Mark O’Connell: ‘Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan’ book review

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The author brings an added dimension though a personal, if oblique, connection to the series in that his grandfather Jimmy O’Connell was Bond producer Cubby Broccoli’s long-serving chauffer.

Mark O’Connell speaks with deep affection for these films that have so vividly coloured his life. In describing them and their impact, he creates a language of his own; describing each 007 adventure as a ‘bullet’ and using terms such as Leon Lovelies, the Expositional Chauffer and Bond Arriving to describe the films’ building blocks and recurring features.

We meet the films in the order that he did, beginning with 1983’s Octopussy rather than Dr. No, taking in a mix of the big screen, video rentals and television showings of the 1980s. Pre-DVD and internet, the image of hovering anxiously over the record and pause buttons on the VCR to edit in order to edit out the adverts will ring true for all fans of a certain age.

Later, on the big screen, he relives tales of the cinema experience in a time that predates the impersonal megaplexes we endure today. We hear tales of provincial picture houses where the staff would challenge youthful viewers on their star sign as well as their birth date to ensure they were old enough to enter.

As he grows up, progressing through the films, we learn snippets of chauffer Jimmy’s life and work for Cubby Broccoli. It is heartening to learn of the familial atmosphere in which these iconic British of films were created and the lengths that Eon Productions would go to in order to look after their own, from private screenings for family and friends through to financial support even in retirement.

Jimmy would occasionally provide snippets of information and the odd piece of merchandise, precious gifts from Pinewood that would sit alongside home made posters of Roger Moore at his finest. Mark’s memories of his own dedication to his obsession are compelling; searching the shelves of WHSmith in Winchester on a Cub Camp outing in order to get his hands on a precious copy of the TV Times, producing and displaying his own posters and even planning his own productions with home made props.

Mark’s realisation of his sexuality grows over the years and he occasionally considers the strange dichotomy of being a gay man and a Bond fan, as he styles his fashion sense on Roger Moore. He’s not alone though, as actor, author and Bond fan Mark Gatiss provides the forward to the book from a similar standpoint. There’s an afterword by Maud Adams too, whose role as fantasy future-wife continues throughout as a running gag.

Though warm and touching, the book is not without some critical bite and strident opinions. Mark’s appraisal of Sheryl Crow’s Tomorrow Never Dies theme song is damning: “No Bond song should sound like a cowgirl sat in the back of a broken down dumper truck hollering on about Martinis, girls and guns!”

In this golden anniversary year of Bond on the big screen, Catching Bullets is an engrossing, irreverent take on one man’s journey with 007. The decision to make this a personal memoir, rather than a chronological guide, is a bold and charming move that suits the relaxed tone and makes for an enjoyable read.

Published on Monday 3rd September 2012 by Spendid Books.

> Buy the book on Amazon.

> Buy the James Bond 50th anniversary Blu-ray collection on Amazon.