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COLUMN: A spy from yesterday faces the world of today

The first James Bond novel appeared 70 years ago
Daniel Craig poses for photographers upon arrival for the World premiere of the new film from the James Bond franchise ‘No Time To Die’, in London Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

Somewhere in London, at a casino not too far from an upscale senior care centre, a well-dressed elderly man is playing baccarat at the card tables.

He still enjoys his martinis — shaken, not stirred — and he still has his love of technology, fast cars and fast women. However, he has long ago given up his smoking habit.

His name is Bond, James Bond, and in an earlier time he had a stellar reputation as a spy in the British Secret Service.

The character was created by British novelist Ian Fleming and first appeared in the 1953 novel, Casino Royale. Fleming wrote a total of 12 novels and two short story collections featuring the spy. Other authors have also written novels and short stories about Bond.

Since Dr. No in 1962, there have been 25 James Bond films, each enjoying good returns at the box office. A total of six actors have portrayed the iconic and flamboyant secret agent on the screen, and each one has achieved a level of fame as a result.

By comparison, 12 people have set foot on the surface of the moon, which means the odds of landing a role as James Bond are even slimmer than the odds of becoming an astronaut on a lunar voyage.

While Bond was killed off in the 2021 movie, No Time to Die, the world may not have seen the last of this character.

Throughout 2022 and 2023, there have been rumours about a new James Bond movie, although details of the cast, directors and storyline have not yet been released. There is also some talk of a potential James Bond television series.

Ian Fleming’s legendary spy has incredible staying power, and the figure is still recognizable today. That is quite an accomplishment 70 years after the publication of the first Bond novel and more than 60 years after the release of the first motion picture.

At the same time, the enduring appeal of the stories, in print and on screen, is puzzling. The character of James Bond appeared during the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union dissolved more than 30 years ago and its hammer and sickle flag was lowered on Dec. 25, 1991. Global politics today is nothing like it was in the 1950s or even the 1980s.

Nuclear threats still remain, but in recent years, terror attacks, cybersecurity threats, election interference by foreign powers and other geopolitical instabilities have increased.

The world has seen a global pandemic and the effects of climate change, both of which have had far-reaching effects.

This does not address his reputation as a womanizer, which would likely see a lot of criticism and opposition if the character had been introduced in 2023 instead of 1953. His willingness to use violence and deception might also be uncomfortable if the character were appearing today rather than 70 years earlier.

There’s something comforting in enjoying action movies or adventure novels featuring a familiar character. There’s an appeal in the familiarity.

Still, the character should be seen as the product of an earlier era. Today is not yesterday, and the world of 2023 is not the same as the world of 1953 or 1962.

Perhaps it’s best to leave James Bond to enjoy a well-deserved retirement in London, where he can enjoy card games and martinis.

New heroes are needed for the coming year.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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