Once available on CD (and still out there if you look hard enough) the Vintage James Bond Audiobooks available exclusively through Audible are very much worth your time.
As you can imagine with FOURTEEN separate audiobooks with different narrators, the listening experience differs across each story. But look at the talent in this list:
1: CASINO ROYALE read by Dan Stevens
2: LIVE AND LET DIE read by Rory Kinnear
3: MOONRAKER read by Bill Nighy
4: DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER read by Damian Lewis
5: FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE read by Toby Stephens
6: DR. NO read by Hugh Quarshie
7: GOLDFINGER read by Hugh Bonneville
8: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY read by Samuel West (includes From a View to a Kill, Quantum of Solace, Risico and The Hildebrand Rarity)
9: THUNDERBALL read by Jason Isaacs
10: THE SPY WHO LOVED ME read by Rosamund Pike
11: ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE ready by David Tennant
12: YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE read by Martin Jarvis
13: THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN read by Kenneth Branagh
14: OCTOPUSSY read by Tom Hiddleston and Lucy Fleming (includes The Property of a Lady, The Living Daylights and 007 in New York)
The artwork for the audiobooks is uniformly excellent, with a great use of colour and silhouette, with key moments from the stories included. Very stylish and neatly referencing some of the movie title sequences, these designs are wonderfully attractive.
I haven’t listened to all of the books yet, but so far, the narrators have done a fantastic job:
Dan Stevens is a brisk, efficient narrator for Casino Royale, giving Bond a brittle delivery, with a subtle accent for the clinical Le Chiffre.
Hugh Quarshie has a tremendous voice and I thoroughly enjoyed his reading of Doctor No. His Honey Chile Rider is great to hear. And how faithful was that film to the book?
I think Jason Isaacs is a good choice for Thunderball. While I think the book does go on a little too long, the humour he brings to Bond as he has to go to the health spa on M’s orders is fun, and his Largo is nicely cold.
Samuel West seems to give a matter of fact approach to For Your Eyes Only and other short stories, which befits the chilling tension at the beginning when the killers visit the Havelocks to intimidate them, yet also to Bond’s doubts about this personal vendetta for M.
Martin Jarvis gives a wonderful reading of You Only Live Twice, imagining diverse characters such as Tanaka, Kissy and the raucous Australian contact Henderson. The travelogue aspect of this long book is interesting but not thrilling, and the ending a little disappointing after the build up. Martin Jarvis (and Rosalind Ayers) produce the really enjoyable BBC Radio Adaptations of the books which you should really seek out (Ian McKellen as Goldfinger!).
My favourite listen so far was that of David Tennant’s brilliant performance of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. A fan of the film, this was my first glimpse at the original story. I was surprised at how closely the film followed the book. Tennant’s narration showcases a range of accents, and it is of course great to hear his own Scottish accent when reading as Sir Hilary Bray.
Next on my list is The Spy Who Loved Me, then The Man with The Golden Gun and From Russia With Love.
The daily commute is much more entertaining when accompanied by such a starry cast, and it is fascinating hearing many of the original Fleming stories for the first time after many years of only knowing the movies. A final nice touch is the addition of a short interview with the actors at the end of each book.
If audio books are your thing then give these productions a try. I am in no way funded by Audible, but happy to point you in their direction for these great listens: The Audible James Bond Collection.
Quiz: can you look at some of the famous names above and find Bond connections beyond the audiobooks?