1. The 007th Chapter: You Only Live Twice –

    By Helmut Schierer on 2015-02-21


    A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart






    Previously, on James Bahnd…


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




    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 –

    – A pretty girl. Granted, a requisite. That this one’s a film star and Bond impregnates her strikes me as escalating the norm a nadge.


    – Indulgent food – a given. That it’s still alive or could kill you – not so.


    – A childish fascination with the promise (but not act) of skewed sexual practice. This one has toad sweating. Yum.


    – Referencing past adventures has, of course, occurred before, but taken further here with a direct sequel. Might be difficult to establish what’s going on were this the first Fleming you read.


    – A more substantive moral tone than perception of Fleming’s output permits. True, a perception that cage-rattling opinions and sexual tease don’t render undeserved, but recently we’ve had criticised the superficiality of Bond’s allure in The Spy Who Loved Me, then excoriation of unedifying lust for status in OHMSS. Now, where revenge is concerned, it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. The two graves yawn wide for Bond and Blofeld; likewise, for Fleming, avenging himself on Bond by “killing” him, then wiping his personality and then having him defect in ambiguous circumstances. In parallel, the mutual participants accelerate mutual destruction. Violence has solved nothing. No catharsis, no satisfaction, no reward. Odd stance for an adventure novel to take, that it was all pointless, but save to the effect it’s exhibited at its most extreme here, this idea has been coming since Quantum of Solace, if not earlier. It gets another outing next time, too.


    – WWII hangovers. They litter the books but this time Bond subjugates himself to a wartime enemy. That’s new. Wouldn’t have happened with (say) the Germans. The development of the relationship with Tanaka from this inauspicious start is critical; these are men of their time. Taking them away from their war experiences, and mutually wary discussion of them and the cultural aftermath, and dropping them into – say – 2002, hollows out the residual tension between the characters, the basis of the relationship, that remains unresolved by this book’s end.


    – Further, the relationship with the ally – Quarrel, Kerim, Leiter even – has tended to put the pal into the role of assistant, a helper to Bond. Not a servant per se but not quite equal; a friend in a time of need. Here, Bond assists Tanaka. This is not the standard ally dynamic.


    – Hot gypsies. This time they’re sea-gypsies. One better.


    – St. George. Dragon. Slay. Here, little Black Dragons surround the bigger one, who for SCREAMED SUBTEXT handily wears a kimono with a golden dragon sprawled across it. Just in case you didn’t / couldn’t get it. Still, they did let the Bs and Cs read these, didn’t they?


    – The grotesque. Whilst there might be more physically repulsive creatures than Blofeld and Bunt in Fleming’s armoury, although they give anyone a good run, the whole Garden of Death set-up is textbook heightened macabre, the closest to outright unnerving horror he gets.


    – A murky-of-motive M. Previously, Bond has helped him resolve M’s conflict – Von Hammerstein, for example. Now Bond is the conflict. M’s passive / aggressive attitude to 007 has been escalating for some time, and it’s about to go bang. His behaviour here tends to suggest that all Colonel Boris did to Bond was to let a seed already sown, bloom. Folks talk of these concluding novels (the ones not written by Vivienne Michel, anyway) as a “Blofeld trilogy”; fairy nuff, but equally so they’re the “M quartet”: humiliating 007 by sending him off to Shrublands, then giving him a lousy task in tracking Blofeld and here shaming him again when sympathy might have been in order. No wonder, in book 4, Bond tries to “pop” a “cap” in his “bottom”. Doesn’t change anything; M sacrifices Bond to Scaramanga because he prefers others to do his dirty work for him, the swine.


    – James Bond’s capacity for self-destruction competing with a fierce will to keep living. Goldfinger’s buzzsaw is a notable example, as is the Crab Key assault course. With this one, he has good cause to harbour bleak thoughts and it’s wincingly black comedy that the opportunity to embrace suicide is presented on a plate with Blofeld’s oasis of oblivion, and Tanaka banging on about how honourable it is. That he fights off temptation reminds one that however violent the closing battle may be, the greater struggle Bond has to overcome in this book is within. Blofeld is dispatched pretty efficiently; it is Bond’s personal history that is his own worst enemy. Wipe it clean, and start one’s second life anew.


    – Amused, fascinated, repulsed, engaged, stand-offish, flummoxed, frustrated descriptions of a foreign culture. Many, many pages, even more time and attention devoted to it than the USA of Live and Let Die or the Jamaica of Dr No. Some whine that You Only Live Twice has “too much” travelogue, but the travel writing has always been an ingredient. “More than before” is more legitimate an observation yet, delivered like this, it’s not something about which to moan.


    – A disguise. Some mild tinkering around the edges in Live and Let Die and, of course, the last book’s alter ego; but here, a full-on change in appearance. Pushing a previous trick one step beyond.


    – Distancing of creator from his creation. The moralising is one facet, but arguably the obituary’s mocking of the books is the ultimate betrayal, and another twist in a corkscrew of them at the close of play. Additionally, Bond’s overall lack of success is amplified by the position in which Britain finds itself. His exploits have achieved very little and have brought him and the nation no reward. That he is on this mission shouts loudly his pointlessness; had he been a success, had what he achieved meant anything, Britain might have been better off. Not suggesting things have gone backwards because of Bond, but he might as well have not bothered. It’s only after he’s been scrubbed clean next time around that he’s offered a knighthood; all the other “successes” patently didn’t stack up.


    – Associated with this is the contempt for decay in post-War Britain. Tanaka gets a blistering couple of speeches on the point and, since he’s an Oxford man, he’s utterly butterly and must be agreed with. Additionally, the whole Magic 44 and 7777 episode is a cruel demonstration of how incidental Britain is. Bond is not just preserving its position, as in previous books: he is trying to enhance it. Bond’s rhetoric of “…our Welfare State politics may have made us expect too much for free, and the liberation of our Colonies may have gone too fast, but we still climb Everest and beat plenty of the world at plenty of sports and win Nobel Prizes…” – who are you trying to convince, matey?


    – The villain arguing their case. Common enough, but whilst the likes of Mr Big, Drax, Dr No and Goldfinger acknowledge in their monologues that they are operating as criminals, Blofeld’s claim is to have been an unfairly underacknowledged humanitarian, and there’s a macabre plausibility to his reasoning. The heroes and villains finally did get mixed up, after all.


    – An increasingly jaundiced view of the USA. Bond’s cynicism about its relationship with Japan, for that matter Tanaka’s bitterness about the “despicable way of life” with its “hideously large bosoms”, is not the open-eyed tourism of Live and Let Die. Whilst that wasn’t wholly uncritical, and this book isn’t entirely anti-, there’s a perceptible shift in attitude, particularly in Bond’s analysis that the cultural ills have been visited on Japan by “the lower level GIs… who are basically Irish or Germans (yay!) or Czechs or Poles”; all the usual Bond-baiting food-groups. Not the Scots, it would seem.


    – Egg obsession. In particular, the bizarre comparison between the ceremonial delicacy of fugu to eating an underdone fried egg. Slightly parochial, terribly amusing.


    – On that, is this the funniest Bond book? The notion of 007 – he of “colourful” views and a penchant for violence – on an incredibly sensitive diplomatic errand is a hoot. Clowning around with live fish on his plate, sustained comedy of (extremely good) manners, relentless culture clash pratfalls and pithy barbs from Bond (this 007th Chapter contains a belter) – there may have been similar episodes before but it’s the juxtaposition with the grimness that heightens the humour here. Perhaps it’s a creeping influence of the tone of the films, although this Bond is comically ignorant and clumsy whilst they tend to go for “urbane” to commoditise shallow consumer aspiration. This is not the po-faced professional of Casino Royale nor the boorish lout of Goldfinger. And how can one not love – adore – a book that proclaims “The fish tasted of nothing, not even of fish.”? Art.


    – An interest in flora and fauna runs as a rich seam through Fleming’s novels, and is obviously taken to insane extents in this one.


    There are doubtless others. Ludicrous opinions (many); probable racism (much); name-dropping one’s friends (Coward; Kissy’s cormorant etc); a villain dying of boredom and possibly articulating the thoughts of the author – all there. I’d suggest it’s the ultimate Fleming. Perhaps not in plot, or girl, or villain or “action” the most archetypical “Bond” in the public eye – for good or ill, depressingly that might be Goldfinger – but all the Fleming is there, and maxed out. An all time high. How much further could it go? Once you’ve had lethal shrubbery and a Samurai Schweitzer, where next without being farcical? Containing many standard requirements, accentuated to the point of the absurd, this is an adventure where Bond is stunningly insensitive to an Asian culture, the baddie is by his own reckoning benefiting mankind with his scheme, and there’s a sword fight with a loony who has changed his appearance and who owns a garden with bubbly hot spring things. It marks the death of this version of James Bond, leading to a quasi-reboot in which he is stripped back, to begin again.


    Which makes it Die Another Day.


    Freddie Uncle Charlie Katie.


    The 007th Chapter – You Only Live Twice: The Death Collector

    You Only Live Twice: When Gardeners Go Bad. Note – this is not When Gardners Go Bad; that’s [spoiler]. And [spoiler]. [Spoiler] too, for many, although I rather like that one.


    Another example of FlemingPlus. Albeit open to an accusation of filling space and meeting a requirement for girth, in the recent books there’s a tendency to paraphrase conversations and information about a subject of fleeting interest: the taxi-driver and the enzyme chats in Thunderball, two dialogue-heavy chapters in the College of Arms last time out, as examples. “Paraphrase” might itself be a paraphrase for “utilise wholesale without expressly citing the source” although to put that higher than a personal impression leads one back to Thunderball, big trouble and a red-hot geyser of litigation. Much of this 007th Chapter is given over to two lists of information which, whilst helping set the scene, aren’t that generous to an idiot contriving to take the piss without any justification for so doing.


    Leaves one pondering: in the rumination about the bird-life of Jamaica at the start of For Your Eyes Only, was there “reliance” on the work of the ectual James Bond? Brainburster of a wheeze, if so. If that didn’t bruise your noddle, the obituary fesses up to stealing someone else’s life story entirely.


    Anyway, back at one of Bond and Tanaka’s many – many – conversations, we’ve just rolled away from a plump cliffhanger – “He collects death” – which slips in another common idea; that coveting, collecting, is morally dodgy, and you can’t get dodgier than “death”. Maybe watches. “Let us just say that he provides an easy and attractive opportunity – a resort – for people to do away with themselves.” Well, he is from Switzerland, they’re quite big on euthanasia, although their “resort” seems to be a tin hut on a Zurich industrial estate rather than the theatrics of (rumble of thunder) THE ALLOTMENT OF DOOM. Can’t help feeling the Swiss are missing a trick, there.


    As well as a citizen, even if the claims to such are thin. Switzerland. Who do we know who’s latterly been in Switzerland? No? Oh, come on. “Dr Guntrum Shatterhand” has the planet’s most attention-seeking villainous name and no real background, in spite of which the CIA have cleared him (the clowns, maintaining a record for perceptive brilliance despite Kristatos ), so he must be suspect. Blofeld – for it is he, sorry for the spoiler fifty years on – is up to his old trick of exploiting his status and that of others, money and titles still getting him somewhere. Slightly unclear where the fascination for psychotic daisies has come from but he’s gone a bit bonkers so I expect we shouldn’t question it too thoroughly. Like the CIA. I might take up gardening as I shuffle towards retirement, although the Chinaberry tree isn’t that popular in Oxfordshire. Shame: it would see to next door’s cat most gratifyingly. Couple of Jequiritz beans rammed right up its fumarole should sort it out.


    They just waved in Shatterhand, this Gertrude Jekyll-and-Hyde. “An interesting and financially sound citizen whose harmless pursuits would be of some benefit to Japan.”  Despite importing hostile veggies. Amazing. These days you can’t get into anywhere with an atospeck of mud on your shoe. Reminds me of Darwin airport where I had a KitKat in my pocket. Won’t tell you how I smuggled it through Immigration, but keep thinking about Down Under and you’re in the right ballpark.


    The business about Shatterhand choosing his castle is a sparkling dollop of mischievous whimsy as it appears from a number of reliable sources that coastal fortresses are none-too-common in Japan. Given that I’m unconvinced that anything that goes on in or around said establishment is intended as documentary fact, with glee one excuses it. That it achieves any semblance of plausibility is the trick seen with (say) Mr Big’s ballistic desk – slip something ridiculous into the true detail and see if you get away with it. It may well be that because so much of You Only Live Twice is gloriously absurd that there has to be loads of surrounding factual backdrop to ensure you only suspend disbelief rather than succumb to it entirely, which could only be to the detriment of enjoying it.


    “The doctor and his wife, who is by the way extremely ugly…” Ooh, you bitch. Yet she speaks so highly of you.  In context, there’s no need for Tanaka to make this observation, other than dropping another clue for Thick Jamie to miss. A few sakes 7777 may have had, but how much more obvious could it be, other than Shatterhand recruiting a criminal gang as his staff?




    The background and motives of the Black Dragon Society – name’s a giveaway that they’re cheeky rapscallions – might not be true, but it’s recounted with such plausibility that it could be; largely the purpose of the whole Bond enterprise and the delicacy of Fleming’s approach, the balance that guides the ludicrous to within touching distance of credibility. The eventual obituary’s barb about the quality of the books and their questionable “degree of veracity” might be Fleming playing at not wanting to be seen to have tried – how vulgar – but equally could be a fine in-joke; “degree of veracity” is the great strength of Fleming’s books. Not “total veracity”, for that would be extremely dull and “James Bond” is not, nor is it intended as, a realistic depiction of the security services and all its multiple dull machinations. Judging the “degree” of veracity just so helps smuggle in the utter absurdity of what is not so much a Hanging Garden of Babylon as a Hanging, Disembowelling, Gnawing and Poisoning Garden of Grr. Frankly, if you can call a story “Quantum of Solace”, “Degree of Veracity” seems no worse to me, and applicable to any of them. The films regularly go mad and overstep the mark and there’s a tendency amongst the continuationists to try to increase the quantum of truth, so that when moments of lunacy come, they seem much more noticeable as such, less deftly woven, out-of-place, forced, and their contrivance blaring louder.


    This isn’t to suggest Fleming always succeeded in weighing it up. Goldfinger relies on ridiculous turns of fortune and coming up soon is the curious incident of Scaramanga hiring Bond for no readily explicable reason. For the former, I’d suggest that Goldfinger is a deliberate bored piss-take of a book; for the latter, evidently an underdone one. Speculation though it is, but I take the view that given the opportunity to do more with his final novel, Fleming would not have altered that plot point; however, he may have included more garnish to help us swallow it.


    If there’s a point to the latter half of the book, other than demonstrating a verdant, overgrown imagination, I suppose it’s that one cannot defy death, but one can defy the reader’s expectations. There’s an early example being set up here: the Black Dragons have a couple of (very long) paragraphs building them up and then ultimately they turn out to be less armed guards and more armed gardeners. It’s like hiring Steven Seagal and getting him to empty your bins, although even that might actually be beyond him now, poor old soul. “They were totally ruthless, and not out of any particular political conviction. They operated strictly for cash.” There used to be another organisation just like that. No? What do you want – words of one syllable? Will a photograph do? On which…. Bond has met Blofeld’s new face, and knows Blofeld is on the run. Either a ) does not use Identigraph so lauded in the previous book to create an image to be sent to security services around the world, which is further evidence of “slipping” or b ) he does do this but Tanaka doesn’t recognise the man from the comparable photograph of Shatterhand? Garden of Massive Plot Holes, that.


    Strikes me that this is one of few occasions in Fleming where the reader runs ahead of Bond; the other clear example being the opening chapters of From Russia With Love, but the difference here is that we are travelling alongside the man, not ahead of him, and yet still arriving more quickly at the destination. Is it further distancing – emphasising that Bond has indeed lost his sharpness, making 7777 look foolish despite the mounting evidence? Or a dramatic trick, that we can get excited in anticipating how Bond will react when he finds out what we’re increasingly sure of, and yet more thrilled at the thought of how gratifying the revenge will be until… until it’s not. The dead don’t care about vengeance, and nor should you. Boo. Bloody Fleming and his twist endings. It’s probably both of those ideas. Clever.


    “Really, for the head of a national secret service, Tiger’s metaphors were almost ridiculously dramatic.” Yeah, you just don’t want a chief with an imbalanced approach to similie and oxymoron, do you? Let’s have one like M, a conniving psychopath out to destroy Bond in various terrible ways. The moaning that goes on about the attitude of the Dench M tends to ignore how beastly, critical and unkind Fleming had M towards the end. If I had a boss like that, I’d leave the scabby bastard on Colonel Sun’s island and consider a skewer down the ear too generous a fate. No wonder he needed that slidey-down screen job, although it might have ectually been installed to protect his abused minions from his devious cruelty rather than the other way around.


    “He and his hideous wife are not harmed by these things…” Oh, leave her alone, you rotter. She’s done nothing to you. To Bond… well, OK, maybe, but unless you’re being very, very mean to Bondo-san and sadistically withholding that you know precisely who the Shatterhands are, the Bunt-abuse seems uncalled for. Save, of course, to watch another clue about the mastermind behind Organic Dignitas go sailing by. “…she wears some other kind of protective clothing.” Surprised you didn’t say it was her face, and the spiders and snakes and whatnot are scared of contracting her. Don’t forget that you only have that “golden smile” of yours because your teeth are rotten. People in glass houses shouldn’t grow Jimson weed, or something.


    “What a daft set-up.” I’m not sure why, but I find this comment of Bond’s tremendously funny. The fourth wall crumbles as Bond, under his breath, addresses the reader directly for the first time in his career; that’s how I’ve always read it, anyway. A Pythonesque aside, the self-mockery – the films’ influence? – puts this a long way from the austere soul of Casino Royale. Deliciously self-aware, although questionable whether “daft” is convincingly “Bond” a word (and he’ll use it again in the next chapter).  When your own leading man starts doubting the sanity of it, you might as well unleash the diving girls, toxic cress and THE FORTRESS OF OBLITERATION because it’s really not going to get any more sensible now.  It is daft. I’m liking this James Bond more and more. Such a shame he has to die, just when he was becoming bearable.


    “Countryside” – also the technical name for the act of killing Blofeld, or M – appears as a consistent ingredient of Fleming’s books, a naturalist manqué. Dr No is basically a study on Man vs. Nature, albeit one with rockets, and whilst that’s a score-draw, here nature’s winning comfortably due to its arsenal of terrifying biology. Who do we know who had an interest in developing aggressive biological cultures? Whilst you’re struggling with that fiendish clue, time for a shopping list:


    “1. Deliriant. Symptoms: spectral illusions, delirium; dilated pupils; thirst and dryness; incoordination; then paralysis and spasms.” Mimic this in a risk-free environment by watching a school nativity play.


    “2. Inebriant. Symptoms: excitement of cerebral functions and of circulation; loss of coordination and muscular movements; double vision; then sleep and deep coma.” Ooh, couple of pints of that, please. Sounds delicious.


    “3. Convulsivant. Symptoms: intermittent spasms, from head downwards. Death from exhaustion, usually within three hours, or rapid recovery.” So it’ll either kill you, or it won’t. Reasonable odds, and sums up everything one ever does, surely? The specific symptoms remind me of our third wedding anniversary. “Leather”, apparently. Stockholm. We had to kill time. Nearly each other. All a touch grubby.


    “4. Depressant. Symptoms: vertigo, vomiting, abdominal pain, confused vision, convulsions, paralysis, fainting, sometimes asphyxia.” I doubt I’ve ever read such an efficient and objective review of Fox News.


    5. Asthenic. Symptoms: numbness, tingling mouth, abdominal pain, vertigo, vomiting, purging, delirium, paralysis, fainting.” Remember Sunny Delight? That. Purging sounds… good? Is that like 5/2 or the one where you gorge yourself on roast pork but can’t eat spuds?


    “6. Irritant. (Hi!) Symptoms: maddeningly underedited rubbish about the Bond books burning pain in throat and stomach, thirst, nausea, vomiting. Death by shock, convulsions or exhaustion; or starvation by injury to throat and stomach.” Has evidently encountered Mrs Jim’s trademark rabbit casserole.


    An undodgy dossier of superfoods takes up much of the remainder of this 007th Chapter. It’s slightly arid, and one does wonder, without an unwise direct accusation, what the inspiration for the material was. That very cautiously observed, there’s Flemingesque amusement in the examples: the detail about the oleander wood is especially macabre. “Addiction to toloachi, a drink made from [Datura] tatula, causes chronic imbecility.” Addiction to “internet” achieves the same.


    “Doctor Shatterhand’s garden is indeed a lovesome thing, God wot.” Poetry, then, and not just in the haiku duel. Have we had much poetry before, From a View to a Kill aside? One forgets that Bond is an educated man, although opportunities to use his education have been sparse, in favour of knives and knobbing. Seems a facet of the character Mr Gardner ran with, to the extent that one expected his dullard Captain Boldman, if making it to retirement, to have taken a seat at one of our minor universities (Cambridge). Come into the garden, James, for the black bat, night, has flown, although it’s equally likely one of the snakes got it. T. E. Brown’s ditty about his back yard ends “’Tis very sure God walks in mine”. In Dr Shatterhand’s walks a loony who thinks he’s God, but is much nicer. Educated, then, but not particularly bright is this 7777. Clue after clue nibbles at him like an undernourished pirhana.


    On which: “They can strip a whole horse to the bone in less than an hour.” That’s nothing; Findus could blast-strip an equine carcass in three minutes ten, tops. Ta-Da! Beef Lasagne. Yet, despite the carnivorous fish, toxic hallucinogens, stems that contain “milky juice” (fnarr) and assorted other very naughty hedges, we close the 007th Chapter with Bond still asking what the object of the exercise might be. Perhaps “lame-brain” was justifiable, after all.


    All this excess; you really can’t carry on like this, y’know. Need to trim the fat, scrape back. The balloon’s gone up, and it’s time to let go. You’ve looked death in the face – taken it by the throat, in fact – and killed off all the canker that was clogging up that life’s identity; everything plunges into the sea along with you, and swept away. Time for your second life.


    James Bond will return in the 007th Chapter of The Man with the Golden Gun. Jacques Stewart’s milky sap causes chronic imbecility.