By Jenny Hilborne, author of mysteries and thrillers
I've always loved Bond movies, especially the earlier ones with Sean Connery as the smooth and sophisticated, much younger James Bond. I love all the gadgets, the speed, excitement, the fast cars.
When I went to watch Skyfall earlier this month, I wasn't sure what to expect. Bond is no longer a young man, and his superior, M, is even more silver-haired. I settled into my seat with a little concern and an open mind. Was an older super agent about to ruin my enjoyment?
Bond has been around for years. In an article posted on Reuters, I read comments on the topic of relevance, especially in a world where technology has replaced the old style sleuthing the earlier Bond used to do. I found this most interesting, because I have an aging detective in my Jackson mystery series.
When I wrote MADNESS AND MURDER, I planned it as a stand alone. I never intended to write a series - ever. I rarely read books in a series, so why write one? Then I got feedback from readers. They loved Jackson and sought his return. I wanted to give them what they requested, but I had a bit of a problem - Madness and Murder spans 20 years, which means Jackson is in his early 60's by the end of the book. How much crime-fighting life could there be left in the old dog?
Back to Bond - Daniel Craig came on the screen in Skyfall as a scruffy, unshaved, silver-streaked agent who looked closer to retirement than a new mission. Oh, dear. Where was the suave, sophisticated super spy of the past? I shifted in my seat, thought "I'm not going to like this" and pitied the older Bond. I wondered what everyone else thought - and the movie theatre was packed. The first show was a sell out and I had to wait for the second showing of the night. For everyones sake, I hoped Bond still had it.
A short way into the movie (after Bond had a shave and smartened up), I relaxed. There were fewer gadgets, fewer women, and a great plot. The show was a success and fulfilled my expectations. The older spy appeared more vulnerable, more humble, wiser, and...well, better. Far less cocky and still relevant. As mentioned in the Reuters article, older values are evident, and Bond's loyalty and courage are tested. I liked this. It was more realistic.
I realize my fictional detective is also still relevant. He honors old fashioned values, where his younger counterparts might not. Something about that is appealing. His age causes tension, but his experience more than compensates. He talks to people in person, rather than using modern technology to communicate. He may be physically less fit, but he is mentally stronger.
Older cops are more complicated, more layered, and more interesting. Weakness in a tough role adds depth to their character - a crucial element to good fiction. The dangers they face are greater. And, as with Bond, older agents can still be sexy. I'm less concerned about more stories with my aging fictional detective than I was. Even though I hadn't planned it, I see he has a future.
Readers: what's your take? Do you enjoy reading crime fiction with an older cop, an aging amateur sleuth, or an older protagonist?