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2015: Blogging Year in Review

December 13, 2015

For me, in blogging terms, 2015 has been the year of the two James’s. I refer of course to the world’s greatest fictional secret agent and the Demon Dog of American crime fiction.

Spectre-600x600Firstly, let’s talk about Bond. I am a massive fan of all things 007 related, but at the beginning of this year I hadn’t actually watched a Bond film since Skyfall was released. Perhaps it was my lukewarm feelings towards the film that put my interest in the series on hold. However, last Christmas my family bought me the DVD boxset, and I re-watched the entire series in order. It was a delight to relive all of the magic of Bond. I genuinely believe there has not been a flat-out stinker in the 24 official Bond films, although Die Another Day comes pretty close (if I’m feeling generous, the first hour of Pierce Brosnan’s swansong is fairly good). So just as the Bond films were beginning to re-enter my consciousness, the hype for Spectre was gaining momentum. Part of that hype is the ongoing debate online about who is the best Bond. Daniel Craig surely has a good claim to that crown, but Roger Moore was always my favourite. I began the year doing some research into the making of Octopussy. It’s not well remembered by either fans or critics, but it has two great distinctions: first, it beat Never Say Never Again in the infamous Battle of the Bonds, and second, it was the only Bond film co-written by George MacDonald Fraser of Flashman fame. He gave the film an exotic, colonial feel which later films in the series (dealing with audiences now accustomed to international travel) have abandoned. It was a great honour to see Sir Roger Moore at the Liverpool Empire Theatre in October. Moore is a natural raconteur and when he was discussing his favourite performance (or should I say two performances) in The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970) it reminded me that his finest work onscreen was not as Bond, but his role in keeping the British film industry alive in the 1970’s with the help of some plucky, buccaneering producers.
Back in July, my wife and I visited the excellent Bond in Motion exhibition in London which showcased the original and most memorable cars which have featured in the Bond films. Aside from viewing the cars, the most joyful thing about the exhibition was seeing so many middle-aged fathers excitedly telling their children about the inner workings of the Aston Martin DB5 and Lotus Esprit. Bond is a phenomenon which has endured for several generations, and for my part I thought Spectre captured the magic which has made Bond the most enduring film series in history. Not everyone agrees of course, and it’s hard to think of another Bond film which has led to such polarising opinions, but to me Spectre is one of the best Bond films. Read my original review for why I think it deserves this accolade.

Ellroy PowellMy interest in Bond is as a fan, but my work on James Ellroy is as a scholar (but I hasten to add it’s no less pleasurable to me ). Perfidia was released late last year and the initial reviews, like Spectre’s, were mixed. Incidentally, Ellroy is not a Bond fan, but he did like Skyfall. I was deeply impressed by the novel and after completing my second reading this year I’m still dazzled by its breathtaking ambition and scope, particularly in how it relates to the original LA Quartet. However, it is flawed. Briefly put: occasional lapses into cartoon-like characterisation and one out-there plot twist concerning Dudley Smith somewhat marred the narrative. Still, Ellroy’s got three more novels in the series to put it right. There was plenty of talk about Perfidia, and all of Ellroy’s work, at the ‘James Ellroy: Visions of Noir’ conference which we held at the University of Liverpool this year. This was the first conference of its kind to be wholly devoted to the work of James Ellroy, and it was a great pleasure to meet both established Ellroy critics and postgraduate students who are writing their thesis on the Demon Dog. Then, in September, my new book James Ellroy: Demon Dog of Crime Fiction was published by Palgrave Macmillan. Why not treat yourself or someone special to a copy this Christmas. You can read an extract here.

So Bond and Ellroy have been my twin blogging obsessions of 2015. I plan to blog a bit more about both, and many more genre-related topics in 2016. Thank you to everyone who visited the blog this year. Happy holidays, and I hope you find yourself wandering onto this domain next year.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2015 5:53 pm

    I saw SPECTRE for the second time this morning at an early morning screening, pretty much in a theater by myself, so no audience reaction around me this time to color my own reactions. I still very much admire the film, probably because it does evoke Fleming’s Bond so insistently. I was more aware of logic problems this time (who leaves a state of the art spy boat moored in the basement of a building scheduled for demolition?), but the Bond films have always had a kind of surreality about them that defy too tough scrutiny. In sum, I still rate this one quite highly, but can also see why its European reviewers liked it more than those in America (said the Ohio novelist). I really think it was undone over here by increasingly dwindling attention spans.

    • December 13, 2015 8:32 pm

      I hope the somewhat lukewarm American reaction doesn’t send the producers into a creative tailspin as I like the tone and style the Craig films have developed. But perhaps Spectre just needs time. It’s hard to remember now the slating both Laenby and Dalton got when they first appeared as Bond, but with repeated TV and DVD viewings and the internet unleashing an army of independent minded reviewers I hope that Spectre’s reputation will rise, especially in the US.

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