Earlier this year I wrote about how I had gotten interested in reading James Bond books. And I must admit that this interest resulted in me going on a Bond binge. After reading three Bond books over the first three weeks of January, I proceeded to read six more Bond books in three weeks and watched a total of 12 Bond movies.
As I detailed in this previous post, my plan was to read the book first and then watch the movie which is opposite of what I normally do—watching a movie and then in the credits learning that the movie was based on a book that I then read. And is often the case, I enjoy the book more than the movie.
For those unfamiliar with the Ian Fleming books upon which many of the movies are based, Fleming published a total of 14 James Bond books, one a year starting in 1953 and ending in 1966 (two years after his death).
At first, I added the movies to my NetFlix queue in the approximate order in which they were released but then realized that I should probably read the books in the order in which Ian Fleming published them instead. I made the switch thinking that Fleming might have made references back to previous books in the newly published book. I’m glad I did, as there was references from earlier books in each book and in one case, the outcome of the previous book factored significantly in the subsequent book and in fact would have been a spoiler to the previous book if I had read them out of order.
The main exception to this was my reading of the three books that made up the SPECTRE trilogy which were Fleming’s ninth, eleventh, and twelfth books published. These three represented a continuation of Bond’s clash with SPECTRE, the SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion.
For these three, I read the book first and then watched the movie. For the first two books, Thunderball and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the movie followed fairly closely the plot of the book so the book provided helpful background information that made some of the events in the movie more understandable. For the third book of the trilogy, You Only Live Twice, the movie was quite different from the book.
After reading these three books, I decided to read Goldfinger, Fleming’s seventh book (the third movie released) since I had watched this movie out of order. Seeing the movie before reading the book provided me with some enjoyable visual images in my mind as I read the book. The plot between the book and the movie was very similar but the movie added some additional action scenes not in the book in order to make the movie more exciting.
Having completed these four books and companion movies, I got back to reading the books in the order in which they were published and proceeded to read the next five Bond books: Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds are Forever, From Russia with Love, and Dr. No.
For the first three of these books, I found that the book was much more enjoyable than the movie since the movie deviated so far from the book. In fact, some of the parts of the movies were a bit “cheesy”, a far cry from the action scenes that dominate the Bond movies of today. In the case of Moonraker, the only similarity between the book and movie was the name of the villain and one scene where the villain is trying to kill Bond and his female companion.
For the last two books I read, the movies followed the plot of the books fairly closely. These were in fact the first two Bond movies released in the early 1960s and since Ian Fleming was still alive then, he must have had the opportunity to prevent the movie from straying too far from the plot of the book. The one exception was in From Russia With Love; the Russian plot is almost half the book, which is critical to the story. In the movie, this is almost completely left out which would have made certain events in the movie confusing had I not read the book first. For Dr. No, the few plot changes incorporated in the movie were definite improvements to the story and who could ever forget that classic movie scene of a scantily clad Ursula Andress emerging from the tropical waters and encountering James Bond on the beach, a famous scene repeated many years later by Halle Berry in another Bond movie, Die Another Day.
Overall within a six-week period, I read nine James Bond books and adding in Casino Royale, which I read in December 2015, I have consumed 10 of the 14 Fleming books. And with few exceptions, I enjoyed the book more than the movie (no surprise there) although there were some good plots added in the movies to update the stories from the height of the cold war (mid to late 1950s) when many of the books were published to the space age (mid to late 1960s) when the movies were released. But as enjoyable as the books were, not once during my reading did the ubiquitous “James Bond Theme”—that now classic guitar instrumental—begin playing in my mind during a particularly exciting part of the book as is often the case in the movies.
Having read 10 books so far, my plan is to save the last four for next year to kick start my reading year in 2017 with some short, fun reads. But I must say that for anyone who has ever enjoyed a James Bond movie that I would highly recommend reading the books and reading them in the order in which they were published. I dare say that you too may find yourself going on a fun James Bond binge.