Whenever a new James Bond film approaches its release date you can be sure that book stores will be brimming with endless tomes retreading the history of the series with exclusive new chapters covering the latest film. With the long running franchise celebrating its 50th anniversary this year there are literally dozens of new Bond books hitting the shelves covering all aspects of the series but one book stands out from the rest offering a totally different take on the series from a completely new perspective, Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan by Mark O’Connell is published by Splendid Books on September 3rd and is reviewed below.
Catching Bullets is O’Connell’s autobiographical tale of how the Bond series has become an integral part of his life since seeing his first Bond film in 1983 aged seven years old. O’Connell has a unique connection with the series through his grandfather who, from 1959, worked as a chauffer for Albert R. Broccoli, the producer behind the Bond film phenomenon. O’Connell recounts how the Bond films influenced and shaped his adolescence and how the series continues to inspire him in his adult life as a television comedy writer.
O’Connell’s highly relatable story opens with recollections of a more innocent time where playground games of Return Of The Jedi and Dallas were superseded by re-enactments of scenes from Octopussy. A time when the Bond back-catalogue was not freely available and patiently awaiting Bank Holiday screenings on ITV or renting a “big-box” VHS copy of the latest Bond film would be an occasion to be savoured. He perfectly captures the stress of video recording and the need to “pause the adverts” to save precious tape as well as recalling the pressure to eat Christmas lunch so quickly that indigestion would be an inevitable side-effect but the opportunity to catch the television premiere of a Bond film after the Queen’s speech would make it all worthwhile.
Rather than just a chronological trawl through the series’ history, O’Connell looks back at the films in the order in which he first saw them, making his a completely unique and original perspective on the franchise. With an affinity for Roger Moore and referring to Sean Connery as his “Step-Bond”, he adopts his own shorthand as he describes the Bond formula from “Leon Lovelies”, the beautiful ladies that pass through the films, named in honour of Valerie Leon, screen veteran of Bond, Hammer and Carry On films of the seventies, to “Pan-Aming”, a reference to Bond’s globetrotting and “Ken-Adaming”, a way of describing the films’ production design. He demonstrates a deep understanding of all the elements that have made the films so popular and does so with wry sense of humour that runs throughout the book.
Naming each film after a different “Bullet”, O’Connell uses chapter titles such as the Christmas Bullet, the Stray Bullet, the Misfired Bullet and the Speeding Bullet to summarise the tone of each film. Each chapter offers a witty and sharply-observed take on the whole series going into depth, deconstructing each film in turn, relating them to the pop culture of the day. He reappraises every Bond film’s place throughout the history of the series while integrating his story with personal tales recounted by his grandfather. Making reference to every film from Dr. No to Quantum Of Solace, O’Connell even manages to include details of Daniel Craig’s appearance at the Olympics opening ceremony as well as brief mentions of Bond’s 23rd film Skyfall, due for release in October this year.
The book’s foreword is provided by League Of Gentlemen and Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss who, as a life-long Bond fan, has a very similar understanding of the film series. He sums up his experience of Bond as “the definition of fun” and this is something that O’Connell has most definitely captured in his book. As further acknowledgment and endorsement of the book’s convincing connection to the world of Bond, an afterword comes courtesy of former Bond girl and O’Connell’s adolescent crush, Octopussy herself, Maud Adams.
With Catching Bullets, Mark O’Connell has managed to find an unusual way to present the Bond films without retreading overly familiar ground. By viewing them from the perspective of someone growing up alongside the films, his book is a wholly original take on a subject that has been written about so many times with most authors covering the same topics over and over again. O’Connell’s book offers a totally fresh take and is a really enjoyable read, not just for Bond fans but for anyone looking for a nostalgic romp through the pop culture of the last fifty years.
Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan by Mark O’Connell is published by Splendid Books and is available to buy from 3rd September 2012.