According to news reported by From Sweden With Love, Anders Frejdh’s Swedish Bond fan page, Lewis Gilbert, director of Bond classics You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, has passed away.
Gilbert started out early as a child actor during the 1920s and 1930s, later switching to other production-related jobs. After assisting at Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn, Gilbert began his direction career with documentaries during the Second World War. After the war, he branched out into scriptwriting and producing films and directed a number of productions based on true events from the war, 1960’s Sink the Bismarck just one of them.
In 1966 he adapted Bill Naughton’s play Alfie with Michael Caine more or less on a shoestring budget. The film won the Jury Special Prize at Cannes and got an Oscar nomination in the best picture category, as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Gilbert.
In 1967 he directed You Only Live Twice, the Bond film that started a trend to largely ignore Ian Fleming’s source material in favour of escapist spectacle, huge set pieces and extensive stunt work. While overshadowed by Sean Connery’s obvious reluctance to further suffer as the focus of a global super-spy craze (and cameraman John Jordan’s severe accident during shooting) the film was only slightly less successful at the box office than its predecessor Thunderball.
So solid was Gilbert’s work on 007 that Eon asked him back to direct not once but twice – and both times to shoot remakes of his original, this time with Roger Moore as Bond. The Spy Who Loved Me from 1977 and 1979’s Moonraker today have a somewhat mixed reputation with the fanbase; yet they are regarded as classics in their own right with wider interested film aficionados and critics. And of course they grossed spectacularly in the year of their original release.
Gilbert’s post-Bond career included a number of smaller productions, Shirley Valentine perhaps the most notable amongst these. In 1997 he was awarded the CBE and in 2001 he was made Fellow of the British Film Institute.
An earlier version of this article did not name the source. CBn thanks Anders Frejdh for breaking the news on this.
The facts: our forum address henceforth is quarterdeck.commanderbond.net, or, as I like to call it, The Quarterdeck. The old place – and now it is the old place – debrief.commanderbond.net, has been converted to read-only archive as of 10th September 2017.
As they say, everyone has a past, every legend a beginning…
As your readers will have learned from earlier issues, a senior office of the Ministry, debrief.commanderbond.net., is missing, believed killed, while on an official mission to oblivion It grieves me to have to report that hopes of its survival must now be abandoned. It therefore falls to my lot, as the Grand High Wizard Lizard of the Department it served so well, to give some account of this forum and of its outstanding services to anonymized bitching about films ‘n’ books ‘n’ stuff.
debrief.commanderbond.net., was born of some electricity whatsit doing something to some typing doo-dad. Its server being a foreign representative of the temperamental sort, its early presentation, from which it inherited a first-class command of copyright infringement and speculative bollocks and rumour-tolerating, was entirely sporadic. When it was five years of age, James Bond was apparently killed in a casting accident, and the young website came under the onslaught of an assemblage of monstrous dickheads whining about hair colour, since (hopefully) deceased, and went to from being a place to discuss James Bond to one full of Kents. There, in a small cottage (fnarr) hard (double fnarr) by the attractive Mrs Jim, its moderators, who must have been a most erudite and accomplished team, completed its transition between servers, and, at the age of eight or thereabouts, it passed unsatisfactorily into potential obsolescence, for which it had been cursed by the reaction to the much misunderstood Quantum of Solace.
It must be admitted that its career as a moribund site overloaded with cretins abusing a popularity system was brief and undistinguished and, after only what felt like bloody years, as a result, it cheers me to record, of some alleged trouble with some right twats, its moderators were requested to remove that feature. They managed to reinvigorate the forums, in an old school way. Here the atmosphere was somewhat improved, and both academic and intolerance standards were rigorous. Nevertheless, though inclined to be solitary by reader, it established some firm friendships among the traditionally sensible and pleasant circles on the forum. By the time this transitional period ended, at the age of twelve, it had twice fought off other forums as light-weight and had, in addition, founded the first serious multiple banning class on a British public forum. By now it was 2012 and, by claiming a reading age of three and with the help of a child who knew what it all meant, it entered a branch of what was subsequently to become Facebook. To serve the confidential nature of its duties, it was accorded the rank of Sole Competent James Bond forum on the internet (by itself), and it is a measure of the satisfaction its services gave to its reader that it ended 2015 with the rank of “That Woman at the top of the page must be a grandmother by now”. It was about this time that the writer became associated with certain aspects of the Ministry’s work, and it was with much reluctance that I accepted its application to continue working for the Ministry despite it being a bit out of date, in which, at the time of its lamented disappearance, it had risen to the rank of being clunky and full of spambots.
The nature of debrief.commanderbond.net’s duties with the Ministry, which were, incidentally, recognized by the appointment of “Is it still going, then?” in 2012, must remain confidential, nay secret, but its colleagues at the Ministry will allow that it performed them with outstanding spelling and grammar, although occasionally, through an impetuous strain in its nature, with a streak of the foolhardy that brought it in conflict with Ian Fleming Publications. And Raymond Benson. And Eon Productions. But it possessed what almost amounted to “Amazingly Not Getting Sued” in moments of the highest emergency, and it somehow contrived to escape more or less unscathed from the many libellous paths down which its duties led it. The inevitable publicity, particularly nowhere at all, accorded some of these adventures, made it, much against its will, something of a public nuisance, with the inevitable result that a series of other popular forums came to be developed around it by simple folks who had got themselves banned many, many times by debrief.commanderbond.net. If the quality of these websites, or their degree of wit, had been any higher, the authors would certainly have been ignored even more than they already were. It is a measure of the disdain in which these sites are held at the Ministry, that action has not yet — I emphasize the qualification — been taken against the authors and publishers of these substantially less worthy and considerably more banal and boring knock-offs.
It only remains to conclude this brief in memoriam by assuring its friends that debrief.commanderbond.net’s last mission was one of supreme importance to itself. Although it now appears that, alas, it will not return from it, I have the authority of the highest quarters in the land to confirm that the mission proved to be one hundred per cent successful, much like the Viagra every other new member wants to talk about. It is no exaggeration to pronounce unequivocally that, through the recent valorous efforts of this one forum, the Safety of the Realm has received mighty reassurance. Yay us.
debrief.commanderbond.net was (very) briefly married in 2002, and 2006, and 2008…. and 2012… and 2015, to scumbags posting callsheets and script leaks. These marriages ended in gratifyingly tragic circumstances that were repeated every time. There was no issue of these marriages save for banning a bolus of cretins on a merry whim, even if they had nothing to do with it, and debrief.commanderbonmd.net leaves, so far as I am aware, one relative living. Welcome to Quarterdeck.
I was happy and proud to serve debrief.commanderbond.net in a close capacity during the past fifteen years at the Ministry. If our fears for it are justified, may I suggest these simple words for its epitaph? Many of the junior staff here feel they represent its philosophy, but that’s only because they are very scared of me:
“You only live twice. Once when you are born, and once when you need to upgrade.”
A literary amusement by Jacques Stewart
They say one should never meet one’s heroes.
Curious. Meeting one’s villains must surely be avoided, unless you’re a fictional vigilante billionaire with repetitious escapades to feed to the jaded. A psychotic orphan assaulting a greasy clown isn’t entertainment. Usually. Equally, a STD-riddled orphan tackling a “Fos-Ter Bro-Ther” bodes ill. Those neither heroic nor villainous aren’t sufficiently interesting to bother with so, dragged to one logical conclusion, the proposition means one never meets anyone. Dragged to an illogical conclusion, it means no more ickle babbies. Dragged to a preposterous conclusion, it means that to engineer our extinction one needs not hijack spacecraft, cultivate toxic blooms and curate a galactic brothel; just invent the internet and wait for nature to take its course as humanity isolates itself. Still, the prospect of reading piffle like this could justify cracking out the orchid gas to accelerate the process. The more one coughs along life’s long belch, the more one wishes Moonraker comes to pass.
The idea is we risk being disappointed by those onto whom we transpose our delusions of a better self, whether they know / care we are so doing or would welcome it rather than injunct. Heroism – worship of any sort – must justify the pedestal. When one does unscab one’s hero’s flaws, whose fault’s that? Theirs. They’re to blame for being shorter / smellier / heterosexualier than one was manipulated into believing, and as insignificant, frail and as much of a git as anyone. When that Mr Craig said he would rather slit his wrists than do 007 actoring again (nurses claim they have it hard), even those who habitually forgive his patented truculence on the off-chance he would ever thank them for it, struggled to “defend” the grumpy line-reciter for this one. They needn’t have bothered. The wisest approach would have been to invite him to get on with it to see if that entertained us more than his latest film, as his life is ours and all he is for is to deliver us from ourselves. That he did not do so was presumably in fear that his bid for oblivion would have engaged more than “SPECTRE” (not unduly challenging) and thereby realisation, at the drip of the last drop, that all his ostensible achievements had wasted time, ours most importantly. We do hate to be wrong, and their being not what we imagined them to be is patently their responsibility. We’re better off not idolising anything at all, so we can’t be disappointed when bad things happen despite all devotion paid. How can God let bad things happen? If you don’t believe in God, you can’t anger about that: peace on Earth and goodwill to all men ensues. Maybe we don’t want that. Having deluded expectations of others dissatisfied gives us purpose because once we’d solved poverty, famine, global warming, racism, child labour and cured both cancer and the cruel torment that causes millionaires to self harm because they have to learn some dialogue and jump about a bit once every three years, we needed something to bitch over lest we became overwhelmed with our brilliance.
Idolising fictional characters is yet more preposterous: what life guidance can one draw from the likes of (random pick) James Bond? He’s not real, y’know; at best, a blithely rapey imaginary chum whose all-over-the-place attitudes are guided by A Word From Our Sponsors, a corporatised committee-designed avatar commoditising gullible, rationed wish-fulfilment, corrupting us into coveting souldevouring consumer items because if we do, we too will face down supervillains, pull always-initially-stroppy dolly birds and generally “win”, and this is a better use of our time than dragging drowned refugee children from the sea or ensuring an elderly neighbour has company and food on their plate. Ah, they say (“they” say a lot, and it’s habitually bollocks), but liking and – insofar as one’s budget and moral desolation stretch – emulating Bond is escapism from such real horrors and, further (they’re on a roll now), escaping from those things recognises they exist, not deny. Yeah, but… is running away something 007 would do? His inspiration has meant nothing. If there’s any metaphor to this tosh, surely it’s that one faces moments of crisis, not scarper and self-indulge in corrupted spinelessness. Consumption is cowardice. This might have been lost amongst all those cars and watches. Wear that Omega and people will think you’re like James Bond. True: James Bond’s a colossal tit, too.
Today, along many terrible news, it is my sad duty to report the loss of Sir Roger Moore.
You will, in all likelihood, be aware that most obituaries are in fact written long in advance, sometimes years. And at times – hopefully – even many years. It’s simply a custom of the trade; a sad duty, but evidently one you cannot escape.
So when you are tasked with the assignment to write Roger Moore’s obituary you sit down one foggy morning in November 2015, a couple of memoirs and a stack of notes by your side – and only then you realise how daunting and depressing a task this is, to write a living person’s obituary.
You start writing, go over the obvious facts, born where and when; grew up somehow; survived the war somehow, miraculously; education; career; early work. You mention the studies at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (where you cleverly let slip that Lois Maxwell was his classmate), you go over the first few step-stones (pebbles more like) of his budding career as extra, move on to small parts, arrive at his television work, Ivanhoe, Alaskans (do people even remember this?), Maverick. The Saint. The Saint. And more The Saint. Six seasons of TV history and you go on at great length how Moore spread out his charm and his presence over these years, how he gained worldwide fame, how he made the character his own and recommended himself for further parts.
And on you move, the time is short, to Bond. To seven times of 007, twelve years of his work that would henceforth – in the public’s eye – overshadow everything else he did, whether it’s his non-Bond work or his private life. You mention the difference between his depiction of Bond and the literary character. You mention the famous raised eyebrow and how Moore, with his characteristic understatement, sold his own acting short to three expressions; and in so doing you illustrate his noble spirits and his sense of humour. And also how he was frequently underrated in his work. Not many actors can look at you from the wrong side of a set of crocodile teeth and keep a straight face. Moore could.
Then you go on with the non-Bond parts and the work after Bond. With his commitment as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, which he was appointed in 1991. You stress how he supported the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund by visits to Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras, where he saw in the field the desperate conditions under which children in these regions often had to suffer. How Roger Moore spoke out to raise awareness to these circumstances, how he became a voice on HIV/AIDS and the horrors of landmine terror in war torn regions around the globe. How he became an important public voice and fund raiser for numerous UNICEF projects and initiatives and how his activities helped the poorest and weakest, those most in need of protection and support. Our support.
It was for these activities Roger Moore was awarded the C.B.E. and later the K.B.E. Rightfully so he was immensely proud of the recognition since this work more than anything else in his career directly influenced the lives and fates of a great number of children for the better.
You cut the personal life paragraph about spouses and family short, mainly because it’s none of our business; also it’s a bit yellow-page-ish. Leave that to the others.
And then you arrive at the end of the page, a whole life of 89+ years in a couple of paragraphs, mostly filled with facts anybody could look up on the internet today.
And none of it would really capture how Roger Moore – Sir Roger Moore – has influenced so many of his fans. How in nearly all of his roles there was a basic humanity shining through, something that (for lack of a better word and doubtlessly betraying my naïveté here) I would like to call a ‘quantum of nobility’ – a kind of empathy and strive for the good we all would be capable of. Whether in his Ivanhoe armour or his Simon Templar three-piece suit, there always was a trace of it present. Not a doe-eyed ‘I’m-the-good-guy’ bigotry either, Moore never missed a chance for a quick mischievous wink that told us not to take him too seriously.
But there definitely was a reason writing colleagues used the phrase ‘gentleman spy’ back in Moore’s day. And it had nothing to do with the dinner jacket. Or much less than people like to think today. Though the mere term “gentleman” seems almost so outdated now it’s probably on the verge of becoming one of the big insults of our brave new world – with Roger Moore many fans felt a grain of just this quality, the gentle character, the humane spirit, was always present. And not as a part of the role but as a part of the man himself. The kind of gentleman that didn’t disappear with the dinner jacket.
Roger Moore did more than just depict the hero on screen; for the fans of my generation he was often also a first role-model – and surely not the worst you could think of. The absence of Roger Moore – a noble man in the best of ways and long before the ‘Sir’ was added – will also mark the end of an era.
And finally you arrive at this sentence. And you realise you also arrived at the end of this obituary. And you are deeply sad for the loss that is yet to be, hopefully far in the distance. And you put the piece in the drawer and hope.
Today, it was my sad duty to open this drawer and report the loss of Sir Roger Moore. We will miss you.
A literary musing in several paragraphs, cunningly delivered by Jaques Stewart.
Through sad eyes clouded by disbelief, one often sees superfluous continuation 007 novels reviewed – with a pun I’ve just realised is a pun (bit thick, me) – as “gilt-edged” Bond.
This is a guilt-edged 007th Chapter.
You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.
There are worse enterprises than these bolt-on Bonds. To some they bring joy, and a measure of pleasure to detractors; otherwise why read them? Masochism has more nourishingly gigglesome sources than “reading”. Is it for a “fan” to pick at (…potentially) well-meant endeavours, and sow undermining thoughts? Rest of humanity has established it needs no opinion of these books as it scrabbles for food, water and huge televisions. Is mine so necessary a pose? Pose is all it is; lazy sneering testing no orthodoxy, inflicting doubt in my intended victim – that’s you, hi – via the sly pretence of strained preening about a book. An onslaught with nothing to slay, and less to say. What purpose iconoclasm that dismantles no icon? Beyond a shrinking circle, these books pester few. Or is that the justification? “I wouldn’t, if you were better”. That’s bullying. One stares at the screen, wondering what one would “write” about a real concern. The screen stares back with “fnarr” and “Hotels; again” and points its accusing cursor, we two mutually aware that tackling something challenging would, as it cannot fail to do, expose paucity of intelligence and lay bare great fear. Instead I inflict frustration onto a subject inconceivably a deserving recipient of whatever it is I think I’m doing. I jump willingly into my oubliette of writing silly things via a perfidious avatar. At least I’m not posturing on Twitter; a sole redemption, with an added bonus that I cannot crave further attention by announcing that I am leaving it.
The converse must, though, bear truth: celebrating these books is equally pointless, and hasn’t worked. Persons favouring them can (and do) suggest there’s responsibility as a “Bond fan” to laud provision of “more Bond”, but this exposes their irresponsibility in avoiding the issue whether these are sufficiently “Bond” to merit the word “more”. It’s not as if without these volumes “James Bond” will disappear from a public consciousness to which it is decades-nailed as lazy shorthand for gullible consumerism. Arguably, “Bond” is so much a cultural touchstone that it has outgrown the books and films. One view has it that continuing 007’s exploits in either medium is unnecessary as it has gone beyond both sources into some metacultural state and is dependent for survival not on the print or screen iterations, but on its continued adoption as a convenient style barometer for suits, cars, exotic holidays, music, advertising, contemporary sexual mores (hopefully), sunglasses, handguns (regrettably) and wristwatches (even more regrettably). Another, that such media may as well continue to be flung at us and do any old thing because if Bond is now independent of its dual genesis and viral within so much else, what damage can the occasional duff book or film really cause it? No-one’s going to care that Role of Honour isn’t super or SPECTRE is $300 million of Bond film and that’s all it is, when there are baubles to buy and subliminal personal delusions to feed. Perhaps that’s why new Bond often gets a “pass” despite its quality: we would shake our own purchase-cultivated self-worth if we were to think it crap. Some say it’s always best to be positive; presumably they’ve never had a blood test.
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.‘
A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart – this time cunningly presented as a rerun. It’s summer time after all…
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.
A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart (yep, this one should have come before For Special Services, you get a cigar…)
In my youth (that’s not a location update) I set a “quiz” for my College. Brain-mashers like “Abbreviations excluded, name the only U.S state written using one line of typewriter keys” (Alaska; no-one knew (no-one cared)) and “Name the only country written using one line of typewriter keys”. Peru, but some “body” said Eire (fair point), another that “it’s Republic of Peru, actually, I know thart, actually, because I gap-yeared tharh, actually, licking yurts, communing with my spirituality, yah, and photocopying for my uncle at KPMG Lima.” There was such a fight. I encouraged it. Ectually.
I also had a round on “James Bond”. This was 1993 (hence “typewriter”), with 007 as relevant and welcome as anything else dead for four years that sane folks hoped would never return, like Eastern European communism, that Dr Who children’s programme or the Ayatollah Khomeini (give him time). Select questions went:
1. Which two Bond films to date do not feature a helicopter? (Child-like optimism to say “to date”, but child-like I was (rather than current lifestyle choice of childish), and brilliant. Precocious, smackable little weasel)
2. Why is A View to a Kill unique amongst the Bond films? (Keep it clean. In early 2015, this answer still holds)
3. Which author has written the most James Bond novels?
There were others, such as Q’s I.Q. to the nearest five points (it’s five; trick question), something something watches something (it really doesn’t matter) and Anne Fleming’s inside leg measurement (loads of people knew it; some reputation, that) but I’ve forgotten the rest.
Question 1? Yes, you, with the mittens…
A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart – cunningly presented out of sequence…
Contains huge spoilers. Of a book over thirty years old. Isn’t it terrible, that news about The Titanic? Bet you can’t guess who Darth Vader really is. I think I’ve drunk wine younger than this book. Once, with regret.
I’m thinking… Ronseal.
I haven’t succumbed to product placement (yet) but as I age, I dwell on how to keep wood. If none-the-wiser, or just aghast at the squalor of that joke, Ronseal is a creosote (this won’t get more exciting). Other brands are available but Ronseal stands out for possessing a bouquet that smacks-up dead quick dirt cheap, and having been advertised with the slogan “it does exactly what it says on the tin”, a phrase that has entered the wider lexicon, like those “Keep Calm” things – Keep Calm and Drop Dead – and “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and cultivate Type-2 diabetes”.
This springs to mind not through an urge to paint the fence – one engages the little people for that, how charming they are with their “vans” and their “views” – but because I hold a-mitt a 1987 Coronet UK paperback of For Special Services. It looks chewed. There’s a distinct – dog? – toothmark at the moment Bond eats a tuna sandwich and drinks Perrier. I might be blaming the hound unfairly; could have been me, enraged at this dumbing-down / plebbing-up of 007. There’s another incision just as Bond crams his gut with “chicken pie” and Apple Jonathan – presumably not Sir Jony Ive, although since Bill Gates gets an oblique reference in Role of Honour one can’t dismiss the thought. Fair’s fair, both meals are comforting beige stodge, so I might have been trying to join in. “Beige stodge” seems apt, somehow.
Back to the “point” – the selling (or selling out) of Gardner Bond. Can’t judge a book by its cover, say “they”. Codswallop: the cover has “James Bond” in letters larger than both title and author, there’s a silhouette of a dinner-jacketed man taking aim and the base has “007”, big and bold. Little else upon which to judge it, frankly. It does exactly what it says on the tin. The book has James Bond 007 in it, although moot whether it’s ectually Ken Spoon (or Ron Seal). For Special Services might be open to many criticisms – on their way, lovey – but terminal ambiguity is not one. There is nothing else this could be. Anyone spotting you reading it – once they’ve stopped pointing fingers and whispering (although that’s nothing to do with the book and you know it) – would be in no doubt about what it was; similar absence of doubt in their deciding to flee, chop-chop quick.
The back cover risks undermining this single-mindedness, instilling anxiety whether such tin-based-promise will come true. Things start “well”, boasting that Bond comes armed “with a new pair of Sykes-Fairburn commando daggers and a new Heckler & Koch VP70 hand gun”, as if that can impress non-mental people, and evidence of a burgeoning trend that hardware gets top billing. Still, the book delivers, narrating inanimate serial-numbered murder-things in greater detail than its characters. Possibly the point is that 007 is just an inanimate serially-numbered murder-thing too. Mr Gardner, you scamp. As if that wasn’t enough tedious name-checking of story-hijacking objects, the “turbo-charged silver SAAB 900” clanks back. The author’s note thanks SAAB (GB) Ltd for “proving that the James Bond SAAB really does exist” even if they don’t any more. Karma caught up with them. Because it wasn’t driving a frickin’ SAAB.