CommanderBond.net
  1. What would James Bond read?

    You might have come across the notion that 23. April is World Book Day. In fact, unless you happen to live beyond a stone, in a desert in some far-away country of which we know nothing about, you will probably have been reminded of this half a dozen times already today. And no doubt there will also have been numerous suggestions to add to your reading list. What better occasion to ask yourself: What would James Bond read? After all, you won’t want to occupy your precious grey cells with just any old trash; you want to read what real men would read. Thankfully, CommanderBond.net can help you out there:

     

    Epitaph for a Spy by Eric Ambler 

     

    Why that? Because it’s a nifty little pre-war thriller with mediterranean flair, uncommon characters in a whodunit setting and a sympathetic hero forced under severe duress to expose a spy. Just the stuff James Bond likes to read to relax from his job of exposing spies while under severe duress. And Bond likes Eric Ambler. At least since The Mask of Dimitrios stopped a bullet aimed at his heart. Admittedly, we never learn if Bond finished that one…

     

     

     

     

    Playback by Raymond Chandler

     

    Why that? Because James Bond buys it at Idlewild Airport  (several years before it grew into the John F. Kennedy International Airport) to read on the flight back to London. Admittedly, he then didn’t have much use for reading stuff. And it is somewhat unlikely that he left that particular plane with his book. But it’s safe to assume the book ended up on Bond’s note of expenses and was replaced by the Service. After all, it’s a valuable lesson in operational procedure should the need arise to send Bond spotting a kangaroo in a dinner jacket.

     

     

     

     

    The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

     

    Why that? Because it was one of Ian Fleming’s favourite books. Its protagonist, orphaned at the age of seven and brought up by relatives, spends seven years of his life in a sanatorium high up in the Swiss Alps, learning about life and death, lust and love, virtue, hedonism and duty. A bizarre carnival is celebrated on the magic mountain, evocation of a sea change about to happen with the Big War. There is a lady whose name alludes to a hot cat with claws, and while the hero at the end heads for the slaughterhouse of WW I, he may have checked out of the sanatorium but never leaves the Berghof. Just the stuff James Bond likes to relax with while sipping on his double bourbon and pondering his own role in the greater scheme of things.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Helmut Schierer @ 2018-04-23
  2. ‘The bitch is alive’ – Casino Royale at 65!

    Casino Royale first edition cover by Jonathan Cape; image courtesy wikipedia

    ‘The bitch is dead now.’

    Actually, that depends very much, Mr Bond. With Vesper Lynd you might be excused to think she has just left the building for good, in so doing putting an end to a rather testing affair, even by the standards of the Secret Service. If you mean, however, your own illustrious career in said service, which could have taken a turn for the finish line with these memorable words … well, that career is still very much alive.

    On 13th April 2018 it’s exactly 65 years since readers could pick up the Jonathan Cape first edition of Ian Fleming’s ‘Casino Royale’. Between the pages they met: a gruff figure of authority, reassuringly in charge of the British Secret Service; a physically revolting villain with a benzedrine inhaler, three razor blades and expensive false teeth, but minus a proper name; a beautiful lady who gets parcelled up in her own skirt; a cheerful Frenchman always happy to help out with a radio set and convenient kitchen sink psychology when needed; a cheerful Texan delighted to help out with 32 million francs and keeping the lady absolutely safe while the hero is playing games with the villain.

    The hero. Of course the hero. Meet James Bond, no middle name that we’re aware of. No relationship to any other firm. Solely, exclusively there for our entertainment. A secret agent decidedly from the deadly branch of intelligence; if it wasn’t called 00-section it would be the Saint-George-Society, in the business of slaying dragons. Travels with no less than three guns to a mission that should only call for his dinner-jacket and counting to nine – but, in line with his flimsy cover as rich businessman, doesn’t fire a single shot. Avoids lifts as danger signals and prefers to open his hotel room with his gun drawn, like the professional he is. Plays cards as if it was for money, thankfully not his own. Take a closer look at him here.

    That fateful April of 1953 readers discovered a rich and extravagant life at the side of this man Bond; drinking, smoking, dining with him; racing after cruel and despicable gunmen; winning, losing and then again winning fortunes; almost blown to pieces; almost beaten to pulp; almost caught in the talons of marriage. Escaping time and again the facts of death by his own resilience and the ingenuity of his creator. Fleming’s readers wanted more, much more. Thankfully, Fleming indulged them as long as he could.

    There is today a vast assortment of anecdotes – or legends, depending how you look at it – floating around regarding Ian Fleming. One of them goes like this: one day in July 1944 Fleming and a colleague were eating Spam rations, sitting in their jeep in northern France, pondering plans for after the war. When the other had finished telling about his, Fleming simply said ‘I’m going to write the spy story to end all spy stories.’ Well, that didn’t go quite as planned.

    While it cannot be said that Casino Royale invented the spy story, it’s certainly true that the book invented its own species of spy, the armchair consumer’s agent, puffing and boozing away on the pages, we with him, while on the next page there could be anything, anything at all: a love affair; an enemy agent; a dive to a treasure island; a bullet through the chest – or through an Ambler novel. Or death.

    The recipe was so intoxicating it kept Bond busy way beyond even the wildest expectations of his creator. If Fleming today looked down on the success of his invention he’d likely have trouble believing it: films, books, games, numerous after shaves and soaps, music, toys, a film studio that consists now largely of Bond, countless websites, clubs and fora.

    No, Casino Royale definitely didn’t end all spy stories…

    ‘Do you eggshpect me to die?’

    No, Mr Bond, we expect you to live.

    Helmut Schierer @ 2018-04-13
  3. …gilded tombs do worms enfold.

    The place Ian Fleming came to was peculiar. It had an Adam facade, yet it also was much larger than Boodles. It lay in the mid of woods stretching to the horizon, yet there also was a vast park with a golf course, and a beach reminding him of his own on Jamaica. And at times the place was situated at the side of a mountain range, peaks showing white against the blue skies. This recalled memories of one of his favourite books, though Fleming couldn’t tell exactly which one, or even whether he had written it himself or not. It occurred to him the question simply wasn’t important, and so he didn’t ponder it.

     

    When he arrived Fleming felt very anxious at first. But soon he calmed down. Everything was very civilised here, there were proper meals – though Fleming wasn’t all that fussy about food – there were other people, some of which were friends and loved ones, others just amiable chaps he had interesting conversations with. Fleming played golf often, alone and in company. He took long walks through the endless woods or along the paths between the mountains. He swam often and read a lot. Drinks were a pleasure again, without each glass calling for another. Fleming’s sleep was deep and quiet; his dreams never left a troubling aftertaste when he woke the next morning. In fact he didn’t remember having any dreams at all. Ian Fleming was at peace with himself and enjoyed being here.

     

    At times part of him did wonder what kind of place this was. But every time the question formed itself in his mind it just as soon lost all relevance. What did it matter? The days and nights went by, turned into a pleasant sequence of golden blurs, and Fleming admitted to himself he was much more at ease than he could remember having been for a long time.

     

    One day the usher appeared with a man at his table.

    ‚Ian Fleming?‘ the man asked.

    He seemed vaguely familiar and so Fleming rose.

    ‚I am. And you would be…? Please help me out, I have a feeling I should know you,‘ he said as they exchanged a firm handshake and his visitor accepted a seat at his table.

    ‚I am James Bond. I am your James Bond, the secret agent you invented. In a way you are my father.‘

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    Helmut Schierer @ 2017-03-21
  4. Homme de lettres complet – Ian Fleming’s James Bond Correspondence

    The Man With The Golden Typewriter coverIn his day Ian Fleming used to be not just a journalist and author, he also was – little surprise there – an avid writer of letters. Over the years he corresponded with famous contemporaries and friends – amongst them Raymond Chandler, Somerset Maugham and Noël Coward – as well as with editors, readers and fans all over the globe. Ian Fleming’s nephew Fergus Fleming now compiled and edited a volume of Ian Fleming’s Bond-related letters that Bloomsbury publishes this Thursday, October 8th. On 400 pages readers will catch a backstage glimpse of Fleming’s writing process, on the thought process that went into many curious details of the original Bond novels, and also on the effect the Bond phenomenon had on his creator.

    You can order the book at Amazon UK and of course also at your local bookstore. Fans in the United States will have to be patient until November 3rd.

     

    Helmut Schierer @ 2015-10-07
  5. The 007th Chapter – The Ebook Edition

    To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s 007th birthday, CommanderBond.net today releases the ebook edition of “The 007th Chapter, Volume One: Happenstance”, a series of literary musings by Jacques I. M. Stewart, aka “Jim”. Volume One concentrates on the James Bond novels and short stories written by or “as” Ian Fleming.

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    Heiko Baumann @ 2015-05-29
  6. Announcing The 007th Chapter – The Ebook Edition

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    Like the previously released The 007th Minute, it won’t be a real ‘e-book’ but a downloadable PDF. And again, it will be available for free. All we ask for is that, if you download this ebook, please make a donation to UNICEF or any other cause of your personal choice.

    Heiko Baumann @ 2015-04-26
  7. The 007th Paragraph – Octopussy and The Living Daylights

    A literary mediation by Jacques Stewart

     

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    One has to pick the right moment to say goodbye.

     

    Also, the proper goodbye to say, be it to a beloved pet in a ditch-bound binbag, to a less-beloved relative going alongside it (bag one, get one free, too tempting to ignore), to one’s children scattering to University and to one’s money disappearing with them. Goodbye is not the hardest word to say; the hardest word to say is “specificity”. Goodbye is a hard thing to mean, if you misjudge what you inflict with it. At one end, it shorthands “Oblige Me By Fornicating Off and Dying in Pain, Immediately”, in the Goodbye, Mr Bond sense, the opposite of the oily dollop within Goodbye, Mr Chips (unless I’ve misunderstood both). Between, betwixt and around those gambol:-

     

    – the casual b’byes one uses with “friends” (whatever they are), with re-helloing imminent, although I tend to be in the Goodbye, Mr Bond bracket as articulated above;

     

    – ending a ‘phone call, although I tend to be in the Goodbye, Mr Bond bracket as articulated above;

     

    – the apology at the end of a relationship, having failed to worm one’s way out by all other means including “some” poison and “some” knives, although I tend to be blah blah blah…;

     

    – the celebratory goodbye as one watches a mighty Longship burn in the bay; and

     

    – the equally final type when you spot one of your sprogs aboard it, screaming and a-smoulder, increasingly combustible. Although I tend to be in the Goodbye, Mr Bond etc…

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    Helmut Schierer @ 2015-03-25
  8. The 007th Chapter: The Man With The Golden Gun – Un-real Estate

    A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart

     

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    Start over, and simplify.

     

    Often dreamt of by chaps sliding towards their forties, therefore not unusual for James Bond. True, it’s more commonly contemplated when staring into a ready-meal and the ready-meal stares right back, rather than after killing a maniac, impregnating a film star, unwittingly faking one’s own death and trying to kill the boss. Frankly, that lifestyle sounds titillating and a place one escapes to rather than from (possibly its original point) but perhaps even its view palls, in time.

     

    Given the opportunity, what would I do differently? “Rabat 2001”, definitely. Ectually name one of the offspring “Remnant”. Avoid that encounter with [not telling], although it’s now a divinely grubby anecdote since his conviction, so I’d think carefully before dropping it completely. Would drink better wine and get that ptarmigan tattoo I promised meself. A life still too short to learn Welsh, or to contemplate using public transport. Using the public as transport… wholly different matter.

     

    Not much else.

     

    Especially if this reboot requires electrocution by my chums (I have three; possibly four if Torquil returns my pinking shears). Call me selfish, call me a coward, call me Bwana (eccentric, but so tremendously sweet of you) but the prospect of twenty-four zaps at my brain over the course of thirty days doesn’t thrill. Telling me about it would pass quickly, though. Bond’s reconditioning in The Man with the Golden Gun, his own side microwaving his mind and cynically taking a gift of an open-goal to re-educate him, telling him he’s been brainwashed and to Kill! Russians! but markedly not reminding him about the dead wife or that his real name’s David Webb, lasts less than a page before he’s Bourne again and let loose to disrupt the scheme of a… a naughty hotelier.

     

    In both, one recognises the common perception of this novel as unfinished. What of Bond’s rehabilitation? Where is the villain’s outrageous apocalypse? Where are Bond’s reawakening memories of his marriage and realisation that his own side have done him more damage than Colonel Boris ever did? Why is it about an away-day board meeting / team-building exercise for conned investors? Where’s all the digression about shrubbery, for frick’s sake? However, Weir of Hermiston this is not. It is finished. There’s an ending – clue.  What it is, is unpolished. Arguable evidence of “unfinished”, in that Fleming had yet to apply louche but increasingly ill-disciplined extravagances before his days were rendered unprolonged. Raises contemplation: this is Bond in raw form, uncluttered with “views”, light of diversions into the author’s medical history or whatever he had read, liked and then pinched. Terser, harder, quicker. Just as juvenile – the sexually foggy villain has three nipples and a big gold gun – but blunter overall.

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    Helmut Schierer @ 2015-03-01
  9. The 007th Chapter: You Only Live Twice –

     

    A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart

     

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    Previously, on James Bahnd…

     

    Bezants! Syphilis! Girls! Chickens! Christmas! Microbes! Earlobes! Bobsleighs! Wedding! Bang!

     

    Exhausting.

     

    Chap’d need a holiday after that. Touch of sightseeing, a wander around an exotic garden, visit a castle, perhaps a mud-bath or a swim-swim. Pick up local customs, pick up a local, enrage them by behaving as a Brit abroad, complain about the food, have a fight, throttle someone, go crazed in blood lust and, when it’s time to go home, forget it all and defect. Have had similar city-breaks (ah, Paris) except for the last bit. James Bond has to go that one stage further, doesn’t he? Show-off.

     

    Mr Grumpy goes to Tokyo, then. I accept he has reason to be miz. However appealing a short-term solution to impeded freedom to do whatever and whomever one wants, losing one’s spouse cannot be fun. In vowing to be true until death does you part, one’s not expecting that to happen within an hour, before the weak buffet and witnessing an elderly relative get whammed and claim they invented the lemon. Won’t have even have had time for photographs of hair and faces both questionable when viewed a decade on; I mean, who the F*** is that bloke, there, next to your ferociously slutty fat friend with the tattoo of Harvey Keitel on her pockmarked whalethigh? What do you mean, how do I know about that? Look, there, atop those veined legs reminiscent of cheap Stilton. Agreed, it could be some cake, but it looks like Harvey Keitel. So does she.

     

    That said, Bond didn’t so much lose Tracy as have her removed from him, and only shortly after they’d met. Given that she was practically a stranger, is it more the traumatic manner of the separation (bound to tend to upset) rather than the loss itself? If so, arguably Bond could be happier: he had yet to observe the way she ate eggs, or cut her toenails whilst watching television, or [continues in this vein for umpteen tedious paragraphs of trivial domestic irritations] or the annual one-day interest in “sorting out the garden” despite patently not knowing a weed from a banana. All these things James Bond is blissfully denied and then he gets a knock on the head and forgets about his marriage anyway. I’m struggling to see the downside.

     

    So’s M. Not the most sympathetic of reactions, referring to Bond as a “lame-brain” and being “under the weather”, the brutal old blister. Bond’s more than that. The desperate, death-dripped recounting of a sweaty, out-of-condition James Bond shuffling around Harley Street practitioners trying half-heartedly to get well but trapped in the countdown to his next drink, resonates bleakly with what one knows of Fleming’s imminent fate. Possibly the saddest piece of writing in all the books, the loneliness in a crowd of a dying man and, more than that, a man who knows the game’s up but cracks a forced smile to try to convince others, and himself, to the contrary: heartbreaking. Possibly literally. Wasting one’s days in trying to prolong them, despite death addiction. All that work Fleming has been doing to undermine Bond’s appeal and I feel sorry for him now. Looking death in the face with a pointlessly brave one of his own; might be a second life, but it’s not much of one. The medical history Fleming ascribes to 007 one suspects is voluntary disclosure of his own records, embellished.  The autobiography turns bitter. Just not up to it any longer and the demands of the job increasingly beyond him. A couple of Bond’s recent missions have failed; stretching it perhaps but authorial reflection here on the trouble surrounding Thunderball and the reception for The Spy Who Loved Me? The expectations – the demands – of others have turned it sour and unappealing.

     

    What is required of Bond is required of Fleming: a supreme call on his talents in the face of an impossible job. You Only Live Twice tackles this need for energy by appearing to turn in the drowsiest novel of the run. That’s a disguise, and better than the one Bond adopts. Admittedly, the atmosphere is so dense one could dig into it with a spoon, but everything’s here, deceptively muted by oppressive melancholy and a pace that for two-thirds of the book might frustrate those seeking “thrills”. Fleming always was one for structural whimsy, was he not? Look carefully: what he’s ectually doing, skin tinted much darker but palpably there, is taking familiar tricks by the hand and skipping merrily over the top with them. A final wild fling for the old ways. The path may lead towards rebirth but before one emerges there washed of brain and identity, before one sloughs the old skin, all the characteristics of your first life get an outlandish, bacchanalian wake. For example –

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    Helmut Schierer @ 2015-02-21
  10. The 007th Chapter: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – The Hairy Heel of Achilles

    A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart

     

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    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”.

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    Helmut Schierer @ 2015-02-09
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