Going into Some Kind of Hero, you may wonder quite what is left to know about James Bond.
Arguably the most legendary pop culture hero of 20th century cinema, British secret agent 007 has spent over 50 years being written about in books too innumerable to count; tie-in novels, comics, fictional biographies, movie guides, behind the scenes tomes. If Bond has done it or been there, someone has published a book about it. This is just one of the reasons why Some Kind of Hero is so impressive because, with Bond-level gusto, it shoulder barges many of those previous attempts to chronicle Bond’s history out of the way and makes its mark, buoyed by a foreword from a former 007 himself: George Lazenby.
Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury, both long-time, respected contributors to James Bond fandom, from the outset attempt to leave no stone unturned in telling the entire chronological story of 007’s journey from writer Ian Fleming’s typewriter in the early 1950’s, through to the tentative steps to make Bond 25 (though sadly it’s already outdated in being unable to chronicle Danny Boyle’s replacement by Cary Fukunaga, but you can’t have it all!). This is a benefit of a second edition which beefs up and indeed updates the story, with more on the production of 2015’s Spectre and the aforementioned next, untitled Bond to come. The joy instead, of course, is looking back.
Here’s a guarantee: unless you are already a Bond scholar of some kind, or *the* most devoted of fans, Some Kind of Hero will present facts you didn’t already know about the movies from Dr. No in 1962 onwards. Field and Chowdhury dig as deep as they can into hundreds of reference books, not to mention sourcing their own quotes in interviews with surviving contributors (they surely must be one of the few people to get Sean Connery on the phone in his dotage to talk Bond), in order to detail the creative choices behind writing the movies, studio movers and shakers of the time, production details, casting, the whole nine yards. Each chapter follows a similar format (in very Bondian fashion) in detailing the germ of the idea through to the Royal premiere.
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Granted, even for a heavy 700 page tome, Some Kind of Hero has to sacrifice in-depth detail in places in order to have the brevity to tell the wider story – for example, it doesn’t go too heavily into the Kevin McClory lawsuit. The fact is though, it doesn’t have to; there have been other books (in that example, Robert Sellers’ brilliant, forensic The Battle For Bond is essential reading for the history of McClory and Thunderball) which explore some facets of the Bond story in greater detail whereas Field and Chowdhury’s book is ambitiously pulling together a greater tapestry now almost 70 years in the making, and they achieve this with aplomb. They also retain Cubby Broccoli and his family as crucial to the heart of the 007 narrative, as they of course are.
Peppered with personal recollections and feelings that bookend the piece, latterly forming part of a touching obituary to the first 007 to pass away, Sir Roger Moore, Field and Chowdhury deliver in Some Kind of Hero what is surely as definitive, wide-ranging and fascinating a Bond movie history text as you’ll find anywhere, one which also manages to be extremely accessible to fans and scholars alike. For the whole picture, it’s hard to imagine anyone doing this better.
Some Kind of Hero is now available as an updated second edition from The History Press.