The most successful fiction writers create the most plausible alternative universes. Or the most fascinating, or the most horrifiying, or the most desirable. Who would not rather live in Homer’s world of goddesses and heroes than in what was no doubt the nasty, ugly and sordid environment that was reality around the Aegean one millennium or so BC?
I am not here going to allow myself to get distracted into the mind-blowing possibility of the reality of all alternative universes (or as speakers of US English would have it, alternate universes). (That’s not what “alternate” means. It means this one yes, that one no, this one yes, that one no, as in alternate numbers – 1, 3, 5, 7 etc or 2, 4, 6, 8 etc, and AC, alternating electricity. We rang the bell at alternate doors – this one yes, that one no, etc.)
But back to alternative universes.
In James Bond – The Authorised Biography, John Pearson has created an alternative universe in which James Bond really exists; behind the scenes, of course, being a secret agent, but alive and facing all the existential problems that just being alive entails. The book was first published in 1973, when James Bond was in his early fifties, which means he would be in his nineties now, like the other WWII survivors we see at ceremonies such as the ones held recently in Normandy. He was in fact (according to Pearson) born on the 11th of November, 1920 – when both the Sun and the Moon were in Scorpio! (Click here for my take on Moon in Scorpio.)
It would be a spoiler of the worst kind to tell you how the book is organised, how the story is told. Simply take my word for it that it is brilliant (though it does tend to fizzle out a little at the end). And, if you are a James Bond fan – as I am, of the books, and the early Sean Connery films – you will be unable to put it down. Not only will you marvel at the way what Fleming left out and I at least always wondered about, is filled in, but you will read about other James Bond missions that Fleming never mentioned (perhaps never knew about!).
Years ago I read most of the books – they’re still on one of my grandmother’s bookshelves – and now I plan to reread a few, the ones where I now know much more about the background to the story: starting now, as soon as I have posted this, with Casino Royale, which I have not read before. It is not Bond’s first adventure by any means – it is set in 1951, and he had been an agent in the 1930s and throughout WWII – but it was the first to be recorded by Ian Fleming.
So now for an evening with James Bond! Pearson has created a viable alternative universe that I will re-enter any time with pleasure; I much prefer it to ours, the one in which James Bond was nothing more than a figment of Fleming’s imagination.
(Or was he?)