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Topic: To Whom It May Condemn

Hi all,

AJB has kindly given me permission to post a link to my crappy fanfic, with the very fair proviso that comments (if any) by AJB members are posted in this thread and not at the host site. Much obliged, Simon. ajb007/smile

My fanfic is pretty rough, but at least it has an absolutely spanking cover (thank you Icephoenix). Anyway, I tried to write something that Bond fans might enjoy reading. You are, of course, free to throw as many virtual tomatoes at me as you like.

Right, I'll shut up now. ajb007/smile The story's called:

To Whom It May Condemn

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Re: To Whom It May Condemn

"Crappy fanfic?"  ". . .throw as many virtual tomatoes. . .?"  What a way to sell yourself, Hitch!

Vox clamantis in deserto

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Re: To Whom It May Condemn

Hey, don't shoot the messenger.;)

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Please do shoot him - he's full of it!

'Crappy', he says...

*rolls eyes*

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Re: To Whom It May Condemn

*puts hands up in the air*

OK, Joyce, you've got me.

For "crappy", read "not as eye-stabbingly bad as it could have been, but still not much better than dropping a hot iron on one's big toe."

For AJB members' further information: TWIMC might, just possibly, downhill and with a following wind, graze ever so slightly that Fleming itch you've been meaning to scratch ever since you finished reading all his books.

But I still think it's crappy.;)

Last edited by Hitch (9th Nov 2005 19:56)

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Re: To Whom It May Condemn

Just out of curiosity - has anyone here at AJB managed to digest a few pages of TWIMC? If so, did you give it a thumbs-up, thumbs-down or a "meh"? ajb007/bond

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Haven't had chance to read, but that cover is excellent. I love the bloodstained watch!

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Re: To Whom It May Condemn

Yes, Icephoenix did a wonderful job with the cover (and he's also made a terrific pastiche of a Chopping jacket for TWIMC that will appear any day now), but on his behalf I should point out that the bloodstained watch is actually a compass.:)

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Re: To Whom It May Condemn

Hitch wrote:

and he's also made a terrific pastiche of a Chopping jacket for TWIMC that will appear any day now

Ah, good to hear that's almost finished, Hitch! Thought you forgotten about that. ajb007/bond

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Re: To Whom It May Condemn

A shameless bump to publicise the new jacket (with blurb and biog) for my crappy fanfic. If AJB members feel moved to comment on any aspect of this slice of Bondiana (or press criminal charges), please do so in this thread and not at the host site. To see the excellent artwork (and even *shock* download the text), click your heels together three times and say...

To Whom It May Condemn.

Quite a few articles regarding TWIMC have appeared in the press, including this, the most recent:

(From Volume CVII of Homer Nods, a periodical devoted to the fine and decorative arts.)

Bibliophilia:

The Property of a Gentleman

As is often the case with books subject to great public demand, confusion can arise from the proliferation of various editions and versions rushed out by a publisher caught unawares. These quirks and foibles are the delight of discerning collectors but, if not catalogued fully, can lead the unwary connoisseur to uninformed and costly purchases.

The first edition of To Whom It May Condemn is now out of print, and has been replaced by a second edition, recognisable by the gatefold jacket that bears the publisher’s puff, a breathless review, and a brief biography of the reclusive Mr Hitch. Textual scholars, and not a few critics, will be disappointed to learn that the text is unchanged. Those collectors more interested in the artwork than in the lurid tale contained within (of whom, your correspondent is bound to say, there are a regrettably large number) will be glad to hear that, in addition to the new jacket, a separate front cover is also available for public consumption. The revised front cover is identifiable by the leaves visible in the bottom left-hand corner of the image.

Fiscally astute members of the publishing house are already beginning to benefit from the windfall of TWIMC’s unexpected success. Bidding was brisk in the recent Bond memorabilia auction at Bonhams (including telephone bids from the United States and the Far East for the very desirable signed and numbered edition, commissioned privately by Blinker Hitch for friends and family), while eBay was forced only last week to withdraw the listings for three unauthorised photocopies of the proofs, and it must now be acknowledged that the book has effortlessly entered that long tradition of James Bond publishing in which numerous different covers and formats continue to tease the assiduous collector.

There have been rumours for some time of an unpublished and unseen front cover. Homer Nods can confirm such an item exists, as do the galley proofs of this remarkable work, but its release was cancelled at the last moment when the cover artist, a renowned perfectionist, supplanted it with the image which is now familiar to Bond fans the world over. The only extant copies of the original reside in the hands of the artist, the author and the publishing house (New York division). Only those visitors privileged to be invited by the artist himself will be able to see the original painting, which hangs at Icephoenix, a secluded coastal home in the tradition of Goldeneye. It may be hoped that future travelling exhibitions of James Bond memorabilia will endeavour to display this unseen artwork. (All enquiries to the artist, c/o Woolamaloo Foundation.)

No further revisions are expected, though foreign language editions, movie tie-ins, anniversary and, inevitably, commemorative editions may surface in the years to come.

All of the above information was correct at the time of going to press, though it would be remiss of your correspondent not to record two of the more outlandish publishing rumours regarding this controversial book: Smythson refuse to confirm that Aston Martin has ordered a one-off copy, bound in pale blue pigskin, for Club Aston in Los Angeles; and it has been whispered that, try as he might, Mr Griswold, of Annotations and Chronologies fame, has been unable to pin the butterfly that is TWIMC to any fixed date in the Bondian timeline.

Last edited by Hitch (2nd Dec 2005 11:29)

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An excellent fanfic (from what little I've read so far) with an outstanding cover!

~ Nobody Knows Me Like You Know Me ~

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I'm plastered, and I have it in me to reveal how Bond got his scar. My apologies, but it's my thread and alcohol knows no fear. ajb007/smile I hope you enjoy this extract from TWIMC, and I hope also that you won't punish a drunken fanfic writer for polishing his ego in public:

"As a rule, and despite the Armourer’s blandishments, Bond disliked detachable magazines for one-man missions because they were difficult to use when prone and made too much noise for safe concealment. After a nightmarish encounter in the smoking shell of the Reich Chancellery, when the skull-like countenance of an aged, crazed Volkssturmmann had hurtled screaming out of the wrecked Court of Honour and scraped his face with a pitchfork, Bond had concluded that just about the only thing in favour of a detachable magazine was that it was an effective blunt instrument in hand-to-hand combat."

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I completely forgot to post this review on AJB; I do so with a hope of encouraging others to read what is a gripping Bond thriller. Give it a try. ajb007/smile
[line]

The world of fan fiction can be ghastly place. Promises of finishing dates usually go unmet, the writers can very often be rather prickly customers and much of it—to be honest—is absolute claptrap. Indeed, the general quality of that produced is so low that in comparison the merely serviceable becomes incredible; readers wax lyrical about something they would have no intention of buying in the real world. Luckily, here, there are those who will impart their true assessment of what they read and I hope—against hope?—I am one of them. I write this in case Mr Hitch assumes that the generally positive nature of the drivel camouflaged as some form of a 'review' that follows is simply sycophancy; an attempt, perhaps, to make up for the ludicrous lateness of this post.

Of course, although such works tend to be drowned by those of little value, there are pieces of fan fiction that are very, very good; those that transcend the limitations of the field and could quite easily be found on the shelves of bookstores on the high streets. Finding examples of these, in full novel-length format especially, can be difficult, although Just Another Kill springs immediately to mind. The problem is that we all have our own interpretations of what a Bond novel should or should not be and when someone, admirably, tries to do something different we may not accept it due to our own preconceptions. I myself, for instance, struggle with those novels in a contemporary setting, something that niggles when reading works of undoubted merit like Willnow’s Mightier Than The Sword and Clink’s From Death’s Door (novels, incidentally, that have depth of character and superb pacing and do hold the reader until the very last word).

So why is the fan fiction meadow so barren? Even with lowered expectations there exists some real twaddle, and one must query the extent to which this damages the reputations of those novels and novellas that do deserve to be read. A part of the explanation must be that anyone can post anything they so wish; while one must admire the inherent democracy this entails, it does result in some pretty frightful writing. I should know, I am a peddler of such writing myself. Often, though, one will come across works that blindly bludgeon the English language with broken sentences and nonsensical word combinations galore, which is why it is with a great sense of relief and excitement that one reads something of such calibre as To Whom It May Condemn.

Opening lines are, in my opinion, fairly important. They stay in the reader’s mind and allow him to form an impression of the overall quality of the work. This is unfair, of course, as so often the first couple of paragraphs of a book are terrible, and then as one perseveres it becomes clear that they are in no way representative of the whole. Mr Hitch, however, does not suffer from this. Quickly he establishes the authority of his narrative voice; as soon as one begins reading it is obvious that Hitch’s literary hands are more than capable of handling the oft-dicey nature of 'continuation Bond'.

There is so much in the initial chapters that shows that here is a supreme talent is at work, a talent who knows his subject like a brother. The period setting is elegantly established at an early point in the asides: the small mentions of Rhodesia and Yugoslavia and Tito and such like, all of this immediately provides enough backdrop without an overload of detail designed to scream ‘Here be a period novel!’. In these opening pages Hitch gracefully creates an atmosphere that genuinely feels like the period, there is nothing forced or unnatural or excessive—it really might have been written at that time. A delicate precision in the prose is emblematic of the skill with which Hitch executes his tribute to Fleming, and the conversation between Bond and M alerts the reader that this is indeed Fleming’s Bond and Fleming’s M, occupying Fleming’s time in Fleming’s wonderful world.

Even in the initial manoeuvrings however, it becomes fairly evident that this is no *mere* mimicking of Fleming. With Bond’s reflection of his previous visit to Lisbon in 1942 there emerges a greater degree of spying—with its paranoia and fear—than there generally exists in Fleming. While Fleming’s are pulp spy thrillers, there is often an absence of the accoutrements of espionage, particularly compared to other authors of the genre. There is nothing wrong with this, although it is nice that Hitch, while admittedly staying loyal to the Fleming brand, is willing to add his own touches too. Similarly with the visit to Lisbon itself, Hitch has been courageous enough to add his own ideas to Bond’s history and this is to be commended. The Portuguese setting itself is nicely developed through little details like the names of Lisbon cakes during Bond’s meeting with Elsa; I have no idea if this is accurate however Hitch's Portugal—the sense of place infused with bright local colour—is exquisite.

There are only one or two awkward moments that (very, very slightly) blight the promise of the beginning of To Whom It May Condemn, a prime example being the following: “Pujol held out his hands to placate an alarmed Bond, who had risen from his chair in alarm.” It is unclear whether this is deliberate, however the repetition of ‘alarm’ seems clumsy. There are other sentences that are somewhat confusing, such as this: “She looked for all the world as though she might break out into a game of hopscotch at any moment.” From the description of Elsa, it is unclear as to why this should be so. Seems just a bit out of character. Nevertheless, this is such a minor issue that it is barely worth mentioning; I only do so to save this from becoming some slavish and fawning post masquerading as some sort of critical review.

If the novel suffers from one substantial flaw it is what many argue is Amis’ Colonel Sun’s main problem: a sagging in the middle. I have never agreed with that common complaint with regards to Amis, however it is apparent here. The quality of the writing carries the slower pace and it is thus nowhere near as problematic as it might have been, however chapter five (‘Pop Goes the Weasel’) does drag with the action scenes continuing for just that bit too long—a quick edit could easily tighten up this section rather more. Related to this is a lack of danger at times, indeed in the aforementioned chapter I felt as if I should be anxious but I never truly was; this is, I think, due to the relatively sluggish pace. Price’s death, for instance, could register more emotional impact than it does.

Of course, on page forty-five, the novel changes direction, a move which ups the pace substantially. On that change of direction, there is an interesting mention of Raymond Chandler. Was this due to Chandler’s high praise for Fleming’s Bond novels, one wonders? Especially as the shady types mentioned were arguably not invented by Chandler but by Dashiell Hammett.

The move takes the reader to Finland to which Bond has been consigned as a result of Price’s death. I did have a concern about the authority with which Mr Hitch wrote about the country: Was Finland a NATO ally? The country signed the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance with the Soviet Union in 1948, and operated strict self-censorship so as not to offend her super-power neighbour. As I am perhaps one of the very few to have studied Scandinavian politics as a part of my university degree this will probably perturb others little, however Finland was never really a genuinely free and independent country due to the process of Finlandisation by which the Finnish government sought to placate the USSR and not offend Moscow after the Continuation War. (This is my opinion, by the way, others with some background on Scandinavia may differ!). Regardless, in the novel the Soviets stage an incursion into Finland and there is no way that the Finns would have reacted in the manner depicted in To Whom It May Condemn. Take this: “The Russian embassy is to be told that three ‘lost’ soldiers will be returned in due course. Also that their regiment needs rescuing. I’m sure our government will be only too happy to help the Russian ambassador with his map reading.” This is in no way—in my opinion!—reflective of the Soviet-Finnish relationship at the time in question.

That being said, the Scandinavian locale works. It is reminiscent of an Arctic Alistair MacLean or Duncan Kyle adventure, where tough and resourceful men have to valiantly battle the elements to survive. In the context of Bond it is notably original, and it allows Hitch to enthusiastically display the Nordic cuisine (Koulunäkki crisp bread) and other little details that add greatly to the quality of the writing. As in the best Flemings, this is informed entertainment. Meanwhile, in contrast to the relative lack of danger earlier, the Russians’ pursuit of Bond and Pastinen is riveting, white-knuckle stuff. The last-mentioned is a great piece of characterisation.

Indeed, it is in the creation of a wonderful set of believable and interesting characters that Hitch also excels. Price, Elsa, Denbigh, Topolski; these characters and the rest sound authentic and like real people. And with all the previous talk of a tribute to Fleming Hitch admirably gives Milly a Flemingesque flaw—no bird can be perfect after all.

As a Scot I am instinctively wary when reading a novel with a Scottish setting. Will the details be correct? Will the atmosphere be effectively captured? Has the author conducted the research so as not to offend? Of course, these questions will always surface in the minds of readers who live in the location and generally affects only them. (I realise the inherent hypocrisy in this—while I don’t have a problem with an incorrect rendering of Thailand, the Republic of China, the other China or the Federated States of Atlantis as long as it *feels* real I’d be shocked and appalled at glaring mistakes in a writer’s rendering of Scotland). Moreover, Adam Hall, famously, did not visit the locations about which he was writing and this does not have a detrimental impact on my enjoyment of his books, probably because I have never been to the locations in which Quiller operates. Nevertheless, the historic Edinburgh centre Hitch writes about is the historic Edinburgh I love; I can only assume that Mr Hitch has visited the city or knows someone who has. Jenners, New Town, Morningside (nice aside, by the way): it’s all there. In the Highlands—again, the Scotland in the novel I certainly recognise—where Bond 'visits' Denbigh’s home, Hitch masterfully crafts a pervading feeling of tension and suspense.

While Mr Hitch does have a distinct narrative voice, the author’s self-confessed raison d’etre was to produce something akin to Ian Fleming. The novel is, therefore, defined as a sort of Fleming pastiche, although a highly literate one with a respectful aping of Fleming’s style. Hitch, in his foreword, explicitly notes that his novel is a thank you to his hero Fleming, an homage to the originals in the finest sense of that word. As noted, it is much more than this might suggest, the novel is a particularly sophisticated read in the mould of classic British thriller writing.

The sophistication that indubitably imbues Mr Hitch’s prose is also reflected in the humour. Hitch’s is a droll wit, dryly British and the work of a most erudite of writers. Fleming fans will appreciate the nods to the originals which are great fun, although there are many lines which exemplify Hitch’s own inimitable brand of humour: “The unlovely, balding man on the left of the picture seemed to be toasting his tubby friend. Bond wondered if he was saluting the man’s nerve in wearing what was, despite the print’s poor quality, an obvious hairpiece.” And if the humour is British, the story and writing overall are unapologetically so. This is something that occurred to me with the mention of the Chancellor’s red box (as well as other British political and cultural references, the best being Denbigh’s Harold “You’ve never had it so good” Macmillan reference)—this is the *real* James Bond grounded in a story that feels undoubtedly British. This aspect is highly successful and most welcome.

Without wishing to ruin the conclusion for those yet to read To Whom It May Condemn the ending will come as something of a shock. While there *is* something fishy about those who are revealed as the baddies, it does not fall into place until the right moment, and Mr Hitch affords his reader a wider context for his story by introducing past assignments. For those intrigued about precisely when the novel is set this should confirm it once and for all.

Perhaps the most interesting facet of the novel is not the wit or the engaging prose. It is that To Whom It May Condemn combines all the traditional elements of a British thriller and a Bond novel more specifically, and yet it feels fresh and new and imaginative. This is no mean feat: the intention may have been to honour Fleming with a pastiche but this is no simple rechauffage of the Fleming ingredients. There is no feeling of repetition or ground already covered; with a singular imagination Hitch has covered all the bases while maintaining a sense of vim and originality. Matched with that is the definite impression that this is Fleming’s Bond, something which emerges with Hitch’s evident enthusiasm for the character.

Do read To Whom It May Condemn; at the moment it is something of an undiscovered gem.

Rewards lie therein.