It’s inevitable, really. Every 007 movie brings forth new books about the Bond phenomenon. Some are updated versions of older books, some are new. But they appear as part of the vast Bond marketing machine that hasn’t stopped since the early 1960s. This fall’s release of Spectre, the 24th film in the series, saw its share. Here’s a look at three.
The best by far is The James Bond Archives (Taschen). Created with the full cooperation of the Bond movie people, it’s a 007 fan’s dream. It’s got that Bond sheen. It’s as glossy and big as the best of the movies, as fully packed as any action sequence, and an alluring as even the tamest Bond Girl. It’s an enormous tribute to the series, and I do mean enormous. The oversize hardcover is 624 pages, and the book’s landscape spreads are wide and luxurious, providing the full scope and beauty of the Bond books and movies like no other book before.
Published by Taschen, 007 here gets the royal treatment. The books, presented as full-color covers with essay material about Ian Fleming, and the films, presented with poster art and an endless array of film stills and production documents, are treated as art. And that’s the right perspective, for whether you love all the films or only a few of them, there is no denying their place in the museum of global culture. Highbrow or lowbrow, they’re art — and this book celebrates them in all their glory.
There’s a wealth of background about Fleming, and the stories behind the films are chronicled with oral histories that bring their production to life. Even just turning the pages of this treasure, you get all the vibrancy, excitement, and sort of hushed wonder of being in on something extraordinary.
Bond by Design: The Art of the James Bond Films (DK) is a similarly large production. Instead of presenting the Bond films as art, this one displays the art behind the films: the storyboards and concept art and costume designs that infused the filmmakers’ imaginations before a single frame of film was shot.
This book is a gallery of iconic imagery, sketched and painted and computer-drawn ideas that were sometimes actually built for the films and sometimes not. Ken Adam. Syd Cain. Peter Lamont. These are the men who established and maintained the signature Bond look, and their designs shaped the series as firmly and confidently as Sean Connery’s swagger and John Barry’s music.
With the Archives and Design books at end of the spectrum, Bond vs Bond: The Many Faces of 007 (Race Point Publishing)is at the other. Billed as an exhaustive guide and promising comparisons between the men who’ve portrayed Bond since 1962’s “Dr. No,” instead the book is a rehashing of familiar stories, news items, and more. While it contains a few rare photos, the prose itself is disappointing. It’s bland, shapeless, and forgettable — the opposite of Bond himself. Worse, author Paul Simpson gets many facts wrong. Though he is allegedly a longtime fan of the films, he doesn’t know his stuff. For example, a caption under a photo of Albert R. Broccoli, the famed co-producer or producer of all the official Bond films since the start, is deemed a director. A fact check problem or an author problem? Who can say? But it’s an egregious error in a book that purports to be written by an expert. I think Bond himself might level his Walther at someone who gets something so easy so very wrong. With this guy running things, who needs Blofeld? ◊