A wise man once said, “I have no idea what an honest job is.” Or perhaps that quote came from a blunt instrument. Regardless, the man behind the quote is the king of his trade. His trade is one full of fantasy. And of that tradesman, well, nobody does it better.
Nobody Does It Better is a mammoth read compiling over 700 pages of uncensored, unauthorized oral history behind the most famous of Her Majesty’s 00 agents. Stories, memories, and commentary fill the tome covering the movies from Dr. No through Spectre, all by producers, writers, directors, and those martini-loving men themselves: Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, and Craig. For as in-depth a book as this is, a nice cadence is established by co-authors Mark A. Altman (Free Enterprise) and Edward Gross who build a rhythm between each of the interviews, movie by movie, decade by decade. They dig into the empire Cubby Broccoli built from the Ian Fleming novels, the legal problems with rival producer Kevin McClory, and best of all, one-on-ones with the men behind the Walther PPK.
Hearing directly from the Bonds, particularly Dalton and Brosnan who have mastered the art of the interview, is what makes the book. After all, they are the stars of the show. ‘Nuff said. As compelling as those men are, many of the other insights, save for lofty comments from the equally-lofty studio-heads, lack such gravitas and quickly become repetitive. Or annoying. Or forgettable.
But read on, as there are some quality surprises heavy with the weight of Cold War-era conspiracies. Such as the studio-abandoned scripts by both Donald Westlake (aka Richard Stark) and Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) that presented fun “What If”s. Both scripts were for Tomorrow Never Dies, which was arguably Brosnan’s best… and potentially could have been out-of-the-ballpark better. Ah, what if indeed.
Altman and Gross enlighten the masses in the most entertaining of ways around Kevin McClory’s attempted coup of the Bond empire. At first you laugh at the guy. Then feel sorry for him. Only to laugh again. After all, he was responsible for Never Say Never Again.
Altman and Gross’s aim targets the superspy superfan more so than the matinee tourist. Yet for as deep and intense as Nobody Does It Better is, there is the feeling that so much more was left out. Many of the interviews get into the inner workings of the Bond machine but the book seems light on any solid gold trivia. In place of the technicality of the opening titles and the ongoing social commentary, more details about the history – of the set times, of the movies relevance, of critical and social acceptance – would have been highly welcomed. And even though this was an oral history by the professionals for the fans, there wasn’t enough commentary from the authors themselves. Yes, Lazenby is presented as charming and foolish but the authors shouldn’t suffer on the sidelines.
The world is not enough but this book is a must-have read leaving you shaken and stirred, while giving a good view.
To a kill.