproduct of the period in which it was written. Fleming as a proper Englishman, one who probably saw his home country as the Ruler of the World that they were for a long time, has some disparate remarks towards other races. For instance, one of the character pegs Jamaicans as lazy, or Syrians as astute businessmen who when overstocked of products lit their stores with the unstated goal of claiming the insurance.

This column may feel like I’m offering books as a consolation prize. That is not the case. I’m just seizing the opportunity to earn more readers to a classic spy franchise that for so long has been judged by its cinematic merits alone. It’s time you met the real James Bond as Ian Fleming intended.

 

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist; however, he ironically prefers to write fiction. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he enjoys to throw in a twist of romance on occasion. He has published three acclaimed novels and is a member of The Crime Writers Association, the Short Fiction Writers Guild, and the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor for their official e-zine The Big Thrill.