Controversial opinions about the books

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  • edited December 2014 Posts: 1,499
    SaintMark wrote: »
    Cubby most certainly never made any remarks about the Craig era. Unless some journalist has some connections that would annoy the heck out of Vatican central. ;)

    Erm, Cubby Broccoli died in 1996... or have you 'communicated' with him about Craig's portrayal since then? :)
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CAModerator
    edited December 2014 Posts: 31,024
    That was @SaintMark 's (fairly obvious) point.
  • Posts: 1,499
    Birdleson wrote: »
    That was @SaintMark 's (fairly obvious) point.

    Hmm... must be losing it. Didn't register SaintMark's last sentence at all when I was reading it. I blame it on the new-father fatigue syndrome.
  • Posts: 7,642
    AceHole wrote: »
    Birdleson wrote: »
    That was @SaintMark 's (fairly obvious) point.

    Hmm... must be losing it. Didn't register SaintMark's last sentence at all when I was reading it. I blame it on the new-father fatigue syndrome.

    And that is a absolute plausible defense, I recall those early days as well and they were magical and tiring. Good luck and enjoy it since it does not last so long. Before you know it they will give you lip.
  • Birdleson wrote: »
    I hate this culture of reflexive offense that we are in now entrenched in. Just appreciate the movie, book, play, etc as it is. Life and humanity are not always pretty. Art shouldn't be compromised in the name of delicate sensibilities. If one finds so much about Bond's history bothersome, maybe they should take a pass. I believe MY LITTLE PONY tends to illustrate the sunnier aspects of life, so there's that. If you don't think people like Kerim existed (and still exist), who rape women and kill with brutality, you're naive. The US and UK governments have a long rich history of backing and employing murderers, despots and rogues. Fleming was the real deal, he wrote form experience and what he knew to be true. Bond was created to illustrate the darker, more purient aspects of humanity. His, and his allies', likability (worse, his "relatability") was not a consideration.

    For the record, I'm not complaining at all about the quality of the book or characters. I don't have a problem with the character existing, I think he's a very realistic and interesting character. I just don't like the guy personally, just as I don't like General Medrano or Le Chiffre.
  • MrBondMrBond Station S
    Posts: 2,044
    Let's resurrect this thread.

    I find TMWTGG to be one excellent piece of writing, not really up to the level of the previous two but nevertheless extremely good. A fitting way to conclude the arc, by almost closing it where it started in terms of Bond as a character.

    The opening chapters in Colonel Sun rivals the best of Fleming. I was astounded when I read the first 60-70 pages.

    For Special Services is miles ahead of Licence Renewed.
  • echoecho 007 in New York
    edited October 2016 Posts: 4,469
    MrBond wrote: »
    Siberia wrote:
    Lots of sloppy plotting abounds in the Fleming novels. I recently read OHMSS and had to laugh at Blofeld straight up asking "Sir Hilary" if he was 007, then letting him go back to his room to hatch an escape plan.

    Not a terribly controversial opinion in decades past - Amis catalogued all sorts of howlers like this - but these days people have forgotten that Fleming's skill wasn't in his plotting (which was Silva-level most of the time), but in his ability to paper over these deficiencies.

    Plotting was never Fleming's strong point, going back to at least MR. But he excelled at character and atmosphere, which is why the quieter elements of the novel retained in the film CR worked so well.
    Walecs wrote: »
    Funny thing, SPECTRE never gets mentioned in YOLT.

    I'm not sure this was an accident. If I remember my timeline correctly, Fleming was already in conflict with McClory and may not have wanted to bring up the "S" word.
    Dragonpol wrote: »
    Ludovico wrote:
    That's partially why I said YOLT is not spy fiction, or only very peripherically. It is a nightmarish tale about loss of identity and belonging. Maybe Fleming's best novel.

    Agreed. It's one of his most brilliantly bizarre and offbeat pieces. No world domination plot here (cf. the film version). I hope to explore that further in the paper as it's an idea I've had for a good while now and I want to explore it more in-depth. I see the Blofeld of YOLT as a veritable mad hatter, a lunatic like the ranting Hitler in the Fuhrerbunker and equally as much out of touch with reality. We are told of "that lunatic Hitlerian scream" from Blofeld in the Garden of Death at one point in the novel for instance.
    [/quote]

    This is interesting. Do you think the events of SP--foiled for the fourth time--could push Blofeld to this level of lunacy in Bond 25, or do Bond and Blofeld need more history first (something more with Swann, probably)?

    If we're lucky, we'll get one more film with Craig and Waltz, so Eon unfortunately doesn't have the luxury of stretching this arc out over several films.
  • DragonpolDragonpol The Crazy World of David Dragonpol
    edited October 2016 Posts: 14,735
    echo wrote: »
    MrBond wrote: »
    Siberia wrote:
    Lots of sloppy plotting abounds in the Fleming novels. I recently read OHMSS and had to laugh at Blofeld straight up asking "Sir Hilary" if he was 007, then letting him go back to his room to hatch an escape plan.

    Not a terribly controversial opinion in decades past - Amis catalogued all sorts of howlers like this - but these days people have forgotten that Fleming's skill wasn't in his plotting (which was Silva-level most of the time), but in his ability to paper over these deficiencies.

    Plotting was never Fleming's strong point, going back to at least MR. But he excelled at character and atmosphere, which is why the quieter elements of the novel retained in the film CR worked so well.
    Walecs wrote: »
    Funny thing, SPECTRE never gets mentioned in YOLT.

    I'm not sure this was an accident. If I remember my timeline correctly, Fleming was already in conflict with McClory and may not have wanted to bring up the "S" word.
    Dragonpol wrote: »
    Ludovico wrote:
    That's partially why I said YOLT is not spy fiction, or only very peripherically. It is a nightmarish tale about loss of identity and belonging. Maybe Fleming's best novel.

    Agreed. It's one of his most brilliantly bizarre and offbeat pieces. No world domination plot here (cf. the film version). I hope to explore that further in the paper as it's an idea I've had for a good while now and I want to explore it more in-depth. I see the Blofeld of YOLT as a veritable mad hatter, a lunatic like the ranting Hitler in the Fuhrerbunker and equally as much out of touch with reality. We are told of "that lunatic Hitlerian scream" from Blofeld in the Garden of Death at one point in the novel for instance.

    This is interesting. Do you think the events of SP--foiled for the fourth time--could push Blofeld to this level of lunacy in Bond 25, or do Bond and Blofeld need more history first (something more with Swann, probably)?

    If we're lucky, we'll get one more film with Craig and Waltz, so Eon unfortunately doesn't have the luxury of stretching this arc out over several films.
    [/quote]


    Well since I wrote that post I have published that article I mentioned on my blog. It is called The Madness of 'King Ernst I' in Ian Fleming's You Only Live Twice (1964) and you can now read it here:

    https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/the-madness-of-king-ernst-i-in-ian.html

    Enjoy!

    I'd really appreciate some feedback on the article too! :)
  • Ludovico wrote: »
    I will go actually further than my previous post on this thread: TSWLM is great crime fiction and the most underrated of the novels.

    You aren't wrong.
    There was a huge amount of controversy surrounding the launch. I remember going into 'The House Of Andrews', Durham city's premier book store, to buy it only to be told that they didn't stock it and that it was only available by 'special' order. When I said I wanted it, the manager advised me; 'Beware it's not like the other Bond novels. Everybody hates it and the publisher is trying to withdraw it.'
    This only intrigued me more and I have to say that when I read it, it did shocked me. By standards back then it was considered border line pornographic and as we now know, Fleming placed restrictions on both the paperback publication and film rights.
    That said, I recently re-read it and frankly I think it's an excellent work. Fleming experiments with another style to great effect and writing in the first person he really succeeds in getting into a female's persona.
    It is true noir and very Hitchcock.
  • Posts: 1,052
    I thought TSWLM was a cracking read, seeing Bond from another perspective, it was well worth the wait when he actually shows up. Also when Bond turns up and plays it very friendly and bit bumbling to the goons, very Roger Moore.
  • Lancaster007Lancaster007 Shrublands Health Clinic, England
    Posts: 1,874
    Birdleson wrote: »
    I hate this culture of reflexive offense that we are in now entrenched in. Just appreciate the movie, book, play, etc as it is. Life and humanity are not always pretty. Art shouldn't be compromised in the name of delicate sensibilities. If one finds so much about Bond's history bothersome, maybe they should take a pass. I believe MY LITTLE PONY tends to illustrate the sunnier aspects of life, so there's that. If you don't think people like Kerim existed (and still exist), who rape women and kill with brutality, you're naive. The US and UK governments have a long rich history of backing and employing murderers, despots and rogues. Fleming was the real deal, he wrote form experience and what he knew to be true. Bond was created to illustrate the darker, more purient aspects of humanity. His, and his allies', likability (worse, his "relatability") was not a consideration.

    Bravo. Couldn't have put it better myself. I was reading some reviews of FRWL on Good Reads, oh and how superior and enlightened some of those reviewers were. Thankfully I don't fall into that category and enjoy Fleming's books for what they are, bloody well-written escapist entertainment.
  • I think Fleming was marvellous at creating improbable and audacious plots. The stories he conjured up were always exciting and interesting. Ideas like the honey-trap in FRWL or the casino bankruptcy in CR are inspired. However, his writing style was lacking. It never lent itself well to literature, however, they made for great outlines for films to be built upon. The stories were often threadbare and relied on exploitative elements to hook an audience in, something that is far better realised onscreen than in print. The true adaptations of Fleming’s books always trump his novels – which is a rare thing to say about book adaptations in general.

    Also he let his prejudices shine through too readily. He was a proud racist, sexist and misogynist. I also refuse to agree that the books were ‘products of their time’. There are plenty of people who still think like this today, Fleming is just an example of someone who was given a podium and money to espouse his views. He was a pretty deplorable individual. I suppose there is a certain charm to his lack of politically-correctness, but his overly conservative mindset is in direct opposition to my own views.

    Finally, he had little to no humour in the books which is a total misstep. Bond’s world is inherently ridiculous and failing to acknowledge this made the books overly dry and drab affairs. The films rectified this. Even Terence Young acknowledged this, he’s stated that he was shocked how seriously Fleming took his own nonsense, and that slightly self-aware fun of the Bond flicks really comes courtesy the filmmakers rather than 007’s creator.

    The best books in the series:
    - CR: There is a lack of self-consciousness. There is no inbuilt attempt to create a series of novels – it is quite simply a raw, violent, sexy spy thriller.
    - YOLT: Surprisingly reflective and introspective. There is a certain degree of melancholy which isn’t present in the other novels.
    Worst book:
    - GF: Stupid and lazy plot. Badly-told story which is overly plodding. All of Fleming’s vulgar personality is on show throughout.
  • Because I love Fleming books, people over the years have bought me Fleming biographies, and I've never had an interest in reading them. He was from a different world than me, (I'm working class, CND member, Labour Party member, you know the type), and I'm not sure I want to know that much about him. I'll always love his books, they're storming page-turners, but he's not Thomas Hardy. There's no 'soul' in his books, and there was never supposed to be.
  • edited October 2016 Posts: 5,986
    The story of his life does make for a pretty fascinating read I'll say—probably more interesting than most authors out there—especially as told by John Pearson in his excellent The Life of Ian Fleming.
    I think Fleming was marvellous at creating improbable and audacious plots. The stories he conjured up were always exciting and interesting. Ideas like the honey-trap in FRWL or the casino bankruptcy in CR are inspired. However, his writing style was lacking. It never lent itself well to literature, however, they made for great outlines for films to be built upon. The stories were often threadbare and relied on exploitative elements to hook an audience in, something that is far better realised onscreen than in print. The true adaptations of Fleming’s books always trump his novels – which is a rare thing to say about book adaptations in general.

    Also he let his prejudices shine through too readily. He was a proud racist, sexist and misogynist. I also refuse to agree that the books were ‘products of their time’. There are plenty of people who still think like this today, Fleming is just an example of someone who was given a podium and money to espouse his views. He was a pretty deplorable individual. I suppose there is a certain charm to his lack of politically-correctness, but his overly conservative mindset is in direct opposition to my own views.

    Finally, he had little to no humour in the books which is a total misstep. Bond’s world is inherently ridiculous and failing to acknowledge this made the books overly dry and drab affairs. The films rectified this. Even Terence Young acknowledged this, he’s stated that he was shocked how seriously Fleming took his own nonsense, and that slightly self-aware fun of the Bond flicks really comes courtesy the filmmakers rather than 007’s creator.

    The best books in the series:
    - CR: There is a lack of self-consciousness. There is no inbuilt attempt to create a series of novels – it is quite simply a raw, violent, sexy spy thriller.
    - YOLT: Surprisingly reflective and introspective. There is a certain degree of melancholy which isn’t present in the other novels.
    Worst book:
    - GF: Stupid and lazy plot. Badly-told story which is overly plodding. All of Fleming’s vulgar personality is on show throughout.

    I agree with much of this. I feel where Fleming truly excelled as a writer was at the level of his prose. He could take the most mundane of roadside diners on some forgotten American highway, have Bond breeze through for coffee, eggs and toast, and make it sound like the most interesting place the reader has never visited. His prose flows, exhilarates, and transports in a way few pulp writers have rivaled. That strength took his stories far.

    And Goldfinger has always been my least favorite of his novels by a good, safe margin. I was shocked by just how bad it was compared to the six novels that had come before it—both in terms of its treatment of characters and subject matter and its execution of plot—and I wasn't even that big a fan of its immediate predecessor, Dr. No. I was really worried heading into Thunderball. Thankfully, the underwater settings are where Fleming tends to excel and I think Thunderball offers some of Fleming's most excellent prose.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CAModerator
    Posts: 31,024

    And Goldfinger has always been my least favorite of his novels


    I'd agree if DAF did not exist (though that one improved upon my last read). GF is my favorite film, ironically, where as MR is one of my least favorite films, but my favorite of the novels.
  • Posts: 13,247
    I think Fleming was a far better writer than plotter so to speak. I don't read his novels for his plots, which for like some of his contemporaries (Raymond Chandler for instance) were borderline accessory.
  • ChriscoopChriscoop North Yorkshire
    Posts: 281
    I enjoy gf it's not one of my favourites and I don't revisit as often as say cr, I've never read tswlm but it's on the list, I do love Dr no, just reading it again as it happens and I still find myself hoping quarrel doesn't get burned alive!
  • edited October 2016 Posts: 5,986
    Birdleson wrote: »

    And Goldfinger has always been my least favorite of his novels


    I'd agree if DAF did not exist (though that one improved upon my last read). GF is my favorite film, ironically, where as MR is one of my least favorite films, but my favorite of the novels.

    I feel like I've always appreciated DAF a bit more than most. It can't compete with any of Fleming's heavy-hitters that's for sure, but I like it as a low-key, straight-shot pulp thriller. The best parts of the book for me are Bond palling around with Felix and Bond's thoughts on and interactions with Tiffany, whom I find one of the more interesting Bond girls. (I also dig Spang's faux cowboy town Spectreville, though things wrap up there a bit too quickly.) I just finished reading DAF for the third time not too long ago in fact. Didn't hold up quite as well for me as the first two times, but I still like the parts I like.

    One thing I'll say for Fleming is that he rarely wastes an opportunity to make things a bit, well, larger-than-life. Even with a relatively disposable character like Michael "Shady" Tree, Fleming chooses to make the guy a hunchback with flaming red hair and a face like Alfred E. Neuman's who chugs milk for his ulcers. Because...why not? He'd otherwise be just another guy behind a desk.
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger Enemy of the state
    Posts: 41,590
    Not liking GF or DAF doesn t sound controversial around here. I think they are both among the best.
  • Birdleson wrote: »
    I hate this culture of reflexive offense that we are in now entrenched in.......

    I know exactly what Birdleson means and he puts it well.
    I'm probably of a different vintage to many of the haunters of this hallowed cyber hall and was lucky enough to read many of Fleming's novels as they were published. I remember that he was well regarded and certainly seen as setting a whole new standard in thriller writing. Consequently I find these blowhards who seek to posthumously categorise him as misogynistic, sadistic and racist as not only disingenuous and tiring but actually downright wrong.
    Ludovico wrote: »
    I think Fleming was a far better writer than plotter so to speak. I don't read his novels for his plots, which for like some of his contemporaries (Raymond Chandler for instance) were borderline accessory.

    Friend Ludovico is so correct. Fleming was an absolute master of combining narrative pace with perceived attention to detail, vivid descriptions and restless changing scenes that he blended to create terrific atmosphere.

    Most of his plots had more holes than a Swiss cheese but he swept you along in such a way that you never stopped to question things. Chandler and Spillane were similar insomuch as atmosphere trumped everything else.

    It was the authors who surfed on Fleming's wave, the likes of Deighton and Le Carre that turned out to be the meticulous plotters.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CAModerator
    edited October 2016 Posts: 31,024
    @PussyNoMore , you may want to check out the Originals Thread, for those of us who saw our first Bond film in the theatre with Connery or Lazenby near or on original release.

    http://www.mi6community.com/index.php?p=/discussion/comment/655840/#Comment_655840
  • edited October 2016 Posts: 2,302
    I think Fleming was marvellous at creating improbable and audacious plots. The stories he conjured up were always exciting and interesting...However, his writing style was lacking. It never lent itself well to literature

    Very little of that strikes me as true. Plotting was rarely Fleming's strong point--the only Bond book I would praise for that quality is From Russia With Love. Fleming didn't sit down and structure his books. He wrote them in one go, dumping his imagination onto the page for a few hours each day and never looking back at the previous day's work until he was finished. This gives the books their headlong, dreamlike quality, but it also explains their rudimentary plotting. What holds each book together is not the plot but Fleming's writing style, which drives the pace, makes the flagrantly improbable elements probable, and gives flesh and blood to Bond's world through its deployment of detail. As Fleming said, thrillers may not be literature, but they can written like literature, and at his best Fleming was an excellent stylist. The gambling, sports, and underwater scenes in the books can be studied as examples of good writing, thanks to their direct, elegant, and vivid style.
    The true adaptations of Fleming’s books always trump his novels – which is a rare thing to say about book adaptations in general.

    The films of On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Goldfinger are the only ones I'd regard as better than their sources. The other "true adaptations" tend to be less than fully true because they water down the originals.
    Also he let his prejudices shine through too readily. He was a proud racist, sexist and misogynist. I also refuse to agree that the books were ‘products of their time’.

    Perhaps you should. If you look at contemporary reviews of the Bond novels, you'll find little in the way of complaints about racism or sexism. Most of the fuss was about "sex, sadism, and snobbery"--a useful reminder of how morals change over time. And not everything in the books should be taken at face value. Bond's misogyny in Casino Royale is clearly marked as the sign of a personality Fleming wants the reader to regard as excessively harsh, which will be broken down by first love. Goldfinger on the other hand is Fleming's most self-parodic book, and some of its more outrageous passages likely result from the author pulling our leg.
    Finally, he had little to no humour in the books which is a total misstep. Bond’s world is inherently ridiculous and failing to acknowledge this made the books overly dry and drab affairs.

    The canard about the Bond books being humorless only holds for Casino Royale. Afterwards you can see more wisecracks, aphorisms, and humorous reflections, especially in GF and You Only Live Twice, or whenever Felix Leiter shows up. The Bond books don't need more humor than what they have. If you're writing about improbable events and people, the last thing you want is to remind the reader of their improbability. Your prose has to do the opposite and build up a credible world.
    The opposite applies in movies. What is filmed by the camera is instantly rendered plausible--perhaps even too plausible, too intense. In order to avoid overloading the viewer, the Bond films used humor as a safety-valve. We should remember that they might otherwise have seemed too violent and lascivious to 1960s audiences. Unfortunately, the humor kept up while the films grew tamer, and has created the expectation that a Bond film should be stuffed with excruciating puns and lewd wisecracks.
  • Posts: 13,247
    That's why when someone suggests whoever to write the continuations because he writes great plot I always say that's not what I'd be looking for.
  • Posts: 12,598
    Not sure how controversial this is, but I do feel Maibaum improved on Fleming with GOLDFINGER. Especially Auric's overall scheme.
    Also, when reading the books, I certainly envision the 1950's setting in which they were written and picture the atmosphere akin to a film noir. I picture characters like The Spang Bros and Horror and Sluggsy looking like they are right out of a Warner Bros B&W film.
    I actually find DAF to be underrated as I enjoyed it immensely. I actually had a hard time getting thru YOLT, the first time but then again I read it in middle school. I appreciated it more later.
    As for post Fleming novels, I only liked Kingsley Amis and John Gardner's attempts. Weird, I guess. I tried to read Benson's Zero Minus Ten, but it felt like when you go to the store to get Coca Cola- and end up with the generic dollar store brand soda instead.
    In addition I thought most of his titles and pretty much all later Bond continuation titles sucked. Especially THE FACTS OF DEATH, and SOLO.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CAModerator
    Posts: 31,024
    I agree that GF is the one instance where ether film improves upon the novel. Primarily due to all of the iconic scene, but also, as you stated, Goldfinger's plan is far superior in the movie. More "Bond"like.
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger Enemy of the state
    Posts: 41,590
    I would happily put christopher Wood s TSWLM in my Bond collection instead of Fleming s.
  • DragonpolDragonpol The Crazy World of David Dragonpol
    Posts: 14,735
    I would happily put christopher Wood s TSWLM in my Bond collection instead of Fleming s.

    Wizard, you shall not pass!
  • Posts: 7,642
    https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2018/mar/28/colonel-sun-kingsley-amis-james-bond-novel-ian-fleming

    With the new release of the Pegasus book comes a new look upon this Markham/Amis 007 book.
  • Posts: 784
    Apropos of nothing, on the strength of the suggestions here I tracked down Wood's The Spy Who Loved Me, and it was outstanding. Thanks for the recommendation, everyone. Great read!
  • Mendes4LyfeMendes4Lyfe "I need a year off" Craig
    Posts: 7,305
    I think Goldfinger is the Worst book.
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