I wanted dearly to love this book. There are too many contradictions in scope and tone to really love it. It is ultimately, merely a good book. Winder gently criticizes Fleming for writing novels to a certain prescribed length, yet Winder's own book feels this way. Winder is in the publishing business, yet his book is badly in need of an editor. Some critics laud the "journalistic" style, but I find it just sloppy and meandering -- an insult to journalists.
Winder has written a personal book as he takes great pains to repeat this. Part of the fun of the book is to quibble with his viewpoint. Honor Blackman does nothing for Winder, but she still all these years later sends me to the moon. However, the personal nature of the book does not rescue the rambling and snarky prose.
I understand that the book was not meant to be an historical or academic text, but the flow would have been greatly improved by using endnotes or footnotes for Winder's many asides, many of which are interesting or at least amusing. Winder's short exposition on the Skatalites is but one example. Important and interesting yes, but it disrupted the flow of his text and argument. Repeatedly Winder begins to say something interesting or states an interesting observation or conclusion, but simply leaves it with me wanting more. Much of the history was apparently very well researched (and Winder is obviously an intelligent and educated man), but much of the learning is lost by overtruncating the analysis and footnotes or endnotes would have greatly helped the exposition of the points Winder otherwise strained to make.
Winder also makes many errors and curious omissions regarding Bond lore. Some are the fault of childhood memory, which is both understandable on one level but nonetheless unfortunate. While Winder is trying to channel the perceptions of his youth in the sixties and seventies, too often he relies solely on memory or refuses to go back and revisit the specific movie. This leads to certain errors, such as discussing Bond going to Japan in "You Only Live Twice". Winder indicates that it was an absurd point of plot since Bond speaks no Japanese. Winder forgot the scene where Moneypenny tosses Bond a book of Japanese grammar or phrases. The Connery Bond reminds Moneypenny: "You forget, I have a first in Oriental Languages from Cambridge". Of course, in "Tomorrow Never Dies", the Brosnan Bond is completely flummoxed when faced with a Chinese language keyboard, but consistency was never Fleming's or the movie producers strong suit.
The most glaring error to me in Winder fleshing out the thesis of his book was the nearly complete lack of reference to Moneypenny and her role in the series. Apart from my adoring Lois Maxwell and her character, and finding the newest Moneypenny, Samantha Bond, incredibly sexy, the role screams for analysis under Winder's thesis: Moneypenny is Winder. Winder could have used Moneypenny as the narrator. Moneypenny is the audience. Moneypenny is the aspirational England that Winder is attempting to define and flesh out in the book. To me that is an inexplicable hole in the book that ultimately weakens Winder's overall argument.