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  1. The 007th Chapter: Icebreaker – Rivke

    A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart – this time cunningly presented as a rerun. It’s summer time after all…

     

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    A famous episode of Hancock’s Half Hour is “The East Cheam Drama Festival”. Hancock, Hattie Jacques, Bill Kerr and Daniel Craig Sid James grapple “Look Back in Hunger” and “The Life of Ludwig van Beethoven and the songs that made him famous” and, titweepingly magnificently, “Jack’s Return Home.” In a coruscating exposure of the zeitgeist, poverty-stricken Joshua (Hancock) and wife Martha (Hattie) are menaced by landlord Jasper Stonyheart (Sid). It’s complex. Their son Jack is presumed dead – impaled by “the Zulus” – but Martha claims she insured his life, so all is well. Inopportunely, Jack (Bill) returns home, penniless. So Martha shoots him. ©BBC Worldwide, amongst others (prob’ly).

     

    Hancock: Aha, me old darlin’, you’ve shot Jack.

    Hattie: Yes, and I took out a policy on you as well, so watch it.

    Hancock: Wait a minute, I have a surprise for you. For thirteen years, you have thought I am Joshua, your husband.

    Hattie: Well, aren’t you?

    Hancock: No; stand back while I take my wig off. There…

    Hattie: Good heavens! Frederick!

    Hancock: Yes, Frederick. What do you say to that, Jasper Stonyheart?

    Sid: I’m not Jasper, I’ve been wearing this wig and pretending to be Jasper. This is who I really am. There!

    Hancock: Good heavens! Jonathan!

    Sid: Yes, Jonathan. I didn’t trust either of you, especially you, Martha.

    Hattie: And you were right not to, Jonathan, for you see, I am not Martha!

    Hancock: Not Martha?

    Hattie: No! There, now do you recognise me?

    Hancock: Gad! It’s Gladys.

    Hattie: Yes, Gladys, the girl you wronged.

    Hancock: Then who pray is the poor wretch we’ve killed?

    Bill: Fear not! You didn’t kill me! I was saved by my silver cigarette case. There! Do you not recognise me without the wig?

    Sid: Yes, I should have guessed – Ronald!

     

    Welcome to Icebreaker.

     

    We’re in a hotel room. Again. A formula emerges.

     

    Some label Bond “formulaic”, usually to disparage the films and/or books as poorer endeavours than ventures that would assault their Gran to grab a tenth of Bond’s money attention money. Optimistic rivals occasionally claim to better 007 with “reality” or “pop music”, then implode into obscurity whilst Bond rumbles on, chiselling the best ideas from their lukewarm corpses but otherwise as untroubled in its way as a triple-hulled supertanker is by one sickly anchovy. “Formula” – the disdain clinging to 007 films for decades, grot from the Bond factory family, complacent and undeserving of serious critique or awards. Populist with a capital Pee, consumer goods as soulful as a hubcap in a hedge, made for a stunningly plebby denominator that can’t do hard Italian neorealist cinema and sneered at as anti-artistic crap. F’rexample, every decade Sight & Sound conducts a poll of the greatest films of all time: A View to a Kill’s never on it. Some say that’s their loss (the same some who can’t have seen any other film ever made, mind), but indicative of an attitude as lofty as the hillock of cash sat upon by those making 007.

     

    From their respective vertiginous positions they chose to ignore each other but more especially us, we poor sods in the gloomy valley between, their hearing out of range to our pleas that whilst we craved entertainment and Ryszard Bugajski retrospectives don’t always hit the spot, we wanted something we weren’t ashamed of as routine, apathetic old gunbarrels. Then they nobly dismantled the formula by binning all that Q, Moneypenny, SPECTRE and Aston Martin dross… um… by “writing” a “script” rather than a machine-tooled overblown second unit exercise strung together by tawdry penis gags, and the crevasse was bridged for the good of mankind and several tax-efficient corporate ventures. Our intelligence recognised rather than abused, we crawled up the crevasse and took in the view over a couple of billion dollars, some of those Oscar things and an overstretched metaphor. The revolution promised/threatened by Casino Royale turned out mild. The films are still Bond films, all teats and watches and other tired guff, the main change being the enthralling pain carved into little Daniel’s basalt face. But that’s it. One wonders why they didn’t bother with these gentle modifications any earlier, but that only fills one’s spittoon brimful to glistening overflow in contemplation of how much of a lost opportunity was The Living Daylights, say.

     

    A reason the envelope wasn’t pushed very far might lie in the word “formula” being reappropriated by those against whom it was used pejoratively, like “geek” or “queer” or “Bond fan”. A pre-approved question regularly half-volleyed at those who emit Bond product when they have Bond product to emit is “Why is this formula so successful?”, at which that nice Barbara person doesn’t turn puce with rage but shrugs, sighs, chants “Cubby” fifteen times and mops her brow with one of The Actor Pieurs Blimblom’s butch cravats, or Connery’s hirsute merkin. DVD menus suggest you’re watching Bond v.19.0 (if you’re quite, quite mad) rather than something distinctive, with its own qualities. They are proud to be formula, morally and financially (…more the latter), disarming the critic who would otherwise use it against them. We’re here, we’re formula; thanks for the cash and see you in three years. This route requires expensive films of high quality so they can pretend they’re not formulaic, otherwise we’re fed sad rubbish like Licence to Kill, but the shrieking the internet did when Mr Craig lolloped into view to Destroy! Bond! seems even more misguided now. In the interests of keeping one’s audience engaged = the interests of keeping one’s audience = in the interests of grasping their money, the formula might nudge out a new product line, but it’s the same underneath. It’s still Coke, however Diet or Cherry or New or Lupin or Crack it says it is.

     

    Which brings one to Icebreaker, and my perpetual bafflement. I have issues with Icebreaker.

     

    Have issues with many things, reality and brevity two of them, but I’ve never felt a Bond (ho ho) with – or in – it. It might be OK – it’s distinctive, some interesting things occur and it’s massively researched, with every ounce of that piledriven into one; I just doubt I can like it as Bond. This isn’t merely shaking up the sys-Tem; it gathers the formula’s test tubes and smashes them, then doesn’t mop up the corrosive mess, instead letting that pollute books to come. A more radical shift than Eon ever inflicted, yet it seems generally well-regarded as continuation 007, often cited as one of Gardner’s best. Insofar as the Eon (cough) revolution put the character of Bond central to what happens and why (Fleming in spirit, if not precise execution) his strengths/faults determining what occurs, this takes the polar opposite route, marginalising him to the point he doesn’t need to be there for this to be told; a man perpetually surprised, at the whim of both the plot and every other character running rings around him. Overwhelmed by what’s going on, he doesn’t understand it, which doesn’t help me understand it, and keeps getting himself rescued; he’s not Bond, he’s the girl. Strengths (some) and faults (a coachload) he possesses, but are they James Bond’s, and do they matter?

     

    Change too far? As a spy story it’s a vexing mish of the dull and the mad, but James Bond it might not be. It’s not continuing Bond, rather (snow-)ploughing its own furrow. For some, their enthusiasm for it is because it is not more of the same, hence the high regard. It’s certainly not more of the pastiche quasi-book, quasi-film of Gardner’s preceding two; it appears to try to establish a new norm, wiping the Bond blackboard clean of formula equations and then slowly scraping its nails down it. Not breaking the ice, but the mould. That Mr Gardner repeats the “Bond in a dodgy gang” idea several times suggests he thought it a good idea. That no other Bond author has, is also telling.

     

    My frown is this: it’s not that it has a less classic/tired structure than Licence Renewed or For Special Services. Can’t be credible objective criticism, and I admire Fleming’s capacity to muck about, shoving at us From Russia with Love, You Only Live Twice and other wacky structures, to such an extent it’s hard to identify a stock architecture for his tales, save one keystone – James Bond.  A lone blunt instrument who gets by on booze, pills and cigarettes and, albeit acquainted with the trappings of the Post-War (espion-)age, tends to win using his willy, a knife or, if all else fails (usually does), a solid textbook strangling, tactics he could have used in the 1930s, a bliss-dripped time before women, Koreans and homosexuality spoiled things.  James Bond, a dodgy representation of needling, lazy prejudices, is the focus; even when he barely appears. Whatever novelty Fleming devises to tell his tale, there is that critical fixed point. The Spy who Loved Me is about him, not Wanton Viv. At no point is Bond subjugated into a “group”. On occasion there’s a gay romp with Felix Leiter but he’s a secondary (usually unnecessary) presence; the focus is 007. Not a team player; his leisure pursuits are single-player mode. Even Bridge, it’s all about what he does. This is why he succeeds: barrelling through without much, if any, regard for anyone else.

     

    For Fleming, collaboration is bad; working with others is dismissed, sourly, the results invariably counterproductive or deadly. Collusion with Kristatos. Marriage, generally. NATO, largely responsible for Thingum Petachi getting on the ‘plane. Mr McClory. Consortia and organisations are eeeevil – SMERSH, SPECTRE, the Spangs, Mr Big’s lot, numerous hoods’ conferences – and even though Bond is a part of a machine, he operates at the fringes of insurbordination; likewise Leiter, Tanaka, Henderson in their attitude to their associates. The only one that arguably works is teaming up with the Union Corse but even that fails and is, if Never Dream of Dying is believed rather than an object of utter disbelief, ultimately deadly. Teamwork is not on the agenda: a selfish life, is Bond’s. The breakfast, the ascetic lifestyle with occasional indulgent treats, the two shirts, the fixation on some things and deliberate ignorance of others (a set narrowness of vision that manifests itself in more disagreeable ways), the will to survive – an elegy to freedoms envied in others as a child, but denied on reaching adulthood by inconsiderate GERMANS and social change, and balls to everyone else.

     

    This is how Bond breathes: a writer could shovel information at us, but does that allow the atmosphere of the character himself to corrupt us – surely the appeal of Bond above the Ken Spoons of this world – before moving onto the next traitor or SECRET COMPARTMENT? Look at Dr No – roughly five folk in it and so basic that one can lie in the garden at the “villa at Port Maria” and drink one’s self into oblivion whilst insects frolic in the hibiscus, and still feel something’s happening, a story is being told and, moreover, a character is, too. Fleming seduces his reader into accepting the obnoxious Bond; the experience of Icebreaker is of being bludgeoned into rejecting him, preferring instead the exploits of a roll-necked Falklands veteran with (twice-pagely referenced) SAS/SBS associations (…spare me your military pretensions) and – God help us – a hatchback.

     

    Hang on, you say, unwisely stopping me (some days you’re a supertanker (you are. No, you are); others, an anchovy. Guess today’s lifestyle choice): Mr Gardner states Bond is no team player. Can’t find it now, hard to spot amongst the thinly-sliced ham, flash-bangs and radiophones the size of a bus, but it’s there. No insight on your part, Jimothy. True, my fine fishy friend, but this isn’t just a quirk. Subsume 007 into a team and two risks emerge. Firstly, fighting for space, breath, suppresses the “individualistic” elements of 007 so what remains is requisite “action”, the duller gunplay, which could be any middle-aged man doing it. A suspicious mind suggests Mr Gardner engineered this so that there wasn’t room amidst the Crimson Fireballs! and ludicrous changes of identity to articulate unpleasant views about the physically/sexually/nationally disabled, which nasty Mr Fleming probably shared but nice Mr Gardner might not have. Secondly, if sketchy and insufficiently strong to match Bond’s colourful array of baity prejudices, the other team members envelop him in a collective meh, and drag him down.  The trouble with a blizzard of characters is that Bond is stuck in a drift and it’s hard to make him out, regardless of then loading a slight tale with all that changing of A, about whom one is given paragraphs few to bother, into B, about whom one cares less and then possibly back to A, or it might have been M; I got lost and cared not. There are people in this book who if they make it through 24 hours not having thrice changed name, it’s a day wasted.

     

    Fleming never diluted Bond to a bit-part. He wrote himself in; 007 had to be there, otherwise the subjective fantasy floundered. Adventure incidental; Diamonds are Forever is a hopeless “story” but there’s overload of Bond “ness”. Mr Gardner writes third-person adventures, so Fleming’s wishlist avatar isn’t required. In Icebreaker, it could be Ken Spoon. Might be more enjoyable; one wouldn’t spend the book frustrated, waiting for 007 to ectually appear. Crowbarred-in reference to Royale-les-Eaux doesn’t provide substance, when balanced by this person’s knowledge of “the Tramps’ and Annabel’s circuit”; you’re left wondering who the man pretending to be James Bond is, far more than one cares for the multiple transitory identities of others. It’s not “James Bond in John Gardner’s Icebreaker” – it’s “John Gardner’s Icebreaker”, distinctly. As the point around whom madness occurs, the central character needs firmer footing. Arguably the purpose is showing 007 making (spectacular) errors and some of (what… might be?) the plot appears to be entrapment of Bond; for that to resonate and excite, the man entrapped must be Bond, surely? Otherwise this tells a tale that wouldn’t and couldn’t happen to him, just some other berk. Not saying the ectual Bond is intelligent – an intelligent man wouldn’t think like that and Fleming derides pseudo-intellectualism (we wouldn’t get on) – but he’s not daft. This chap believes anything, and enrages one as he blunders about, redundantly. The electro-lobotomy of The Man with the Golden Gun eventually set in.

     

    It is reported that this was one of Mr Gardner’s favourites, possibly because he’s barely written about that horrid James Bond. One could propose motives; that Licence Renewed exposed what spies are – pie-munching proles who sleep in their cars; that For Special Services is Aren’t Bond Films Stupid?; and Icebreaker…  too much happens but little ectual Bond occurs and no-one is what they seem, including – the penny drops – James Bond. A pivotal moment in literary 007: push out a book that hasn’t got the lead in it; can Bond “work” without those uncomfortably racist school-bully things about cripples? Is what 007 does as significant as who he is? No. He is an interesting character; it’s fascinating that a reprehensible git became so popular. As much of a stunt – I said stunt – of a novel as The Spy who Loved Me, there’s more rip-roaring action spectacle here than in, say, From Russia with Love, but it’s difficult to engage with something so… soulless, something that contemplates not frailty, vanity, decay, loss and guilt but a “Pains-Wessex ‘Speedline’ line-throwing pack, which would deliver 275 metres of cable over a distance of 230 metres with speed and accuracy”. A long rope, then.  One that will get itself half a chapter. The world of things is easy; one can fill so much space reeling off instructions. They need no backstory, no character. The world of people, though, is much trickier. One has to bother so with making their specifications work. Where Fleming had memorable characters, Gardner has unforgettable stuff. The yearning for a lost and simpler time, the substratum of Fleming, is no longer mined; that pit’s shut down and we’ve been prodded into to the modern world because that’s better, apparently. This man now covets; Bond’s disdainful, Calvanistic shame at (say) having bought a Rolex is absent. Possession of material branded goods is now not open to criticism. How very 1980s.

     

    One argument runs thus: here starts Bond v2.0, via the medium of Gardner, a soft introduction to Captain Boldman. James Bond, a ridiculous man displaced in modern times – hey, just look at the last two efforts for proof! – could only last two or three more books at best. Exhausted; nowhere left for him, his wretched lifestyle, attitudes and experiences. His story, such as it was, was told. Meanwhile, Boldman stirs (arthritically), ready to adopt the codename mantle, dovetailing into full transition by about Scorpius, if not earlier. From Bond Identity to Bond Legacy. Accordingly, criticising Icebreaker for not being the same plays to the cheap seats and is kneejerk fish-in-a-barrel-lazy, misguidedly assuming the “not” in “not Bond” is a negative. There wasn’t much Bond left to be. It’s not as if any other continuationist has proved it, even in setting theirs in the Dark Ages. James Bond got in the way of John Gardner, and the books from this point entertain in watching their struggle play out. Just banging out the likes of Licence Renewed over again, meeting set expectations of “Bond”, would retreat into the throttling limits of one’s own pastiche that blighted the films over twenty-five years post-Moonraker, and look how that ended in 2002. Icebreaker is a statement, and if one doesn’t like it, at least one’s provoked. If it fails, it fails noisily and noticed. Well, it’s an argument… one upon which I change my mind as often as some apparently change their names. Surely though, the counter-argument runs, a Bond book has to have Bond in it?

     

    Whatever criticisms one has of Mr Benson’s books – I curate a collection, some polite – he is interested in Bond, perhaps in love. Mr Faulks is wary, lest it hamper his credibility and Mr Boyd delivers the embittered alcoholic Bond was bound to become, albeit questionable we wanted to read that. But all write “Bond” as events occurring to and because of a distinct central protagonist, even Mr Deaver in his own little way. Here, flashes of the man, but soon glossed over in favour of telling us that Aarne Tudeer’s changed sex again, or what today’s name for the KGB is, rushing past – in shame? – the odious cruelty at the core of 007, to get to the next impactless turncoat or lunch buffet. To witness the Bond of Goldfinger, Lesbo-curer, intolerant savage Id and all round tit, taking part in a team that collapses because of him would have been a hoot. However, this interloper tries to be everyone’s chum. The Gardner assertion that he’s no team player is contradicted by this guy’s desire to have the gang pull together. Don’t fight; just meet. A sit down to mediate our dispute rather than a crack in the mush with the rough end of a watch; better, yes? Here: have some shortbread. Loving your Damart. And is that real Janet Reger? What a merry dance.

     

    Clinging to the probably hopeless theory that the Gardners, at least the early ones, were subversion rather than “tries, but… no”, after a book hilariously savaging the novels and another the films, we get one gunning for James Bond. Put this “spy” in an espionage situation – (I was going to write “realistic” but thirty “Finnish Nazis” hiding in a hole… hmm) – and see him flounder. Not just that: the Bond atmosphere is attacked. Fleming wrote short, blunt tales of perverse, self-centred derring-do hero/self-worship with little-to-no political ramification, their action sparse and (generally) done in days. Few have events last long – perhaps OHMSS or The Man with the Golden Gun – but most go under a fortnight from Bond unleashed to Bond killing the foreign untermensch – hurrah! There isn’t time in the design, in the rhythm of the telling, to bombard a reader with a cast of thousands.

     

    This, though, delivering a labyrinthine, Le Carre-esque vibe of masses of fleetingly-seen (and fleetingly occupied) names, duplicitous superiors, a desensitising assault by abbreviations, secret identities and reams of dialogue about boring things, needs a slower build than the short, sharp shockery a Bond timeline allows. To have this happen over a very short time, and with the inevitability that Bond always wins (Tracy dying is a win; just me?) permits little of it to stick. The villain is incidental, the least weighty to date; but so’s the hero, much more of a prob. If Bond is no threat to the villain, then he is no threat to Bond and it’s not just because Tudeer can’t decide on his own name that makes him anonymous. That Fleming’s Bond fought extremes of character is because he was an extreme of character himself, a necessary symbiosis of the absurd. Missed, here. Wilfully?

     

    It stumbles along but, in so doing, something works loose. Bond out of shape, but in SHAPE. Fleming’s warning about collaborations came true. This “continues” that idea but was it intended? The necessity to repeat it at least four more times with yet more overelaborate but underpowered “espionage” tales with characters one cares little for renders this closer to Mission: Impossible; call Icebreaker’s hero “Ethan Hunt” (rhyming slang for something very crude) and does it work better? Undervillained asexual face-swapping shielding a negligible plot, so – yes. Experimenting with a new formula isn’t a bad idea: is the formula any good? I remain to be convinced. I want to read what James Bond is, however offensive that can be, and what he is influences what he does. If one neglects that first bit, there’s “stuff” “happening” to “A Man”. Get that anywhere. Any “spy” story. There’s loads of those. Do I want a “spy” story when I read a Bond? Is “Bond” really spy fiction?

     

    It’s Bond, Jim, but not as we know it? The 007th Chapter…um…formula was predicated on what made Bond. I too must deviate; seems the mot juste. Is FishbarrelIcebreaker James Bond at all?

     

     

    The 007th Chapter – Icebreaker: Rivke

     

    We’re in a hotel room. The fourth so far. By chapter seven. About a dozen more hotels have been name-checked. Bond’s flirtation with that Paula Vacker (later revealed as Eva Braun, then Doug Podge) wasn’t about the sailor on a cigarette pack or nocturnal fauna, but the quality of Helsinki’s hotels. Christ. John, lovey, it’s an obsession. As a specialsome demonstration of the mania, this is a long chapter confined to one room. Treat! Great! Why don’t those words rhyme?

     

    Hi, welcome to the Sykes-Fairburn Suite and our away day creative thinkgush. First, bit o’housekeeping – ignore the pile of banknotes in the corner. I know that’s why we’re really here but don’t let that blur the unbridled visioning, yeah?

     

    However, be fair, “Bond” must rest; he’s had a fight with a man going by the stumbles-off-the-tongue description of “Carbuncle-Nose”, and just survived a snowplough attack on the SKIP SAAB, escaping only through guile, wit and an eye-drying arsenal that robs a signature incident of tension. The SAAB’s finest hour (it kept going for a whole hour… ‘mazin) and just as well: next time he certainly needed that Bentley, despite it cornering like a shed; SAAB suspension couldn’t cope with computers heavier even than your Mum and wider even than… I dunno, you got a sister?

     

    Kingsley, leave the mini-bar alone. There’s time for a soft drink and a light bite at the end. We’ll need it! Please use the coupons in your delegate pack.

     

    Bond had “acquired the knack of feeding problems into the computer of his mind”. Gardner Bond is a bighead, but big it’d have to be: have you seen the size of his micro? Fnarr. No, John, fnarr. It’s a double-entendre. No, that’s not a type of commando knife. Look, when I say you’ve some mighty fine hydraulics on display, John, I don’t really mean I want a blow-by-blow description. Blow-by-blow. No? Oh, come along. No, not along there. Wipe it up.

     

    I know several of you haven’t met, because some of you are dead: not a hurdle to a valid contribution, yeah? Remember, everyone’s equal. Don’t look at Raymond like that Kingsley; our ground rule is there’s no judgment in the room. Very little at all. Let’s start with an… icebreaker…

     

    “…his mind was active with a maze of conflicting puzzles.” He’s not alone. Who is what is where is when and how and… whether? So many questions asked in this book, and of it. Fleming went overboard on his! exclamation! marks! but that suggested something was happening. When the prevailing punctuation is “?” instead, it’s an infliction on the reader’s momentum, an enforced pause for thought, with coffee and sandwiches. Where Fleming swept, Gardner fidgets. Might indicate too many ideas to cram in, but the risk of raising so much quizzus interruptus is that only a tenth of the questions are answered and the remainder are just thrown out to try to keep a distracted reader engaged, trying to impose a tension that both a potty plot, an low-power lead and a determination to have much of it happen indoors themselves naturally cannot. Self-feeding; possibly self-defeating. A surface-level trick, disguising that nothing much is happening. If the story made sense, I wouldn’t need to be so interrogated. Stop asking questions, John: I’m paying you to answer them. Yes, yes, former magician exercising illusion and misdirection but at some point you must stop whirling your hands about and pull the bloody rabbit from the hat. I think it might be dead. Get on with it and leave me alone. I’m not comfortable being drawn as participant into the crazed world of Icebreaker, lest I find out my real name’s Valerie and I’m made of cress, or something equally Gardner.

     

    No, Kingsley, you agreed to this and you don’t have the opportunity to say no. Yes, Raymond, no, as in Doctor. Yes, you know your Bond, don’t you? Yes, I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunity for you to tell us about it; but, later maybe. Yes, Raymond, I know that’s a line from Octopussy. Are you after a badge, or something? If someone told you there was a prize, they lied. 

     

    Regarding the break-in at Paula/Eva/Doug’s apartment, “[H]is main concern was for the girl’s safety. In the morning, a couple of telephone calls should establish that.” So, not too concerned then. Go on, you have a kip. She might be dead in a drift, but you get your sleep, you absolute winner. You are pretty decrepit, after all.  “Much more worrying was the attack on him by the snow ploughs.” So Paula/Eva/Doug, in the space of two lines, has moved from being the main concern to… not. Poor old muffin – memory shot to buggery. Along with the snow ploughs. “Someone obviously wanted him out of the game…” No, Ken, it’s all a coincidence and the book’s reliant on an abundance of those, “…just as they had wanted him out before he had even been briefed…” Uh? Can one be taken out of something before one is in’t? When one goes outside, it assumes one inside priorunto. When one is out of one’s mind, the assumption is of a previously recognisable “in”. Luck, closet, milk, Africa, plenty of things to be out of that have a co-dependent “in”. John’s raised a brainpunching concept with this notion of being out before one is in, or whether one was ever in at all. Bit like 007 and this book. This isn’t Gardner’s Bond, it’s Schroedinger’s Prat. Reality collapses.

     

    … bit o’fun to energise, gonna brainbelch what to do with this formula. Blue-sky paradigms, yeah.  John P can be our – mmpff – biographer – mmpff – and write things on the flipchart. Please put your CBEs, OBEs, Knighthoods into this SECRET COMPARTMENT and remove the Steel Daggers from each other’s backs. Phones away. John G, you too. Yes, of course I can still see your mobile radio telephone scrambler: it’s the size of a washing machine. It is also a washing machine? Well, whatever. No, there’s no need to spend an hour telling us how it works. Please don’t do that. John G, I did say please. PLEASE. Oh, for chuff’s sake…

     

    “Dudley… had indicated his mistrust of Koyla Mosolov. Bond had other ideas…” I’d drop those other ideas, J; Dudley’s right. Ah, Clifford Dudley, we barely knew ye, all fightin’ and Scottishness and… he’s Bond, isn’t he? In a few glimpses, seems more in line with expectation/demand than Kip Keen Kenneth here. OK, Dudley is described as “short” but that can’t disqualify him these days. “…the discovery that Mossad’s agent, Rivke Ingber, appeared to be the daughter of a wanted Finnish SS officer – was much more alarming.” As well as unlikely. So what level of alarm and concern are we at now? Paula/Eva/Doug’s situation is getting shoved right down the list. We might have reached Defcon Daft. He’s definitely going to need a warm milky drink before he gets any shut-eye tonight.

     

    …and no commitment to implement what we put out there. Obviously, we’re not ectually going to do these crazy things, are we? Are we, John G? ARE WE, JOHN G? Are we??? Thank you. Think the unthinkable. No, Kingsley, not drink the undrinkable.

     

    The set-up of Rivke’s character might be feasible but it seems so very, very not. It’s probably no more unreal than the biography of Tatiana Romanova, say, or Pussy Galore but the problem here is having gone so heavy on “real” with paragraph on paragraph about a SAAB driving course – like one of those Gift Packages to hooley a Ferrari for a day, but massively crapper – and all those abbreviations, that when something lunatic comes along it’s harder to accept it. It increases the odds that it cannot be right. There’s no cosseting of the reader into the heightened world, provoking them into accepting a grand absurdity because one has been corrupted by a million minor ones beforehand; instead, Gardner ladles wild lurches between two dimensions. It’s fact fact fact fact girl’s head is a melon fact fact fact fact fact hang on, did he say melon? fact fact fact.

     

    What’s that, Raymond: write the unwriteable? Well, OK, but is unwriteable actually a word? John P’s underlined it in squiggly red…

     

    “There were several answers to the questions facing Bond when he went to sleep.” Such as What’s happened to Paula/Eva/Doug? No? Poor girl. Not that we’ve been told much about her, save for a love of jazz, sailing and Eric Ambler, so like Bond’s clothes she’s in her mid-seventies. “If Rivke was, in fact, the daughter of Aarne Tudeer, there could easily be a link between her and the National Socialist Action Army”. You don’t say. And… Action Army? Sounds a bit Glee Club? National Socialist Glee Club I’d watch. Choreography would be smashing. All those lederhosen… yum.

     

    …so, Jeffery, here, catch the ball. Try not to completely drop it. Oh, you did. Never mind. Don’t cry. There, dry your eyes on these thousand dollar bills. Feel better? Thought so.

     

    “…it was quite possible that Anni Tudeer was a neo-Fascist deep penetration agent working inside Mossad…” Deep penetration. Fnarr. Guess what’s going to happen to her, then. On the scale crayoned “possible”, John, where goes “quite” possible? The “quite” of “quite” good, meaning “not very” good, or the “quite” of “quite” some girth you have there Your Majesty, claiming its place at the other end? We should be told, albeit we can guess. Why not – this is all about guessing. “It was also possible that she suspected Bond’s colleagues would not be averse to withholding the information from the CIA and the KGB.” Really? Relying on that, Ken? Plot twists depend from hereon in on Bond’s assumption about others’ (in)activity in reaction to possibilities and it’s so… frail. When someone “suddenly” turns, it’s not meaningful; the only basis for understanding their character was Bond’s conveniently irrational guesswork about them, rather than effort to establish their natures otherwise, lest that obstruct the Description of Things; an untrustworthy foundation. If “Bond” is insufficiently credible as Bond to trust his judgment – he chose a SAAB – and practically all we’re given of other people is that judgment, then those others are… pfft. How can one embrace flawed supposition of their initial trustworthiness as sufficient grounds to care when they turn out not to be as nice as… as guessed? The twists when they come, blunderbussed at one’s face, defy neither expectation nor logic, as this presupposes an initial establishment of both; just belief.

     

    Now throw it to another in our circle of trust. Whoever catches it has to make a suggestion for shaking up the 007 formula. Please engage with each input:  no sneering, not even from you, Sebastian, even when “as” Ian Fleming and we all know that sneer he bloody well would. Yes, Raymond, Mary Goodnight. Yes. Have a barley sugar. OK, Jeffery, no, don’t eat the ball. Yes I know that’s another unexpected twist from you, but one that’s very hard to swallow.

     

    “Bond looked at the illuminated dial of his Rolex Oyster Perpetual.” Bond looked at his watch. “…replace the Heckler & Koch automatic under his pillow” …replace the gun under his pillow. Shocking double standards: when Bond opens “the door”, why isn’t it “the hand-carved Finnish Mingmongjiggerbogga door”? We’ve been told everything else, narrative flow interrupted every sixteen words to reel off brands of the inanimate. Why not this? You can’t get the staff. “Well, he thought, his gaze quickly travelling down her body, she is either an ultra-professional or a very natural blonde.” You duhty old man. Are those a contradictory juxtaposition? Is it suggested blondes can’t be professional? I’ve met some very professional blondes in my time. Not telling. Presumably we’re to think she’s dyed blonde her Ladythatcher. Head now full of badthink.

     

    Oh, well caught, John G! Now, what’s your suggestion…? Action Man commando mannequin with all the personality and genitalia that comes with that! Collect the SAS and/or SBS Bond! Winter Assault Fatigues Bond! Navy Captain Uniform Bond! Disney Visitor Bond! Native American Bond! Blazer and Slacks Bond! Clumsy Sexual Practice Bond – comes (as t’were) with Friend’s Young Daughter Doll! Not suitable for children of any age! ©Glidrose Publications Ltd stamped on the buttocks! Collect all those guns and equipment! All of them! ALL OF THEM! Look out for rare edition “Windcheater and Moccasins” Bond – with coffee cup accessory! Three exciting action poses (he’s a bit stiff)! New for Christmas – SAAB action kit (fragile) and hotel room playset! Look at a map! Have a meeting! Sit on the bed! Be easily deceived! Think about stuff! Think about stuff incorrectly! Gather dust! Preserve them unopened in their SECRET COMPARTMENTS and then forget all about them.

     

    Bond assesses Rivke as thirty (age, not IQ, although…); we’re just post-Falklands (and not told for whom Bond fought), so this puts her born roughly at the time Le Chiffre gave 007’s testicles a good beating off. Disconcerting. Perhaps the age-chasm is intended; Bond’s moral scabbiness will finally defoetus. Icebreaker is “an uneasy alliance” but there’s a really queasy one soon. Something else to make one uneasy: Bond’s seen a photo directly linking the girl with the NSGC but opens the door to her having put his gun away? Ooh, tradecraft. Erm… whu…? De, buh…? Yeah, but…? Bu…bu…bu? [Sigh]. I feel as slapped about as Faye Dunaway in that silly bit in Chinatown. Similar frock on, too.

     

    …thank you, John G; John P, put that on the flipchart. How many Cs in moccasin? Yes, I know it’s a snake as well. Right, John G, throw the ball. Yes, OK, call it a Crimson Fireball, if you must…

     

    “Or do you want a drink from the fridge?” He’s found the mini-bar, then. Bet he’s read the fire evacuation notice, too. Lecherous old goat. Have some Madeira, m’dear. Why not order her something from the Keloravintola Restaurant, if you can say it without putting your teeth in. They do pizzas: yes Ken, exotic. Ooh, I know young people like it but I just can’t do foreign muck, me. Murder on me spastic colon. “This is so silly.’ She looked around as though disorientated. ‘So stupid”. With you there, love, and I’m no natural blonde either. “You want to talk about it?” They proceed to, for umpteen pages. “…when she spoke it was a snap, a small explosion.” Just as well he did read the fire evacuation notice, otherwise something might have dared happen.  You can’t be too careful.

     

    … lot of nodding for William’s suggestion of “a Jensen”. Good, that builds trust. John G, you don’t look happy. OK, let’s put yours on the board too, once Sebastian’s stopped giggling. It’s two As in SAAB, isn’t it?

     

    “Bond went to the bedside table, picked up his dentures cigarette case and lighter…” He’s still smoking, then. Glimpses, mere glimpses. “It’s out of character, Rivke.” A ) Oh yes. B ) What character? “Bond put out a hand, touching her shoulder, quietly pushing her back into the chair.” Eww. “The ploy, thought Bond, dated back to the Garden of Eden…” G’an, get yer serpent out. “But who was he to argue?” James Bond, reasonably clever man unlikely to fall for such an obvious trick unless the demands of an already out-of-control story overwhelm thirty years of generally consistent characterisation: that’s who. “If a beautiful girl comes to your room in the middle of the night asking for protection…” You’ve mis-read this one, “Bond” (or I have). She was only asking if you had a spare coil for her SECRET COMPARTMENT. No? Not even in your “own version of the SAS/SBS webbing belt”? One’s bound to have rusted off the SAAB’s chassis; give her that. “But that was in the real world, not this maze of secrets and duplicity in which both Bond and RIvke lived and worked.” Well, yeah, OK, now. But Bond’s previous life was excessively straightforward. Not much duplicity in a dumping a lifetime’s supply of bird pooh onto a disabled Asian German, is there? Doesn’t sound like a compliant employment environment, this maze of secrets and duplicity, does it? I think a workplace risk assessment and an appropriate training package is long overdue. And a map.

     

    Yes John G, I know Jeffery also suggested a Subaru but I think that was as a disguise. The SAAB was a disguise too, you say? Hmmmm. John P, I see you’re not writing that up. OK, so you don’t write completely unbelievable things… I put to you “Irma Bunt in Australia”. Quite. Write it up.

     

    “Before she made any other move…” She’s not going anywhere, mate, you’ve pinned her down in an invasive way. “…it would, perhaps, be best for him to put the cards firmly on the table.” This card’s your disabled parking one. This one’s for Odd Changes in Grammatical Tense World (expired). And this one celebrates the upcoming Complete Open Goal. “A couple of weeks ago, Rivke, maybe even less – I seem to have lost all sense of time…” Yeah, chapter drags. “But you need friends, my dear.” My dear. What a creepy old sausage. “Bond heard his own voice, slightly supercilious.” That’s the hearing aid on the blink. “You seem to know so much; I should let you tell the story.” Don’t encourage him, Rivke: you’d get lost in all the abbreviations. “There were a couple of knife experts keeping an eye on her and ready to treat me like a prime joint.” They wanted to smoke you? Still, you are coming over as a bit of a fag. [You’ve no idea how sorry I am for that one. No idea.]

     

    …well caught, Kingsley! Yes, I know you saw three balls. Or beazants. That’s right, Raymond. Yes.  

     

    “I’d like to know where Paula Vacker fits into all this.” So would I. Still missing, not that he cares. Recollection has it (it’ll confuse me to go looking) that she starts as Bond’s casual chumess who he seems keen to impress in a most unBondlike way, then – duhduhduh – she’s not an advertising executive, she’s in league with “Finnish Nazis” (…somehow) and then she’s a secret agent for SUPO. And then she’s a man. “The snow ploughs indicated they wanted to remodel my car…” They were doing you a favour, and don’t deny it. “Somebody does not want me here…” It’s John Gardner.

     

    OK, so let’s just gather thoughts on how we handle the disdain for physical disability. Sebastian? Monkey paw. And a dislodged flap of skull. Who are you writing “as” there, Sebastian – Stephen King? Give me strength. OK, William… half a head removed by some falling masonry… blimey. And they survive? How? You’re not telling. Oh. No Kingsley, you can’t say “being Chinese” counts, that’s naughty. Ssh. Raymond, you told me plenty of ideas over coffee but I can’t seem to remember any of them; something about a psycho-dwarf with a concave head? And John G…yes, I know it’s not nice to mock the afflicted but it is part of the formula… I know you’re uncomfortable with it… yes, I suppose giving every single character multiple personality disorder could count.

     

    “In those days, as you know, there was a fair assortment of camp followers.” Oh, I know. So does Bond; there’s this Leiter bloke… “On the day he left Lapland, my father proposed to a young widow. Good birth, had large holdings of land…” Huuuuge tracts of land. Fnarr. No, John, huuuuge tracts, as in… oh, never mind. “She accepted, and volunteered to go with him, so becoming a kind of camp follower herself. She went through horrors you’d hardly believe.” All that white wine and constant arid shrieking. Poor cow. “Tudeer had married on the day after leaving Finland and his wife stayed near him until the collapse of the Third Reich.” Near him? Not… with? How near? Three metres, or next village? We should be told. Second thoughts, best not, otherwise this’ll go on even longer.

     

    Thanks for that precious contribution, Kingsley. OK, so how to fit “sitting and waiting for stuff to happen” onto the flipchart – need snappy monosyllables, team! Remember your readership’s level. Yes, John G? You have variations on that theme. Many. OK, but remember you only speak if you’re holding the ball. Kingsley, can you throw the ball to John G, please? No, Kingsley, to, not at

     

    “Little by little, he coaxed it out of her… (urr)… Tudeer had been autocratic, drunken, brutal and sadistic.” Letting the Nazis down there, the bad sod. Whereas Bond is admirable, traumatising a young woman by having her reveal (…possible) memories to him. Next he’ll be promising how to get her into films. His characterisation is just scribble, inconsistent paragraph on paragraph, little to latch onto and, well, like. “We got away by canoe…” I’d laugh her out of the room. Bond doesn’t. Clot. “Well, the rest was predictable enough.” If there’s any statement never Icebreaker’s epitaph, it’s that. “Bond had heard many confessions during interrogations.” Don’t get this – unless John thinks he’s a copper. “After years of experience you develop a sense about them.” Who, me? Thought you were talking about Bond. “He would have put money on Rivke’s being a true story…” Ace gambler James Bond – remember him? – will lose that money “…if only because it came out fast” – a lie – “with the minimum of detail” – another lie. I’m not sure how the canoe counts as a minimum. Amongst the obstructive detailing, where more information seems needed is the religious conversion and the recruitment by Mossad. Might be a real case for all I know – but then all I know is all I’m told, and all I’m told seems slender. So, John-John, if as you say a tale is told at length with maximum detail, it’s less likely to be believable? Erm… how many pages have we taken to get here?

     

    Are you OK, John G? Ah, you had a fully-staffed cottage hospital in the SECRET COMPARTMENT in your cavalry twill action slacks. Good. Now, Kingsley, apologise. What do you mean, it wasn’t you, it was “Robert”? Oh yeah, your invisible friend. It’s not as if the others have that excuse, is it?

     

    “Either Rivke was the best deception artist he had ever met, or, as he had earlier decided, completely honest.” So, that’s decided. Can we go back to sleep now? It’s 4.30, and given how long this has been going on, probably p.m. “Now, if Rivke was telling the truth…” – so we’re back to not believing her, with that “if” then? Lost – “Paula became a liar and possibly an accessory to attempted murder.” I’ve read this back a number of times and I still don’t get how he arrives at this. Perhaps he arrived by SAAB. “Someone obviously had fingered him on the road to Salla.” Alone in the car, long-barrelled Ruger Redhawk .44 Magnum gun in a SECRET COMPARTMENT, a chap’s got to pass the time somehow.  Don’t look at me like that, John: you bloody wrote it.

     

    I’m sorry, Christopher, I’ve been ignoring you, haven’t I? Sebastian, we need Christopher to share, could you throw him the ball, please? What do you mean you’ve been told he doesn’t exist?

     

    “There’s no point in you lying to me, when all the facts can be checked…” He proceeds not to. So, every point lying to him. “…well, my instincts tell me to believe you.” That’s James Bond, that is. Allegedly. “She was, at close proximity, a very lovely young woman”. At long range, a right old munter. Note “young”. Note, with dread, “close proximity”. “I believe you, Rivke Ingber. You’re straight Mossad…” As opposed to gay CIA; he’s had plenty of that. What reason has he to believe any of this? What reason we? “Bond, 99 per cent sure of Rivke’s motives and claims, still kept that tiny 1 per cent of wariness in reserve.” Can one have a large 1 per cent? I thought he believed her outright a moment ago? He’s flip-flopping. He’s probably wearing flip-flops. She’s run out of contraceptives at 4.30 a.m. This is the sort of woman she is – run, you fool! Not easy in flip-flops.

     

    What’s that, John G – everyone has an alias? Ok, well… I s’pose…  but I don’t know why you’re laughing, “Robert”…

     

    “We’re in the business of trust, Rivke…” Bit ago it was all a maze of secrets and duplicity. Told you that workplace assessment was worth it.

     

    Thanks, Kingsley; we’ll call it “slightly raunchier but still chaste”. Well caught, Raymond. So what’s your angle on the embittered eroticism? John G’s making it overwrought, multisyllabic and awkward, so how are you going to handle it…? OK, explain with pictures rather than words, probably safest, very creative, great… that picture? … Is that magazine even legal? Yes, she looks nice, but… yes, I know it’s thinking out of the box, but probably too much back into hers… best to toss the ball… no, that’s not a euphemism… OK, William… Bond hides in a woman’s house and peeps at her whilst she bathes? Riggght… Time for a comfort break. I’m confiscating that magazine, Raymond. Anyone remember where the loos are? 

     

    “My dear father’s well in season.” An upsetting image. “Mother used to say that he saw himself as a new Fuhrer, a Nazi Moses…” A funny one. Look out – here comes Nazi Moses, with his pals Islamic Jihad Jesus (not sure that works, but, y’know… Gardner) and Stasi Dalai Lama! Oh no! Taliban Buddha’s fallen in the pond! Will Moses part the waves to help him? No – because he’s Nazi Moses! Look at that fat guy drown. “You only have to look at your own country… Bond bridled. “Which has yet to elect, or allow, a madman into power.” Note “man”. Note “published 1983”. Deeply want John G to be making a point. “This is all out of character for the KGB.” Would be, wouldn’t it? It’s Icebreaker. Everyone’s out of character. Since we keep being told this, it’s a get-out-of-gaol-free thing, apparently.

     

    Now, before we review our outcomes, let’s consider your prep task, putting your vision of Bond onto Post-It notes and sticking them to your foreheads. Yes, it’s an undignified exercise but, y’know, fitting. Ok, William, I truly respect your confession you haven’t prepared anything, but reflect whether that respects all stakeholders. Let’s move on. Now – what’s this – “Harry Potter and the Cartridge of Steel”. Sounds intriguing, Jeff! Undemanding. Undemanded, too.

     

    “M hated slang in any form.” Despite a cameo loaded with it. But he’s probably not in character, either. “Bond gave Rivke his most charming smile…” Dread to think what that looks like. [Her] – “We really do have to watch each other’s backs…” [Him] – “Though I’d be much happier watching your front.” Yep. That’s really there. Mr Gardner didn’t watch contemporaneous Bond films, so he said (…and said), yet he has their vibe just so… how peculiar. I’d suggest this Bond’s a despicable human being, but he’d have to be a human being rather than barely one; a glib, prissy possessor of the giddy wit of famine and required in the tale only to operate clever – but real, oh so sodding real – devices. “Her lips, in return, seemed to be examining his mouth.” For signs of life. Or wondering why he doesn’t have any teeth. “But the warnings were cauterised in the conflagration as their lips touched”. Ooh. Huuuuge tracts of words (I think he means “they kissed”). Still, conflagration and all – reading that fire evacuation notice is the gift that never stops giving, yeah? “It seemed an eternity before the chapter ended their mouths parted… they lay close, body to body, then mouth to mouth once more, until… their hands groped for one another”. So during the body-to-body, mouth-to-mouth bits, where were their hands? Flapping about behind them? Undignified; must try it. Still, amidst them right fancy words out of the user manual… groped? Not one of the more seductive expressions. Was the mouth-to-mouth an attempt at resuscitation? “They were as two perfectly attuned dancers…” Yeah; the Roly-Polys. One minute he loves Paula, next minute it’s Rivke, the basis of both relationships are doubtful; he’s just so dizzy, and exploitable. Bait, rather than baity.

     

    Hmm –Sebastian’s suggested “Loads of Eggs” – oh, very “as” – and “George W. Bush is a Twat”. Provocative! If obvious. Still, the words twat and bush are already taken, so I’m afraid your first idea can’t count, Raymond:  we’ll go with your “Pierce Brosnan Drives a Car That Changes Colour and Does Twins up a Mountain Here’s Mary Ann Russell! Please Film This Please Please”.

     

    “Only later, with Rivke curled up under the covers, like a child in his arms…” Comfortable reading, that. Is this like a child before or after “a kind of lust”? What’s the excuse – it was the 1980s, different times. It hasn’t worked for disc jockeys, nor should it work for you, “Bond”, you disgrace. This is a child you’ve “groped”. Codename: “Predator”. When Fleming wrote of the man who was a silhouette, he didn’t add “…the sort in a Sunday tabloid”. Veers into For Your Eyes Only territory but Mr Gardner (say it again) Never. Did. See. The. Films. I know I’ve been chiding the text for possessing the eroticism of moss, but this overcompensates into the wholly inappropriate. Most of the time emasculated, but when Bond unleashes his self-contained line-throwing unit one suddenly needs him chemically castrated. I know, John, it’s hard to find a level and you’re much more comfortable with Mukluks and compass bearings and snow scooters, but still. Perhaps, though, an extension of how 007 treated his friend’s child; dumped her for some fun with a Finn (who turns out to be a man). Awkward. The relationship with Felix Leiter was always fragile but it’s unsurprising he hardly appears in the Gardners – Bond’s treatment of Cedar meant there was a big falling-out, and not just of Cedar’s tits. Leiter will only turn up again to get eaten by a shark a second time. No, that can happen. No, really. No, it wasn’t just Mr Gardner demolishing both Bond books and films in one fell swoop. Not that. James Bond holds a woman like a child after sex. Needs an exculpatory comma in there. Tuning into Icebreaker’s esprit de corps, teamwork and that shebang, it’s over to you. My suggestion – place after the word “child”; if after “woman”, you’re getting arrested. Again. It’s smoother syntax as After sex, James Bond holds a woman like a child but, y’know… Gardner.

     

    This vision looks interesting – articulating perfectly the sound of a bored, drunken sigh. Well done. No, not you Kingsley: “Robert”. Well, sorry Kingsley, but if you hide behind a disguise and change your name, that sort of total foam-flecked confusion happens. John G’s nodding. OK then, John G, your ideas… “Bond Eats Crisps”. Hmm, prosaic but really any worse than “Trigger Mortis”? What’s this? “People betray you, but equipment never will.” True, John G, if hopelessly tragic. Do like this other one of yours, though. “Characters! Characters! Characters! Characters! Character?”.

     

    “Bond’s mouth was unusually dry.” Steradent does that. “You don’t arrive at a man’s room at four in the morning…” Indeed; it was four-thirty. Unless time has not just stood still in this chapter but ectually gone backwards. No more impossible than anything else we’ve been told to swallow. Swallow. Good for you, John, not rising to it. Rising to it. No? “I did go for you, the moment I saw you, but don’t let it go to your head.’ – ‘It didn’t,’ Bond laughed.” Fnarr. Head, John. Head. No? Blimey, it’s feast or famine with you, innit? “At the other end of the line, the telephone rang. Nobody answered.” This is cause for suspicion, that Paula is not in an apartment that’s been trashed. Not concern: suspicion. Because it suits plot contrivances, rather than resembling a human reaction or emotion. “For a long time, I certainly didn’t spot anything sinister about her.” Not even her penis. Or her “unguents” – a very Gardner word, that. “None of it makes sense”. About the fifth time something similar is stated in this chapter alone. Getting one’s retaliation in first, Mr Gardner?

     

    “Obsession with rubbish”. It’s a novel motivation for a villain, Jeffery, but tempting fate slightly?

     

    The cruel business of surprising Rivke with the medals – slightly Rosie Carver, but John. Doesn’t Watch. Bond. Films. Fact. – is Bond at one per cent suspicion. What does ten per cent look like: a full orifice search for Nazis? It’d make US Immigration more entertaining. The medals bear oak leaves, just like the medals Bond and Paula figuratively awarded each other for an earlier sexual encounter, the cog-grinding of which we were spared. An echo, or another coincidence? Ah well, off Rivke pops to the ski slopes before breakfast to clear her head set up an “action” scene and Bond starts the next chapter “profoundly disturbed”. I empathise, despite his narrator’s determination that I shouldn’t.

     

    There. Our icebreaker shows how successful collaboration can be. OK, we’re making progress. Just had a note from the kitchens about lunch arrangements, although I have to say I think I recognise the writing. “There’s every conceivable kind of salad and cold meats, or – if the client so fancies – hot soup, quiche, lasagne or cannelloni”. Cauterise me, that’s [—-]ing fascinating. Before we get there though, John G’ll facilitate a short seminar on efficient suitcase etiquette; in particular how to stop the “micro” you carry in one getting soaked by the complimentary UHT milk cartons and bath… unguent. Have you got a Powerpoint for us, John? Powerpoint. No, it’s not a euphemism, can’t see how you could make it one…yes, I know you’d try your best but… it’s a common enough program, has been for decades. Your computer doesn’t have it? But it has got “disk drives” and its own “micro” climate. Gee. Whizz. No, Jeffery, please put your iPad away; it’ll burst John G’s brain.

     

    What of Icebreaker? As of 1983, it’s exceptional. It tries to be different, often in a different language. Insofar as it has “meeeean-ing” for written 007, it’s a study of the chaos when unlikely bedfellows “conflagrate”. The KGB and the CIA… a SAAB and a road… a very old man and a very young woman… character and backstory… John Gardner and James Bond? If there’s a lesson learned, it’s Don’t do it again. Oh, you did. Treat! Great! They still don’t rhyme. Formulae, eh? Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme bleedin’ chose. And yet… it is exceptional. Why moan when someone offers change, outwith formula? Moans when it’s the same, moans when it’s revolutionary. Never satisfied. One meagre pimple of hope that there’s potential for variety and I reject it. To deny innovation is to embrace the safe product of other continuation authors, which doubtless I will savage for being precisely that. Shame on me. OK, the trick got itself repeated another four times or so, but that’s four books that the confines of the more regular recipe wouldn’t – couldn’t – have produced. Why begrudge that Icebreaker happened and in so happening gave possibility that each new Gardner could take us in strange directions , cracked opened anew in anticipation of the unexpected? Why deny that Icebreaker has influenced me to ask many rhetorical questions? Why does this 007th Chapter piece dot about without really establishing a clear thought? Why don’t you think this egregious, rushed twist has a credible basis in what came beforehand? Forget it Jacques; it’s Icebreaker.

     

    “James Bond”, if that’s who it still is, will return in the 007th Chapter of Role of Honour, having had a book off. Jacques Stewart is actually a Labrador called Madge and is built of raw smear and gravel.

    Helmut Schierer @ 2016-07-12
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