Sunday, June 16, 2013

Winning the Cool War

Live and Let Die, by Ian Fleming, 1955.

Despite the fact that this, the second James Bond novel, does for racism what the previous one did for misogyny, Ian Fleming achieves complete mastery over the spy thriller genre. This book revels in the exoticism of America (with its many "negroes") and Jamaica (whose waters teem with dangerous sharks, barracuda, and octopi)--and a major supervillain called Mr. Big, a black gangster with artistic sensibilities, particularly in the way he kills. Bond, like a modern knight-errant, carries the standard of the British Empire into these out of the way places, aided by his highly cultivated taste for wines, women, and weaponry.

In that the novels debuted in the 1950s, and launched the 60s version of the Bond icon epitomized by Sean Connery, we may consider Ian Fleming to have in large part invented the modern era. Not content to win the Cold War, he won the Cool War as well, replacing the anger and depression of the post-World War II heroes with wit, panache, and a sexual killer instinct.

In creating Bond, Fleming also created JFK, whose favorite writer was, of course, Fleming. Let us not underestimate this feat of imagination which has changed the course of history, providing a somewhat more gentlemanly gender stereotype which has enabled us to transition into the 21st century with our homicidal instincts shaken not stirred.