Trevor Anderson 0008

In the 1960`s Clyde Allison [a pseudonym for William Knowles] paid tribute to Ian Fleming and his master spy James Bond by creating Agent 0008 Trevor Anderson and the agents of the Evil Sadisto. Because they were only published in paperback not many survived making the ones that did extremely rare. He wrote at least 68 novels during his time, a time in which his books were considered soft porn.

With titles such as Platypussy, Nautipussy, Gamefinger, Sadisto Royale, For Your Sighs Only, The Sex-Ray and 0008 Meets Modesta Blaze along with eye catching cover art, it`s easy to see why they may have caused some controversy back then.

By todays standard`s however, the racy content would have a difficult time fetching much attention. The cover art is provocative, but the contents are tame.

William Knoles committed suicide in 1972.

Tomorrow Never Dies (Novelization)

Movie novelizations are notoriously bad, as the action is badly translated from the silver screen to the printed page. Thankfully, Raymond Benson`s adaptation of the 18th Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, is an exception. Far from being a direct copy of what was seen in the cinema, the novel nevertheless remains faithful to Roger Spottiswoode`s film.

Just as a chef perfects a familiar recipe Benson had tweaked the plot of Tomorrow Never Dies to produce an original and compelling read. Without budgetary or time restraints, time is given to character development and background. We learn of Carver`s rise to power and the seeds of his madness, while Wai-Lin`s mission is given some much-needed back-story, which only strengthens the already impressive character.

The central theme of media manipulation is also examined in more detail than was seen on screen, with nice touches such as M leaking misinformation to the British press to ensure her position at MI6 is secure, adding a feeling of realism to the snowballing world crises.

One of the biggest changes is the character of Paris, now a far-more independent character ready to leave her husband at the drop of a hat – or dress – and willing to wear her involvement with 007 on her sleeve. Unfortunately, without the entrapment of a marriage impossible to escape, Paris loses her desperation and sympathy this making her death less of a tragedy.

While Tomorrow Never Dies fails to touch Zero Minus Ten`s crown, the novel stands head and shoulders above the usual tie-in pap and successful captures the excitement of one of the best Bond films in the canon.

Thunderball

The Hero: James Bond; The Bond Girl: Domino Vitale; The Villain: Emilio Largo; Supporting Characters: Guiseppe Petachi, Felix Leiter,Ernst Stavro Blofeld; Locations Covered: London, Shrublands, Nassau

Undoubtly one of Ian Fleming’s most memorable novels. It is the picture perfect Bond story with intrigue, murder, an impossible plot, two masterpiece villians, and the glorious girl. James Bond has returned once more in probably the most outrageous 007 thriller ever written. Ian Fleming, Jack Whittingham and Kevin McClory have done a fabulous job on everything in this book from the planning of the high-jacking, the Chemin de fer game against Largo, the search for the plane and the bombs, to the creation of SPECTRE and Ernst Blofeld.

Other elements are the basic Casino scene between either Bond and the villain, or 007 and the beautiful girl. In this case, it is the villain, Largo at Chemin de fer. The Villain’s liking of Bond in the opening, but hating him by the end. And of course, the Morland Specials, Vodka Martinis, and Walther PPK are all present for 007 in his mission. Now, onto the story. 007’s health is in the toilet! He is packed off by M to a place called Shrublands. There, he becomes involved with the first SPECTRE agent, Count Lippe. After nearly ripping 007 limb from limb on “The Rack”, James Bond decides that he must fry the Count in a piping hot Sitz bath. SPECTRE is “The Special Executive of Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, Extortion.”

This is the begining of James Bond’s problems with SPECTRE. Immediately following that, SPECTRE decides that this is the time for the final haul, the retirement job. The job, stealing two nuclear warheads from NATO. This can be summed up by the letter from SPECTRE on pages 75 -76:

Bond reached into his pocket for a cigarette. It couldn’t be, but yet it was so. Just what all of the services of the World had been dreading. Every tin-pot little nation would be making bombs in their backyard, so to speak.

Apperently, now there was no secret about the things now. It had been the prototypes that had been difficult-like the first gunpowder weapons or machine guns or tanks. Today, these were everyones bows and arrows. Tomorrow, or the day after, the bows and arrows would become nuclear weapons. And this was the first blackmail case. Unless SPECTRE was stopped, the word would get around and soon every criminal scientist with a chemical set and scrap iron would be doing it. If they couldn’t be stopped, there would be nothing to do but pay up. ”

Fleming had a problem with the CIA. It is rather evident in this passage from Page 116:

‘The man from CIA was due in on the Pan America flight at 1:15. His name was Larkin, F. Larkin. Bond hoped that he wasn’t a muscle bound ex-college man with a crew-cut and a desire to show up the incompetence of the British.’

What does that tell you about what Fleming thought? Well, Larkin is actually Felix Leiter.

The main Bond Girl here is the strong willed Italian named Domino. She is written beautifully by Fleming and her character is very interesting. When she meets Bond, she is attracted to him instantly, (aren’t all Bond girls?), and is sort of clinging to him nearer to the middle of the novel. But, at the end of the novel, it is very clear who she is. Other than in the middle, her presence in this novel is extremely strong, but is knocked out of being the “most interesting character”, by one person. Her lover, Emilio Largo.

Largo is the self-discribed pirate of Nassau. He owns a massive estate named Palmyra, a glorious yacht called the Disco Volante, and most importantly, the High Commander of SPECTRE’s field organization, on Operation Omega (Thunderball to MI6). His character is what makes the book. His prescene in scenes adds a vast ammount of style and flash to the novel. The only character (villian wise) that can match him is Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the famous head of SPECTRE.

The plot is a realistic one, compared to other Bond plots, (Doctor No, Live and Let Die, Goldfinger) and this one is more interesting than most of the other ones. The plot is still fresh today, (Broken Arrow, The Peacemaker).

The Casino scene where Bond plays Chemin De Fer against Largo is a highlight of the book. This is where Largo starts to really doubt that Bond is down here to buy property and that he is actually British Secret Service. The coolness that Largo shows is realistic and rather convincing.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld, (Who would reappear in later adventures) is basically a secondary character in the novel and that is rather well done. His character needed his own novels to develop and it was good that Fleming gave him that opportunity.

The World Is Not Enough (Novelization)

Raymond Benson’s novelization of The World Is Not Enough screenplay reads “fast and loose,” but of necessity, the book follows the screenplay so closely that fans will have to dig in with grit to unearth the fans’ treasures hidden inside.

By Mr. Benson’s own admission, he was rushed by Hodder & Staughton’s publishing schedule combined with a fast post-production on the TWINE final film, to do very much of anything exotic or innovative with the book. Raymond Benson’s knowledge of the James Bond phenomenon is encyclopedic in nature, however, and besides being a leading Bond writer, he is a fan’s fan who can recall chapter and verse of any significant Bond novel section, and he adds spicy details to his 007 movie novels.

Tidbits of Flemingiana are scattered throughout the TWINE novel, as when Bond savors the “scent and smell and sweat” of Valentin Zhukovsky’s casino (confer with Chapter 1 of “Casino Royale”). There are fun pokes at the Purvis/Wade/Feirstein scripts of recent years, shared lovingly, like when M admonishes Bond that “Contrary to what you may believe, Double-O Seven, the world is not populated by madmen who can hollow out volcanoes, fill them with big breasted women, and threaten the world with nuclear annihilation . . . ” (!) from a rejected Bruce Feirstein script bit. Benson adds his response, “Bond grinned at the irony of her remark . . . “. Bond ducks into the Bilbao, Spain art museum for a wistful look at great works after leaping from a window away from a sniper, in another place. We get fun and Fleming-like travelogue, weapons and vehicle details throughout.

Another help for any avid Bond movie fan Mr. Benson provides is his thorough covering over of some of the final film’s weightier continuity errors in his work, a pleasant tradition dating back to the first Bond novelization for “The Spy Who Loved Me”. How does Bond’s small craft leap up to destroy “Giuliana’s” gun placement on her boat? (Bond uses her craft as a launch ramp.) Why do all four of the dreaded parahawks chase down Bond instead of at least half targeting Elektra King on the slopes, to make Renard’s “attack” on her look valid? (Two hawks indeed chase King in the novel, until she is “frightened” enough to turn tail and head conveniently in Bond’s direction.) Bar bets and newsgroup disputes on TWINE continuity errors should be checked here first. Mr. Benson is thoroughly meticulous in making Bond’s world dovetail with our real world where possible.

Best of all the goodies, a delightfully Fleming-ish chapter late in the book explores in detail Renard’s history as a terrorist/Bond villain. Benson’s yarn of villain Renard and his “affair” with Elektra King receive treatment from Benson at a clever spot in the narrative, and makes this book worth a read by itself. Thanks, Raymond!

In sum, “The World Is Not Enough” movie novel gives readers a quick taste of Bond while they await Benson’s forthcoming novel, “Doubleshot”. Plus in its first printing British hardcover, The World Is Not Enough from Hodder & Staughton, is fetching US $75 to $150 for its scarcity only two months after publication! (Rumor has it Hodder ran merely 2,250 copies of the first printing state, with many copies gone to libraries immediately.) Oh Hodder, when will you promote your Bond novels like you did years ago, when John Gardner standees and fancy displays headlined “License Renewed” and every Bond novel hit the NY Times list?

–Matt Sherman collects all the British Bond firsts and many more hot collectibles with you at 007Forever Collectors’ Corner.

The Spy Who Loved Me

The Hero: James Bond; The Bond Girl: Vivienne Michel; The Villain: Sluggsy; Locations Covered: Toronto, Adirondacks; First Published: 1962

PLOT: Destroy a motel for insurance and take out Viviene Michel in the process. Novel presented from Michel`s point of view.

REVIEW: This is Fleming`s most experimental Bond novel. The novel`s heroine, Vivienne Michel, narrates the novel in the first person and the first 36% is about her childhood, her background, her first sexual experiences, two unhappy love affairs and an abortion. The villains only appear 46% of the way through the story, and Bond at the 61% mark. However, it`s arguably one of Fleming`s best novels and a fast and exciting read: it`s much better paced than most of his other works.

Fleming`s characters tended to be cardboard cutouts, but not here; the characters are almost all three-dimensional. Chapters 8 through 10 are possibly Fleming`s best sustained, most exciting bits of writing; there are so many great moments – the whole section is brilliantly thought-out. Bond`s entrance is one of these great moments; it`s an exhilarating audience-pleaser that also emphasizes the book`s fairy-tale aspects.

Fleming sets it up well. Chapter 9 ends on a high point with Vivienne pinned down. Deciding where to begin a chapter matters; not only does ending in mid-beat make a difference but moving to a new part enhances it. The reader knows that a new beginning is around the corner, which makes it even more exciting; also, the title “Him” suggests intrigue and mystery.

So too is Horror and Sluggsy`s arrival: compare the contrasts. The two gangsters are caught in the middle of the rain and Horror politely asks to come in. He plays on her sympathy; they`re soft, quiet, though Sluggsy giggles. They take their rain jackets off and Vivienne knows she`s in danger. The elegance of Horror`s clothes, not at all an expendable detail, adds to the tension and characterization. Horror and Sluggsy are great villains. They`re living, breathing people. Horror is as subdued as Sluggsy is hyper. There are many subtle, but crucial touches and Fleming deftly mixes the quiet with the sinister. Notice Horror`s indifference, how blase he is. Horror isn`t interested in Sluggsy`s sexual interests, telling him to lay off. Think how less effective it would have been had both men been sexually interested in Vivienne.

Bond is much better drawn here than in any of Fleming`s other novels. He`s more elegant, more fastidious, and even has a sense of humour. It`s easily Fleming`s strongest portrayal of Bond, and oddly, more like the Bond in the films: “He turned to the Englishman. “Hey, limey. What`s your name?”

“Bond. James Bond.”

“That`s a pretty chump name. From England, huh?”

“That`s right. Where`s the registry? I`ll spell it out for you.”

“Wise guy, huh?””

He`s also much smarter, perhaps because Fleming wasn`t burdened trying to reveal Bond`s thoughts – which arguably weakened Bond into a cardboard dummy – instead portraying him objectively (compare how badly drawn and dopey Bond is in the next novel, the extremely flawed “On Her Majesty`s Secret Service”).

He`s also more human. Count how many times he smiles – at least 16 times in Chapters 10, 11 and 12 – approximately once every other page, and these aren`t “smiles” for the sake of it, like some annoying Gardner tic, but are dramatically relevant and they shade his character, such as when he`s reassuring Vivienne. Some of the writing is brilliant – I`d forgotten just how vibrant Fleming`s writing could be. In Chapter 12, Vivienne notices the red fleck in Horror`s eyes that she had seen once before – Fleming is clever and doesn`t say where (in Chapter 9, when Horror beat her).

Horror tries to be friendly about breaking it up for the night. Bond asks about the motel`s viability; Horror is on the defensive wanting to know where`s that pal of mine, trying to put the attention elsewhere. Consider this passage from Chapter 15: “Those were the last words he spoke to me. When I woke up the next morning he was gone. There was only the dent down the bed where he had lain, and the smell of him on the pillow. To make sure, I jumped out of bed and ran to see if the grey car was still there. It wasn`t. It was a beautiful day and there was heavy dew on the ground, and in the dew I could see the single track of his footprints leading to where the car had been. […]

The ruins of the motel were black and hideous and a ghostly wisp of smoke rose straight up into the still air from the remains of the lobby block. I went back into the cabin and had a shower and began briskly to pack my things into my saddle-bags. Then I saw the letter on the dressing table and I went and sat on the bed and read it. It was written on motel paper from the writing desk. The writing was very clear and even and he had used a real pen and not a ball point.”

This is an excellent detail, and not detail for the sake of detail (which Fleming was sometimes guilty of). The following passage later in the chapter is breathtaking: “I watched the wreck of the black sedan, that had by now been hauled up the cliff, being towed over the lawn to the road. There the ambulance was driven over beside it, and I turned away as a wet bundle was carefully lifted out on to the grass. Horror! I remembered again those cold, red-flecked eyes. I felt his hands on me. Could it have happened?”

It`s brilliant. It has the same hypnotic quality that slow motion sometimes does in movies, and the paragraph is cinematic. (Fleming also accurately captures how a person might act under the circumstances.) Fleming is often psychologically skilful: Vivienne doesn`t want to get too close to Kurt (because she`s still wounded from Derek? Because it doesn`t pay to sleep with your boss?) so she invents friends, but this means sitting in some lonely cinema after a lonely meal with all the nuisance of men trying to pick her up. But Kurt remains so *korrekt* and their relationship on such a straightforward and even highminded level that her apprehensions come to seem idiotic and more and more she accepts a comradely way of life that seems not only totally respectable but also adult in the modern fashion. (In Chapter 8, Vivienne eats alone out of tins, creating an untenable situation). Her reasons for becoming involved with Kurt (Chapter 5) are well thought out.

Involved with Kurt, Vivienne realizes that, for women, where there exists intimacy, attachment then follows. She considers it inevitable that they become lovers after growing so close. She listens for the sound of his steps on the stairs, worships the warmth and authority of his body, and is happy at all times to cook and mend and work for him, and envisions herself six paces behind him on the street like some native bearer.

The Phanceys are cold to her until they hatch their plan. They`re nice until the last day when Mr Phancey grabs at her and uses coarse language even when his wife is within earshot; this reflects on Mrs Phancey as it raises interesting questions about her, her feelings towards sex – it`s not surprising that they`re childless. The entire sequence is excellent psychology since people do act this way in real life, though it`s marred by Fleming`s “gee-whiz” writing style. After Sluggsy finds her in the woods, Vivienne reflects how minor her past troubles really were. Later, Horror`s beating relaxes her; the pain being so much greater than the tension of waiting for it, unravels her nerves and puts her at ease and she also realizes how much the simple pleasures of life mean at such times. In Chapter 9, Sluggsy reprimands her like he`s the stern parent, and she`s the bad child. Later in the chapter Sluggsy lectures her, shaming her about his hair condition and how it also kills the hairs inside his nose.

Now that Bond`s with her, she becomes bolder with Sluggsy and Horror (when deciding which cabin Bond will have) – she`s no longer the centre of attraction and finds safety in numbers. Bond prepares her for the worst and gives her his code number; she rationalizes why he invoked bad luck – it`s excellent neurotic psychology. Moreover, her former life and its troubles seem almost years away – the here and now is all there is and all that matters (which is excellent when considering how long ago and far away her past troubles are – the here and now is all there is).

There are also so many wonderful human moments and sensitive details. In Chapter 4, Len Holbrook tells Vivienne that above all she must write about people, something Fleming does. Wallace Stevens wrote in his preface to William Carlos Williams`s “Collected Poems 1921-1931” (1934) that “Something of the unreal is necessary to fecundate the real.” The reverse is also true – and was crucial to Fleming`s success. Umberto Eco once wondered aloud why Fleming spent so many pages on realism in the novels. It wasn`t, as Kingsley Amis also agreed, to give the reader a break from fantasy; the reader gets that by putting the book down. It was to give the fantasy a basis in reality and make it resonate. As the critic Martin Seymour-Smith once remarked, no writer who cannot convey a sense of the real can be major. In Chapter 14, after sex, Bond tells Vivienne that she screamed when she climaxed – she hadn`t known; it`s an excellent detail. Fleming could be a sensationalist, but not here.

His handling is sensitive and realistic. Later, Vivienne thinks, “I suddenly had an impulse to wake him up and ask him: “Can you be nice? Can you be kind?” Vivienne watches Bond naked and contemplates that people should be nudists. Until they`re forty. Then asks him never to get fat. Later, she asks him “what`s a bimbo?” It might have been bad – in John Gardner`s hands it probably would have – but here it isn`t. The details, the sensitivity (“Now, that`s enough questions. Go to sleep.”) make it work.

At the end of Chapter 13, Bond and Vivienne gradually come to a consensus about sleeping together. It`s good (though not great) writing because it`s so simple – they don`t discuss the problem, instead, the conversation gradually works around it. Bond`s letter (Chapter 15) has so many wonderful touches; his occasional formality (since others will see the letter) makes it even more affectionate: leaving a c/o address, the sense of camaraderie, the PS. about her trye pressures being too high for the South. Try Guerlain`s “Fleurs des Alpes” instead of Camay! His making sure that Vivienne gets treated like a princess: “The lieutenant took off his cap and produced a notebook and pencil and pretended to go through his notes to give me a chance to get started on a doughnut. […]

“But what`s worrying me is that radio just hasn`t left me alone since then. Had to cut down my speed the whole way here from Route 9 to keep on listening to instructions from the station – that Albany was interested in the case, that even the top brass in Washington was breathing down our necks. Never head such a load coming over the air. Now, miss, can you tell me how it`s come about that Washington`s mixed up in this, and within a bare couple of hours of Glens Falls getting the first report?”

I couldn`t help smiling at his earnestness. I could almost hear him calling over to O`Donnell as they roared along, “Hell, we`ll have Jack Kennedy on our tails any moment now!” […] “But that`s more or less all I know abut him, except that – except that he seemed a wonderful guy.”

“So he was a commander. It was the only rank I liked the name of.”

The fairy tale story Bond tells Vivienne makes the novel even more cohesive; Bond asking that Vivienne promise to forget his involvement is a wonderful human moment and makes Bond a three-dimensional person. There are other wonderful details: Bond and Vivienne agreeing about the idiocy of espionage (though he doesn`t want her to spread her ideas too widely or he`ll find himself out of a job, which is phrased so exactly that Bond sounds sympathetic, he doesn`t mean it seriously, but he wants to draw her in); Bond asking if he`s boring her, wouldn`t she wouldn`t rather switch on the tv, he smiles, oh no, go on – this is clever writing and shows that she`s interested. The bedtime story ends on a special note: it`s clear that the odds were monumentally stacked against Bond ever appearing at the motel, which makes the reader contemplate what would have happened if Bond hadn`t: “good that I came something told me you were at the end of the road.” The way Bond discusses Horror and Sluggsy: “how did you get mixed up with those two?” is soft, sympathetic and human; like a warm man, reassuring her. Unfortunately the “bedtime” story slows the book down and the novel never achieves the same high peak of tension. The pace deteriorates in the last third, and there`s some soggy writing in these sections, (e.g. Stonor`s speech in Chapter 15). Bond`s inability to kill in cold blood was always a soggy concept in Fleming, but here it weakens the story; it`s not clear why Bond doesn`t kill Horror and Sluggsy first chance he gets – especially since the story slows down – instead of waiting until later that night. Why don`t they kill Bond the first chance they get? Likewise, why do Sluggsy and Horror let Bond and Vivienne go out together to the car? Why were they prepared to give Bond a hand with the car, wouldn`t that have allowed Vivienne to escape, or did they intend to kill Bond then and there? Such logic loopholes weaken the novel.

However, the childish writing style mars the book and prevents it from being a minor literary classic. It`s like an out-of-tune piece of music, though so consistently out-of-tune so that the reader eventually adjusts. The breathless “girl`s-own-adventure” writing style makes Vivienne sound like a dingbat; in Chapter 2, she mentions that her hair is “a dark brown with a natural wave and my ambition is one day to give it a lion`s streak to make me look older and more dashing” which makes her sound stupid, vapid, like a 9 year old girl (though it`s conceivable that in real life she`d be this way). This sentence says it all about the book`s writing:

“WOKO announced forty minutes of `Music to Kiss By` and suddenly there were the Ink Spots singing `Someone`s Rockin` my Dream Boat` and I was back on the River Thames and it was five summers ago and we were drifting down past Kings Eyot in a punt and there was Windsor Castle in the distance and Derek was paddling while I worked the portable.”

(Chapter 2)

Six “and”s in a 64 word sentence; for those who care this has some of Fleming`s longest sentences, the passage in the same chapter where Vivienne tells about the “idiotic joint dance” runs 97 words.

The Man With The Golden Gun

The Hero: James Bond; The Villain: Francisco Scaramanga; The Bond Girl: Mary Goodnight; Supporting Characters: Mr. Hendricks, Felix Leiter, Nick Nicholson; Locations covered: London, Jamaica; First Published: 1965

James Bond is dead! That is what the Secret Service believes, since 007 didn’t return with Tiger Tanaka from his You Only Live Twice mission in Japan. All inquiries have turned up negative. Then MI6 gets a telephone call with a male voice on the line claiming to be James Bond, code number 007. This, the opening of Ian Fleming’s final novel, The Man With The Golden Gun, is quite an attention grabber, as is the scene following, with a brainwashed 007 who tries without success to kill his boss, “M”!

M has discovered that Francisco Scaramanga has maimed a respected member of the secret service, Margesson. “Pistols” Scaramanga is a crack shot, sadistic villain, and superior assassin. Perhaps James Bond is the only agent in Her Majesty’s Service that can possibly take him. Nevertheless, can M trust him to do his job following his brainwashing at the hands of the Russians?

Fleming’s exciting and swift moving opening for his twelfth Bond novel halts somewhat with the recitation of Scaramanga’s life story, on file with MI6. (Facets of this extraordinary narrative show up fully in the movie of the same title.) James is briefed by M, appointed to kill Scaramanga, and arrives in Jamaica, chasing the shadow of the world’s top assassin.

Bond telephones MI6’s man in Jamaica, Commander Ross. Ross’ secretary is the delectable Mary Goodnight, who appeared briefly in Fleming’s Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice. The two meet and Bond finds out about Scaramanga’s most frequented address–a house of ill repute.

Can you imagine the conversations Bond is about to have with the proprietor of the local house of prostitution? Bond meets a memorable barkeep named “Tiffy,” and her two black crow birds. Suddenly, the birds hit the ground after two loud roars from a distinctive Colt .45…a gold-plated Colt .45. Francisco Scaramanga himself has finally appeared in Fleming’s novel. Bond meets Scaramanga, making awkward and unconvincing veiled references to the circus to entrap his opponent (Scaramanga was a circus performer before his life of crime). Scaramanga, in his rough American patter, offers Bond a job, promising good pay, danger and excitement:

Again, Scaramanga dodged a sneer. “You carry a gun?”

Bond: “Of course. You wouldn’t go after the ‘Rastas’ without one.”

Scaramanga: “What kind of a gun?”

Bond: “Walther PPK. 7.65 millimeter.”

Scaramanga: “That’s a real stopper all right. Care to earn yourself a thousand bucks, an easy grand?”

Bond: “Possibly.” He thought ‘Of course, if it means staying close to you, my friend.’

Bond deduces that Scaramanga is holding a meeting of top KGB agents out of Cuba, on Jamaica as close as possible to Cuba as they can manage. The meet has been set for the Hotel Thunderbird. (The Thunderbird Hotel was the name of one of Mr. Fleming’s favorite haunts in Las Vegas. Today it is a tiny motel barely dotting The Strip.) Among the shady characters visiting the meeting is a chief KGB agent, “Mr. Hendriks.” Luckily, Bond isn’t trapped in Scaramanga’s lair alone with all the bad guys. “Good old Felix” Leiter and a new supporting character, named Nick Nicholson, are nearby. These two are on board for the CIA and a clueless Scaramanga is unaware that they are CIA agents or that the personal bodyguard he hired for his spies` meeting, “Mark Hazard,” is really James Bond, 007.

Later, Mary Goodnight shows up at the hotel, nearly blowing 007’s cover, since Scaramanga knows she was his victim’s former secretary. He teases and begins to question 007. Bond barely convinces Scaramanga that Goodnight is his fiancée, and she is allowed to leave in safety. The next we hear of Goodnight, she is strapped to train tracks with Scaramanga’s train barreling towards her as Bond helplessly watches…

Fleming’s final scenes with Bond and Leiter, and Scaramanga and his thugs, are quite well done, and set a flying tone for the final showdown between Bond and The Man With The Golden Gun in the depths of a Jamaican swamp.

Overall, Scaramanga was a rather clumsy villain who hired 007 and two CIA men in his employ! Mary Goodnight might rank as the worst literary Bond girl, and most of the dialogue in the novel is average at best. “Gun” is not spectacular or even up to Mr. Fleming’s typical high standards, due no doubt to Fleming’s severe illness while he worked to complete his novel. (Another writer is suspected of ghost writing the final treatment of the book.) The Man With The Golden Gun is still Fleming’s Bond, however, and well worth reading.

The Man From Barbarossa

The Hero: James Bond; The Bond Girl: Nina Bibikova; The Villain: General Yuskovich; Supporting Characters: Pete Natkowitz, Bory Stepakov, Stephanie Adore, Henri Ampart; Locations Covered: New Jersey, London, Florida, Moscow, Arctic Circle, Stockholm, Iraq; First Published: 1991

An old man is abducted from his home in New Jersey on Christmas Eve. He is believed to be a former Nazi Guard who helped with the massacre of Russian Jews at Baba Yar. He has been abducted by a group called “The Scales of Justice” who plan to execute the man on the belief that he was involved in the massacre.

The abduction of this man is quite interesting for MI6, because the CIA has supposedly been after the same man in Florida. The man is Josef Voronstov, a ruthless individual who was an admitted torturer of the people in his camps. MI6 becomes so interested, they enlist the help of The Mossad (Israeli Intellegence), as well as The French Secret Service. Their plan: send the four members to Russia to become a camera crew for the trial and execution of Voronstov. The four members are: Pete Natkowitz from Mossad, Henri Rampart and Stephanie Adore from FSS, and of course, James Bond, 007.

As a precaution, the CIA has tight surveillance on the man in Florida, but he slips through their fingers when The Scales of Justice strike again and abduct him. Bond, and the four other team members, are taken to Moscow where they are all teamed with a Russian spy named Bory Stepakov, as well as his assistant, Nina Bibikova. Bory has heard rumors about the Scales, and the truth is that they are staging this trial to show that the new Democratic Russian government wouldn`t execute this man, but the Communistic Scales of Justice would. The group hopes to reinstate communism to the country, at any costs.

Bory works his way around and is able to make contact to get Bond and the team into the trial as the camera crew. Their objective: go into a certain book store, buy War And Peace, and all of them will be picked up. Every member of the team does so and all are picked up and taken to a place outside of Moscow, referred to only as “The Lost Horizon”. Unfortunately for the group, all of their weapons are confiscated or rendered useless, like Bond`s 9 mm, which has the hammer filed down so that it won`t connect.

Once there, the group is forced to watch and film the trial. About half way through, the old man, Joel Penderik is put onto the stand, where he is hammered at by the main villian of the story, General Yevgeny Yuskovich. As it turns out, this mock trial is between family as Penderik is actually Voronstov, and a cousin to the General.

Unfortunately, the General seems to have another plan. Once the trial is over, he is going to execute everyone at “The Lost Horizon”, including 007. Bond and the group begin to figure a way to get themselves out and stop Yuskovich in the process, who has yet another plan. He is planning to sell nuclear weapons, as well as launchers to the Iraqis. The weapons are codenamed Scamps and Scapegoats.

Just hours after the trial, Yuskovich attempts to do away with 007 and the group, just as they are escaping. During the escape, James Bond turns a corner, and a gun battle occurs, in which 007 is killed. Or so everyone is lead to believe. Yuskovich informs everyone that Bond was killed accidentally in a gun battle. M goes out to Stockholm, and tries to evaluate how to get everyone out of The Lost Horizon.

The Man From Barbarossa can be described as John Grisham meets James Bond. And like any legal thriller, the court scenes are long and lag behind. This book seems to meander along, with no real direction There is no action until the last chapter of the book, but by then, most will have wanted to, or have put this one down. I wasn`t impressed by this one due mainly to the lack of urgency, action, and Gardner`s prose. His conversation scenes, at times, come across as childish and poorly written. The characterization isn`t terribly strong, and there is really no base to build upon. The saving grace is the plot line which was relevant when first written and looks like it is ripped from today`s headlines. Overall, it is just average.

The Making of Tomorrow Never Dies

The “Making of” Tomorrow Never Dies books currently chronicling the making of films are notoriously bad. Packed with overlarge pictures, and consisting largely of an extended synopsis of the movie at hand, they usually aren`t worth the paper that they are printed on. Thankfully, Garth Pearce`s The Making of Tomorrow Never Dies is different.

The inevitable plot spoiler is mercifully short and while there are plenty of large pictures the sheer quality of the text balances this out. As with his earlier tome regarding GoldenEye, Pearce is eager to show every aspect of creating a film rather than merely focusing on interviews with the stars. By all accounts, the eighteenth Bond movie has involved more stress and anxiety than any of 007`s earlier adventures. From unbelievably strict deadlines to tensions between writers, the director and the cast, Pearce doesn`t pull any punches, telling the tales warts and all.

The detail is staggering, with in-depth examinations of the background work that has gone into the film`s many stunts and eye-witness accounts of the toils and joys of day to day filming. Once again these are not only limited to the likes of Brosnan, Hatcher or Pryce. The inclusion of a lengthy interview with Juliette Hendon, one of the hundreds of extras in the film, is a testimony to the author`s credibility and completism.

With only a few minor errors which will annoy aficionados of the Bond franchise – such as the suggestion that Teri Hatcher is the only character other than Bond himself to ever deliver the `shaken not stirred` line – The Making of Tomorrow Never Dies truly lives up to the cliché of being an essential part of any fan`s collection. Those who haven`t seen the film will be swept up in the excitement and drama of its origins which will only heighten their anticipation while those who have will be able to dig beneath the surface of the biggest 007 film to date.

The Facts of Death

The Hero: James Bond; The Villain: Konstantin Romanos; The Bond Girl: Niki Marakos; Supporting Characters: Vassilis, Hera Volopoulous, Ashley Anderson; Felix Leiter; Locations Covered: Turkey, Cyrpus, Greece; Austin, Texas; First Published: 1998

Raymond Benson`s second novel (not considering the Tomorrow Never Dies novelization) builds upon the promising start shown in Zero Minus Ten. Here, Benson juggles several complex, diametrically opposed, and seemingly contradictory events to form one large conspiracy plot with worldwide implications, all of which stems from a border dispute between Turkey and Greece over the small island of Cyprus.

As it begins, Bond is dispatched to Cyprus to investigate the deaths of twelve British military men via an unknown chemical agent. That it was murder was not in doubt; there was the number “3” painted in red on the wall, and a six inch tall alabaster statuette of the Greek God Poseidon placed near the bodies. Someone, later to be dubbed “The Number Killer”, was playing games, and human life was the ultimate prize.

It`s also here that Bond first encounters Niki Marakos, a Greek National Intelligence Service Agent who herself is investigating the deaths on Cyprus. She was brought in on the case by her government when an MI6 operative, Christopher Whitten, was killed and his body dumped in The Temple of Hephaisteion, a national park that is also a holy place for many Greeks.

With the case somewhat stalling out, Bond returns to England, and attends a party at the home of the old “M”, Sir Miles Messervy. Also in attendance is Ambassador Hutchinson, and his date, the latest “M”, Barbara Mawdsley. The couple turn heads and start tongues wagging at the party. Their relationship, which they have just now felt comfortable coming out with, is the talk of the party. It`s a departure from the normal for Benson to delve too deeply into the backgrounds of Bond`s superiors. None of the previous authors have done it. But here it works because what happens later, after the party, to Barbara and Alfred, propels the story along further, while adding a new, albeit awkward wrinkle and angle to Barbara and Bond`s already tenuous relationship.

Barbara and Alfred`s relationship actually breathes fresh life into Bond`s investigation of The Number Killer, and with the new leads, Bond heads to Texas to investigate a militant faction called The Suppliers and their bizarre connection to a sperm clinic near Austin. Bond meets up with Felix Leiter, whom Benson has stayed faithful to. Just as in Fleming`s novels, Benson`s Felix is maimed for life. But this time around, he`s got prosthetics, a wheelchair, and a beautiful Latin girlfriend. The wheelchair actually provides one of the books few humorous moments. What Bond learns in Texas leads him to suspect Greek millionaire Konstantin Romanos as the head of The Decada, the group behind the killings. Bond returns to Greece, and this time partners with Niki to help solve the case together.

Most of the book is airtight. What stands out the most are Bond`s relationship with the new “M”, the new JaguarXK8 he drives, and Hera, a jealous, man hating psychopath. The Jaguar XK8 is a beautiful car. Sleek. Luxurious. Sporty. Just the type of car Bond should drive. Benson made the perfect choice with the Jag, and it`s British so he`s keeping it in the family. The modifications, courtesy of Q Branch, are inspired. Some are actually real, such as the GPS. The color chaning paint was way overdue to be used in a Bond novel.

The amount of research that went into scouting locations in Greece, researching fertility clinics, understanding the concepts of Pythagoream, etc…show. The book is at times very complex, thus challenging the reader to stay awake and alert. It`s based in historical fact which Benson seems to have meticulously researched and referenced. Overall, this is the most complex and challenging Bond novel ever. Both The Facts of Death and Zero Minus Ten are a departure in style away from Gardner, as Benson`s books seem more “current”, using real life political crisises such as the handing over of Hong Kong to the Chinese, or the border disputes between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus. Doing this causes Benson`s novels to become instantly more compelling.

The only things I didn`t care for were Niki Marakos and some of the vocabulary. Niki is probably one of the less memorable Bond girls to grace the pages of a novel, and Benson throws in a couple of words never used prior to his authorship, though in the context of the events they are not out of place. Other than that, the book moves along just fine, including several plot twists that I never saw coming, unlike Zero Minus Ten, in which I guessed a few. I believe most Bond fans can, will, and should embrace Benson`s efforts . The stories have brought back the recognizable, hard Bond from Fleming`s work, and besides that, the novels could work just as well as thrillers apart from the brand name recognition of James Bond 007. They are that good.

The Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu and Live And Let Spy

May 1975. Great 12-page article, with pics by Don McGregor. Cover is of Roger Moore as Bond. Also has a nice full page drawing of him on the inside front cover. The magazine spoofs Bond`s martial arts skills in The Man With The Golden Gun.

This same magazine, along the same lines of a MAD Magazine satire, spoofed the 007 craze in February 1974 by putting both Sean Connery and Roger Moore on the cover and creating the story “Live and Let Spy”.

The Book of Bond or Every Man His Own 007

Written by Lt.Col. William (“Bill”) Tanner.
Copyright © 1965 by Jonathan Cape Ltd
Published in 1965 by the Viking Press, Inc

Ever wanted to be just like James Bond, but were too much of a nerd to know how? Of course you did. Back in the 1960`s, every guy needed The Book of Bond in order to be suave and debonair just like 007.

This 111 page edition was printed in U.S.A. by Halliday Lithograph Corp. Here is the “forward” word-for-word taken directly from the book: “Every week about sixty applications to join the British Secret Service come to my desk. Most of them specify not the clerical or menial grades, in which there is an occasional vacancy for men with the appropriate background, but the 00 Section, the one whose members are licensed to kill.

We don`t do our recruiting in this way, so I have to write back to all these people and say no. This goes against the grain. So much keen ambition and enthusiasm shouldn`t be allowed to go to waste. I have decided, therefore, to make it possible for the right sort of man to get all the benefits of belonging to the 00 Section without actually joining it, to acquire the glamour without having to be kicked in the shins with poisoned shoes or nibbled by barracudas. For many years I have been lucky enough to be a colleague of the best-known member of the Section: 007.

Naturally I`m a keen student of his exploits in all their ramifications. I now offer his admirers, his would-be imitators – all those who might be called aspiring 007`s – a complete and authoritative guide to 007ly thought, conversation and behaviour. What and how to drink and eat and smoke, what kind of car to possess (or pretend to possess), how to look right (without plastic surgery), how to be the scourge of the casinos (without having to do any gambling) – this and much more I explain clearly and in detail. By careful study, plus a modest outlay of time and money, even you can become your own 007.

My recommendations are in the highest possible degree authentic, i.e. they constantly refer to the published adventures of 007. All such references are signified marginally (in the margins of the book) by the initials of the title of the relevant adventure followed by the number of the relevant chapter; thus FRWL 6 refers to From Russia With Love chapter 6. In the case of For Your Eyes Only, the number signifies the relevant episode within the volume, thus FYEO 1 refers to `From a View to a Kill`. To assist recognition a complete list of the adventures of 007 is to be found at the end of this manual.” Here is the list of the chapters in the book, DRINK, FOOD, SMOKES, LOOKS, EXERCISE, CLOTHES, ACCESSORIES, CARS, PLACES, CHAT, CULTURE, GAMBLING, M, GIRLS, RESEARCH & SOURCES.”

The Bond Files

Whatever its flaws, this book fills a gap: it covers the films, the books, the comic books, and the James Bond Junior tv series from the early nineties. I have no use for the last two but I`m glad somebody compiled this information and enjoyed reading about the comic books and how Fleming`s original stories were expanded (e.g. “The Hildebrand Rarity” foreshadows the film versions of “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “For Your Eyes Only”).

Some of the information I`d only read here for the first time: apparently film director Andre de Toth (“House Of Wax”) directed minor parts of the film “Thunderball”. It briefly recounts the second plagiarism lawsuit EON faced over “The Spy Who Loved Me” filed by “Thunderbirds” producer Gerry Anderson. Bond has a cameo in the novel “John Steed – An Authorised Biography, Volume One – Jealous In Honour” (by Tim Heald – though the book doesn`t bother to tell us Heald`s first name – I had to look that up myself.) George Lazenby was supposedly paid an advance to do “Diamonds Are Forever” but had to pay it back. Live And Let Die`s pre-credit sequence was truncated; it originally showed the Italian escapade where Bond met Miss Caruso. “Never Say Never Again” was to have had a proper pre-credit sequence (involving a horse chase through a car park).

But I have reservations about taking some of the information at face value because there are so many careless errors: they try to reconcile what year the novels/stories take place and make many mistakes; they mention the Geoffrey Jenkins Bond novel “Per Fine Ounce” (good for them!), but claim that the title was unknown. Well, no. They don`t seem to be aware of the Fleming short story “007 In New York” or the two incomplete stories Fleming left behind when he died (no mention either of “Take Over”, which should have been right up their alley); they claim that “Octopussy” was first published with “The Property Of A Lady”, then later reprinted with “The Living Daylights” – it`s the other way around. Robert Rietty didn`t dub Gert Frobe`s voice in “Goldfinger”. Michael Collins did. There were at least two different scripts during the 1990-1993 interim, and Roger Spottiswoode was asked to direct the one dealing with the Hong Kong handover. It also claims that “Tomorrow Never Dies” was at one time known as “Aquator” – just an erroneous internet rumour. (At times the research is so sketchy as to be no better than newsgroup standards. There are some interesting observations about the books and films, but not enough. Likewise, the authors should list what chapter the mistakes and quotes come from.)

They also briefly mention Warhead, but not the two unfilmed Timothy Dalton Bond projects (including “The Property Of A Lady”). The book also features a section called “Lines To Flick Past” recounting some of the worst writing in the books – admittedly the Bond novels have some doozies (though they don`t include my favourites). But other than that, there aren`t many critical comments. The authors claim up front that they don`t have to be nice because their book isn`t authorized. Yet the book is so bereft of critical comments that you`d think it was authorized. I don`t care too much if I agree with them (or if they`re right), rather, knowing how they feel about each entity gives me a better appreciation of each book and film. Despite that professional nobodies believe, namely that we must stop critics who have too much power, criticism is crucial. For that reason, the authors should include extensive critical comments in subsequent editions.

The book has its limitations – the authors should include more research if they ever publish an updated edition – but for the price, have a flip through, and strongly consider buying it. It`s incredibly readable and entertaining – I stayed up all night reading it, unable to put it down.

Seafire

The Hero: James Bond; The Villain: Sir Max Tarn; The Bond Girl: Flicka von Grusse;

Supporting Characters (friends): Felix Leiter; Trish Nuzzi; Pete Natkowitz

Supporting Characters (enemies): Beth; Cathy and Anna (aka Cuthbert and Archibald); Maurice Goodwin; Connie Spicer; Kurt Rollen; Heidi; Pixie & Dixie

Locations covered: Caribbean; England; Spain; Israel; Germany; Puerto Rico

“SeaFire” is possibly John Gardner`s most creative and extravagant Bond novel – much of it went into the Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies”. Unfortunately it`s also one of his most uneven and frustrating.

The story is horribly constructed. There`s no real forward movement, no proper story spine. The story peters out and there are serious pacing problems. Various aspects of the plot, such as the Neo-Nazi uprising, or the AAOPS device (a foam device meant to stop sea fires) don`t integrate.

The first quarter is padded and ultimately pointless. Bond is meant to worm his way into Max Tarn`s confidences, but the reasons the British want Tarn to go to ground are unbelievable. Tarn fakes his own death, but it goes nowhere and he`s soon considered alive. Would anything in the story have been different if Tarn hadn`t faked his death? (It would have been difficult to maintain since Trish isn`t a party to his deeds.)

Why doesn`t Tarn kill Bond in Chapter 7? Bond`s reasons, given in Chapter 17, are ridiculous – apparently Tarn wants to make an example of Bond and Flicka and show the world that he`s not “the diabolical agent we would like people to believe.” So why is Bond angry at him? Throughout the book Bond reflects on how evil Tarn is, and others mention Bond`s personal vendetta against Tarn, but there`s nothing to suggest this. Tarn let him live.

The second quarter deteriorates. The Spain and Israel sequences (Chapters 9 through 11) are badly shoe-horned into the story. The Israel sojourn is particularly pointless (he goes there to meet Trish Nuzzi, Tarn`s wife). Progression must have some cohesion, some sense that the incidents are integral to the story and not there to pad the book out to novel size length. There`s no compelling reason for the change of location. (Worse, the story feels like a zig-zag pattern, with no discernable spine.)

In Chapters 12 and 13, Bond goes back to Hall`s Manor (he and Flicka were spared there earlier) – something about checking the supposedly deserted mansion in case Tarn should show up; Bond believes that Tarn will leave an unpleasant message there for them – but it`s meaningless action and slightly confusing. Why does Tarn go to all this trouble to come back to England with his entourage, only to leave for Germany? (Gardner isn`t even trying to put the story pieces together.) Gardner`s reasons – that Tarn wants to lead Bond et al on a merry dance – are nonsense. That`s the best way to get caught.

Chapters 17 to 18 probably have the sloppiest, shoddiest bit of plotting in the novel. Not sure the Americans will let them in, Bond and Flicka sneak off to Puerto Rico, but are apprehended by British agents, brought back to England, told that the Americans will give them permission, and head right back. This sloppiness is noticeable precisely because it`s a false start, wasted effort.

There are numerous other loose ends. Why does Tarn question Bond when one of the MicroGlobe people is a double-agent? (The double agent plot device is nice, as is the bit about being in the same house at school; the unmasking scene is tense.) Are Cathy and Anna pro Trish or anti-Trish? (If they are anti, the way they nod in agreement like they`re on Trish`s side in Chapter 11 is a terrible touch. Cathy also shakes her head as though male chauvinists are an endangered species, which is terrible writing.) The inconsistencies baffle – whose side were they on? If they`re really on Tarn`s side, why do they let Trish spill the beans to Bond (Chapter 11). Why don`t they try killing Bond? The reasons Anna gives in Chapter 11 for not killing Bond and Flicka earlier at Hall`s Manor are ridiculous – especially since Bond broke her arm earlier – would you trust them? (Note Anna`s “obscene” gesture in Chapter 11.) Cathy and Anna are also transvestites (Cuthbert and Archie) – they`re meant to sound like Kidd & Wint from the Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever”, but it`s overdone leering and doesn`t work since Gardner`s approach is already what Kingsley Amis called a “furtive taking of the piss”.

There are virtues, though: Beth, a black drug addicted killer who sprouts scriptures, is a great character – she`s as alive as Cuthbert and Archie are stale. Unfortunately she only properly appears in two chapters. Beth`s religious quotes in Chapter 22 and whatever scenes she`s in give the novel some life, some energy; compare the Samuel Jackson character in the film “Pulp Fiction” which was released at same time.

There are other nice touches: Bond is more elegant and sophisticated here than in Gardner`s other Bond novels. Gardner never had much sense of location but the German scenes (Chapters 14-16) have much flavour. Chapters 14-17 are great but given where they`re situated in the ramshackle story, the reader might not appreciate them. Chapter 14 has nice details about the law firm, and the idiot Kurt, but these are underused. Gardner writes, ” I think I once read a book about you, Heidi” which is glib but actually works. Chapter 15 ends with a great exchange:

“He`s gone over the edge. Careful, Kurt…” as Rollen walked toward the sheer drop and looked down.

“He`s burning,” Kurt said in a slow, unbelieving voice. “We`ve failed. Oh my God, we`ve failed.”

“Kurt,” Maurice Goodwin said. “We haven`t failed. He`s dead. Nobody could have survived in that wreck.”

“Then we`ve not failed.” Slow. “We`ve won, eh, Mo. We`ve won.”

“Please, Kurt, don`t call me Mo. My name`s Maurice.”

Though a throwaway bit, it has more feeling, more reality than just about anything else he wrote.

Gardner is also a much brisker, readable and livelier writer than Fleming. He`s certainly more stylish; Fleming`s writing could be childish, wooden, some might say tin-eared (though Fleming`s writing is much tauter. Compare “Diamonds Are Forever”, arguably one of Fleming`s best; the writing is technically near-perfect). Gardner also has the slickest writing style of all the Bond novelists, which is crucial: it helps propel the reader past the stylistic dowdiness.

His writing is sloppy; he loves cliches, and gets bogged down in dead language. (Chapter 16 also features a funny grammatical error: Bond says, “As the Fuhrer elect, I am certain[.]”

Chapter 11: “replied with single oath” is verbose. Just let Bond say the following word. Chapter 12: “it would serve no purpose” should be “it would be pointless”. Chapter 13: “tiny touch of irritation” should be “slightly irritated”. Chapter 15: “it was not so much the message” can be cut altogether. Consider these other examples: Chapter 18: “managed to infiltrate” should be “infiltrated”. Chapter 20: “the really amusing thing” is glib; just cut to the point (his penchant for overwriting also makes his writing more glib than it already is). Chapter 22: “especially if it were placed in the right spot” should be, “especially if it were strategically placed”. Chapter 22, “feeling an enormous pleasure” should be “feeling enormously pleased.” Chapter 23: “he even considered the possibility of climbing down” should be “he even considered climbing down.” Chapter 23: “making an escape” should be “escaping”.

He relies too much on empty rhetoric in the mistaken belief that it`s more dramatic. If the story and the incidents can`t convey the emotion, then rhetoric won`t. It`ll just flatten everything.

Chapter 24`s first three paragraphs sledgehammer their point home: “It was not often that he allowed problems to so besiege his mind, but this was Fredericka, the woman he loved. The woman he intended to marry. […] In his mind a terrible ghost from the past appeared: a blurred picture of his first of only a few hours, Tracy di Vicenzo, lying dead, her face buried in the ruins of the steering wheel of his Lancia, which had been raked with bullets fired by his old enemy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.” Enough: we get the idea. “The picture returned, and with it a kind of certainty that there was something wrong. […] Now there was true anger, a fury that seemed to rend him apart.” Or from Chapter 26: “setting the clock back to the days of insanity.”

In Chapter 16 we read, “Without doubt, Max Tarn is the most evil man I have ever known. He`s moved through the world like a plague, sowing germs of death disguised as arms and military equipment to anyone willing to pay.” Or, in Chapter 20: “I`ve never been so certain of anything in my life. These are truly perilous people.” Yes, we get the idea, but it once again raises the question: why is Bond angry with Tarn?

In Chapter 25, just before Tarn is killed (a playful and visual scene as the powerchutes chase him into a tighter circle), “There was no particular feeling of guilt or elation. This man had killed thousands by ferrying and smuggling weapons, placing them into the hands of unprincipled people. His future plans were untenable, so he deserved to die the worst possible of deaths.” Compare Fleming in “You Only Live Twice”, Chapter 6: “I have met many bad men in my time, Tiger, and generally they have been slightly mad.” Notice how effective “slightly mad” is. Consider how less effective the sentence would have been had Fleming written like Gardner.

The dialogue is terrible – too much of it is “on the nose”, that is, the characters talk about the situation; his slick writing style helps disguise it, but only so far. In Chapter 18, The Minister (whom Gardner never bothers to give a last name) asks, “can we get on with this” – an indirect comment on the book`s many laborious conversations. There`s too much expository dialogue which suggests that Gardner didn`t figure the story out in advance.

This quote from Chapter 25 is terrible and an example of Gardner trying to create emotion with words: “That`s how you repay loyalty, is it, Max?” he yelled, knowing that Tarn would not hear a word he was shouting.” Why is Bond angry? Why should he care? Shouldn`t he think that it looks good on Cathy and Anna, whom Bond has reason to hate?

The “human moments” between Bond and Flicka are poor. In Chapter 17, they discuss Bond`s intentions: “I truly mean this. I`ll be honest with you” are redundant. Chapter 22`s opening paragraphs are meaningless, dead language. In Chapter 13, Bond and Flicka tell each other, “I love you.” The proposal scene (in Chapter 13) is weak, and, of course, features silly Gardner-style dialogue, such as the “scorch a feather” bit. Would someone really bother to explain the expression right then?

He`s glib in other ways. He often writes that a character laughed, no matter how incongruous, a strange defense-mechanism, and also a cliche (compare Fleming in “The Spy Who Loved Me”; Fleming often describes Bond as smiling – there it`s subtle, integral and enhances the novel). In Chapter 4, “She mimicked a witch`s cackle.” Or, “her head thrown back as she laughed”. In Chapter 10, also an example of terrible writing, “Anna gave a tinkling little giggle.” From Chapter 11, “She gave a bitter little laugh”. From Chapter 18, “Goodwin gave a bray of laughter”. Chapter 19, “Flicka laughed.” “Leiter`s laugh followed Bond”. From Chapter 20: “his infectious laugh splitting the air” – ugh. “He turned and laughed again […] Bond was finding his laughter a little hard to bear” – which sums up Gardner`s annoying tic. “Rexinus had given up laughing for a long time.” From Chapter 21: “Tarn laughed unpleasantly”. Gardner can`t even resist “Anna gave a sound that lay somewhere between a cough and a laugh.”

Gardner also trashes the series: Bond now works for “MicroGlobe One” in the “Two Zeroes” department. He`s not even Commander Bond – he`s now Captain Bond. These errors, though trivial, are symptomatic of how wrongheaded Gardner could be (compare Vivienne Michel in Fleming`s “The Spy Who Loved Me”, Chapter 15: “So he was a commander. It was the only rank I liked the name of.”)

This passage from Chapter 24 is typical of Gardner (Bond has just learned that his fiance Flicka was abducted):

“Bond, stretching and trying to get his circulation going, had listened to the exchange with the kind of horror most people had when they faced a cobra, or even something less deadly, like a scorpion.”

Ugh.

Chapter 11 has some extraordinarily awful writing. Paragraphs 3 through 6 are typical of his carelessness. Much of it is empty, dead language. The details are terrible: Trish`s jaw appears to be wired. She puts her hands to her face and all I could think was, wouldn`t that be painful? Trish seems so matter-of-fact, which is unbelievable (such as when she discusses Hitler`s gravediggers, an incongruous touch). Her motives for marrying Tarn are terrible and blase. The bit where Flicka and Trish commiserate (“A thousand and one, actually.” “Make that two thousand.” “Good”) is terrible, childish writing. At the end of the chapter, Flicka states, “Even with that bashed-up face, Trish was drooling, and the two terrors would have kept you busy for hours.” Would one woman really say this about another? Would Flicka really be that jealous? Or is this Gardner`s misconceived idea of women?

Flicka barely comes off better, even though she`s one of his stronger female characters – Gardner was terrible writing about women. In Chapter 8, Flicka is in a state of nervous exhaustion and has to be taken to the nearest hospital for several hours, even though Bond is blase about the experience at Hall`s Manor which they`d been through together. Such chauvinism weakens her (compare how Fleming wrote about women – the women are sometimes stronger than Bond, which makes them more appealing). In Chapter 22, Flicka considers how she feels about Bond and decides that she`s never loved a man with this kind of intensity, which is empty rhetoric. Elsewhere she`s hysterical, unprofessional, not a spy, but somebody`s girlfriend or mother. She screams, hyper-ventilates, lugs luggage around with her, packs too many clothes. She`s childish, the weaker partner; she clings to Bond and hangs on to his gun arm.

Glidrose and Gardner`s publishers/editors also deserve blame. So many needless errors (which any literate adult should have spotted a mile away) could have been weeded out with careful editing (don`t publishers edit nowadays?). It could have been one of the great Bond novels, but the brilliant ideas, the creativity and extravagance still make it worth a read.

Scorpius

The Hero: James Bond; The Villian :Father Valentine; The Bond Girl: Harriet Horner; Supporting Characters: Pearle Pearlman, Trilby Shrivenham; Locations covered: London Countryside, Washington D.C. First Published: 1988

Scorpius opens with the death of a prominent London figure`s daughter in the Thames River. A known drug addict, her parents had tried to get her out of using before it was too late. It was too late. Her possessions were few. An address book and a strange credit card. The Special Branch, MI5, passes on the job, and MI6 grabs it, selecting 007 for the job.

Things begin to fall in place when it is revealed that the only number in her address book belongs to James Bond and that her only Credit Card, named “Avante Carte” is bogus. This is all explained in tremendous detail in the first FIVE chapters. (Personally, Fleming could have had it done in one, or two at the very most!)

The villian of the book is Vladimir Scorpius, a Russian Arms dealer who is hiding out in America under the assumed name of Father Valentine. He runs a religious group named The Society of The Meek Ones. Honestly, his character is so poorly written that I doubt he could run run a 7-11. His main plan, which I had to read another reviewer`s analysis to figure out, is to brainwash his followers into assassinating politcians and celebrities.

There are three Bond girls in this one. Two minor and a major one. Emma Dupre and Trilby Shrivenham are the two minor ones in the novel and do have some depth as the brain-washed followers of Father Valentine. These two are in an out quickly as Dupre is “the floater” who would have done a decent job as the girl in the book, but instead is wasted . Trilby is not as good as Emma, but is average at best as a strung out youngster with a wallet full of cash from her parents.

The other Bond Girl is Harriett Horner, a CIA agent who is assigned to Bond. She is one of the stereo typical Bond girls of the past: uninteresting and window dressing. She doesn’t have a brain in her head! Some of the other girls as previously mentioned are great in the novel, but in and out too quickly.

Pearle Pearlman is Bond’s only friend throughout the entire novel. But, he does pull a few of Gardner’s standard double and triple crosses. I was expecting them because its his style. He is a bit more interesting than most other characters in the novel. His character is an MI6 agent, but his way of doing things are way out of left field.

Gone from Ian Fleming’s novels are the title of 007, Bond’s drinking “habit”, his classic cigarettes, the beautiful and outragous car, either his Bentley or an Aston Martin from Q Branch.

Other Bond elements such as the villians luxurious hideout, and cryptic henchmen are not availible in this novel. Scorpius has a dense goon or two, but they don’t add anything to this novel.

Under Gardner, James Bond had begun to change from a raw, rogue secret agent into a man who has gotten into the job and stays with it mainly because it has a paycheque as well as a comfortable retirement. It is a “competent” novel, and I say that because I don’t think that it is particularly good in any area. The action scenes are average at best, with the only highlights being a rather impressive car chase scene, and the climactic scene.

Role of Honour

The Hero: James Bond; The Bond Girl: Percy Proud; The Villain: Jay Autem Holey; Supporting Characters: Cindy Chalmers, Dazzle St.John-Fiennes, Tamil Rahani, Joe Zwingli; Locations Covered: The French Riviera, Oxfordshire England, Genevea Switzerland, Corfu Italy, First Published: 1984

“The world`s greatest spy has resigned his 007 status and put his deadly talents on sale to the highest bidder, in an ingenious scheme that will place him at the heart of the enemy camp…if he can pass their diabolical tests…”

That`s a fair summation of Role of Honor, John Gardner`s fourth entry into Ian Fleming`s Bond literary legacy. This also just happens to be Gardner`s best book at really convincing the reader that he has a good grasp on who and what the character of James Bond is really about.

The book starts off with 007 coming into a private windfall of cash, courtesy of the death of his Uncle Bruce. Meanwhile, certain Russian operatives have descended into London, quietly on a mission to recruit potential new agents. “M” already knows the kind of damage they`ve done to other security agencies, and decides to bait the agents, using 007 as the “Tethered goat”. With his new status as an independently wealthy playboy, “M” and James let it get around in certain circles that Bond is dissatisfied working for M.I.6. and has resigned his 007 status, his license to kill, and is willing to accept bidders M.I.6 is highly curious to see who these agents are actually working for, and who will come knocking at 007`s door.

But actually the whole plan is a ruse. M.I.6 knows full well who their myster man is: Jay Autem Holy, a computer wizard, believed to be the mastermind behind several high tech thefts of art and money around the world. The common link among the thefts is that they were first drafted out and programmed on a computer to simulate every possible obstruction to the plan. Now, M.I.6 have an ally in their fight against Jay Autem Holy: his ex-wife, Percy Proud. A woman with a mysterious and intriguing past.

The book then shifts to the French Riveria, where Bond is tutored in the ways of computer programmnig by Percy, as well as living dangerously like a man cast out into the darkness from his former company. And that he does.

Percy Proud is with 007, to tutor him on the types of computer systems Jay Autem Holy would be using to simulate and train thieves on. In a moment of weakness, she gives in to 007`s advances, and it proves to be one of the more awkward attempts by Gardner at portraying romance:

“So they became lovers, their needs and feelings adding urgency to every moment of their days and nights”.

Yecch. Sounds like a bad romance novel.

But on page 79, Gardner makes up for the romantic faux pas, by providing his readers with one of the most poingnant moments in his books. Ever. After 007 begins driving back to London from the Cote d` Azur, he begins singing a song to himself:

“Rolling home… By the light of the silvery moon
I have two pence to lend
And twopence to spend
And twopence to send home to …”
“His voice trailed off. He could not bring himself to sing the last line, about sending money home to his wife. For the ghost of his dead wife Tracy still haunted him, even though he consciously missed Percy Proud`s clear mind and agile, beautiful body. Weakness he chided himself. He was trained as a loner, one who acted without others, one who relied on himself. Yet he did miss her.

But that`s not all. On page 115, Gardner throws in a sly reference to Fort Knox, obviously referring to GoldFinger. On page 272 he refers to a trip to Geneva Bond took when he was 16 and the affair he had with a waitress that ensued. Was James Bond even a virgin at that point? Hard to believe, and Gardner doesn`t answer the question. But it`s little things like those details that help flesh out the character of James Bond. Gardner is successfully able to make 007 seem real in this book and by that, we`re able to bring the character home, so to speak. Through these details we are able to see 007, not as a cardboard character, but as a flesh and blood human being with weaknesses and strengths.

There are several very good Gardner Bond books in print. Gardner`s particular strength seemed to be in creating unique and interesting situations for Bond to embark on. But none get at the heart of who 007 was quite the way `Role Of Honor` does.

If Ian Fleming were alive today, he`d no doubt be a fan of Stephen Hunter, author of Point of Impact, a book i`m highly recommending to 007Forever visitors. If you remember, a while back I recommended to many of you that you should read Vertical Run and everyone who read it loved it. I have no doubt you`ll find Point of Impact just as thrilling.

Ooooh, if only the Bond novels were as taut or psychologically compelling as Point of Impact! The hero of the book is Bob Lee Swagger, the anti-Bond. He is an ex-Vietnam veteran, Marine Corp sniper. He`s one of the worlds best hunters and can hit a target from as far away as 1400 feet. After the war, in which Swagger was wounded by a sniper and his best friend killed, Swagger pretty much drops out of sight and retires to a rural Arkansas life of hunting and collecting veterans disability benefits. He wants very little to do with other people.

Fast forward 20 years later to 1992. The CIA requests a meeting with Swagger under the pretense that he`s going to be testing some new, state-of-the-art ammunition. Swagger obliges them and after satisfying themselves that Swagger still has his skills, they tell him why they really need him: the CIA has apparently uncovered a plot by the Iraqis to assassinate the President in retribution for their loss during the Gulf War. To do that, the Iraqis have recruited the worlds other best sniper, a Russian named Solaratov, who is every bit Swagger`s equal if not more.

Satellite reconnaissance has shown that Solaratov has been doing practice shooting on an enormous mock-up of a city that is erected and dismantled every night outside of Baghdad. The CIA asks Swagger to figure out which American city it is that Solaratov will try and assassinate the President from. How will he do it? From where will it happen? When will he do it? Swagger is reluctant to get involved, but the CIA soon dangles a carrot in front of Swagger that proves too tempting to resist.

To say much more about this book would be criminal; there are so many twists and turns that even the most savvy and seasoned veteran of the espionage thriller will be hard pressed to figure out what is going to happen next. Rare is the book that can hook you from the first page, but that is exactly what Hunter does.

The book haselements of The Man With The Golden Gun and The Living Daylights mixed in. Swagger, like Bond, is up against an extremely formidable foe. For all intents and purposes Solaratov is a faceless assassin. The CIA has a very vague picture of him, no idea where he will strike, how he will do it, nor when he will do it. They only know that the President may be in danger. Can Bob Lee Swagger stop the assassination before it takes place? You`ll just have to read the book to find out. (4 stars out of 4)

Poems And Poetry of Ian Fleming

The Black Daffodil
by Ian Fleming (1928)
Privately published

Fleming later destroyed all copies.

what is a book?
a mirrored pool
of thoughts, ideals
so often better left unsaid
so often better left
with the soft outline of dream
(circa 1926)

How much I loved that way you had
of smiling most when very sad.
If the wages of sin are Death
I am willing to pay
I am so weary of the curse of living
the endless, aimless torture, tumult, fears.
(1927)

There once was a girl named Asoka
Who played three young fellows at poker
Having won all their money
She thought it so funny
They calmly decided to choke her.
(1927)

Were it not for vain imagining
I could let time for ever pass
Without a thought.
But now the tinsel mist that memory brings
Colours my loneliness.
Since I met you, I see you everywhere
The azure of your eyes, your red, red lips
The golden mystery of your hair.
Well, now I am content
To pass my life in dreams
Of when we meet again.
(circa 1927)

“On Crossing The Brenner Pass”

While everyone was feeling tired and hot
Alone I was in love with all the world
I felt how far apart I was from all the train,
I thought I was a part of some small stream
Just on from all the scrambling rivulets
Which hurried down towards the sunkissed south
Eager to greet the emerald sea which lay
Flawlessly still in amber gold setting
(1928)

On Her Majesty`s Secret Service

The Hero: James Bond; The Bond Girl: Tracy Devicenzo; The Villain: Ernst Stavros Blofeld; Supporting characters: Irma Bunt, Ruby Windsor, Marc Ange Draco Shaun Campbell; Locations covered: London, France, Switzerland. First Publishing: 1963

As Marc-Ange had put it, “On Her Majesty`s Secret Service.” What would Her Majesty think of the crimes committed in her name?

That is one of the questions that Ian Fleming poses in On Her Majesty`s Secret Service. He also poses many questions like why Bond would be on the trail of Blofeld for almost a year. So what? He stopped Largo a year before, mainly with blind luck and a good woman like Domino. But, wouldn`t Blofeld drop off the face of the earth? The answer is no, and he puts every spotlight on himself by contacting the College of Arms.

This possibility is almost outragous. As put in “The Usual Suspects”, “Do you think that he comes this close to being caught and sticks his head out?” Fleming posed the question and the answer is yes. He wrote that Blofeld was intelligent, but yet he wants to be a Count and blows his entire cover.

The real highlight of the book is the love affair between Bond and Tracy, from the opening scene on the beach to the tragic final scene. Tracy would be the type of woman that Bond would marry, because she was the only one to “truly” help him avoid Blofeld`s henchmen. I really felt for Bond when Tracy is murdered at the end, and “You Only Live Twice`s” start.

The start of the novel has Bond chasing the shadow of Blofeld all over Europe, and heading to France, where he meets Tracy, gambles on two long shots, and becomes face to face with another one of Europe`s most dangerous criminals, Marc-Ange Draco, Captain of the Union Corse. Marc-Ange bribes Bond into going out with Tracy. The bribe? The location of where Blofeld is known to be…Swizterland.

Two Months pass from the meeting of Bond and Draco, and he is still involved with Tracy, and has tried everything to find Blofeld. Bond finally tries another long shot, the College of Arms. After an attempt to connect James with Bond Street, 007 finally gets to talk to Sable Basilisk. Basilisk has the only info on Blofeld that is worth while. His lawyer`s address.

With meetings and crash courses about Blofeld`s line of descent, Bond is sent to meet Blofeld in Swizterland, with no weapons, only books and his razor blade. Met in the airport by Irma Bunt, 007 is taken to Piz Gloria in the Swiss Alps, by helicopter. On his first night he is introduced to Blofeld`s “patients” at the club dinner. It seems that Blofeld`s cover is now a man interested in allergies. He creates cures for the patients as well as hypontizing them to do his dirty deeds.

The next event shake up Bond: his first meeting with Blofeld. The meeting goes well for Bond and his research causes another meeting between himself and Blofeld. This time the arrival of Shaun Campbell from Station Z interupts them, and Blofeld dismisses 007 quickly. With Campbell`s arrival, 007 knows that he has to escape at any costs, including Campbell.

Bond`s escape from Piz Gloria is the most exciting part of the novel. Bond`s blind luck and amazing skill on skis are the best part of the chase sequence, which leads Bond into Samaden and to the waiting arms of Tracy, at a Christmas party. Tracy drives Bond safely to Zurich where Bond does what no one ever thought he would… he asks Tracy to marry him.

Tracy accepts and Bond is off to London to see M. The meeting with the Man from Agriculture and Fisheries doesn`t go well. Bond knows that Blofeld could kill everyone in the United Kingdom with his pests. Bond leaves and makes a call to Draco, and soon devises a plan to destroy Blofeld.

The plan suceeds with one problem, Blofeld escapes down the bob-run with Bond right behind him. The climax happens when Blofeld blows up the track with a grenade. Bond, coming away black and blue, gets married on January First and as they are heading for their honeymoon, Tracy is killed by Blofeld in a drive-by shooting. Bond says one of the most chilling lines of all, “Don`t worry…, We have all the time in the world.”

Octopussy (And The Living Daylights)

The book Octopussy is a collection of short stories,written by Ian Fleming, but published, as a collective book, after his death. The book Octopussy contains three short stories. The first is “Octopussy”, the second “The Living Daylights” and the third is “The Property Of A Lady”. “The Living Daylights” was published first in 1962 under the title The Berlin Escape and was first published in Argosy magazine. “Octopussy” and “The Property Of A Lady” were first published in Playboy magazine.

Octopussy The Hero: James Bond; The Villian: Dexter Smythe; Supporting Character: Oberhauser; Location covered: Jamaica

Octopussy isn`t just one of my favorite Ian Fleming stories. It`s one of my favorites stories. Period. It`s a rather unusual story, with Bond actually being a minor character. Also, the “villain” isn`t your typical villain. In Fleming`s hand, Dexter Smythe, is a multi-faceted, complex, weak, guilt ridden man.

The story is set in Jamaica, in particular, a small, out of the way strip of beachfront property where the lonely recluse, Major Smythe, lives. Smythe, once an officer of the Royal Marines, but now retired, spends his lonely days drinking and tending to “his people”. “His people” are actually an assortment of sea life that reside inside the reef right off the beach that Major Smythe owns. His wife is dead, and now he has only the fish to take care of, which he dutifully does everyday. He names every single one of the sea creatures, and even stirs up the sand so that the bottom dwellers will be able to find something to eat.

“He referred to them as “people”, and since reef fish stick to their territories as closely as do most small birds, he knew them all, after two years, intimately, “loved” them, and believed that they loved him in return. They certainly knew him as the denizens of zoos know their keepers, because he was a daily and a regular provider, scraping off algae and stirring up the sand and rocks for the bottome feeders…”—page 13.

You can almost feel a twinge of sadness for the character. Smythe must be desperately sad and a bit senile to believe that fish could love him, yet this bizarre belief makes Smythe a much more tragic character, and thus makes us sympathetic towards him. Major Dexter Smythe may have been loving towards sea life, but he had a secret gnawing away at him.

“…tropical sloth had gradually riddled him so that, while outwardly he appeared a piece of fairly solid hardwood, inside the varnished surface, the termites of sloth, self indulgence, guilt over an ancient sin, and general disguest with himself had eroded his once hard core into dust”— page 12.

“So Major Smythe was bored, bored to death, and, but for one factor in his life , he would long ago have swalloed the bottle of barbituates he had easily acquired from a local doctor”.—page 13

What sin had Dexter Smythe committed that has gnawed away at his conscience for so many years? He murdered a man in cold blood, and stole quite a fortune in gold bars. Bond knows this, and he`s come to Jamaica to give Major Smythe the opportunity to turn himself in. In Jamaica, Smythe recounts the story of what happened and why he killed a man called Oberhauser. He even goes into length describing how he covered up the crime.

“Oberhauser`s sausage was a real moutaineers meal -tough, well fatted, and strongly garlicked. Bits of it stuck uncomfortably between Major Smythe`s teeth. He dug them out with a sliver of a matchstick and spat them on the ground. Then his Intelligence-wise mind came into operation, and he meticulously searched among the stones and grass, picked up the scraps, and swallowed them. From now on he was a criminal…He was a cop turned robber. He must remember that!”—page 34.”

Page 47 holds a neat plot twist, with Smythe finding out why this particularly obscure case was of such interest to Bond. After hearing the why`s and the how`s of the murder tale, Bond tells Smythe the police will be by in a week to arrest him. Is that a hint Smythe wonders? A hint to commit suicide? To spare the court and the taxpayers the time and money of a trial? Bond leaves, and Smythe begins to wonder what his next move will be. Will he try and defend his actions in court? Will he flee the country? Will he kill himself? The choice ends up being made for Smythe. Justice prevails in a bizarre and ironic twist of fate for the Major.

The Living Daylights The Hero: James Bond; The Villain: Trigger; Supporting Characters: “M”, Captain Sender, 272; Location covered: East Berlin

The Living Daylights is yet another of Ian Fleming`s best stories. In this one, Bond is assigned to provide cover for a defector code named 272. 272 will try and make the escape from East Berlin over to the West side and into freedom. However, the KGB have already been put on alert by a double agent, and not only know the escape route 272 will use, but now have one of their best snipers, code named “Trigger”, to assasinate 272 before he can cross the wall. Fans who`ve already seen the movie will certainly suspect a few of the plot points and twists that Fleming provides. However, enough original material remains intact to make this worth your time to read. What`s impressive about the story was the absolute dread that Bond felt in having to murder an enemy agent in cold blood. Even though “Trigger” is the enemy, Fleming does such a wonderful job of portraying Bond`s anxieties about the mission, that we yet again see Bond, not as an all-powerful superhero, but as an ordinary man. A man that could be any one of us. In several passages, Fleming remarks about the sweat pouring off of 007`s body. In order to complete his mission, 007 has a bit to drink, which causes an angry outburst between James and his assistant, Sender.

Bond took a stiff drink of the whiskey before he donned the hideous cowl that now stank of his sweat. Captain Sender had tried to prevent him, and when he failed, had threatened to call up Head of Station and report Bond for breaking training.

“Look my friend”, said Bond wearily, “I`ve got to commit a murder tonight. Not you. Me. So be a good chap and stuff it, would you?” —page 86

Also of interest to readers is the relationship between Bond and “M”. There`s some mutual feelings of, dare I say, love, or at least respect for one another. “M” realizes this is going to be a tough assignment for Bond, and tries to shoulder much of the responsibility for it and to take off the weight of dread that 007 must be feeling.

“Where do you come in, 007?” M. looked coldly across the desk. “You know where you come in. You`ve got to kill this sniper. And you`ve got to kill him before he gets 272. That`s all. Is that understood?”. The clear blue eyes remained cold as ice. But Bond knew that they remained so only with an effort of will. M. did`nt like sending any man to a killing. But, when it had to be done, he always put on this fierce, cold act of command. Bond knew why. It was to take some of the pressure, some of the guilt, off the killer`s shoulders. —-page 67

Ian does a fantastic job putting in plot twists and turns, and intermixing them with real, discernible tension. From a beautiful cello player to “strawberry jam”, this story`s got it all!

The Property of a Lady The Hero: James Bond; The Villian: Maria Freudenstein Supporting Characters: Dr. Fanshawe; Kenneth Snowman; Mary Goodnight; Location covered: Sotheby`s

This one is the shortest of the short stories, and consequently has the least amount of character development. Also, too many characters are in this story, in my opinion, for a short story. The plot, in summary, is the investigation into a gift, received by a Miss Maria Freudenstein, working for M.I.6, which may have come from the KGB. Maria is due to receive the proceeds from the auction at Sotheby`s of the Emerald Sphere, and Bond, along with art expert Kenneth Snowman, goes to the auction to see who it is that will be there to bump up the price. The KGB may be sending someone to outbid everyone else at the auction, as a way of repayment for double agent services rendered by Miss Freudenstein. There`s not any surprises in this tale, and it`s much more of a straight forward story than anything else. It`ll give you a nice education in auction ettiquette though.

Nobody Lives For Ever

The Hero: James Bond; The Villain: Tamil Rahani; The Bond Girls: Nanie Norwich, Sukie Tempesta; Supporting Characters: Heinrech Osten, Steve Quinn, Dr. Kirtchum, May, Moneypenny; Locations covered: France, Austria, Key West; First Published: 1986

Nobody Lives Forever picks up almost immediately where Role Of Honor left off. That makes Nobody Lives Forever a sequel of sorts. And like most sequels, it`s not quite as good as the original.

Nobody Lives Forever starts off with 007 on a month`s leave from the service. He`s on his way to Austria to pick up his housekeeper, May, who has been recovering at a convalescence home after a lengthy illness. It`s on the way from England to Austria that 007 begins to notice odd occurences. Strangers suddenly dying all around him. First, it was two men being chewed up in the rotors of a ferry. Then someone blows up a car right behind Bond`s. After that, a man Bond recognizes as a Mafia member is found dead, only yards from the hotel where Bond is staying.

Bond`s intuition tells him something is wrong. There have been too many incidents for it all to be just coincidence. Bond soon learns the horrifying truth: a contest has been created. The prize money is ten million Swiss francs for getting the head of 007 on a silver plate. Tamil Rahani, last seen plummeting from a zeppelin over Lake Geneva in Role Of Honor is on his deathbed. His last dying wish is to see Bond die before he does.

But the contest has several innocent participants in it as well. Miss Moneypenny and May. Both were kidnapped at the convalescence home in Austria, in an effort to limit Bond`s options. Also, there are two beautiful but mysterious women with whom Bond has been forced to join up with. The Principessa Sukie Tempesta and her childhood friend, Nannie Norrich, owner of an all female bodyguard service.

Nobody Lives Forever has it`s good moments. Page 57 makes a reference to Marc-Ange Draco, the father of Bond`s dead wife, Tracy.

Quinn:”…Also practically every known terrorist organization , from the old Red Bridage to the Puerto Rican FALN- the Armed Forces for National Liberation. With ten million Swiss francs as the star prize you`ve attracted a lot of attention.

Bond: You mentioned the underworld.

Quinn: Of course, British, French, German, at least three Mafia families and, I fear, the Union Corse. Since the demise of your ally, Marc-Ange Draco, they`ve been less than helpful…

Bond: All right!

Quinn hits a touchy subject when bringing up the memories of Bond`s past with Marc and Tracy. Unfortunately, there aren`t enough good, solid moments in Nobody Lives Forever to highly recommend it. The story seems to meander, and the Bond girls are the weakest that I can remember in a Bond novel. Much of the dialogue and interplay between Bond and the women is childish, immature and silly. An attempt to be witty that just went plain wrong. I just simply didn`t buy their inclusion in this story, and it would`ve really been better off had Bond had no women in this story at all.

Gardner puts Bond in the middle of all this action and mayhem, but he also becomes a side issue. With so much going on around him, Bond loses focus as the main character. Whatever the reason, Bond in Nobody Lives Forever just seems like a man called James Bond. This man called James is in trouble. He`s got to travel the world to save himself and two friends. You don`t really bond with the character of 007. You can barely recognize it if you`ve read other Bond novels. There just seems to a perpetual set of motions this character goes through, and Gardner leaves it at that.

There`s also the obligatory turncoat character that has become a staple of Gardner`s novels. The problem I have with all of these “twists and turns” is that the story isn`t that strong to begin with. Gardner doesn`t give you that much to go on where details are concerned. In this type of genre, I like to guess who is trying to do what to whom. I want the plot to be sophisticated enough for me to be able to not guess it all outright, yet when the traitor is revealed, I should be able to say “Why didn`t I suspect him/her?” So when Gardner pulls these little twists out of his bag of tricks, you almost feel duped. He`s given you nothing to go on here, and now he`s telling you that everything you felt you knew beforehand wasn`t real. To just forget it. He`s artificially trying to create a “twist” without having to earn it with good, solid writing.

Gardner has always been a good set up man. His premises have always been intriguing and original. What they`ve lacked is follow through.

No Deals, Mr. Bond

The Hero: James Bond; The Bond Girl: Heather Dare; The Villain: Kolya Chernov; Supporting Characters: Ebbie Heritage; Norman Murray, Maxim Smolin; Locations covered: London, Ireland, London, Paris, Hong Kong; First Published: 1987

The grizzly murders of two beautiful young women in London has MI6 in a bind and the authorities on top calling for M’s head. M, in a desperate move asks 007 for help. The job is extremely dangerous, and Bond will not have the precious immunity that he has held in the past. If he gets himself caught, it is his problem and not even the Queen will save him. Hence the title No Deals, Mr. Bond.

The grizzly murders are all connected. Both victims have had their skulls crushed, and their tongues removed. The two girls were part of an operation, called Cream Cake, which Bond assisted with in the first chapter. Cream Cake was to get four “tarts” to be arrainged with four high ranking Russian officials in East Germany. There was also a man who was asked to seduce a high ranking female official.

Bond must move quickly to make sure that Cream Cake doesn’t go sour. He must first save the first agent, Heather Dare, from a GRU assassin that she recognizes. The two then fly off to Ireland, where the second agent, Ebbie Heritage is waiting. She and Heather are still good friends, and must rely on Bond to get them out of harms way. Ebbie is all ready missing, and Bond knows that all isn’t well. Bond hits rock bottom when a KGB mastermind, Colonel Maxim Smolin captures 007, and Heather, Smolin’s former lover.

As it turns out, Smolin is a double and that is working with MI6, and has been for almost 5 years. Smolin tells Bond that Cream Cake has gone terribly wrong and that it isn’t the KGB that is after them, but a newly reformed and recreated SMERSH! It’s leader, Kolya Chernov is on his way, to see the demise of the members of Cream Cake, as well as another man on the list, James Bond.

Bond, Smolin, Ebbie and Heather must escape and they make a daring run for it, with a chopper bound Chernov right after them. They do escape, but Bond, already bitten by a dog, has more damage done to his arm by barb-wire that gets caught around Smolin’s BMW after rolling through a fence.

Bond senses that anyone involved with Cream Cake could be a double crosser, and has been the reason that Bond is so skeptcal about everything, even when he goes to meet the man who is the head of Cream Cake. A man called Swift. Swift is killed within seconds of Bond leaving, with two .38’s and soon, Bond gets a note and tells Bond where he can find Chernov. “Dummbell” Island.

The climax is on the island, and with tons of red herrings, double crosses, mistaken identities, and everything else under the sun. All of this is the best climax in John Gardner’s novels, and is set up perfectly. The action is plentiful and is well written and is among some of Gardner’s best work.

There are too many characters in this novel to be effective, like “The Robinsons” who are in the climax, Richard Han (one of Swift’s men), Jungle Baisley, Bond’s pal in Ireland named Mick and Swift himself. All of these guys are hard to keep track of. No Deals, Mr.Bond is amazing with it’s action, and is very well organized, but the conversations and characters aren’t very well done. Still, do not walk away from this one. It is one of Gardner’s very best.

Never Send Flowers

The Hero: James Bond; The Bond Girl: Flicka Von Grusse; The Villain: David Dragonpol; Locations covered: London, Paris, Washington D.C., Switzerland, Milan, Athens, EuroDisney; First Published: 1993

Plot: MI5 and MI6 tangle webs when Bond is sent to investigate the death of a British operative named Laura March. Her boyfriend is the prime suspect in a string of serial killings, and Princess Diana and her sons are the next intended victims.

My Enemy`s Enemy Is My Friend (Fleming’s Notebook)

Fleming`s 128 page notebook contained his personal and creative thoughts, details of proposed Bond exploits and even brief outlines of plots that he had prepared for future use. The notes themselves were either typed or jotted down, sometimes under such headers as “people”, or “crime” or even “food”.

In February 1964, shortly before Fleming died, he allowed a reporter from the Daily Expressto have a look. The reporter copied several entries:

“There was a notation of the name “Mr. Szasz,” which Fleming thought would be ideal for a villain. He had somehow come across the Bulgar proverb “My Enemy`s Enemy (is my friend),” and if he had lived, it would probably have turned up on the lips of some inscrutable villain.” (Quoting from Henry Ziegler`s The Spy Who Came In With The Gold)

Many of Fleming`s later titles feature pronouns, i.e. For *YOUR* Eyes Only, The Spy Who Loved *ME*, On *HER* Majesty`s Secret Service, *YOU* Only Live Twice, so it`s possible that “My Enemy`s Enemy” was a prospective title. Kingsley Amis had previously used it for a short story, and this may have been Fleming`s way of repaying Amis`s literary respect.

Fleming had also outlined prospective Bond work(s):

“Bond, as a double agent, has to shoot his own assistant in order to keep his cover…”

“A battle under Niagara Falls”

Some of the ideas even had a touch of Hitchcock:

“A masquerade ball in which the benign clown is the Russian killer and the crowd thinks that a real fight is part of the buffoonery.” (Which satisfies those of us who believed that the political 1983 film Octopussy was Fleming-like.)

“Fight in a fun fair with a man on the rollercoaster being shot at by another on the Big Wheel.”

The notebook shows that Fleming first came up with the name “Blofeld” for a villain in 1958, thereby disproving Kevin McClory`s claim to have invented the character. Elsewhere Fleming writes that the Japanese word for “top secret” is gokuhi, which translated into English means You Only Live Twice.

The notebook also features descriptions, which Fleming admirers will immediately recognize:

“She had a blunt, short-lipped mouth, proud like a half-healed wound.”

“You won`t have a lover if you don`t love,” presumably spoken by a future heroine.

“Most people are unconcious up to 17, dreaming until 25, awake to 39, mad after 40, dead after 60.”

There are florid, almost laughable passages, yet Fleming`s aplomb just about saves them: “Pain is a private address. Only those who have been that way before know the unlisted number.”

Fleming even contemplated branching out from Bond. The book contains a synopsis for what might have been another Quantam of Solace style story: A story of revenge is contained in a sample nutshell synopsis: “Millionaire wants baby. Kidnaps girl. Rapes her. Keeps her prisoner until baby is born. Makes huge settlement on baby. She signs. He throws her out. She gets her revenge by proving the baby started a week before he kidnapped her.”

Fleming intended to expand the Octopussy collection with at least two other stories that he was at work on shortly before he died. In the first, Bond met the real-life card dealer, whom Fleming had met:

…”It was like this, Mr Bond.” Zographos had a precise way of speaking with the thin tips of his lips while his half-hard half-soft Greek eyes measured the reaction of his words on the listener… “The Russians are chess players. They are mathematicians. Cold machines. But they are also mad. The mad ones forsake the chess and the mathematics and become gamblers. Now, Mr Bond.” Zographos laid a hand on Bond`s sleeve and quickly withdrew it because he knew Englishmen, just as he knew the characteristics of every race, every race with money, in the world. “There are two gamblers… the man who lays the odds and the man who accepts them. The bookmaker and the punter. The casino and, if you like” – Mr Zographos`s smile was sly with the “shared secret” and proud with the right word – “The suckers.”

Fleming never got beyond the first page and a half.

From the second story:

In the early morning, at about 7.30, the stringy whimperings of the piped radio brought visions of a million homes waking up all over Britain… of him, or perhaps her, getting up to make the early morning tea, to put the dog out, to stoke the boiler. And then will this shirt do for another day? The socks, the paints? The Ever-ready, the Gillette shave, the Brylcreem on the hair, the bowler hat or the homburg, the umbrella and the briefcase or the sample case?

Then “Dodo”, the family saloon out on the concrete arterial, probably with her driving. The red-brick station, the other husbands, the other wives, the clickety-click of the 8.15 round the curve by the gold course. Hullo Sidney! Hullo Arthur! After you Mr Shacker… and the drab life picking up speed and flicking on up the rails between the conifers and the damp evergreens. Bond switched on his electric blanket and waited for his hot water with a slice of lemon and contemplated the world with horror and disgust.

Ian Fleming`s step-daughter, Fionn O`Neill, who owned the manuscript, sold it at Sotheby`s in December 1992 in part to benefit the London Library. Ian Fleming`s nephew and nieces, Nichol, Kate and Lucy bought the work for far less than the estimated 30,000 pounds some had thought it would sell for.

Moonraker

The Hero: James Bond; The Bond Girl: Gala Brand; The Villain: Hugo Drax; Supporting Characters: “M”, Commander Vallance, Moneypenny, Loelia Ponsby; Locations covered: London, U.K. First Published: 1955

Moonraker is the third of the Fleming Bond novels, and one of the best. As a “Principal Officer in the Civil Service”, 007 makes £1500 a year, and lives in a “comfortable flat” off the Kings Road, London, with his devoted housekeeper May (who cooks a wicked breakfast).

In Moonraker, Bond has 8 years to go before he is automatically taken off the OO list and given a staff job at headquarters. “At least eight tough assignments. Probably sixteen. Perhaps twenty-four. Too many.”

Moonraker begins not with a mission, but a suspicion. Sir Hugo Drax is a soldier from Liverpool. He was wounded in the war – half his face was blown away, and he had almost complete amnesia. After his discharge, he cornered the market in columbite, a metal with an extraordinarily high melting point that is essential to the manufacturing of jet engines. He became a multimillionaire who gave generously to charity and spent £10 million of his own money to build an atomic rocket (the “Moonraker”) with a range that would cover nearly every capital in Europe – “the immediate answer to anyone who would try to atom-bomb London.” He is extremely popular, and, with his work on the Moonraker, a national hero. However, M has concerns about Drax who is a member of M`s club, Blades. It seems that Drax cheats at bridge. A scandal is brewing. In 1950s London, about the only crime that can smash a man of Society is card cheating.

It turns out that Bond was trained in card sharping before the war, and would be the ideal person to expose Drax. A high-stakes bridge game ensues, and Fleming goes into a detailed description of every hand (a device he would use later when describing the golf game between Bond and Auric Goldfinger). At the end of the evening, Drax is down £15,000 and advises Bond to “spend the money quickly.”

As Bond begins to delve further into Drax`s operations, more questions are raised. All of the people working on the Moonraker project are Germans, which, relatively soon after the end of the war, naturally makes the British nervous. Drax`s explanation is that the men worked on Germany`s V2 rockets, and were the best rocket scientists in the world. There are only two non-Germans on the site – a Major Tallon from the Ministry of Supply, appointed as security officer, and Gala Brand, Drax`s personal secretary. The night before, one of Drax`s men shot Tallon in a pub, then shouted “Heil!” and shot himself. Supposedly, the men were involved in a love triangle with Brand.

There are further complications. Brand is a policewoman with the Scotland Yard Special Branch, planted on the site to keep an eye on Drax. MI6 gave a security clearance to the man who shot Tallon. As a result, the operation is dumped in MI6`s (and Bond`s) lap, even though the story unfolds entirely in Britain.

Bond stays in Tallon`s room on the military base where the Moonraker is being readied for a test launch. He discovers charts kept by Tallon showing the location of something out in the water – but what? It`s clear that, whatever it was, it was something that Tallon was not supposed to see, and he wasn`t killed because he was in love with Brand.

At this point, the plot starts to move along rapidly, and it would spoil the read to go too much further. Suffice it to say that Drax does not have Britain`s best interests at heart and it`s up to Bond and Brand to stop him.

Moonraker shares many traits with the other Fleming novels. The plots tend to unfold slowly at first, with time given to understand the motivation of the villain. Meals are described in meticulous detail. Bond is capable of downing an incredible number of drinks, waking up a few hours later with no trace of a hangover. There are usually exciting car chases. Bond`s past and his talents (such as the card sharping and the fact that he is fluently bilingual in German) come out slowly, one fact at a time, over the course of the books. Happily, the women are more like the Bond girls in the recent films, rather than the earlier ones. They are strong-willed, intelligent and self reliant, and these are precisely the qualities that Bond finds attractive in them. Unhappily, the books also show that Fleming was a racist and an anti-Semite, although probably no more so than other British men of his class at the time.

Moonraker is an excellent introduction to the Fleming canon, even if it does not offer exotic locales. It is a well-paced, interesting thriller that provides Bond with more than enough challenges and the reader with more than enough excitement.

Midsummer Night`s Doom

It must have sounded great in theory: James Bond sent to the Playboy Mansion to investigate the smuggling of sensitive technological data, while aided by Hugh Hefner and two beautiful playmates. What could possibly go wrong? Everything. What could have been a compelling and hip story sadly never reaches the heights it aspired to, and simply dissolves into a routine, mundane, by-the-numbers tale.

It all begins when “M” questions Bond about his knowledge of Playboy:

“The magazine, 007, how much do you know about it?”

Bond shrugged and said, “Only that some people have been known to read the articles and that I need to renew my subscription.”

Bond proceeds to recount his first encounter with Mr. Hefner, an event etched in Bond`s mind, but certainly, he feels, a forgotten memory to Mr.Hefner himself. Once “M” explains the basic problem, that information, sensitive information, has been changing hands at parties being held at the Playboy Mansion West, Hugh Hefner`s homes in Los Angeles, it becomes clear to Bond that he will have to go there himself, rekindle his relationship with Hefner, and solve this mystery before it gets any worse.

Hefner isn`t the target of the investigation; rather, his party guests are. Black market designs for a new class of Focal Plane Arrays, better known as FPA`s, are making the rounds at Hefner`s parties, and it`s now up to Bond to stop the next scheduled transfer of this information. Bond explains his knowledge of FPA`s to “M”:

“I`ve heard about them,” Bond said. “They can preprocess data at the sensor itself in image-processing applications such as, oh, say, target detection and then pass somewhat refined information to dedicated signal processors. They can make advanced military applications affordable because of significant reductions in size, weight and power consumption. I didn`t realize the designs had been completed.”

“Thank heaven you understand them, because I don`t,” she said, glancing upward.

She`s not the only one. We`re barely past the first page and I`m already lost in all of this technical trivia. By the time the first chapter is over, you have to remind yourself that something important was stolen and Bond has to go get it and that it`s no use trying to understand what it is because it is totally beyond comprehension anyway. Benson doesn`t tell us exactly what kind of applications an FPA would be used in since every bit of detail that he`s already given us is pretty much useless.

“M” explains MI5 has handed over this assignment to them because they believe the designs were copied and smuggled to the United States via rock musician Martin Tuttle. MI6 have arranged to have Bond invited to to the annual Midsummer Night`s Dream party held at the Hefner mansion. There, Bond is assigned to watch Tuttle, find out who his contact is, and recover the stolen data if possible. Bond is dismissed and heads to Miss Moneypenny`s office for the obligatory small talk, with the key word being obligatory. By this point, with as many short stories and novels as we have behind us, the need for a fresh take on Bond`s relationship with Penny has never been more urgent. John Gardner`s novel, Nobody Lives Forever, was the last breath of fresh air involving the Moneypenny character. Here she serves absolutely no legitimate purpose, as the information she gives to Bond about how to dress for Hef`s parties could`ve been gleamed from almost any other character and is common knowledge to most people on the street. Her role is so pointless that if you cut her out of the story it would not be affected in the slightest, thus confirming that she didn`t need inclusion to begin with

By this point I am still waiting for that little spark to happen that will ignite my interest in this so far tedious story. It hasn`t happened and by the looks of it, Benson seems either totally bored with the subject matter, in a creative rut, or the Hefner parties weren`t quite the swinging singles scene he was expecting when he did the research. After all, these are the 1990`s, fraught with AIDS, Gonorrhea, Syphilis and Chlamydia, not to mention accusations of date rape and a politically correct enviroment where women aren`t supposed to be looked at as sex objects anymore. It`s getting more and more difficult to make the Playboy Mansion and it`s decadence seem fun or relevant anymore.

Bond arrives in Los Angeles and takes his JaguarXK8 directly to the mansion. Why exactly Bond brings a Q-modified Jaguar all the way over from England on what is a routine, open and shut case is beyond me. The Jaguar never even comes into play for the rest of the story. Again, another plot point that just seems thrown in with no valid reason for it being there.

Upon arriving at Hefner`s mansion, he`s met by “a radiant blonde” named Lisa Dergen, or for those who can`t read but can only remember body parts, Miss July 1998. Of Lisa, Benson writes:

“Her bright green eyes displayed an air of self-confidence and intelligence. He could easily get lost in them.”

Ooookay, this is a playmate we are talking about but let`s pretend anyway. She gives him a tour of the grounds, while offering him a private tour later in the night, blushing as she makes her suggestive offer. At this point Bond now spies Hefner, sipping a Jack Daniels, mingling with guests, while two ladies cling to his silken pajamas.

Of Bond`s pajamas, Benson writes:

“Bond loved pajamas, so he felt some kinship with his host in that respect. He had decided to wear a navy satin set, also tailor-made, covered by his beloved Hong Kong housecoat decorated in Chinese characters, which comfortably concealed his should-holstered Walther PPK.”

That`s not how Fleming described Bond`s feeling toward pajamas. On page 126 of Casino Royale, half way down, Fleming states:

“Bond had always disliked pyjamas and had slept naked until in Hong Kong at the end of the war he came across the perfect compromise. This was a pyjama-coat which came almost down to the knees. It had no buttons, but there was a loose belt round the waist. The sleeves were wide and short, ending just above the elbow. The result was cool and comfortable and now when he slipped the coat on over his trunks, all his bruises and scars were hidden except the thin white bracelets on wrists and ankles and the mark of SMERSH on his right hand.”

Incidentally, notice the difference in the spelling of the word pajama. Benson spells it “pajama” and Fleming spells it “pyjama”.

Fleming and Benson both make mention of a tailored made outfit and Hong Kong. You could infer that Bond`s compromise outfit in Casino Royale and his later set of pajamas in `Doom” both came from a tailor in Hong Kong, but it`s still hard to tell if Benson acknowledges that Bond once hated pajamas and has since changed his mind. This is important since all of Hugh Hefner`s parties are in pajamas and lingerie.

After meeting with Hefner and being assured that no one else at the party knew Bond`s true reason for being there, he mingles and is next introduced to Victoria Zdrok. For those who don`t read Playboy for the articles, she was Miss October 1994. Of meeting Bond, Benson writes:

Victoria beamed and shook his hand. “How do you do?”.

“What`s a nice Ukrainian girl like you doing in a place like this?” he asked.

She gave him a sexy smirk, “Maybe I`m not so nice, she purred. “How did you know where I come from?”

“Oh, let`s just say that Russia and her neighbors used to be one of my hobbies.”

Recognize this passage of dialogue? You should. It sounds like it was practically lifted from the Bond and Xenia casino scene in Goldeneye. And if that weren`t bad enough, the line about “a nice Ukranian girl” is enough to make a person cringe.

Victoria introduces Bond to her movie producer friend, Anton Redinus. If this were a movie, Redinus would have a neon sign hovering above him saying: “Villain!” Could he be anymore obvious as the contact, or could the pearls that adorn Victoria`s neck be any more obvious as a plot device? It has all the subtlety of a Klansman at an NAACP rally.

Suffice it to say, Bond defeats Anton and his henchman Estrogen, er, uh, Estragon who earlier themselves killed Martin Tuttle. The whole story is wrapped up quickly and very neatly with no twists, no turns, no suspense and surprisingly, no characterization when you consider that three of the main characters are real life people.

Even for a short story, it`s plagued by inadequate characterization. From the start there is nothing that grabs hold of your attention and the middle and end parts fare no better. The dialogue is questionable and by the time the story is over you really don`t care who did what to whom and why. The whole story goes over like an episode of Scooby Doo, right down to the traditional pulling of the mask off the villain. And Redinus would`ve gotten away with it if it hadn`t been for that meddling British secret agent.

Live at Five!

Publishing Date Date: November 8th, 1999
The Hero: “You Were Expecting Someone Else?”
The Villain: The Pre-Glasnost Soviet Apparatus
The Bond Girl: Come On, Does There Have To Be A Girl In Every Story?
Supporting Characters: Ice-Sliding Thugs
Locations covered: A Windy City rooftop; a decommissioned Aston Martin in the UK
Weapon: Bond’s Brain and Sharp Metal Edges

Raymond Benson and his pal James Bond are off again, taking readers across the Atlantic onto an ice skating rink in Illinois to help someone defect who is better looking than General Koskov.

Raymond Benson’s short, “Live at Five” is a quick taste of high adventure with 007. Hopefully, fans will be satiated until the next stage of Benson’s Union (latest Bond baddies) trilogy debuts, or until die hard fans (moi included in the faithful readership) chew on his World is Not Enough novelization.

If brevity is the soul of wit, I don’t have too much more room for copy on “Five” or my review will exceed the actual story in length! This story is so brief it dovetails nicely with the 30-minute sitcoms TV Guide also heralds between its covers, most of which also manage a happy ending and graceful denouement before their final credits roll. Rather than give spoilers to the story here, I suffice it to raise (and answer) the following questions about Mr. Benson’s latest, that will no doubt cover the alt.fan newsgroup in short order, anyway:

Question) Aren’t the “Live at Five” story line, and the way Bond handles his challenge, rather improbable, Matt?

Answer) Yes, and yes. Don’t we enjoy Bond because his brand of escapism beats our own dreary real lives?

Question) C’mon. Ice skating?

Answer) Mr. Benson did beautifully with Bond mountain climbing in the underrated High Time To Kill, thanks very much. Shame on you for not having read it and purchased it in British hardback already, before it fetches 500 pounds a copy like the Tomorrow Never Dies or GoldenEye novels.

Question) C’mon. Ice skaking? ICE Skating?

Answer) Watch Bond’s hat trick in For Your Eyes Only where he drops the bad guys for goals. And that was without wearing skates himself!

Question) C’mon. “Live at Five” written exclusively for TV Guide? A bit too pat, don’t you think?

Answer) It works. I think Raymond has responded in lovely fashion to the charges made against A Midsummer Night’s Doom, whose homage was far more to Hefner than Shakespeare. Pay the $1.97 at the grocery counter and read it for gosh sake! For a bonus, you get Tanya Roberts and Lana Wood debating whether Sean or Roger is the superior 007 (and they should know, really, they should!) plus five more Bond gals to “boot” to borrow a coin from the ice skating panache.

Seriously, Fleming fans will recall Bond’s distaste for pro ice skaters as a bit too muscular in body type, and watch for the twist at the end of this one. ‘Nuf said.

–Matt Sherman is Co-Editor of 007Forever, which leaves him precious little time to even see the new Bond film.

Live and Let Die

The Hero: James Bond; The Bond Girl: Solitaire; The Villain: Mr.Big; Supporting Characters: Tee Hee, Felix Leiter, The Robber, Dexter, Quarrel, “M”, “Q”; Locations covered: Harlem NY; Tampa Bay, FL; Shark`s Bay, Jamaica

Ian Fleming picked up the pace from Casino Royale by giving us Live And Let Die, a tense, and sometimes grueling suspense thriller with more action, more villians, and more locations. In fact, it`s more of everything. And it`s easy to see why, after reading this novel, that Fleming`s books became such a phenomenen by the early 60`s.

Fleming`s best and most interesting passages seem to be when he delves into subjects he has a knowledge or passion about. Orinthology. Marine biology. The layout of Jamaica (the home of Ian Fleming). All these factors come into play and make for a riveting read.

The book starts off with the suspicion that a vast pirate fortune from centuries ago has been found, and it`s contents are being looted and sold off to finance criminal activities.

“In short” continued M, “we suspect that this Jamaican treasure is being used to finance the Soviet espionage system, or an important part of it, in America. And our suspicion becomes a certainty when I tell you who this Mr. Big is.”

Here`s where the book starts to get tricky and politically dicey:

“Mr.Big” said M, weighing his words, “is probably the most powerful Negro criminal in the world. He is…the head of the Black Widow Voodoo cult…He is also a Soviet agent…a known member of SMERSH.”

“I don`t think I`ve ever heard of a great Negro criminal before” said Bond. They don`t seem to take to big business. Pretty law abiding chaps, on the whole, I should have thought.”

As you can tell from the excerpted dialogue, Live And Let Die contains generalizations and stereotypes of Black people that were probably very common in the world 43 years ago. It also contains a great deal of words that most people wouldn`t think, use or say today. Perhaps Fleming knew something that contemporaries of his day did not. Despite using terminology that might make some people squirm, Fleming does attempt to be balanced in his own view of black people and how he presents them in his book.

Bond moves on to Harlem, where much of the gold coins looted from Bloody Morgan`s Pirate Ship in Jamaica have been turning up. But Bond is on Mr. Big`s turf, and Mr. Big gets the word out quick that 007 isn`t welcome in that part of town. Bond gets a fairly straight forward message delivered to his hotel:

THE BEATS OF YOUR OWN HEART ARE NUMBERED. I KNOW THAT NUMBER AND HAVE STARTED TO COUNT.

Maybe Bond has never had much contact with black people in his life. In his conversation with “M”, he made many generalizations and stereotypical comments, and now, on page 48, Fleming presents Bond as very uncomfortable being in an all black nightclub, and the sweat has now started to bead up on Bond`s forehead.

Bond and Felix get dropped through a trap door in the floor, and 007 comes face to face with Mr. Big and his “psychic” companion, Miss Solitaire.

Speaking of Mr. Big: “It was a great football of a head, twice the normal size and very nearly round. The skin was grey-black, taut and shining like the face of a week old corpse in the river…the eyes were extraordinarily far apart, so that one could not focus on them both, but only on one at a time. They bulged slightly, and the irises were golden around black pupils which were now wide. They were animal eyes, not human, and they seemed to blaze.”

Mr. Big brings in Solitaire to divine the truth from the questions 007 is going to be forced to answer. On page 60, Fleming explains to us how Solitaire got her name, which was a nice touch. After just a few questions, 007 gets the sense that Solitaire is lying to Mr.Big about the answers. It appears she wants to leave her master, Mr.Big, and she`s going to have Bond help her do it.

Bond manages to escape the situation, and Solitaire joins up with him on a train to get out of New York. On the train, Solitaire gives detailed information about her past, and how she fits into Mr. Big`s criminal syndicate. On their train ride down to Tampa, an all points bulletin is put out in the Negro underworld for all `eyes` to be on the lookout for 007 and Solitaire. Baldwin, the room servant on 007`s traincar, seems agitated and mighty nervous while going about his job. Bond sends Solitaire into the next room and has a talk with Baldwin.

“Got something on your mind, Baldwin?” he asked.

Yassuh. Shouldn`t be tellin` yuh this, but dere`s plenty trouble `n this train this trip. Yuh gotten yo`self a henemy `n dis train. Ah hear t`ings which Ah don` like at all. Better take dese hyah.”

He reached in his pocket and brought out two wooden window wedges. Bond took the wedges from him.

Unfortunately, most of the secondary characters such as Baldwin are portrayed as unintelligent and poorly educated. Honest and good, but poorly educated. Baldwin`s assistance for Bond helps save Bond and Solitaire`s life, but it cost`s Baldwin his. On page 112, Bond remarks “Poor Baldwin. We owe him a lot”. So, Fleming did write many of the black characters as decent, good people, but he also stereotyped their language and manner of speaking.

Bond, Felix, and Solitaire all meet up in Tampa, but it`s not long before Mr.Big`s empire finds Solitaire, kidnaps her, and lets a shark eat half of Felix Leiter`s body off. Felix lives, and a note is attached to his dumped body that read:

HE DISAGREED WITH SOMETHING THAT ATE HIM

Bond then sets off to settle the score for Felix and Solitaire. He tracks down the warehouse used to help house the shark that Leiter was fed to, and there, Fleming sets up a wonderful action sequence set amongst gunfire and exploding fish tanks.

The end result at the warehouse is in Bond`s favor, but the FBI is in a huge hurry to rush Bond out of the country, and keep what happened at the warehouse quiet so as not to offend Mr. Big. Bond takes off for Jamaica, and begins training. The routines will last a week, and are used to get Bond in shape to scuba dive up close enough to Mr.Big`s yacht, The Secatur, so as to rescue Solitaire and destroy the gold coin smuggling operation.

As I`ve said, Fleming paints quite a picture in Live And Let Die. He has a firm grasp on creating vivid imagery in the readers mind. His action sequences are tight, crisp, focused and surprisingly up to date. What Live And Let Die lacks though is any real chemistry between 007 and Solitaire. Solitaire is intermittently seen throughout the book. Her “powers” were never really expounded upon, therefore there`s not much to know about her. The dialogue between 007 and Solitaire didn’t go over too well. Much of it was either corny or incomprehensible.

Also, Mr. Big gets the short end of the stick, as far as villians go. Big gets in some choice words, and Fleming writes him as well educated and articulate, but somehow Mr. Big isn`t in the book long enough. After a brief appearance in the beginning, he doesn`t show up until the last 20 pages or so of the book.

The real chemistry actually takes place between Felix Leiter and 007. After meeting for the first time on the Casino Royale mission, 007 and Felix have become very good friends. Fleming does a great job of conveying the sense that these two are friends who are always looking out for one another`s back.

License Renewed

The Hero: James Bond; The Bond Girl: Lavendar Peacock; The Villain: Anton Murik; Supporting Characters: Mary Jane Mashkin, Caber, “M”, Moneypenny, Q`ute, Bill Tanner, Franco; Locations Covered: London, Scotland, France. First Published: 1981

After more than a decade without a new Bond novel, the literary franchise was resurrected with the release of License Renewed. Yes, the body was resurrected, but the spirit wasn`t there.

Gardner was a spy thriller novelist in his own right before picking up the Bond franchise. His effort with License Renewed is commendable, and it should be noted that the book stayed on top of the New York Times best seller list for 52 weeks. But overall, this entry is a mixed bag.

The plot centers around the investigation into Anton Murik, a world famous, rather infamous, nuclear physicist. His plans for an `ultra safe` nuclear reactor have made him the laughing stock of the nuclear science community. Leaving in disgrace, he vows to prove to the world his ideas can work. Even if it means mass murdering billions.

Accompanying Murik, at most times, are, as usual, beautiful women. Lavendar Peacock is his niece, and his ward. She`s also the rightful heir to the Murik estate, but Anton has cheated her out of that. Then there`s Mary Jane Mashkin, Murik`s confidante. A fellow nuclear physicist herself, both she and Murik spend a lot of personal time creating a little fusion of their own, though Mary Jane is more than happy to try and get Bond to do the same with her. He refuses.

Bond is more interested in how Murik`s supposedly inferior horse, China Blue, is winning races she`s not favored to win. It`s really almost an irrelevant plot point, but it does finally get Bond into the castle estate of Anton Murik. There, Gardner commits his biggest mistake of the book. He uses a standard cliche seen in so many Bond movies or spoofs: he gets the villian to tell just about every detail of his secret plan and then does not shoot or kill Bond right away. Instead, he spends more time trying to figure out ingenious ways to kill Bond when simply putting a gun to Bond`s head and pulling the trigger would do the job.

After getting all the details of Murik`s plan, Bond tries to make an escpae from the grand castle to warn M. Caught, he`s eventually put on a plane with Murik to head to a fashion show in France. There, all Bond knows is that he must escape from Murik and stop the assasination of some female due to take place at the show. At first Bond believes that the female is royalty, but he soon realizes Murik plans to have Lavendar killed, and it somehow all ties into Operation Meltdown.

As villians go, Murik is standard. I didn`t buy Gardner`s reasoning on why a man like Murik would murder millions or perhaps billions just so the world could see how safe his reactors would be. The logic and rationale simply isn`t there. Mary Jane Mashkin doesn`t come off much better. She is essentially a female Murik, just with less characterization. Lavendar Peacock is woefully written. One of the worst written and must useless Bond girls in any 007 book . Much of the dialogue between James and Lavender consists of “Oh, my darling James.” Or, “James, my darling”. No one uses words and phrases like that. Only Caber seems to get any good of the good lines, and most of his are indecipherable because of his accent.

Some of the problems with License Renewed would only get worse as Gardner continued making more novels. Bond belongs in the age range of mid to late 30`s, not 57 as Gardner puts him. There`s an unfamiliararity with Gardner`s Bond, simply because we`ve always known of Bond in a certain way, and in a certain age range. There`s also a lack of fire in this Bond. It`s almost as if Gardner can`t grasp who Bond is or is just apathetic towards him. There almost comes across a rather blase approach to Bond in this book. Gardner`s strong points in this book include interesting plot set ups, and action sequences, but when it comes to decent characterization, it appears Mr. Gardner`s license was revoked.

John Steed: An Authorized Biography

John Steed – An Authorized Biography, Volume One: Jealous in Honour
by Tim Heald
pub 1977

A fictional biography about the lead character in the sixties` television show “The Avengers”. The book is faintly reminiscent of John Pearson`s Bond biography. Bond only appears in one chapter:

“One factor which seems to have contributed to John`s unhappiness at this time was the bullying which was an unfortunate feature of life in the school – or at least in those circles in which Steed moved. The main bully was a boy called Bond, later to achieve a certain notoriety in a career not totally unlike Steed`s. Indeed their paths were to cross several times in adult life, seldom with profitable results. Although Bond was only two or so years older than Steed (a fact which will doubtless be disputed by Bond and his cronies) he was a great deal bigger. One of his fetishes was to make smaller boys stir his evening mug of cocoa for him, just as in later life he was to make a laughable affectation out of his insistence on dry martini cocktails being stirred rather than shaken (author`s error–ed). One day he demanded that Steed perform this service. Steed refused. Bond again insisted.

“Who the h*** do you think you are?” enquired Steed, suggesting at the same time that he should pick on someone his own size.

“Bond, James Bond,” replied the bully, clearly expecting young Steed to fall grovelling at his feet.

“Well, Bond,” said Steed evenly, “If you`d like to present yourself behind the Fives Courts by Jordan in half an hour`s time I`ll show you in the only language you apparently understand, precisely why I have no intention of stirring your rotten cocoa.”

Alas, poor Bond! He had never heard of the Bodger business at Lydeard Lodge. Thirty minutes later he was waiting behind the fivescourts, aglow with cocky truculence. Thirty-five minutes later he was being half dragged home by two of his familiars, his jaw and his ego both equally badly bruised. Yet even this success made little difference to Steed`s happiness. He continued to find Eton not to his taste.*

“Hartington Rowse was a senior beak, and insisted on being present at the Bill for CA Elliot`s first few halves to show him the ropes. His influence was draconian. Later in 1936, when he expelled James Bond for the more commonplace Etonian offence of getting a boys` maid into trouble, Elliot had managed to get rid of his unwelcome companion at will.” [Chapter 4, “Eton”]

James Bond’s London

James Bond Is Absolutely Fabulous In “London”

Have you heard of the new Bond’s London? Daleon Enterprises’ first book, Gary Giblin’s “James Bond’s London” has been published (finally!) and is more than worth the wait.

Featuring gorgeous cover work by Jeff Marshall and thoughtful design layout by Dave Worrall (The Essential Bond), “London” is jam-packed with a treasure trove of 007-ly information. Giblin’s comprehensive guide to London Bond locations includes behind the scenes information on every 007 site in Britain’s capital. Giblin’s book provides fans with hundreds of hotspots for 007 literary and movie action, plus family and friend locations from the legacy of Ian Fleming, all in London (and we thought we did well to find Ian Fleming’s house and Planet Hollywood on our last England visit!).

Giblin’s book is a breath of fresh air and definitely not the typical “Look at me, I copied quotations from authors and films and made a fast guide to James Bond.” Giblin’s incredible softcover volume runs nearly 200 pages. All Bond
locations inside are sorted by area of greater London, making it easy to have a Bond-themed day in any section of this sprawling city. Directions to each 007 spot along with the nearest underground station are thoughtfully included. Extensive indexes also cross-reference locations by movie, book, Bond’s lifestyle, espionage themes, and more, so fans can develop their favorite itinerary with ease. Items of “shaken and stirred special interest” are also highlighted throughout.

Even if you aren’t planning a London trip soon, you’ll enjoy the anecdotes and insights filling James Bond’s London. Extras include a foreword by Peter Hunt, a tribute to Ian Fleming by Christopher Lee, and a synopsis of 1959’s “James Bond of the Secret Service”. Gary Giblin’s scholarship on this work is laudable, as he worked closely in collaboration with everyone from Desmond Llewelyn and Oscar-winning designer Peter Lamont to John Stears and the heirs of Ian Fleming on his new book. His acknowledgements page reads as a who’s who of the world of James
Bond. A fine trivia challenge on nearly every page and wonderful stills of locations, the Bond actors and the EON production team round out this fabulous book.

For now, there are more than enough readers of 007Forever.com to scoop up the first 1,000 copies of “London” at www.spyguise.com, each of which features a beautiful, signed author’s nameplate on the inside cover from the author. Go get ’em! I can barely wait for the forthcoming “James Bond’s Britain”. -Matt Sherman

Order your signed copy of Gary Giblin’s “James Bond’s London” now at www.spyguise.com.