Friday, July 19, 2013

Authorised Biography of James Bond: Humanizing a Secret Agent

After writing the much successful biography of Ian Fleming, his long time secretary John Pearson stumbled on an old photograph and found out James Bond is a real secret agent, presumably in retirement due to work related trauma. Pearson was recruited by MI6 when they found out their well kept secret is out. They authorised him to write a biography of James Bond and send him to Bermuda were Bond was living. Pearson met Bond, who is fifty and quite healthy but a bit worn out due to pressure. Bond recounted his troubled childhood, tragic death of his parents, his education, days in military service and his eventual transformation to the ruthless, cool secret agent whom we are all familiar with. When the Russian secret organisation Smersh wanted to eliminate him and became almost successful , his mentor Ian Fleming, with the consent of his boss M., plans to write fictional novels about his adventures and confuse the Russians. The plan is more successful than they ever thought it would be, making James Bond an icon for generations. Based on his numerous interviews with Bond over several lunches, dinners and gallons of Bourbon, Pearson wrote James Bond: An Authorised Biography in 1973.

This is the basic plot of the novel James Bond: An Authorised Biography by John Pearson. I had watched most of the Bond movies, but read only very few Bond novels- From Russia With Love and Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming and For Special Services by John Gardener. I found them a bit shallow for my liking and anyway after reading John le Carre there was no point in reading James Bond any more. But biography of Bond had a different appeal. Because he was always so impersonal while on his missions and as all his novels and movies invariably happens during his missions, I felt it will be a great opportunity to get a peek into his mind.

The book is quite interesting in many levels. The prose, narration and characterization is far superior than Ian Fleming's novels. Even if you have not read any James Bond novels before this novel can be read and enjoyed. The back stories of other characters is convincing, but the master stroke is the entry of Ian Fleming as a major character. The book mentions most of the plots of Fleming. Some of the more improbable novels like Moonraker are told to be a trick by Fleming to further confuse Russians and make them believe Bond a man of fiction. To add to the credit of author, the humanizing of Bond in no way takes away the aura from him. It makes him more endearing to readers.

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