(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Through a masterful suspension of disbelief, Ian Fleming fashioned the exploits of his flashy and conspicuous hero in the mold of earlier fictional adventurers such as Candide, Baron Münchhausen, and Phileas Fogg. Unlike these predecessors, however, James Bond is not freelance. He is a civil servant and does what he does for a living. In performing his duties for the British government, he also acts as a protector of the free world. Fleming’s creation has gained an international coterie of fans, from John F. Kennedy and Allen Dulles to Prince Philip and, more important, among countless members of the hoi polloi who have bought his books in the multimillions, making James Bond (with much interest generated by the film adaptations) the greatest and most popular fantasy figure of modern times. Fleming attributed his stunning success to the lack of heroes in real life. “Well, I don’t regard James Bond precisely as a hero,” he added, “but at least he does get on and do his duty, in an extremely corny way, and in the end, after giant despair, he wins the girl or the jackpot or whatever it may be.”