What are the differences between the UK and US editions of “Nobody Lives Forever”?

There are actually two versions of “Nobody Lives Forever”: the British and the American edition – they even have different titles; the British title is “Nobody Lives For Ever”. Those interested in the technical aspects of writing and book-editing should own both editions, as they virtually amount to two separate novels.

The UK edition is notably shorter than the US edition (note how many words difference there is between the two main passages below). The British edition seems to have been a later, revised book. It also appears to have been badly edited down from the more interesting American edition. Some of the changes do correct numerous literary errors in the sloppily written American edition, the finale in the British edition is much tighter and better written, and many others changes only damage the book. Whoever made these changes (perhaps Gardner corrected the galleys as an afterthought) did a number on the book. The final result is listless, underwritten, and desultory. Many changes needlessly break passages up into short disjointed paragraphs. Sentences have been cut, rearranged, or even rewritten. Dialogue has been cut, changed, or added. Minor incidents are somewhat different. Here is one example from Chapter 17:

(US edition – 327 words)

“With great care, James Bond began to climb the open zigzagging stairs to the first level, his feet noiselessly touching the fretted metal, his body to the left to leave his right hand, and the ASP, ready for instant use. At the top, standing on the first terrace, he waited, head cocked. Just ahead of him there was a large sliding picture window, the curtains only partially drawn and one section of the window open.”

“Moving so that he covered all points of the compass around him, Bond crossed to the window, peering in. he could not believe what he saw, almost speaking his thoughts out loud – “First time lucky.”

“The room was white and splendidly decorated, with glass tables, white soft armchairs, and what appeared to be excellent original paintings on its walls, a deep pile white carpet covering the floor. But the central feature was a large, comfortable, customized bed – a king-sized sickbed, with controls on a panel at the head, switches and buttons that could, obviously, adjust any part of the bed, from head to foot, to suit the patient who now lay in it, propped up with silk pillows, his eyes closed in sleep and his head turned to one side.”

“In spite of the now shrunken face, the skin a parchment pallor, Bond recognized the man immediately. On their previous meetings, Tamil Rahani had been smooth, short, dapper and attractive, in a military fashion. Now he was a shadow of his former self – the heir to the Blofeld fortune, and the organization, SPECTRE, reduced to this human doll, swamped by the seductive luxury of a high-tech bed.”

“Bond slid the window open and stepped inside, moving like a cat to the end of the bed, gazing down on the man who controlled his greatest enemies.” … “He began to squeeze the trigger, and as he did so thought he felt a small gust of air on the back of his head.”

Compare to the UK edition (251 words):

“Bond began to climb the open zig-zagging stairs to the first level, his feet touching the fretted metal noiselessly, his body held to the left so that his right hand, clutching the ASP, was instantly ready. Standing on the first terrace, he waited, his head cocked. Just ahead of him there was a large sliding picture window, the curtains only partially drawn, and one section open. He crossed to the window and peered in.”

“The room was white, furnished with glass tables, soft white armchairs, and valuable modern paintings. A deep pile white carpet covered the floor. In the centre was a large bed, with electronic controls that could adjust any section to any angle, to improve the comfort of the patient who now lay in it.”

“Tamil Rahani was propped up with silk-covered pillows, his eyes closed, and his head turned to one side. Despite the shrunken face with skin the colour of parchment, Bond recognized him immediately. On their previous meetings, Rahani had been smooth, short, and dapper, attractive in a military kind of way. Now the heir to the Blofeld fortune was reduced to a human doll, dwarfed by the seductive luxury of the high-tech bed.”

“Bond slid open the window, and stepped inside. Moving like a cat to the end of the bed, he gazed down on the man who controlled SPECTRE.” … “As he began to squeeze the trigger, he thought he felt a small gust of air on the back of his head.”

The following line also appears earlier in the US edition, Chapter 17, but not the UK edition: “They passed along the wooden walkway running alongside the hotel`s crowded eating places – the pier House Restaurant, the Beach Club Bar and Pete`s Raw bar (“Doing a raw-ring trade,” Sukie said, and they all groaned). Likewise the following line appears in the US edition, Chapter 10, but not (sensibly) in the UK edition: “A vamPIRE BAT?” Her voice rose to a screech. “James! Jee-rusalem!”

Chapter 17 in the UK edition suggests that Bond had booked reservations at the restaurant, while the US edition makes it clear that he hadn`t: “Bond kept up the fantasy, and prayed that the girls would not let him down by giggling.”

From Chapter 13:

(US edition)
“James?” Sukie sounded almost wheedling, as they left the hotel, lugging their suitcases. “James, you`re going the wrong way. You left the Bentley in the car park to the left.”

“Yes,” Bond spoke quietly. “Don`t tell the whole world, Sukie. We`re not using the Bentley.”

(UK edition)

“James. James, you`re going the wrong way. You left the Bentley in the car park to the left. Remember?”

“Don`t tell the whole world, Sukie. We`re not using the Bentley.”

Also from Chapter 17:

(US edition)

“The tablecloths were made of paper, and there were packets of crayons besides each plate, so that guests could create their own art – perhaps the restaurant`s owners were still hoping Picasso would arrive and pay the bill with a tablecloth.”

(UK edition)

“They were shown to a corner table in a pleasant white room. Bond took a seat with his back to the wall and a good view of the entrance. The tablecloths were paper, and there were packets of crayons besides each plate. Bond doodled, drawing a skull and crossbones. Nannie had sketched something vaguely obscene, in red. She leaned forward.”

Gardner`s other Bond novels also have differences between the US and UK editions. Some of these changes are stylistic (i.e. Gardner frequently confuses “which” for “that”; his American editors fix this in the US editions); some of them are more substantial; Role Of Honour`s last paragraph does not appear in the UK version:

“Bond went into the airport bar to wait for his flight to be called, passing the time with a large brandy, and musing on time past, and future. Percy had been right. It had been the best of times with her, but now his work called, and James Bond knew it would forever entice him back to new dangers – and new sweetness.”

The UK version`s second last paragraph is different from the US version`s third last paragraph:

“The next morning they rebooked tickets, and Bond saw her off, watching her aeroplane climb over the little hillock at the end of the runway, then turn to set course for Athens, where she would make her connection for Paris.”

The US edition is different after “runway”: “then turning to set course for the west.”

Changes, changes…what will they think of next?

Leave a Reply