Remembrances of spies past

In the Books section of the online Paste Magazine, columnist Charles McNair has just posted a lovely remembrance and appreciation of James Bond — from the perspective of an American baby boomer grown up in the shadow of the Cold War.

After a brief history of the English-language espionage novel, from Kipling through le Carre, McNair settles on Ian Fleming as a sort-of reinventor of the genre; the creator of the Secret-Agent-as-Action-Hero. This character type was reinforced by the Eon Films style; rather humorously, McNair sizes up 007 through particularly American eyes:

Bond was Johnny Carson with a shoulder holster, Brando with a British accent and impeccable manners, Elvis with an Oxford education – and no, not Oxford, Mississippi.

He makes some pithy — and perceptive — compare/contrast notes regarding the novelistic and cinematic James Bond, especially vis-à-vis this particular title.

The entire piece, Just Say Dr. No , can be enjoyed by both Bond aficionados and relative newcomers; the former for the blast-from-the-past whiff of boyhood they’ll catch from it, the latter can take it as a pretty damn good introduction to the historical and social crucible that formed our favorite spy guy.