Do you think you know all of the James Bond books? Think again! In 1985 an author named Jim Hatfield wrote and published a complete James Bond novel entitled “The Killing Zone” that has gone unnoticed until now. For the first time on the `Net 007Forever has brought the most obscure 007 novel to light and has attempted to answer some of the questions surrounding the origins of this strange Bondian adventure.
What is intriguing about The Killing Zone is that it is neither spoof nor parody. It is a real, 100% James Bond novel. In fact it is even better than quite a few of the John Gardner novels. So where did it come from?
A noteworthy James Bond collector unearthed the only known copy then thought to be in existence at a Texas book show. The Killing Zone was a paperback edition that looked professional but had suspicious markings. The cover has “The Killing Zone” in large generic letters with blood spots here and there. There is a small logo on top with the Roger Moore-James Bond silhouette used in the For Your Eyes Only posters. (See photo accompanying this story.) Aside from that, there are no Bond specific markings. The font and layout of the cover suggests a meticulous publishing job, however.
“For Your Eyes Only”
How did this book escape the attention of the Bond fan community until recently? The answer is simple. The Killing Zone is totally illegal and was never released as a real book. The Killing Zone is a bootleg Bond novel not approved by Glidrose Publications, the literary copyright holder to the James Bond character. In the 1980`s, John Gardner was the official Glidrose author, who went on to write 16 different James Bond adventures. The acknowledgement section of “Zone” mentions Glidrose as if it was an official James Bond novel but this is merely cheek on the author`s part. Glidrose had nothing to do with this book. They did not commission it nor do they sanction its existence.
The Killing Zone`s Bond narrative is deadly serious and fits surprisingly into the Bond legacy, very reminiscent of Bond XVI, “License To Kill”. A German-South American drug lord, “Klaus Doberman” has executed Bond`s pal Bill Tanner in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Tanner was there coordinating British Secret Service efforts to slow the illicit drug trade to Europe and the Americas. Tanner`s sudden, violent death prompts M himself to travel to the Virgin Islands to coax James Bond out of retirement (ala “Never Say Never Again”). M wants Bond to pursue Doberman and avenge Tanner`s demise. Over a Fleming-styled dinner, M presents Bond with Doberman`s dossier. Doberman is a German homosexual, a brutal sadist who wears a patch over one dead eye below a coif of long blonde hair. Bond immediately dislikes what he learns and accepts the mission to take vengeance for his friend. Afterwards M comments, “the bastard`s back.”
Arriving in Puerto Vallarta, Bond and his tricked out Porsche Gamballa soon hooks up with his longtime partner Felix Leiter plus an adventurous local named “Lotta Head.” (Good grief!) Lotta is the daughter of the proprietor of Bond`s hotel, a blonde and voluptuous American willing to help Bond in any manner needed! (Her piquant name draws disbelief from even Bond. Lotta explains that her father wanted to remember the wild night she was conceived and so chose the name.) With his “dream team” in tow, Bond sets out to track down and utterly destroy Klaus Doberman and his organization. Further complicating matters are the arrival of Soviet KGB General Gogol and KGB Agent Anya Amasova! Both are in Mexico for a meeting with Doberman. It turns out that Doberman is financed by the Soviets to help destabilize fragile democracies in the Caribbean and Central America through the distribution of cocaine and general mayhem. Bond also discovers that Doberman owns a palatial seaside estate outside Puerto Vallarta. Doberman also has a luxury boat named “The Buenaventura.” His head of security is a sinister ninja named Fuji Chen, a veteran of prior encounters with 007.
The hunt is on and Bond and company set out after their prey. After numerous chases, ambushes and a fiery attack on Doberman`s fortress, the enemy and his empire are destroyed, again reminiscent of License To Kill, filmed a few short years later. Bond and Lotta plan to “recoup” together in Acapulco.
“Warning: Incredible Spoilers Ahead!” You may not be likely to read this unbelievably rare tome, but if you don`t want to know the shocking ending, skip down several paragraphs to the section entitled, “License Revoked”.
After Doberman and his evil machine are demolished, Fuji Chen is still around. Ambushing Bond in Lotta`s hotel room, he succeeds in garroting 007. Bond`s final act on earth is to fatally stab Chen in the chest…cut to the submarine “HMS Reliant” where M presides over James Bond`s funeral! Bond`s body is placed in a torpedo shell and launched deep under the Atlantic to the mournful strains of Scottish bagpipe music. And you thought On Her Majesty`s Secret Service had a moody ending! Even though it is totally wrong for a Bond story, Bond`s funeral scene is quite interesting. M quotes Charles Dickens` last analysis from “A Tale of Two Cities” over Bond`s casket. “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” This scene seems to almost a graft from a film; there are many parallels to Captain Spock`s funeral scene in “Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan”. In any event, the funeral scene here is a strange ending for the strangest James Bond book that you will probably never read.
The ending of The Killing Zone underscores the renegade nature of the entire book. There is no way conceivable that an official Bond book, or film for that matter, would ever kill off James Bond. So why does Jim Hatfield do it?
When this book was unearthed, some speculated that Glidrose commissioned The Killing Zone but chose not to publish it. To spite them, Hatfield may have published the novel himself. Keep in mind that between 1981 and 1996, one official John Gardner Glidrose book appeared each year, except in 1985, around the time of The Killing Zone`s release. (Mr. Gardner did not make his expected release date for 1985 due to some difficult times the Gardner family experienced.) It may be circumstantial or apocryphal, but in the end, Glidrose did not commission `Zone`.
“A License to Film?”
Perhaps “Zone” was a film treatment commissioned by Eon, which Jim Hatfield turned to a book when the producers passed. Remember in 1984 (the time that the setting of the book takes place) that Mexico was rumored to be the location for the film which became “A View To A Kill”. Many Zone action sequences feel like setpieces for a film. In particular, the dramatic climax has Bond dangling by a rope from the villain`s one-man helicopter as Doberman attempts escape. This is very similar to the climax of both “Octopussy” and A View To A Kill, films released around the time of the book`s composition. But this again is speculation. Maybe this was just a book written on spec?
“A Tip of the Hatfield”
So who is Jim Hatfield anyway? There is actually a very interesting story behind this man. It turns out Jim Hatfield is an ex-con, who has done time in three different states, including a stint in prison for trying to kill his boss with a car bomb! But the intrigue doesn`t end there. Mr. Hatfield went on to write the provocative book, “Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President”. In his book, Hatfield alleges that Republican Presidential frontrunner George W. Bush was arrested in 1972 for possession of cocaine, which was subsequently covered up by his famous father. St. Martin`s Press halted further publication of the book and then ordered a recall when word of Hatfield`s felonious past caught up to him!
Besides the car bombing conviction, Hatfield was separately convicted of embezzlement. Federal court records reveal that Jim Hatfield pleaded guilty in 1992 to swindling thousands of dollars in federal housing money…a case in which his intended bombing victim was a witness. Court records reveal that in 1988 Hatfield was sentenced to 15 years in prison after he admitted he paid a hit man $5,000 to explode his former boss`s car in February 1987. While in prison, he pleaded guilty to one count of “making a false statement in federal paperwork” and had five additional years tacked onto his state sentence. With early-release provisions, Hatfield was paroled to Arkansas in 1994, where he has since written at least five books, including several science-fiction television trivia books and a biography of “Star Trek” actor Patrick Stewart.
Hatfield told fellow employees at the federal housing authority where he worked before his arrest that he had won “a contest to write the next James Bond book” and continue the series started by deceased author Ian Fleming! “Years went by and we never saw the book. We wondered if it was really true,” an acquaintance told Washington Post reporter Kathy Sawyer in her March 19, 2000 expose on Hatfield. Eventually Hatfield delivered his book, printed and bound(The jacket blurb announces: “Bond has his hands full as he battles a lucious [sic] lady assassin. . . . Aided by his sex-galore confederate Lotta Head . . . 007 is pitted against Klaus Doberman in his heavily armed fortress.”) Suspicious co-workers called the publisher. They learned Hatfield had paid to have the work published himself; a vanity piece.
Hatfield now admits to The Washington Post that this was another deception. “I was so overly confident that my work would be selected, I boasted to everybody. When it wasn`t selected, I self-published and sold it to everybody I knew. I really had egg on my face, but nothing compared to now.” Yet he continues to tell people there was a contest when no such contest really existed.
“You Only Live Twice?”
Whoever he “really” is, however, Jim Hatfield does know his James Bond and what constitutes a solid 007-adventure novel. Bond`s physical description is lifted straight from Mr. Fleming`s work in a delightful way. Bond still wears a Rolex (in gold this time) and is an ultimate connoisseur of fine wines and food. Hatfield`s James Bond is also plagued by recurring memories of his murdered wife Tracy, a nice Fleming holdover. Hatfield does have the knack for Flemingesque detail down. Bond`s cars and weapons are all described down to minute detail. So too is hardware such as Doberman`s yacht The Buenaventura. Its description conjures up Fleming`s memorable description of the “Disco Volante” of “Thunderball”. Hatfield also sneaks in some vintage Fleming detail for the villains. Doberman`s one eye is doll-like (like Benito Mussolini`s) with the whites surrounding the iris. Fuji Chen`s eyes are cold and evil, “like gunbarrels” or just the way Mr. Fleming described Dr. No`s evil eyes.
Hatfield allows annoying American slang to creep into Bond`s character, however, totally wrong for our favorite British agent. Bond would never use American slang like “plug you” for “shoot you” and fifty “bucks”. He also would definitely not give someone “the finger” which he does to Felix Leiter in a moment of jest!
Another game that Jim Hatfield cannot resist is to pepper The Killing Zone with references to Bond films and books. Indicating the time that this book was written, Never Say Never Again is referred to the most. For instance, Bond says that he has been retired from the Secret Service for one year, which would follow on with the events in Never Say Never Again. Our beloved “Q” now works for the CIA, also alluded to in that film.
Further, the bizarre appearance of Anya Amasova and General Gogol is interesting. Anya hints at a past relation with 007 in dialogue but her character is much more sinister that it was in The Spy Who Loved Me. General Gogol mentions that James Bond`s execution is long overdue…but he gets to do little about it before he is sabotaged by Fuji Chen and dies in a fiery helicopter crash.
The Killing Zone is also in sync with John Gardner`s books. Bond wields a Ruger Super .44 Magnum kept under the seat of his Porsche (as in the Saab of Gardner`s novels). There is also a recounting of Bond`s past tortures such as the carpet beater from Casino Royale, the brain probes in Colonel Sun and the ice water torture from Mr. Gardner`s “Icebreaker”. M`s dinner with Bond on St. Thomas echoes dialogue from Gardner`s first Bond opus, “Licence Renewed”. M tells Bond that he is a blunt instrument for Her Majesty`s government. Hatfield tips his hat to even John Pearson by having Bond retired on St. Thomas. This was mentioned in Pearson`s biography of 007.
Even more puzzling is the direct lifting of dialogue from the 007 films. When Doberman meets with his associates, he uses the exact same speech that Blofeld did in Never Say Never Again when he briefed S.P.E.C.T.R.E.`s board of directors. When Bond confronts a Mafia chieftain on Doberman`s whereabouts, the mobster don mocks Bond with the exact same lines that Scaramanga used in The Man With the Golden Gun. He says that Bond is a killer who “works for peanuts and a hearty well done from Her Majesty”. General Gogol even gets to recycle some of his own dialogue from Octopussy and A View To A Kill!
Why does Hatfield do this? He is obviously capable of writing a first class Bond adventure that does not need to rely on any gimmicks. Are all the references a homage to the books and films? Or is it an elaborate game to please hardcore Bond fans? Like the book itself, it is another part of the riddle.
In hindsight its interesting to see how many themes and ideas from The Killing Zone made it into subsequent Bond films. There is a character named Huggins in The Killing Zone whom Bond encounters. Huggins is a former MI6 agent gone bad who was scarred by Bond in a previous run-in…Alec Trevelyan`s “006,” anyone? Perhaps there is little direct connection between The Killing Zone, Licence To Kill and Goldeneye but it is interesting to note the coincidences.
“Death Leaves an Echo”
In the end though, The Killing Zone is a major romp for any 007 fan. The action sequences are stunning. Standouts include a cat and mouse game between Bond and KGB agents in the Mexican desert and a bravura sequence involving a remote controlled boat used by Bond and Leiter to decoy the guards at Doberman`s seaside fortress. Klaus Doberman and Lotta Head are serviceable characters but not compelling. Not much is made of Doberman`s homosexuality which could have been put to more interesting use. Doberman does have a great scene where he is eating rare steak and blood oozes down his chin. Lotta uses her body to help her and Bond get out of some tight spots. Felix Leiter is put to very good use. Much better in fact than most of the recent Bond films and novels where Leiter`s appearance is more of a cameo…and Mr. Hatfield has not forgotten that the Felix of the books is missing certain key appendages.
“On Her Majesty`s Secret Collection”
In sum, lucky Bond novel hunters may someday see, on the farthest corner of dusty bookstore shelving, a strange little paperback composed of 251 of the wildest pages you may ever read in the James Bond “saga”.
Written by: Greg Bechtloff The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Dallas Morning News, The Independent, Matt Sherman and Nicholas Kincaid all contributed to this article.
**Hatfield commits suicide:
Police said Hatfield, 43, died of an apparent drug overdose. His body was found by a maid Wednesday, July 18, 2001, the day after he checked into the motel in Springdale, near his native Bentonville and about 200 miles northwest of Little Rock.
Detective Sgt. Mike Shriver of the Springdale Police Department said there was no question it was a suicide.
“He left a note and everything,” Shriver said of Hatfield. ”It’s really cut and dried.”
While it’s no surprise that someone from Arkansas would want to kill themself, Hatfield’s story is an intriguing, though completely ridiculous tale. Let us take you back to the summer of 2000, when Hatfield’s book “Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President”, was receiving national attention, and 007Forever was the FIRST and ONLY website to expose Mr. Hatfield for what he really was.