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With the expected lull in-between Bond films taking longer than expected due to the legal case surrounding the collapse of MGM and so not having much new material to look at other than the re-released DVD's, I thought I would catch up on the pile of books that I have relating to Bond. One that stood out straight away was The Secret World of 007. Noticeable due to the fact the cover is simply a dark red colour with silver lettering depicting the title, more This Is Your Life than 007! Although this does give it a nice individual appearance as it does make it look like an official Government folder than a book. An updated version to include Quantum of Solace was issued at the time the latest film was released in the cinema to bring everything up to date and current featuring a very good photo of Bond number 6, Daniel Craig, on the cover and yes I have both editions! In actual fact this is the third edition to be released since Pierce Brosnan wore the tuxedo.
A similar version and unconnected version of the book was released in 1987 which gave an overview of the Bond franchise aimed at the younger reader to introduce them to the films and the characters, the more recent book is not an update but a book that simply uses the same title that has been redesigned from cover to cover and isn't at all recognisable on comparison and besides the aims of the book and the way the facts are presented are a hell of a lot better than the earlier version given the facts that the depth the book goes into is amazing given the audience its aimed at in the first place, by this I mean that the adults will be more intrigued by this book than the children. The reason for this is simple as the book has a number of cutaway diagrams that show the inner workings of such Bond icons as the white Lotus Espirit that Bond uses as a submarine and the famous DB5 from Goldfinger. Each diagram is presented in full colour and annotated with lines coming out from the areas to explain what this area is and also does, backed up with photos of the weapon in action from the relevant film as well to give a full overview of how it fits into the Bond legacy.
It doesn't really matter who your favourite actor is who played Bond, all aspects of the adventures are contained in film order starting with Dr No from 1962 right up to the most recent release. Other than the cars the book also indulges itself into giving a detailed breakdown of the villain's lair such as Atlantis from The Spy Who Loved me used by Karl Stromberg, even the lift shafts are included and the individuality of each one is shown in glorious detail. On this subject it has to be said that the same amount of exposure isn't varied at all and every film is given the same amount of attention spread across three of four pages with regards to the characters and the information presented to the reader.
The smart thing about The Secret World of 007 is the method in which the booked is ordered to amplify the clarity of what you are reading about. The first twenty pages consists of a profile of Bond himself as an Agent with a nice piece about his background that is brief enough to take in without becoming the commanding text on the page. The manner in which he dresses and what he wears when on a mission is detailed and informative, whether it's a suit by designers Tom Ford or Brioni or specialist clothing for different environments such as the Artic or a Jungle. All clothing details are included under the heading The Bond Look. The other sections detail the women that Bond has fallen in love with and the one he married, mix this in with two page sections about Bond's employer and Q branch as well as the Villain of each piece then you have a very granular insight to 007 already and this is even before the film section has kicked in.
The writers decided to give this a deliberate grounding in the Bond universe and have even provided a tongue in cheek foreword that has been provided by M. M describes this book as a breakthrough as the information contained being printed to member s of the public would have been unthinkable until now. I like this as it does give an understanding to the reader as it would have been a sorely missed opportunity not to have Bond's chief say something at the beginning.
As you can imagine the text is only part of the story and this is where the book excels itself, to back a piece of text up in what is being said a photo has been added to show what is being said. The quality of the photographs on each page is absolutely superb, the desire to use black and white pictures is kept to a minimum and the pages consist of colour photos throughout that tend to be either hi-res shots taken from the film in question or the promotional shots. Both are of such a high quality that has been printed onto glossy paper that both the colour and non-colour photos all look good anyway, and its nice to see that there are a number of rare pictures included that are used to good effect in the correct sections, some being placed at an angle to move away from the boring layout that could easily become repetitive in nature and even from the outset the diagrammatical drawings begin straight away with a breakdown of the belt buckle used by Bond in Goldeneye. You may also expect the actor playing Bond to appear in every photo as well, thankfully this doesn't happen and the actor playing Bond is actually kept out of some photos and only seen where necessary, which in turn allows the subject to be the focus rather than 007.
Finishing off the book is a full cast list of each film, this goes into some depth as to who played who and is informative to the extent that the reader can tie in the actor with the relevant section to give a greater overview. I'm in two minds as to whether this was needed or not really as in some aspects the book gives a point of view from the Bond universe and the list of credits at the end takes you out of this world completely and brings you back to reality. However after going through the book a few times my mind had changed and I was in the camp that thought this was a good way of completing the book, after all it does have six actors playing the part of Bond over forty five years so I can understand and see why this was done a bit better now.
Publishers Dorling Kingsley have released a number of books for various areas of fantasy such as Batman and Superman over the past few years, these are all a high standard, yet the key to the quality of the product is who is bought into make the idea a reality. In this case they have bought in a subject matter expert as a Consultant - Dave Worrell. He has written books about the DB5 as well as The Authorised Guide to 007 and someone who I have had the pleasure of meeting. Add to the mix Roger Stewart a technical illustrator and author Alistair Dougall has delivered an excellent book.
As I said earlier this is aimed at younger readers and can be considered an entry point into the films, this will give an excellent understanding of the films and what they are about, however if this was on a coffee table and waiting to be read then I can imagine the adults in the room would have some conversations about this and what film was about what plot and so on and the kids would get a brain feed from this book in the same way that I did when I read this the first time.
James Bond: The Secret World of 007 was published in 2000 and written by Alastair Dougall. This is yet another illustrated coffee table Bond book but a good one and one that can be picked up quite cheaply these days as it only goes up to 1999's The World Is Not Enough. The book has a slightly strange but enjoyable approach where it acts as if James Bond was a real person ('The real 007 has never disclosed which actor he feels has captured him the best!') and we are being offered a top secret glimpse into his world. The Secret World of 007 runs to 144 pages and is lavishly illustrated. There are three sections in the book, the first of which is The Bond Dossier which looks at MI6, his gadgets, his women, his allies, the villains - plus the clothes and habits that make up a suave superspy. 'The Missions' looks at Bond's task in each film with much detail about the more famous vehicles he has owned or used and a wealth of illustrative information about the villains various headquarters, from Blofeld's hollowed out volcano in You Only Live Twice to Stromberg's undersea Captain Nemo style base Atlantis. The final section looks at the films that have been made about Bond, from Dr No to The World Is Not Enough, with details about the five Bond actors.
While there won't be much new here to people who already have some of these big illustrated Bond guides already this one is quite good fun and of a high standard. It is unavoidably dated though and very Brosnancentric in terms of its images and general feel. The book was sanctioned by EON (the company who makes the Bond pictures) and they do tend to overegg whoever is Bond at the time when they release books like this. You can buy a 2008 version of this now featuring Quantum of Solace but I'm not that fussed myself. I'd rather forget Quantum of Solace even exists! Because this is EON sanctioned and MGM had yet to acquire the rights to it, the 1983 renegade or 'unofficial' Bond film Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery (it's a very long long story how this film got to be made but it all had to do with a producer called Kevin McClory writing some of Thunderball with Ian Fleming) is not featured here which is a slight shame. Never Say Never Again is not a great film but it is interesting to look at in any capacity.
The stuff here on the villain 'lairs' is great fun with some detailed analysis of how they they work and where all the rooms and functions are. Obviously, it would probably be a bit difficult to build a headquarters out of a volcano or decamp to a space station with your followers like Hugo Drax but this book is quite amusing in the way it pretends this is all real and suspension of disbelief is a big part of James Bond films. Some of the stuff I quite enjoyed here was a look at the big battle sequences that frequently used to close out the more vintage Bond pictures. The Ninja attack on Blofeld's volcano in You Only Live Twice, the Alpine helicopter attack on Piz Gloria in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the huge ending to Goldfinger in Fort Knox, the attack on Carl Stromberg's Atlantis base in The Spy Who Loved Me, and so on. This tradition seems to be a thing of the past now and the series seems to have long since lost that gargantuan sense of scope and mayhem that Cubby Broccoli always had a knack of doing so well. Although The Secret World of 007 is a decade old now (well this version at any rate) it only misses out three Bond films and the trawl through some of the more vintage entries in the sixties and seventies are always entertaining however many times you've seen them on television or read profiles about them in books like this.
Another section I quite liked was about fights and chases on or involving vehicles. The two famous train punch-ups in From Russia With Love and The Spy Who Loved Me for example and all the various cars, planes and vehicles deployed by Bond to escape. There is a breakdown of the more general fights too and a reminder of some good ones. The fight between Necros and a security guard at the MI6 safehouse in The Living Daylights was an excellent one but it tends to get overlooked now, perhaps because it didn't actually feature Bond. It's only in the last section that the book really deploys photographs of Connery, Lazenby, Moore and Dalton when it looks the films. For most of the book Pierce Brosnan is used as the image of Bond which is understandable I suppose as he was the current 007 at the time and looked set for a lengthy stay (although he only did one more film after this). I haven't seen the revised edition but it wouldn't surprise you if Brosnan has been airbrushed out of his central role in the book given his acrimonious and slightly bitter parting of the ways with EON.
Although I enjoyed this book and it's very well designed and put together, I don't think I would have been willing to pay much for it as there are dozens of Bond books like this already on the market. I tend to wait until these are a few years old and pick them up for a nominal fee. Something like The Incredible World of 007 will give you much more text to read and a subjective analysis so, overall, I prefer books like that, but this certainly scores very highly on the picture front. So while The Secret World of 007 is fun to flip through and has been put together with a great deal of care and affection I don't think this is an essential purchase and only one to pick up at a bargain price. You should bear in mind that you can pick a 2008 edition of this book too. While it doesn't bother me not having the newer version of this others might prefer to go for that one. This book is pretty good on the whole but unavoidably does tread very familiar ground in the crowded Bond illustrated guide market.