Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Helm vs Bond
30 Jan 99 09:03:00 -0500 --UNS_gsauns2_3046268359
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
Content-Disposition: inline

Re "somjim"'s comments below:

"The ground swell of empathy with Bond, even before his face became
synonymous with Sean Connery's, made the first screen depiction a shoe-in
for success. The rest, well, we know the rest . . . Matt Helm, coming
second, seemed like a caricature of Bond, and at his best he was always
doing catch up. It seems to me that timing, not the quality of the author's
work, is at the base of the popularity issue."

The Bond novels were not all that popular, at least in the States, prior to
the early 1960s. And the first Helm book, *Death of a Citizen*, was
published before the 007 craze began, so there's no question of the
character in the books being an imitation.

What started the groundswell of popularity, at least according to folklore,
was JFK's remark that he regarded *From Russia With Love* as one of his
favorite books. This led to the sudden popularity of the paperback
reprints, and the best-seller status that subsequent hardbacks achieved.
None of Fleming's books were best-sellers during the '50s. They were
respectable sellers, but not spectacular. This, in turn, led to the movie
sales, which led to the release of *Dr. No*.

The Helm movies *seemed* like out-and-out parodies of the Bond formula for
the simple reason that that's what they were *intended* to be. Had they
been faithful to Hamilton's character, they would have seemed much less
derivative of Bond.

As for timing (i.e. getting there first) being the arbiter of success,
that's true up to a point, but only up to a point. Carroll John Daly would
be better remembered than Hammett if being first was all it took.

Further, Desmond Cory's Johnny Fedora spy novels, featuring a similarly
high-living, handsome troubleshooter for British Intelligence, which
preceded the first Bond book by two or three years and which are (IMO)
generally better reads, had both timing and quality on their side, and still
are not as well-remembered as the Bond novels.

For that matter, how many people remember Colonel Hugh North, F. Van Wyck
Mason's high-living Army Intelligence operative, who first appeared more
than two decades before Bond, and whose last appearance in a novel was four
years after Bond's last appearance in *The Man With the Golden Gun*.
Another handsome, high-living foe of the enemies of democracy who is little
noted nor long remembered by current readers.

On balance, what set Fleming apart from the others was a powerful
endorsement by a popular public figure. - Jim Doherty

# To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
# The web pages for the list are at