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Book review: Some Kind Of Hero: The Remarkable Story Of The James Bond Films

By: Brian Smith
Some Kind Of Hero James Bond book review
Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury’s book Some Kind Of Hero with a foreword by George Lazenby arrived in 2015 to great critical acclaim. Last year a new deluxe softcover edition was published, fully updated to include Spectre (2015) and the Road to Bond 25, No Time To Die (2020).

On point from the off, the first sentence of the first chapter is a mission statement for what follows: ‘Ian Fleming had always wanted his James Bond novels to be filmed.’ Thus begins the first of three biographies of the men who brought James Bond to the screen – creator Ian Fleming and producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli. The Harry Saltzman chapter is a revelation. This is the first serious biography of Saltzman, and benefits from having major contributions from Saltzman’s children – Hilary and Steven – and his third wife, Adriana. Similarly, new light is shed on the Broccoli story with the authors’ interviews with the likes of Robert Wagner, Alan Ladd Jr., Guy Hamilton (1922-2016), and Mike Medavoy. The narratives of these biographies are neatly tied up to commence a chapter by chapter story for each of the Bond films, and the ones that got away, such as Timothy Dalton’s Bond 17 and the Jinx spin-off adventure.

As soon as one begins the chapter on Dr No you realise that this is something special. Brand new interviews with people who were there at the beginning – United Artists chief David Picker (1931-2019), composer Monty Norman, production designer Ken Adam (1921-2016), Ursula Andress, and the first in-depth interview with scriptwriter Joanna Harwood – contribute so much that even the most ardent Bond fan cannot fail to be impressed with the amount of hitherto unknown information brought to light. Every quote from the authors’ interviews, every detail from their research, is seamlessly woven in to fashion a coherent and highly readable story. Even though each chapter can be read in isolation, the nature of the writing is almost like a thriller as you are swept along at a blistering pace, keen to turn the page to see what happens next. Not only is Some Kind Of Hero extremely well researched – it is beautifully written.

Field and Chowdhury have done an incredible amount of work to ‘clarify, correct and reconfigure the original text for this book’. There is a tangible added value to this new edition and due credit to the authors and their publisher for going the extra mile. All of the chapters now have trade advertisements for each film. (I love the advance poster on page 278 announcing The Spy Who Loved Me directed by Guy Hamilton due in 1976 – Bond films do get delayed and directors are replaced!) A further 8 pages of colour photographs have been added to the already impressive 16 pages of photographs carried over from the original edition. There is also a tribute to the late Sir Roger Moore (1927-2017). The book as a whole has been thoughtfully constructed, from the impressive cover design to the chapter titles which are derived from the lyrics of the song from their respective film. Not only amusing, but they also cleverly fit the story.

Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury Some Kind Of Hero authors
Some Kind of Hero authors Matthew Field (left) and Ajay Chowdhury (right). All rights reserved.

At various points the book diverges from the making of the films to discuss other topics such as Bondmania in the Sixties and the six-year gap between Licence To Kill and GoldenEye. Most interesting is the chapter on the split between Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli, the deliciously titled ‘Two Scorpions in a Bottle’ – itself the subject of a later book – but here told for the first time and with contributions from alumni close to the eye of the storm.

Over 120 new interviews were conducted for the book, including five of the actors to have played Bond, every living director, screenwriter, studio executive, leading lady, villain, and then some. Field and Chowdhury are some kind of heroes.

The star of this edition is the chapter on Spectre with new contributions from director Sam Mendes, screenwriters John Logan, Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, Daniel Craig and most of the other department heads. Sam Mendes in particular offers an interesting insight into the making of the 24th Bond film.

Some Kind Of Hero is the best book I have read on the subject of the James Bond films, period. Required reading for the serious Bond fan.

Review by Brian James Smith. Copyright © 2019 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.

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