Saturday, May 24, 2008

Making the Most of the Bond Brand

We’re not even going to put up the semblance of a fight against the next seven days being James Bond Week. Said designation springs from the fact that Wednesday will mark what would have been the 100th birthday of Ian Fleming (had he not died so inconveniently in 1964), and it will be on that same day that Devil May Care, the new 007 novel by British author Sebastian Faulks, is released worldwide. Trying to resist the coming Bond saturation of the media would be like ... well, like Los Angeles TV stations trying to break away for commercials during O.J. Simpson’s live-on-camera Ford Bronco chase, or John “100 Years War” McCain trying to get a moment’s attention during one of Barack Obama’s mammoth campaign rallies. It’s just not going to be possible.

The Sunday Times of London, which has already done its fair bit in drumming up excitement around the Fleming centenary, kicks things off with an “exclusive” interview with Faulks, in which the author recounts how disinterested he was at first in trying his hand at composing a Bond adventure:
While Faulks was “intrigued” by the proposal, his initial response, he says, was: “I don’t think it’s very likely. It sounds great fun, and I did love the films, but it’s years since I read the books and I don’t imagine they’re much cop, really--though I loved them when I was 12 or 13.” He agreed, however, to look at the novels again--and did so in a characteristically systematic way, going through them in chronological order. “And,” he tells me in a tone that still reflects his surprise, “more or less straightaway I found I enjoyed them. They seemed to me to do that key thing a thriller needs to do, which is to give you a sense of real and present danger. James Bond is a very vulnerable man, with his nice suit and soft shoes and ludicrously underpowered gun. He finds himself in terrible situations, and he’s all on his own--you just worry for his safety.”

Hearing himself say this, Faulks laughs with incredulity. “I thought, how can I be so gullible that at my advanced age [he is 55] and great cynicism, I’m buying into this? But I did.”
Elsewhere in The Times, writer Robert Sellers marvels at the longevity of the Bond brand. He chalks it up, in part, to Fleming having been “a canny businessman.”
When he started writing his Bond novels, in the early 1950s, he set up his own company, Glidrose. It still exists, only it is now called Ian Fleming Publications. “We concentrate on keeping Ian’s books going,” says Corinne Turner, the managing director. “They’re the jewel in our crown, though it’s also our aim to expand the brand with other books.”

The Fleming family, which wholly owns the company, is heavily involved in its running. “They read everything we do,” Turner says. Perhaps that’s the secret of its longevity. Like Disney, Bond is a family business, so decisions aren’t made purely on a let’s-make-as-much-money-as-possible basis, but on whether they are right for the character. It is no coincidence that Eon, maker of the Bond movies, is also run by the heirs of the original 007 producer, Cubby Broccoli, his daughter Barbara and stepson Michael G. Wilson.
Meanwhile, The Guardian weighs in with a James Bond/Ian Fleming quiz that demands at least some knowledge of the author and his randier-than-thou creation to conquer.

And there’s likely to be no end to the dubious tie-ins with this coming centenary. Bish’s Beat lets us in on one of those: the introduction of a new fragrance, being carried into the marketplace upon the shapely back of Gemma Arterton, one of two Bond girls appearing in the next Daniel Craig film, Quantum of Solace. As Paul Bishop reports, “The stunning actress is fronting the newest fragrance campaign from Avon--Bond Girl 007--a partnership with James Bond entertainment, and what is said to be the biggest global fragrance launch of the year.” Look for that perfume in October. But you can check back here for more things Bondian as the week rolls on.

READ MORE:The Man With the Golden Pen,” by Wesley Wark (The Globe and Mail); “James Bond’s TLS,” by Andrew Lycett (The Times); “Not Your Typical James Bond Baddies,” by Devin Zydel (

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