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on 24 December 2012
In the year which saw the cinematic James Bond reach new heights (the record-breaking "Skyfall", the Olympics, the merchandising, etc.), the BBC Radio 5 weekly movie show hosted by Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo asked listeners to nominate their "best Bond Villain". All the usual suspects were named (though probably not shamed): Blofeld, Goldfinger, Scaramanga, Rosa Kleb, Dr No, as you might expect; but one wag suggested "Kevin McClory". Who? You might well ask, but you don't have to puzzle for too long as the incomparable Len Deighton reveals the role played by that extraordinary figure in the birth of the movie-version of the iconic Bond over 50 years ago. Was the cavalier film producer McClory really the true, if not only, begetter of the cinematic Bond, or was he an Irish wide boy who pursued Ian Fleming and then the Bond franchise through the courts in search of - well one isn't quite sure: fame, fortune, revenge, recognition?
'James Bond: My Long and Eventful Search for his Father' offers a behind-the-scenes tour of the battlefield that saw James Bond brought to the big screen, a process which began in 1958 with the development of a script for what was to become known as "Thunderball" and was planned to be the first Bond film, but which, for legal reasons, turned out to be the fourth in the series in 1965, though to this day one of the most profitable ones. But the battles did not end there, and this short, sharp, pistol-whip of a book follows the story of legal wrangles and remakes ("Never Say Never Again") and planned remakes ("Hammerhead"/"Warhead") and then more legal wrangles. It is a labyrinthine tale and those uninitiated in the rules of the guerilla warfare which govern film-making need a solid guide to lead them through the maze. Fortunately,the reader has just that in the form of Len Deighton, whose first close encounter with the Bond juggernaut came when he was asked to write a script for "From Russia With Love". He knew most of the protagonists in this drama: Ian Fleming, Sean Connery, Harry Saltzman and, of course, Kevin McClory; and he was a film producer in his own right; but the major asset of having Deighton explain (often fondly, always politely) this tangled web is that he is, after all, the man who wrote The Ipcress file one of the seminal spy stories of all time. It was probably good training for his involvment in the Bond legend and at times this reads like the plot of one of his intricate and convoluted thrillers. In fact, this fascinating story would make a jolly good film, though after reading it you might decide that in that way lies madness.
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on 20 December 2012
It's been seventeen years since Len Deighton last published a complete book: Charity, the last of the Samson triple trilogy. Now, at the tail-end of 2012, he's back, and that's great news.

Len returns to the world of the published author with a fascinating tale of how one of cinema's iconic figures came to be. In a year that has seen the 50th anniversary of Ian Fleming's James Bond and the release of Skyfall to universal acclaim, he has chosen to look at the origins of this most famous of screen characters and make a further contribution to the Bond mythos. It reads like a long article that one might read in The Sunday Times Magazine or an essay in The Literary Review. As someone who was acquainted with Ian Fleming and Kevin McClory, the film producer who is one of the important figures who has a significant part in the development of the Bond mythos through his work on early drafts of From Russia With Love and subsequently on Never Say Never Again (the Thunderball remake), Len provides an unrivalled insider's view of the development of Bond as the character moved from page to screen.

Len was an insider and witness to much of what went on as the character made this transition to cinema. It is his attention to detail, and his capacity to recall in detail many of the meetings and anecdotes which, story by story, gives this book a ring of authenticity. The book goes on to recount the efforts to get Bond onto the big screen, and it is here that the story becomes interesting as it looks at the myriad elements behind Bond's creation - on screen and on the page - which have kept writers, fans and fiction historians entertained and intrigued. It provides an extensive re-telling of the whole story which has been document elsewhere by other authors and Bond fans in great detail. While some of the stories are familiar from previous articles, much of it seems new and refreshingly honest.

In a year in which Bond has shown himself to be the 'King of all Cinema', Deighton maps out, through utterly compelling details - such as a hint at the origin of the 007 moniker - and fascinating perspectives from Bond ground-zero, the bumpy road by which Bond moved from page to screen. The last paragraph, in particular, is a real peach!
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It's been many years since we've had anything from Len Deighton, so I was really looking forward to reading his account of the Screen Bond and all the court cases and arguments over his Silver Screen presence. I wasn't disappointed, it's a fascinating insight. The only disappointment for me was the length - it's incredibly short, but having said that it's incredibly well written. Highly recommended.

Great to see Len back.
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on 31 March 2013
This is an old man gossiping in a bar, but the content is interesting to James Bond fans. I didn't know there had been a long-drawn out legal battle over who held the rights to James Bond's screen character. It's a cautionary tale for authors.

Ian Fleming created the original James Bond in his first novel (of the series) Casino Royale. No-one was much interested in making it into a film, though Fleming thought it had real potential. In the end the only one to show much interest was a film-maker called Kevin McClory - a creative, shambolic, larger-than life Irishman - he was going to marry Elizabeth Taylor until she jilted him for Mike Todd! Kevin told Fleming that there would have to be a completely new film script and in discussion the two of them came up with the plot of Thunderball (no record of who suggested what) and McClory employed a screen-writer, Jack Whittingham, to write the script - and Jack seems to have created much of the detail. Len Deighton credits him with creating the James Bond character we've come to identify, but I'm not sure I totally believe this.

Fleming went off and wrote the book of the film, with the idea of releasing it at the same time. But the film was delayed because McClory couldn't raise the funds and so Fleming published the book first. McClory sued him for breach of copyright, claiming it was all his idea and that began the long and expensive legal battle that ensued. The court case was about rights to Thunderball, but Deighton's thesis is that it was much wider than this and that Whittingham and McClory actually created the screen persona of James Bond - the dangerous, suave, gun-toting sex bomb, who is very different to the `sad-eyed Bentley driver' of Fleming's original in Casino Royale. This character - the essence of the James Bond Brand, influenced all succeeding books. Kevin McClory won on an out of court settlement (and the rights to Thunderball), but the screen-writer got nothing. The legal battle also drew in Harry Salzman - who would make the other Bond movies with Sean Connery, because he needed to feel that he had all the rights available - and it impoverished both Salzman and McClory.

Len Deighton knew all the characters in this saga - he even wrote the screen play for From Russia with Love. Much of the content of this tale is what was divulged to him over long, liquid lunches in various exclusive restaurants and gentlemen's clubs. It rambles a bit, as anecdotes tend to do. The details of who said what to whom and who sued who for what are so tortuous, I quickly lost the plot! All it needed was a good editor.
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on 26 May 2015
Len Deighton gives a candid behind-the-scenes look at the fraught process that got 007 off the page and into the cinema. This short story reads like a long article that might appears in The Sunday Times Magazine. It explains how Ian Fleming, Harry Saltzman, Kevin McClory and even Sean Connery all got involved.

The movie conversion of Bond started in 1958 with a treatment which became Thunderball. For several reasons Thunderball ended-up being the fourth movie made and not the first. Deighton himself wrote the screen play for From Russia with Love.

Despite seeing the classic Harry Palmer movies starring Michael Caine, this was the first work by Deighton that I’d read. The story is almost like listening to him relating a tale while you’re having a drink with him.

There’s no real point in summarising the main points of the book, as it’s almost its own summary and you can read it in one sitting. While not all the parts of the story are new Deighton conveys them in a refreshingly honest way.
Fans of Bond will find it provides a certain perspective on the events which resulted in the creation of one of cinema’s iconic figures.

How Deighton can recall details about the affair after all this time is amazing, but he does. I for one will definitely be checking out his other books. A great short read. The last paragraph, in particular, is excellent!
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on 24 March 2014
I found it difficult to stay engaged with this book (and I'm a bit of a Deighton fan) - a bit fragmented and lacking a narrative focus I thought. I finished it about 2 weeks ago and can't now remember much of it at all.
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on 9 May 2013
Fascinating story of the birth of the early bond movies. Suffused with late 60s glamour and, even by the standards of bond, an unusual cast of chancers and charlatans, it also manages to give some insights into Flemming and his relationship with the character. I an used to reading accounts that pain bond as an extension of Flemming's ego, even if a walter mitty like extension, inetrested in the things that flemming was interested in, doing the things that Flemming would have like to have done and so on. The portrait (albeit in miniature) that deighton paints is of a character much more a work of imagination and calculation to appeal than of frustrated desire.

Thoroughly recommend, my only complaint is that it is too short.
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on 8 July 2013
I found this to be a rather pedestrian essay on the history of one of the most charismatic subjects in British fiction. Unless you are very close and intimate with the creator, it is difficult to garnish the basic history with those stories which make all the difference to the reader, the 'I didn't know that!' factor. That isn't here.
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on 13 February 2013
This short story is really about Thunderball and the relationships between Ian Fleming, Kevin McClory and all the background that happened around the disputed ownership of the title. Having said that, as a fan of Flemings and the James Bond series, I found the information provided facinating.

Len Deighton, although a friend of Mr McClory, gives an unbiased appraisal of what went on at that time and what he witnessed, his candor allows you a small glimpse of the presonalities behind the names, and I believe this is always an enlightening and enjoyable experience for the reader.
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on 7 February 2013
Bond is a British icon and this book gives a further insight into who he is. A very interesting study by an extremely well read and loved writer. Just a little bit more information to add to the Bond profile and also of those who wrote about him and produced his stories.
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