Raising an Eyebrow is a personal account of working for a movie legend for nearly two decades. The author was executive assistant and close friend to the star he worshipped as a kid – The Saint/James Bond himself – Sir Roger Moore!
Gareth Owen, who was Moore’s right-hand-man between 2001 and the star’s death in 2017, is well-placed to tell his story. After all, as you find out in the book, it was he who masterminded Moore’s autobiography, and he would ultimately do much of the heavy lifting in getting words onto the page. The result – My Word Is My Bond – was justifiably a bestseller. It felt authentic, capturing the warm, self-deprecating, calm, intelligent and gently ironic voice of the much-loved star. Owen and Moore collaborated again for the titles Last Man Standing, Bond on Bond and the deeply poignant (posthumously-published) À Bientôt. If you ever saw one of Sir Roger’s sellout “An Evening With…” shows, you will remember Gareth as the gentleman who interviewed him on stage and moderated questions from the floor. I was lucky enough to be in the audience for his final show (not that I knew it at the time), and the rapport and trust between the two men was self-evident.
This dispenses with any whiff of cash-in about Raising an Eyebrow. Rather, it is a loving tribute to a fondly-remembered and much missed friend and boss, fully of witty stories and bons mots about the great man himself. The book is affectionate and tactful, respecting Moore’s privacy and the feelings of his surviving family members. It’s hard to imagine Sir Roger raising an eyebrow in opprobrium over any of it: more likely a martini glass.
That said, the book doesn’t have the same power to resonate as the four titles the two men collaborated on, because Roger is one step removed, and third person rather than first. But as a tribute, it is certainly affecting, and there are some great stories for fans of Sir Roger Moore to get their teeth into. On one memorable occasion, the star walked out of the BBC America studios in New York and refused to return for the scheduled interview in a rare show of temper. That is was bad manners from the reception staff at the root of it reveals something about Sir Roger’s character – impeccably courteous himself, he expected good manners to be reciprocated.
Raising an Eyebrow will strongly appeal to aficionados of Sir Roger Moore, especially the ones who enjoy all of the behind-the-scenes gossip and anecdotes. For anyone wanting to work in the entertainment industry as an executive assistant or ghost writer, researcher, interviewer and general confidante, then Raising an Eyebrow is the ideal memoir for you. Though be warned that the obvious stresses and strains of international travel, booking theatres and fielding calls from some crazy hucksters may put you off. More causal readers, who perhaps just love Sir Roger’s portrayal as Bond, probably won’t derive as much from this title, especially during the earlier Roger-lite chapters where Owen recounts his break into the industry (with some affectionate name-dropping along the way).
There are one or two momentary lapses in detail that are surprising given the quality of the earlier Moore memoirs that Owen worked on – the year is incorrectly specified as 2016 on the opening page of the prologue – where we later know for certain that the author meant 2017. Stylistically, the text can be piecemeal, jumping from one anecdote to the next chronologically, but sometimes without much of a through-line, and there’s an overuse of exclamation marks. But these reservations aside, Raising an Eyebrow is a breezy, enjoyable read that takes few sittings to get through. Crucially, the book ends strongly – the closing chapters recounting Sir Roger’s final illness and death are deeply moving, as well as revealing about the subject’s strength of character.
The affection and energy with which Raising an Eyebrow has been written is intoxicating, and a worthwhile addition for your bookcase to accompany the other Sir Roger Moore titles. In honouring the memory of a great man, and one who is sorely missed, Gareth Owen does a great job. His book is a celebration of a wonderful cinematic and humanitarian legacy left by one who brought so much joy to so many people, and whose work lives on. Raising an Eyebrow is testament to the kind of love and loyalty Sir Roger Moore attracted.
Publisher: The History Press Publication date: 5th February 2020 Buy now