Thursday, 28 May 2015

Happy Birthday, Mr Fleming...

Today, May 28th, is Ian Fleming's birthday. Up above is page one* of his first Bond novel, Casino Royale. I have read that Fleming spent considerable time on that first line, writing a few different drafts and versions of it before settling on one that he was happy with. It's always daunting writing the first line. It can sometimes set the tone for the entire story.

Left; Fleming once wrote of Bond looking very similar to the American singer/composer/pianist Hoagy Carmichael.

Right; It was this description of Bond that wound up as the basis for OO7 in a comic mini-series (Permission To Die) written and illustrated by Mike Grell (for Eclipse Comics) back in the early Nineties.

For those not familiar with the plot of Casino Royale, it concerns British Intelligence operative James Bond, who happens to be a seasoned card player in his spare time, being assigned by M to play Chemin de fer against the mysterious Le Chiffre, a French Trade Union Treasurer with communist sympathies, who is funnelling his gambling winnings to a branch of SMERSH, the Soviet counter-intelligence section of the Russian Secret Service.The idea is for Bond to bankrupt Le Chiffre, thus crippling this supply of funds.
Not long after the first game, Bond's HQ sends along Vesper Lynd, a low-level agent, to assist Bond where necessary.
Things escalate after that. As a spy story, it works well enough, but as a thriller, it works very well, moving along at a good pace with some tense moments and introducing us to a character that would still be a part of popular culture sixty years later. No mean feat.

Today also sees the unveiling of the title and premise of a new Bond novel by British author Anthony Horowitz.
The book is called Trigger Mortis.**
This title doesn't grab me, but I'm wondering if it will be a phrase uttered by a character in the book, in which case, I can accept it.
The story, which incorporates some unused material written by Ian Fleming, takes place a few weeks after the Goldfinger affair and it concerns the US and Soviet Space Race. Big news for fans is that this story will see the return of Pussy Galore, the Bond Girl from Goldfinger.

I have high hopes for this one, folks. Yes, yes, I said the same thing about Sebastian Faulks' effort, Devil May Care (2008), Jeffrey Deaver's Carte Blanche (2011), and Solo (2013), written by William Boyd.
These three books were fine efforts, but for me, they lacked a certain tension that I had come to expect from a James Bond story.
Faulks and Boyd did much to capture the essence of a Bond thriller, but I never got a sense that Bond was placed in impossible situations and had to rely on his wits and determination to get himself out of them. Deaver's book, Carte Blanche was an entire re-boot of the OO7 character and thus, we saw him painted as a man in his early 30s, being recruited by a shadowy corner of British Intelligence and I was none too thrilled with reading this new version of James Bond.

Anthony Horowitz plied his trade as a screenwriter on British TV shows, such as the atmospheric Foyle's War and Agatha Christie's Poirot, before embarking on a literary career with his series of Young Adult fiction about Alex Rider, a teenager who gets caught up in spy tales, as well as numerous other novels. He's certainly been in the writing game long enough and I have a good feeling that he'll be able to marry a cohesive plot with some tense action, while staying true to the character of James Bond.
Believe me, it's harder than it looks.

So anyway, I'll pour myself a bourbon*** later this evening and drink a toast to the man who introduced me to Mr. Bond, as I count down the days to the release of the new OO7 adventure in September.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Fleming.

                                                  Picture courtesy of


* Well, it's a transcript of page one.

** Special thanks to The Book Bond- The New Bond Novel is: "Trigger Mortis"

*** Bond's choice of alcohol when travelling abroad. Dammit, I just checked the liquor cabinet. All I have is Slate! Looks like I'll have some Glenmorangie instead.
It'll go down smoother, and it's more in keeping with Bond's Scottish ancestry, too.

1 comment:

  1. once i saw it was flemings bday, i knew you'd have a post to commemorate it. It speaks volumes that he's been gone 50 years but is still very relevant.