Awhile back I read and wrote this review for The Battle For Bond by Robert Sellers. I never published it due to the banning of the first edition. With the recent release of the second edition (see Amazon.co.uk), I dusted off my review to essentially let you read my opinion on a topic and a book that you should have already read by now. Any and every Bond fan should read this book.
Up until very recently there has always been a thorn in the side of cinema’s most successful, profitable, and enduring franchise. His name was Kevin McClory. For over forty years he tried again and again to bring Thunderball to the big screen – chasing the same dream he accomplished in 1965. I’ll admit right here that I’ve never had a good opinion of Kevin McClory, I never liked him and because of that I was slightly hesitant to read The Battle For Bond by Robert Sellers for fear of it having an unfair pro-McClory slant. If you read non-fiction James Bond books, there’s always a topic that gets shied away from and that is the grand and fascinating story of Thunderball. It rarely gets discussed and unfortunately when it does we only really read what Eon Productions pretty much lets you read, and lets face it for the subject it’s rarely if ever objective. Not only that, but the information that most people know or think they know is often incredibly inaccurate. Fortunately for Bond fans everywhere Robert Sellers does a fantastic job of presenting the facts of the Thunderball case as objectively as possible from all angles including those forgotten such as Ivar Bryce, Ernest Cuneo and most unfortunate of all Jack Whittingham.
That’s where the story begins. The formation of a partnership between Ivar Bryce and Kevin McClory on a film production called The Boy and the Bridge. Later Ian Fleming is brought in and he decides to let his good friend of many years (Bryce) use Bond for his next film and it’s at this point that James Bond was changed forever. The story goes on into all the script writing woes for which I never knew Fleming had so much involvement – and Kevin McClory really so little. This all culminates when Fleming makes the biggest boneheaded decision of his life, when he adapted the Thunderball scripts into a novel and didn’t give credit where credit was due. Mainly, Jack Whittingham. It should be noted that this isn’t the first time Fleming did that, the previous times resulted in Dr. No and the For Your Eyes Only collection, however these were wholly his. After the novel, for Ian, everything sort of went downhill, not the least his health due to the stress that the Thunderball case later put on him. A lot of people blame McClory and the case for Ian’s early death, but I never really saw it that way. It was Fleming’s lifestyle, his smoking of 70 cigarettes a day and however much alcohol he consumed on a regular basis. Add in the stress from the case and unfortunately his heart became a ticking time bomb.
The Battle For Bond goes into considerable depth of the actual case itself that ultimately awarded McClory the film rights to Thunderball. The book is also a fairly in-depth “Making-Of” for both Thunderball and Never Say Never Again, and even goes into scripts for further possibe Thunderball remakes that never were. This part of the book is really worth the price alone. We’re talking wild ideas here, like SPECTRE commandeering the Statue of Liberty. It’s nuts, but it could have been fairly entertaining. It really makes you think that maybe if McClory hadn’t been so obsessed with Thunderball and James Bond that he could have gone on to produce some real entertaining movies. McClory made millions off of Thunderball, he could have done anything, but he blew it all and in the end owed considerable amounts of money to people. That’s the McClory I knew. The guy who screwed over his friends and those that were loyal to him to make the movie he took far too much credit for, even later suing for billions claiming to be the owner of the cinematic Bond. A joke, really.
All in all The Battle For Bond is a fantastic read for all James Bond fans, literary and film. It’s well investigated, documented and includes several new interviews from the likes of Ken Adam, Irvin Kershner, Len Deighton, Guy Hamilton, and Jack Whittingham’s daughter Sylvan Whittingham Mason among many others. The book is really a must read for all Bond fans.
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