Tag Archives: James Bond

A Portrait of The Artist as an ex-Catholic…among other things.

Pope Francis 1, formerly Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina

Pope Francis 1, formerly Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina

So we have a new pope. Well, it’s about bleedin’ time, if you ask me. There should be no such thing as a job for life – not in this day and age, anyway. Either you’re up for the task, or you’re not. There’s no in between. Joey Ratz did the right thing in my books. “I’m too old for this shit,” he said. “Let someone younger handle the pressure for a change.” Fair play to you, Joey; you went up in my estimation when you made your historic pronouncement. Oh sure, conspiracy theorists alike will say you were pushed out because you were a liability, a criminal, a sexist misogynist dinosaur: a relic of the Cold War…sorry, that was Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond…I digress. Again.

Diego Maradona: not a pope, but a football player

Diego Maradona: not a pope, but a football player

So who do we get after Joey? Jorge. An Argentine who is now more popular on Google than Lionel Messi or Diego Maradona. He’s the new spiritual leader of the much-maligned Catholic Church, an institution that’s had about as much bad press as Justin Bieber’s recent concert tour in the UK. He is the new guard, but he’s been getting some good reviews for taking the name of Francis. If I could have taken a new name every time I  changed my job, I’d need a passport the size of the Gutenberg Bible.

But hold on. I’m a Catholic, right? At least I am by right of birth. But does being a Catholic mean much to me? Not at the moment, it pains me to say. I am one of the many lapsed Catholics that only see the inside of a church for weddings, funerals, christenings, when on holiday with my friend Dennis, and when on the run from the police. But there was a time when it was all so different. I looked to the altar for solace, for life’s meaning, for truth. Now I look and think What the fuck?

So why the change of attitude? Did the church come down hard on me for reasons I won’t go into? No. In fact, when I was in my teens, I found a sense of community within a church group. The fact that we used it as an excuse to get shitfaced once a week doesn’t come into it.

The good old days, before the shit hit the fan.

The good old days, before the shit hit the fan.

Okay, it does. But you get what I’m saying. The church had and maybe still does have its uses. I have some close family members and friends whose faith inspires me, though not to the extent that I want to believe in the God that they profess. Do I believe in God? It depends on what day it is, and how I’m feeling. But to me, most times, it doesn’t matter whether I do or not. I don’t think we’ll ever know. Though science professes that such an omnipotent being cannot exist, people of faith say that it’s not possible for God not to exist. I’m somewhere in the middle: he either exists or he doesn’t. It’s a comfortable fence I sit on; I have plenty of company. But your beliefs are your own business. I will respect them, and I will defend your right to them.

Now where was I? So we have a new pope. Good. Whatever your feelings on the matter, give the new guy a chance. If indeed he manages some reform in his papacy, then fair play to the man. If, however, he’s unable or – worse – disinclined to bring the Catholic Church kicking and screaming into the 21st century, then it is incumbent on ourselves to vote with our feet: to get out of their churches and stay out. Institutions like these, if they can’t or won’t reform, deserve neither our time nor our faith, whatever that faith may be.

Good luck, Francis. You might need it. I’d pray for you…if I believed it would work.

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The Daily Whatever: On James Bond and ‘Skyfall’.

So now we know. After three years of negotiation, the 23rd installment of the longest film series in history is now in production. The “will-they-won’t-they” confusion is at an end, and by this time next year, cinema goers all around the world will be able to make up their own minds as to whether Skyfall is any good or not.

The signs are good. Daniel Craig returns to the role and will continue to add steel to the coveted role of 007. It’s my feeling that this will be his last performance as James Bond. Give it socks, Daniel! Go out with style.

We have Oscar-winners galore. Dame Judi returns as M (maybe her last performance, too), Javier Bardem will be the bad guy, and Sam (American Beauty) Mendes steps into the director’s chair. This should be an intriguing prospect. But something has me worried. Before the official unveiling of this project’s title, a Sky News reporter suggested that Skyfall would be concentrate less on action and more on characters.

To this I say: What. The. F**k?

This is James Bond, movie people. We fans want action, gadgets, girls and exotic scenery. Okay, the last two Bond films featured a return to basics form of storytelling. Nothing wrong with this. But the problem would appear to be preferring one style over another. I have no problems with intelligent storytelling; in fact I demand it. But if I want a spy story that explores the nature of the business and why people keep secrets, I’ll go see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. (I did, and it was brilliant.) With Bond I want something else. Escapism, danger, derring-do, humour, and a script that won’t insult my intelligence in the same way Die Another Day did. With Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, a balance was found and I would like this to be maintained.

But I still want to see stuff get blown up, okay?

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 83. On Neighbours.

Mozart lived here when he was younger.

While I was in London this weekend, I stayed in The Belgravia Hotel (more like a guest house, but there you go) on Ebury Street, about ten minutes walk from Buckingham Palace. I took a bus tour of the city and it actually passed through Belgravia. I learned I was in august company. Mozart lived across the road from the hotel (he composed his first piece at the age of eight in London); Ian Fleming, Roger Moore and Sean Connery lived nearby too. JK Rowling and Margaret Thatcher are current residents.

Geniuses all, with the exception of The Iron Lady.

 

 

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 72. On Smiley.

No, not the emoticon but the character: John Le Carre’s famous spymaster, George Smiley. Coming out of a screening of the recent adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I thought about fictional characters authors are most famous for. Fleming has Bond, Lee Child has Jack Reacher, Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes.

For people of a certain age, Sir Alec Guinness’s portrayal of Smiley was the benchmark by which Gary Oldman would be judged. But now Le Carre’s creation has a new lease of life, and  I would love to see him return for another adventure.

Classic characters will live forever.

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 64. On Spy Stories.

With the release of the movie version of John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and the return of Spooks to the BBC (its 10th and final season), there is, for me, a renaissance of the spy thriller. The Bourne trilogy of movies resulted in a more pared-down, gadget-free James Bond, focusing more on the people involved in the business of spying than outrageous plotting.

You see, spying is a sleazy industry: keeping secrets from some, extracting them from others, without letting your emotions get in the way. It can come at a price, though.

You may lose your humanity.

 

Jack Reacher: Literary Action Hero Supreme

Extract from Worth Dying For (2010)

Reacher said, “Pop quiz, guys. You spent four years in college learning how to play a game. I spent thirteen years in the army learning how to kill people. So how scared am I?”

No answer.

“And you were so bad at it you couldn’t even get drafted afterwards. I was so good at it I got all kinds of medals and promotions. So how scared are you?”

“Not very,” said the guy with the wrench.

Wrong answer.

End of extract.

Jack Reacher is an ex-Military Policeman and the hero of Lee Child’s fifteen novels. I’ve read them all and they’re a masterclass in succinct, action-packed thriller writing. Child and Reacher are my heroes.

In the above extract, taken from Child’s latest novel, Worth Dying For, all you need to know about Reacher is there. I’ve no doubt in my mind that already you have an image of what he looks like and how he thinks.

He can survive anything the bad guys throw at him. In the end of the last book, 61 Hours, there was some doubt about whether or not he made it out of the cave that was packed to the hilt with explosives. There was no mention of him getting out. In Worth Dying For there is no mention of how he did manage to escape; except that he did. He’s bruised and in some pain, but that’s not enough to stop him from being a relentless force for good.

In a fight between Rambo and Reacher, Reacher would make the muscle-bound Vietnam vet eat his bandanna through a tube.

In a scrap between the Incredible Hulk and Reacher, it would be the monster who’d get smashed.

In a duel between James Bond and Reacher, all the gadgets in the world wouldn’t save 007 from an embarrassing end.

That’s how good Reacher is as a fictional action hero. He shouldn’t exist. But he does. He shouldn’t be real. But he is.

My recommendation? Start with The Killing Floor and work your way through the series. Be prepared for late nights because these books do not let up.

I’m a Writer, Damn it!

Okay, the fun’s over, people. There’s work to be done here. No laughing at the back, you hear me? I’ll not have any messing while I give this little talk to you all.

I’ve been sick, all right? Not as sick as some, I grant you – but still, I’ve not been at my best. I’ve been a bit shitty, if I’m to be honest. Sneezing, coughing up a lung or two, running a temperature, quietly putting together a broken heart; the kind of stuff all members of the human race go through in life. I’m no different.

But while I’ve been inactive, I’ve felt that I haven’t been me. I thought I was going mad. Franz Kafka wrote, “A writer who doesn’t write is, admittedly, a monster asking for insanity.” Writing, for me, is therapy. Any kind of writing. God, how I miss writing letters to friends and family. It’s all texts and emails nowadays.

But I digress. I am angry at myself for letting things get to this point. I know we’re allowed to be unwell. At some point we’re allowed to indulge in a little bit of “poor me” thinking, too. The trick is to see it for what it is – and get the hell over it. You see what I’m saying here? Writers write, okay?

W.R.I.T.E.

If you don’t, you’re a fraud. End of story.

In sixteen days’ time, NaNoWriMo kicks off. The thirty days of madness, loved and hated in equal measure by all who’ve taken part in it, is once again upon us. And you know what? I’m going to have another go. Last year I gave up after 13,000 words. Lethargy kicked in and I let it get the better of me. To this day I still get people asking me what happened to the rest of the story. To them I say, I will finish it – but not just yet.

This time around I want to try something new. A friend suggested an outline to me and I liked it so much I decided to take it and throw a different spin on it. For the first time in this writer’s short career, I will attempt to write a comedy adventure. The title of the story is Bucktooth, and if I have my way (and if I do my job properly) it will be a rib-tickling roller-coaster of a ride that homages, of all things, The Blues Brothers and James Bond.

I have a plan, an outline, a list of characters, and a reason to start enjoying my talent again (yes, I believe I have one). 50,000 words over 30 days sounds like a lot, but if I break it down into three sessions (morning, afternoon and evening, 566 words a session), it is more than doable.

Not anyone can do it, but any writer worth his or her salt is duty bound to give it their all. I will, you can bet your life on that.

Will you?