Co-author discusses The James Bond Lexicon

No longer coming soon — The James Bond Lexicon is here

The James Bond Lexicon, an exhaustive examination of James Bond in his various forms — movies, books and comics — is now available for sale.

It’s a book that has been in the making for years. Co-author Alan J. Porter, who wrote the book with Gillian J. Porter, talked to blog about it via email.

THE SPY COMMAND: When you last chatted with the blog, The James Bond Lexicon was about to come out. Things didn’t work out that way. Can you give a short summary of the headwinds that came up?

ALAN J. PORTER: Yes, last time we spoke we were on track to publish the book sometime in 2016, but shortly after that interview was published, and one on James Bond Radio aired, Gillian was diagnosed with Stage 3 Gall Bladder Cancer, which hit us pretty hard. As a consequence, we decided to put everything on hold to fully focus on Gill’s surgery and treatment.

By mid-2017 things were going well enough that we decided to get back to working on the book and updating the manuscript. Unfortunately, it was around this time that one of the co-owners of the publishing company we had contracted with suddenly passed away. His business partner decided he didn’t want to continue and shuttered the company, so we were now left with a partially updated manuscript and no publisher. This was a big decision point for us, and to be honest we came very close to just shelving the project. But after some thought decided to carry on and include all Bond material through to the end of 2017 and see if we could find another publisher.

A series of conversations with my On her Majesty’s Secret Podcast co-host Van Allen Plexico in 2018 resulted in him agreeing to publish the James Bond Lexicon via his White Rocket Books imprint and we were back to updating the manuscript for the third time with the intent to cover everything up to the end of 2019 so we could include Danny Boyle’s Bond 25 (or so we thought).

TSC: How was The James Bond Lexicon affected by the long delay between SPECTRE and No Time to Die?

PORTER: Well, we didn’t get to include Bond 25 after all. Once the No Time To Die delays started to happen we had to make a decision of whether we stuck with  “everything up to the end of 2019” or keep waiting so we could include the most recent movie.

At first, we thought about waiting but as the impact of COVID started to result in multiple slip dates we decided to stay with what we had and actually work towards getting the book out. So we fixed it at covering the 271 official Bond stories released between 1953 and the end of 2019. You have to put a line in the sand somewhere on a project like this or you will never finish.

We also decided to launch a companion website (http://jamesbondlexicon.online) where we are posting new entries for material released after 2019, and hopefully, one day that will include the entries for No Time To Die.

TSC: As an author, how do you keep yourself concentrated amid various setbacks?

PORTER: As I mentioned earlier, there was a point where we almost gave up, but we both recalled a piece of writing advice from writer Neil Gaiman: “Always finish what you start.”

So we decided to knuckle down and keep working. One of the best things we did was to talk about the project on social media, especially on the @BondLexicon Twitter account, sharing entries and other items we found during our research reinforced for us that there were other people waiting for the book and encouraging us to keep going.

We also found it helpful to be working on other projects. During downtimes on the Lexicon, I’d started to sell several historical adventure stories, and as part of her recovery process, Gill had written a novel. So being able to alternate between fiction and non-fiction work helped keep us focused and stopped the Lexicon from becoming a chore.

TSC: Now that the book is out, how do you feel? Elation? Relief? A combination?

PORTER: We actually talked about this the evening of the book release. It is something of a combination, very excited to see the book on sale, which still doesn’t seem real in some ways as getting to this point is something we’ve been working towards on and off for almost a decade.

TSC: During research for The James Bond Lexicon, were there any surprises? If so, what were they?

PORTER: The first was how many different iterations of James Bond we came across. We expected there to be some, but not the 28 we cataloged. And we are sure the final number is higher than that as we didn’t cover the video games, which have several different versions of Bond in their history.

The other thing that struck us was the seemingly unnecessary minor changes to character names between the books and the movies, often by just changing a single letter. If EON had the rights to the characters from the novels why do things like change the Masterton sisters in Goldfinger to the Masterson sister in the movie? Or Honey Rider (novel) to Honey Ryder (movie)? And that’s just a couple of examples of what was a surprisingly common trait. I’m sure there’s a good reason, but it just seemed strange to us.

TSC: At this point, do you even think about what you’d like to do next? Or do you concern yourself mostly with marketing The James Bond Lexicon?

Oh yes, we are both actively thinking about what’s next. We both have novels we are working on, but nothing immediate that we’ll be working together on. Having said that we do have some ideas and there’s another Lexicon project for a different franchise sitting on the shelf with about 60% of the research done – so after a break to get the novels finished who knows.

But in many ways, the work on the Bond Lexicon continues, as you mentioned there is the marketing of the book, but also keeping the companion JamesBondLexicon.online website up to date as new material comes out. As of today, we have already added over 40 new entries covering recent Dynamite Comics releases and the 2021 Comic Relief sketch with Daniel Craig.

We’re not leaving the world of Bond behind. The Lexicon continues to be a long-term commitment to the worlds of 007.

To see Amazon’s listing for The James Bond Lexicon, CLICK HERE.

1965: U.N.C.L.E.’s star appears on a rival network

Red Skelton with Robert Vaughn, 1965

By the fall of 1965, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a big hit. In December 1965, star Robert Vaughn appeared as the guest star on CBS’s Red Skelton Hour, the variety show that almost killed U.N.C.L.E.

U.N.C.L.E. debuted in September 1964 on NBC opposite Skelton’s CBS show. The spy show suffered in the ratings. NBC considered canceling U.N.C.L.E. Instead it changed the show’s time slot to Monday nights. That gave the series the boost it needed, plus a lift from Goldfinger boosting interest in spy entertainment.

A little over a year later, the Skelton show had Robert Vaughn on as a guest star. During a two-part skit, there were one-liners (perhaps ad libbed) where Skelton said Vaughn was plugging his own show.

After the skit, Vaughn appeared with Skelton. The U.N.C.L.E. star had a communicator (not the one that was seen on the series) so Skelton could call his wife. (See above.) At one point, Vaughn says into the device: “Illya get off the line, willya?”

Vaughn’s appearance was a sign of how spy shows had arrived as a thing. The Red Skelton Museum has been posting full episodes of the Skelton show to YouTube. Below is the Vaughn episode.

Frank Jacobs, ace Mad writer, dies

007, a “James Bomb” stage musical by Mort Drucker and Frank Jacobs, 1965

Frank Jacobs, a long-time writer for Mad magazine has died, the semi-dormant publication announced on Twitter.

One of Jacobs’ specialties was devising musical parodies. One of his best was published in 1965. “007” envisioned a James Bond (or “James Bomb”) stage musicial.

As written by Jacobs, all of the songs were sung to the tune of songs from the stage musical Oklahoma! Artist Mort Drucker provided a James Bomb drawn to resemble Sean Connery.

In the story, Bomb confronts ICECUBE, an organization that is dragging Great Britain to the North Pole. The leader of ICECUBE is revealed to be Mike Hammer, who is angry at Bomb for taking away all his book sales. Drucker drew Hammer to look like author Mickey Spillane.

Jacobs made his first sale to Mad in 1957, debuting with five pieces in the June issue, according to his biography in Wikipedia. Mad’s editors quickly requested more. Jacobs also wrote 13 paperback books under the Mad imprint.

Below is Mad’s announcement about the death of Jacobs.

1966: Nancy Sinatra’s first spy craze entry

Poster for The Last of the Secret Agents?

These days, Nancy Sinatra, from a spy craze perspective, is best remembered for performing the title song of the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice.

As it turns out, she had been at it for a while.

A year earlier, she performed the title song of the 1966 comedy The Last of the Secret Agents? She also appeared in the movie with a less than convincing French accent.

The Last of the Secret Agents? featured the then-popular comedy team of Marty Allen and Steve Rossi. Allen’s hair was teased (or something) so it went out in all directions. Allen was buggy eyed. His catchphrase was, “Hello dere!” Rossi, by comparison was classically handsome. The team, obviously sought to create a visual contrast.

In the film, our heroes are recruited to assist a top secret intelligence agency. (Of course.)

Along the way, Nancy Sinatra performs the title song. But she also acts (I use that term advisedly) as a young French woman.

The crew included director Norman Abbott (who helmed a number of episodes of The Munsters TV series) and costume designer Edith Head (?!).

If you’re really interested, you can see a version of the movie below.

Before you go there, remember this: “Hello dere!”

Bond 25 questions: MGM’s silence edition

MGM’s revamped logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer held an investor call the other day. But the home studio to James Bond had almost nothing to say about its prized property.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What was the context of what MGM did have to say about No Time to Die?

Essentially listing it among various films either awaiting release or in production. Others included Respect, a “biopic” with Jennifer Hudson portraying Aretha Franklin and a sequel to a recent animated Addams Family movie.

MGM executives said its film slate, coupled with its TV business would mean good financial results in the second half of 2021 and going into 2022.

Is that all?

Pretty much.

What is up with that?

Strictly a guess: MGM is trying to project an image of a strong operation where everything is under control. In the past year there have been reports that MGM is seeking a buyer and that the studio explored licensing No Time to Die to streaming services before deciding not to proceed.

Some of the reports indicate that leaders of Danjaq/Eon weren’t initially informed of such discussions and weren’t happy.

From the perspective of a Bond fan, how useful are these investor calls?

Mixed at best. Occasionally, investors ask MGM executives about Bond film projects and if there are any ways MGM can get more out of the franchise. At times, that generates additional comments. But much of the time, MGM executives stick to talking points.

If there was any surprise about this week’s investor call, it’s MGM didn’t even do that. Just a quick mention that No Time to Die is in pipeline — something all Bond fans knew already.

Is there additional context to keep in mind?

No Time to Die’s costs are approaching $300 million. (The studio reportedly is incurring $1 million a month in interest costs for each month No Time to Die doesn’t come out.) MGM had been counting on a big theatrical release before the COVID-19 pandemic.

MGM reports year-end 2020 results, no NTTD news

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer this week reported its year-end 2020 results but had little to say about No Time to Die.

The company said it has 14 films either completed or in production (the often delayed No Time to Die among them) along with 47 television series “scheduled to deliver.”

Company executives said all this will lead to earnings growth later in 2021 and into 2022.

“It is safe to say that we have fully reinvigorated MGM ’s film business, focusing on a powerful combination of original, IP and proven franchises from the MGM library, all supplemented by a diverse array of films” from the company’s Orion brand, Chief Operating Officer Christ Brearton said in prepared remarks.

To read all of Brearton’s prepared comments, you can CLICK HERE.

An investor call to discuss results had a question and answer session. There was one question. It didn’t concern No Time to Die.

G. Gordon Liddy dies at 90

National Lampoon parody of G. Gordon Liddy, Agent of C.R.E.E.P., as drawn by Dick Ayres

G. Gordon Liddy, one of the most colorful figures in the Watergate scandal that brought down U.S. President Richard Nixon, has died at 90, The New York Times reported.

Liddy “concocted the bungled burglary” that led to the scandal. Liddy worked for the Committee to Re-Elect the President.

Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein abbreviated that to CRP. But it was popularly abbreviated as C.R.E.E.P. The National Lampoon eventually published a comic book parody of G. Gordon Liddy, Agent of C.R.E.E.P. Artist Dick Ayres did a cover that emulated a 1968 cover of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Jim Steranko

An excerpt from the obit by the Times:

As a leader of a White House “plumbers” unit set up to plug information leaks, and then as a strategist for the president’s re-election campaign, Mr. Liddy helped devise plots to discredit Nixon “enemies” and to disrupt the 1972 Democratic National Convention. Most were far-fetched — bizarre kidnappings, acts of sabotage, traps using prostitutes, even an assassination — and were never carried out.

Liddy was among the many Watergate figures who did prison time. He was sentenced to six to 20 years but only served 52 months.

Liddy defied the saying that crime does not pay.

The one-time felon wrote an autobiography published in 1980. It was turned into a 1982 made-for-TV movie starring Robert Conrad as Liddy. Liddy went on to host a nationally syndicated radio talk show. Naturally, Conrad was a guest on one installment. Anyone who listened could tell Liddy loved that Conrad had played him.

Liddy also wrote spy novels along the way, such as Out of Control. And he picked up about 20 acting credits, according to his IMDB.COM ENTRY.

The (small) checks are in the mail

Recently, The Bond Bulletin put out a survey for James Bond fans to fill out. On March 30, it put out the results.

The survey went over *a lot of territory*. One aspect concerned Bond fan content creators who fans actually followed.

The runaway leader was David Zaritsky who has a YouTube channel called The Bond Experience. (David has managed this despite having me as a guest for two episodes.)

David was followed by fellow YouTubers Calvin Dyson, and Joe Darlington. The MI6 James Bond website (which breaks a lot of Bond film news) No. 4, with James Bond Radio at No. 5.

The survey even collected information on write-in votes. Amazingly, The Spy Command came in at No. 2 among the write-ins (behind Bond Suits). You can see all the write-ins at the 1:01:45 mark of The Bond Bulletin’s video (embedded below)

This post is mostly intended as being as humorous (particularly given the headline). But there was one thing that caught my eye. About 95 percent respondents were male.

To be sure, such surveys aren’t scientific. In this case, the survey reflects the opinions of the most engaged, most intense Bond fans.

I know, even anecdotally, there are a lot of women Bond fans out there. Still it’s something to keep in mind.

Anyway, you can view the complete Bond Bulletin video concerning its survey results below. It runs a little over an hour.

About those 007 poster oddities

One of the Moonraker posters

I was listening to a new episode of James Bond & Friends (one where I don’t appear so this is not me stroking my own ego) and discussion moved to Moonraker posters.

The question was raised why some actors (Michael Lonsdale and Richard Kiel in this case) have their character names mentioned while others (Lois Chiles and Corinne Clery) did not.

The answer is: That’s often the result of negotiations between agents, studios and lawyers. Normally, every credit is subject to such review.

In fact, things get more complicated than that. For example, there’s A View To a Kill. Look at this poster:

A View to a Kill’s poster

Christopher Walken played the movie’s lead villain, Max Zorin. But “after the title,” Walken’s name was the fourth listed after Tanya Roberts, Grace Jones and Patrick Macnee. But Walken’s name, at least on many poster, was in a box.

Yet, when it came time to put together A View to a Kill’s end titles, Walken’s name suddenly was ranked No. 2 behind Roger Moore.

Years earlier, there was a preliminary poster for The Spy Who Loved Me. After the title, it had Curt Jurgens first while saying the movie was “introducing” Barbara Bach.

CLIP TO EMBIGGIN
A preliminary version of the poster for The Spy Who Loved Me

But in the final version, Barbara Bach got the No. 2 billing while Curt Jurgens came after (with “as Stromberg”). The poster also lost the “Assistant to the Producer Mike Wilson” credit. Wilson would be back on the Moonraker poster (with a new title, executive producer, and an expanded name, Michael G. Wilson.) He’s been on all the Eon-made Bond posters since as either executive producer, screenwriter or producer.

The version below of Spy’s poster may have been from a re-release given the “MGM/UA” studio credit.

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

UPDATE: Reader Gary J. Firuta passes along a couple of other poster credits tidbits.

With Goldfinger, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman alternated their “present” and “produced by” credits on the poster. Broccoli is listed first for “present” while Saltzman is first for “produced by.”

With You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery is the only member of cast referenced (“Sean Connery Is James Bond”).

Jessica Walter, versatile actress, dies at 80

Jessica Walter in Counter-Stroke, a third-season episode of The FBI

Jessica Walter, a versatile actress whose career spanned decades, has died at 80, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Early in her career, she was part of the “QM Players” actors who frequently appeared in television shows produced by Quinn Martin. That included six episodes of The FBI as well as installments of Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco and Barnaby Jones.

Her many other credits included the 1966 film Grand Prix and 1971’s Play Misty for Me as well as episodes of TV series such as It Takes a Thief, McCloud, Ironside, Mannix, Mission: Impossible and Wonder Woman. Her 21st century credits included doing voice work for the Archer cartoon series.

Walter’s IMDB.COM entry has 161 acting credits. She won an Emmy award for Amy Prentiss, a short-lived series that was spun off from Ironside.