What follows is a little present from CBn for Christmas morning. Our Jacques Stewart weaves a correspondence of a “what if?” situation, the “what if?” being what if Ian Fleming had never found a publisher—until now?
Pimhole, Mingeflap & Toss
13, Pearldrop Alley
Hagrid P. Mingeflap
Mr. I. L. Fleming
25 December 2007
Dear Mr. Fleming
Thank you for your letter and parcel of 11 August 1964, which we found last week upon reupholstering the pelican. Our apologies for a slow response. We trust that this has not unduly inconvenienced you and that this letter finds you well.
We are extremely obliged to you for your manuscripts, albeit unsolicited. As with all agents, we are unashamed to admit that we are desperately keen to find a new phenomenon to match Harry Potter. Writing on behalf of this partnership, this is so that people are encouraged to read and enjoy a communal experience, and also to make absolute cocking bumloads of cash from the undemanding and easily deceived.
We have read all that you sent to us, and consider that your character and your stories show much promise and imagination for a new, unheard-of author. Please do appreciate that in not being a sportsperformer, an East End thug or having come ninth in Celebrity Love Abattoir in 2003, your chances of securing an extensive publishing deal are minute.
This noted, we consider there is much in what you have written that could be of a certain specıalıst interest. However, before we could possibly undertake to represent you and negotiate a small sum from a minor fiction publisher, we would recommend that you reflect upon our suggestions for alterations to your work. As the agents who secured the deals for The Rose West Christmas Kitchen, The Ken Kercheval Family Bible and Scrappy-Doo: My Wanton, Boycrazy Life, we consider that we know the business sufficiently well to make these observations.
As a general point, we wonder how sympathetic a character this (late thirties? We are afraid that the birthdate is very unclear!) introverted gambler with serious drinking and smoking and killing people problems (more upon these later) will be to what should be your target audience. Perhaps you could consider making James Bond a teenage boy? Or maybe a wizard? Or maybe even a combination of the two? Additionally, he appears to have few, if any, friends. Perhaps a platonic relationship with a female character, and give him a slightly less able male friend for comic relief? We would urge you to think about this.
Before turning to the specific stories, please bear in mind that it is our considered opinion that all your titles would be much improved by having the words “James Bond and…” preceding them. Brand values are critical for pester power, and marketing opportunities would be much strengthened. Would you purchase a deodorant called only “Quantum of Solace”? Think on!
Turning to the books themselves then, we regret that for several of them we could not get beyond the opening lines.
“The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.”
This must be changed as it references the act of smoking in an enclosed space, which has been illegal in England since 1 July 2007, and in France since before then.
Our suggestion is “Graham the floppy-eared piglet was having a troublesome day.”
Live and Let Die
Whilst the opening line is fine, we highly recommend a rethink of the title of the fifth chapter. Calling this “Nigger Heaven” is likely to cause offence as the use of “heaven” will tend to upset non-Christians and we recommend that you acknowledge religious diversity. Otherwise, fine.
“The two thirty-eights roared simultaneously.”
This needs further work as it glorifies the use of handguns, which few if any publishers will wish to. We consider that choosing another weapon would not disrupt the meaning of the prose. Have you considered… a wand?
Diamonds are Forever
“With its two fighting claws held forward like a wrestler’s arms, the big pandinus scorpion emerged with a dry rustle from the finger-sized hole under the rock.”
Whilst this sentence of itself causes us little difficulty, we suggest opening with something else. As written, this leads to the incident of the same scorpion being smashed under a stone, which is a breach of the Colwyn Bay PETA Accord of 1977; a publisher would be required to confirm that no animal was harmed in the writing of this book.
From Russia, with Love
“The naked man who lay splayed out on his face beside the swimming pool might have been dead.”
We would recommend some thought on this, as it appears to be aimed at those with an interest in indirectly homoerotic thrills. Admittedly, we did read further into this one and would like to remind you that the Russians are our friends now. Save for changing the villain to Al-Qaeda or perhaps a renegade
wizard spy gathering his own army, we very much doubt that this will find a readership.
Again, we have no issue with the opening of the story, and rather like the fight with the giant squid (query whether a giant spider would be more realistic) but would ask that you review whether it is appropriate for your villain to drown in some pooh.
Forgive the question, but are you completely insane?
“James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death.”
Encourages binge drinking, please remove this.
From a View to a Kill
“The eyes behind the wide black rubber goggles were cold as flint. In the howling speed-turmoil of a BSA M20 doing seventy, they were the only quiet things in the hurtling flesh and metal.”
Appears to praise speeding, which is most unsafe. What if a four year-old were to read that? Have you thought of the consequences? Brr.
For Your Eyes Only
Whilst the opening line does not offend, the detailed and lengthy and lingering observation your James Bond makes of the villain could be construed as gay pørn. You may be amazed to learn that Harry Potter was notable for an absence of rimming, despite plenty of opportunity. We are not prepared to enter into a debate that this would have improved it. Whilst we acknowledge that Ms. Rowling did “out” Dumbeldore, we note her bravery in so doing once the series was over and her money was safely in the bank. We consider you capable of being even braver; the repeated references to women having bottoms like boys have not gone unnoticed. We think this is an interesting character point that you should work on and emphasise.
Quantum of Solace
“James Bond said: ‘I’ve always thought that if I ever married I would marry an air hostess’.”
Your James Bond does seem to spend a lot of time in airports. We consider that some readers may find this interrupts the action. Perhaps you could consider a quicker way to get him airborne? Let us think of something.
We do not understand the title.
“In this pizniss is much risico.”
We have noted a tendency in your writing to stereotype regional or foreign accents. You need an eye to the overseas franchises; to do otherwise is poor business sense and insufficiently aware of this as a marketable commodity. How would you expect to sell James Bond skirting board to Italy if you persist with such things?
The Hildebrand Rarity
The incident with the sting-ray has to go; see Diamonds are Forever, above. Also, may be seen as insensitive to the family of that Irwin fellow. Additionally, you appear to have forgotten to complete the story; the reader will be left wondering who did it. Finish this one and we may reconsider it.
“It was one of those days when it seemed to James Bond that all life, as someone put it, was nothing but a heap of six to four against.”
You must rewrite this. Gambling is not to be encouraged.
Please ignore this point as a mere observation if inaccurate, but this does seem terribly familiar. Are you quite sure that this one is all your own work?
The Spy who Loved Me
Moving swiftly on…
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
“It was one of those Septembers when it seemed that the summer would never end.”
Whilst a rather lovely comment, you will need to alter this to take account of global warming. Change “Septembers” to “Januarys”.
As your Christmas holiday special story, it requires a moral and, most importantly, a happy, heartwarming ending. This is the law.
Whilst we accept that it is dramatically credible for your James Bond to marry, that it is to a woman came as something of a surprise to us. Review please whether this is consistent with the character to this point.
You Only Live Twice
“The geisha called ‘Trembling Leaf’, on her knees beside James Bond, leant forward from the waist and kissed him chastely on the right cheek.”
Sexist, racist, probably misogynist, insufficiently culturally aware. It’s not really working, is it, Mr Fleming?
The Man with the Golden Gun
Opening is fine, but please take our advice: if you want this gay love story to work, you need to make it much more blatant. As the final tale in your character study, the readers will want a big, emotional, tragic payoff to your dissection of the self-deceit a middle-aged homosexual with considerable rage issues had to go through pre-Wolfenden (we assume this is the point behind the overall meta-narrative; we could not establish any other). At present, it falls very flat as a conclusion to the character arc and reads as if you haven’t had the time to finish it, or your heart was not in it, or not working. Evidently, the groundwork is all there anyway but don’t be afraid to pump it up, pump it up a lot. The leading lady character doesn’t work, and we rather suspect you do not want it to but lacked the courage of your conviction. Do not worry! You will not be convicted. Except in Idaho, Nebraska, Utah and Maine, but we doubt that the American market will take much of an interest in these books anyway, so fret not.
“‘You know what?’ said Major Dexter-Smythe to the octopus. ‘You’re going to have a real treat today if I can manage it’.”
This mocks those who believe that an octopus can talk. They are a significant minority interest group and this could be construed as a hate crime. The Pussy Pound is a big market and you really cannot risk sales in this manner.
The Property of a Lady
We wonder whether you recall the vicious websites set up in protest at Mr Ian McEwan’s decision to give one of his dour novellas the title “The Super-Duper Fluffpocket Scrumblenumpkin Lovely Adventure”. We recall such comments as “it is sounding like chick-lit”, “what color is yur wee 2day?”, “dont judge a book by its titel. you would’nt judge a actor by his hair” and “macewwan has raped my brain.” We consider that if you call one of your stories The Property of a Lady, you too will be subjected to such similarly expert views on internet message boards, and invite you to consider renaming this as a priority, for the sake of your mental health.
The Living Daylights
“James Bond lay at the five-hundred-yard firing point of the famous Century Range at Bisley.
Guns, Mr Fleming! Guns! No!
007 in New York
“It was around ten o’clock on a blue and golden morning at the end of September and the BOAC Monarch flight from London had come in at the same time as four other international flights.”
That thorny problem of spending so much time travelling on aeroplanes again! Air travel is not exciting to the twenty-first century reader. You must update these tales. We worry that your reliance on the hero travelling in aeroplanes (and vintage sports cars, for that matter) gives him a substantial and indefensible carbon footprint. Accordingly, our suggestion would be to give him a broom.
Returning to general points, you noted in your letter that you wrote your stories to take your mind off your marriage. Please do not be offended by our suggestion that you do not repeat this too often; people will gain the impression, on reading your work, that your wife is an abominable woman.
Please, having read the above, do not believe that we think your stories are without any merit. Much of what you have written is extremely marketable. The Ministry of Defence is plainly comparable to The Ministry of Magic. The hero has a significant scar, and parents who died in tragic circumstances. Your Blofeld, with his numerous acolytes and capricious insanity, is reminiscent of Lord Voldemort, even down to the inexplicable ability to change his shape. Your lead character has a beloved family member murdered suddenly by the major villain (or his female accomplice – this is unclear). This armourer character is evidently Mr Ollivander, the Intelligence Service is housed in a building holding many secrets and headed by a male patriarch who sometimes shows personal warmth to your impetuous male lead, although it would appear that your M. can whistle whereas Dumbledore probably cannot. These similarities suggest that you would be amenable to our overall recommendations for this James Bond, which are:-
- Drop the unconvincing pretence of heterosexuality, the casual sex, the gunplay, the gambling, the smoking, the drinking, the gluttony, the international travel, the incidental racism and general bigotry, the violence, the nudity, the end-of-Empire misanthropy, the adult characters, the country sports and the sexual fetishism. With such aspects retained, you will struggle to find any sort of readership. It lacks popular appeal.
- Broom + Wand = Magic!
With this letter, we return your manuscripts. As a point to note, please send further agents (if not ourselves) your work by pdf attached to an email. Are you aware of the cost of posting to Jamaica?
If, upon reading this letter, you wish to discuss our recommendations further, please do not hesitate to contact us. If you do not wish to proceed with our suggestions, thank you for your interest and we wish you good luck with your writing but do take our advice that James Bond, as written, just will not sell.
Hagrid P. Mingeflap
Pimhole, Mingeflap & Toss
p.s. Your recipe for scrambled eggs is lethal.