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Re: Unfinished Fleming Manuscript Rumour about Amis's Colonel Sun?

Revelator wrote:
Dirty Punker wrote:

I almost wished that someone had improved the book.
It could've resulted a better movie.

Even if the book had been better the filmmakers would have probably tossed most of it aside--look at what happened with Moonraker and Live and Let Die.

Well, that's certainly true.

Writer/Director @ The Bondologist Blog (TBB)
On Twitter: @Dragonpol 
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"The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).

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Re: Unfinished Fleming Manuscript Rumour about Amis's Colonel Sun?

I enjoy reading TMWTGG, as it shows how Fleming worked. This is the obvious core of a story. Which Fleming
Would have added some of his extra descriptive passages, if he could have, but what's there is still extremely
Well written. The meeting of Bond and Scaramanga in the Jamaican bar. The tension, the heat and sense of
Danger are all there.

“I didn’t lose a friend, I just realised I never had one.”

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Thunderpussy wrote:

I enjoy reading TMWTGG, as it shows how Fleming worked. This is the obvious core of a story. Which Fleming would have added some of his extra descriptive passages, if he could have, but what's there is still extremely well written. The meeting of Bond and Scaramanga in the Jamaican bar. The tension, the heat and sense of danger are all there.

I think its a brothel, not just a bar.
While Bond is chatting with the bartender/madame, Scaramanga is upstairs with one of the working girls.

You're right, that is a good scene, unique, and for some reason I usually forget about it ... its another bit of source material they could be using for future films instead of remaking Logan or Goldmember or whatever they have in store for Bond25.
When Scaramanga comes downstairs he feels the need to show off to Bond how tuff he is, so he shoots the bartenders pet mynah birds just to be a jerk.

But I'm never sure why Bond even stops there aside from chance.
He has seen an ad in the paper about land for sale and acts as if that's a clue, yet I never see how that ad relates to his search for Scaramanga, or what happens after they meet.

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Re: Unfinished Fleming Manuscript Rumour about Amis's Colonel Sun?

After reading the paper, Bond secretly opens a message to Scaramanga telling him to go to the address mentioned in that article. Bond therefore knows Scaramanga will be at that address at a certain time.

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Re: Unfinished Fleming Manuscript Rumour about Amis's Colonel Sun?

It was a bar downstairs and a brothel upstairs. One has to be discreet about these things I suppose.  ajb007/biggrin

Writer/Director @ The Bondologist Blog (TBB)
On Twitter: @Dragonpol 
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"The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).

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Re: Unfinished Fleming Manuscript Rumour about Amis's Colonel Sun?

I bow to your expert knowledge  SM  ajb007/embarrassed  ajb007/tongue  ajb007/biggrin

“I didn’t lose a friend, I just realised I never had one.”

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Thunderpussy wrote:

I bow to your expert knowledge  SM  ajb007/embarrassed  ajb007/tongue  ajb007/biggrin

Yes, I have The Knowledge!  ajb007/bond

Writer/Director @ The Bondologist Blog (TBB)
On Twitter: @Dragonpol 
'Like' TBB on FB: TBB Update Page
"The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).

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Re: Unfinished Fleming Manuscript Rumour about Amis's Colonel Sun?

For anyone who hasn't read the entire thing, here's the influential review of  The Man With the Golden Gun by Kingsley Amis, which ran in the New Statesman's April 2, 1965 issue.

***

M for Murder

We left James Bond in Japan, an amnesia victim after a head wound sustained while escaping by balloon from the castle he had destroyed by blocking-up the mud geyser on which it was built. He was under the impression that he was a local fisherman, and Kissy Suzuki, at that time what the newspapers call his friend, did nothing to put him right, at least not mentally. At the end of You Only Live Twice he was taking off for Vladivostok, because it was part of a country that, he sensed, he had had a lot to do with in the past. This was a promising situation. One could hardly wait for the follow-up: inevitable capture by the KGB, questionings and torturings and brainwashings, break out (aided probably by some beautiful firm-breasted female major of the Foreign Intelligence Directorate), the slaying of Colonel-General Grubozaboyschikov of SMERSH, and perhaps of Lieutenant-General Vozdvishensky of RUMID for good measure, in revenge for what happened on the Orient Express in 1957, and final escape over the Wall.

Nothing of this order takes place in Bond’s latest and last exploit. He’s back in England right at the start, telephoning the Ministry of Defence and apparently set on getting his old job back. It soon emerges that he has indeed been brainwashed, and that the commission allotted him by his Russian controllers is nothing less than the assassination of M. Despite the forebodings pf Miss Moneypenny in the outer office Bond is admitted to the presence, chats briefly about the necessity of working for peace and then whips out a cyanide pistol. But M presses a button which lowers a sheet of armour-plate glass from the ceiling, and the jet of viscous brown fluid splashes harmlessly into its centre.

I lament this outcome of the attentat very much, and not only because it helps to make everything that follows seem rather small-scale. M has always seemed to me about as sinister as Captain Nash (the moon-maniac who tried to shoot Bond with a specially designed copy of War and Peace) and considerably less amiable than Dr No. The depth of Bond’s devotion to M’s keen, lined sailor’s face and clear blue sailor’s eyes remains something of a mystery. Perhaps the pitch of the old monster’s depravity is reached in the title story of For Your Eyes Only. Here he manoeuvres Bond into volunteering to murder an ex-Nazi in Vermont as a personal favour, and says absolutely nothing when Bond departs to carry out this arduous, dangerous, difficult assignment. Even Mr. Deighton’s pair of boors, Colonel Ross and Major Dalby, might in such circumstances have gone as far as to wish Bond luck or thank him. A faceful of cyanide would have done M a world of good.

He survives, however, and goes off to luncheon at Blades, just a grilled sole and a spoonful of Stilton. He used to be much greedier than this, cheerfully doing himself harm by guzzling a marrow-bone after his caviar and devilled kidneys and fresh strawberries. In the old days, too, he would go for 20-year-old clarets; he washes down his grilled sole with a bottle of Algerian red too bad to be allowed on the wine-list. We know now why Bond stepped down from broiled lobsters with melted butter in 1953 to cold roast beef and potato salad in 1963. As always, he was following M’s lead.

After luncheon, M decides to send Bond off to the West Indies to kill a certain Scaramanga, the golden-gun-toter of the title and a free-lance assassin often used by the KGB or Castro. He may well perish in the attempt, for Scaramanga is the best shot in the Caribbean, but that’s all right—to fall on the battlefield would be better than doing 20 years for having tried to kill the head of the Secret Service. Having had a bit of shock treatment at the hands of Sir James Molony, the famous neurologist, and some intensive gun practice at the Maidstone police range. Bond is judged fit for the assignment and in due course noses out Scaramanga in Jamaica. What follows is soon told. Scaramanga hires Bond as his security and trigger-man and takes him off to a half-built hotel on the coast where a ‘business conference’ is to be held. Ostensibly its subject is tourist development. Bond’s identity becomes known and Scaramanga arranges to knock him off during a small-gauge-railway excursion as a piece of light entertainment for the conferrers. But…We last see Bond refusing a knighthood: to accept one would be to aspire inadmissibly to M’s level.

It’s a sadly empty tale, empty of the interests and effects that for better or worse, Ian Fleming had made his own. Violence is at a minimum. Sex too: an old chum of Bond’s called Mary Goodnight appears two or three times, and on her first appearance puts an arm smelling of Chanel No 5 round his neck, but he gets no more out of her later than an invitation to convalesce at her bungalow. And there’s no gambling, no gadgets or machinery to speak of, no undersea stuff, none of those lavish and complicated eats and drinks, hardly even a brand-name apart from Bond’s Hofffitz safety razor arid the odd bottle of Walker’s de luxe Bourbon. The main plot, in the sense of the scheme proposed by the villain’s, is likewise thin. Smuggling marijuana and getting protection-money out of oil companies disappoint expectation aroused by what some of these people’s predecessors planned: a nuclear attack on Miami, the dissemination throughout Britain of crop and livestock pests, the burgling of Fort Knox. The rank-and-file villains, too, have been reduced in scale.

In most of the Bond books it was the central villain on whom interest in character was fixed. Moonraker, for instance, is filled with the physical presence of Huger Drax with his red hair and scarred face, bustling about, puffing cigars, playing the genial host when he isn’t working on his scheme to obliterate London. Scaramanga is just a dandy with a special (and ineffective) gun, a stock of outdated American slang and a third nipple on his left breast. We hear a lot about him early on in the 10-page dossier M consults, including mentions of homosexuality and pistol-fetishism, but these aren’t followed up anywhere. Why not?

It may be relevant to consider at this point an outstandingly clumsy turn in the narrative. Bond has always, been good at ingratiating, himself with his enemies, notably with Goldfinger, who took him on as his personal assistant for the Fort Knox project. Goldfinger, however, had fairly good reason to believe Bond to be a clever and experienced operator on the wrong side of the law. Scaramanga hires him after a few minutes’ conversation in the bar of a brothel. (At this stage he has no idea that there’s a British agent within a hundred miles, so he can’t be hiring him to keep him under his eye.) Bond wonders what Scaramanga wants with him: “it was odd, to say the least of it…the strong smell of a trap.” This hefty hint of a concealed motive on Scaramanga’s part is never taken up. Why not?

I strongly suspect—on deduction alone, let it be said—that these unanswered questions represent traces of an earlier draft, perhaps never committed to paper, wherein Scaramanga hires Bond because he’s sexually interested in him. A supposition of this kind would also take care of other difficulties or deficiencies in the book as it stands, the insubstantiality of the character of Scaramanga, just referred to, and the feeling of suppressed emotion, or at any rate the build-up to and the space for some kind of climax of emotion, in the final confrontation of the two men. But of course Ian Fleming wouldn’t have dared complete the story along those lines. Imagine what the critics would have said!

To read some of their extant efforts, one would think that Bond’s creator was a sort of psychological Ernst Stavro Blofeld, bent on poisoning British morality. An article in this journal in 1958 helped to initiate a whole series of attacks on the supposed “sex, snobbery and sadism” of the books, as if sex were bad per se, and as if snobbery resided in a few glossy-magazine descriptions of Blades and references to Aston Martin cars and Pinaud shampoos and what-not, and as if sadism could be attributed to a character who never wantonly inflicts pain. (Contrast Bulldog Drummond and Spillane’s Mike Hammer.)

These are matters that can’t be argued through in this review. But it seems clear that Ian Fleming took such charges seriously. Violent and bloody action, the infliction of pain in general, was very much scaled down in what he wrote after 1958. Many will regard this as a negative gain, though others may feel that a secret-agent story without violence would be like, say, a naval story without battles. As regards ‘sex’ and ‘snobbery’ and the memorable meals and the high-level gambling, these, however unedifying, were part of the unique Fleming world, and the denaturing of that world in the present novel and parts of its immediate forerunners is a loss. Nobody can write at his best with part of his attention on puritanical readers over his shoulder.

Ian Fleming was a good writer, occasionally a brilliant one, as the gypsy-encampment scene in From Russia, With Love (however sadistic) and the bridge-game in Moonraker (however snobbish) will suggest. His gifts for sustaining and varying action, and for holding down the wildest fantasies with cleverly synthesized pseudo-facts, give him a place beside long defunct entertainer-virtuosos like Jules Verne and Conan Doyle, though he was more fully master of his material than either of these. When shall we see another?

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Re: Unfinished Fleming Manuscript Rumour about Amis's Colonel Sun?

damn Revelator that's awesome, thanks for posting that!

It gives us a whole lotta clues what Amis would have added to, or changed, in ...Golden Gun, had he chosen to do more than fix punctuation.

It also gives us some more insight into what Amis gets out of Fleming, to sit alongside his ...Dossier.
I'm currently rereading Colonel Sun, and am tempted to dig out my copy of the Dossier. I'm realising this is not really a book Fleming would have written. It's an exercise in practically demonstrating what Amis gets out of another man's writing. He breaks it down into various formulaic elements in his ...Dossier, then puts it into practice in Colonel Sun.
But that's just what Amis gets out of Fleming. Each and every one of us gets something different out of Fleming, and if we had the creative writing chops we could each write our own adventure that would reveal a completely unique interpretation of what Fleming did.

In the ...Dossier he does go on about the Bond girls' breasts, for example, more than I actually ever noticed Fleming doing. And he manages to do so again in this essay. And true to his own interpretation of the formula, Ariadne Alexandrou's "overdeveloped bust" is referenced repeatedly.
And of course we know he likes M, I think he said M was his favourite character, and so M gets his biggest role ever in Amis's own Bond book. His descriptions of M in this particular essay are classic. He thinks M makes the villains look likable in comparison!
...and Amis lets Bond eat some very good meals Colonel Sun, perhaps to make up for the inadequate food he felt was served in ...Golden Gun.

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Glad you liked it Caractacus!

Amis's version of TMWTGG would certainly have been an interesting book. I don't think Fleming consciously thought Scaramanga was sexually attracted to Bond, but it would have made a great plot twist (one can imagine something like the Silva-Bond relationship in Skyfall) and would have made good on the high expectations raised by Scaramanga's dossier. Ironically the otherwise lousy film of TMWTGG did a better job of showing Scaramanga's pistol fetishism, in the scene where he strokes Andrea's face with his pistol.

I also liked Amis's alternative version of Bond in Russia, complete with torture, dramatic escape ("aided probably by some beautiful firm-breasted female major of the Foreign Intelligence Directorate") and the slaying of General G, followed by a leap over the Berlin Wall. Could have been a hell of a story.

caractacus potts wrote:

I'm currently rereading Colonel Sun, and am tempted to dig out my copy of the Dossier. I'm realising this is not really a book Fleming would have written. It's an exercise in practically demonstrating what Amis gets out of another man's writing. He breaks it down into various formulaic elements in his ...Dossier, then puts it into practice in Colonel Sun.

That's a good way of putting it, and a good way to write any continuation novel. Amis gained encyclopedic knowledge of Fleming's themes, interests, and recurring subjects, and he drew on what he liked best of these to shape his own Bond novel. By filtering his own interests through Fleming's, he was able to avoid writing a mere pastiche. Instead of trying to write like Fleming, he wrote his own story using elements found in Fleming. He treated Fleming's writing as a sort of sub-genre in itself.

In the ...Dossier he does go on about the Bond girls' breasts, for example, more than I actually ever noticed Fleming doing.

Hmmm, you might be right! I do remember that Fleming quite liked his breasts, but also had some notorious bits about women's bottoms...

His descriptions of M in this particular essay are classic. He thinks M makes the villains look likable in comparison!

Yes, it's funny how Amis is so revolted by M, yet made him a central character in his own Bond novel, giving him a role bigger than anything in Fleming.

...and Amis lets Bond eat some very good meals Colonel Sun, perhaps to make up for the inadequate food he felt was served in ...Golden Gun.

No complaints from me there! TMWTGG does feel like a "back to basics" that goes a little too far back.

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Revelator, one of the reasons I finally got around to registering to join this forum is so I could thank you for posting that Amis review of TMWTGG!  I love reading Amis's thoughts on Fleming and Bond...in fact, I hate to admit this here, but sometimes I find Amis's writing about Bond more enjoyable than the Bond novels themselves!  The Dossier was one of the most entertaining, enjoyable books I've read in recent years, filled with enthusiasm and fresh insight.  Did Amis review other Bond novels for the newspapers of the day -- and are any of them found online or elsewhere?

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onemonk909 wrote:

Revelator, one of the reasons I finally got around to registering to join this forum is so I could thank you for posting that Amis review of TMWTGG!  I love reading Amis's thoughts on Fleming and Bond...in fact, I hate to admit this here, but sometimes I find Amis's writing about Bond more enjoyable than the Bond novels themselves!  The Dossier was one of the most entertaining, enjoyable books I've read in recent years, filled with enthusiasm and fresh insight.  Did Amis review other Bond novels for the newspapers of the day -- and are any of them found online or elsewhere?

You're very welcome, and I've been enjoying the Bond reviews on your blog (though I hope you enjoy the later novels more than the early ones!). As far as I know, Amis didn't review the other Fleming Bond novels, but he did review one of Gardner's and one of Christopher Wood's (they can be read here: https://www.ajb007.co.uk/topic/40204/tw … 1977-1982/).

But Amis did write about Fleming for The Dictionary of National Biography (which can be read here: https://www.ajb007.co.uk/topic/43161/ki … n-fleming/). 
Also worth seeking out is "A New James Bond," his essay on writing Colonel Sun (originally printed in his book of essays What Became of Jane Austen? and reprinted in some editions of Col. Sun--I might post it here if there's demand for it). Lastly, Amis was interviewed by Raymond Benson for the magazine Bondage--I recently acquired a copy and might transcribe it if anyone's interested. 
I notice that you own The Book Of Bond: or Every Man His Own Bond, which I heartily recommend, though it's less of a critical study than a warped self-help manual for aspiring Double-Os!

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Thanks for the nice words on my reviews!  I'm really looking forward to getting to the Bond novels I read back in the day.  I still remember being so caught up in YOLT, reading it over the summer of '86 (I think it was) -- same goes for OHMSS and Dr. No.  But the first 4 I never got to read back then.

Thanks for those links to the other Amis reviews, and yes, I'd LOVE to read "A New James Bond" and the Benson interview -- but if you decide not to post them, thanks for letting us know where to find them. 

Speaking of "A New James Bond," I think it was a big mistake for Gildrose not to go forward with their "Robert Markham" house name and release a new series of Bond novels...the mid to late '60s was THE era for series spy fiction, and they could've capitalized on it for sure with the most famous "spy" of all (though as we know from Amis's study, he isn't really a spy per se...).

That Book of Bond wasn't easy to get, either -- at least at a reasonable price.  I'm not sure, but I don't think it was even published here in the US.  I had the same experience years ago when I tracked down Adam Diment's "Think Inc.," which also never came out here.

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onemonk909 wrote:

Thanks for those links to the other Amis reviews, and yes, I'd LOVE to read "A New James Bond" and the Benson interview

Your wish is my command--the Amis-Benson interview is now online: https://www.ajb007.co.uk/post/912987/#p912987
"A New James Bond" will be uploaded in a couple of weeks.

Speaking of "A New James Bond," I think it was a big mistake for Gildrose not to go forward with their "Robert Markham" house name and release a new series of Bond novels...

I agree. From what I remember, Colonel Sun didn't sell as well as expected, which might account for Glidrose not continuing the series. Perhaps the pseudonym hurt sales?

That Book of Bond wasn't easy to get, either -- at least at a reasonable price.

I know what you mean--I took me ages to find an affordable copy. It really ought to reprinted, perhaps in a combined edition with the Dossier and any other writings on Bond.

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onemonk909 wrote:

Did Amis review other Bond novels for the newspapers of the day -- and are any of them found online or elsewhere?

I've just found out that Amis reviewed You Only Live Twice for the New Statesman (in the issue dated March 20, 1964). I hope to obtain the piece soon.

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Revelator wrote:
onemonk909 wrote:

Did Amis review other Bond novels for the newspapers of the day -- and are any of them found online or elsewhere?

I've just found out that Amis reviewed You Only Live Twice for the New Statesman (in the issue dated March 20, 1964). I hope to obtain the piece soon.

Thank you. I'm looking forward to Amis' thoughts on the YOLT novel immensely! Good work!  ajb007/martini

Writer/Director @ The Bondologist Blog (TBB)
On Twitter: @Dragonpol 
'Like' TBB on FB: TBB Update Page
"The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).

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Re: Unfinished Fleming Manuscript Rumour about Amis's Colonel Sun?

Revelator wrote:
onemonk909 wrote:

Did Amis review other Bond novels for the newspapers of the day -- and are any of them found online or elsewhere?

I've just found out that Amis reviewed You Only Live Twice for the New Statesman (in the issue dated March 20, 1964). I hope to obtain the piece soon.

That's awesome!  Thanks so much for letting us know about this.  I hope you are able to get it!

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onemonk909 wrote:
Revelator wrote:
onemonk909 wrote:

Did Amis review other Bond novels for the newspapers of the day -- and are any of them found online or elsewhere?

I've just found out that Amis reviewed You Only Live Twice for the New Statesman (in the issue dated March 20, 1964). I hope to obtain the piece soon.

That's awesome!  Thanks so much for letting us know about this.  I hope you are able to get it!

If there's something I've learned over the years it is that Revelator always delivers in the end.  ajb007/smile  ajb007/martini

His research skills at finding obscure literary Bond reviews and articles are second-to-none! The literary Bond community is very lucky to have him!  ajb007/cheers

Writer/Director @ The Bondologist Blog (TBB)
On Twitter: @Dragonpol 
'Like' TBB on FB: TBB Update Page
"The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).

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Silhouette Man wrote:
onemonk909 wrote:
Revelator wrote:

I've just found out that Amis reviewed You Only Live Twice for the New Statesman (in the issue dated March 20, 1964). I hope to obtain the piece soon.

That's awesome!  Thanks so much for letting us know about this.  I hope you are able to get it!

If there's something I've learned over the years it is that Revelator always delivers in the end.  ajb007/smile  ajb007/martini

His research skills at finding obscure literary Bond reviews and articles are second-to-none! The literary Bond community is very lucky to have him!  ajb007/cheers

Completely agree. Thanks, Revelator!  ajb007/martini

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You guys are way too kind! But thanks nevertheless.  ajb007/wink

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And here's the review, which also covers le Carre and Deighton:

***
New Statesman, 20 March 1964

Literary Agents by Kingsley Amis

Spy fever has us in its grip. Saturday night on ITV gives us two solid hours of cloak-and-dagger. At 9:10, Espionage, a series that at least every other week has only the most tenuous connection with espionage: it’s as if the planners knew the title was good enough to get the viewers viewing. At 10.5, The Avengers, thought to be good by enough bright people to make other bright people very angry, and playing self-parodic tricks with the conventions of the genre in a way only possible when the audience is deeply experienced in the genre. And, earlier at 7.25, GS5, more of a straightforward criminal investigation affair, but with strong infusions of MI5, international conspiracy etc. In the cinema—who can help knowing that From Russia, with Love is the most successful film ever shown in Britain, and that later this year James Bond will become a double agent in a sense he never suspected, with two different incarnations of himself on the screens at once?

Why, or why now? Partly, no, doubt, because the Rosenberg trial, Khokhlov’s testimony, the Blake and Vassall affairs, have come to put a more realistic and immediate complexion on what, in the days of Sapper and E. Phillips Oppenheim had been holiday reading fantasy. Then, in quite a different direction, one I don’t actually care for much, there is the possibility that the secret-agent persona is peculiarly attractive to the common, conforming mid-century citizen, who can see himself in his daydreams as very uncommon indeed, passing muster as one of the herd but, inside, a lone individual, hard, ruthless, cruel, knowing what nobody else knows…Maybe. But cultural causes for cultural phenomena are always preferable. I think Mr.
Ian Fleming has done most to infect us with the bug.

Admitting publicly to enjoyment of Mr. Fleming’s works draws just the same kind of disgusted hostility, the same accusations of anti-cultural affectation, or commitment, as claiming to like jazz did 10 years ago. (Not any more, though, unless Mr. Paul Johnson happens to be of the company. Interesting that that polymorphous backwoodsman—still stuck with the Choral Symphony at the age of 16—should have launched in this journal the first really violent attack on Mr. Fleming back in 1958.) Well, I am not deterred. The man who wrote the bridge-game scene in Moonraker, the assassination-planning scene in From Russia, with Love, the beach scene at the beginning of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and the ski-pursuit later in the same book is a good writer whether you like it or not.

Mr. Fleming is firmly in the older, free-associating, cloak-and-dagger tradition, but bolts his fantasy down equally firmly with a lot of documentary detail. Agreed, Thunderball, for instance, couldn’t happen. Even if there, are global criminal cartels like SPECTRE they could’'t hijack a Nato bomber, with nuclear bombs on board and use the bombs to blackmail the Western governments for a billion pounds. But if they could, they would use for the hijacking someone exactly like Col. Giuseppe Petacchi, who would have surrendered himself and his Focke-Wulf 200 to the Allies in World War II just as described, and would contemplate buying with his share of the loot the very Ghia-bodied 3,500 GT Maserati we are told about. That’s what all those brand names, which Mr. Fleming’s detractors get into such a state over, are doing there: linkage with reality, intrinsic interest, and efficient characterization-shorthand—if Petacchi had been the sort to covet a Rolls, or a souped-up Fiat 500, he might well not have gone along with the scheme.

The latest installment [You Only Live Twice] is the most fantastic so far. Bond, widowed at the end of the last one, has slid further down the slope of Byronic self-destruction he started on at the beginning of Thunderball. It takes all the efforts of Sir James Molony, the famous neurologist (now a Nobel Prizewinner), to talk that old reptile M into allotting Bond a new assignment; persuading the Japanese Secret Service to give him the Russian Far Eastern signals traffic they have been deciphering for the last year. Remustered out of the 00 section as 7777, Bond goes off to Japan and spends over half the book finding out and being told about the place - the kami-kaze, the samurai, the haiku, the bushido, and of course the geisha—before getting down to business. This consists of killing a certain Dr. Shatterhand in his remote, closely guarded fortress as a favour to the Japanese and a demonstration that the British are not so effete as everybody thinks. In return, the contents of the Russian file will be handed over.

Shatterhand turns out to be someone markedly unamiable whom we have met before. He operates a garden full of meticulously itemised poisonous trees in which Japanese intruders are continually committing suicide—an odd way of life for a man determined, we are told, to evade notice. He cuts an impressive figure in the medieval chain-armour he adopts as protection against the various lethal thorns, and the garden bits are strange and chilling. But Bond wins too easily, and the trees don't get a fair crack at him. They are not a suitable mechanism for an action story in the way Mr. Fleming’s cars arid casinos and underwater exploits are. You don’t get chased by the Jamaica dogwoods and you can't gamble with the St Ignatius’s beans. When Bond recovers his memory—he gets a bullet-wound in the head while escaping by helium balloon—and makes his intended trip to Vladivostok, things should look up. Colonel-General Grubozaboyschikov, late of SMERSH, must have some scores to payoff.

An interest in realism turns up when a genre is past its first youth: Stories about daily lunar life and routine come along after 30 years of moon-monsters; Chief Inspector Barlow of Z Cars replaces Lord Peter Wimsey (not before time). Wherever they may end up, Messrs. John le Carré and Len Deighton start off with some concern to tell the truth about the Secret Service. They agree in their different ways that it’s a dirty game, a conclusion which Mr. Fleming, on the evidence of his novels, would never assent to. Dangerous, devious, coarsening, hardening, yes, but it’s Her Majesty's Secret Service we’re dealing with. No matter: who reads Sapper for the ideology? The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Mr. le Carré’s third and best novel so far, not only portrayed the game as unrelievedly dirty but made you wonder if you had ever realized before how dirty dirty games could be. His first [Call for the Dead], now reissued in paperback, is no more cheerful in sum, though it shows a considerable flair for mildly non-U dialogue and an informed interest in snobbery. A civil servant who knows he is only very mildly suspected of having been a communist while at Oxford seems to have committed suicide because of it. If he really did, why did he arrange for an early telephone call on the morning after the fatal evening? Or perhaps his wife arranged it for herself. But she is an insomniac. An espionage plot begins to emerge, with a violent denouement.

The initial situation about the suicide recalls the whodunit, and it is thence that Mr. le Carré’s work partly derives. His second novel, A Murder of Quality, was squarely in the line of the traditional detective story. This ancestry perhaps explains his tendency, not finally curbed even in his third book, to overload his story with mystifications. The real fault of Call for the Dead, however, is that the relations between the suicide and his wife are taken far enough for us to need to understand them, and no further. But the bad and horrid men and horrid events are really bad and horrid.

Notes for students: 1) Mr. le Carré’s M, one Maston, is openly devious and unsympathetic—contempt for one’s chief is almost the distinguishing badge of the newer school; 2) the principal agent, George Smiley, has trouble with his conscience, and 3) is also unlike Bond in being physically unimpressive, “bewildered and mole-like behind his spectacles,” more like Chesterton’s Father Brown than anyone Mr. Connery could play; 4) readers of The Spy Who will want to know that the present book tells what the diabolical Mundt did before he went back to East Germany.

Compared with Mr. Deighton, though, Mr. le Carré is as limpid as Black Beauty. I couldn’t read Horse Under Water and had tough sledding with The Ipcress File. The endless twists and turns of the plot, the systematic withholding of clues and even of transitions, are made doubly harassing by a style of dialogue, shared by all the characters, whereby the line of argument disappears under allusions, wisecracks, disembodied reflections. At one evidently crucial point the hero, who for some inscrutable reason is left nameless, is given the chance of buying a secret file off a colleague. I couldn’t make out whether the hero angrily took the deal or angrily turned it down, only that he was angry, and I wasn’t too clear about why, either.

A summary of the general drift would require from me the kind of rereading normally accorded an examination set-book. There is something about an atom bomb, I think it was, and brainwashing, and a high-up agent going double, or turning out at the end to have gone double earlier. Meanwhile we have had all too much of the hero’s chippy knowingness, which sees to it that a coffee-bar or an airport is never just a coffee-bar or an airport, but of those coffee-bars, one of those airports: the idiom of a man who has been everywhere already and didn’t like it the first time.

The whole thing is supposedly told to the Minister of Defence, who at an early stage makes what I thought was a reasonable request for enlightenment over some detail. The hero answers with his usual humility:

“It’s going to be very difficult for me if I have to answer questions as I go along,” I said.
“If it’s all the same to you, Minister, I’d prefer you to make a note of the questions, and ask me afterwards.”
“My dear chap, not another word, I promise.”
And throughout the entire explanation he never again interrupted.

I know why. He was asleep.

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Re: Unfinished Fleming Manuscript Rumour about Amis's Colonel Sun?

thanks Revelator!
I've read Call for the Dead, and he's right, it's more of a murder mystery than a spy story.
I like how Amis avoided the really important spoiler in YOLT even though he actually gives way the ending ... and yet again he's speculating on his own version of what should happen in Vladisvostock, completely different than the story Fleming would ultimately tell.

what's this all about?

Kingsley Amis wrote:

...later this year James Bond will become a double agent in a sense he never suspected, with two different incarnations of himself on the screens at once...

Feldman's Casino Royale wouldn't come out for another three years. Is he perhaps talking about Thunderball? was McClory seriously working on his own independent production at this stage, and was this something the general public would have been aware of? how far did McClory get before he finally decided to collaborate with the regular team? Amis seems to think some competing Bond product was close to completion in 1964.

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Re: Unfinished Fleming Manuscript Rumour about Amis's Colonel Sun?

McClory initially intended to film TB without Eon (this would be in 1964) and was considering Richard Burton (among others) to play Bond. When these plans fell through he went into partnership with Broccoli & Saltzman. His earlier attempts after gaining the film rights were well-publicised, often by himself, but never close to completion and Amis would have been aware of them.

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Re: Unfinished Fleming Manuscript Rumour about Amis's Colonel Sun?

McClory must of been some kind of all-persuasive bluffer for Amis to believe he would have a competing Bond movie in the theatres by the end of the year, when he didn't even have a lead actor actually hired.
That would of been some low budget rush job Thunderball if it had happened, can you imagine what it would have looked like? 
I'm glad we got the big budget bloated version in our reality.

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Re: Unfinished Fleming Manuscript Rumour about Amis's Colonel Sun?

caractacus potts wrote:

McClory must of been some kind of all-persuasive bluffer ...

I do get the impression that charm (blarney?) was perhaps McClory's greatest talent.