007 MAGAZINE - The World's Foremost James Bond Resource!

REVIEW

 
 
  THE JAMES BOND LEXICON:
The Unofficial Guide to the World of 007 in Movies,
Novels, and Comics by Alan J. Porter and Gillian J. Porter
 
The James Bond Lexicon

The James Bond Lexicon stands - simultaneously - as an example of many things that are good, but also many things that are bad about 007-related literature in the 21st Century.

The democratisation and Amazon-isation of the book trade, as well as the rise of self-publishing and print on demand, has led to an overwhelming glut of Bondian titles within what has become an increasingly overcrowded and difficult to navigate marketplace.

This has enabled many writers who otherwise might never get the opportunity to be published to do so, and areas of the Bondian universe that have been hitherto overlooked to gain some much-needed attention. On the flipside, it might have been a good thing if some such writers had stayed unpublished, while locating or identifying quality and worthwhile offerings within such a crowded marketplace can be a significant challenge.

It was not always thus, of course. There was a time when the number of 007-related titles on the market was severely limited. On a visit to your local bookshop you might spot some of the original novels, along with a continuation novel or two and perhaps John Pearson’s biography of Ian Fleming.

Other core texts and titles existed – such as John Brosnan’s James Bond in the Cinema, Steven Jay Rubin’s The James Bond Films and Raymond Benson’s The James Bond Bedside Companion – but they were hard to locate once their relatively small print runs had been exhausted.

It’s all so different today. Quickly scanning through James Bond-related titles on Amazon by publication date I quickly identified at least 50 titles that will appear either in 2021 or next year – the 60th Anniversary of the James Bond film series - and doubtless many more will soon join this ever-growing list. Among them are numerous Bond quiz books, books about menswear in the 007 films, a new biography of Ian Fleming and even a book on food and James Bond. The quality and value of most of them - I’ll wager - will be poor.

Amid this deluge, then, where does The James Bond Lexicon fit in? Truth be told, somewhere in the middle, for while it is far from indispensable, it is also far better than disposable.

The James Bond Lexicon - Fransisco Scaramanga by Patricio Carbajal

Across an impressively comprehensive 450-plus pages, Alan J. Porter and Gillian J. Porter have essentially produced an encyclopaedia which details the ‘world of 007’ as related to movies, novels, and comics (to my mind the label ‘Lexicon’ is misleading and improperly applied, but let’s not get bogged down in semantics). Note, however, that the focus is firmly on the fictional 007 universe, hence entries for M, Vesper Lynd etc. etc. - but nothing on the actors who played them.

Let it first be said that, in many respects, this book represents an admirable act of devotion and research. Indeed, the mind boggles when considering exactly how long Mr. and Mrs. Porter must have spent on it.

With a solid track record behind him as a writer it should also be noted that Porter (Alan, at least, Gillian’s background I know nothing about) is a professional wordsmith, and not merely some illiterate fan-boy let loose on the publishing world. This is a relief given the appalling standard of written work, grammar, punctuation and spelling on offer within many tomes of ‘fan published’ 007 material.

The James Bond Lexicon page 1

The standard of production and design is also decent enough in the Lexicon - certainly light years ahead of many self-published monstrosities I have seen, albeit below the standards set by major publishing houses.

As for its written content, despite its many laudable qualities, The James Bond Lexicon possesses significant issues; chief among them is the fact that, in its desire to be comprehensive, texts and incarnations of 007 that – to be frank – are not worthy of detailed study are included, lending them a weight that is ill-deserved.

Do we really need an account of the finer details and intricacies of the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure Bond’ or the ‘Dark Horse Comics Bond’? I would argue not, and although others may demur I would contend that the inclusion of such obscurities dilutes the value of the proper Bond canon. Thank God for the fact that ‘Video game Bond’ and ‘Swedish Comic Book Bond’ were among those incarnations of agent 007 not included!

The book is also, in many senses, impractical. Many times while scanning through its pages I came across an item or character that was new to me, whereupon I would have to wade back to the story codes on pages 11-18 to work out what text this character or piece of ephemera actually came from; usually it was a comic book or continuation novel that I had little interest in.

The only way to prevent this tiresome and constant moving backwards and forwards between the main body of the text and the story codes section is to commit the codes to memory, which is asking far too much of a reader, beyond the obvious (e.g. YOLTn for YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE the novel and YOLTm for You Only Live Twice the movie).

The editorial judgement is also, at times, awry; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a book quoted fleetingly by Tiffany Case in the novel DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER is included, for example, but I could find no entry for Patrick Leigh Fermor’s The Traveller’s Tree, which is extensively quoted in the novel LIVE AND LET DIE and adds substantially to the Caribbean context of the book, or indeed, any reference to Basho, the Japanese poet whose work is crucial to the thematic resonance of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE.

The James Bond Lexicon - Max Zorin by Patricio Carbajal

While perusing the Lexicon I also often found myself wishing it had been written with a bit more style and humour, or possessing some semblance of a critical slant. Not the job of a reference text, perhaps, but for all its faults Steven Jay Rubin’s James Bond Movie Encyclopedia, for example, is far more engaging and readable - the Lexicon, by comparison, is worthy but dull, and in the three weeks since the book arrived (solely for the purposes of this review) I have often found myself unable to read it for sustained periods, as it simply does not hold my attention.

Something that does work very well are the 80 or so illustrations included by the very talented Patricio Carbajal. Although his inked work (such as his sadly unpublished Casino Royale movie adaptation) is even better than the pencil style used here, Carbajal is a worthy heir to John McLusky, Yaroslav Horak and George Almond in the 007 illustrators’ stakes. Sadly, however, some of the illustrations are not showcased at their best by the rather cramped layout of the book and the less than stellar paper quality; in rather cavalier fashion, Carbajal’s name is also misspelled in the acknowledgements - and disappointingly does not appear on the frontispiece to the book.

I believe the Lexicon would work far better as an Internet resource – perhaps with the facility to filter out or in certain works or categories of work. The story codes could then be accessed at the press of a button, and the admirable and detailed research would be far easier to access.

All in all, then, high marks for effort, but in terms of practicality and enjoyment, it’s sad to say The James Bond Lexicon doesn’t just miss the bullseye, but also the target as a whole.

Luke G. Williams

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