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Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Donald Hamilton

4:05 am in Art, Culture, Influential Authors by dakine01

Donald Hamilton is yet another author that surprised me a bit when I read his bio. I am most familiar with the Matt Helm books, a spy/thriller series that started in 1960 and total 27 books from ’60 until 1993. I know that the Helm books were often marketed as similar to the James Bond/Ian Fleming. Hamilton’s wiki does not go that far:

Donald Bengtsson Hamilton (March 24, 1916 – November 20, 2006) was a U.S. writer of novels, short stories, and non-fiction about the outdoors. His novels consist mostly of paperback originals, principally spy fiction but also crime fiction and Westerns such as The Big Country. He is best known for his long-running Matt Helm series (1960-1993), which chronicles the adventures of an undercover counter-agent/assassin working for a secret American government agency. The noted critic Anthony Boucher wrote: “Donald Hamilton has brought to the spy novel the authentic hard realism of Dashiell Hammett; and his stories are as compelling, and probably as close to the sordid truth of espionage, as any now being told.”[1]

I have not read all of the Matt Helm series but know that I have read all of the first dozen and a couple of later ones in the series. I also know I have read some of Hamilton’s non-Matt Helm books. Looking through this list of Hamilton’s other works, I know I have read the detective/thriller/noir style books as they would have reminded me of John D. MacDonald. These books are not requiring deep thinking – they are a style and genre that have always just allowed me to get involved with a story with good and bad guys and a lot of gray areas where everything and everyone overlap.

As wiki notes, most people are probably aware of Hamilton and Matt Helm through a series of four movies in the late 1960s starring Dean Martin. The movies are only loosely based on the books – The Silencers (first movie but fourth book), Murderer’s Row (second movie and fifth book), The Ambushers (third movie and sixth book) before going back to the second book for the fourth and final Matt Helm movie, The Wrecking Crew. While the Matt Helm character in the books always had a streak of humor, Martin played Helm as far more of a parody than portrayed in the books.

There was a short-lived Matt Helm television series that I vaguely recall, starring Anthony Franciosa. I’m sure I watched one or two of the episodes but have no memory of it. Since there were only fourteen total, few other people watched either.

I know I had read previously that Hamilton was an avid outdoorsman, possibly in the bio pieces that accompanied his books. He made Helm an outdoorsman as well with a strong familiarity with living and working in the US Southwest. He wrote numerous articles for Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, and Gun World magazines which were pulled together for a book titled On Guns and Hunting.

Hamilton is another of the authors that did surprise me as I was not aware of his western books. Prior to the Matt Helm, he wrote some western novels, two of which became classic western movies. The movie The Violent Men starring Glenn Ford, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson is based on Hamilton’s book Smoky Valley. The Big Country is movie and book title both. The movie stars Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, and Charlton Heston.
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Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Ian Fleming.

5:05 am in Art, Culture, Influential Authors by dakine01

Ian Fleming is the creator of one of the most iconic characters of the 20th Century.

My name is Bond. James Bond

From Fleming’s wiki:

Ian Lancaster Fleming (28 May 1908 – 12 August 1964) was an English author, journalist and naval intelligence officer, best known for his James Bond series of spy novels. Fleming came from a wealthy family connected to the merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co., and his father was the Member of Parliament for Henley from 1910 until his death on the Western Front in 1917. Educated at Eton, Sandhurst and the universities of Munich and Geneva, Fleming moved through a number of jobs before he started writing.

While working for Britain’s Naval Intelligence Division during the Second World War, Fleming was involved in planning Operation Goldeneye and in the planning and oversight of two intelligence units, 30 Assault Unit and T-Force. His wartime service and his career as a journalist provided much of the background, detail and depth of the James Bond novels.

I was aware that Fleming had been a “spy master” during World War II but not all the details. If I remember correctly, his spy experience from the war was often glossed over.

His first book was Casino Royale. While I do not recall which of the Bond novels I read first, I know this was not it. Yet I also know that I read all the Fleming written James Bond books around the same time period. I think I was in junior high at the time, a couple of years after the release of Dr No. Probably about the time the movie Goldfinger came out since I would have followed the news reports about a movie where Kentucky and Ft Knox were showcased.

No, I have not read any of the James Bond books written by others than Fleming. I also do not pay that much attention to James Bond movies beyond those based on the Fleming authored books and stories. Yes, I am a bit of a James Bond snob.

I recall reading that President Kennedy was a James Bond fan. I do not recall ever being aware that President Reagan was as well.

The most surprising fact I discovered about Fleming when I started this diary? Fleming authored the children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

In 1964 Ian Fleming had a major heart attack. It was during his convalescence that he decided to turn the bedtime stories he had been telling his little son Casper, into a book for children. This book became Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: the story of the adventures of inventor Commander Caractacus Potts, his wife Mimsie, their two children Jeremy and Jemima and the wonderful Chitty Bang Bang car which could float on water and even fly!

Creator of James Bond as a literary and movie character AND author of a children’s book. (The film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was only loosely based on Fleming’s book but that is often the case with movies as we well know.)

Saturday Art: Essential Movies (Spies)

6:15 am in Art, Culture by dakine01

Oh, is it that time of the week again already? Why, yes, I believe it is.

One thing that a lot of older spy movies (and Private Eye which is next week) share is basic misogyny and sexism as well as racism and stereotyping. James Bond movies and Bond knock-offs are especially “strong” in the sexism and misogyny. I do keep that in mind but also know that many of the movies are products of their times and include aspects that I and others decry today.

Being one who grew up watching the James Bond films, I tend to be partial to the Sean Connery Bond. Dr No (with Ursula Andress) set the “standard” if you will for the entire franchise. From Russia with Love then Goldfinger (maybe the most iconic Bond of all). Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, and Diamonds Are Forever (with Jill St John) round out the Connery Bond films (recognizing that there was a later one but since it is almost a duplication of Thunderball, I tend to not include it).

George Lazenby was Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (with Diana Rigg) before Roger Moore took over in Live and Let Die (with Jane Seymour). I guess this is about the time when I started not paying that much attention to Bond films as The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker are about the last of them I’ve actually watched more than once. I will mention the first Casino Royale which was a bit of a Bond spoof as David Niven plays Sir James Bond and Woody Allen plays his son, Jimmy Bond. And Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Joanna Pettet, Daliah Lavi, and Terrence Cooper all play “007.” (Note: I had (and really still have) one serious crush on Joanna Pettet – /vestigial sexism)
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