MI6 Community Novel Bondathon - Reborn!

1131416181933

Comments

  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    Dr. No certainly has some great imagery to illustrate. Surprised they were able to go that far in illustrating Honey in the nude.

    If the books were adapted into an adult miniseries, Dr. No would especially be made faithful in the way that I think it should be. They wouldn't have to cover Honey up immediately, or worry about showing too much skin on Bond, in addition to all the other lethal or sexual content in the books. I hope we get mature adaptations of the stories one day done right, though the early films (and namely DN, FRWL, TB and OHMSS) are to be commended for how they keep the spirit of the books and in many ways made improvements in vital areas despite censorship of their content at times. I just want to see the adventures play out uncensored through some hour long episodes each.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 24,141
    This has probably been the best GOLDFINGER read that I have had. I'm only a third through right now and my only complaint is the odd similarities to MOONRAKER. Here are some notes from my last read through a couple of years back.


    GOLDFINGER (1959)

    -I finished reading GOLDFINGER last night. Like DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER and, to a lesser extent, DOCTOR NO, in memory this was not one of the stronger entries, and also like those other two I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would this time around.

    -Unlike the previous books, we begin with Bond coming off of a fresh assignment. The negative is that for the first time we don't get any follow up to the previous adventure (whatever became of Honey?). No references to DN what so ever, but we reach all the way back to CASINO ROYALE to set up the story (DAF and MOONRAKER are also alluded to). The benefit is that we get the immediacy of Bond coming down from a cold kill and the bitterness and disgust that he is feeling towards his chosen profession. Fleming continues to build on this aspect of the character, which will pay off down the line.

    -One of my problems with this book had been that it seemed to be almost a retread of MR in many ways: Bond is brought in by an acquaintance to flush out an apparent petty cheat who is a prominent member of society with money to burn. Bond succeeds in breaking the foe in question. By Coincidence Bond's next assignment involves the very same nemesis, who has a secret plot that is awe-inspiring in scope. The villain has a vast ethnically homogenous army that is insanely loyal to him. Bond, at some point, ends up working with the villain. I also felt so this time around, the difference being that with this read it did not bother for put me off at all. It just seemed that Fleming had some new ideas to fit into an old formula, and it works.

    -I won't go into too great a detail, this is still the one instance where I prefer the movie to the novel (it is my favorite Bond film), but not so much anymore. The character of Oddjob is a masterwork on page and on celluloid, it's hard for me to choose which is the better interpretation, but I prefer the climactic battle in the film to the henchman's demise in the book. Pussy is a rather weak character in the novel (Tilly Masterson fairs slightly better). Speaking of which, I love Bond's inner monologue in regards to homosexuals. Cracks me the Hell up. As harsh as it may seem in today's world, that was probably a more enlightened view than most at the time.

    -Goldfinger's plot still doesn't hold up under scrutiny, less so does Washington's counter-plan. There seems like there could have been much more convenient, efficient, and timely ways to interrupt Operation Grand Slam with the information they had, but that's part of the fun.

    -My only criticism is that the last few pages are kind of a mess. All this detail and techno babble that Bond is throwing at the captured flight crew is not the most satisfying way to close out a 007 adventure. But, that is overall a minor nitpick.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    Apologies for the lateness in sharing, but I've posted my thoughts on Dr. No chapter by chapter.

    While reading the first half I was disappointed by the rather slow and uneventful nature of the story, vastly preferring the film, but the second half or really, the book from the point that Bond and Quarrel head off to the island, really picks up. When the finale came I was through the roof about it, and come away from the book amazingly positive. I love the island exploration, Dr. No's characterization, his scheme, Bond's struggle in that amazing obstacle course and the overall character of Honey, who is up there with Tiffany Case as Fleming's best realized.

    Enough was different in the novel to avoid it reading like a weaker version of the film, which is largely what the second and third parts of From Russia with Love feels like to me, and that improved things immensely. I also come away appreciating the film for getting so much right too. We lose a lot of Honey's character in some ways and miss out on a lot of the action inside the island and Bond's obstacle course (perhaps a bit too difficult to pull off at the time and with a shorter run time), but we gain an expansion of Miss Taro's character that is great, get a payoff with the three blind mice, and the focus on guano is axed alongside some other changes that pace the film better and add more detective elements.

    Overall, a fine read and one that really improved as it went on in a big way. The finale was especially immaculate and riveting, probably my favorite of all the novels yet.


    Chapter 1- Hear You Loud and Clear

    Reusing a trick we’d last seen in Diamonds Are Forever, Fleming begins Dr. No by presenting us with characters outside of Bond’s perspective to clue us into what the spy may be facing in his latest adventure. Fleming’s obligatory details and his description of the road leading to Queen’s Club and how the T-intersection removes itself in class and style from the rest of Jamaica help to set up the bizarre and fantastic image of three not so blind men walking in line towards the location.

    We find Strangways playing cards with some associates of his, before he must leave at his scheduled time to make contact with M. Although the man had a minor role in the action of Live & Let Die, because Fleming had already made us familiar with him and his warm personality we are brought back to the familiar face and atmosphere of that novel’s finale. We quickly learn of how strict and important radio contact with London is, and how agents should avoid any tardiness in corresponding each day at the scheduled time. The real tragedy of the situation is that it’s this same attention to detail and exact planning to the second that lets the villains know Strangways’ routine and how they can kill him as he’s in pursuit of it.

    Some foreshadowing comes as Strangways ponders the mysterious case M had gotten him on just weeks prior, and how he figures it’ll add up to nothing fantastic or out of the ordinary when in fact it’s his murder that will make it a fantastical one for Bond. He seems to be a well-meaning man, but not exactly the kind of person for the work he’s tasked with in Jamaica. I say this because he lacks the sense of awareness and suspicion Bond has built into him, to question everything and everyone as a possible enemy. Strangways perhaps comes off as overly comfortable and complacent regarding the danger of his obvious schedules and routines to his mortality, as his “iron” timetable invites more unwanted danger and ambushes from the enemy considering the line of work he’s saddled with. He’s very much like a military man who is so used to his down to the second lifestyle and daily routine that, when he heads into field work like the Double-O section handles that requires you to live spontaneously day to day, never take the same routes to locations and change up habits and schedules, he is unable to adapt and finds himself compromised in the face of his enemies. I think that Bond would register the image of an oncoming trio of bizarre blind men with a hint of danger or circumspection, because he doesn’t live by habit and is used to hiccups and sabotage from outside parties that could target him. Strangways seems to treat the sight as regular, however, and it signs his death warrant.

    Fleming quickly catches us up with the sweet and well-meaning Mary Trueblood as she waits for Strangways running quite tardy. Just as swiftly she’s a goner too, under the cruel pretense of thinking that her partner was arriving at the door when it was nothing more than a killer with a gun trained on her.

    In a departure from the film we see the office of Strangways and all the information encased inside of it lit up. The final image of the “blind” men dressed up in their black coats and top hats feigning mourning as they prepare to dump the still-warm bodies is an image so bizarre it can only come out of a Fleming Bond novel.

    Chapter 2- Choice of Weapons

    Contrasting sharply with the tropical climate of Jamaica, Fleming places us with M in late winter as he faces the sleet and hail of London on his way to work. I chuckled at the detail that M “rarely admitted the existence of weather even in its extreme forms,” which reminded me of the equally amusing thought Bond had in a previous book about how M seems to be indifferent to food or hunger. These details really build him to be someone unlike any other, almost inhuman. It then makes sense why Bond often seems to view M as more than a man, something to be obeyed beyond normal respect, as he already feels like a part of a separate species. We also get to see the warmth M shows for his staff at the beginning here and how he admits to himself that he’d not wipe his face clean of the weather in front of them, possibly because he thinks it shows weakness underneath his stiff upper lip demeanor. This detail I really like about M, because the sense I’ve gotten from him in the past books is that he’s not inherently cold or tough and partially puts on a performance to appear that way. In reality he’s far more compassionate and understanding than his strict office persona and we see that peek out across the books, usually at times when Bond has been to hell and back and he feels guilty about sending him there.

    The dialogue M and Molony have in this chapter was riveting to me, as I didn’t expect Fleming to take so much time to discuss how Bond had got on since the end of From Russia with Love when he took a poison-tipped blade to the leg. The line of Molony’s, where he warns M about over-exerting Bond and how the spy had “been having a tough time for some years now,” really took me aback. Fleming always had a focus on keeping some form of continuity book to book, and that little line alone sums up all of the hero’s adventures at once without any more needing to be said. It creates the clear picture of a hard life, hard lived.

    As Molony comes on strong and becomes in danger of preaching to M, we get to see the Double-O Chief assert himself and, at times, come off as quite cold when he makes the case that Bond is better off than most and doesn’t seem to worry over his colleague’s warnings too much. M referring to Bond as not being the first that’s “cracked” is quite a hard-edged and indifferent line even for him to say, but I think Fleming intended the moment to be jarring, showing us that what matters to M is utility and results from his men. If someone’s expended their use, out they go. Of course M closes that discussion by agreeing that Bond needs to come back to service work with a quieter job, something that won’t hit in the face as he arrives back through the door, so again the compassionate side below the stern face peeks out again.

    We get just a hint of Bond’s “chance in a million” miracle survival, largely thanks to Mathis and how he was able to keep the man breathing long enough for the doctors to save him. We also find out that Klebb has died somehow, but no other details are given as M coldly drops the discussion. I imagine it was a state-ordered execution out of the war days, very hush hush, once she was sapped of useful information.

    The meeting with Bond, M and Boothroyd that closes the chapter is deliciously awkward and played with pins and needles as our hero tries his best to get through the very patronizing conversation. The first thought we get from Bond’s head is his warm reaction to the familiarity of M’s office after such time away and of how he viewed the job as the only normality and sense of life he wanted to pursue. Later, we also get a sense of his allure for the dangerous, the element that saves him from the dreaded “soft life” he despises. It becomes very clear that the job is something he needs to be satisfied with himself and his purpose in life. It’s also interesting that Bond is a bit paranoid about what he’s doing there, if he’s being reprimanded for his last job or demoted to desk work, as he is aware of how M may be disappointed in his work.

    We then shift into how Bond’s Beretta is swapped for the now famous Walther that is synonymous with the character on the big screen. It’s amusing how meta this chapter reads, as Fleming is relaying the criticism that the real Boothroyd gave him about having Bond use a woman’s gun, crafting their genuine letters into an actual scene that moved the story of the novel along. It’s clever that Fleming used the jammed gun at the end of From Russia with Love to spur on this moment in the chapter, giving him the chance to finally remedy the long-standing error and give Bond a real man’s gun. It was very amusing and comical to hear Boothroyd criticize the kind of person who might use a Beretta in the field, all while Bond is in front of him and has the damn thing strapped to his side in the holster. The spy’s gradual contempt and irritation makes for some great humor, though I did like the moment where Bond is reminded of all the times the little piece of metal had saved him in the past, attaching a great symbolic meaning to the inanimate thing. There’s that old stubbornness in him of not letting things go, even in the face of logic and reason and advancement. I believe that’s called nostalgia.

    The chapter ends with a bit of foreshadowing, which one could see as either good or bad depending on what character you’re speaking of. M seems to think that the job in Jamaica is rather open and shut, very routine, and thinks that Bond will be able to scoot by rather relaxed while doing it, which is the exact opposite of what Bond wants, again fearing the “soft life” that plagues him at times; he’s come for a rough job and needs one, not only for his selfish desires but also as redemption for the last one. Thankfully for the spy, we already know that much more than routine is in store for him as the book moves along.

    Chapter 3- Holiday Task

    The mood turns quite earnest as London grows dark and the winter weather continues to beat at Regent’s Park. It again comes time for Fleming to paint a bizarre bit of circumstances that are face value seem too fantastical to be real. A society for the protection of birds? Check. Murders by a dragon on an island? Check. A guano industry run by a Chinese German? Check.

    One thing I want to note outright is the first major continuity error Fleming has ever made in the books to this point that I’ve stumbled upon, which he makes by having M state that Bond’s mission with Strangways in Jamaica occurred five years before Dr. No’s date. When one goes over the timeline, this doesn’t approach any kind of sense. The time between Casino Royale and Live & Let Die isn’t even a full year, and a few months at best. Moonraker follows just two weeks after the previous novel with Bond coming back from holiday to get the Drax job, and Diamonds Are Forever follows two weeks after it just the same, with Bond again coming back from the holiday he wanted to take Gala on. The only major jump in time between books is from Diamonds to From Russia with Love, which is described as nearly a year in difference as Bond faces the soft life.

    The big issue is that Fleming was writing to keep his books current year by year, forgetting just how much he’d shortly sequenced his early books one after the other. It seems as if he thought each book’s mission was the yearly bit of danger Bond got from 1953 to his latest book here, when even that wouldn’t work because only four books separate Live & Let Die and Dr. No. If we are to treat the start of Bond’s literary adventures in 1953, Casino Royale to Live & Let Die would span the summer to fall of that time, and the timelines of Moonraker and Diamonds would do little to chip into 1954 beyond the early winter months at best. This places Bond’s adventures endlessly one after the other, with not a lot of time in between them outside of two-week holidays to split them up. At best Dr. No would find Bond in the year 1955, directly after From Russia ended, but even that doesn’t make sense because From Russia takes place around August and Diamonds Are Forever doesn’t seem to match up with that date a year previous. I guess it bears saying that Fleming should’ve done what most writers do and created elastic timelines in his books, not focusing so much on the months, seasons and time that separated Bond’s adventures to avoid mistakes later. It’s strange that, for a man who nailed the continuity in the past novels, he forgets the timeline he’d set up and just goes for a round number of five simply because the 1958 publication date of Dr. No was five years after Casino Royale’s 1953 debut, despite the disparity between our years and Bond’s own fictional timeline.

    Getting back to the briefing of the chapter, I find it interesting how the trio of killers made it seem like Strangways and Trueblood had high-tailed it off somewhere as a form of impromptu retirement, a story that M seems to believe, but not Bond and Tanner. Instead of second-guessing himself as he can sometimes do, I was happy to see a confident and assured Bond battle M’s theories with his own far more supported by the data. M’s attempts to rationalize the acts of lovers is awkward and clearly spoken from inexperience, again showing how far removed from these matters he is as a cold operator. We can sense how over everything M is, and how he wants the case to just end itself so that he can focus on more worldly concerns. This error in his judgment and his built in slant against seeing the case from all angles results in him picking facts to suit theories and not forming theories supported by facts.

    The rest of the story, painted with some paranoia and fantasy, is quite enthralling and interesting. Bond takes great initiative to connect the dots, seeing a possible link to the bird business and the strange “departures” of Strangways and Trueblood instead of writing it off as he may’ve earlier in his career. Finally, his experiences seem to have taught him to look beyond the obvious or assumed to peel deeper. Fingers crossed.

    I was quite struck by the little moment Bond has with M at the end of the chapter where, in the face of some patronizing final words, Bond feels his loyalty and respect for M take a hit. Bond sees M’s behavior as many possible things, a reprimand for his past mission or maybe a hint that he’s being sent on a simple mission in Jamaica to make it seem like he can’t handle the big jobs anymore following the screw-up in Turkey. I think Bond is looking into a bit too much of M’s words and behavior here, but his pride is hurt and he feels like he has something to prove following the business with SMERSH, so every critique means more to him now that he feels he’s got so much to gain back in reputation. On top of this, if there’s anything we know about Fleming’s original it’s that he hates being underestimated, treated with indifference and/or painted as inferior or unskilled. M does all three quite swiftly, and Bond must get out of that office before he explodes.

    Chapter 4- Reception Committee

    Bond touches down in Jamaica and finds a familiar face in Quarrel. Even more than he did with Strangways in Live & Let Die, the built-in dynamic Bond and the Cayman Islander have strengths everything they do together in the book, because we understand how and why they became allies.

    In the form of “Freelance” the photographer, Bond finds that news of his arrival in Jamaica hasn’t been an esoteric whisper. He may start off wondering about the power this Dr. No has, but will soon find out the resources and control the mysterious man has over the island.

    Bond and Quarrel make a devastating pair, because they are both in their element and happy about it. For the Islander, driving around Jamaica in hot pursuit by the enemy is exciting and engaging, and at the hotel later on Bond looks out over Jamaica from his window and relishes the “good tough case” ahead of him. They’re both junkies getting a fix.

    The Joy Boat sets an inviting and atmospheric stage for more revelations about Dr. No and Crab Key as the photographer troubles Bond once again. I like the little detail that Bond feels guilty about having to hurt the girl and how he didn’t get information out of her anyway, like it was pain caused for nothing. He cares, despite her being his enemy. The girl’s final line of, “He’ll get you, you bastards!” betrays what is really going on and who she works for.

    Chapter 5- Facts and Figures

    This chapter finds Bond acting as I was hoping he would, very aware of who wants him out of the picture and why. It’s refreshing to see him finally becoming confident in his intuitions and seeing traps before they are sprung on him. Perhaps near-death was the kick to the arse he needed.

    Bond and Quarrel advise a plan to redirect their enemies on a red herring, setting up some random men to use Strangways’ Sunbeam as a decoy for them. Great idea, but one has to wonder just how much danger Bond is placing two innocent and ignorant men in, who have no idea they’re being tailed by suspicious parties under the command of a mysterious Chinese German.

    When Bond finally heads out to get information on No and the guano connections regarding Crab Key, I was amused to see how Fleming contrasts his experiences first with The Acting Governor and then Pleydell-Smith. The former is exactly the type Bond despises, a rather flaccid man with no sense of daring or initiative. He ignores all other data regarding Strangways outside of the details that suit his view of things because he doesn’t want anything asked of him and he expects Bond to toe the line in a “servile” manner of which he must be accustomed. He’s very much a character sketched to be overtly derided, much like how Fleming played fun with his Russian characters in the previous novel despite depicting them in earnest situations. We are in on the joke with Bond and Fleming, but the characters themselves don’t know that their functions in the plot are to be punch lines.

    Pleydell-Smith by contrast is much more up to Bond’s speed, despite his neurotic and fidgety demeanor. He despises boredom just as much as Bond and, like Quarrel, is energized to be put on the Strangways case alongside any peculiarities it may have to it. It’s clear that Bond values a certain spirit in men, those who are willing to follow him down dangerous and demanding roads fueled by a mix of loyalty, adrenaline and fear of boredom. He wants to know he’ll be supported as he goes along and daringly faces forces rising to meet him. Lethargic and impotent suits behind desks need not apply.

    The intricate and exhaustive details of guano production are gone over between the men, as is how No has risen to become the leading operator in the area of the stuff. When Bond finally asks for some files relating to all the information, we again find him being keenly aware of what is going on around him. He uses his intuition and observational senses to latch onto the image of a Chinese Taro, and surmises that her ethnicity and new role at the office around the time of Strangways’ disappearance amount to some suspicious intent. It’s great to see the spy on the ball, thinking as much as acting like a true detective. No time for doubt, or second-guessing, or for blowing it all off.

    Chapter 6- The Finger on the Trigger

    Outside of Bond finding out more minor details about Crab Key and the lay of the land, the chapter’s bigger focus is to underscore the feeling of surveillance and quiet danger he’s under while in Jamaica. The last half of the chapter where he finds more than just fruit in a basket sent to him by the Governor’s office recalls a similar moment in Live & Let Die where a clear message is sent to him at his hotel.

    We see Bond getting a rise out of the game being played, perhaps feeling the triumph of the moment because he spots how clumsy his enemies have been, giving him a false form of confidence. Even still his mind cements further on the idea that somehow Dr. No is behind it all. I was amused by the moment where Bond questions if he should update M on the mission, but fears the outcome of making his boss think he’d gone insane with talk of poisoned fruit. He’s clearly very aware of how cautiously M is viewing his ability to perform in the field after Turkey, and is doing his best not to give him cause for concern for any reason.

    The chapter finishes with Bond unusually on the edge, brought that place by a poisonous centipede. It’s a strange and gripping passage to read this thing climb up Bond’s body, around his groin, up his chin, at the edge of his mouth and across his eyelid. Very much like a distorted body horror story, Bond’s body is being invaded and this thing is scurrying by, sucking in his sweat and dancing around as his rising pulse could compel it to strike; such out there imagery. The scene shouldn’t be as creepy as it is, but somehow Fleming pulls it off and makes it feel like the most bizarre, disgusting and invasive thing in the world. Most interesting is how shaken Bond is by the form the death message takes, and how the killing of the thing makes him sick. He’s so used to the obvious and regular threat of men carrying guns and training them on him, and certainly didn’t expect No’s attempts to silence him to come in the form of an insect. It completely challenges his perceptions, and throws him off.

    Chapter 7- Night Passage

    As Bond and Quarrel head to their old place near Morgan’s Harbour, we see how different the allies view the work ahead. Bond seems to have a clear picture of what has happened to Strangways, or enough of an idea to know the enemy waiting for him, while Quarrel seems less fixed on anything and doesn’t even know what Bond’s true plan is. Quarrel doesn’t even understand why Bond is concerned about their drivers getting the Sunbeam to Montego, thinking his worry revolves around the men stealing the car and not the danger posed by No.

    Some foreboding events continue to speak to the nature of Dr. No and foreshadow more dread for Bond. Quarrel is consumed with worry over his family back home, and has his mind on them being provided for if things go awry. Later on news of a crash involving Strangways’ Sunbeam comes to Bond’s attention and, in an effort to save Quarrel more worry, doesn’t tell him about it. The murders were meant to look like an accident, much in the same way as Bond figured they’d try to kill him. And of course, Pleydell-Smith reveals Bond’s suspicions about the poisoned fruit. Not much is hiding the existence of Bond’s opposition now.

    Meanwhile, I enjoyed the quiet little moment where Bond remembers his past job in Jamaica while on that same ground overlooking the sea, thinking of the nightmare of survival under the water and of Solitaire and what had happened to her. We never find out how they left each other, but the woman had such a sense for Bond that perhaps she could feel his presence and his pain in the time they’d been away from each other. Could she feel his despair locked inside Drax’s bathroom as the Moonraker blasted away, or as he succumbed to Klebb’s dreaded poison in France? Hard to say. But, as is common for Bond, he pushes these “phantoms” away and focuses on the problems ahead.

    Before Bond and Quarrel depart, we find the hero admitting to himself how much the job ahead excites him, and how he wishes to show M what he’s got in payment for how he spoke to him during the briefing. As is characteristic of him, Bond felt underestimated and belittled and has an inherent desire to prove himself right and everyone else wrong.

    Bond and Quarrel’s voyage to Crab Key makes for a surprisingly introspective passage. Bond is in awe of the atmosphere of the sea and wonders about the life swimming beneath him as he paddles, despite the fact that those same creatures of the deep nearly killed him the last time he was in Jamaica. You can tell that he has a fascination for the sea and the life it holds, but also respects the creatures and the danger they can pose to men like him.

    Chapter 8- The Elegant Venus

    This chapter presents one of Fleming’s most iconic images that fuelled an even more iconic one for the movies: the image of a heavenly woman appearing before Bond on a beach. The blending of Greek imagery evoking the seductive Aphrodite in contrapposto and the biblical Eve in her stark and natural womanhood make for a fascinating combination that stops Bond’s heart.

    The awkward meeting of the two, predicated on Bond finishing her tune for her, is quite amusing in an endearing sort of way. It’s interesting that Honey is just as quick to cover up her deformity as she is to reach for her weapon, showing that she is embarrassed of it to some degree. You wonder about her history and how she got it, but it’s also fascinating to note that Fleming is giving a deformity to a woman on the good side in this novel for the first time, when he usually reserves such features for his ghastly villains. I like Bond’s natural reaction to seeing the crooked nose, angry that anyone would hurt such a beautiful face, like vandalizing a piece of classical art.

    Bond and the girl are hot and cold when first meeting, but their discussion is interesting. Bond is immediately impressed with her daring and resolve, and that she wasn’t afraid to keep coming to Crab Key despite being under the watch of Dr. No and his team. Things turn strained when Bond questions the superstitious nature of Honey and her belief in the island’s dragon, written off as a city person who believes in nothing. The running details that Honey spouts, underscoring how little Bond knows of her world, is fascinating, again putting to mind Eve in the wilderness experiencing nature and its creatures. I cracked a grin as Bond tried to reply with his own set of secret knowledge, but was disappointed that he came up short given his crazy experiences in the last few books. Come on, Bond. “Have you felt the parabola of pain in a torture chair? Do you know the feeling of being pulled by a rope behind a speeding yacht as you are torn apart by sea reef? Have you ever felt the incendiary heat wave of a rocket firing off just feet from you as steam clogs your lungs? How about the sensation of your body shutting down bit by bit as you succumb to a poison blade jabbed into your leg?” Bond totally could’ve showed her up, for sure.

    The chapter finishes with a confirmation that Bond is now in big trouble, with Dr. No expecting him thanks to Honey’s overt arrival.

    Chapter 9- Close Shaves

    As Bond, Quarrel and Honey survive the onslaught of No’s team, we get moments between the action that portray the growing warmth between the spy and the girl. These moments, where Bond uses his own body to cover up Honey in the midst of danger, recall the same tactics Bond used while last in Jamaica as he guarded Solitaire against the sharp edges of the reef as he was pulled by Big’s yacht. We can sense Honey’s fear because, as Bond points out, she knows the world of nature but is ignorant to the dangers posed by the world of man and his weaponry. In this way both characters represent survivalists from two separate spheres, coming together to teach each other some things. We see the ways that Honey teaches Bond, like the suggestion to breathe underwater using bamboo, but also see how Bond’s influence and knowledge of dangerous men through his experiences during wartime and in his job at MI6 make Honey feel safer next to him. Ultimately, they compliment each other.

    The group’s journey up the river to the camping spot of the old wardens reads at times like a pirate story with our heroes busting through the vistas and animal life of the island in search of answers. The passage carries that same feeling of unrest and danger in nature and the poverty of spirit in the survivors that Robert Louis Stevenson captured in books like Treasure Island, but Fleming bumps it all up to the modern day; frenzied dogs and scoundrels are racing Bond’s way, but he’s got a quick-shot gun to fend them off instead of a scabbard.

    Chapter 10- Dragon Spoor

    The action heats up as a search party surrounds the group. Fleming keeps the tension as the sounds of barking dogs and heavy splashes of limbs in water take hold. The height of this comes when Bond is forced, in the heat of pursuit, to kill a man who has stumbled over his own submerged body. Because Fleming’s Bond seldom kills, these moments mean a great deal, as does his words of comfort and sorrow to Honey for taking such a measure. They speak of real regret, coming from a man who tries to avoid such fatal measures when it comes to those outside his major villains.

    The group soon come upon the tracks of something that has ravaged the nature surrounding them, though Bond tries to be diplomatic and warm with Honey and foregoes disproving her dragon claims any more.

    The chapter finishes quite warmly as Bond, Honey and Quarrel face the coming dangers with teamwork and warmth, really coming together. Bond relays how the feeling of being on the island for even a few hours had felt like a year in time, its own fresh nightmare. He still thinks there’s a way out for all of them, a clean break back to civilization so that he can return and get Dr. No with some back up. If there’s anything that disproves this and foreshadows dread, it’s how Fleming concludes the chapter with the warm image of Bond and Honey sharing a peaceful moment, promising that the mood will be broken post-haste.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    edited September 2017 Posts: 28,232
    Chapter 11- Amidst the Alien Cane

    This chapter felt strikingly familiar to the sections of Diamonds Are Forever where Bond and Tiffany are talking, like at their dinner in the city or on their cruise, where our hero and a complex woman are feeling each other out and trying to learn more about each other. This can’t be accidental, as I think Fleming was playing from the same toolbox in Dr. No and approached the characters of Honey and Tiffany very similarly as a result. In these respective books we have two women who essentially had little in their lives before a tragedy or traumatic event changed them forever, an event with consequences that remained a part of their inner self-consciousness until they met Bond. For Tiffany it was the rape that turned her cold to men and love, a spell Bond was able to break with his compassion and measured action to romance her the right way, and with Honey it’s her broken nose that has given rise to so much doubt and poisoned memory in the girl’s life despite it being a very minor feature. In this latter case it’s again Bond sticking his neck out, showing the girl that the troubles are easily overcome.

    Chapters like this are always my favorites in these books, and they leave me with a strong feeling for Bond afterward that approaches love. Perhaps the thing that is most special about him, outside of his abilities and strengths as a spy and how great he is at being cold and calculating when he needs to be, is that he doesn’t let those sides of himself cancel out an equal and opposing side of warmth and compassion. It’s no secret why he has such a draw to women like Honey and Tiffany especially who he feels as keen a desire to get to know as he does a desire to explore them sexually. He sees these women cruelly cast aside and done wrong, and his tone is very much a “How dare you” one of defiance as he grows angry to see them mistreated in that way. This is a very strong image, as I think most men reading these books, myself included, would strive to do just what Bond has to give comfort to these lost and beautiful souls.

    When it comes to Honey, Bond is like a restoration artist who comes upon a beautifully crafted marble statue in the league of Michelangelo’s oeuvre, except it has a minor chip on the nose that has affected its value and appearance. Imagine the innate disgust and sadness in the restorer who sees an angelic figure vandalized, wondering who would have the audacity to mount such a reproach. It is then the job of the artist, as Bond is tasked with here, to take the beautiful and restore what has been lost to bring it back to what it once was. Since so much of Honey’s characterization is based on artistic metaphors, from Bond’s comparison to her and Botticlli’s Venus and the biblical parallels to Eve, I’d say it’s a fitting metaphor to present.

    Fleming writes Honey quite beautifully here, injecting her with the kind of contradiction, humanity and flaws that make her feel real. This is again some of his strongest work, with Tiffany’s characterization in Diamonds being the high point for me largely for how he was able to introduce a traumatically altered woman and bring her back to the realm of normalcy again. Honey’s story isn’t quite as stark and troubling as Tiffany’s, but her role as a lone woman making her way in a world of men who chase after and abuse her is very much a bridge that connects them.

    Fleming gives us the picture of a very solitary girl here, left alone in the cellars of a burnt down house and forced to act ten or twenty years her age in order to survive. Bond seems to be struggling with his feelings for her because she’s so young, but it’s no wonder he is confused when you consider the maturity of the girl and how she can see the world with a wise and profound handle on life that is well beyond her years. We can see Honey’s relationship with nature first and foremost, how easy it comes to her to exist alongside it and how fittingly natural the creatures of her environment are to her own existence. She even refers to these animals, on the land and below the water, as “people,” and discerns these “people” from “human people” like Bond and Quarrel. These animals have become such a monumental part of her life, and represent such a genuine sign of life to her that they give off a feeling of existential vigor that others around her would only attribute to other humans. You get the sense that this is a woman who can see a complex system of existence and purpose in a colony of ants tumbling over a pile of sand and attach value to them beyond their minuscule size, or see a spirit and sense of meaning in the leaves twisting on the trees during a gentle breeze. And really, that’s kind of special and pure. The things most people forget about with a passing glance as they walk on the threshold of nature are the things that have given Honey the most eye-opening experiences of her life.

    Honey’s self-consciousness is also fascinating to witness, evidenced by how she covered her face up before her breasts in front of Bond and in how she ridicules her appearance any time it’s hinted at. Naturally the broken nose is more than a broken nose, it’s also a reminder to her of a time when she was taken advantage of like Tiffany and raped against her will, a phantom pain that sticks around through that deformity despite the fact that her abuser is dead and can no longer hurt her. You must assume then that the inner thought in Honey’s head is that if she gets her nose fixed, the inner trauma of the event will also pass. Even with this being said, it’s as if Honey has moved on from that part of her life rather well in comparison to Tiffany, who was forever changed by her rape; of course she was also conscious for her rape and more men were involved, whereas Honey was unconscious and thankfully didn’t have to experience the rape as it happened, if there’s anything for a woman to be thankful for in those situations.

    Honey’s lack of regret, or really a recognition of a sense of wrong, in killing her rapist also shows the effect of her connection to nature, which plays by different rules than the world of men. She is so distanced from how humans act around one another, and how a society of “human people” functions that she can’t see the unlawful boundaries she pushed in taking her problems into her own hands and killing the man who did her wrong. Of course for a woman who has seen scorpions commit suicide with their own stinger and who has witnessed a female praying mantis kill her lover following sex, this isn’t a surprise. In her world, that of the animal kingdom, that’s how things are done because there are no set rules.

    Honey ultimately becomes a mix of maturity and naiveté, and forms a fascinating contradiction through the mixing. Here we have a woman who, on one side, fully believes in the existence of dragons, who trusts the ability of witchdoctors and curses, and who fears spirits passing by her on roads at night. And on the other side, she’s also a very keen and observant autodidactic girl who can make her own way in the world, survive and teach herself salient information all from a simple encyclopedia and her experiences with the natural world. Pretty wild.

    Of course Fleming also makes a point to reveal a lot about James Bond and his character whenever he’s in these conversations with troubled women, and this time is no different. Beyond the compassion he elicits that we have seen before, we also find him struggling with feelings unique to his connection with Honey. He’s faced with a woman who wants to sell herself into prostitution to make money and who sees no other way to make profit, and her overall personality confuses and attracts him like no girl before. It’s quite sweet the way that he tries to steer her towards pursuing a better life, perhaps as a zoologist, and how he wants to invest time and money after the mission to making sure she’s set up with a healthy living and home somewhere safe in addition to getting her nose operated on after seeing how much it troubles her. The animal theme of this woman, someone Bond calls “Girl Tarzan” and who he finds stark naked out in the wild, is fitting considering how much he treats her as a pet, a stray dog he wants to give a home after finding her out in the world solitary and in poverty. And this isn’t to mention the desire Bond feels for a girl over a decade older than himself, a fact that throws him off when he sees some of the ways that Honey is so developed and grown, not just in body, but in mind and spirit.

    And it’s this very awoken sense that makes Honey so fascinating, because she can know so much and still retain a sense of superstition, or how she thinks that Bond won’t go into her sleeping bag because he doesn’t want to sleep with her when in reality that’s the thing he’s aching for. These contradictions that Fleming injected into the girl really bring out a sense of genuine reality, like she doesn’t just exist on the page and was a real woman living in the real debris of an old Jamaican cane house that he knew and interviewed. His skill as a writer again shines through.

    Chapter 12- The Thing

    Our heroes finally come face to face with the “dragon” of Crab Key, a motorized death machine that rebounds any bullets Bond and Quarrel send at it. In this moment we sense Bond’s fear and anger at the place he’s in and what danger he’s brought to his allies, despite the fact that this book has written him as far more competent and instinctive in my opinion than much of the others.

    Quarrel’s death, when it comes, lingers far longer than in the film where Bond is actually given a moment to say goodbye to his friend. His defiance in the face of the gunmen, willing to take a bullet to see his friend one last time, is sweet and shows how much the islander meant to him. The consequence and nihilism of this whole passage finds Bond at one of his lowest points. He’s felt a sense of failure or defeat before, like in his failure to spot Vesper’s betrayal, his shock when Gala broke the news to him about her fiancé, or his break-up with Tiffany, but in this moment he’s in the very sights of death and is contemplating his end. His fear and certainty of death recalls his struggle to stay alive as the Moonraker shot off, how he braved the desert after the death of the first Spang brother, or how he succumbed to Klebb’s poison. It’s in these moments that he feels his most human, with his life hanging by a thread along with his hopes of survival.

    The rest of the chapter really has Bond taking on the role of protector, where he is invested in making sure that Honey is as safe and at ease as possible. We see this in the lies he tells her, urging her they’ll be okay, and in his body language as he moves close to her and holds her hand while they are surrounded by men who wish to do them harm and perhaps violate Honey in another way. We can see the fear Bond has simply from seeing how Dr. No’s men handle them. It would’ve been reassuring to him if he and Honey had been knocked out, as that would imply that they posed a danger to the gunmen and needed to be completely incapacitated. But because they are left conscious and nearly forgot on the way to Dr. No’s facility, this tells Bond that the gunmen are confident they hold no threat. It’s perhaps that kind of indifference that spells out to Bond most of all just how jeopardized he and Honey are.

    The Chinese Negro men that Dr. No employs remind me of the Germans that Drax has under his command in Moonraker, men he chose as his underlings for the common goal they shared. The coldness and brutality of these men are enough to tempt Bond into ravaging them all with his fists, but I think Honey’s presence and the worry he holds for what may happen to her if he acts out keeps him from doing what he desires.

    The chapter concludes with the pair alone as they enter Dr. No’s facility, encountering the strange world of the villain firsthand.

    Chapter 13- Milk-Lined Prison

    This chapter has all the notes of the bizarre that you could hope for in a Fleming novel. Starts with Bond and Honey being greeted and taken care of by a group of pleasant Chinese assistants and finishes with Dr. No himself inspecting the pair in a fascinating circumstance. The tone, of smiles through facades, is unsettling in a way. You don’t think the service of Bond and Honey could be so warm given what we know of Dr. No and the things he’s ordered, including the deaths of the wardens and Strangways and Trueblood. Like Bond, you wonder what the purpose of the whole stage show is, and why the script is so pleasant and innocuous.

    I found it interesting that Bond is playing under a disguise in front of the ladies and Dr. No, as if he isn’t already exposed. I do love the meta nature of the spy appearing as an ornithologist though, a nice wink on Fleming’s part to the character’s very origin back in 1953. You hope that M doesn’t find out that Bond used his real name (!) on the form, though I like to think that Bond did it purposefully, still feeling angry about what his boss’s promise of a quiet holiday in the Caribbean brought him. M will have a lot to apologize for at the end of this…

    The rest of the chapter carries out as Bond and Honey get comfortable in their stylish and modern rooms deeper in the facility, as if they’re truly on holiday in Miami. I got a chuckle out of the fact that one of the help is named May like Bond’s Scottish housekeeper, perhaps a conscious decision on Fleming’s part to have a little fun. The title of the chapter is apt considering the space that the pair occupy, a cell with no windows or door knobs dressed up to be something comforting and homey. It’s very reminiscent of the production design Ken Adam and his team realized in the film version, with each room being led into by giant vault doors. It feels inescapable despite being beautiful and welcoming, a cruel and deceitful image.

    I found it quite amusing that Honey was so at a loss at how to work a bathtub, and how Bond had to prepare it for her. I was further entertained by the man’s attempts to keep his mind on the mission ahead and how to survive, and not on ravishing the beautiful woman who desperately wants him. He comes off as a puritan man who is just days away from marrying his wife with the promise of consummating their love, and each second he’s not having sex with her eats at him. Bond must leave the room Honey is in to stave off his thirst for her, shouts her down every time she seductively tries to flirt or tease him and can’t even tempt himself by sleeping under the same sheet as her. What an animal, though I can’t blame him. His restraint really is quite admirable!

    The scene in the film where Dr. No inspects Bond under the sheet has always been interesting to me, and in preparation for reading the book I was hoping that we’d get some answer about just what the meaning behind it was. I know perhaps a bit too much about these books through osmosis while reading discussions of the character and Fleming’s original plots amongst other fans, so I know that Bond is heading toward a torturous obstacle course of sorts. I assume, then, that Dr. No is inspecting his body to see how much he will be able to take, but because the battle with the octopus/squid isn’t in the film I wonder what the purpose of Dr. No’s inspection of Bond serves in that case. We know that Dr. No intended to recruit Bond to SPECTRE in the film, so perhaps his peek at the man’s physique was an attempt to see how capable the spy appeared to be?

    Chapter 14- Come Into My Parlour

    In the chapter that introduces Dr. No, we are met with a couple of pages detailing the life above the layer of facility Bond is currently imprisoned in. What is painted is a sort of labor colony, where workers have structured shifts that sometimes come with certain rewards, like women of leisure for the males who studiously manage their time. These details are juxtaposed with the lives of the guanay birds, with males who are engaging in the same mating rituals that the workers around them seem to be.

    The chapter eventually finds Bond in front of the image we all know from the film, the glass wall that looks out into the ocean and magnifies the sea life. It’s especially grand and awe-inspiring how Fleming writes it, and it’s great to see Bond at a loss in front of it and imagining how it looks in all sorts of lighting conditions throughout each day.

    That the villain is introduced with a line that almost reads Bond’s mind already sets up his otherworldly, impossible appearance. Fleming crafts a truly spine-tingling and unforgettable image with Dr. No, without a doubt his most bizarre and inhuman yet. The upside down tear drop head, his wrinkleless and ageless features, the metal pincers, the long kimono that makes him appear like he’s gliding across the floor; all the details work perfectly together, and for a minute you think you’re reading a futuristic sci-fi novel and not one of the espionage genre.

    As the group sits down for dinner we prepare for revelations to come, opened up with Dr. No’s belief that one can get anything with the right mindset. There’s much mystery about what truth he has to tell, and just what he knows of Bond and his motives as the action carries on.

    Chapter 15- Pandora’s Box

    We are finally treated to a direct conversation between Dr. No and Bond as they sit down at the dinner table.

    After reading No’s story for the first time, it’s quite apparent to me why they changed so much of his purpose and overall scheme for the film. The details about his connection to the Tongs and his theft of money from them are interesting, as are the ways in which he altered his body to hide, but when it comes down to it the man is simply wreaking havoc on those encroaching on his island to keep it secret so he can continue what he’s doing. I don’t think the truth of the “plot,” if one could call it that, is paid off from the interesting details we learned in earlier chapters. I just assumed that much more was hidden about Dr. No and his island than what one could already put together during M’s briefing, where a man in control of a resource wants to remain in control of it and kills to make it so. Bond already assumed that was what was going on, and maybe expected more himself. And that’s ridiculous all on its own, because if the outside world kept getting reports of all these murders against wardens and the Audubon Society on the island, does Dr. No think that they are just going to trust his word and not completely believe he’s a madman protecting his own interests? A bit too far a leap, as there would be massive suspicions.

    Having No’s island working as the secret base for manipulating launched missiles feels much more interesting and political, not only for how it connected to the space race of the day, but also what it said about Dr. No. In the book he admits that he stands with no man or nation, but nothing about guano production really underscores that like the acts he commits in the film, where he is retaliating against the west that turned him back to show that as a nationless body, SPECTRE has all the control. I am reminded of my feelings about From Russia with Love and how, in this same way, I was impressed by how the scriptwriters took the source and made it even better in parts. With these alterations to Dr. No, I again find myself favoring the book as there is more impact and interest there, and the island has more mystery because the big reveal isn’t something we already expect from earlier information. In this way, the original text fails.

    Perhaps the best part of the chapter is Bond’s view that power if an illusion, easily broken by anyone with a gun. Dr. No’s retort, that art and beauty and money and death are the same, doesn’t strike me as quite right, but as a man in his position he has a different experience of life than Bond. To Bond the beauty of a woman is anything but illusory, when she’s lying in his arms and beckoning for him with whispers in his ear, in much the same way that death is the most final thing in his life, his loss of friends and lovers no mere smoke and mirrors affair. Things like art are subjective and money fluctuates, but those things are also tangible all the same. Power, Bond is quite right to point out, is not fixed and is not that tangible. Dr. No holds power in things, like machines and workers and all that makes up his base, but that power, his power, is personal and would be no more the minute he is killed, irrespective of all the “tools” he has. What No sees as Bond’s simple “play upon words” is actually a logical retort to a man who views himself as untouchable, with an overconfidence that shall kill him.

    Chapter 16- Horizons of Agony

    Okay, so, you know all those criticisms I made of Fleming and Dr. No above? Let’s just pretend they didn’t happen. I felt such a relief inside while reading this chapter, knowing that Fleming had more in store for No and his schemes than bird dung. For a second I thought that the missile manipulation was an idea birthed in the screenplay, and not something taken from Fleming. Whoo.

    I really enjoyed the game that is going on between Bond and Dr. No here, of how the hero is slowly smuggling any weapons he can get his hands on for later use, and how he’s constantly stalling for time. I found it interesting how Bond condemned the “hollow ceremony” of No’s reception, knowing that it’s all an act to dress up their very cold face-off. In many ways this hollow reception is a hallmark of the Bond films, especially the 60s ones, where Bond and his villains meet in rich dining halls, golf courses, mansions and lairs as they hide their mutual condemnations for one another behind pleasantries and grins. As Bond notes, it’s all a performance, mere cabaret, and he hates the playacting.

    I was riveted and relieved by No’s discussion of the missile diversion, because it gives us a lot of meat to latch on to and tells us a lot about what he does beyond the guano that merely funds much of his work. As is the Bond tradition (for the novels), the Russians are again implicated as associates to the villain, a connection that ties all the past villains except the Spangs together. We get no mention of SMERSH or their direct involvement, however, so the partnership No has formed with them is more reminiscent of Drax’s in Moonraker where he is working with the Russians but is largely doing his own scheme with his own motives and ideas of progress. He isn’t just serving Russia, but instead has bigger plans on top of it all.

    I really like how Fleming crafted Dr. No, because what he is involved in is very much a sequel to what Drax was doing in the third novel. We learn that Drax smuggled a part of a rocket made by the British to Russia in secret, which allowed us to know that the communists were interested in missile technology and how they could study and improve it to make their own. In Dr. No we see the payoff of that earlier tease, where the Russians are still attempting to get a foot in the door and learn about missile technology, using No to sabotage the Americans and make them waste money while opening up the possibility of having the villain retrieve one of the missiles for them so that they can make an even better one with the data.

    It’s a brilliant plan on No’s side, and he is largely untouchable. While the Americans are clueless and think their failures are simply design flaws and not the act of a third party jamming or altering signals and orders to the rockets, No can do as he pleases, take in massive amounts of money from the Russians and add that to the giant stack he already has from guano production. If the Americans found out someone was toying with them they’d still not know exactly where the interference was coming from, giving No even more time, and if he was exposed he could do as he said and sink the entire missile program in the states by sending one of the rockets at their citizens to implicate them in murder through malfunction. He even has an inside man to report on the Russians he’s staffed to avoid any conspiracy to the operation, literally thinking of everything. Largely, it’s all a fun game for No and I love how he refers to the missiles like they are human, sharing with Bond how he can speak to them and change their mind, like a magician playing on human suggestion.

    We can see from this chapter just how much of a scientist No is, and in all the wrong ways; more Josef Mengele and less Jonas Salk. He is playing with science in destroying or manipulating missiles, but also notes his interest in testing human endurance, the fascination that propels the plot forward once again. I really love the idea of Bond competing in a cruel test, with his only reward in death to be a minor dot on No’s graph, something the villain views as a prideful achievement considering how he wants to use the data to improve science knowledge itself. Clearly No hasn’t read up on Bond’s files enough, because he is testing a man who has survived cruel and inhuman torture, scrambles with predatory sea life, car crashes (yes, plural!), dehydration and exhaustion, stabbing and even poison. If anything, Bond’s entire professional life has been in preparation for such a test. Joke’s on you, No!

    Chapter 17- The Long Scream

    Heavens, what a chapter, and one that easily ranks as a high favorite for me from all of Fleming’s work. This chapter shows us directly what makes Bond such a great character; his ability to think on his feet and craft weapons out of what he finds, his ability to repress his agony and will himself to survive, and his determination not to be beaten.

    It’s such a stark and relentless chapter, with Bond nearly tumbling to his death, having his skin burned off and forced to stab and smash spiders to pave a way to survival, with judging eyes constantly surveying his pulse. And through all this minor rests and the thought of Honey and how he must rescue her from danger are all that drives Bond on, even past his human resolve. Now all that is left is his animal side, the part of him that is unrelenting in conquering a trial if only to spite the man who he hates beyond all meaning. Dr. No has now created a monster through his torture of Bond, and that was his biggest mistake.

    Chapter 18- Killing Ground

    Christ, does Fleming put Bond through it. As far as physical damage and torture goes, this must be the height of the series for the character’s endurance.

    I honestly can’t believe that Fleming actually had Bond fight a giant squid, but it’s awesome and very in touch with the pirate-like nature of the book. In a novel where Bond is in old pirate country, stays at a place that had hidden treasure near it, plays captain and quartermaster with Quarrel and fights a battle with scoundrels on a secret island hideout, why not cap it all off by having him fight a modern day Kraken?

    I’d have extended the fight with the squid a tad longer, having Bond pulled deeper into the water and forced to lash with his spear as he was nearly out of oxygen, but Fleming transmits the right amount of danger for the moment even if it’s fleeting.

    Again, Bond pushes himself onward with sheer willpower alone, comparing himself to a bisected worm. I bet he’d give anything for M to see him pulling through it all. Restful holiday, my ass.

    Chapter 19- A Shower of Death

    A novel with an already immaculate and thrilling climax only goes on as Fleming puts Bond on the trail of Dr. No. I have to say, I was so impressed by how this book ended, and it really improved the pacing of what I thought was a slower and at times uneven first half. We really see Bond in it here, roughing it out and surviving like he never has before against forces beyond his own. His body count in this novel is through the roof in comparison to any other of the books thus far, and each kill is perfectly personal, making them more important. In From Russia with Love Bond guns down a few Bulgars in the gypsy camp, but there isn’t any great context to it beyond a bit of action and that makes it ring hollow. In this novel, however, when Bond kills he kills directly. We hear him deliberating about shooting a man as he passes in the water, or when he stabs the crane operator and shoots the trio of gunmen in the tunnel (are they supposed to be the three “mice” who killed Strangways?). Because Fleming really focuses on each moment and the kills become their own isolated bit of action, they mean more and we “feel” it more as Bond goes through with it. And because his friends are there and he needs to help protect them, the actions are justified and backed up by a real motivation and determination.

    I even like that, through his killing, Bond also retains a sense of respect for his enemy. When the three gunman are running out of the tunnel with their backs turned to Bond, he engages them with a line to make them turn to action, as he doesn’t like the idea of shooting them in the back. In the small ways, I guess Bond is taking the edge off the killing, and giving more of what he sees as a fair shot to the enemy.

    The death of Dr. No is something I’ve known about for a long time, simply because Bond fans find it amusing that the guy essentially gets “shit on” for lack of a better word. It’s a strange death, as is the novel’s focus on guano, but there you have it. I was kind of hoping that Bond would get a more direct and satisfying final confrontation with him based on their talk earlier about the illusion of power and how Bond would be the one to do him in, but I also like the randomness of the death and how Dr. No never sees it coming. There’s some poetry and justice in it. Again Dr. No recalls how Fleming used Drax, not only with a focus on a scheme with missiles and Russian involvement, but also in how Bond engineers the man’s death from far away in a less direct fashion. Like Drax, No dies when he least expects it while feeling victorious over Bond, who he has engineered to die far away from him. But Bond survives and like that, it’s lights out for him.

    I was also really impressed with how Fleming wrote Honey at the end here. At the start she was shocked and horrified at killing, but now she knows who she is dealing with and, much like with the man who raped her, she is prepared to act to save Bond. While she gasped at Bond’s killing beforehand, now she is the one telling Bond to get on with it when they face danger because she realizes the stakes ahead and, when he tries to apologize, she shoots him down (pun intended) because she knows it had to be done. A subtle bit of growth, but it’s there.

    I also like that Fleming flipped the script on Honey’s torture. Dr. No builds up this big death trap for her and feeds her this story that we are to believe is her end, and the image of her being ripped apart by crabs haunts Bond and drives him on to survive the course prepared for him. It was great to see that, true to her character, Honey’s understanding and connection to animal life helped her survive the crabs and, in a funny way, she was happy they were there for how they kept her company. It’s a brilliant idea to use her character that way, and I love that Fleming didn’t have Bond racing to save her, giving her the ability to save herself and race to get him instead. A great payoff to what is a strong character kept consistent in the text. It’s a satisfying moment to see Honey mock Dr. No for his failed attempt, because he didn’t know the woman he was messing with, much like he underestimated the will of Bond to survive. It’s very much the triumph of humanity and human endurance, things that, unlike Dr. No’s power, weren’t illusions. And in some ways it’s great that Bond didn’t know Honey survived, because her mortal danger was the thing that kept his own life from slipping, in a beautiful way. In true Bond fashion, even while facing his own possible death his thoughts were always on the woman.

    The chapter closes out with a last bit of shooting as Bond and Honey use the fear mechanism of the dragon as their one true escape, fending off the rest of No’s surviving workers to get to safety. Man, what a conclusion!

    Chapter 20- Slave-Time

    The final chapter of Dr. No starts with some great payoff for Bond, where the lazy and myopic Governor is taken to task by his associates and pushed to proper action. And of course, hungry for some good publicity, the Governor acts according to Bond’s plan and submits to the work at hand. Bond also gets a bit of payback at M, delivering a coded message that plays light with a barb to his boss to solidify that the job had been anything but a quiet one.

    In true Fleming fashion, Bond pauses for a while during the meeting and, while distracted, wonders what happens to the soul when one is dead. He hopes in his heart that Dr. No and Quarrel aren’t going to the same place, and wonders where his own soul would drift. Much like the end of Casino Royale, Bond has faced great turmoil and mortality that has brought him close to death. Out of that closeness, he wonders about life and where he fits in it, very introspectively.

    As Bond departs from the dreaded King’s House and its stuffiness, I love that he makes a special mention to Pleydell-Smith about Honey to set her up with a job and sense of structure when she returns to Jamaica, showing how much he cares for her well-being and future prosperity.

    I really give Fleming a lot of credit for doing what he did with Tiffany Case in this novel, portraying a refreshing and complex woman with a great sense of beauty and reality. The relationship Bond and Honey have is a great give and take one, where she does just as much for him as he does for her. Taking him back to Jamaica on the boat, lifting him into the shower and cleaning his wounds, getting him to the hospital; she’s there for Bond when he can’t stand on his own, and when the pain is too much.

    The book ends on a quiet, but beautiful note. Bond’s misconceptions of Honey’s home life and her den of animals are proven wrong, as she has crafted a modest yet nice place for herself. She is a very sympathetic character all the more for how she embraces the nature around her, and refers to them as friends and company that enrich her life. I love the moment where Bond thinks of Honey coming into the “real world” of sorts after only really knowing the world of nature and animals, hoping that his world doesn’t change her from the pure and wonderful woman she is. In the same token, Bond realizes the animal in himself after facing Dr. No, of how he pushed himself beyond human ability and tapped into his animalistic drive to survive, bringing him closer to Honey who has that side built into her from her experiences in nature. They make a perfect fit, and Bond comes away from it all with a greater sense of himself and a renewed inner strength, certain that what he has faced has made him less fearful of whatever lies in his path ahead.

    Fleming concludes the book with the two animal lovers completing the mating ritual, tying back the motif of the Mount of Venus to the Venus incarnate herself, Honey. Making love inside a sleeping bag in a cramped room perhaps isn’t the most romantic spot for the act, but it can’t be more sensual and inviting than Honey ordering Bond to do as he’s told. Talk about an animal!
  • @Birdleson, I think I'm probably just a little ways further into Goldfinger than you are, and have been enjoying it quite a lot as well (with the exception of the overly long golf game which I think could have used some editorial trimming).

    Life has majorly eaten into my reading time, but I'm pushing on toward that short story oasis we have ahead.

    Some thoughts so far on...

    GOLDFINGER (1959)

    Part 1: Happenstance, Chs. 1-7 (Reflections in a Double BourbonThoughts in a D.B. III)

    I'd mentioned before that when I read Fleming, Bond is usually a figment of my imagination based on Fleming's dark-haired, cheek-scarred 007. But here, due to some of Bond's dialogue and attitude, I have to admit Connery keeps creeping into my mental picture. Lines like his opening exchange with Jill—him stepping down off the chair with camera in hand and saying, "Good afternoon," then introducing himself, "And my name's Bond, James Bond"—carry that boyish, effortless cool that Connery bandied with beaming grin and twinkling eye. Bond has been cool in previous novels, and he's joked about too, but he has never felt so positively...Connery as he has thus far in Goldfinger.

    The novel gets off to a cracking start: Bond despondent at an airport bar, trapped between flights, disappearing into his reflections and his double bourbon. Then he's whisked away to the glamorous high life of stone crabs and champagne and the Fontainebleau, which would be heaven to any normal person, but which strikes Bond as something tolerable only until he can get on his flight back to London and the purposefulness of his job.

    As usual, Auric Goldfinger is an elaborately grotesque individual. British, astonishingly, until we learn his blood originates elsewhere—"a Balt!"—Fleming thus preserving the tradition of never truly having Bond go after a British villain. @Birdleson, I too have been picking up on the Moonraker similarities. Two ginger-haireds who weasel their way into British society and are also obsessed with cheating and winning despite coming from considerable wealth. (And after the golf game, which is in Part 2, Goldfinger erupts and calls Bond a "cheat!" and is admonished for slander...just like one Hugo.)

    But Goldfinger comes with his own unique grotesqueries: the pale eyes and lashes, the barely there eyebrows, the hideous, fetishistic sunburn, the hideous face the hideous sunburn is meant to conceal, the vertical handicap prompting Fleming to curiously remark "Bond always mistrusted short men...all their lives they would strive to be big...it was the short men that caused all the trouble in the world." Not quite 5'0" and incorrectly proportioned besides, Goldfinger comes off as some kind of largish dwarf. "Wouldn't like to meet that on a dark night," quips the man from Records. I know I've read in the past that Goldfinger was based on someone Fleming knew personally and despised—maybe someone like @Revelator knows more and can share?—and this would explain those passages where Bond admits to just plain disliking Goldfinger and not exactly knowing why. (Again, actually, this kind of mirrors Bond's thoughts on Drax and how he had to justify to himself that Drax was really an okay guy.)

    Bond's time in Miami is written in the best Flemingesque tradition, full of great immersive details like "the flapping of the curtains" that wake Bond. It's basically the next best thing to actually staying there. And if there was any doubt, the character of Jill Masterton reminds us that we are firmly in Fleming's fantasy land: uless thoroughly and completely intoxicated, girls do not hungrily throw themselves at men upon their entering the room no matter how much he may look like Hoagy Carmichael. But it's hard to stay mad at Fleming when he's distracting you with black silk briefs and fingernail-painting and canasta cheating.

    (Love the long delay on Jill's fate, by the way, and—again, in Part 2—Goldfinger's chilling remark that she has left his employ.)

    Also, Jill is the first "secondary" girl featured in one of Fleming's novels—and Tilly will be the second!

    Amazingly, FYEO's Identigraph makes its debut here (back in 1959), and the tricked-out Aston Martin appears as well. I'm finding more and more elements from the films actually originated in Fleming.

    And finally, the big hook before Part 1 ends, it is revealed that Goldfinger is actually in league with SMERSH! (Curious that the film would prove the standalone of the 60s; sort of the exact opposite of Dr. No, where the novel was a standalone and the film tied him in with SPECTRE.) But it's a great idea actually, after so many bouts with the Red Beast, having Bond go after the organization's treasurer and endeavor to cripple them financially. Adds more stakes to the adventure.

    No scrambled eggs yet. I have no recollection whether we get any scrambled eggs in this one. Must read on to find out!
  • edited September 2017 Posts: 958
    As usual, Auric Goldfinger is an elaborately grotesque individual. British, astonishingly, until we learn his blood originates elsewhere—"a Balt!"—Fleming thus preserving the tradition of never truly having Bond go after a British villain.

    This also prevents Goldfinger from being seen as Jewish. Not being an anti-semite, Fleming went out of his way to make sure Goldfinger wasn't mistaken for a Shylock figure. Earlier in the book Dupont says "You won't believe it, but he's a Britisher. Domiciled in Nassau. You'd think he'd be a Jew from the name, but he doesn't look it. We're restricted at the Floridiana. Wouldn't have got in if he had been."
    I know I've read in the past that Goldfinger was based on someone Fleming knew personally and despised—maybe someone like @Revelator knows more and can share?

    Happy to do so! Lycett's Fleming biography gives the most detailed explanation. One of Fleming's golf partners at the Royal St. George's golf cup (model for the Royal St. Mark's in the book) was John Blackwell, a cousin by marriage of Fleming's mistress Blanche Blackwell. John also had a cousin who happened to be married to a modernist architect named Erno Goldfinger. Blackwell disliked Goldfinger and his brutalist high-rises and expressed that loathing to Fleming, who immediately swiped the name for his gold-hungry villain. However, Erno--who Fleming never met--was physically much different from Auric Goldfinger; he was much taller for example.
    The internet is awash with claims that Fleming went after Goldfinger because he hated brutalist architecture. Fleming certainly had harsh words for Goldfinger's fellow brutalist Le Corbusier (as expressed in Thrilling Cities) but it's more likely that he simply found a name he couldn't resist. Fleming also used Blackwell's name for the "pleasant-spoken Import and Export merchant" who goes into the heroin trade. Blackwell was not pleased.

    Lycett aptly writes that "As usual, Ian's villain--like most of his characters--was a composite of many people he had either met or heard about." Lycett names one Goldfinger inspiration as Charles Engelhard, an American commodities merchant who'd banked with Fleming's grandfather (and who Ian had met in 1949). Part of Engelhard's wealth came from bypassing South African gold export restrictions by setting up a local jewelry business that manufactured items for export to Hong Kong, where they were melted down for their gold content.

    Getting back to Erno...when the real Goldfinger found his name was going to be used in Fleming's upcoming novel, he threatened to halt publication through legal action. Cape made several conciliatory gestures, including an apology and six free copies of the novel, much to the dismay of Fleming, who wanted to play hardball. In a letter to his publishers he thundered:
    Don’t stand any nonsense from this Golden-Finger. There may be few in the UK telephone directory but get your sec to ring up the US information people at the embassy and count the number in the New York directory. Ditto the German embassy with their telephone books. And sue his solicitors for the price of the copy you sent him. Tell him that if there’s any more nonsense I’ll put an erratum slip and change the name throughout to GOLDPRICK and give the reason why.

    Just imagine Shirley Bassey belting out "Goooooooooolpriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiickk"....
    Jill Masterton reminds us that we are firmly in Fleming's fantasy land: unless thoroughly and completely intoxicated, girls do not hungrily throw themselves at men upon their entering the room no matter how much he may look like Hoagy Carmichael ...Also, Jill is the first "secondary" girl featured in one of Fleming's novels

    Yes--both are tropes the Bond movies went on to use and abuse to the point of self-parody. Which is fitting, since Goldfinger is probably Fleming's most self-parodic novel.
    Birdleson wrote: »
    No references to DN what so ever, but we reach all the way back to CASINO ROYALE to set up the story (DAF and MOONRAKER are also alluded to).

    This ties into the self-parody idea. Before writing GF, Fleming seems to have reread his earlier books. So we not only get references to once-forgotten characters (Vesper, unmentioned since CR, gets a fond remembrance) but the re-use of old structural elements.
    I won't go into too great a detail, this is still the one instance where I prefer the movie to the novel (it is my favorite Bond film)...I prefer the climactic battle in the film to the henchman's demise in the book.

    Yes, it was wise of the filmmakers to give Goldfinger Oddjob's spectacular death and invent a new demise for Oddjob within Fort Knox. The book is terribly teasing and anticlimactic in taking us all the way up to the gates of Fort Knox and then having the army show up. Fleming has often been criticized for rushing his climaxes and endings, and the charge is certainly true in this case.

    Interesting fact: Henry Chancellor's James Bond and His World reveals that Oddjob's death--like the Floridiana section--was originally conceived as a separate short story. In the novel Bond remembers "Press reports of the Persian case" and how "the suction out of the pressurized cabin had whirled the passenger next to the window out through the window and into space." This had really happened to an American flying over Lebanon. It caught the attention of Fleming, a frequent flyer whose notebooks contained references to metal fatigue and pressurization.
    Speaking of which, I love Bond's inner monologue in regards to homosexuals. Cracks me the Hell up. As harsh as it may seem in today's world, that was probably a more enlightened view than most at the time.

    If the derogatory tone was removed from Fleming's passage, most people today would agree with his underlying point: because of female emancipation and sex equality, traditional gender roles are breaking down, with feminine roles "dying out or being transferred to the males" and leading to greater experimentation.
    Incidentally, Bond's monologue is not really about homosexuals. Fleming says that "sexual misfits" "were everywhere, not yet completely homosexual, but confused, not knowing what they were." This implies a difference between the "misfits" and "complete" homosexuals, who definitely know what they are. Fleming is making a distinction between homosexuals, who existed before female emancipation, and the "misfits" who came along afterward and are "not yet completely homosexual."
  • Agent_99Agent_99 Enjoys a spirited ride as much as the next girl
    edited September 2017 Posts: 1,610
    This is entirely tangential, but Erno Goldfinger's house in London is worth a visit if you're passing: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/2-willow-road

    (Edit: and if you scroll to the 2nd picture on that site, you can see a copy of Goldfinger on the desk :) )
  • Thanks for the insight, @Revelator! That letter from Fleming about changing the title to "Goldprick" is amazing. A real glimpse into his attitude, his ego, his snarkiness, everything. Reading this, you can only imagine Fleming's response to McClory's lawsuit. Something strangely prophetic about this letter, actually.

    And thanks for the pics, @Agent_99! (Also those Dr. No illustrations, which are really very cool.)
  • edited September 2017 Posts: 958
    Thanks for the insight, @Revelator! That letter from Fleming about changing the title to "Goldprick" is amazing. A real glimpse into his attitude, his ego, his snarkiness, everything. Reading this, you can only imagine Fleming's response to McClory's lawsuit. Something strangely prophetic about this letter, actually.

    You're very welcome! The letter is included in The Man With the Golden Typewriter, a must-have collection of Ian's letters edited by his nephew Fergus. It definitely belongs on every Fleming fan's shelf and presents a more charming and casual side of Fleming than the Bond novels.
    As for McClory, Fleming realized too late that the man was full of "blarney." The story of the lawsuit is told in The Battle For Bond. However, the book, while very informative, is badly edited, heavily biased against Fleming, and has a ludicrous thesis (that scriptwriter Jack Whittingham was the real brains behind the cinematic Bond).

  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 24,141
    Revelator wrote: »
    The story of the lawsuit is told in The Battle For Bond. However, the book, while very informative, is badly edited, heavily biased against Fleming, and has a ludicrous thesis (that scriptwriter Jack Whittingham was the real brains behind the cinematic Bond).

    Glad I'm not the only one to come away with that take. I'd heard such praise of the book for years. Poorly edited (grammatically and structurally it's a mess) and, yes, heavily slanted.
  • I will definitely add The Man with the Golden Typewriter to my list of books on Fleming to get. Thanks for the suggestion.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    I will definitely add The Man with the Golden Typewriter to my list of books on Fleming to get. Thanks for the suggestion.

    It'll probably be my first purchase coming off our run of the novels here. It'll be a great reference if I shift my writing focus from the films to the books and do some writing on the novels too.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    edited September 2017 Posts: 24,141
    Since we are supposed to be finishing GF by Thursday (I will be a day or two behind) I thought that I would bump the order of short stories up.

    Bond chronologies

    Casino Royale May to July 1951
    Live and Let Die January to February 1952
    Moonraker May 1953
    Diamonds Are Forever July to 1 August 1953
    From Russia, with Love June to August 1954
    Dr. No February to March 1956
    Goldfinger April to June 1957
    "Risico" October 1957
    "Quantum of Solace" February 1958
    "The Hildebrand Rarity" April 1958
    "From a View to a Kill" May 1958
    "For Your Eyes Only" September to October 1958

    Thunderball May to June 1959
    "Octopussy" June 1960
    "The Living Daylights" September to October 1960
    "The Property of a Lady" June 1961
    "007 in New York" end of September 1961

    The Spy Who Loved Me October 1961
    On Her Majesty's Secret Service November 1961 to 1 January 1962
    You Only Live Twice August 1962 to April 1963
    The Man With the Golden Gun November 1963 to February 1964


    We had agreed on one story per week, so that should give us all a chance to catch up.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 24,141
    I had forgotten that in the novel Goldfinger is an agent of SMERSH. Ironic that the film was the only one of the classic run not to be tied to SPECTRE, which served as a proxy for the literary SMERSH in the first two films.
  • Part 2: Coincidence, Chs. 8-14 (All to Play For—Things That Go Thump in the Night)

    I mentioned the golf game, which while featuring some good writing and good ideas, does indeed go on far longer than it has any right to. Fleming could have snipped out a couple tricks, a couple holes, and still have reached the same outcome, just with greater punch.

    The next part though is, I think, where Goldfinger as a novel initially lost me, and where it does still lose me somewhat: Bond's dinner invitation to Goldfinger's bizarrely spooky and smelly old house in the English countryside. It's an entirely non-glamorous setting, this musty, dank house adjoining a noisy factory where Goldfinger's bodywork goes on. It begs the question why Goldfinger keeps such a place. Anyway, Bond shows up for dinner and Goldfinger immediately excuses himself out and invites Bond to enjoy the haunted house and read some magazines. Okay. Bond snoops around and doesn't find out much. Oddjob eats a cat. If you didn't catch that, Oddjob EATS A CAT. It's what Koreans do apparently. Not really, just this one particular villain of Fleming's. Still, the unpleasant stereotype is plumbed.

    But anyway, the whole section is just kind of unpleasant and weird and not at all of the world of James Bond. More like something that belongs in an early Argento giallo perhaps.

    The best part here is Bond's quip: "That's interesting. I only know five ways of killing Oddjob with one blow." Fleming really turned Bond cheeky in this one.

    Also: "Have you ever heard of Karate? No?" In this day and age, it seems almost impossible to imagine a time not that long ago when "judo" was common knowledge and "Karate" had to be explained.

    The real highlight of this middle section of the novel, however, is Bond's tailing Goldfinger and his interactions with Tilly "Soames," who proves a splendid Bond girl in her own right. The writing here on Bond's fantasizing about how they might flirt, automobile to automobile, then arrange to meet somewhere for dinner, and all the dialogue that passes between the two, is delightful. Again, Bond is cheeky as ever: "If you touch me there again you'll have to marry me." Fleming perhaps goes a little off his literary rocker, however, when he writes of the "flurry of masculine|feminine master|slave signals" when Bond asks Tilly to please buy them lunch. I get the dynamic, the sexual interplay Fleming is suggesting here, but good grief is that a clunky and over-the-top way of writing about it..."master|slave signals"???

    The rest of it is written exquisitely, however. There are some really enjoyable stretches of Goldfinger, golf game and Haunted Mansion and kitty-supping aside.

    Outside Enterprises Auric in another very nicely written section, Bond tackles and subdues Tilly rather erotically and Oddjob proves himself an ace shot with a bow and steel arrow. I'd forgotten that detail and had actually thought in the past how neat it would be to have an expert archer for a henchman in a Bond film. There you go. Oddjob throws hats and shoots arrows.

    Which reminds me of another great off-the-cuff line from Bond after Goldfinger has elaborately detailed Oddjob's masterful Karate skills and daily routine of punching sacks of rice and rope-bound poles: "When does he practise tossing the bowler hat?"

    On to...The Pressure Room.
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger Villa in Villainville
    Posts: 29,655
    Birdleson wrote: »
    I had forgotten that in the novel Goldfinger is an agent of SMERSH. Ironic that the film was the only one of the classic run not to be tied to SPECTRE, which served as a proxy for the literary SMERSH in the first two films.

    GF is similar to CR in that Bond goes after one of their main financiers.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 24,141
    Also in LALD.
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger Villa in Villainville
    Posts: 29,655
    Yes, true. A plot point in three of the first seven books, no less.
  • edited September 2017 Posts: 958
    Oddjob eats a cat. If you didn't catch that, Oddjob EATS A CAT. It's what Koreans do apparently. Not really, just this one particular villain of Fleming's. Still, the unpleasant stereotype is plumbed.

    Yes, that is a weird and aimless section of the book. The scene--Bond realizing Goldfinger has set up a camera to film him search his house--is a feeble, slows the pace, and is the sort of thing a more demanding editor would have snipped. However, I did enjoy Oddjob's demonstration and Goldfinger's priggish table talk. Fleming must have chuckled while devising Goldfinger's rants:
    "Smoking I find the most ridiculous of all the varieties of human behaviour and practically the only one that is entirely against nature. Can you imagine a cow or any animal taking a mouthful of smouldering straw then breathing in the smoke and blowing it out through its nostrils? Pah!'"

    As for the Korean-bashing, it's inexcusable, one of the few instances of outright ethnic hatred in the Bond books, and it employs the hoariest racist cliches about Asians, including the supposed lack of "respect for human life" and the threat to white women ("to submit the white race to the grossest indignities"). Why did Fleming harbor such feelings toward Koreans? All we're told is that "the Japanese employed them as guards for their prison camps during the war. They are the cruellest, most ruthless people in the world." This doesn't explain much. Fleming seemed to view the Koreans as a faraway, alien people who could be safely demonized, much like the "Chigroes" in Dr. No. I'm rather curious what attitudes toward Bond and Fleming are in Korea.

    It could also be that Fleming was writing with deliberate exaggeration, tongue-in-cheek. After all, there are lots of outrageous statements in Goldfinger, more than in all the other Bond books (aside from the Casino Royale, where Bond is presented almost as an antihero). The "master|slave signals" line is another example. Perhaps one shouldn't take very seriously any novel that features a lesbian crime boss named Pussy Galore. A lot of Goldfinger is over-the-top self-parody. Unfortunately, those bits don't jell with the more sober, emotional parts, like the opening scene, or Bond's grief and guilt over Jill's death:
    Bond closed his eyes tight, fighting with a wave of mental nausea. More death! More blood on his hands. This time, as the result of a careless gesture, a piece of bravado that had led to twenty-four hours of ecstasy with a beautiful girl who had taken his fancy and, in the end, rather more than his fancy. And this petty sideswipe at Goldfinger's ego had been returned by Goldfinger a thousand, a millionfold. 'She left my employ'—the flat words in the sunshine at Sandwich two days before. How Goldfinger must have enjoyed saying that! Bond's fingernails dug into the palms of his hands. By God, he'd pin this murder on Goldfinger if it was the last act of his life. As for himself...? Bond knew the answer. This death he would not be able to excuse as being part of his job. This death he would have to live with.

    As it turns out, Fleming's self-parody was even noticed by viewers at the time of publication. Here's a review from the April 8, 1959 issue of Tatler:
    It's getting tougher to take Mr. Bond
    by Siriol Hugh-Jones

    It is becoming harder and harder to know what on earth to make of Mr. James Bond. With Goldfinger his creator, Mr. Ian Fleming, seems to me to get as close to self-parody as makes no difference, and even for a once devoted Bond-admirer like myself, the old familiar mixture of preposterous plot, success-fantasy, cruelty and blind-them-with-science technical talk no longer seems quite such a good lark as before. Maybe we are all just older and harder to amuse. One might guess that Mr. Fleming is possibly beginning just faintly to despise his own puppets and the market for them, and the ingredients that go to make up these extraordinary confections are growing a trifle stale.

    Bond, tougher and bleaker than ever, is this time up against a truly dreadful person of more than usually unprepossessing appearance called Auric Goldfingcr, who cheats at canasta and golf, is working on a little p lot to rob the gold out of Fort Knox, and has a fancy for covering girls with gold paint before working his beastly will upon them. Throw into the bubbling brew a pinch of Top People’s cars (including, by golly, a Silver Ghost in white gold), a few spoonfuls of torture, a ladle of gracious living (“Please try the hock. I hope it will be to your taste. It is a Piesporter Goldtröpfchen ’53”), a bouquet garni of girls—one fairly amazingly named Miss Pussy Galore, and one in the black bra and briefs which are becoming a sort of brisk uniform for Bond girls— and there you have the rich pot au feu which is Fleming's specialty and which he likes to keep merrily on the boil. Only this time I am beginning to wonder whether such a heavily spiced exotic dish can be consumed regularly without severe queasiness.

    Bond himself has me worried; he is becoming mechanical, more extravagantly unreal than ever. Sometimes I feel he needs a year's enforced rest on a bland invalid diet and no chance of driving any cars whatsoever.

    Goldfinger's reuse of elements from earlier novels, and it's tendency to send itself up, does point to a certain staleness in the formula. Fleming seemed to be running low on inspiration for lengthy stories--Dr. No was reworked from the Commander Jamaica script, GF was assembled by recycling two unused short stories, and the next book, For Your Eyes Only consisted of short stories reworked from earlier treatments and scripts. The book afterward, Thunderball, used plot elements from a screenplay, while The Spy Who Loved Me sidestepped spy fiction and incorporated autobiographical material. Only with OHMSS did Fleming return to writing a spy novel that wasn't based on pre-existing material.
  • I had forgotten those additional jabs at Koreans, @Revelator. Those were pretty cringe-worthy as well. "The cruellest, most ruthless people in the world"? By the time of Goldfinger, South Korea was in tight with the US. No idea why Fleming would harbor such strong feelings against them.

    And thanks for posting that passage about Jill. That had slipped my mind too. That's a great part there where Bond blames himself for Jill's death: "This death he would have to live with." It really is a startlingly human moment for the otherwise pretty breezy Bond in Goldfinger (death of the Mexican dwelling aside).
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    edited September 2017 Posts: 24,141
    So we move to our first short story (chronologically), RISICO, at midnight. One week to read this one; should be easy enough. I still need one more day to finish GOLDFINGER. I'm going to watch FOR YOUR EYES ONLY as a companion piece.
  • I too will finish Goldfinger tomorrow and am eager to move on to the short stories. Some great Bondian material compacted in those.

    For now, does anyone else keep reading "Godman Airport" as "Goddamn Airport"?
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger Villa in Villainville
    Posts: 29,655
    Eating cats and dogs is common in Korea.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    Eating cats and dogs is common in Korea.

    That's actually where the old saying, "It's raining cats and dogs" comes from. They fall from the sky in Korea whenever there's a down pour, and of course the citizens have to eat them, because how else are they expected to get rid of them? Might be an unsavory image to some, but the Koreans never run out of food to eat and poverty is essentially only relevant to 0-10% across the population because most of the poor are able to save the money they don't use to spend on food to build families, buy a house, car, etc.

    The more you know.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    edited September 2017 Posts: 24,141
    I know @Some_Kind_Of_Hero lived in Korea, so he has some insight. But I do know many Koreans who have told me tales of cats and dogs making it into their grandparent's pot.

    And I don't mind the racism; that's Bond's (Fleming's) world view. One doesn't have to agree with, or even admire, a character in order to enjoy their story.
  • Birdleson wrote: »
    And I don't mind the racism; that's Bond's (Fleming's) world view. One doesn't have to agree with, or even admire, a character in order to enjoy their story.

    Bond and Fleming certainly have an equal opportunity attitude toward knocking foreigners, but the level of hatred toward Koreans in Goldfinger goes beyond the usual God-is-an-Englishman world view, and thus makes me wonder what prompted it.

  • Let me just take a moment to sneak under the wire with this opinion: Fleming made no secret of the fact that he really wanted a collaborator on the Bond novels -- and the Bond movies proved that Richard Maibaum was the best collaborator Fleming ever could have hoped for. GF the novel has a couple of great characters and a bunch of missed opportunities that the film's script corrects. GF the novel is...less than perfect. GF the film is the definitive Bond movie, and we have Maibaum and Connery as the primary reasons.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 24,141
    Just so long as the guitar plays.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    Let me just take a moment to sneak under the wire with this opinion: Fleming made no secret of the fact that he really wanted a collaborator on the Bond novels -- and the Bond movies proved that Richard Maibaum was the best collaborator Fleming ever could have hoped for. GF the novel has a couple of great characters and a bunch of missed opportunities that the film's script corrects. GF the novel is...less than perfect. GF the film is the definitive Bond movie, and we have Maibaum and Connery as the primary reasons.

    @BeatlesSansEarmuffs, I don't really know anything about Fleming wanting a collaborator on the novels (did he say this in a letter?) but your overall point is something I noticed too: as good as the books are, I've been very impressed with how the film versions of the Bond books or the films that were inspired by parts of the books took Fleming's foundations and did something magical through altering them.

    I think, just for a few quick examples, CR was able to take the core ideas and story and make Bond and Vesper more of a genuine couple than they ever are in the book, just like DN had a much better first half than the book that focused on mystery and intrigue (though I think the book has the better finale!) and FRWL improved so much, from the way Bond has to actually steal the Lektor to the entire section on the train that is far better written and paced in the film in a way the book fails to meet. This isn't to mention the other times when the writers on the films changed things that didn't make sense in some of Fleming's climaxes, resulting in better realized stories, like people think Maibaum and co. did for GF.

    I don't mean to say the films are better than Fleming, as they are pretty equal in the end when I compare book to film, but I think it's only fair to note how much the screenplays took the foundations of Fleming and did something with them that, for me, improves on parts of the original stories.
  • @0Brady: I believe @Revelator has mentioned Andrew Lycett's biography of Fleming a few times before. I'm pretty sure this worthy tome mentions Fleming's desire for the aid of some collaborators, primarily in coming up with the plots for the series.
Sign In or Register to comment.