Jul 13, 2007

Random Intelligence Dispatches For July 14, 2007

Dame Stella Issues Intelligence Briefing
Former MI-5 chief Stella Rimington is making news today (albeit with her name misspelled), and not for her newest spy novel. Rimington proves that she hasn't completely traded in real life intrigue for fiction by chiming in on the terrorist threat currently facing Britain. "I don't think we should take a great deal of comfort from the fact that these latest bombs were botched," she warns. "Creating homemade explosives is difficult and they will get it wrong, but they will get it right as well." In a point of view contrary to Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's, Rimington believes that the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make Britain even more of a target. (This should come as no surprise to anyone who's read her excellent debut novel, At Risk, which features a terrorist created by a British operation in Afghanistan.) "Terrorism was around from this source before we went into Iraq or Afghanistan," she acknowledges, "but there is no doubt it has acted as a recruiting sergeant for a lot of these young men because of this sense of grievance about foreign policy." Rimington's newest book, Illegal Action (echoing recent events with Russian spies operating in London), is due out August 2 in England. Her last one, Secret Asset, was just released last month in the Unites States.

"The Thriller Writer With The Golden Touch"
CommanderBond.Net posted a link to an excellent article by Ben Macintyre in the London Times about the selection of Sebastian Faulks as the new James Bond author. The article is more about Ian Fleming than Faulks, and about Bond's place in the Western Canon. It makes some good comments about the whole high brow/low brow argument, and whether popular culture equals "literature." Lengetivity seems to be on 007's side. A taster:

Bond has demonstrated an astonishing capacity for literary survival. Some of the author’s more perceptive contemporaries predicted as much. Fleming will still be read, observed Noël Coward, “long after the Quennells and the Connollys have disappeared”. (Peter Quennell was a prominent critic of the 1940s and 1950s; none of his books is in print today.) Bond has seen off every rival. Bulldog Drummond was put down two generations ago; John Buchan creaks with age; Sax Rohmer’s Dr Fu Manchu has not survived the passage of time and the evolution of racial attitudes. But Bond still lives and breathes, without wheezing.

Fleming’s vivid descriptions fire off the page; his plots still cruise along at souped-up Bentley speed and he writes with a tensile beauty. Above all, Fleming’s imagined universe remains believable, though the purest fantasy. As John Betjeman wrote to Fleming shortly before his death: “The Bond world is as real and full of fear and mystery as Conan Doyle’s Norwood and Surrey and Baker Street . . . This is real art. I look up to you.”

Read the whole Times article here.

Get Smart Gets Trailer!
Anyone who saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix this week knows that there's a trailer out for the Get Smart movie! I think it looks hilarious. I suppose the argument could be made that it looks more like a standard spy spoof, playing off the classic Bond iconography, than a faithful update of the beloved TV show, but it definitely made me laugh. See for yourself here.

Tradecraft: Bourne Imitates Bond
Variety reports that "The Jason Bourne franchise is going the route of James Bond." Following in the footsteps of the 007 product placement extravaganzas, Universal has lined up $40 million worth of free advertising from promotional partners Volkswagen, MasterCard and Symantec for The Bourne Ultimatum. Apparently, the Volkswagen Touareg 2 (which just happens to be rolling out now in America) features prominently in the film, along with the new VW Golf, which is being pushed in European markets. What do you want to bet Matt Damon whines about the product placement in an interview soon?

In other Bourne news, there's a great cover story on The Bourne Ultimatum in this month's Empire Magazine. It reveals a lot more plot details than I've seen elsewhere, including in the trailer.

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