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review 2017-04-04 22:13
The Man with the Golden Gun
The Man With the Golden Gun - Ian Fleming

M.’ s voice was gruff. ‘007 was a sick man. Not responsible for his actions. If one can brainwash a man, presumably one can un-brainwash him. If anyone can, Sir James can. Put him back on half pay for the time being, in his old Section. And see he gets full back pay and allowances for the past year. If the K.G.B. has the nerve to throw one of my best men at me, I have the nerve to throw him back at them. 007 was a good agent once. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be a good agent again. Within limits, that is. After lunch, give me the file on Scaramanga. If we can get him fit again, that’s the right-sized target for 007.’

The Chief of Staff protested, ‘But that’s suicide, sir! Even 007 could never take him.’

M. said coldly, ‘What would 007 get for this morning’s bit of work? Twenty years? As a minimum, I’d say. Better for him to fall on the battlefield. If he brings it off, he’ll have won his spurs back again and we can all forget the past. Anyway, that’s my decision.’


There was a knock on the door and the duty Medical Officer came into the room. M. bade him good afternoon and turned stiffly on his heel and walked out through the open door. The Chief of Staff looked at the retreating back. He said, under his breath, ‘You cold-hearted bastard!’ Then, with his usual minute thoroughness and sense of duty, he set about the tasks he had been given. His not to reason why!

It is with a little bit of sadness as well as a little bit of relief that I am jotting down my notes on The Man with the Golden Gun, the last novel in the original Bond series.


The sadness is most definitely a result of reading the series with an awesome buddy, who never lost his patience when I needed to rant about the stupidity of the main character or of the author or both, and who is one of these awesome fans of the franchise that impart additional information about Fleming and the books, who was (at least seemed) happy enough to just geek out on some of the aspects of the stories, and without whom I would not have continued the series.


The relief is largely caused by the fact that, on the whole, the books are not great, and in some cases are just pure terrible and made me wish for brain bleach. 

Of the 13 novels and 2  short story collections, I would only recommend two of the novels (Diamonds are Forever and Dr. No) in addition to the short stories to unsuspecting novice Bond readers.

(Although, saying that, I recommended Dr. No to a colleague and he DNF'd it...because the racism was too much - I'm glad he didn't try Live and Let Die...) 


Anyway, what about The Man With the Golden Gun?



Well, the book Scaramanga is no Christopher Lee and there is no Nick-Nack (at all!!), but let's start at the beginning:


The Man with the Golden Gun was the last book written by Fleming and it appears that his writing process was to jot down the major plot, some random ideas and topics he may want to pick up on or not, depending on how he felt during the next rounds of edits. During subsequent revisions, he would perhaps also add the descriptions of characters and their natural surrounding which are always highlights of the Bond reading experience.


Unfortunately, Fleming died after he finished his first draft, and before he could add edits. I am not sure to what extent his publisher edited Fleming's text (there is one sentence about an em-dash which made me think an editor inserted it as a joke), but the book reads really disjointed. Well, like a rough draft.


Other parts read like Fleming - uncut:

"Distinguishing marks: a third nipple about two inches below his left breast. (N.B. in Voodoo and allied local cults this is considered a sign of invulnerability and great sexual prowess.) Is an insatiable but indiscriminate womanizer who invariably has sexual intercourse shortly before a killing in the belief that it improves his “eye”. (N.B. a belief shared by many professional lawn tennis players, golfers, gun and rifle marksmen and others.)"

This leaves us with a story of different parts. I believe there is a distinct difference between the first part in which Bond returns to London after being MIA. 

This part includes a quite thoughtful discussion of the Cold War, and especially of espionage during the time.  

‘Well, if you found these people so reasonable and charming, why didn’t you stay there? Others have. Burgess is dead, but you could have chummed up with Maclean.’ ‘We thought it more important that I should come back and fight for peace here, sir. You and your agents have taught me certain skills for use in the underground war. It was explained to me how these skills could be used in the cause of peace.’

Fleming knew the Cambridge Spies, or at least he was friends at school with Kim Philby, but it is a reasonable assumption to say the Cambrigde Spies scandal was on his mind, considering he even put Bond in a situation where he, too, could be a double-agent.


And maybe it is this turn where Fleming chose to show M's true character (see opening quote), which by the way was so well played by Dame Judi Dench that I now cannot see anyone else in the role of M.



So, shorty after his return, Bond is sent to investigate the villain of the piece Francisco Scaramanga. Unlike the suave, intelligent villain portrayed in the film, the book Scaramanga is a modern day version of a Wild West gun slinger.  And this is where the book quickly loses its original promise and descends into the Western genre, complete with the following scene:

The Rasta quickly pushed up the lever and the speed of the train gathered back to 20 m.p.h. He shrugged. He glanced at Bond. He licked his lips wetly. ‘Dere’s white trash across de line. Guess mebbe it’s some frien’ of de boss.’ Bond strained his eyes. Yes! It was a naked pink body with golden blonde hair! A girl’s body! Scaramanga’s voice boomed against the wind. ‘Folks. Jes’ a little surprise for you all. Something from the good old Western movies. There’s a girl on the line ahead. Tied across it. Take a look.

Yes, you read that right.


So, why did I still enjoy the book?


My main reason is that this last work of Fleming is so incredulously craptastic that I could not take it seriously. It is such a spoof Western that it was quite fun to try and predict which cliches Fleming was going to throw in there. And for this alone, I liked it.

She went towards him like the Queen Mother opening a bazaar, her hand outstretched. 

But other than this, the book suffered from the same problems as any other Bond novel: The portrayal of women, Jamaicans, .... well, anyone who is not white, straight, male, and British or American is just plain awful.

Now it may only be myth, and it is certainly not medical science, but there is a popular theory that a man who cannot whistle has homosexual tendencies. (At this point, the reader may care to experiment and, from his self-knowledge, help to prove or disprove this item of folklore! C. C.)’ (M. hadn’t whistled since he was a boy. Unconsciously his mouth pursed and a clear note was emitted. He uttered an impatient ‘tchah!’ and continued with his reading.)

But since I cannot take this book serious AT ALL, I am going to say that the main problem with The Man with the Golden Gun is that it lacks a certain Nick-Nack.



What can I say, I'm glad I've read them, and I have had fun with the gifs, but I look forward to kicking Bond into touch.


For anyone, who has not lost the will to live yet after this meander of a "review", I'll update my Bond Project page shortly with all the relevant links to reviews. 

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text 2017-01-30 23:30
Bond Does Romance...
On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Ian Fleming



All right. I needed diversion and maybe this will make you smile, too. 


I'm not taking part in the Romance Bingo but I love reading everyone's updates and look forward to those fab bingo cards being filled in. Also, I keep wondering about whether whichever book I'm reading would fit into any of the categories. And then it hit me hard:


While reading the latest James Bond - On Her Majesty's Secret Service - I kept picturing the bingo card and kept filling in different categories, which leads me to this: 


On Her Majesty's Secret Service expressed in Romance Bingo markers.



Are you ready for some VERY tenuous links between the bingo categories and the book???



1. Insta-love - Check!

I'm not sure which one to give you here Bond or Tracey, but Tracey - in a suicidal mood - pretty much decides that Bond is the one man who can save her after they spend an hour (that is one hour) in bed together. Btw, that hour happens within a short time of them exchanging their first words with each other. I'm sure no one is shocked by this - this is Fleming after all.


2. TSTL - Nope.

(Inconceivable, I know, but there are no TSTL characters in this one. Apart from the girl with the chicken allergy maybe. I'm giving her the benefit of my doubt, tho. She may have had hidden depths. We never get to find out.)


3. "Headless" Woman - Nope.

(Again, chicken lady notwithstanding...)


4. Love is Murder - Check! Check! Check!

It's very dramatic and very sad. If you've seen the film, you'll know that there is no happy ending.


5. New Adult - Nope.

(Thankfully, the genre wasn't in vogue when Fleming wrote this.)


6. Young Adult - Nope.

(Again, thankfully so.)


7. Regency Romance - Nope.

(Although, the idea would have been fun...)


8. Eyeshadow and Heaving Bosom - Nope.

(Unless, I've missed this. Hm...)


9. Virgin - Best First Time - Check!

Ok, tenous, because as we know neither Bond nor Tracy are virgins but there is a bizarre scene where Tracy wishes she had been one for Bond. I cringed so hard at that but Fleming just was full of such lines...


10. Gothic Romance - Nope. 

(Again, this might have been fun.)


11. Blown Away - Check!

Most absolutely! There is action in this one and it is practically choc-a-bloc with "tremendous explosions", one of which has Bond hurl "forward and sideways in a Catherine wheel of sticks and skis."


12. Man in a Kilt - Check!

This one is tenuous again. This is the book where we find out that Bond is half Scottish. Also, he gets to impersonate a Scot. However, unlike in the film, there is no mention of Bond wearing a kilt. On the other hand, it is nigh impossible to read this book and not picture him wearing one. So, I'd say it qualifies.


13. LOVE - Check!

In their own stupid ways Bond and Tracy are in love. 


14. Rogue - Check!

Erm, Bond. You have met Bond, right?


15. Historical Romance -  Nope. 

(There is some genealogy and heraldry as part of the plot, but it isn't a historical romance as such.)


16. Secret Billionaire - Check!

 Ah, but you see this one is interesting. When Bond first meets Tracy, she's broke and in debt with the casino. This would make her a social pariah but Bond steps in just in time to save her from the social disgrace. A few pages later, we learn that Tracy's father is a millionaire and she wasn't broke after all. (It's more complicated but you get the idea...)


17. Twins - Check!

(Again, I am thankful that Fleming did not get to write about twins in this.)


18. Fairy Tale Retelling - Check! Check! Check!

Bond as knight in (and out of) shiny armor rescuing the princess (or, in this case,

Comtesse Teresa di Vicenzo) is the main theme of this book!


19. Wedding Bells - Check! Check! Check!

This famously is the book where Bond gets married.


20. Second Chances -Check!

The first encounter of Bond and Tracy does not go well. They do end up in bed together, but this means little. (This is Bond we are talking about.) It takes both of them a second encounter to warm to each other.


21. Key to my Heart - Check!

As we know, Bond loves a woman who can drive a car. In this book, it is Tracy's driving skills that instantly attract Bond to her. It is quite a cute scene. 


22. Pirates Argh - Check!

A little tenuous, but I cannot help picturing Draco's henchmen as pirates. They are Sicilian and connected with the mafia, but in my mind they are pirates. At least, they conduct their business affairs in a similar style to what pirates did.


23. Guy/Girl Next Door - Nope.


24. Interracial Couple - Nope.


25. Urban Fantasy Romance - Nope.

(Again, it would have been fun...)


I kinda wish the card had been around when we started the Bond Buddy Read, but it may have given the impression that I was not taking Bond seriously. Which, erm, of course, I am. 


Btw, I am still stewing over the actual review of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It just needs a little more thought...


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text 2017-01-22 23:05
OHMSS: Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 259 pages.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Ian Fleming

I am a tiny bit excited. 


This is the book in the Bond series that I have been looking forward to the most, and now finally, we have reached the stage in the Buddy Read where this book is next.


In celebration of finally getting to read On Her Majesty's Secret Services, I have cleared my currently reading shelf, which in itself is a first!


I hope the book lives up to my expectations. No, sorry, let me rephrase in view of my previous Bond experience...


I hope the book is not crap. I hope the book is not crap. Please book, DO NOT BE CRAP.


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review 2017-01-15 04:44
The Spy Who Loved Me
The Spy Who Loved Me - Ian Fleming

I WAS RUNNING away. I was running away from England, from my childhood, from the winter, from a sequence of untidy, unattractive love-affairs, from the few sticks of furniture and jumble of overworn clothes that my London life had collected around me; and I was running away from drabness, fustiness, snobbery, the claustrophobia of close horizons and from my inability, although I am quite an attractive rat, to make headway in the rat-race. In fact, I was running away from almost everything except the law.

That is not a bad start for a book, is it? It's intriguing. It tells of a backstory that is about to be revealed, and it foreshadows whatever else is going to happen whilst the character is on the run. 


To be honest, when I started the book, I was really looking forward to reading this. Not just because it was the beginning of another fun buddy read, but also because I had not read The Spy Who Loved Me before. I knew the film, of course, but the film, I was advised, bears no resemblance to the book. Not even close. So, after a few decent Bond stories that followed the abysmally bad From Russia With Love, I thought Fleming had maybe found his template. That maybe From Russia With Love was him scraping the bottom of the barrel, and that surely ANY other book had to be better.


Well, I was wrong. I was so wrong. 


Also, when reviewing that hot mess that is From Russia With Love, I did mention that it would have been helpful if Fleming had provided a bit more insight into the internal monologue of the books female lead. Yes, I bemoaned that Fleming did not write any part from the female perspective. 


Well, folks, it goes to show that I should be careful what I wish for because Fleming did exactly that in The Spy Who Loved Me, and it does not work. What Fleming gives us is Viv, a young Canadian whom we again learn very little about other than she's been in some seriously messed up relationships. Yes, Fleming defines her through the relationships she's been in, mostly being taken advantage of.

What doesn't work about this is that Viv's own account is just dripping with Fleming's misogyny. At one point, he has her describe an abortion as follows:

It was as mentally distressing but as physically painless as I had expected, and three days later I was back in my hotel.

That is all Fleming has Viv say about it. Doesn't sound convincing, does it. 


Fleming tries to sell her history as a tough backstory and which is supposed to set Viv up for a resolution to stop being a push-over, be more confident, and not be groped at every turn.

Well, that was the end of that! From now on I would take and not give. The world had shown me its teeth. I would show mine. I had been wet behind the ears. Now I was dry. I stuck my chin out like a good little Canadian (well, a fairly good little Canadian!), and having learnt to take it, decided for a change to dish it out.

So, Viv ends up "on the run" in rural New York, stuck in a short-term motel job, where again she first falls prey to the husband of the owner and then ends up being held for five hours by two thugs who beat her up and threaten her with rape every five minutes. And for a large chunk of the book, this is all the plot there is. Until Bond turns up and saves the day, upon which Bond claims Viv as his reward. 


Let's recap: Viv had just undergone severe beatings, rape and death threats, and the one thing on Bond's mind is to have sex with her.


The idiotic thing - well, another one, is that Viv, who previously had resolved to escape from abusive relationships, feels she had to go along with Bond's request.

But I knew in my heart that I had to. He would go on alone and I would have to, too. No woman had ever held this man. None ever would. He was a solitary, a man who walked alone and kept his heart to himself. He would hate involvement. I sighed. All right. I would play it that way. I would let him go. I wouldn’t cry when he did. Not even afterwards. Wasn’t I the girl who had decided to operate without a heart? Silly idiot! Silly, infatuated goose! This was a fine time to maunder like a girl in a woman’s magazine! I shook my head angrily and went into the bedroom and got on with what I had to do.

WTF??? Why???


This is the point in the book when I no longer asked myself if Fleming lost his mind, but whether he had one in the first place. 

And as if this wasn't sick enough, it actually got worse:

I think I know why I gave myself so completely to this man, how I was capable of it with someone I had met only six hours before. Apart from the excitement of his looks, his authority, his maleness, he had come from nowhere, like the prince in the fairy tales, and he had saved me from the dragon. But for him, I would now be dead, after suffering God knows what before. He could have changed the wheel on his car and gone off, or, when danger came, he could have saved his own skin. But he had fought for my life as if it had been his own. And then, when the dragon was dead, he had taken me as his reward. In a few hours, I knew, he would be gone – without protestations of love, without apologies or excuses. And that would be the end of that – gone, finished. All women love semi-rape. They love to be taken. It was his sweet brutality against my bruised body that had made his act of love so piercingly wonderful.

Seriously, what utter bullshit! I have not felt so nauseated and enraged by a book since

From Russia With Love. I had hoped Fleming got his act together in the books that followed, but clearly he was a leopard that could not change his spots, which is a shame because the premise of the book was great. It is just that a misogynist dumbass writing from a point of view he has no interest in understanding or even exploring will inevitably end up with a book full of misogynist dumbassery.


Avoid at all costs.

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review 2016-09-18 02:26
Trigger Mortis
Trigger Mortis: With Original Material by Ian Fleming (James Bond) - Anthony Horowitz

‘Don’t say that to me, you bastard! It’s what you want too – don’t think I don’t see it. You know what the big difference is between us? You can’t live with a woman in your life.’

Trigger Mortis is Anthony Horowitz's continuation of the Bond series. The story sets in after Goldfinger and begins with the description of what happens after Bond gets the girl

- in this case, of what happens to Bond's relationship with Pussy Galore

(spoiler show)



I thought it was an interesting concept to show this side of Bond's life. Fleming didn't really do this. There were flashbacks to some of Bond's previous adventures and mentions of previous characters, but apart from professional acquaintances, characters did not appear again - as far as I can gather - in the later books. But of course, each book is a new adventure, and that is famously just as true of Bond's love life.  


Plot-wise, the story gets going after Bond's relationship breaks up. He's sent on a mission to investigate some goings on at the motor races, which may or may not be manipulated by SMERSH in the efforts to win at .... everything. 

This is a new environment for Bond. He can drive, but not well enough to compete at the professional races, nevermind at one of the most difficult courses in the F1 circuit - the Nuerburgring, which back in the day of when the book is set (1957) still only consisted of the infamous North Loop. 

So, adventure ensues and before long Bond encounters the real villain of this book:  

Curiouser and curiouser, Bond thought to himself, although he doubted he was going to bump into any white rabbits. Much more likely a mad hatter.

Jason Sin is a truly magnificent villain. He is evil to the core and makes Dr. No look like a big old softie. The main difference of course being that while Dr. No had an agenda doing his evil deeds, Jason Sin has neither values nor interests - he's arbitrary, and seemingly without emotions of any kind, the epitome of the notion that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.  He, of course, also has an inventive way to dispose of his enemies:

‘Right now, in front of you, there are forty-five different ways to die. They are printed on the backs of these cards. Some of them demand your own co-operation.

The interesting thing about the villain in this piece is that Horowitz, quite contrary to Fleming's tradition, made Sin not only the perpetrator of crime but also a victim. In a way, Sin's actions are the result of the trauma he endured. It's a simplistic explanation of Sin's psychology. Too simplistic, but this is a Bond novel, BS is the order of the day. 

Nevertheless, Sin's background story does something that is different in that is places responsibility for crimes against humanity at the door of the parties that usually are portrayed as the heroes.

In this case, the US in the Korean war.

(spoiler show)


Another interesting aspect was that, unlike Fleming, Horowitz added in comments about the time in which Bond lives. I have often wondered what a Bond novel would be like if it contained criticism of contemporary society as part of any of the characters' parts. Now we know, even though it's clear that it's Horowitz's own reflection written from a point in the future. It still helped to create context for Bond and the way he acts in the books.

Anyway, the service is crawling with sisters. You know it and I know it. Look at that dreadful man Burgess. It’s a gift to the Soviets, letting them set up their honeytraps, snaring civil servants who are too young and too scared to know better. God knows how many secrets we’ve lost that way. Change the law and let people be what they want to be – that’s what I say. And as for you, maybe you should try to be a bit less of a dinosaur. This is 1957, not the Middle Ages! The second half of the twentieth century!’

So, with all of these intriguing aspects going on, why did the book not work for me as well as Goldfinger - it is a sequel after all?


It's not like I did not enjoy the book, but I also didn't like it. I think the most important aspect was that the book consisted of mostly description. The story seemed to take a backseat. It was just really hard to keep interested because all of the endless description (and explanation) between the scenes that moved the plot forward were just really boring. Incredibly boring actually. While I might despise Fleming for many of his views, I do admit that he could write. Descriptions in the original series were evocative and helped to show the characters as Fleming needed them to be understood. In Trigger Mortis, I got the impression that Horowitz included a lot of description to show that he had done his research as an author (which I applaud, but I don't want to read about it). So descriptions did not work for me to picture the scenes or experience the atmosphere, but seem to be used to tell why something was happening. 

A great evil had been done to him but it had not made him evil. Sin might claim that what had happened at No Gun Ri had turned him into the monster that he undoubtedly was but Bond had escaped from the hell of a living grave and he had left nothing of his inner self, not an inch of his humanity, behind. That was the difference between them. It was why he would win.

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