James Bond: The Man Who Saved Britain

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The cars, the girls, the martinis, the exotic locales, the eye-popping gadgets - for a generation of fans, James Bond embodied the quintessence of British savoir-faire: the civil servant with a license to kill, the secret agent who saved civilization from a series of nefarious villains while staying in the world's fanciest hotels and romancing a bevy of beauteous babes.

In the entertaining and very funny new book "The Man Who Saved Britain," Simon Winder - publishing director at Penguin - gives us a rollicking tour through Bondland, even as he artfully deconstructs the appeal of Agent 007. His central argument is that Bond arrived to uphold the British ego at the very moment when Britain's planet-spanning empire was breaking up and the once-great power was trying to come to terms with its diminished post-World War II role.

While Britain was coping in the 1950s and '60s with unemployment, inflation, strikes, and demoralization, and making the humbling transition from empire to welfare state, "a solitary Englishman," who embodied the old-fashioned belief that a single individual could save the day through sheer guts and expertise, was almost single-handedly maintaining "the country's reputation."

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