Life is busy. Even fun offers far too many options these days.
With that in mind? Multi-tasking is imperative. Sitting down with a book on holiday is great and all. But I now prefer being able to work out, do the dishes / an other chore with a story on in the background.
That pattern actually started in childhood, years before Audible at al. Audio-books on tape /CD were an absolute godsend all the way through to secondary school and even University. So it’s great to now rediscover the artform in daily life.
James Bond of course is never far away in any of my fun-time hobbies. The more I try running from that man and his fictional fantasy world, the more ‘bonded’ we become. A curse. A gift. A blessing. A..ok enough.
I thought now would be as good a time as any to recall the audio-Bonds. Those vocal performances of the books that have really stood out, to me. Dear Reader: this is a non exhaustive list, given especially how many countless versions exist out there!
I could never do justice to all or even the majority. And this is in simple order of memory /chronology, rather than merit. Some no doubt available immediately for download..others..well..if you live long enough..you might find the right collector/seller. Good Luck!
Here we Go..
Anthony Valentine, reading Quantum of Solace:
One of the first audiobooks that made me sit up and love the process of performance as much as story. Valentine had the kind of class in his voice that just matches Fleming’s tones as writer. You believe that he is an accurate vocal representation both of Bond and the supporting cast. Beautiful just hearing it as well as listening, actively.
Simon Vance, reading just about every Bond book ever:
Yep, even the (underrated though erratic) John Gardner books get a reading from Simon. He excels at bringing the plot mechanics to life and really making you inhabit Bond’s world, from its sensual and scary to comedic sides. Vance is one of THE best voiceover actors. Ever.
Rufus Sewell, reading GOLDFINGER:
Gets the smouldering qualities required for Bond. But is equally adept at every menacing pause for the titular villain. This actor could have been a solid 007 on screen. Could still make for an interesting villain and has worked with Martin Campbell so you never know.
Toby Stephens, performing the Fleming canon:
Toby played a baddie in DIE ANOTHER DAY. Shame, because that role should have gone to Hugh Grant and Stephens should have maybe had a shot at going head to head with Daniel Craig’s Bond or even..playing 007, himself? But you can hear his reading of Bond in assorted BBC Radio 4 plays, with assorted supporting players. Uniformly, excellent adaptations.
Martin Jarvis / You Only Live Twice:
Jarvis has a great reading voice, as I remember from his work on JUST WILLIAM. He really gets to the heart of Bond’s pain in the book and nails the garden of death /vengeance scenes in a manner NO TIME TO DIE..didn’t. Also hilarious in the still a wincy bit casually racist via Whicker’s World take on Japan.
Bill Nighy and MOONRAKER:
Bill truly injects vivid life to the office politics at the start of the novel. Very SKYFALL, in fact! Makes you focus on the plot clues, too: little character details that serve said. And makes the travelogue in Britain as exciting as any of the more glam locations Bond has visited.
The Gala Brand romance is particularly moving here. Bill belongs in a Bond film, penned by Curtis/Freud. He’d be a great Phillip Masters, or a senior intel expert or a baddie or comedic relief field contact. Make it happen, EON!
Rosamund Pike /The Spy Who Loved Me:
Fleming hated this book and banned it ever being filmed aside from in title alone. Shame. Because there are gems of set piece in here and Ms Pike makes it all feel real. She also tempers the vanity of a female narration: it is her story now, rather than Fleming writing love letter to himself and Bond, via a woman.
I auditioned with Rosamund once, back at Oxford. Henry V, as I recall. I had prepared and even got a special haircut. For some strange reason, I was VERY distracted in the reading and lost the role. ‘James, you read it like a Rugby coach and seemed..distracted‘ (the director).
The actress opposite me was such a breath-taking beauty that ANY man would have been moved from character. I think she smiled, understood and even giggled a bit. Did we have tea, though?? There’ll be another time. EON: PLEASE CAST HER AGAIN in a new role with next Bond. I love Ms Pike! 🙂
David Tennant /OHMSS:
He does not just make the Fleming narrative feel immersive. Tennant brings each character to the ear, beautifully so. His Bond is derivative to be honest. But his Blofeld is scary. And he excels as Tracy Bond. Seriously. The wedding bits..he gets inside her mental state, fragile femininity and tragic aura. Genius!
Tom Hiddleston/Octopussy and The Living Daylights:
I met Tom this week, had I mentioned? 😉
So I thought I would give his Bond reading a shot. Happy to report it is excellent. EVERY CHARACTER he reads is pitch perfect and his voice is MADE to narrate Fleming prose. Hire him to read the entire canon, I say! Spooky: Richard E Grant plays a Loki variant and also read a number of Bond books, brilliantly, too.
In short? Bond is ALL about that VOICE. Master that? And you are almost there. From Connery to Craig (and possibly, Cavill?)..it is the distinctive authority, pause, poise, intonation and cut crystal class in the audio that seals the 007 deal. Take note, anyone auditioning to be 007-7 in the year ahead. Best of luck. 😉
HAPPY WEEKEND, ONE AND ALL. JAMES BOND WILL RETURN! TRANSMISSION ENDS. X