That, you already knew.This is not a serious experiment.
It resolves nothing, and proves less. In seeking to establish what the 007th chapters of the Bond books tell us of the core ingredients of such enterprises, do not come expecting truth or revelation. The only fact that can be asserted of these brainbursts is that they are my opinions, but I might be lying about that, to tell the truth (or not). Nor are these pieces intended as a guide for aspiring writers of Bond – be they “official” or fan fiction. The latter category may glean nothing from this exercise; the Bond novels tend to have right good spelling and grammar. Plots. Characters. Big words. As far as those charged with filling remainder shops with licensed literary Bond go, they might just get depressed.
However, if you’re familiar with the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 (it’s a page-turner: the car chase is fab), you’ll be aware that copyright in literary works persists until 31 December of the seventieth year after the author’s death. Accordingly, in principle anyway, on 1 January 2035, it’s open season on Ian Fleming’s works. In principle. It may be quite tricky – you’re welcome to try, if you’re still around and fancy litigation as a retirement plan. There’s the small matter of the continuation novels and short stories, evidently created to better the cultural life of the planet and not just preserve rights (God forbid you’d think that: tchoh!) and the equally splendid situation that the books now come with the deathly warning that James Bond and 007 are registered trademarks of Danjaq LLC, used under licence by IFP (kind of them). Trademark protection only lasts ten years, but critically it’s renewable (whereas, in so many ways, Ian Fleming is not, however many grave-based revolutions folks assert he performs on hearing (despite being heavily death) of a blond Bond or an invisible car). Given the happy-go-lucky good-natured attitude to their intellectual property that Danjaq have often demonstrated to this website, one suspects they’re unlikely to forget to send the form in on time.
I suppose that doesn’t technically stop someone from using the text of (say) Thunderball and changing the name and number – seemed to be the heart of the McClory argument, that – but one would doubt both the sanity and the point. I’m in no position to judge either, though, as will rapidly emerge.
Insfoar as there’s any structure to the venture, let’s play Goldfinger:
Volume 1: Happenstance will concentrate on the Flemings;
Volume 2: Coincidence on the Gardners and Bensons; and
Volume 3: Enemy Action, Although It’s Actually Extremely Damaging Friendly Fire, What the Bloody Hell Are IFP Thinking? on the likes of Higson, Faulks, Deaver and Boyd.
Knowing full well that I have been amiss on Amis and ungood on Wood and [something para-rhyming with Pearson (nothing para- rhymes with Pearson)] on Pearson, my views on their efforts will have to wait until this emerges as an e-book although if you’re that desperate to know, you can make a pretty accurate guess.As a clue, the overall structure may follow the classic dramatic arc of a first bit where everything’s sunshiney and delicious; middle part, all dark and horrible and nasty and stuff goes very wrong; third act, heroically back to form. Not too confident about that last one, frankly, but let’s get going.
For the 007th chapter, I’m concentrating on the actual chapter itself as a snapshot of the written Bond. Whilst, as with the films, I could digress into laboured reviews of the remainder of the (de)merits of the product, that would necessitate having to read them all, and I have neither the time nor the patience nor (when it comes to more than a handful of the non-Fleming output) the absence of dignity.
All “quotes” from texts are, unless otherwise stated, copyright Ian Fleming Publications Limited.
The 007th Chapter – Casino Royale: Rouge et Noir
The blood of angry men; the dark of ages past.
Sorry, wrong thing.
An internal chapter, both in that it takes place largely indoors and also that we are invited to consider Bond’s attitude to gambling and women and luck: nutshell Bond. There’s not much action per se, but it does deliver of two particular terraforming moments – meeting Leiter, and devising the Martini.
Insofar as staples of a Bond novel come, the hanging around casinos may be considered a given, but from memory much (in)activity tends also to be set in hotels: I recall the Gardners being irritatingly devoted to this. As a first glance of Bond’s hotel routines, this one’s quite startling in that he orders up a male Swedish masseur who, melting the tensions in Bond’s body (oh, yumster of fnarr), relaxes him nicely. Hmm. Ah, the days before multi-channel pay-perve-view. God alone knows how he claimed that on expenses.
The Fleming capacity to get the adjectives creamingly spot-on hits another bulls-eye with “still twanging nerves”. What else could they do, and how else could Bond’s innate violence be described? Fleming is an amusingly punchy writer, and although it’s easy to assume this comes of training in a requirement to describe by a deadline within a given column-length of words, it’s an easy assumption that I shall be making.
“Bond had always been a gambler”. The detail, the theory and attitude described (at length) in the chapter gives us a prime example of creator and creation being on a par. In other incidents of this and other books, Bond’s actions are attempts to outrage, but it’s difficult to read the analysis of the gambler here as anything other than the writer directly addressing his audience, the fictional “James Bond” and the “story” merely the means of so doing. More monograph then monologue, it is initially easy to flick through it to get to the next bit of “James Bond Does X”, but to do so misses the opportunity to read this ite lide in an upper-middle-class insouciant drawl, pausing only to light one’s fortieth Turkish cigarette of breakfast-time. Directly addressing his audience, the author momentarily puts Bond into the background and unleashes his Weltanshauung. It happens throughout the book – Chapter 20 may as well be Fleming sitting up in bed pontificating about the nature of good and evil – and one could be drawn to the conclusion that all Casino Royale actually is, is a vehicle for Fleming to get his madcap theories across in a palatable manner that people would actually buy – guns, girl, gambling, torture and eating avocado for pudding – rather than have a dissolute, venerally diseased ex-pat journalist with some family money write his philosophy “straight”. What we’ve been given is Ian Fleming: My Struggle dressed in a borrowed velvet gown and served with plenty of toast.
A trite and well-used observation, perhaps, that Bond is fused to Fleming but it does begin to unravel, even so early as this, the frailty at the heart of the Bonds not written by Ian Fleming. Perhaps – perhaps – Amis aside, do we “feel” anything of their authors themselves coming through the writing? Do John Gardner and Raymond Benson deliver the views of John Gardner and Raymond Benson? Is Sebastian Faulks doing anything other than giving us mockingly Fleming-lite views (and therefore rendering Devil May Care ever more curious as a “celebration” of Ian Fleming). When Gardner invents his own hero in Captain Boldman and invests him with dull mannerisms, is there still anything of John Gardner there? I’d hate to think so – in his interviews he didn’t come across as a stodgy Colonel Blimp with a penchant for chicken pie, crepe-soled shoes and Janet Reger underwear. Perhaps this is why the affection for Disney in Never Send Flowers really jars; not so much that James Bond “wouldn’t think that” (whyever not? He’s thick) but it’s nakedly the author bursting off the page and it happens so very rarely in the Gardners, a disconcerting fourth-wall breach of an otherwise sealed world of alliterative names, weapon-fetishism, crimson fireballs and loop-the-loop traitors.
What can we make of Raymond Benson’s worldview through his Bonds? Admittedly, he was stuck with articulating the Brosnan-Bond, which was an unholy mess of a character that couldn’t be acted, never mind written. I suppose that time he has Bond eat Tex-Mex might be close, but that’s still incident rather than any particular opportunity to give us of the echt Raymond. One has seen numerous times when the continuation authors have remarked/whined shamingly defensively that they’re not Ian Fleming: that’s not my point. Are they actually themselves? Faulks, Boyd, Amis – these are not reticent writers by any means, all delivering small-p political and equally tiny-p philosophical material in other works – but you’d struggle to guess it from their Bonds. Arguably, Mr Deaver did produce something closer in tone to his other works, and he does appear to have faced criticism that Carte Blanche is too much a Jeffery Deaver than a James Bond. Damned if you do… etc. I’m not offering a solution here, merely suggesting that giving the next author, erm, carte blanche to deliver [insert name here]’s James Bond might add some sparkle to the nakedly commercial issuing of “Some More Bond For Dollars”. Just got to pick the right author. Whatever its curiosities of judgment, at least this Mr Deaver’s effort is that author’s James Bond and should be celebrated.
If not actually read.
“Bond had always been a gambler”. Sticking with this, another thought emerges. Is Bond first-and-foremost a gambler rather than a spy? The views “he” is given to express about gambling are universally more enthused than the ennui-dripped asides he makes about his ostensible profession. Is the popular perceived focus of the character slightly askew: this is not a super-duper turbo-spy who enjoys high-living, part of which is gambling, but actually a committed and able gambler with a resented occupation? Seems a slightly healthier psyche, frankly. Is there a missing clause within the sentence reading “(and not always a spy)”? Is the first long hour of the Craig Casino Royale a million miles away from this? Were Casino Royale to have been the only Bond adventure, is it not a justifiable conclusion that its hero – John Band or something, not sure, it’s obscure and out-of-print – is a professional gambler rather than a tremendously able and committed secret agent? It’s a tale of gambling, not espionage. I accept that to get Bond into the position of facing off against Le Chiffre, the plot mechanic requires the spy stuff to get going, as does the concluding tragedy – but little else. Aware though I am that the first chapter is called “The Secret Agent”, one suspects at this stage – before he realised where the money lay and thereafter having to contrive ridiculous adventure stories such as Goldfinger – Fleming’s aim was an outrageous tale of high-stakes, vividly-described gambling. It’s in those passages that the loving detail emerges, and in this 007th chapter more than most. The fight between Bond and Le Chiffre is as players, not spies. Perhaps if this had been a series about card-sense Jimmy Bond rather than Bond, James Bond Fights A Giant Squid, it wouldn’t have lasted.
Meanwhile, James Bond is hanging around the Hotel Splendide waiting for his dad to stop going on and on about his theory of luck. Be careful what you wish for, matey – his roulette theory’s next.
“Bond saw luck as a woman, to be softly wooed or brutally ravaged, never pandered to or pursued.” What a little charmer. Does he ever truly act on this, though? Internally “brave” thinking but the book Bond tends towards chivalry – if not going out of his way to woo, exactly – rather than brutal ravaging. All talk, and still not quite right in the head, but he never does come “good” on these thoughts, fortunately. I suspect there may be the odd slap here and there, but is there anything quite as brutal as ConneryBond in Goldfinger’s barn or the scene where Nice Uncle Roger smacks Maud Adams about? Come to think of it, what is the plot of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service other than pandering to and pursuing the incredibly annoying Tracy? Closer to “home”, the relationship with Vesper? I suppose one could argue that such howling inconsistencies with this lunatic view demonstrates character development, although one recalls similar views expressed in later books and with the likes of Pussy Galore, the attitude gets measurably worse. When it comes to acting on these thoughts, fortunately he’s all trousers and no mouth.
“But he was honest enough to admit that he had never yet been made to suffer by cards or by women.” Oh, spoiler A-Lert. Rather puts Double or Die and By Royal Command in their respective places but it is probably best not to worry about such things too much otherwise this could get even more contrived than it already is.
As the chapter progresses, the glee in the detail of Bond’s routine shines through. Couple of fundamentals emerge. Firstly, the nth degree of detail is journalistic eyeballing; this much is a given. Consider, though, what type of journalism it is: this is travel writing, not just a journey through places, but the things, the attitudes, the people of an alien and aspirational land, just across the gunmetal Channel and still out of reach. Thrilling Cities be damned: he was doing it all the time, guiding us through a heightened reality realm of wish-fulfilment. This is, of course, the core weakness of all the continuations: many have better stories than Fleming (the plot of Goldfinger, for example, is inane) but none of them carry you around on their shoulders as much as he does, letting your childish eyes gawp at all the magical stuff. More darkly, it’s a world slightly out of reach to all, and most of all to its creator, only achievable through the expression of his imagination; there’s a dissatisfied desperation in Fleming, tangible in passages such as this. Perhaps it’s only human nature, to only achieve fulfilment through fantasy.
Is it simply a game for rich young boys to play? The colour of the world is changing, day by day…
Secondly, this Bond is not a sloppy man; arguably he’s OCD and that of course manifests itself in other ways, such as his dinner orders, the upcoming recipe for the Martini and his breakfast habits, which veer towards prissiness. No wonder “slightly slovenly” Tiffany Case couldn’t bear it after a while, and one does wonder what the Bond/diVicenzo union would actually have been like, her off her nut and spending money neither of them had, him quietly adjusting the towels and stirring his eggs. I’m not suggesting anything about the Anne Rothermere/Ian Fleming marriage here: Not. At. All. There is fun to be had in the detail, and evidently Fleming is in his element telling us all this stuff about how Bond approaches his gambling, which does help us get an insight into this overcontrolling maniac. This is a man of set ways – it’s not abundantly clear that the experiences of the book change him or have him lighten up at all thereafter – and one wonders whether anyone quite so predictable would really be any good as a secret agent. You’d see him coming a mile off – he’s the one in the Sea Island cotton short sleeve shirt and the knitted silk tie, brushing marmaladed toastcrumbs off himself. Not a good look for a Leningrad winter. Sociopathic fusspot; all they had to do was threaten to drop one of his eggcups and he’d have had a right old thrombie. Don’t even think about giving him raspberry jam. Interesting characteristic – the film Bond seems considerably more lax in his mannerisms and routines, although one could argue that the laboured coffee-making in Live and Let Die is arguable proof that Roger Moore was playing James Bond after all. Unclear quite what this ever-so-slightly-anal-even-discounting-the-homoerotic-undertones Book Bond would make of Daniel Craig talking whilst eating or The Actor Piers Brognog wearing a cravat, other than to pass out in panic.
“As he seemed to be in luck [albeit unclear whether a-woo or a-ravage at this juncture], one or two pilot fish started to swim with the shark.” Oh Ian, you big old softy: we know who you fan-Cy.
“Bond – James Bond.” Flirting with a nice young blond American who thanks him for “the ride”, Bond stumbles into an iconic moment, and there’s more of the “classic” Bond dross in here than perhaps its reputation suggests. Despite assertions elsewhere to the contrary, Q is mentioned in Casino Royale, towards the end of chapter 3, thus rendering the blame for his sheer mouth-drying splendour at the foot of the books rather than the films. Now we have the backsy-forwardsy-attention seeking name intro, and as these two bachelors proceed to compliment each other and head off for a stiff one, we get the Martini. Served, rather oddly, in a deep champagne goblet. Well, that’s not camp, is it? I suppose this thrustingly heterosexual confection was intended to outrage the reader, stuck in drizzly austerity Britain and rationing his own spit. If you want to make this game interactive, and too much/any reading hurts your eyes/brain, at this point watch the bit in Casino Royale where Our Blue-Eyed Blond Boy delivers the lines – it’s spot on. Bond intends to patent the drink when he can “think of a good name”. Not actually possible under the CDPA – this Bond, he’s full of bollocks, isn’t he? In Leiter’s dreams, anyway – and so far as a name goes, how about “Mental Gaybo”? “OC-Deep Throat”?
Had you been there tonight, you might know how it feels, to be struck to the bone in a moment of breathless delight.
Bond, having ably demonstrated that he knows how to pleasure a barman – look, I’m not the one writing this filth – engineers the reaction “Gosh!” from Mass’r Leiter. I plead ignorance here, but is that a common American expression? Strikes me as being a bit British, slightly “Crumbs!” or “Crivens!” or “Cor!”. I expect I’m wrong, but I’ve never heard the Americans of my acquaintance – lovely people, all: such nice teeth – use the expression, even when my nakedness would have given them just cause.
Bond likes his “large and strong” and hates small portions of anything, “especially when they taste bad”. Oh, you riot. Just stop! The drink comes (can this be right?) as “pale golden”, about which I’m writing nothing, because the joke I was going to make was only going to be vile. But in keeping with where this scene’s patently trolling towards, bruising of the shaker and all. Additionally, Bond knows filthy French, which cannot be a huge surprise in “context”. It’s more “colourful” than musical theatre, this. I’m struggling for a suitable show, however.
“But Leiter was still interested in Bond’s drink. ‘You certainly think things out,’ he said with amusement…” Don’t worry Felix, you’ve pulled. Don’t overdo it; try not to sound overkeen. However, bear in mind what an expensive date this Bond man is – it was your round and he practically drank the bar dry. When it’s his turn to buy the drinks, just screech “Cham-Pagne!” and see how he reacts. Word of advice: if at some point he suggests making you breakfast, run. He gets so weird about that.
“…so I’m particularly glad you didn’t get blown to glory.” Oh, get a room. I’m not making this up. Single man has massage, dresses up right fancy, delivers of his dismissive views of women, hangs around with an athletic blond chap who plies him with the second gayest of all the gay drinks (second only to Guinness). If this were the only bit of James Bond you ever read, you’d be amazed it wasn’t banned. Oh, let them talk and let the haters hate. This is a fateful meeting!
Had you been there tonight, you might also have known, how the world may be changed in just one burst of light! And what was right seems wrong, and what was wrong, seems right.
Yes, I know I’m looking at this through jaded/juvenile 2014 eyes but they’re the only ones I have so I guess you’re going to have to help me with “the coping”.
During the subsequent conversation Leiter basically gives himself up to Bond as his underling, which is a ) munchable of thought and b ) seems to chime pretty well with the attitude to Leiter and the United States generally in the films: helping hands. Fnarr. Leaving this unutterably puerile – albeit heavily suggested – avenue aside, at face value the conversation between Bond and Leiter does express a cynicism about world politics and the spy game that the simpler/simplistic films have tended to avoid in order to grasp money. That’ll return.
Meanwhile, back at the subtext, Bond indulges in a reverie about the fineness of good Americans and the particular qualities of Texans. Practising the line in his head before delivery, one supposes, and at least it avoids having to contemplate where we now are on the Woo/Ravage-ometer. Play it cool, James: he passed your test in buying you the World’s most expensive drink with barely a flutter of the eyelids. He’s a keeper. He also dresses like Frank Sinatra, which is an interesting contemporaneous pop-culture reference and is it really any better than referencing Harry Potter or The Rolling Stones? For half a page Bond effectively eyes-up Feel Licks Leiter and I’m pretty sure (cannot be bothered looking) that subsequent female characters of Bond’s acquaintance are similarly blessed with a “wide wry mouth” and/or “grey eyes […with] a feline slant”, albeit I can’t now recall whether any came with “the jack-knife quality of a falcon”, whatever that might be. Not that one eyeballs falcons on a regular basis, but I’m not totally sold on the avian toolshed metaphor. That said, a number of birds I’ve known have been right old hoes.
“A mop of straw-coloured hair lent his face a boyish look which closer examination contradicted.” Remember to tell the police that. Leiter speaks “quite openly” – ooh, innee bold? – about his “duties in Paris” – the mind boggles although you can probably guess the direction in which it boggleth. And now it’s hotel time.
The incident of the thwarted bomb, the damage observed by Bond and Leiter, one assumes has its parallel in the extended Miami Airport chase sequence of the 2006 film, albeit in the book the miscreants accidentally blow themselves up. Insofar as it’s only a light parallel, that’s definitely one of those “Unused Fleming” things that could work its way into one of the films at some point. I was half-expecting it in the film’s café sequence with Mathis and slightly disappointed that it didn’t occur as this would have save an undignified cameo from one of the producers and a very clunky reference to Photoshop. Albeit no clunkier that suggesting that Leiter is channelling Sinatra (and that’s a positively obscene thought).
The discussion about the concierge – some deft writing to sashay from one conversation into another without anyone really noticing – is more high-living detail, delivering unto a rain-soaked readership the need to know such a thing, and bunging in the odd maharajah for good measure. The chapter is sybaritic to the nth degree. Bond gambles milles and milles and milles of francs (possibly about 10p), he has a rough massage from a strapping Swede, he drinks voddie cocktails with a comely chap who has “speed and strength in him”, with luck, and now he arranges to meet his new chum back at the Casino – ooh, second date! All this must have outraged. Does leave one wondering about that passage (fn… no) in The Man with the Golden Gun where, with Bond reLeitering the flame, the language and habits of spies and homosexuals are paralleled. This 007th chapter demonstrates that they’d been at it like (jack) knives for years.
More sensibly, what has the chapter laid down as Bondnovel ingredients, albeit ingredients slightly less precisely articulated than Double-OCD’s drinks order? Questionable attitude to women, look-but-don’t-touch aspiration, high-living just beyond the reach of all of us, Felix Leiter, Bond James Bond, precision instrument, undercurrent of violence? Seems like a good start. As a 007th chapter, this one has relentless detail propelling a short chapter forward, a handful of time-barred cultural references and questionable American-English idiom. And there we were thinking Carte Blanche was rubbish.
James Bond will return in the 007th chapter of Live and Let Die. Jacques Stewart has ordered a masseur for three o’clock. Mrs Jim is visiting friends and an old man needs company now and again.