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  1. The 007th Chapter: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – The Hairy Heel of Achilles

    A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart

     

    OHMSSWC600

     

     

     

     

    Hard to come up with a shock ending these days, not simply because “internet” blabs spoilers as loosely as that bewildering  Snowden tick, but also because twists now seems such a staple of popular culture that it’s disappointing when there isn’t one. Case in point: Die Another Day doesn’t end with a humiliating apology, mass refunds, emergency product recall and everyone culpable for its spewing flayed with cheesegraters and their dingle-dangles fed to Dobermans. Major missed opportunity but, from one perspective, a massive reversal in that it didn’t happen. I wasexpecting it.

     

    I’m entitled to it.

     

    I won’t be providing a twist. Otherwise I would have been merciful, ending this nonsense here and you’d have to distract yourself from the bleak reality of whatever you are by other means of supply. Try psilocybin, or licking an entertaining toad. Either method guarantees more coherent entertainment, I cheerfully admit.

     

    I suppose many would point to this anticipation of twist in low-level, mass-appeal “culture” to emanate from the hopeless deus ex machina when that gobby carpenter with ego issues rose from the dead. Yeah, right: utter cop-out, although it’s easier to jump a shark when you can already walk on water. Alternatively, “Darth” Vader telling the boring lad that he was his dad; claiming he was his mum would have been more engaging, and likely. Sherlock Holmes (ostensibly) dying, Norman Bates as the world’s fourth most vicious drag-act, Superman emerging as a neck-snapping balsawood psycho, a New York populated by apes (tempted to ask whether that is a twist, but won’t) and much involving Messrs. Norton and / or Spacey; all such matters spring to mind. Some might point to the conclusion of this book and its shotgun wedding as another sound example.

     

    However, is the end of OHMSS ectually a surprise? Ian Fleming was a regular exponent of the sting in the tale, surely? Casino Royale ends on a grim downer, Moonraker has a lower-key shock, but still punchy, From Russia With Love nearly kills 007 and, in Goldfinger, Bond administers a cure for gay. Quantum of Solace is one long build to a twist, You Only Live Twice has a demented conclusion (arguably no shock at all since the rest of it is really weird), The Living Daylights an embittered end, 007 in New York a comedy one and Devil May Care, “as” Ian Fleming, has nonsensical surprises that are indeed truly shocking.  In practically all the other Fleming novels, Bond ends up in hospital / recuperation but, on balance, there’s a good chance on picking up one of his books that something will happen at closing time that’ll leave you the one that’s bruised.

     

    Granted: going loop-the-loop as the last giddy thrill of the rollercoaster isn’t limited to the original series. Ignoring the projectile traitors that pebbledash his Bonds, irritating more than they entertain, Mr Gardner doled out a vicious downbeating in a fistful of his. If I recall correctly (look away now to avoid spoilers) Role of Honour, Scorpius, Never Send Flowers and Seafire (I think) have concluding twists, and there may be others, such as the duplicate shock of a ) Felix Leiter pimping out his daughter and b ) his having dabbled with unprecedented heterosexuality at some point. Possibly just a phase he was going through. Mr Benson (look away now if… no, just look away) did it at least a couple of times, pretty effectively too, and Mr Deaver’s effort is constructed entirely of twist and little else, rendering a second read impossible (as well as unwise) because once you know the “surprises”, there’s bugger all else to “enjoy”.

    Strangely, the films don’t really go in for last-minute table-turning, and more often than not end with Bond and a chumess in moist congress. I suppose one could argue that all the Daniel Craigs conclude in qualified success, and Skyfall particularly has a bitter twist with M’s death, but anyone who couldn’t see it coming despite umpteen hours of sledgehammered symbolism is daft (or wisely shunned “internet” for a year in advance of its release); and, of course, the adaptation of this one, ending not in water but in slaughter.

     

    As a result, there’s a tenable argument that Mr Lazenby’s solo outing and the three most recent films, with the ambivalence-to-tragedy of how they conclude, actually do adopt the “back to Fleming” nonsense hauled before unbelieving ears with every effort since whenever. An additional benefit is that they pleasingly expose (not that they really need to) what pathetically compromised, hollow anti-Fleming dross Licence to Kill is, with its happy party, relaxed Leiter (might be the morphine, I s’pose) and fish-winkery.  Insofar as the films go, then, OHMSS is one of few; of the books, though, it’s not that much of a surprise. It would have been more shocking had the marriage actually lasted. He’s James Bond, he’s bound to shove her into a skip at some point. Her capacity for “annoying” is extensive and the seeds are sown for ever more outrageous high-maintenance attention-seeking (won’t chime well with the “secret agent” thing, I’d wager). Skating down the slippery slope towards pushing a pramful of cats around town whilst shrieking kwazily, is “Trace”.

     

    We’re prepared for disaster: Tracy starts with a death wish, and eventually it’s realised. Er – surprised? She has to die, and expose what a clown Bond is by being incapable of preventing it (and having accelerated things by poking Blofeld’s hornet’s nest of hypnotised crumpet). Albeit denied the opportunity to personally stage-manage her bid for oblivion, it was coming, albeit it remains very brutal how. Not just within the confines of the story but also because the author is patently sick of 007 by now and relishes devising an opportunity – a deliciously drawn-out one – to make him bloody miserable. Could one credibly think that after the thumping Fleming has been giving Bond lately that he was going to grant the horrid berk happiness? Mr Gardner is sometimes criticised as never appearing to like James Bond, but he might only have been picking up where dad suddenly left off.

     

    What really is new is not the “unexpected” ending but that we haven’t previously seen the knock-on effect of the post-adventure downtime. Whilst in other books Bond may have remembered previous assignments, they’re memories of the adventures as we knew them too, Tiffany Case deserting him one notable exception. On the whole, he does not contemplate the aftermath of his actions nor forced to meet face-on the ramifications of them. We don’t know what came of Mr Big’s organisation nor (say) Crab Key once Bond had finished smashing it about, which suggests he neither knows nor cares. Maybe this is what Fleming initially intended in his cold, professional agent: job done, move on, the bitch is dead etc. However, even if he tries his best with the sentiment about regret in Goldfinger, the preceding few pages in which Bond contemplates the Mexican affair is plainly letting the mask slip, and the likes of Quantum of Solace peel it off completely.

     

    There is character development in the Fleming Bonds; perhaps more accurately, development in the author’s attitude to the character, possibly because a consequence-free, conscience-free, lead would bore, quickly. It’s similar to the first two Craig films, from the regret-free, impact-unaware efficient thug regarding the death of one bomb-maker an achievement, end of adventure, let’s move on despite destroying loads of stuff, to a man becoming aware of the wider repercussions of various acts and deaths for which he is responsible.  Fine, during other Bond films there may be moments where 007 reflects on what he has brought upon others – the deaths of Paula and Aki, giving Paris Carver’s shoulder a quick nibble and appearing to try to snort Elektra King’s corpse – but these aren’t formative: they’re just fleeting skipped heartbeats of shade that mean nothing, go nowhere and are quickly forgotten because there’s frogmen to harpoon, rockets to destroy, a remote control car to play with or an opportunity to have Christmas in an utter turkey.

     

    True enough, the last third of Casino Royale (the novel) is “repercussion” too, but those are primarily of Vesper’s actions, not Bond’s. What the film changed is to make the set-up of the poker game – and all the misery that emanates from it – the result of Bond’s activity, making the slightly-too-long free-running and airport business critical to the tale rather than (one’s immediate impression) that they’re noisy filler. The passage of the character through the Craig films – repercussion, (mixed) retribution and resurrection – mirrors that of these final three novels. Quite what’ll happen in the fourth Craig is uncertain as Fleming left no obvious clue. It’ll probably be regurgitation.

     

    This is what Tracy is for, developing the last book’s theme of the impact Bond has on others; there, softly introduced via a motel fumble forgettable to Bond if not the other party, but still not yet coming back to bite him; here, it’s going to gnaw – hard. Tracy exists to press home to Bond the results of his colourful super-duper multiple exclamation-marked supervillain-smashing activity and continues the finger-wagging of Captain Stonor. This is where such adventure gets you, there will be consequences and you cannot divorce yourself from the results of your actions, regardless of their perception of having been the “right” thing to have done. The only divorce you’ll get is from the barrel of a gun. The detail – the giddy diversions into heraldry and biological warfare and mesmerised dolly-birds – is a blind: the point comes in the closing brace of chapters. Approached this way, it becomes easier to cope with Mr Benson’s villain in Never Dream of Dying; one of the more profound cameos and a book I’ve possibly failed to appreciate properly. N.B. “possibly”.

     

    The true shock of OHMSS is not the end: it’s the fact of the engagement and marriage at all. Putting aside that I find the flaky, needy, brattish Tracy a character of mystifying allure for Bond, in relation to any woman what is the source of his sudden desire for betrothal? Strikes me that Bond’s most direct statement on the subject comes in Quantum of Solace’s musings on marrying an air stewardess or “a Japanese” and he’s only raising the subject as a gitsome way to wind the Governor up and shock him into conversation. Vesper aside, he doesn’t appear to be desperate to marry any of the other women he’s happened across, and the end of Moonraker and the subsequent hopeless relationship with Tiffany Case are statements that Bond is not the marrying kind (don’t get your hopes up, Mr Leiter). Maybe there’s something in the air at Royale-les-Eaux that fires the old juices and affects his judgment. Presumably it’s an intentional bitter irony that the two women he meets there are his two great tragedies. Probably best to never, ever go there again.

     

    Whether it’s one of the final flourishes of Fleming’s autobiographical wish-fulfilment to have a bloody annoying wife shot apart remains ungallant speculation.

     

    The 007th Chapter – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: The Hairy Heel of Achilles

    An amusing incident: a man hiding behind a code number conspiring with a man hiding behind a code name against another trying desperately hard to publicly augment his identity. It’s the last chap who is the bad guy. An uplifting episode of nourishing morality.

     

    Misquoting the misquote: Vanity, thy name is villain. Consistent Fleming themes: the villains undone by their vices, more often than not greed, and how distasteful flashy vanity is, likened to V.D in due course. Here, Blofeld’s vanity and greed for status (if not money) coalesce. Mr Big’s diamond studs embellish his moral abandon, as does Rosa Klebb’s grotesque attempt to prettify herself. Goldfinger scratching a “z” into his gold bars is unnecessary frippery, simply showing off, and the Spangs are more show than go. Their physical flaws aside, consider how many of the villains are gaudy in their accessorising, and we haven’t yet reached the motherlode with the Golden Gun. Chewable also in the patent guilt and disdain Bond / Fleming / Bond has for the accoutrements that, in moments of great weakness, he allows into his otherwise sparse, regimented lifestyle of a single recipe for death-by-egg and constantly wearing the same things. Permitting this villainous frailty entry potentially mixes up the heroes and villains, etc. His car, for example, even described at its best is “selfish” and later in this tale, his Rolex simply has to die.  Most of his nice things end up annihilated: he doesn’t covet them, he doesn’t collect them. He destroys them, just as he is destroying himself as a finely-tuned instrument of the state by drinking and smoking to excess.

     

    Do you still want to emulate this awful man? OK then, smash your watch.

     

    The perception that the Bond novels fetishise “posh stuff” seems misplaced. There’s a stand-offishness, a suspicion, even going so far as embarrassment should one indulge oneself. The films… the films differ, embracing the vulgarity. The risk, of course, is that this attitude tips into another vice, snobbery, or at least a version inverted by an attitude of superiority over such trivia. It strikes me that Fleming is happier that Bond demonstrates that, his own Achilles heel that styx in the craw (sorry), rather than debilitating – and exploitable – status symbolism. Snobbery and vanity might not sit on directly opposing ends of the seesaw, but 007 is more sine nobilitate than vain. His has the affectation of morality, not a snobbery drawn out by clinging to baubles or titles or the like. Snobbery about snobbery. With violence. Superiority is achieved through deed, not via acquisition, covetousness and gaudiness: a theme well-trodden. James Bond has an ambivalent attitude to his 00 status, albeit miffed when it’s taken off him in the next book. In the not-too-distant future he will tersely refuse a knighthood. We’ve just been through Bond’s polite-but-bored reaction to his family history and now we have the chapter that emphasises the contrast between hero and villain, setting up Bond’s infiltration of an otherwise impregnable mountaintop lairrrr not by all-out assault (yet) but through indulgent flattery. What a tangled web is woven. Are these things really about basic Good vs. Evil, or just human flaws vs. grotesque exaggerations of human flaws?

     

    Requisite Fleming animal kingdom violence in what Bond sees before meeting Sable Basilisk, and reassurance that the writer is back on form with the description of the younger man as physically normal – at least, not unappealing –  shorthand “good”. A person’s activity during WWII being Fleming’s consistent convenient signal to the contemporaneous reader of the morals of a character, a technique he deliberately subverted and deconstructed with Dexter-Smythe, this Sable Basilisk did decent things and therefore is lovely. Not only does War hangover propel many of his plots, but it also swiftly establishes “good” and “bad”, or at least “flawed” and “absurdly flawed”. Finding a place, a role, be it for people or for nations, in the post-War period is endemic to the Bonds: is this why many a modernised continuation rings only a cash register, rather than “true”?

     

    Bond comparing the atmosphere of the College of Arms to a University common room makes one wonder what his experiences at the University of Geneva were actually like, although one trusts to this Mr Cole to inform us in due course.

     

    “Snobbery and vanity positively sprawl through our files…” Perceptive chap, this Sable Basilisk, which is just as well as Fleming is unlikely to want to defame him and bring on yet more crippling litigation. Seems to have sized Bond up as an intelligence operative, for a start. The amusing lecture about the nature of the work and the baser instincts of the desperate is re-emphasised quite devastatingly later on, and breaks off here with the crucial mingling of avarice, greed, snobbery and vanity. Throw in nuclear extortion and you’ve made a potential Bond villain out of anyone who tries drawing up their family tree in the vain (all meanings) hope that they’re related to someone famous. According to “the internet” I could claim a very distant kinship with Charles Taylor. Not sure I want to possess his coat of arms; too literal an interpretation.

     

    In relation to the diffidence of Sable Basilisk about the place the College of Arms has in the great scheme of things, Bond’s affirmation is delivered “staunchly”. Whilst this may just be politeness, there’s equally so a character point. After all, he is on a particular person’s secret service. Not a revolutionary, nor an iconoclast, but neither a dunderheaded flag-waver: a creation of a writer not unwilling to poke the structures of the state every now and again, keeping those at arm’s length whilst drawing out the personalities within.

     

    Another Fleming trope perceptible, then: over the course of the books we are actually told very little in depth about the Secret Service as an entity (significantly less than the political infighting and infrastructure of SMERSH or SPECTRE), instead focusing on a handful of characters within it; similarly with Leiter as opposed to being given much about the inner workings and / or politics of the CIA, or Draco in relation to the Union Corse. People are valued; institutions are either gently mocked – as here with the College of Arms, or Shrublands or Blades (say) – or much more commonly feared and to be foughtEton, Sandhurst, Rowe and Pitman Mr Big’s gang, The Spangled Mob, SMERSH, SPECTRE, Goldfinger’s hood’s conference and even Scaramanga’s lower-rent one, all remorseless in their organisation and collective, anonymising nature. With Leiter, one doesn’t get the feeling that Bond is “working with the CIA / Pinkertons / the US Marines or whoever the hell it is Leiter’s rented himself out to this time”; he’s working with the individual, Felix Leiter, as much as he was with (say) Quarrel. A belief in the strength of the individual rather than a hive mentality wins the day. It might be a Room 39 offshoot – Fleming personally prized for imaginative wartime schemes against the relentless German war machine (possibly). It also suggests that “Carte Blanche” and “Solo” aren’t bad titles at all. Not surprising that every time Mr Gardner has 007 joining a group of others, it always ends badly. Flaw in the character: he’s not keen on structures. Bit selfish, really.

     

    vain? “Self-centred” is harder to deny. A mistrust of planning and organisation that subjugates persona, certainly.

     

    The one notable time where he is patently an obedient cog in a larger machine, is You Only Live Twice, and there’s some slight reversal of the norm as the organisation into which 7777 is subsumed is more rigorous than the villain’s. By the time we reach Japan, Blofeld’s organisation is blown and whilst he has the Black Dragon Society at his disposal, it’s not the structure that SPECTRE had and Blofeld uses them primarily as the domestic help. The alien environment into which Bond is dropped isn’t just Japan: it’s the requirement to behave within the confines of Tanaka’s initial disapproval and 007’s patent discomfort at being obliged to operate within the framework both of delicate diplomacy and the Japanese secret service itself and not go off and make it up as he goes along. That’s partly what is so discomfiting about that book, unsettling environments in abundance. That and the dead wife thing. More “next time”.

     

    “Remember that Thunderball affair about a year ago? Only some of it leaked into the papers…” Including the designated codename within SIS, it seems, as well as Blofeld’s identity. That’s no leak; that’s a gush. Look ye, Assange – you have no purpose; it happens anyway. “Now, how did you come to hear of him?” I refer the dishonourable gentleman to his own answer. As for the “about a year ago”, hang on a mo. Thunderball was expressly June 1959. We’re about to be reminded that Blofeld was born on 28 May 1908 (…yeah, yeah) and is “now 54”. Christmas on the horizon, Ursula Andress kicking about Piz Gloria, we’re obviously in the late autumn of 1962. What has Bond achieved in three years, beyond persecution of German viniculturalists and motel arson? No wonder he was feeling unappreciated. Went and cured that disenchantment by rescuing a skittish loony, and that I suppose does give insight into the allure of Tracy: she gives him something to do to alleviate soulcrushing boredom. A rock-solid reason to marry. Better than the one I had, admittedly.

     

    I’m sure Blofeld’s thrilled by having his cover blown by his lawyers in the opening sentence of their letter. Top work there, boys. You had one job. One job. An object lesson in the significance of client confidentiality, this book. Admittedly, they have to cope with the name “Gumpold-Moosbrugger”, wisely changed for the film to avoid the second half being mistaken by its leading man for a suburb of Brisbane or refreshment delivered via tinnies (Science Fact!). Not totally sure why Bleuville is changed for Bleuchamp, other than it being “the French form of Blofeld”, which I suppose it might be, but to what end? He’s patently not French, in any iteration. Might as well opt for Bluerinse, as indeed he did in Diamonds are Forever. Uncertain about the “Gumpold” thing too, although that might just be the copy I’m using.

     

    The letter makes mention of Augsburg, and there’s another reference to come, and I’m reminded of an oddity in the film when it’s apparently this mistake by the College of Arms that partly blows Bond’s cover (that and all the knobbing), causing 007 to look terribly confused, although that might have been Young George trying to remember how to work a dunny. Wonder why they picked this, rather than have Blofeld simply remember that it’s (nearly) the same chap who exploderated his toy volcano and fed his boyf to some grumpy fish.

     

    The discussion about how Sable Basilisk supplements his income – which would be a corrupt backhander save for the fact that he has a normal face and is therefore a nice person – seems (as much of this does) to be Fleming transposing a conversation that amused him. Colonel Smithers, the Faberge dealer in The Property of a Lady, whoever it was that force-fed him yoghurt and a multitude of others through the books: the voice of the “expert” to add background veracity to the tale, a frequently-deployed trick. The College of Arms sounds stingy and under the control of something fabulously kinky calling itself Garter King of Arms but, of course, institutions is ‘orrible but individual peoples is lovely.

     

    Fleming appears to have done his own extensive research into Blofeld’s background too, by picking up a copy of Thunderball and reheating scraps of that, lots of stuff there about his Greek mother (presumably called Thetis). Plagiarising himself, safer ground but a bit of a mindbender nonetheless, as is the repeated antiquated spelling of the word connection as “connexion”, at least in the edition I’m flicking through. Be that as it may, it seems thin that the great organising power that is Blofeld doesn’t know about S.B.’s unauthorised enquiries – and positively anorexic that the ostensible “in” for Bond is a conviction that Blofeld, the great information-broker, won’t know about the de Bleauville lobes crisis. Hang on: he’s going to the trouble of setting himself up as a right old Count and he’s not going to be aware of that? “…there’s no reason why he should know what physical characteristic we’re looking for in this interview.” There is a reason: he’s Ernst Stavro Frickin’ Blofeld and umpteen paragraphs of Thunderball were spent telling us he has an innate capacity for finding things out and then using them to his advantage. Sometimes these books are maw-crammed with detail and then sometimes… sometimes they’re just shamelessly winging it, aren’t they?

     

    “A certain royal family have minute, vestigial tails”. Oh go on, do tell. If it’s our lot, no wonder they always look so pained. On Her Majesty’s Secret Cervix? Surely not.

     

    The Identicast – yay gadgetry – running through Bond’s mind – yay, er, weirdness, although I accept that he can’t carry it around – reminds Bond that Blofeld has very pronounced lobes, although it might be that Q pressed the wrong button again. They were bound to be either grotesquely non-existent or massive, because he’s a villain and therefore a freak. Identicast’s not going to prove its worth anyway once you meet him, Bond. There you were, expecting a blunt bruiser and what you get is an effete, silvery-haired gent. At least that’s one thing about Blofeld the films did get right, albeit in a slightly peculiar order. They never did show us his monkey’s paw hairy heel which is a great shame as I understood Charles Gray had tremendously shapely ankles.

     

    “But, even if Blofeld agreed to see me, how in hell could I play the part?” Dubbed, probably.

     

    “I don’t  know the difference between a gule and a bezant…” – any port in a storm, eh? Calm down, Felix – “…I’ve never been able to make out what a baronet is.” No believer in the honours system (nor is M), Bond’s ultimate refusal of a knighthood is telegraphed, and his creator’s disdain for the same is about to be lectured to us. “You can easily mug up a few popular books on heraldry. It’s not difficult to be impressive on the subject.” Not exactly overselling the College of Arms, is he? First it’s necessary off-the-books payments to be able to afford the Turkish tobacco, now it’s an admission that it’s largely a con exercised against those rendered gullible by the power of their delusional vanity.  Slightly forked of tongue, this basilisk.

     

    “Who am I exactly?” Big question, that. Efficient agent unburdened by regret? Romantic and noble hero to a troubled girl? Blofeld is certain about his identity; Bond’s is more of a debate, one he’s prepared to open by imminently paraphrasing his question with “Who exactly am I?” If defined by what he does, do his two narratives – Blofeld and Tracy – convincingly mesh? Query whether they are meant to until the final scene when “repercussion” raises its violent head and the dual plots collide, tragically. Although Tracy does help Bond at the end of his initial escape from Piz Gloria (in massively coincidental circumstances), she nimbly steps back onto her own storyline swiftly thereafter. The “drama” of the film in having Tracy captured by Blofeld, giving Bond and Draco reason to attack Piz Gloria beyond saving chickens from catching Hen-AIDS, arguably erodes the shock impact of the one story viciously interrupting the other; there had already been a merging. In two minds about this: is it more callous – and more tragic – for Blofeld and Bunt to murder a woman they “knew” or someone who is effectively an innocent stranger? Either is very naughty, but perhaps the impact of bitter and unavoidable repercussion is greater in the book as the film Tracy is a consistent participant in Bond’s world for most of its second half, villain-baiting and goon-killing, thereby arguably more adoptive of its associated risks.

     

    Still, you don’t hire Diana RIgg and leave her in a Munich hotel. You hire her to recite poetry at dawn.

     

    The tirade about buying respectability through titles is pretty vicious, and worse than that when commenting on how women react. “The idea of suddenly becoming a “lady” in their small community is so intoxicating that the way they bare their souls is positively obscene.” Bearing mind that the author’s wife was previously married to a Viscount, a status duly stripped from her, and since it’s easy to establish that Ian Fleming is expressly no believer in such façade, one does speculate whether there’s a coded message in this vituperation that were Fleming ever to be offered a gong, he’d spurn it not just because he doesn’t value the system – likening it to a consultation about V.D is a “hint” – but also because doing so would wind the Mrs up something rotten, leaving her with “essential meagreness” and “basic inferiority”. Disgraced Contessa or disgraced Viscountess? Mighty fine coincidence. By this stage, probably mighty fine enemy action.

     

    Speculation too far? Consider this passage: “He no longer admires the material things, riches and power. He is now 54, as I reckon it. He wants a new skin.” Villain, or author? He wants to change and inevitably it’s bloody James Bond who comes along and thwarts his aspiration. Right then, sonny: one of us has to alter and if the requirement to bang out your tiresome exploits to public demand, exhaustedly, means it’s never going to be me, then it’s going to have to be you. Accordingly, over the course of this book and the next two, Bond is deprived of much – his wife, his status, his memory, his mind, his liberty – until he emerges a simpler, blunter and harder man divested of the baggage, and still in no desire of a knighthood. Still James Bond, but stripped of the unnecessary and the acquired. Wish-fulfilment again, but of a very, very dark sort.

     

    “He wants a new skin.” Hang on: Blofeld’s got a new skin. Slightly syphilitic, but otherwise minty-fresh. Had he not got ideas above himself and instructed incompetent lawyers to correspond with the College of Arms, no-one would ever have found him. One suspects this is the “point”. Achilles is only as strong as his heel, after all. Bond’s Achilles heel – Tracy? Definitely a weak spot, fated to be pressed or tripped over, a visceral image upon which to close this 007thChapter.

     

    Consistent themes tickled, plotting a mite sloppy but with no holding back in expressing “a view”, this 007th Chapter might not have physical action, hot babes and gunplay, but it’s a blistering attack on valueless ornaments and the worthlessness of those who would value them. If you are noble in nature, demonstrated (let’s say) by rescuing a bird with a wing down and thereafter suppressing your fundamental characteristics by actually marrying her, even when it goes “a bit wrong” and nobility of nature – is Bond ever more chivalrous than in this book? – can’t prevent bad things from happening, you’re still considerably less vile than the man who fakes his nobility.

     

    Unless, of course, you don’t mean it, you don’t exhibit true nobility but instead marry someone totally unsuitable who you don’t really love, in an expedient but futile and unconvincing attempt to change your harum-scarum high-living, fast driving, pill-popping and devil-may-care gambling. Then… then you’ll be made to suffer, and deserve to, Contessa.

     

    Ooh, twist ending.

     

    James Bond will return in the 007th Chapter of You Only Live Twice. The greatest trick Jacques Stewart ever pulled was convincing the World he did exist.

    Helmut Schierer @ 2015-02-09
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