A Guide to Being James Bond 007

There's a book that can help you walk the walk and talk the talk of fictional spy hero James Bond. Steve Inskeep speaks with Author Christopher Hitchens about The Book of Bond by Sir Kingsley Amis, published in 1965 under the pen name William (Bill) Tanner.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

There may never have been a book award for the book we're going to discuss next, but it is a classic by an award-winning novelist. It's a 1965 work called The Book of Bond. It contains advice on how to be like James Bond, 007, which might seem especially relevant since another Bond movie is coming out.

This book was written under a pseudonym by the late author Kingsley Amis. We've called a friend of the Amis family and Bond fan, the writer Christopher Hitchens.

Mr. Hitchens, welcome to the program.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS (Author; Journalist): Nice of you to have me.

INSKEEP: What does this book say, The Book of Bond?

Mr. HITCHENS: Well, it comes out of Kingsley's general feeling that Ian Fleming was greatly underrated as a writer.

INSKEEP: This is the author of the James Bond novels that led to the movies.

Mr. HITCHENS: Indeed. He was very eager to defend Fleming from what he thought was sort of snobbish charges and said that he was a great writer and that Bond was a terrific character. And then I think getting the bit really between his teeth, he began to do a guide as to how to be Bond yourself.

INSKEEP: How does one behave in a Bond-like manner?

Mr. HITCHENS: Well, it's not as sexy as you might think. I mean I'm sure a lot of men are drawn to the idea partly, as it were, by the women. And Kingsley points out that Bond on an average trip, let's say, in the course of an average adventure, never does better than one girl. He goes on to say, rather soberingly, is just about what an English businessman of average attraction and income might hope for on an average business trip.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HITCHENS: It's just a rather dispiriting way, perhaps, of deflating the Bond mystique. But on the other hand, there are always interesting hints and tips on how to mix a proper cocktail, how to tell whether your vodka is too oily. Do you know how to do that?

INSKEEP: No, no idea.

Mr. HITCHENS: You sprinkle some grains of black pepper on the top and see whether they sink or not.

INSKEEP: And if they sink?

Mr. HITCHENS: That's good. Also, it'll take some of the impurities with it.

INSKEEP: You end up with a kind of a peppery drink, I suppose.

Mr. HITCHENS: And you also get a pepper martini, if you play your cards right. And there's a big difference between vodka made from grain and vodka made from potatoes. And you must, whenever possible, go for the vodka that's made from grain.

INSKEEP: For those who haven't read them, are the books a little less over-the-top than some of the movies?

Mr. HITCHENS: Well, very much so because the movies, in a way, negate the idea of Bond, who goes as a loner rather despising gadgets. Everyone remembers, for example, Q Branch, the man who outfits Bond with the best weaponries.

INSKEEP: The ballpoint pen that's a cannon and...

Mr. HITCHENS: Classical character in most of the films, now played I think by John Cleese. He's the new one.

Well, the whole point of the novel is that Bond despises all that kind of thing, all that new-fangled short-cut stuff, and prefers to, where it possible, to rely on his own trusty Beretta weapon and his bare hands.

INSKEEP: Maybe that's the essence of how to be like James Bond: Rely on yourself.

Mr. HITCHENS: Very much so.

INSKEEP: Well, Christopher Hitchens, I've really enjoyed talking with you.

Mr. HITCHENS: Well, it's been a pleasure.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Christopher Hitchens discussed Sir Kingsley Amis, who, under a pseudonym, wrote The Book of Bond, or Every Man His Own 007.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

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