A literary mediation 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.
A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart
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 wretched 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.
(image © Max Braun/Flickr)
SPECTRE has officially set a Guinness World Record for the Largest Film Stunt Explosion. Barbara Broccoli, Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux collected the award in Beijing on behalf of special effects supervisor Chris Corbould. The explosion was filmed near Erfoud in Morocco, and used 8,418 litres of fuel and 33kg of explosives.
Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said: “It is absolutely tremendous that the Guinness World Records have recognised Chris Corbould’s incredible work in SPECTRE in which he created the largest explosion ever in film history.”
With just a week to go until the SPECTRE premiere at London’s Royal Albert Hall, the pace of promotion is picking up. Here are a few more of the most recent TV spots from around the world:
According to a tweet from Roger Moore’s official twitter account (@sirrogermoore) it seems that Christopher Wood, script author of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, as well as author of the novelisations to these two, has died, aged 79. While the exact amount and nature of his influence on the scripts of these productions starring Roger Moore remain a topic of debate for fans and cineastes for years, there can be little doubt that his film novelisations still remain favourites with many fans of the literary James Bond; a remarkable achievement in its own right.
Christopher Wood was a prolific writer, both under his real name and under a number of pseudonyms, and he also worked on the scripts for a number of adaptations of his ‘Confessions’ series. Another noteworthy work of his is the script for the 1985 Hollywood production Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.
Team and members of CommanderBond.net hereby wish to express our sincere condolences to Mr Wood’s family and friends.
“Heads you die” is the title of the second YOUNG BOND novel penned by Steve Cole. It will be published in paperback by Red Fox in the UK on 5th May 2016.
Following series creator Charlie Higson, Steve Cole published his first Young Bond novel “Shoot to kill” in November 2014.
In 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.