There's a dastardly campaign afoot to discredit the new James Bond, British actor Daniel Craig. When he arrived at his first press conference by speedboat down the Thames, he was denounced as a big girl's blouse for wearing a lifejacket. There has been sneering gossip that Craig didn't like guns (as though, in real life, they're right up there with kittens and Alan Bennett). Craig's dad leapt to his defence, saying his son was plenty man enough for the Bond role, had run riot with toy pistols as a kid, was an ex-rugby player and had worked in a rough pub in London's Notting Hill. At which the carpers said only a wuss would get his dad to defend him and just how tough do you need to be to pour Chardonnay for Richard Curtis and co?
Next, a bunch of disgruntled 007 nerds set up a website - craignotbond.com, "Home of the Casino Royale boycott". The site hosts a gallery where pictures of the actor are compared to a blue-eyed lemur, Gollum, the undead, and the Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko after the ravages of dioxin poisoning. And rumours are circulating that Craig can only drive automatics so hasn't a clue how to manhandle the gear-stick on Bond's famous Aston Martin, the great big nancy-boy. In short, a number of dweebs who have no life beyond cyber-stalking Bond producers want Daniel Craig to naff off back to art-house cinema leaving their beloved franchise to Pierce Brosnan and the other housewives' choices from planet Black Magic.
Personally, I'd like to see the anti-Craig lobby lowered into an artificial lake filled with blood-crazed sharks at the touch of a button from a power-crazed master criminal. Or maybe that laser thingie that can cut through 10 inches of steel aimed straight at their groins. It's clear the Brosnan fans have never read a Bond book in their tiny stunted lives. If they had flicked through any of Ian Fleming's original works, they'd realise that the crucial thing about Bond is not that he's "tall, dark and handsome", as the antis say (otherwise why not Jamie Theakston, or Tim Henman, or even my husband, come to that). The point is that he's sexy, cruel, driven and dangerous, with a self-destruct button that makes his MI6 mentors permanently wary. And anyone who's read Andrew Lycett's recent biography of Fleming or seen the BBC's brilliant Ian Fleming, Bondmaker will see the link between author and secret agent. A modern shrink would deem both to be sadistic, substance-abusing sex addicts.
Which is probably why I liked the books so much when I was 12. Not only were the stories thrilling, subversive and thunderingly non-PC, they had the unmistakable whiff of the X-rated "adult" about them. Dr No was the quintessential Bond adventure and my favourite, but The Spy Who Loved Me (thin plot and plenty of gratuitous sex scenes) was the one that made me feel funny inside. Of the five Bond actors, only Sean Connery ever managed to make me feel even slightly funny inside, and then it was the admiration of a little girl for a wry but manly golf pro, I mean naval officer. What I have always wanted to feel while watching Bond films is the lust of a grown woman for a trained, cold-blooded killer. And if anyone can deliver that sick, sad bundle of perverted lust then, in my viewing experience, it's Daniel Craig.
I'll never forget watching a 1997 TV adaptation of Minette Walters' The Ice House, which starred an intense young actor with deeply unsettling light-blue eyes and an almost feral degree of erotic appeal. It had been years since I had seen an actor burn up the screen with that degree of sexual charisma, and I remember at least two female TV critics getting similarly glaze-eyed. Craig (for, lo, it was he) went on to prove himself one of our finest screen actors - not an accusation you could easily level at Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan. Since then I have made a habit of watching, and rewinding and re-watching with increasingly shallow breathing, pretty much every drama that Daniel Craig acts in. I am not responsible for givecraigachance.com, though I would be if only I had thought of it first. Any man who's bedded Sienna Miller and Kate Moss shouldn't need his sex appeal rubber-stamped.
It's time for Bond fans to face up to hard facts. Pierce Brosnan was charming and handsome, but about as lethal as a ballroom dancing champion. And times they are a changin'. If Harry Potter and Dr Who can get broodier and darker (and remember the doubts about Chris Ecclestone), why can't 007? We don't want him to twinkle the baddies to death - "Stop, Mr Bond - anything but the lame pun!".
And why can't female audiences grow up about what's actually meant by sex appeal? Let's put an end to these lust lists filled with the likes of Andrew Marr and Jon Snow, and actors of the Brosnan and Moore ilk. Just admit these are splendid chaps you'd like to share the Radio Times with in a Wiltshire cottage and who'd help your daughter with her maths homework - not men who leave a trail of pheromonal havoc in their wake like foxes through a chicken coop.