Book Review: THE LOST ADVENTURES OF JAMES BOND (Mark Edlitz)

Every franchise has their lexicon of tantalising lost projects, stories which failed to see the light of day, and James Bond is no exception.

Many of these tales are public knowledge and have been documented over the decades since 007 came to the big (and small) screen in various incarnations and guises, but Mark Edlitz is one of the few scribes to comprehensively piece together the fabric of James Bond narratives lost to the ages and weave them into a document which, rather forensically, presents many of these fascinating fragments into a coherent meta-narrative of his own. 

The Lost Adventures of James Bond is the story of Bond that never was.

Edlitz previously put together The Many Lives of James Bond, an equally detailed tome charting the many incarnations of the character on screen, and The Lost Adventures works as an effective epilogue, if not outright follow up, to that journey.

He begins with what to most Bond fans is the Holy Grail of lost Bond projects – the third Timothy Dalton film, which would have debuted around 1991 or 1992 had Eon not spent six years in lengthy litigation preventing production between License to Kill and GoldenEye; indeed even after No Time to Die’s repeated delays thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, this gap remains the longest in 007’s history (unless NTTD is delayed once again of course). Some of the concepts are familiar—particularly the Far Eastern setting and aspects that would eventually carry over in a different form in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies—but Edlitz breaks down these stories and scripts in minute detail, allowing us to build a concrete picture of these tantalising Bond films that eluded us.

Alongside this, Edlitz puts together a range of superb, in-depth interviews with writers and creatives going back almost fifty years, such as Alfonse M. Ruggerio Jr (writer of one of the third Dalton scripts) and to my excitement, Mary Crawford & Alan Templeton, the creative forces behind the short-lived, much (unfairly) maligned cartoon James Bond. Jr. Edlitz provides what must be the most comprehensive coverage of that early 1990s project and the detail is fascinating. Some of these interviewees struggle at points to recall details stretching back 30 or 40 years but they retain a huge amount of knowledge about network demands, production realities, and dealing with the Cubby Broccoli estate (who by and large come out rather well in the regaling), that fill out the Bond mythos and make you acutely aware how challenging putting any 007 project together actually is.

Edlitz to his credit does not just focus on movies and TV, but expands out to lost video games, novels, comics and even Choose Your Own Adventure game books, which provide some real insights into genuine Bond arcanum. You will come out of this realising how profound a lost opportunity the comic-book arm of Bond was, yet at the same time ubiquitous and lucrative for decades – even if the quality wasn’t always there. The Lost Adventures manages to tease out many hidden details about projects you might never even have heard of, and come the end your knowledge of Bond, and what could have been, will be significantly richer.

The book admittedly could have used another proof, and there are numerous spelling & grammar and formatting errors, but these do not mar the content. Mark Edlitz’ tome here is a very well researched and sourced must for the 007 aficionado.

Mark Edlitz was kind enough to answer a few questions about the making of the book…

A. J. BLACK: Tell us about how this book came into being & why lost Bond stories deserved their own tome.

MARK EDLITZ: I did not intend to write two books on the James Bond franchise. I figured one would be enough. But somehow, I have managed to write two books on 007 — The Many Lives of James Bond and The Lost Adventures of James Bond. Here is what happened.

When I started writing The Many Lives of James Bond, I let my research take me in any direction I could imagine. As I was putting my chapters together, the topic of the first book slowly came into focus. The Many Lives of James Bond became an examination of the character of Bond, as told through his creators. It also became a book of interviews with actors who have played 007 in different media, including films, television, video games, and radio dramas.

But it turned out that I was researching a lot of material that did not fit into the parameters of that book. So, anything that didn’t belong, I took out and put in a new folder on my computer. That material was what I call “lost” Bond adventures. A lost Bond adventure is an unmade, out of print, or forgotten story.

When I put all the material together, I discovered I had written about 75,000; that’s enough for a new book. But I kept researching and writing. The Lost Adventures of James Bond turned out to be about 424 pages, about 100 pages more than The Many Lives of James Bond. So while this new book began as a side project it became a big project.

The Lost Adventures of James Bond includes chapters on “lost” Bond films, video games, comic books, and radio dramas. I write about Timothy Dalton’s third and fourth unmade Bonds, as well as an alternative first Bond film. That first Dalton film would have been a James Bond origin story that was very different from Casino Royale. I also write about alternative versions of The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, and Tomorrow Never Dies. I also briefly touch on a previously unreported Bond spin-off movie that would have been made during the Pierce Brosnan era. 

AJB: You manage to get some deep cut interviews here with people who have to really wrack their brains to recall details about many of these decades old projects. How did you manage to find many of these people? What was your process?

ME: Research is one of my favourite parts of writing. I like to hunt down hard-to-find people. I think I have the only interview with Alfonse Ruggiero, who co-wrote Dalton’s unmade Bond. For me, searching them out is part of the fun. In some cases, these creators are not frequently asked about these projects. Similarly, Toby Stephens has played Bond eight times on the radio. Stephens hasn’t really spoken publicly about his experience playing Bond. So I was thrilled to interview him about playing Bond.

AJB: Which of the Timothy Dalton proposed drafts, many of which tap into emerging AI & robotic technologies, not to mention Eastern threats, would you loved to have seen happen?

ME: The Lost Adventures of James Bond covers at least four different unmade Dalton movies. I look at one version which was written by Alfonse Ruggiero and Michael G. Wilson. That would have been a tense thriller. There is another version of Dalton’s third was more of an action-comedy. Richard Smith wrote a very strong treatment for Dalton’s fourth called Reunion with Death. That story was very Fleming-esque and it draws on elements of the You Only Live Twice and Moonraker novels. Bond’s secretary Loelia Ponsonby is a character in it. I also write in detail about an alternate first Dalton Bond film which would have explored how Bond became a Double-O agent.

I would have loved to have seen them made. But I’m not arguing that each of these projects should have been.  Instead, the book is meant to explore Eon’s thinking at the time and some of their ideas to continue Dalton’s tenure as Bond. One Bond said that reading the book was like watching Dalton’s third Bond movie. That’s the greatest feedback that I could get.

AJB: How many of these ideas from the early 90s do you think consciously or unconsciously dripped into future films? It really felt like Tomorrow Never Dies particularly came out of some of this DNA.

ME: There are certainly ideas from the above Bond stories that have appeared in other Bond films. There are scenes in Skyfall that echo elements of the Bond origin story. Particularly when Bond visits his ancestral home. Similarly, for Moonraker, Cary Bates had an idea for twin henchmen. Octopussy features similar characters. But I resist drawing a straight line and saying that one idea directly inspired the other. Sometimes writers working separately will separately arrive at the same idea. Other times, the idea will come from Eon and they will ask the writers to see if they can make it work. If the idea doesn’t work for that script, it might resurface later.

AJB: You devote perhaps the most time on the rather joyous James Bond Jr than I’ve seen anywhere else. I grew up adoring that as a young boy. Is it a bit of a lost gem lurking on YouTube in poor format, or should it be best consigned to history?

ME: I know that a lot of Bond fans do not like James Bond Jr. However, I’m not arguing if the show is “good” or not. Eon put a lot of their resources into the show. Michael G. Wilson, who co-wrote many Bond movies, was a co-creator of the show. Their approach to the series and their handling of the character was arguably no different than if they decided to make the series about a young 007.

I did a deep dive into the world of James Bond Jr. I interviewed the co-creator, the co-director, and many of the show’s writers. I also spoke to the lyricist of the theme-song and writers of the novelisations and interactive-game books. The Lost Adventures of James Bond might be the most comprehensive look at 007’s nephew.

AJB: There are some fascinating lost Bond novel manuscripts out there that you touch upon. What for you makes a strong Bond novel and why are they worth investigating?

ME: I interviewed Raymond Benson about writing Bond novels. He also spoke to me about writing the “lost” Bond play Casino Royale. I also spoke to the writers of several novelisations and interactive game books. Those books are similar to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, where readers make choices that determine Bond’s fate.  For example, if you want Bond to stay and fight, turn to page 77. If you want him to run, turn to page 32. What’s noteworthy is that if the reader makes the wrong choice, Bond dies. A dead Double-0 Seven is a noteworthy event in Bond literature. 

AJB: It’s staggering to be reminded that there are more Bond adventures in comic form than any other medium. But it makes sense. Are we entering a golden new era for Bond in comic form now thanks to Dynamite? What would you like to see them do in that format?

ME: There is a staggering amount of James Bond comics. Comic book expert Alan J. Porter observes that more Bond comics than Bond movies and novels combined. The Daily Express has published many adapted new and adapted Bond comics and Dark Horse had a good run back in the Nineties. However, there were some problems with those. A Silent Armageddon was intended to be a four-part series. But only two of those books were published.  I tracked down the writer and the artist and learned how the story would have ended.

Zig Zag published 59 Spanish-language comics. Because they are in Spanish and because not all Bond fans speak Spanish many of these wonderful stories are overlooked. It’s too bad because they are great. Some are pretty faithful adaptations of Fleming and others are new. The adaptations include Fleming’s novels and his short stories. They are very well told. The new stories are fun. In them, Bond meets up with a group of crooks who dress up like bees and fly around in jetpacks. In another, Bond battles a Yeti. Bond purists may resist their charms, but they are a lot of fun.  If you do not speak Spanish, don’t worry, my book recaps some of the most memorable stories.

Dynamite, in my opinion, has done a fantastic job with Bond. They told many different kinds of stories and published many different formats. Some stories take six issues to tell a complete story and others conclude in just one. There are worthy spin-off stories about M, Moneypenny, and Felix Leiter. They also devoted twelve issues to Bond’s adventures in World War II. For those Bond fans who have read all the Dynamite comics and want more, I have found out the details behind one of their unpublished stories.

AJB: Video games seem an untapped mine for Bond. The only one I remember loving, beyond N64 GoldenEye, was Everything or Nothing many years ago for PS2. Why haven’t we had some definitively classic Bond games during the Craig era?

ME: I might be in the minority, but I’ve enjoyed the Daniel Craig era video games. Quantum of Solace combined that movie’s plot, with a large section depicting the events of Casino Royale. Blood Stone was an original Bond adventure and was written by three-time Bond scribe Bruce Fierstein. Legends cleverly placed Daniel Craig’s Bond into adventures from different Bond eras. When I was interviewing a Bond author, he revealed to me his plans for an unmade Bond video game. It would have been ambitious and would have incorporated elements from every Bond film to that point. Bond gamers will know that he goes into great detail about his unmade game. 

AJB: Lastly, are there any untapped areas for Bond you would want to write about? Anything you haven’t covered in these two expansive books?

ME: I’m not sure what the future holds. But for now, this is it. These books take years to write and they are all-consuming. I gave them all I’ve got. When I’m writing a book, I write about topics that I’m passionate about. I hope that passion comes across to the reader. If anyone picks up The Lost Adventures of James Bond, I’m very grateful. I hope they enjoy it.

Huge thanks to Mark for his time. 

The Lost Adventures of James Bond is now available from Bowker and all good booksellers.

If you enjoyed this read, fancy buying me a cup of coffee on Ko-Fi? Just click here. Thanks a lot if you do.

Author: Myth-Building in Modern Media | Twitter: @ajblackwriter | Podcaster: @motionpicspod @wemadethispod | Occasionally go outside.

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