It looks like the rumor that Kingsley Amis completed or rewrote The Man With the Golden Gun
has received a stake through the heart.
On December 13th 2016 Sotheby auctioned off a corrected typescript of The Man With the Golden Gun
for £65,000. As shown in the sample images
, the typescript contained 80 pages bearing Fleming's own handwritten revisions. We now know that Fleming added the last two lines of the novel, by hand, after the text was typed up. Those lines are "At the same time, he knew, deep down, that love from Mary Goodnight, or from any other woman, was not enough for him. It would be like taking 'a room with a view'. For James Bond, the same view would always pall."
They are the last words Fleming wrote about James Bond.
And they are clearly in Fleming's handwriting, which suggests that if anyone rewrote TMWTGG it was Fleming himself. The typescript is undeniable proof that the Fleming had finished a complete draft and was hand-correcting it before his death. Sotheby's also notes the presence of "a single typescript page of suggested corrections by Kingsley Amis that were later adopted in proof." That is likely the extent of Amis's involvement with the manuscript. Still, some doubters have wondered if Amis's single page of corrections contained truly detailed revisions.
But yesterday MI6 published an important article
on the fate of this typescript, which includes even more images. It turns out that the Sotheby's auction was won by Jonkers Rare Books
, which is now offering the typescript for £150,000 (surely chickenfeed for the Fleming family?). The article saves its greatest offering until the end: an image of Amis's memo! It proves that Amis's suggested corrections were not major revisions to the book's characters or plot. Though Amis had ideas about how the book could have been better, including his infamous (but plausible) idea about Scaramanga being sexually attracted to Bond, these were saved for his letters to Tom Maschler, managing director of Fleming's publisher, Jonathan Cape.
So we can now put the Amis theory to bed (many of us had already consigned it there a long time ago). What's more striking is how dissatisfied Fleming was with his last book, as shown in letters to his editor William Plomer: "I feel totally ‘remis’ though not yet up to correcting my stupid book – or rather the last 3rd of it, but I shall get down to it next week and then you & I will plan whether to publish in 1965 or give it another year’s working over so that we can go out with a bang instead of a whimper." He seems to have grown tired of fiction altogether: "Reading voraciously but I find I can now only read books which approximate to the truth. Odd stories just aren’t good enough. That’s most of the reason I shy away from Bond."
Whereas You Only Live Twice
had cruised through the editing process, TMWTGG was a slog. The typescript in question, which Fleming sent to his editor William Plomer on July 1, 1964, would ordinarily have been Fleming's last work on a Bond novel. But in this case Fleming said he wasn't satisfied and planned to revise the text in Jamaica the next year, despite Plomer's reassurance: "You have calmed my temperature & blood pressure, reduced the albumen in my urine & sent my spirits soaring. But I would still like to tinker with the book & skip a year." This gap year would have been unprecedented--Fleming had never
before planned to rework a book a full year after writing his first draft. But the plan came to nought when he died on August 12. We will never know what he intended for The Man With the Golden Gun
. But we do know that he left a complete book behind--that he wasn't happy with.