Book Review: A Brief Guide to James Bond / Author: Nigel Cawthorne / Publisher: Robinson / Release Date: Out Now
A Brief Guide to James Bond does exactly what it says on the tin; it provides the reader with a brief glimpse into the world of James Bond and the background of the books, films and other assorted Bondage. However, what the title doesn’t tell you is that the book itself is woefully lacking. True, it’s not called a “comprehensive” guide, but “brief” doesn’t mean incomplete. It means short, concise, and quick. Indeed, when you’re given a brief, you’re given all the information you need to complete your task.
Call us old-fashioned, but we always thought that a guide that professed to be “encyclopedic” should be certain of that claim before it goes around making promises that its contents can’t cash. The main bits we had issue with were the summaries of the books and films. At their worst they read like bad fanfiction (perhaps an occupational hazard of summarising Bond movies) and at their best they omitted events crucial to the understanding of the story. There were several passages where he says things like “the gangsters return” or “she thought Bond could be another gangster” and the reader is left to wonder what gangsters he could possibly be talking about. (One example that springs to mind is on page 213, when Vivienne Michel is being described.) This is especially damaging if the reader hasn’t read the book or seen the film in question before.
The book does work as a reference guide, but it’s very much not the be-all and end-all of Bond books. (For one thing, it can’t even decide on an origin for the name James Bond – confusingly describing both as if they were the one true explanation.)
Possibly the only purpose this would serve is being given to a relative who needs to know about Bond quickly for some reason (we can’t imagine why). This would be an average book but for the mistakes listed above, which hardly lends it an air of quality. It pains us to use such wordplay but when you talk about Bond it’s practically a given – this book left us neither shaken nor stirred.