Review by Jeffrey Susla
While Matt Sherman’s Playing Games With James Bond comes in at a modest 132 pages, it ranks with the best of the Bond trivia books. Sherman, an expert on collecting James Bond memorabilia and organizer of several Bond collector weekends, has created what Rosa Klebb would call, a “labour of love” in organizing the myriad ways that games appear throughout the Fleming Bond series of novels and films. While no slouch in my own knowledge of Bond on screen and film, I’d have to give myself a gentleman’s “C” grade upon completion of the book’s numerous quizzes. It’s that esoteric (and fun).
To cite a few surprises, Sherman calculates the odds of Bond’s winning consecutive rounds against Sylvia Trench in the Dr. No film at “less than twice in 1000 deals”. There is a list of Latin terms, some of which are part of the scripts. (Just how does Bond know what a “Nymphalis Polychloros” is by the way?) We are reminded that Goldfinger cheats eight times in the round of golf against Bond in the 1959 novel. (The reader may decide to pause here to recollect them).
On Goldfinger, Sherman offers original insight, describing the colors Fleming uses to describe the food consumed in the story—13 of which are red-purple in hue, and 27 which are “golden comestibles”. This insight into Fleming’s literary technique, associating color with character and condiments, is most welcome. I wish there were more instances of it here, but again, this book is a delightful diversion into arcane games and trivia associated with the Bond phenomenon.
Possibly because of Sherman’s close association with the films, the book’s contents and questions focus largely on the 26 films released since 1962. For instance, how many times has the Bahamas been used as a film location? (Eight). What is the name of the game played in the Macau casino in The Man With the Golden Gun? (Sic Bo Dice). A glaring omission of gamesmanship would be the icebreaker game involving a lit cigarette and a napkin, that Bond, posing undercover as Sir Hilary Bray, plays with the clinic patients in the novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Also not mentioned, albeit a lesser game, would be the playful banter between Bond and Felix Leiter, often occurring in bars, throughout the thrillers.
Finally, Bond’s recipe for the “Vesper” is nothing but a game between him and the bartender. Fleming himself found the actual drink unpalatable. Having stated that, Playing Games With James Bond, will suit all tastes. As for tackling the book’s challenges, I’ll let Miss Moneypenny have the last words here–“Good luck!”
Author Matt Sherman, one of the world’s top Bond experts, draws from a lifetime of James Bond knowledge and intimate friendships with many of the Bond cast and crew. Enjoy his playful patter about Bond’s games, insider stories and games between the games. Let’s play!
Matt and Janine Sherman have also led dozens of other Bond book and film tours and SpyFest Los Angeles, the first and still largest-ever spy convention, with 85 special guests and thousands of fans in attendance.
The reviewer taught English for decades in both public and private high schools and colleges in Connecticut.