The Man With the Golden Gun and Kingsley Amis: Case Closed?

edited April 15 in Literary 007 Posts: 2,613
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.
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Comments

  • ggl007ggl007 www.archivo007.com Spain, España
    edited April 16 Posts: 2,500
    And why now? After all these years speculating about Amis' involvement with the book, now we see this really interesting image:

    FNtlZp8.jpg
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger we are in this together
    edited October 2017 Posts: 44,918
    That is interesting, that he wanted to work on it another year, to make his last Bond book something truly special.
  • Revelator's assessment is correct but some pundits have opined that Amis had no hand in TMWTGG at all. This is also shown to be untrue.
  • Posts: 2,613
    Just to follow up: Fleming's hand-corrected typescript of The Man With the Golden Gun can now be purchased from Peter Harrington Books for a mere £195,000.

    Shall we have a whip-round?
  • ggl007ggl007 www.archivo007.com Spain, España
    Posts: 2,500
    Very interesting look.

    You can see corrections in black:

    UgBhKI7.jpg

    qN0IHXK.jpg

    And the well known lines by Fleming himself:

    d8WEapR.jpg

    Apparently Amis did correct some words or lines...
  • echoecho 007 in New York
    Posts: 5,069
    Wait a minute. I think I like Fleming's ending better.
  • edited April 16 Posts: 2,613
    All the endings are Fleming's. Amis contributed a page of corrections, which were adapted in proof, but none substantially altered the book:

    literary-tmwtgg-authors-corrected-typescript3.jpg

    Fleming's additions to the typescript are in blue.
  • ggl007ggl007 www.archivo007.com Spain, España
    Posts: 2,500
    Fleming's last lines tell a lot about his relationship with Ann in their last years...
  • edited April 16 Posts: 2,613
    ggl007 wrote: »
    Fleming's last lines tell a lot about his relationship with Ann in their last years...

    That could be. I would also note that Fleming repeatedly said TMWTGG would be his last Bond novel. So the last paragraph could be a way of telling fans that Bond would not settle down with Goodnight, despite his walking into the "mink-lined" trap in the previous ending. He would remain the same old James Bond, having different adventures and meeting different women into perpetuity.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson Moderator
    Posts: 1,540
    Thanks @Revelator , enlightening.
  • ggl007ggl007 www.archivo007.com Spain, España
    Posts: 2,500
    Revelator wrote: »
    ggl007 wrote: »
    Fleming's last lines tell a lot about his relationship with Ann in their last years...

    That could be. I would also note that Fleming repeatedly said TMWTGG would be his last Bond novel.
    And do you think so? Fleming said a lot of times that he was tired and had no ideas left... but he continued writing a book per year.

    And remember the notebook with ideas or Kissy's son... Readers would had asked for that thread sooner or later.

  • Posts: 2,613
    ggl007 wrote: »
    And do you think so? Fleming said a lot of times that he was tired and had no ideas left... but he continued writing a book per year.

    That's true, but in his letters Fleming repeatedly states TMWTGG will be his last and he repeatedly expresses dissatisfaction with the book and with writing fiction altogether. Moreover, he also wanted to take the unprecedented step of further revising the book a year after writing it, which suggests he wanted to take extra care with the finale to the series. I think if Fleming had been in better health he would have continued the series, but he knew his time was limited.
  • edited April 18 Posts: 2,875
    Revelator wrote: »
    ggl007 wrote: »
    And do you think so? Fleming said a lot of times that he was tired and had no ideas left... but he continued writing a book per year.

    That's true, but in his letters Fleming repeatedly states TMWTGG will be his last and he repeatedly expresses dissatisfaction with the book and with writing fiction altogether. Moreover, he also wanted to take the unprecedented step of further revising the book a year after writing it, which suggests he wanted to take extra care with the finale to the series. I think if Fleming had been in better health he would have continued the series, but he knew his time was limited.

    Yes his last novel certainly has a finale wrap-up feel to it, as though Fleming knew it would be his last.

    I don't know why it gets a lot of flak. It's actually one of my favourite novels. Brilliant opening, I love Bond going undercover, the way he meets Scaramanga, and as the book unfolds Bond genuinely thinking his time could be up as he faces the most lethal gunman on earth. It's almost like a Western.

    One of the best novels, only bettered by OHMSS.
  • echoecho 007 in New York
    Posts: 5,069
    It's not my favorite of the novels, but I can see its charms. The villain's plan just seems a little low-rent. I think it would be cool to see a go-for-broke villain who eats a snake that way, though.
  • Posts: 2,613
    TMWTGG has a great set of opening chapters and a great closing one. The book starts struggling when Scaramanga makes his foolish decision to invite Bond to work for him. And then it bogs down further--Scaramanga surely has the most boring scheme of any Bond villain (sugar futures? talk about low stakes!), and the promised cat-and-mouse confrontation between Bond and the world's greatest assassin is a bust and lacks suspense.

    Ill health had cut Fleming's writing time to an hour and a half each day, and the book reads like the work of an author writing at half-power. In better health he might have tended to several other faults:

    * Bond's brainwashing is waved away by electroshock therapy." It would have been interesting to see him retraining and trying to recover his skills and memories (you'd never have guessed from reading TMWTGG that Bond is a widower with a tragic past).

    * Mary Goodnight is the dullest of all Bond girls and is given very little to do. I'd much rather have seen more of Tiffy, who has a reason to go after Scaramanga and could have been the first Black Bond girl.

    * After being told what a great shot Scaramanga is, we don't see him do anything flashier than kill a couple of birds. His final duel with Bond is disappointingly anti-climactic and ends with Bond foolishly delaying the kill. Bond deserves what happens to him and is very lucky to have survived. M really ought to have retired Bond after offering a knighthood.

    * This leads into another issue that Fleming introduced but didn't really explore: Bond losing his ability to kill in cold blood. We first see this when Bond has a good opportunity to kill Scaramanga and blows it:

    "James Bond got into the car behind Scaramanga and wondered whether to shoot the man now, in the back of the head--the old Gestapo-K.G.B. point of puncture. A mixture of reasons prevented him--the itch of curiosity, an inbuilt dislike of cold murder, the feeling that this was not the predestined moment, the likelihood that he would have to murder the chauffeur also...Bond knew that he was not only disobeying orders, or at best dodging them, but also being a bloody fool."

    Indeed, and an unprofessional one. And then at the climax Bond has Scaramanga at his mercy but again delays pulling the trigger--first by asking if the villain has any last requests, and then letting Scaramanga say his prayers. Of course this ends badly for Bond.

    Fleming doesn't seem to have noticed that his hero has lost his killing edge and is no longer fit to be a Double-O! This could have been used this for psychological effect, with Bond worrying about losing his edge and fearing he can no longer do his job. But Fleming barely touches on this.

    * Lastly we have the issue described by Kingsley Amis:
    "The radical and crippling implausibility whereby Scaramanga hires Bond as a security man when he doesn't know him and, it transpires, doesn't need him. This is made much worse by Bond's suspicions, ‘there was the strong smell of a trap about' and so on."

    Amis devised a notorious explanation for this:

    "I am as sure as one could be in the circumstances that as first planned, perhaps as first drafted, the reason why Scaramanga asks Bond along to the Thunderbird is that he's sexually attracted to him...I wouldn't care to theorise about how far Scaramanga was made to go in the original draft...At some later stage, Flemings own prudence or that of a friend induced him to take out this element, or most of it..."

    I doubt Fleming intended for Scaramanga to be sexually attracted to 007, but it would have been a terrific idea. Then Scaramanga's downfall would have been caused by sexual rapacity instead of mere stupidity. And a homosexual Bond villain would have been an interesting innovation (Wint and Kidd were only henchmen). This would also have stayed true to the promise of Scaramanga's dossier, with its suggestions of homosexuality and phallic gun worship.
  • edited April 18 Posts: 2,613
    And for anyone who's still interested, here's Kingsley Amis's review of The Man With the Golden Gun:


    M for Murder

    By Kingsley Amis (New Statesman, April 2 1965)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ian Fleming was a good writer, occasionally a brilliant one, as the gypsy-encampment scene in From Russia, With Love (however sadistic) and the bridge-game in Moonraker (however snobbish) will suggest. His gifts for sustaining and varying action, and for holding down the wildest fantasies with cleverly synthesized pseudo-facts, give him a place beside long defunct entertainer-virtuosos like Jules Verne and Conan Doyle, though he was more fully master of his material than either of these. When shall we see another?
  • Posts: 874
    Revelator wrote: »
    TMWTGG has a great set of opening chapters and a great closing one. The book starts struggling when Scaramanga makes his foolish decision to invite Bond to work for him. And then it bogs down further--Scaramanga surely has the most boring scheme of any Bond villain (sugar futures? talk about low stakes!), and the promised cat-and-mouse confrontation between Bond and the world's greatest assassin is a bust and lacks suspense.

    To be fair, Goldfinger had a similar nonsensical plot thread with the villain offering Bond a job for no reason. I agree though, TMWTGG is a strange novel. It has moments of brilliance such as the opening and the final confrontation between Bond and Scaramanga. The plot is pretty low stakes though and alot of it isn't tied together very well. Bond is oddly incompetent throughout the novel, although I do like the fact that he's hesitant to kill in cold blood (it's something he clearly hates doing in previous stories, and I feel if Fleming had leaned more into Bond perhaps second guessing himself more after the brainwashing, not to mention the trauma of his ordeal in the last novels, I feel it would have been more plausible).
  • Some good observations on TMWTGG, @Revelator. Many of the issues you raise are problems I've always had with the book. Bond recovers far too quickly and far too easily from his brainwashing and is trusted far too readily by MI6 after the fact. Scaramanga is silly for hiring him. Bond is equally silly for not shooting Scaramanga, per his assignment, when he has the chance, and Fleming does a very unconvincing job of explaining why he doesn't. I agree, Tiffy would have been far more suitable as the book's love interest. She was one of Fleming's best drawn female characters and the most interesting character in the book. While the train ride is thrilling and I've always enjoyed the details surrounding Bond's standoff with Scaramanga in the mangroves, you're right, there was a real missed opportunity here for a thrilling mano a mano showdown and Scaramanga never does get to demonstrate what makes him such an expert assassin. If only Fleming had had the time to properly rework the book, though who knows how many of these issues he would have addressed at that point as they would have called for a pretty radical edit.
  • edited April 19 Posts: 2,613
    Yes, it's an interesting question: how much of the book Fleming would have revised, considering he'd never drastically revised his previous novels. Unfortunately we'll never know the answer. Fleming's ill health explains why TMWTGG is full of interesting ideas that weren't fully exploited or developed; would he have had enough health and energy to drastically revise the book? Would the release of Goldfinger and onset of Bondmania have put pressure on him to write more Bond novel, or make TMWTGG a bigger, more spectacular book? More questions we'll never know the answers to, unless someone has access to a parallel universe where Fleming's heart held out longer.
  • edited April 19 Posts: 2,875
    Revelator wrote: »
    Yes, it's an interesting question: how much of the book Fleming would have revised, considering he'd never drastically revised his previous novels. Unfortunately we'll never know the answer. Fleming's ill health explains why TMWTGG is full of interesting ideas that weren't fully exploited or developed; would he have had enough health and energy to drastically revise the book? Would the release of Goldfinger and onset of Bondmania have put pressure on him to write more Bond novel, or make TMWTGG a bigger, more spectacular book? More questions we'll never know the answers to, unless someone has access to a parallel universe where Fleming's heart held out longer.

    I've read a few theories on the underlying homosexual thread underlying the book, which I do believe was Fleming's intention to explore further, probably if he had been alive to do a polished job finishing the book.

    Fleming touches on the subject early in the novel -
    "Now it may only be a myth, and it is certainly not medical science, but there is a popular theory that a man who cannot whistle has homosexual tendencies... (M hadn't whistled since he was a boy. Unconsciously his mouth pursed and a clear note was emitted.)"

    It would explain why Scaramanga hires Bond, and even Bond oddly admires Scaramanga's figure while trampolining. The phallic title also suggests such a theme.

    A few bloggers cover this subject here -
    https://www.licencetoqueer.com/blog/the-gay-with-the-golden-gun
    https://forbondfansonly.com/posts/the-gay-man-with-the-golden-gun
    https://commanderbond.net/1110/sex-and-the-single-agent-the-man-with-the-golden-gun.html
  • Posts: 657
    I re-read TMWTGG this weekend, so have just read this thread with lots of interest, thanks guys. I did find the feel of the last chapter had a finality to it. I'm not sure if this was because I know it was Fleming's last Bond adventure, and that was in the back of my mind.
    I started the great re-read in March 2020, and now I only have Spy and the short stories left to read. I enjoyed TMWTGG, but it's really a pot-boiler compared to the previous two books.
    FRWL and OHMSS are, I think, Fleming's greatest achievements based on this recent re-read.
  • edited May 30 Posts: 2,613
    FRWL and OHMSS are, I think, Fleming's greatest achievements based on this recent re-read.

    I think that is the consensus opinion, and a justified one. FRWL and OHMSS feel like the two books into which Fleming put the most thought and effort. In both cases Fleming felt he had to rise a challenge.

    Before FRWL he had become tired with Bond and wondered whether to continue with him. FRWL represented either a re-commitment to the character or a grand send-off, and likely benefited from the encouragement of Raymond Chandler, who he'd recently befriended.

    OHMSS was intended as a "return to form" novel after the critical failure and commercial stumble of TSWLM. Fleming was also buoyed by the fact that his books were finally being made into films, with the imminent production of the first Bond movie. This was further encouragement to keep Bond going strong. Luckily his health had yet to collapse.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson Moderator
    Posts: 1,540
    I still find MR to be the consummate Fleming novel. Though this two, with CR, DN and YOLT comprise my upper echelon.
  • Posts: 2,875
    I re-read TMWTGG this weekend, so have just read this thread with lots of interest, thanks guys. I did find the feel of the last chapter had a finality to it. I'm not sure if this was because I know it was Fleming's last Bond adventure, and that was in the back of my mind.
    I started the great re-read in March 2020, and now I only have Spy and the short stories left to read. I enjoyed TMWTGG, but it's really a pot-boiler compared to the previous two books.
    FRWL and OHMSS are, I think, Fleming's greatest achievements based on this recent re-read.

    TMWTGG and OHMSS are my two favourite novels. I know TMWTGG often gets slated, but there is something about the story that drags me in every time.

    The main problem I find with FRWL is that Bond doesn't appear in the book until halfway through.
  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    Posts: 11,174
    This is an excellent thread :)
  • DragonpolDragonpol Writer @ http://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 15,820
    Birdleson wrote: »
    I still find MR to be the consummate Fleming novel. Though this two, with CR, DN and YOLT comprise my upper echelon.

    Me too. MR is Fleming's best novel as far as a straight thriller goes and it remains my favourite. It was also the first Bond novel that I ever read back in 1997. I know that FRWL and OHMSS both contain more of the high stakes human drama and character study that literary Bond aficionados crave but as a straight spy thriller MR is unsurpassed.
  • Posts: 1,302
    Revelator wrote: »
    TMWTGG has a great set of opening chapters and a great closing one. The book starts struggling when Scaramanga makes his foolish decision to invite Bond to work for him. And then it bogs down further--Scaramanga surely has the most boring scheme of any Bond villain (sugar futures? talk about low stakes!), and the promised cat-and-mouse confrontation between Bond and the world's greatest assassin is a bust and lacks suspense.

    Ill health had cut Fleming's writing time to an hour and a half each day, and the book reads like the work of an author writing at half-power. In better health he might have tended to several other faults:

    * Bond's brainwashing is waved away by electroshock therapy." It would have been interesting to see him retraining and trying to recover his skills and memories (you'd never have guessed from reading TMWTGG that Bond is a widower with a tragic past).

    * Mary Goodnight is the dullest of all Bond girls and is given very little to do. I'd much rather have seen more of Tiffy, who has a reason to go after Scaramanga and could have been the first Black Bond girl.

    * After being told what a great shot Scaramanga is, we don't see him do anything flashier than kill a couple of birds. His final duel with Bond is disappointingly anti-climactic and ends with Bond foolishly delaying the kill. Bond deserves what happens to him and is very lucky to have survived. M really ought to have retired Bond after offering a knighthood.

    * This leads into another issue that Fleming introduced but didn't really explore: Bond losing his ability to kill in cold blood. We first see this when Bond has a good opportunity to kill Scaramanga and blows it:

    "James Bond got into the car behind Scaramanga and wondered whether to shoot the man now, in the back of the head--the old Gestapo-K.G.B. point of puncture. A mixture of reasons prevented him--the itch of curiosity, an inbuilt dislike of cold murder, the feeling that this was not the predestined moment, the likelihood that he would have to murder the chauffeur also...Bond knew that he was not only disobeying orders, or at best dodging them, but also being a bloody fool."

    Indeed, and an unprofessional one. And then at the climax Bond has Scaramanga at his mercy but again delays pulling the trigger--first by asking if the villain has any last requests, and then letting Scaramanga say his prayers. Of course this ends badly for Bond.

    Fleming doesn't seem to have noticed that his hero has lost his killing edge and is no longer fit to be a Double-O! This could have been used this for psychological effect, with Bond worrying about losing his edge and fearing he can no longer do his job. But Fleming barely touches on this.

    * Lastly we have the issue described by Kingsley Amis:
    "The radical and crippling implausibility whereby Scaramanga hires Bond as a security man when he doesn't know him and, it transpires, doesn't need him. This is made much worse by Bond's suspicions, ‘there was the strong smell of a trap about' and so on."

    Amis devised a notorious explanation for this:

    "I am as sure as one could be in the circumstances that as first planned, perhaps as first drafted, the reason why Scaramanga asks Bond along to the Thunderbird is that he's sexually attracted to him...I wouldn't care to theorise about how far Scaramanga was made to go in the original draft...At some later stage, Flemings own prudence or that of a friend induced him to take out this element, or most of it..."

    I doubt Fleming intended for Scaramanga to be sexually attracted to 007, but it would have been a terrific idea. Then Scaramanga's downfall would have been caused by sexual rapacity instead of mere stupidity. And a homosexual Bond villain would have been an interesting innovation (Wint and Kidd were only henchmen). This would also have stayed true to the promise of Scaramanga's dossier, with its suggestions of homosexuality and phallic gun worship.

    "First black Bond girl" ? What about Solitaire, in LALD ?
  • Posts: 2,613
    Since62 wrote: »
    "First black Bond girl" ? What about Solitaire, in LALD ?

    Solitaire is definitely not black:

    "Her face was pale, with the pallor of white families that have lived long in the tropics. But it contained no trace of the usual exhaustion which the tropics impart to the skin and hair. The eyes were blue, alight and disdainful...It was a face born to command. The face of the daughter of a French Colonial slave-owner."
  • DragonpolDragonpol Writer @ http://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    edited May 31 Posts: 15,820
    Revelator wrote: »
    Since62 wrote: »
    "First black Bond girl" ? What about Solitaire, in LALD ?

    Solitaire is definitely not black:

    "Her face was pale, with the pallor of white families that have lived long in the tropics. But it contained no trace of the usual exhaustion which the tropics impart to the skin and hair. The eyes were blue, alight and disdainful...It was a face born to command. The face of the daughter of a French Colonial slave-owner."

    I don't know where this idea has originated that the literary Solitaire was black but I've seen it mentioned a few times on this forum. Perhaps people are getting confused by how the screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz toyed with the idea of making Solitaire black in the LALD film, with Diana Ross linked to the role? Either that or the fact she was Creole and the racial assumptions that come with that.
  • edited May 31 Posts: 874
    Dragonpol wrote: »
    Revelator wrote: »
    Since62 wrote: »
    "First black Bond girl" ? What about Solitaire, in LALD ?

    Solitaire is definitely not black:

    "Her face was pale, with the pallor of white families that have lived long in the tropics. But it contained no trace of the usual exhaustion which the tropics impart to the skin and hair. The eyes were blue, alight and disdainful...It was a face born to command. The face of the daughter of a French Colonial slave-owner."

    I don't know where this idea has originated that the literary Solitaire was black but I've seen it mentioned a few times on this forum. Perhaps people are getting confused by how the screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz toyed with the idea of making Solitaire black in the LALD film, with Diana Ross linked to the role? Either that or the fact she was Creole and the racial assumptions that come with that.

    I remember when I first read the book I imagined her as being mixed-race. I know it's not there in the text, but I think perhaps it was me seeing something from my modern point of view in Fleming's descriptions... there's a lot of focus on her skin colour and I may have subconsciously presumed the 'pallor of white families that have lived long in the tropics' and 'daughter of a French Colonial slave-owner' lines were some sort of innuendos for slaves being raped and having children by said owners etc.
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