Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Book Of Bond (or Every Man His Own 007)

The Book Of Bond (or Every Man His Own 007), by Lt.-Col. William (Bill) Tanner  
No month stated, 1966  Pan Books

In 1965, the same year he published the awesome and highly-recommended The James Bond Dossier, Kinglsey Amis posed as William “Bill” Tanner and published this separate look at the James Bond novels of Ian Fleming, but this one in a more humorous vein (and it’s even more scarce on the second-hand market). Not that the Dossier wasn’t humorous, but whereas it was an overview/study of the Bond novels, The Book Of Bond is more of a satirical how-to manual for “would-be Bonds,” taking instructions directly from Fleming’s books, but filtered through Amis’s sense of humor. And I have to stress again, this dude is very funny.

Tanner of course is a character within the Bond novels; he’s M’s Chief of Staff and supposedly Bond’s best friend. Amis starts off the jokery posthaste by mentioning this in the brief bio at the start of the book, stating that Bond took Tanner out to dinner “at least once.” As Amis himself noted in the Dossier, it’s hard to imagine James Bond having “friends,” so this is actually an in-joke for those who have read both books. And as Amis also stated in the Dossier, readers themselves don’t want to be friends with Bond – they want to be Bond. Clearly then The Book Of Bond picks up from this idea and shows the reader how to go about it.

This slim Pan paperback (there doesn’t appear to have been a US paperback edition) is almost like the 007 version of a study Bible; Amis will mention such and such elements from the series, and to the left of the text we’ll have a reference to the work in question via book title and chapter. So we’ll have say “DN 9” for Doctor No chapter 9. The short stories from For Your Eyes Only (Octopussy And The Living Daylights not being published yet) are referred to by the book’s title followed by the number of the story within; ie, the title story of that book is “FYEO 1.” There are also photo-realistic ink drawings throughout the text.

The first chapter is devoted to “Drink,” and Amis briefly outlines the various spirits Bond has consumed, advising would-be Bonds that drinking is very important if you want to be your own Bond. “Your daily intake should stay around half a bottle of spirits.” But avoid beer whenever you’re in England: “To be seen with a pint of beer in your hand would be instant death to all your hopes of 007ship.” Beer is okay when out of the country, though; whiskey is more along the lines of what you want, in particular bourbon. As for gin, you want Beefeater’s or Gordon’s, and for vodka, you insist on Russian, “neat and ice cold.” Brandy though is “essentially a medicinal drink for certain emergencies or ordeals.” Next we come to cocktails: “you don’t do the making, of course, but you should know how.” As for champagne, you’ll drink anything well-known, but table wines really aren’t your thing. Same for liquers. As for soda? “None.”

Throughout Amis subtly pokes fun at the source material, illustrating the appearance of each drink via sly references to the novels – not in a snarky way, but in a way that makes clear his love of Fleming’s work. For example, in the “cocktails” section Amis details a few of the mixed drinks Bond has consumed, one of them of course the Vesper, from Casino Royale; Amis goes on to suggest that, upon drinking this concoction, you should compliment the bartender (whom of course you had to tell how to make the drink in the first place) and say that, while good, it would’ve been better with Russian vodka instead of potato vodka – all, of course, the same as Bond in Casino Royale. Amis specifies though that you must hope the bartender is particularly dense, as potato vodka is practically “bath-tub water,” and you’d be hard-pressed to find any establisment that serves it, even behind the Iron Curtain.

Chapter two is all about “Food.” “Your position here is being gourmet while pretending not to be.” Under General Principles, Amis stresses, “Never invite anybody, least of all a girl, to a meal at your flat.” This means you would have to chose the course and also oversee the preparation of the meal, which goes against another 007 dictum: “Show no knowledge whatever of how food is actually prepared.” Finally, “a cheap way of asserting your individuality” is to always complain about the service and the fare in the various restaurants you frequent, particularly when on a date.

“Smoke” is the subject of chapter three: “The two basic points are to smoke hard and to enjoy it.” As we all know, Bond smokes a whole bunch of cigarettes in the novels: “Your basic consumption is sixty a day” if you want to be your own 007. However, be sure to “Treat it as a pleasure, not a habit.” We also get some details on Bond’s “specially-made” cigarettes, which in fact are available for anyone to purchase at certain tobacco shops. Also handy tips on how to exhale – only either as a hissing sound between your teeth, or through your nose.

Next we come to “Looks” in chapter four: “Those under four foot six and over seven foot would be better to model themselves on one of the original 007’s enemies.” As for your age, “You should be, or should aim at seeming to be, between about thirty-seven and thirty-nine,” and your hair must be black, even if you have to dye it. Amis frets over those suffering from baldness; “Sean Connery can carry off a toupee,” but for the average guy this might prove to be troublesome. As for your weight, “A paunchy 007 cannot exist.” Hardly anyone notices eye color, fortunately, but you should have a tan – though if you have to resort to a tanning bed, you must hide the fact. Amis jokes that you can hide it along with your spare toupee, dentures, etc.

Chapter five is all about “Excercise” and goes over what few physical activities we’ve seen Bond endure in the series. You should Golf on weekends; “Your handicap has risen to nine.” Skiing is also important, and here Amis relies heavily on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Swimming gets most of its details from Live And Let Die. Unarmed Combat leans heavily on Goldfinger: it’s probably best not to tell your female companion gory stories about past battles; just leave it at, “I only know five ways of killing a man with a single blow.” As for Keeping Fit, we get the morning routine from From Russia With Love, which is hilariously simple: “twenty slow press-ups” and some toe-touching, etc. 

“Clothes” are the topic of chapter six, with a brief rundown of “the original 007’s” standard wardrobe, from his suits to what he wears to the beach. You can find all of this stuff, along with images, over at the Clothing Of James Bond website. But Amis stresses that you must avoid anything “gaudy” or “obviously expensive” in your wardrobe. He also says not to get a 007-mandatory gun, as the holster will mess up the line of your coat and will get in the way of your golf swing. Instead, go with a knife hidden in a compartment above the heel of your shoe.

Next up is “Accessories,” chapter seven: here too Amis advises against “unnecesary ornament,” ie things like gold watches and whatnot. He says to focus on only three items: Luggage (using the tricked-out one in From Russia With Love as an example), Writswatch (a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Chronometer – which by the way makes for a handy “knuckle-duster”), and Saftey Razors (you want an old Gillette). In chapter eight we go over “Cars:” You tell people your car is a 1954 Continental Bentley, even if you don’t actually own one, but you’ve also been known to drive an Aston Martin DB III with reinforced bumpers and hidden compartments within. Your first car, a classic Bentley, was destroyed by an insane former Nazi.

Chapter nine is about “Places:” You don’t pretend to have been everywhere, despite the amount of traveling you’ve done, but you know what you like – and it isn’t Paris. “You have cordially disliked Paris since the war.” Amis briefly goes over Venice, Istanbul, New York, and places outside New York, relying as ever on material from the novels. Chapter ten is “Chat,” where Amis says that, despite all the vague remarks you make, the time will come when you will have to actually talk to someone. He says to stick to generalizations and thrown-off remarks, and in a humorous sequence provides conversation scenarios based around events in the novels.

Chapter eleven is “Culture,” where Amis says you should only have a “modest” library, as having a lot of books is more typical of a villain(!). We get a list of all the books Bond is noted as having read in the series, with the note that “you aren’t an author of note,” providing an example of the “original 007’s” attempt at haiku in You Only Live Twice So I take this to mean Amis considers Fleming’s poetry subpar. You can also claim that one day you’ll write a book on Unarmed Combat, to be titled “Stay Alive!,” but of course never actually do it, just like Bond in Goldfinger. We have a very brief overview of the theater, music, and cinema mentions in the series – Amis wraps up by saying that Bond is really more interested in trains, fast cars, and of course women.

Chapter twelve is focused on “the most important” part of the 007 character: “Gambling.” Amis says you can’t hope to gamble in the amounts Bond himself does, but to go through elaborate schemes to fool people into thinking you’re a famous high-roller. This incurs visiting the casino early, tipping the various employees and making yourself known, then returning soon after and exploiting the image you’ve just created. While you yourself never actually gamble, you pick out someone at a table who looks “sinister” and stare at him all night, calmly exhaling smoke through your nostrils. Explain to your female companion – you of course have picked one up if only due to the image you’ve created – that you aren’t gambling because you’re “after bigger fish.” Then continue to stare meaningfully at your pretend target.

Chapter thirteen is “M (for the older reader)”: “When 007ship begins to strike you as too expensive, too strenuous, and (above all) too juvenile a pursuit, the time has come to make the switch to Mship.” As we’ll recall from The James Bond Dossier, Amis is no fan of M, and this brief snapshot of the crusty old bastard is a hilarious piece of character assassination. Basically, dress however you want and always be testy with others, but of course you’re doing all this yourself, as M himself appears to be sexless. You of course have “damnably clear” eyes. You smoke a pipe, but limit yourself to two cheroots a day; it “must be coincidence” that cheroots are normally smoked by “very bad people” in the Bond novels.

Chapter fourteen is dedicated to “Girls (for the 007-chaser),” and is a guide for women on how to pick up their own 007. Using the various Bondgirls as illustrative examples, Amis breaks it down to Clothes (“near the top of the price range” but “unlikely to look good on anybody over thirty-five”), Looks (“ideally you need to be a blonde” with “blue or possibly grey eyes” and, of course, “beautiful firm breasts”), and also the type of car you should drive to get any 007 panting with lust. Amis mostly leans on Domino from Thunderball, Vesper from Casino Royale, and Solitaire from Live And Let Die; I was surprised that Honeychile Rider of Doctor No is only mentioned so far as her “outdoors” clothing goes (ie leather belt, snorkel mask, and nothing else). Amis rated Honey as his favorite Bondgirl in the Dossier, so I expected to see more about her here.

The final chapter is “Research” and returns to the role-playing antics in the Gambling chapter. Here Amis dispenses with the Bible study-esque book references in the left column and instead comes up with scenarios for the more advanced would-be Bond to attempt, once he’s gotten the hang of the material presented in the previous 14 chapters. This entails Excercises (go around your hotel room searching for bugs in the presences of your latest female companion, etc), Experiments (mail yourself a clock and immediately dunk it in water upon opening it, again in front of your latest female companion, etc), and Teamwork (try to contact other would-be Bonds, using the recognition code from From Russia, With Love; ie I use a lighter,” etc).

And that’s it, just barely over a hundred pages in this Pan edition, The Book Of Bond is a humorous look into Fleming’s work, at least filtered through Kinglsey Amis’s own perception of it. It’s not nearly as insightful or entertaining as The James Bond Dossier, but I’d say it too is highly recommended for the Bond fan, and also should be mandatory reading for any modern-day continuation author looking to set their Bond novel in Fleming’s day – which is to say, as with the Dossier, you aren’t going to find any watered-down modern sentiments here. And I think Fleming himself would’ve enjoyed this one, but then he was always self-deprecating about his work.

No comments: