Saturday, January 12, 2013

Mr. Bond meet Mr. Holmes

The place - a casino. The time - early 1960's. Seated around the card table is an elegantly dressed man. His sly smile and mild demeanour mask his true face though. This man is a spy - a secret agent for Her Majesty's Government and his name is "Bond - James Bond."

Without a doubt, James Bond is one of the greatest British icons of all time. Debuting in Ian Fleming's 1953 novel, "Casino Royale," Bond became a sensation. The novel spawned 13 more novels, countless pastiches and a highly successful film series which now numbers 23. The famous 007 logo is famous throughout the world, easily making Bond one of the the most famous literary creations of all time. But, hold the phone for a second. Aren't we forgetting someone else? Another famous character known the world over? A detective named Sherlock Holmes?

At first glance, James Bond and Sherlock Holmes have very little in common. Bond is a hard-drinking, rough-around-the-edges spy, flirting with women (and danger) at every turn. Holmes is a misogynist, who lives comfortably in Victorian London solving mysteries which range from the commonplace to cases of far more importance. However, the great detective and the spy do have one some things in common. Perhaps more than you might suppose. While Sherlock Holmes could not really be considered a "secret agent" he did work on behalf of the government quite a lot - and some of the later short stories do feature espionage quite heavily. I draw your attention first and foremost to "His Last Bow."

The story depicted in "His Last Bow" finds Holmes working on behalf of the government, using the alias of an American agent, Altamont, as his disguise. Following the trail of a German agent named Von Bork, Holmes is able to gain access to Von Bork's house on the eve of the Great War in an effort to steal certain items of value from him. Holmes' exploits as the American Altamont are rather shrouded in mystery, leaving his adventures open to interpretation.

Bond's adventures are clearly described during the 12 novels and 2 short story collections penned by Ian Fleming, and though they are different, the types of missions which Bond finds himself on are not too far removed from the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But perhaps what bridges the gap between these two characters is the enduring fan appeal. Across the world, there are clubs devoted to the world's greatest detective which have included many prestigious members. The fact that James Bond has a large fan following is easy to see when one looks at the box-office records for the 23rd film "Skyfall" which was released in November of 2012. "Skyfall" is the first Bond film to have broken the one-billion dollar mark worldwide.

Whether it is the famous 007 logo, or a silhouette of a man dressed in a deerstalker hat, James Bond and Sherlock Holmes remain instantly recognizable icons. It is certain that these two creations shall stand the test of time.

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