by Andrew Cartmel, author of Operation Herod
What makes a great James Bond adventure? Obviously you need the right actor in the role, and with the casting of Daniel Craig we all heaved a sigh of relief. The franchise to end all franchises was back on track.
But with the right actor in place to personify Bond, the next crucial question becomes - what is he going to do? What bloodcurdling mission will he be sent on, to give us our unforgettable movie moments?
It isn't easy fashioning a good James Bond adventure.
Ian Fleming's best source material was exhausted long ago. We're down to the tasty crumbs at the bottom of the pack now - the short story Quantum of Solace provided little more than a bracingly cryptic title for Daniel Craig's most recent Bond adventure.
Now Skyfall is poised to be launched, like a cyber attack on our collective imagination. But all we know of it so far is a catchy title and a trailer. Speculation is rife about what the story will be.
So let's hope it has those two essential ingredients that make for a great James Bond adventure -- a truly memorable villain, and an outstanding action set piece at the end.
In Quantum of Solace Mathieu Amalric was suitably creepy as Dominic Greene. But he was no Goldfinger. And Elvis, his toupee clad, ineffectual sidekick (Anatole Taubman) was certainly no deadly bowler-hat wielding Oddjob.
And the exploding hotel which capped the movie was easily surpassed by the great, vertiginous chase through jagged mountain scapes in a Dakota DC-3, a little earlier in the same film.
So far, in these two vital respects, the early Bonds seem unbeatable.
In the heyday of Sean Connery, we didn't just have Goldfinger as our villain of choice. There was Dr No and Ernst Stavro Blofeld (evil mastermind of SPECTRE). And let's not forget Rosa Klebb with her embonpoint 'like a badly packed sandbag' (Fleming the phrasemaker) and those poison blades in the toes of her sensible shoes.
And as for the action set pieces at the end... Perhaps you'd like a dawn attack in helicopters on a mountain fortress, followed by an invigorating snowmobile chase (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)? If that doesn't appeal, how about two scuba diving armies fighting to the death under water while the hydrofoil with the atom bomb on it speeds towards Miami (Thunderball)? Or possibly you'd prefer a mass assault by ninjas on a missile base concealed in the caldera of a volcano (You Only Live Twice)?
I could mention that these most vivid of villains and most action packed of set pieces where what I had in mind when I sat down to craft my own post-007 spy thriller.
But that would be just plain meretricious.
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