Book Review: James Bond Encyclopedia

The James Bond Encyclopedia by John Cork and Collin Stutz is a confection between hard covers, a colorful and thrilling toy with which the James Bond enthusiast can play. In many ways, however, it cannot be considered an encyclopedia.

What’s in it: Illustrated entries for virtually every character, vehicle, and gadget, no matter how minor, that appeared in a James Bond film. Yes, that’s right, every entry is illustrated. It’s a real ooh! ahh! experience flipping through it, and it’s also kind of useful for character look-up. Often, I find an actor credited by a name never mentioned on-screen. In Casino Royale for example, it’s hard to know who Kratt or Carlos is. With a picture, you know for sure. Also, introductory material on Ian Fleming and “Bond Style” that gives a little bit of background. A chapter for each actor who has played Bond officially (again, well illustrated), and a short entry for each movie.

What’s not in it: Anything about Never Say Never Again or the two earlier Casino Royale versions. Back story of any kind in the primary index entries (there’s some background in the movie and Bond actor sections). Any information on actors other than those who played Bond: A two-page spread on Q, for example, doesn’t mention Desmond Llewellyn other than to give his name. The entry on the Kenworth trucks from License to Kill describes their use in the movie, but not the special modifications that enabled their stunts (especially the wheelie) to be performed. There is, however, some marketing and production background for some of the various cars.

In other words, the Encyclopedia is almost entirely internal to the films. A character’s entry is based on what happened in a film the reader has almost certainly seen, making the book pure fluff—but wonderful fluff!

There’s a little more to it; when a character appeared in Fleming’s original story as well as a movie, the book is usually mentioned and differences are noted (not always; Patricia Fearing’s entry doesn’t mention the novel Thunderball, although Domino Derval’s does). The reverse is not true; no Loelia Ponsonby for the Fleming afficianado. There’s also information that appears to be derived from original scripts and conjecture; Jack Wade “developed a keen interest in gardening by accident while in Cambodia” (script) and is “retired” (apparent conjecture).

The authors have some fun with actor trivia by fictionalizing continuity whenever an actor has played multiple roles (sometimes even if the earlier character died). So, the entry for Ling, Bond’s pre-titles lover in You Only Live Twice, ends with “It is rumored that Ling later married into a fortune, changed her name, and became a professional gambler of some repute.” Ling was played by Tsai Chin, who also played rich gambler Madame Wu in Casino Royale. (All these little in jokes are flagged with “it is rumored.”)

Along those lines, the authors weigh in on the Hargreaves issue: “…a new M gives 007 his assignment in Octopussy. This appears to be Admiral Hargreaves…” Obviously, “appears to be” means it’s not canon, and given the book’s propensity to tie all repeating actors together, I don’t give it a whole lot of weight.

One flaw amused me because I had the same struggle in my own book. Where do evil women go—under villains or women? For example, Dr. No‘s Miss Taro and The Spy Who Loved Me‘s “Log Cabin Girl” both work for the enemy and sleep with Bond in order to get him in an assassain’s range. Yet one is in the Bond Women section, and one is in the Villains section.

Overall, I recommend this book to the fan who loves picture books. It’s so big and pretty you almost want to hug it. It’s certainly not a comprehensive reference book, (you need Stephen Jay Rubin’s or mine for that), but it’s entertaining and beautiful.

Purchase The James Bond Encyclopedia here.

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