Kingsley Amis was a big fan of Ian Fleming’s 007 books and sat down in 1964 with the aim of writing a 5,000 word article about the Bond phenomenon, which at the time was based mainly around the books.
The author soon found that his modest idea had morphed into something far larger because, as he wrote in the preface, for every point made he found two more. The result was first published in 1965, with the photo above a slightly worn copy published by the New American Library.
Amis noted that there had been very little serious discussion of the books at that point, and in fact the only contemporary study of Fleming’s work was Double O Seven: A Report by OF Snelling, which just beat Amis’s study.
The book starts out by looking at why James Bond was such a success, talking about what he calls “the secret-agent fantasy” that allows us to continue our day to day existence while fantasising about working undercover as a bank clerk (Amis’s example) for instance.
The book goes on to look at wish fulfilment thanks to his dress, which would have been fairly standard in the 1950s when the first Bond books were published, but with the twist of being very particular in his Sea Island cotton shirts, black knitted silk tie and Hong Kong pyjamas.
The book also covers such topics women, villains, M, attitudes to foreigners, Fleming’s use of facts, and his writing style (and some lapses) over the course of fourteen chapters and includes a reference guide to the books that covers essentials such as places, girls, villains, plots and highlights.
While the book is naturally out of date now that the films have far surpassed the books as 007’s main medium, it provides an interesting glimpse at how one well known author perceived the James Bond books just prior to the Bond phenomenon exploding fully.
While The James Bond Dossier has not been published for some time, second hand copies are available from Amazon.