Review by C.J. Bunce

Sometimes you can align the right fan with a project and come up with something great.  Add Mark Edlitz to that list and his fascinating, broad look at the James Bond franchise in The Many Lives of James Bond: How the Creators of 007 Have Decoded the Superspy As audiences get ready for 2020’s No Time to Die, the franchise continues to be as popular as ever, through new fiction and non-fiction books, comics, music, posters, and more.   But how do you translate the master British spy from Ian Fleming’s original stories into new stories, or adapt the character to the big screen, to audio books and radio plays, and to spin-off comic books and novels?  Mark Edlitz is a long-time fan who took his tape recorder along to Bond conventions over the years and interviewed everyone he could find in front of and behind the camera, then expanded that into people behind the books and everything else he could find.  The result is the largest collection of Bond oral histories anywhere.  The result is The Many Lives of James Bond, now available for the first time, from Lyons Press.

Supplemented with sketch art (from artist Pat Carbajal) and peppered with black and white photographs of the interview subjects, Edlitz makes up for some of the big creators he was unable to interview by interviewing people close to them.  Interviewing people is not easy: Sometimes the subjects aren’t good at being interviewed, and oftentimes subjects are evasive for whatever reason.  But most subjects in the book said they felt a certain family connection to the honor of working on a Bond project, and were open with their thoughts.  It’s full of all kinds of surprises, and more insights than you can imagination about being Bond, from interviews with Roger Moore and George Lazenby, a stunt double, Hoagy Carmichael and David Niven’s sons (Fleming’s initial visions for Bond), and Glen A. Schofield, who provides his account of working with Sean Connery as voice over actor in a video game 20 years after his last Bond performance.  The Many Lives of James Bond also looks back to some early, pre-Bond film era performers.

  

Edlitz covers casting the role and directing Bond (from movie directors Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale), Roger Spotiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies), and editor and unit director John Glen (who worked on eight films with four Bond actors)), writing words and working with the famed producers who own the Bond legacy (from interviews with more than a dozen writers, including three-time Bond screenwriter Bruce Feirstein), creating music for Bond (from songwriters Leslie Bricusse (Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice) and Don Black (who wrote songs for five films)), creating clothes for Bond (from Jany Temime (Skyfall, SPECTRE)), and even marketing Bond (in movie posters created by Robert McGinnis (Diamonds are Forever, Live and Let Die), Rudy Obrero (Never Say Never Again), and Dan Goozee (Moonraker, Octopussy, A View to a Kill)), all while trying to be faithful to Fleming’s vision while adapting when necessary to changing times.

More creators than you think have played James Bond, and even more have created his stories.  Readers will find why each of the Bond actors approached the character differently, and why, when they attempted to play the role as any of the other actors, it didn’t work, which is why Connery and Craig have been tough, but Moore and Brosnan more light-hearted and comedic (the writers knew this and had to write for this difference in James Bond psyche, too).  Creators speak out on why Craig and Connery (and their films) fit the mold for Bond the most, and even offer their picks for best actor and best Bonds.  Did you know Roger Moore never uttered the phrase “shaken, not stirred”?  Find out why in the book.

An entire generation of Bond fans look to the original, pre-movie comic strips as their ultimate Bond fix.  Edlitz interviewed comic strip illustrator John McLusky′s son, who watched his father work in the 1950s and 1960s.  Probably the most keen insight into who is Bond comes from the interview with comic book writer/artist Mike Grell, whose graphic novel Permission to Die (reviewed here at borg) has been called the best Bond movie in print.

To complete his account, Edlitz takes the additional step of including an appendix pulling in the works of others, quotations from those Bond actors and creators you’d hope to find in a book like this.  He also includes interviews with two “Bond girls,” Lana Wood (who also discusses her famous actress sister, Natalie) and Lisa Funnel.

Even passing fans of James Bond–in any of his incarnations–will find some interesting gold nuggets about the characters in Ian Fleming’s world, on the writing and creative process, and on one of pop culture’s biggest and greatest franchises.  A fun read and great gift for your favorite Bond fan, The Many Lives of James Bond: How the Creators of 007 Have Decoded the Superspy is available now here at Amazon.