Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Eleven Years Later: an Addendum to “The Dossier on Robert Markham” (first published in 007 Magazine, issue no. 47, October 2005, pp. 28-39)

Guest Article by Hank Reineke

Part 1 of The Colonel Sun Research Special Interest Party's Series

In an August 1982 interview conducted by Raymond Benson (for Bondage, the magazine of the American James Bond Fan Club), author Kingsley Amis relates that he met James Bond creator Ian Fleming on only “a couple” of occasions.  If we take Amis at his word literally, this would mean there were at least two – and possibly only two – genuine meetings between the two men.  If this was the case, at least one (and perhaps both) of these encounters have been partly and properly documented.  On 19 July 1964, Fleming’s wife Ann wrote to Evelyn Waugh that “Kingsley Amis came to dinner.”  Referencing Amis’ as-yet-unpublished study The James Bond Dossier, the cynical Ann – never an admirer of Amis, the sardonic but celebrated author of Lucky Jim (1954) - continued, “I suspect he wrote of Ian to further his own sales, but it seemed a genuine admiration.”  Amis himself recalled an earlier, mostly passing, moment with Ian Fleming at a party, with a second meeting (“the other time”) having transpired when Fleming invited him to a “nice, quite expensive” lunch.  Amis had earlier sent Fleming his typescript of The James Bond Dossier to review prior to the book’s publication and this was, apparently, the main topic of conversation at their luncheon discussion.  I don’t think it’s entirely clear if this luncheon is the same one Ann references in her letter of 19 July 1964.  If it was Fleming would, of course, be dead within a month’s time of that second and final get-together.

In regards to Kingsley Amis’ role in working on the typescript of Fleming’s final James Bond novel The Man with the Golden Gun:  Well, there’s no doubt now that Amis did receive a remittance for his time and effort for working on the final typescript of that novel; Jon Gilbert, author of the masterful and exhaustive  Ian Fleming:  The Bibliography (2012) has revealed that on Christmas Eve 1964, Amis was issued a cheque for his work (amongst several other readers) in helping proof-edit the weak typescript of The Man with the Golden Gun.  It was also revealed that Fleming – due to exhaustion and poor health - was prepared to sign-off on the manuscript and leave it to others to shape into something publishable.  Gilbert notes that 596 proof copies of The Man with the Golden Gun were published; twenty-four of these copies were reserved for Fleming’s “literary heirs,” one of who was – to no one’s surprise – Kingsley Amis.  Gilbert also notes that it was most likely in July/August of 1964 that Cape finally called in Amis (who had already turned in his publication-ready draft of The James Bond Dossier to the publisher), to help tidy up the Fleming typescript as the author’s health had deteriorated so rapidly and unexpectedly.  But all evidence suggests the changes made by Amis and several others made privy to the typescript were all grammatical and/or minor and cosmetic in nature; no one involved had dared change the author’s intent or altered the storyline in any manner.  No matter what the fanciful conspiracy-theorists might suggest. 

The Man with the Golden Gun was published, posthumously, by Jonathan Cape in Britain on 1 April 1965.  As he had access to the typescript long before most others, Amis’ lengthy and not un-critical review of the final Fleming Bond novel (“M for Murder”) was published the following day, 2 April 1965 in the New Statesman.  As I mentioned in my lengthy essay on the history of Colonel Sun in the October 2005 issue of 007 Magazine, Amis had been somewhat disingenuous in not revealing his small role in the editing of the typescript that Fleming had left behind.  It hardly mattered though as his review was less than flattering in nature.

Jonathan Cape was quick to piggy-back pre-emptively on the publication of the decidedly weak tea, mostly bare-bones first draft manuscript that was The Man with the Golden Gun.  Amis’ The James Bond Dossier followed quickly, published by Cape in May of 1965, no doubt in part to burnish – and perhaps salvage - the critical reputation and legacy of the late great Ian Fleming whose hero had seemingly gone out on a low note.  I’ve never come across a first-edition copy of the Dossier that gives more than “Copyright 1965” as the proper date of publication; but the earliest reviews of the Amis book (all from the UK) date from the last month of May 1965.  Amis’ preface to his book is dated “May, 1964” which, if true, means the book languished in pre-publication status for nearly a year.  This would not be too surprising; it would have made perfect sense for Cape to hold back publication of The James Bond Dossier in spring of 1964.  The penultimate Fleming Bond novel, You Only Live Twice, a far superior work to the subsequent The Man with the Golden Gun, had only been published in March 1964 and was still enjoying strong sales.  Having the Amis book arrive so soon after would have not been a sensible marketing move and might have even proved detrimental to sales of You Only Live Twice at that particular time.

The lengthy delay in Amis turning in his original typescript of The James Bond Dossier in May of 1964 and the posthumous publication of The Man with the Golden Gun on 1 April 1965, allowed Amis to revisit the Dossier.  This left him free to weave in passing references to the now most recent James Bond novel as well as properly mourn and duly note Fleming’s passing in the book’s final chapter.  Regardless, there’s still not a lot of discussion or mention of The Man with the Golden Gun in the Dossier; I’d guess that most of the references to this disappointing final Fleming Bond were added only to complete the circle and give his own study a more contemporary sheen.

As for the myth of Kingsley Amis’ lone Bond continuation novel Colonel Sun having been conceived from Fleming’s notes?  In short, this is complete nonsense.  It was a totally original novel.  Amis has long maintained this was the case and I (nor anyone else) should have any reason to doubt it.  Despite Ann Fleming’s misgivings of her late husband’s very personal creation having been appropriated by another writer, it was clear from the beginning that Fleming’s publisher, Jonathan Cape, was not going to let James Bond get buried along with his creator.  Amis famously ended The James Bond Dossier with the sentence that Ian Fleming left behind “no heirs.” Perhaps not, but in their glowing review of his Dossier in the Times Literary Supplement (27 May 1965), that newspaper’s book critic disagreed: “No heirs?  Mr. Amis, his well-written, witty, expert dossier concluded, may choose to reconsider and take action.  Surely he is the man to conjure Lazarus from the grave.”

There’s little doubt that the editorial staff of Jonathan Cape were in agreement.  There was certainly any number of good reasons to carry on the literary series.  Bookshelves were deluged with James Bond copycat series, and one has to remember that Bondmania was at or near its zenith due to the successes of the film franchise:  Goldfinger was released in the UK in September 1964 and Thunderball was due out in December 1965.  So there was a lot of intellectual-property to protect and a not inconsiderable profit to lose in the abandonment of James Bond as a literary figure.  Coming on the heels of his well-received and thoughtful The James Bond Dossier (for Fleming’s own publisher, mind you), Amis had also won some favourable notices for his own recent maverick secret-agent novel The Anti-Death League (1966). Amis was, without question, the most likely of candidates to carry on the series.

There’s no doubt that Jonathan Cape was prepared to push on without Ian Fleming, who had passed away too soon at the age of 56 on 12 August 1964. In April 1967, Amis told the New York Times that Gildrose had already been thinking about the continuation project for some two years… so let’s say since the spring of 1965 which, as it happens, neatly coincides with the time of publication of both The Man with the Golden Gun and The James Bond Dossier.  The month following the publication of The James Bond Dossier (1965), Amis was married (29 June 1965) and immediately following went off to a “small drinks party at Jonathan Cape.” So discussion between Cape and Amis to (quietly) experiment with writing a continuation Bond had been hashed over casually amongst the two parties almost from the onset.  Negotiations likely turned more serious following the publication and favourable critical notices of the Dossier in the summer of 1965.

By the summer of 1965 the plans for James Bond’s return, for certain, were already in motion. On 12 August 1965 Amis had written to friends that he was to visit Greece in September 1965 as “I’ve got a bit of a novel to write.” The Greek isles, of course, would later become the primary setting of the first non-Fleming James Bond novel Colonel Sun.  When the commissioning of Colonel Sun was belatedly announced by official channels on April 24, 1967, Amis told Newsweek that he’d “been working almost full-time on the book for about a year and I still haven’t finished it.” So that would date the beginning of the actual writing of Colonel Sun to the spring of 1966.  This too would make sense as Amis first had to complete work on The Anti-Death League (published August 1966 for Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.).  It was only then that he could immerse himself fully in the Bond project.  In many respects The Anti-Death League was Amis’ dress-rehearsal for the Bond assignment.  Upon publication of The Anti-Death League, a critic from the Washington Post immediately took note of the transpiration:  “The action is unbelievable, built as it is around a deadpan Ian Flemingesque tangle of mistaken identities, reversals of fortune, secret agents and lethal weapons.  It is incredible that Amis, a student of Fleming’s work, thought he could caper about in cloak and dagger without the hint of a smile, but that is what he tries to do.”

Though Amis would write to Philip Larkin on 21 May 1967 that his “Bond novel is finished,” this wasn’t necessarily the case.  On 28 September 1967, Amis wrote to Tom Maschler, a Senior Editor at Jonathan Cape, of his concerns about some text as it appeared in the proof copies of Colonel Sun, so it was apparent he was still involved in the book’s production at that late date.  So if one includes the early research sortie to Greece in September 1965 and follows the line through the process of final proofing in September 1967, this would give us the two years that Amis is on record of having stated he had worked on his James Bond novel.  Kingsley Amis’ Colonel Sun: a James Bond Adventure, written under the pseudonym of “Robert Markham,” was first published in the UK on 28 March 1968.  Though not well-received by critics at the time of its publication, Colonel Sun still continues to stand - in this writer’s estimation anyway – as the finest of the James Bond continuation novels.

TBB Article No. 24
© Hank Reineke, 2016.

Hank Reineke is a lifelong fan and bibliophile of all things Ian Fleming and James Bond.  He has contributed to 007 and Cinema Retro magazine, and remains a passionate fan and scholar of the earliest non-Fleming James Bond novels: Colonel Sun (1968) and John Pearson’s  James Bond:  the Authorized Biography of 007 (1973).  He  has written about folk, blues, and country music for publications such as the Aquarian Arts Weekly, Soho Arts Weekly, Downtown, East Coast Rocker, Blues Revue, On The Tracks, ISIS, and The Bridge. His first book, Ramblin' Jack Elliott: The Never-Ending Highway (Scarecrow, 2010), was awarded the Certificate of Merit by the ARSC (Association for Recorded Sound Collections) for “Best Research in Folk, Ethnic, and World Music” (2010).  Arlo Guthrie: The Warner/Reprise Years (Scarecrow, 2012) was awarded the Certificate of Merit by the ARSC for “Best Research in Recorded Popular Music” (2013).

The Bondologist Blog thanks Hank Reineke for this Guest Article.

Monday, 16 November 2015

10 Offensive Quotes from Ian Fleming’s James Bond Novels

Guest Article by Pete Swan

With a new James Bond film, Spectre (2015), upon us[i] and with Daniel Craig rumoured to be leaving the series before long,[ii] James Bond is taking centre stage of the world’s showbiz media once again. The Bond film franchise has seen many changes over the last fifty odd years. For example, James Bond no longer smokes; he no longer sits in Jacuzzis with bevies of women all young enough to be his daughter. The last seven Bond films saw Judi Dench play a female ‘M’, Bond’s boss at MI6.[iii] The character ‘Miss Moneypenny’ has also now been changed to the more dignified ‘Eve Moneypenny’ and is currently played by the black actress, Naomi Harris.[iv] In another departure, a gay actor named Ben Whishaw now plays a much younger and tech-savvy version of Q than did the old stalwart Desmond Llewelyn (who appeared in 17 Bond films between 1963 and 1999) or his successor in the role of Q, John Cleese. This year [2015] we even saw the black actor, Idris Elba, put forward as a candidate to play the next James Bond.[v]

James Bond has been part of our popular culture now for so long that we can trace back to his roots and use his earliest narratives to ask ourselves how far we have really come as a society. We would of course nowadays consider racism or homophobia distasteful in a modern Bond film even if it came from the mouth of one of the villains and the sexism in Bond films is now no worse than across the film industry as a whole. Whatever you think of the newest Bond films, here are ten quotes from the original James Bond novels, which were written by Ian Fleming between 1953 and his death in 1964, that the current generation will (thankfully) never have to see up on the silver screen. One should note when reading these quotes, by way of mitigating circumstances,  that Ian Fleming was born in 1908 and the times in which he was writing (the 1950s and early 1960s) were very different to our own, where political correctness is now very much the order of the day. 

1.       ‘Blithering Women’ - Casino Royale (1953)

The Context: Bond is racing to rescue his companion Vesper Lynd who has been kidnapped by the novel’s villain, Le Chiffre.

The Quote: “These blithering women who thought they could do a man’s work. Why the hell couldn’t they stay at home and mind their pots and pans and stick to their frocks and gossip and leave men’s work to the men.” (Page 97)

2.      ‘How to fight Negroes’ - Live and Let Die (1954)

The Context: Bond has been captured in Harlem, New York and is planning an escape from his guard, Tee Hee Johnson. 

The Quote: “He stumbled again, trying to measure exactly the Negro’s position behind him. He remembered Leiter’s injunction: ‘Shins, groin, stomach, throat. Hit ’em anywhere else and you’ll just break your hand.’
‘Shut yo mouf,’ said the negro, but he pulled Bond’s hand an inch or two down his back.” (Page 72)

3.      ‘All women long to be a cave’ - From Russia with Love (1957)

The Context: Bond has travelled to Turkey to meet a Soviet defector and is speaking to Darko Kerim, the head of the British service’s station in Turkey.

The Quote: “My father was the sort of man women can’t resist. All women want to be swept off their feet. In their dreams they long to be slung over a man’s shoulder and taken into a cave and raped. That was his way with them. My father was a great fisherman and his fame was spread all over the Black Sea. He went after the sword-fish. They are difficult to catch and hard to fight and he would always outdo all others after these fish. Women like their men to be heroes.” (Page 129)

4.      ‘Chigroes’ - Dr. No (1958)

The Context: Bond has travelled to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of an MI6 employee and is speaking to Pleydell-Smith, the Colonial Secretary of the island, over lunch.

The Quote: “’It’s like this’. He began his antics with the pipe. ‘The Jamaican is a kindly lazy man with the virtues and vices of a child. He lives on a very rich island but he doesn’t get rich from it. He doesn’t know how to and he’s too lazy...” “Finally there are the Chinese, solid, compact, discreet- the most powerful clique in Jamaica. They’ve got the bakeries and the laundries and the best food stores. They keep to themselves and keep their strain pure.’ Pleydell-Smith laughed. ‘Not that they don’t take the black girls when they want them. You can see the result all over Kingston – Chigroes – Chinese Negroes and Negresses. The Chigroes are a tough, forgotten race. They look down on the Negroes and the Chinese look down on them. One day they may become a nuisance. They’ve got some of the intelligence of the Chinese and most of the vices of the black man. The police have a lot of trouble with them.’” (Page 51)

5.      ‘Koreans are lower than apes’ – Goldfinger (1959)

The Context: Bond has been captured by Goldfinger and his sidekick Oddjob and is plotting his escape.

The Quote: “Bond intended to stay alive on his own terms. Those terms included putting Oddjob and any other Korean firmly in his place, which, in Bond’s estimation, was rather lower than apes in the mammalian hierarchy.” (Page 175)

6.      ‘Japanese women; insipid slaves’ - 'Quantum of Solace' (1960)

The Context: Bond is at a dinner party and is making small talk with the host.

The Quote: “’It would be fine to have a pretty girl always tucking you up and bringing you drinks and hot meals and asking if you had everything you wanted. And they’re always smiling and wanting to please. If I don’t marry an air hostess, there’ll be nothing for it but marry a Japanese. They seem to have the right ideas too.’ Bond had no intention of marrying anyone. If he did, it would certainly not be an insipid slave.” (Page 62)

7.      ‘The girl who drove like a man’ - Thunderball (1961)

The Context: Bond is in the Bahamas and is following Domino Vitali, the girlfriend of the main villain, SPECTRE No. 1, Emilio Largo.

The Quote: “Women are often meticulous and safe drivers, but they are very seldom first-class. In general Bond regarded them as a mild hazard and he always gave them plenty of road and was ready for the unpredictable. Four women in a car he regarded as the highest danger potential, and two women as nearly as lethal. Women together cannot keep silent in a car, and when women talk they have to look into each other’s faces. An exchange of words is not enough. They have to see the other person’s expression, perhaps in order to read behind the other’s words or to analyse the reaction to their own. So two women in the front seat of a car constantly distract each other’s attention from the road ahead and four women are more than doubly dangerous, for the driver has to hear, and see, not only what her companion is saying but also, for women are like that, what the two behind are talking about.

But this girl drove like a man. She was entirely focused on the road ahead and on what was going on in her driving mirror, an accessory rarely used by women except for making up their faces. And, equally rare in a woman, she took a man’s pleasure in the feel of her machine, in the timing of her gear changes, and the use of her brakes.” (Page 100)

[James Bond Film Link: Compare this with, say, the scene where Roger Moore as Bond makes a series of sexist comments on “women drivers” to Barbara Bach’s Major Anya Amasova (Agent XXX) in the tenth Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)]

8.      ‘Homosexuality; the stubborn disability’ - On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963)

The Context: Bond is being briefed about Hypnosis as it is suspected that the villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld is using it to brainwash women in his mountain layer in Switzerland.

The Quote: “Now, there is plenty of medical evidence of the efficacy of hypnosis. There are well-authenticated cases of the successful treatment by these means of such stubborn disabilities as warts, certain types of asthma, bed-wetting, stammering and even alcoholism, drug-taking , and homosexual tendencies” (Page 172)

9.      ‘The Japanese; a violent people without a violent language’ - You Only live Twice (1964)

The Context: Bond has been told that there are no swear words in Japanese by the head of the Japanese secret service, Tiger Tanaka.

The Quote: “Well I’m... I mean, well I’m astonished. A violent people without a violent language! I must write a learned paper on this. No wonder you have nothing left but to commit suicide when you fail an exam, or cut your girlfriend’s head off when she annoys you.’
Tiger laughed. ‘We generally push them under trams or trains.’ (Page 77)

10.  ‘Gay men can’t whistle’ - The Man With The Golden Gun (1965)

The Context: M is reading a file about Francisco Scaramanga, a Cuban assassin suspected of killing MI6 agents.

The Quote: “’I have also noted, from a “profile” of this man in Time magazine, one fact which supports my thesis that Scaramanga may be sexually abnormal. In listing his accomplishments, Time notes, but does not comment upon, the fact that this man cannot whistle. Now it may only be myth, and it is certainly not medical science, but there is a popular theory that a man who cannot whistle has homosexual tendencies. (At this point, the reader may care to experiment and, from his self-knowledge, help to prove or disprove this item of folklore! – C.C.)’ (M. hadn’t whistled since he was a boy. Unconsciously his mouth pursed and a clear note was emitted. He uttered an impatient “tchah!” and continued with his reading.)’ (Page 27)


TBB Article No. 23.
© Pete Swan, 2015. 

Guest Author Pete Swan lives in Bristol and studied War History and Propaganda at Swansea University. Pete's interest in James Bond is an extension of his interest in popular culture and the history of the Cold War. Most of his free time is spent in pubs and books. 

A big "thank you" goes out to Pete Swan for this article! - Dragonpol.  

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Madness of 'King Ernst I' in Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice (1964)

Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice (1964) is certainly one of the author’s most brilliantly bizarre and offbeat pieces of work from a James Bond oeuvre which was by that stage already rich with originality (see the short story 'Quantum of Solace' [1960] and the novel The Spy Who Loved Me [1962]). The penultimate James Bond novel incorporates travelogue, learned references to Japanese culture, lists of deadly flora and fauna, a revenge tale, the beginnings of serial killer fiction (a craze of the 1990s) and fine Gothic horror as well as being the unfolding story of a dystopia on a Huxleyesque scale. It is a Brave New World for Fleming in terms of writing territory and although it might seem like it at times, it is not true that (unlike Aldous Huxley) Fleming was on mescaline at the time of writing You Only Live Twice(!).  At the time of writing You Only Live Twice Fleming was sadly literally dying from the admirable ailment of “having lived too much” (in reality the Fleming family trait of a bad heart or “the iron crab” as Fleming called it, was to blame) at the time he was writing this novel and so the fascination with the theme of death and the general air of morbidity throughout the proceedings really rings true from a man already painfully aware of his own mortality. Somehow, Fleming sensed he was soon about to “shuffle off this mortal coil” as Shakespeare so eloquently put it and so he must have sat down at his golden typewriter at his house Goldeneye in Jamaica, and forgetting the winter sun outside, drew inspiration from his impending death. As it turned out, he was of course right – he sadly died in the early hours of 12 August 1964 after having just the day before been made the Captain of the Royal St. George’s Golf Club.

                                                                                You Only Live Twice (1964): UK First Edition.

Although it represents the final part of the Blofeld/SPECTRE Trilogy of James Bond novels there is no typical Bondian world domination plot here (cf. the film version) but instead a private estate run by a veritable mad hatter called Dr Guntram Shatterhand who of course turns out to be none other than Bond’s aforementioned arch-enemy and the murderer of his bride Tracy Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963). SPECTRE it seems has went the way of the Dodo, which is more realistic than how the evil organisation (and its leader Blofeld) kept coming back film after film (excepting Goldfinger [1964]) between 1962 and 1971 in the Eon Productions Bond film series. The Ernst Stavro Blofeld of You Only Live Twice is a different animal (a mad dog meets an Englishman; Fleming was certainly very clever in his themes!) to what went before and here he can be seen as a veritable mad king (called King Ernst I most likely) and a lunatic ready for the asylum. In English Criminal Law there is in fact something called “the Henry VIII Syndrome” where the defendant goes around lopping people’s heads off (just like Blofeld) as he thinks he is King Henry VIII; it is therefore good grounds for a plea of insanity with the inevitable result of hospitalisation in a mental hospital. Henry VIII of course had two of his six wives beheaded, namely Ann Boleyn (by the sword) and Catherine Howard (by the axe). Blofeld also displays the madness that afflicted King George III for much of his reign (which lasted from 1760 to 1820). Blofeld shouts in German much like the ranting and raving Adolf Hitler in the Führerbunker near the end of World War II when the war was all but lost and he seems equally as much out of touch with reality. Evidence for this comparison consists of the fact that we are for instance told of "that lunatic Hitler scream" from Blofeld in the Garden of Death at one point in the novel. One reads of Nazis escaping to Argentina and Spain at the war’s end but perhaps a few escaped to Japan too? It may be that that was what Fleming was pointing at – that there was a diverse Nazi evil being spread throughout other third countries as a result of such real post-war Nazi SS resettlement organisations as Odessa or Spinne. For the very original idea of the Garden of Death it is possible that Fleming was inspired by the 1896 watercolour painting named 'The Garden of Death' by the Finnish symbolist painter Hugo Simberg (1873-1917):

                                                                                     'The Garden of Death' (1896) by Hugo Simberg.
It is notable that Blofeld’s plan here is not to hijack a Vulcan bomber and its deadly cargo of two nuclear bombs for a grand ransom (Thunderball [1961]) or to use biological weapons against the United Kingdom (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) but merely to induce the notoriously suicide-prone native Japanese population to kill themselves in ever more eccentric fashion in a “garden of delights” populated by highly poisonous flora and fauna, piranha fish, scorpions, snakes and fumaroles. This garden is the locale where Blofeld goes utterly insane and indeed it is a veritable anti-Eden where the Fall of Man brought about by Adam and Eve’s quest for knowledge is all too evident. It is as if the imaginative horrors of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale or a novel by the Marquis de Sade have somehow come to life in the early 1960s with a little early Swinging Sixties hocus-pocus thrown in for good measure. Blofeld does his rounds of the garden in a full suit of armour as does his companion Bunt (with the grotesque addition of a bee-keeper’s hat) and Fleming seems to be making the point that Blofeld is trying to be a legitimate samurai warrior with all of the code of honour that implies though we the reader see he is woefully inadequate in this role and that he is a mere gaijin, common criminal and definite bounder. The madman Blofeld is nothing more than a mere shadow warrior playing at being a samurai warrior just like children play at being James Bond. Blofeld and Bunt even plan to eventually sell up from Japan and then take their ghastly “death show” on the road in other locations around the world such is their ultimate cruelty, depravity and deeply twisted inhumanity.

In You Only Live Twice there is no world domination master plan but in its stead there is just the mad king Blofeld lopping off people's heads with a samurai sword, years before the serial killer fiction craze of the 1990s (which has of course continued on until the present day) that Blofeld's plan to maximise Japanese suicides in his Garden of Death is akin to. In this sense Blofeld can be seen as a forerunner to that other madman in a Castle of Death, the serial killer ex-actor David Dragonpol in John Gardner’s James Bond continuation novel Never Send Flowers (1993) who lived in the aptly-named Scholss Drache (‘Drache’ being German for ‘Dragon’ as well as Sir Hugo Drax’s real name in Fleming’s Moonraker [1955]) in the Rhineland, Germany. Indeed, there are many interesting connections between both Bond novels, though the Fleming purist might blanch at the idea of Gardner’s  off-beat creation Dragonpol being compared to Fleming’s infamous arch-villain Blofeld! Like Dragonpol with his assassination targets of the good and the great, Blofeld attracts the suicidal Japanese seemingly for his own sick enjoyment and also for the delectation of his squat and grotesque consort Fraulien Irma Bunt. Bunt has the type of wardress face often associated with a Nazi death camp guard and as she is German and of the right age that could well have been her occupation. Fleming may well have drawn inspiration for Irma Bunt from some notorious female Nazi concentration camp guards like Ilse Koch (1906-1967), who eventually committed suicide in prison or ‘The Bitch of Buchenwald’ or Irma Grese (1923-1945), whom the Press called ‘The Beast of Belsen’ during her 1945 ‘Belsen Trial’ for war crimes and whom the inmates also dubbed ‘The Hyena of Auschwitz.’ Grese was found guilty at the trial and executed by hanging in 1945. In any event, Fleming’s contemporaneous readers would have been aware of the allusion to female Nazi wardresses Irma Bunt represented. Bunt (as described by Fleming) also looks a tad like the convicted serial killer Rosemary West.

              George Almond's painting of Ernst Stavro Blofeld in his Garden of Death in Fleming's 
You Only Live Twice (1964).

Of course, Fleming’s novel is as far away from the dire Roald Dahl-scripted 1967 film version as it is possible to get. (Harold Jack Bloom also worked on the screenplay before Dahl was hired and he was credited with "additional story material" as Dahl used some of his ideas in his new script). As the producers Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and director Lewis Gilbert were unable to find a castle built near the sea on their recce to Japan (it turned out that the Japanese did not build castles near the sea due to the tsunami risk) they decided to move almost completely away from the Fleming source novel by literally throwing it in the wastepaper bin and starting over again with a topical Cold War Space Race plot.  Meanwhile, the Fleming purist can only hope that You Only Live Twice will at some point in the future be filmed as a new chapter in Bond villainy where evil is seen to have had no other point than glorying in said evil itself. That seems a good theme for a Bond film that could sit very well along with the Bond film villains Karl Stromberg and Hugo Drax (of the films The Spy Who Loved Me [1977] and Moonraker [1979] respectively) who were not interested in money or extortion but rather in creating new worlds in their own inherently evil image, just as it could be said Blofeld did originally with his Garden of Death in Japan. Bunt makes the point in conversation with Blofeld that the world has never seen the like of Blofeld’s Garden of Death before and so too would have Stromberg and Drax had they been interviewed about it following the success of their annihilator schemes. Ian Fleming's other villainous creation Dr Julius No was of course also an influence on the Bond film villains Stromberg and Drax and their nefarious schemes. Blofeld has seemingly single-handedly turned the Godly garden and the Englishman’s dwelling place of a summer day into a dark and grotesque “Disneyland of Death”. In opposition to this perversion of the inherent sacredness of the garden is the fact that the English county of Kent is known as "The Garden of England" (cf. The Garden of Eden?) and this was of course on the side of the angels and was a haunt of Ian Fleming's and was where the majority of his third novel Moonraker was set. Moonraker featured a duplicitous ex-Nazi called Sir Hugo Drax who is based in Kent near the White Cliffs of Dover with his answer to Britain's defence, the “Moonraker” nuclear rocket. The fact was surely not lost on Fleming that he chose this very location given the Battle of Britain and the new British saviour weapon in the arsenal called the the Spitfire aircraft (as well as defences from ‘Operation Sealion’) that saved dear dependable old Blighty in her ‘Hour of Need’. Blofeld selfishly wanted his Garden of Death to be a success just as Stromberg’s wanted his own underwater civilisation at the expense of the rest of the world or that Drax wanted to annihilate the Earth (in a Hiterian Holocaust) and then populate it with a new Super Race of perfect physical specimens of all races. 

                                                                                     You Only Live Twice (1964): US First Edition.
One can quite easily see (in the Blofeld of the You Only Live Twice novel) the seeds of these truly bizarre and barking-mad characters in some of the Bond villains of the Roger Moore-era Bond films. In this sense, perhaps a bit of the You Only Live Twice Blofeld has rubbed off on some of the cinematic Bond villains that came in the years after Ian Fleming’s death where the screenwriters like Roald Dahl, Tom Mankiewicz and Christopher Wood otherwise turned away from the original Fleming Bond source material when it came to Bond villains and other components. With all of this in mind, one also thinks of Richard Maibaum’s original plot suggestion for The Spy Who Loved Me film to have real-world terrorists blow up the world’s oil fields with stolen nuclear submarines and watch the world burn just for the sheer hell of it. That would have been as close to the Blofeld of You Only Live Twice novel as the Bond films would likely have ever gotten. It was sad indeed that Maibaum’s vision for something “completely different” (as the Monty Python’s Flying Circus gang would have put it) never made it onto the screen. The producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli ruled out going ahead with Maibaum’s script for The Spy Who Loved Me out as being too overtly political for the James Bond film series, although he did like the idea. Of course sections of the recent Skyfall was based at least in part on events near the end of You Only Live Twice where Bond is shot in the head and loses his memory, and for the Fleming enthusiast that was surely a great thing to behold. Indeed, the hotly anticipated release of the twenty-fourth James Bond film Spectre in October 2015 gives the Fleming purist renewed hope that the criminally neglected novel You Only Live Twice, with its mad king Blofeld and his equally mad Garden of Death will finally make the transition from the printed page to the cinema screen. Watch this rather large garden-sized space…

                                                                                                   Ian Fleming in the 1960s.

Dedicated to Sir Miles (Paul) of AJB007 Forums, with thanks.

Liked this article? Then see also on TBB the following related article: 'Ian Fleming's "Thrilling" Inspiration for Roald Dahl's You Only Live Twice (1967)'

TBB Article No. 22

© Brian McKaig, 2015. 

Earlier versions of this article by the author appeared on the James Bond forums AJB and MI6 Community in 2014. 

Monday, 24 March 2014

Anthony Burgess on The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): Double Standards or was his screenplay for the film a Parody with a Point?

Part 1 of the 'Anthony Burgess and James Bond' Miniseries

In his Preface to the Coronet Books editions of the original Ian Fleming James Bond novels first published in 1988, Anthony Burgess (1917-1993), author of (most famously) the controversial dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange (1962), among other notable novels and non-fiction, gives an interesting introduction to and defence of the Fleming Bond novels entitled The James Bond Novels: An Introduction. Of particular interest in this introduction is the following passage:

“It is important, I think, to stress the point that, after the early films, whose budgets were too low to admit of too much extravagance, the James Bond whom Fleming created has only a nominal connection with the leering hero of the screen. This also goes for the titles: what has the film Octopussy to do with the brilliant short story in which Bond has a very marginal role? It is true that Fleming forbade the film adaptation of The Spy Who Loved Me, but that was no excuse for attaching the title to a very unflemingian [sic] hotchpotch. It is time for aficionados of the films to get back to the books and admire their qualities as literature.”(1)

Burgess is making an entirely valid point here of course, but when his history with the film Bond is taken into account the contradiction between his words and his actions can be seen all too clearly, making his above comments, especially about the film of The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) appear highly ironic indeed, but perhaps that was the point. To the uninitiated there is the strong suggestion here of some double standards on the part of Burgess here in this preface written some ten years after the release of The Spy Who Loved Me in the cinemas and some eleven years after his writing of a screenplay for the film. Although Burgess' screenplay was parodical in nature with the requisite elements of comic writing and clear ridicule of the direction the contemporary James Bond films were going in it is acknowledged that at least one of his ideas for the 1977 film (that of the huge submarine silo aboard Karl Stromberg's ship The Liparus near the end of the film) is recognised as having been taken from Burgess’s otherwise knowingly daft script. Indeed, Burgess had by the time he came to work on The Spy Who Loved Me in 1976 already scripted the film Moses the Lawgiver (1974) and after his involvement with Bond he would go on to script the films Jesus of Nazareth (1977) and A.D. (1985), so he was not merely an author turning his hand to writing a Bond screenplay as a novice; he did have past experience at the art of scripting a film.

In Steven Jay Rubin’s magisterial The James Bond Films (1981) he states that, “The writing of The Spy Who Loved Me was something of a nightmare. No less than twelve script writers had a crack at it and there were at least fifteen different drafts of the script on Broccoli’s desk at any one moment. It became a question of who could be the most innovative and yet stay within the bounds of credibility.

On this new project, the writers were asked to work from scratch, bearing in mind a guideline from Broccoli who thought that “The Spy” in question should be a Russian agent who falls in love with Bond.”(2)

On the screenwriting of The Spy Who Loved Me Steven Jay Rubin further writes:
“[Anthony] Barwick left the [script writing] project and was followed in order by Derek Marlowe, Sterling Silliphant, John Landis and Anthony Burgess (the author of A Clockwork Orange). Burgess developed the most outrageous of all the scripts, an undisguised parody of the world of James Bond.”(3)

Further to this, in Kiss! Kiss! Bang! Bang!: The Unofficial James Bond Film Companion (2000), by Alan Barnes and Marcus Hearn it is confirmed that, “the huge submarine silo seen in the finished film was reportedly Burgess’s inspiration.”(4)

Burgess’s involvement with the script of The Spy Who Loved Me in 1976 and his attendant send-up of the world of the filmic James Bond greatly contradict what he would later write in his Coronet Books Bond novels Introduction in 1987. It is most odd indeed that Burgess would mark out a film that he wrote a draft screenplay verging on parody for and then later criticise the finished film as being “a very unflemingian [sic] hotchpotch.” If one were only to consider his 1987 comments, one would have assumed (quite wrongly as it turns out) that Burgess would have been the very man to put that right!

Of course, there is another side to this particular coin here, as is often the case when one digs deeper into the facts. The whole screenplay written by Burgess for The Spy Who Loved Me could alternatively (and probably more accurately) be read as a “piss-take” or overt parody of the direction that the Bond series was heading in in the late 1970s rather than as a truly serious attempt at writing a 1970s James Bond film, with all that that entailed in terms of style and set-pieces. In ready support of this analysis of his outlandish screenplay for The Spy Who Loved Me is the fact that Burgess had earlier written a spy novel entitled Tremor of Intent: An Eschatological Spy Novel (1966) which Burgess conceived as both a timely (the 1960s were of course the height of the Spy Craze in novels and films and on television) comedic reaction to the po-faced “seriousness” of the Len Deighton and John Le Carré spy novels and the more fantasy-laden James Bond novels of Ian Fleming and his then many imitators in print. Indeed the Ian Fleming James Bond novels have for a long time been considered as the dividing line in spy fiction between the more fantasy laden thrillers and spy spoofs/take-offs and the more gritty and realistic spy thrillers by the likes of Len Deighton and John Le Carré as well as the undisputed masters of the docu-thriller and the techno-thriller Frederick Forsyth and the late Tom Clancy respectively. 

Whatever the reason for Burgess’s parody of the James Bond films in his seemingly serious attempt to write a latter-day Bond film it is a point well settled by this present time that the decade of the 1970s was the most decadent in the history of the James Bond films, starting with the high-camp spoofery of a Bond film with Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and ending with the Space-Age spectacle of Moonraker (1979). Where the earlier 1960s Bonds had focused on character and plot the 1970s Bonds had focused on outlandish spectacle and excess at the cost of character, a move the Fleming purist fan Burgess obviously very much disapproved of for well-founded reasons and when his screenplay attempt is read in light of this fact it does make much more sense as a reaction against this direction. His outlandish parody of all that he saw the Bond films had become by the late 1970s could be easily read as a polemic against the increase in spectacle and stunts at the expense of the corpse of the James Bond character construct. Guy Hamilton himself, the director of Goldfinger (1964) and three other Bond films, even believed that the Bond films could never really ever be taken seriously again after the inclusion of the trick Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger. It was heavily-laden with gadgetry including front-firing machine guns hidden in the lights, a rear oil slick facility and rear thick black smoke projector and of course the infamous ejector seat for those troublesome passengers! 

No doubt Burgess would have been pleased (as any Fleming purist at the time no doubt was) that the Bond films returned to a back to basic more grounded in reality approach at the beginning of the 1980s with the release of For Your Eyes Only (1981) with Roger Moore arguably giving his best (and not coincidentally the most Flemingesque) performance as Bond much more in line with the Fleming originals as the film was closely based on two Fleming short stories and part of a Bond novel to boot. Whatever the real reason for his spoof Bond film screenplay for the then projected The Spy Who Loved Me film it is clear that an in-depth study of Burgess and the James Bond phenomenon would be a very worthy academic and intellectual exercise for a future more in-depth paper on the subject and the full content of Burgess’s screenplay. Until then the case on Anthony Burgess and The Spy Who Loved Me is hereby closed pending further inquiry. Therefore the case for the prosecution of Anthony Burgess for crimes against fidelity to Ian Fleming is not proved beyond reasonable doubt (the margin being 99.9%). 

Judgment deferred - to be continued in Part Two...


(1) Anthony Burgess, ‘The James Bond Novels: An Introduction,’ Lugano, 1987 (Ian Fleming, Live and Let Die, Coronet Books, London, 1988), (no page numbers).
(2) Steven Jay Rubin, The James Bond Films (Talisman Books, London, 1981), pp. 137-138.
(3) Ibid, p. 139.
(4) Alan Barnes and Marcus Hearn, Kiss! Kiss! Bang! Bang!: The Unofficial James Bond Film Companion (Batsford, London, 2000), p. 

This article is dedicated to the Memory of Greg Ferrell (SirHenryLeeChaChing on MI6 Community) (1961-2014) who sadly passed away in January 2014. Sad and sorry that I was not able to send you those new Bond blog articles you were interested in, Greg. 


TBB Article No. 21

 © Brian McKaig, 2014.