The Lost Adventures of James Bond (Mark Edlitz) – Book Review

The Lost Adventures of James Bond is a new work from author Mark Edlitz.  This is his second work on the famous superspy, after The Many Lives of James Bond, where he focused on the wide range of interpretations of the character, along with the artists that have worked on the property.

In The Lost Adventures, Mark turns his attention to the iterations of Bond that never saw the light of day.  In each case he showcases his impressive research in describing what the version in question might have looked like, and, in most cases, manages to score an interview with someone central to the project.  Amongst the names interviewed here are such luminaries as Nicholas Meyer, writer and director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, who almost (sort of) wrote a Pierce Brosnan entry in the 1990s.

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Edlitz begins the book with what to most Bond fans is the biggest ‘what if’ in the entire property: the missing Timothy Dalton films.  Dalton starred in two late-80s entries before the series got caught up in years of legal battles, which caused a six-year long hiatus.  In this period there were several possible third (and even fourth) Dalton entries worked on with various writers.  Beginning with a thorough synopsis of the plot, we move on to an interview with co-writer Alfonse Ruggiero.  Ruggiero work with long-time Bond producer Michael G. Wilson on a script, and describes in detail how he was hired; what he was seeking to do with the character; the process of working with Wilson; his memories of the experience; as well as his thinking behind key ideas, motifs and sequences in his story.  Post-interview, Edlitz summarises some key observations, and we sign-off the section with some concept artwork from Pat Carbajal, showing how Dalton may have looked in a scene from the film.  Thus the format for the rest of the book is set.

From here, Edlitz moves on to William Osborne, writer of another version of the unmade third Dalton entry – effectively a new iteration of the Ruggiero script.  From there we move on to the writer of a treatment for what could have been his fourth entry – something being worked upon while the aforementioned scripts were in development.  Finally, for the Dalton section, we get an insight into the first potential reboot for the series.  Before finally settling on the version of The Living Daylights that we got, EON first work on an idea to return to earlier in James Bond’s career, with a story set in 1972, and dealing with a 27-year old lead.  Although it was doubtful this could have starred Dalton, it is part of the development process that led to his tenure, and stands as one of the highlights of this book.  This makes the book reminiscent of the 1998 Wesley Snipes film Blade, in that, as with that movie, the book’s considerable qualities are overshadowed a little by putting the best and most memorable content right at the start.  Also, as with that film, the rest of the book never hits these highs again, despite continuing to interest.

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Section 2 still retains strong appeal, however, as it deals with unmade Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan content.  First up is director of An American Werewolf in London, Trading Places, Coming to America, The Blues Brothers and others, John Landis.  At 25 years of age, Landis was hired, alongside director Guy Hamilton, to write an original story for what become The Spy Who Loved Me.  Landis talks at length to Edlitz, giving a good sense of what might have been.  He left the project with Hamilton, due to long delays in getting underway, leaving both men fearing that EON had no intention of making the film.  From there we move on to an abortive version of Moonraker, with writer Cary Bates.  Then onto Tomorrow Never Dies, with Meyer.  This latter is the first sign of the author over-reaching a little.  Meyer did not, in fact, create some great missing script; rather he spent a few days pitching ideas with other writers.  There is no ‘lost Bond’ here, simply a ‘lost’ brainstorming session.

The rest of the book deals with Bond in other media.  There is a whole section on the James Bond Jr television cartoon series, with discussion of the show’s ‘bible’ (effectively character guides and the rules to be followed when writing the show), conversations with the composer of the show’s music, as well as discussions with some of those involved in the novelisations.  Again, this book appears to have had its title and concept long before Edlitz had his content, as it is ‘hardly ‘lost’ when both the show and the books were made commercially available.  Mark proves, however, a good summariser and interviewer, and this section holds the interest, despite the show not being of wide interest, except to perhaps a certain generation of Bond fan.

After a section on Bond comic books over the years – impressively covering multiple eras of such, and including conversations with creators of those thought to be the gold standard of the medium – we move on to lost Bond productions.  First is an interview with Raymond Benson, author of several Bond continuation novels in the 1990s and 2000s.  Though the focus here is not the books, but the work on a stage play for Casino Royale in the 1980s.  This got as far as a stage read-through, and Benson is an interesting subject.  After a section on the abysmal 1990s theme park ride, Edlitz talks to the composer of an alternate song for Never Say Never Again, the 1983 Sean Connery entry.  This is notable for the fact that most fans are aware of this alternate version, but describes exactly why it wasn’t used – which will be new information for most fans.  The song, by the sadly now-departed Phylis Hyman, is far better that the Lani Hall tune that was attached to the final film.

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Finally, there are the ‘lost’ Bond performances.  Although this section ends with the huge stretch of including a birthday greeting, in-character, form Connery in the late-90s, it does feature a fascinating interview with Toby Stephens.  Here, Stephens discusses his role as Bond in radio productions, though he is also known to Bond audiences for his role as Gustav Graves in 2002’s Die Another Day.  The book is rounded off by appendices that include a full list of all published Bond books, and a full list of actors to portray Bond, in one format or another.

The Lost Adventures of James Bond is a fine work, with content to appeal to fans of various iterations of the character.  Most will gravitate to the films, meaning that the first third or so of the book is likely to hold the most appeal.  There is little here for fans of Fleming, as there appears to be little ‘lost’ in the novel format.  As Edlitz has a loose interpretation of ‘lost’, then perhaps this would have been improved by some content from the continuation authors, relatives of Fleming etc.  That said, the work is well-referenced, the author cites his sources, freely admits where he couldn’t find something, and proves a thoughtful interviewer.  This is a book for the completist.  For the first couple of sections alone, however, it will prove of some interest to most fans of the series.

The Lost Adventures of James Bond is out now.

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