2013 Festival Reader-in-Residence David Marks tells us how James Bond long been an influence in his life.
“David Mark what?”
“No, listen. The surname is Mark. The first name is David.”
“So why did you say your surname first? I mean, that’s just weird. Anyway, I know your name. We’ve been friends since nursery. And that’s not a gun, it’s a stick …”
“Do you know how many different way I could kill you? Now, come at me again. And this time, take your callipers off …”
The above conversation is a pretty much verbatim transcript of a conversation I had on a fairly regular basis in the playground of Newlaithes Junior School in Carlisle in 1986. My friends just didn’t know their roles. Stuart Wood may have had a club-foot and an eye-patch but there was no good reason he couldn’t be one of SPECTRE’S top agents. He just had to stop crying and die properly. And as for my Miss Moneypenny. This was one eight-year-old who just didn’t appreciate the importance of innuendo.
There was nothing wrong with my schoolmates’ heroes, of course. Ian Rush, Michael Jackson and Peter Duncan had a lot going for them. But I was a dyed-in-the-wool James Bond man. In my mind I was a sophisticated, dangerous and emotionally-closed-down man of mystery. I could kill an enemy in 57 different ways using only a paperclip. I could get a woman to make purring noises just by using a couple of puns and kicking a bad guy in the knackers. I was James Bond. And it was a real pain when Mam called me in for dinner.
I should point out that in the mid-eighties I was also Hercule Poirot, Philip Marlow, Horatio Hornblower and Jane Marple, but Bond was the one that Dad felt most comfortable with me channelling.
I got into Bond through the films. Everybody does, don’t they? But I started reading the books when I was about nine. The films had been good. The books better. In the movies, Bond doesn’t have a lot going on behind the eyes. He’s a little on the one-dimensional side. The books are different. He’s a rounded character. He has faults. He has some questionable ethics. He has an attitude towards women that makes cavemen and Jim Davidson seem positively liberated. He’s even a little vulnerable at time. He’s not entirely easy to like. He doesn’t sound anything like Sean Connery. But my goodness, he’s somebody that all men would like to be for a day or so.
I’m in my mid-thirties now. I’m roughly the age Bond was when Ian Fleming first brought him to the masses. I don’t think we have much in common in terms of our physical abilities. I’m not really the sort of chap who could parachute through a window, kill a dozen henchmen and switch off a nuclear bomb. My glasses would fall off. Neutralising the bomb? The last impressive technical thing I did in was spell out “Boobs” on a calculator. But I’m a bloody marvel when it comes to puns and witty rejoinders. I’m not at all averse to a vodka martini. I always check the exits when I enter a room and I know, in my heart of hearts, that if I press it often enough, my Biro will fire a dart into the necks of my attackers.
Bond has been a part of my life for three decades. I’ve read all the books so many times that I’ve kind of spoiled the films for myself. I know so much Bond trivia that my local pub has stopped putting questions about him into the quiz. I’m not saying I’m obsessive, but when I smoked, I called my lighter Felix …
When I was asked to be Reader in Residence for this year’s festival and take the lead on some get-togethers about Casino Royale, I was given the opportunity to demonstrate just how cool, centred and unflappable my devotion to Bond had made me. Which is why I did a small Irish jig and became inarticulate for 20 minutes.
Come along to one of the Big Read events. I may not leave you shaken or stirred. But there will be puns. And behave, or I’ll unleash the paperclip.
David Mark will be leading the 2013 Big Read events. Don’t miss this chance to test his knowledge of Bond trivia and learn more about 007.