Register a SA Forums Account here!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
  • Post
  • Reply
Apr 23, 2014

Trin Tragula posted:

I dunno, given that he's just wussed out on making sure of Sun at that point, I read that as a bluff to stop her from making trouble.

Can you see any other Bond staggering into the room, waving a bloody knife and threatening to stab the girl?


Trin Tragula
Apr 22, 2005

What, this smug toe-rag?

Sure, the only thing he does differently is pause for a second to get his breath back and straighten his tie.

Apr 23, 2014

Trin Tragula posted:

What, this smug toe-rag?

Sure, the only thing he does differently is pause for a second to get his breath back and straighten his tie.

I think there's just a different feel here. Bond is coming fresh from an extreme torture session, skewers through his skull into the brain, having stabbed two men (one right in the doorway). Even Ariadne comments on how weird his voice sounds when he gets in there. Roger Moore is still smooth and suave even when threatening to break your arm. Amis's Bond is probably wild-eyed, soaked in blood, holding a bloody weapon out in front of him. He's trying to keep his patterns of speech slow and cautious, but he's clearly gone through poo poo and in some form of mental trauma and barely hanging on.

Apr 23, 2014

Chapter 21: A Man from Moscow


‘I had a devil of a job this morning, squaring things with the local authorities,’ said Sir Ranald Rideout fretfully. ‘Sticklers for form and their own dignity, as always. A lot of talk about the honour of Greece and of the Athens police department. Mind you, I can see their point in a way. A gun-fight in the streets, four dead, two of them foreigners and one of those a diplomat of sorts. No evidence at all, but the Commissioner fellow I saw had his guesses all right. Ah, thank you.’

Sir Ranald took a tomato juice from the white-coated waiter, set it down untasted on a table topped with marble, and went on at full speed.

Doesn't even drink!


‘Then this business on Sunday. Half a dozen corpses, two German tourists missing, mysterious explosions, goodness knows what else, and who have they got in the way of witnesses and/or suspects? A half-witted Albanian girl who won't or can't talk, and a Greek thug with a lot of burns who says he doesn't know anything about it either, except that a man called James Bond killed one of his friends and tried to kill him and blew up his boat. I must say, Bond – speaking quite off the record, you understand – I can't altogether see why you didn't square things off by getting rid of that fellow too while you were about it – he was only small fry, wasn't he? After all, according to your report you'd put paid to three of the opposition already that morning. Surely one more wouldn't have –’

The air-conditioning in the upstairs banqueting room at the Grande Bretagne was not working properly and there was a good deal of noise, especially from the Russian group by the drinks table. But, encouraged by a nod from M at his side, Bond exerted himself to reply.

‘It would have been a killing in cold blood, sir. By that time I'd had enough, and there was nobody I could or would have asked to do it for me. I'm sorry if it's inconvenienced you, but an unsupported accusation doesn't carry much weight, does it?’

‘I see, I see,’ Sir Ranald had begun to mutter before Bond had finished. ‘Yes, I suppose knifing people one after the other can become a strain, even for someone like you. Someone who's been trained in that kind of work, I mean.’ The minister's feelings about the infliction of death seemed to have abruptly gone into reverse. He now stared at Bond with slight distaste.

Sir Ranald is not fond of the killers in his government, regardless of the necessity. He sees Bond as such a thug that he should be expected to go on a killing spree even when unnecessary.


M broke in. ‘What happened finally, sir?’

‘Oh yes. Well, I was able to convince them they'd be wiser to take no action. Their Home Office chap agreed with me. He was on my side as soon as I mentioned this Nazi character, von Richter. Seems the man was quite a legend. And then the fellow with the burns was quite a legend. Aris or whatever his name is – they'd been after him for some time for theft and crimes of violence. He won't embarrass us. They were a bit huffy about our having conducted our quarrels on Greek soil, but I pointed out that it wasn't our choice. I managed to smooth them down in the end. I think the PM will be satisfied.’

‘Well, that's certainly a great relief.’ M's eye, frosty as ever, was on Bond.

‘Yes, yes. And it's a relief to have you back with us, too, both of you. Now. That Greek friend of yours, Bond – Litsas, isn't it? I wonder if I ought just to have a word with him before I catch my plane.’

‘I'm sure he'd appreciate it, sir,’ said Bond. ‘And I think he does deserve something in the way of thanks, after voluntarily risking his life on behalf of England. Don't you?’

‘Yes. Yes, of course I do. Excuse me a moment.’

Bond grinned sardonically at the Minister's retreating back. M gave a faint snort.

M confirms that Stuart Thomas, the head of Station G, was found dead. He questions why Bond didn't bother to let the plot go on, seeing as the Russians meeting down there were enemies in the first place, but approves of it for favorably tilting the balance of power in the world by painting the British as heroes.


An elegant young Russian with high Tartar cheekbones had made his way over. ‘Excuse me, Admiral, sir. Our Mr Yermolov from Moscow would like to have a talk with you, Mr Bond. Would you come, please?’

The man from Moscow was tall, stout, red-faced, with small authoritative eyes. Bond put him down as a veteran Bolshevik, old enough, probably, to have seen some service as a youth in the Wars of Intervention, working his way up through the Stalin machine, coming to real power since the fall of Khrushchev. He looked quick-witted and determined; he would have had to be both these things to be still alive.

Wasting no time on preliminaries, Yermolov led Bond to a pair of ornate pseudo-Empire chairs that had been placed, obviously with the present purpose in mind, near the marble fireplace.

‘You have enough to drink, Mr Bond? Good. I shall not detain you long. I want to say first that you have done my country a considerable service and that we are properly grateful. Comrad Kosygin himself has of course been fully informed of your role in this affair, and he has asked me to convey to you his personal thanks and congratulations. But more of that later.

Alexei Kosygin was the Premiere of the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1980, after Khrushchev was removed from power. While he was the most powerful man in the USSR at this time, the Prague Spring of 1968 (when Czechoslovakia enacted liberal reforms and the USSR responded by sending in troops and occupying the country like normal people do) and other policy blunders led to Leonid Brezhnev (one of the other men in the government troika) coming out ahead in the power struggle and becoming the real power in the country. With his health failing and power effectively gone, Kosygin resigned and died 2 months later.


‘Besides our gratitude, it's also suitable that we offer your apologies. For certain specific failures of judgment on our part. I have to admit to you that our security apparatus in this area had been allowed to fall into disrepair. This was not the fault of the late Major Gordienko, a capable enough officer who –’

‘One moment, Mr Yermolov, if I may.’ Bond had grown tired of the official jargon he had had to talk and listen to and write for so much of the last three days – in being formally interviewed by Sir Ranald, in a six-hour session alongside Ariadne at the Russian Embassy, in compiling his own report. ‘Can we talk naturally? For instance, just to satisfy my curiosity, what happened to the traitor in your set-up here that Gordienko talked to me and Miss Alexandrou about?’

Yermolov breathed slowly through his nose. His little eyes looked quizzically at Bond. Without shifting their gaze he produced a cigarette that had apparently been lying loose in his pocket, inserted it into a stained amber holder and lit it with a cheap metal lighter. He said abruptly: ‘Yes. Why not? I'm sorry, I've been opening too many power-stations recently. That sort of thing doesn't exactly encourage informality. Let's talk naturally, then. But that's not easy, you know, for a Russian. I'll have to have a serious drink, and I insist that you join me. Vodka. We can offer you Stolichnaya, not the best there is, but perfectly wholesome.’

Bond has mostly been connected with Smirnoff since the very first movie, but he would get into Stoli in the 1980s with A View to a Kill and The Living Daylights with some very prominent product placement. Stolichnaya's exact start of production is unknown due to poor records, with a time between 1938 and 1948 being all that's certain. Stoli was one of the only Russian vodka brands exported to the West during Fleming's lifetime; while Smirnoff was started by a Russian, it's been produced in foreign countries for almost its entire life and was being made in the United States at the time of this book (not sure when the British distillery opened).

For his part, Amis's writings on drinks in the 1970s suggest that you should stick to the cheaper American or British-made stuff instead of premium Russian vodkas when you can because they'll be identical to a taste test anyway.


He snapped his fingers at the high-cheekboned young man and went on talking.

‘Putting it naturally, then, the traitor, or rather the double agent, tried to escape when he found his bosses' plans had gone wrong. He's been dealt with.’

‘Throat cut and dropped into the harbour, I suppose.’

‘If you go on putting things as naturally as that, it's going to be a strain to keep up with you, Mr Bond, but I'll do my best. No. We're trying to avoid that sort of method these days. He'll be going to prison on a number of civil charges. Genuine ones. We like to have insurance cover on certain of our employees abroad. What happens to him when he comes out has still to be decided. Ah, good.’ The drinks had arrived. ‘My very best respects. Long live England.’

‘Thank you.’

As for Arenski, he's still alive. When Bond attacked Von Richter at the mortar, his hasty shelling had completely missed the conference and instead landed in the water. He tried to accuse Bond of being the terrorist, but the Soviet government has been distributing information on the Chinese involvement and Arenski is going to find himself seeing re-education in Siberia.


Yermolov chewed at his lips. The noise of the party swelled in the background. Bond caught sight of Ariadne, beautiful and magnificently groomed in a lilac-coloured linen dress, the centre of a group of admiring Russians. The first really profound sense of relief swept through him. It was over. They had won. And more than that …

The man from Moscow was speaking again. ‘I'd like you to know that what you've done is extremely important. It's helped to show my bosses, not just who our real enemy is – we know much more about Chinese ambitions than your observers do – but who our future friends are. England. America. The West in general. This Vrakonisi business may lead to a great deal.

‘And that means I've got to go back to being official for a moment. Sorry. My government wants you to accept the Order of the Red Banner for services to peace. So do I, Mr Bond. Will you?’

‘It's very kind of them,’ said Bond, smiling. ‘And of you. But in my organization we're not allowed to be given medals of any kind. Not even by our own people.’

The Order of the Red Banner is given to those who demonstrate extraordinary heroism, dedication, and courage on the battlefield. As an example of what an individual would have to do to get it for battlefield actions, Vasily Zaytsev was awarded it for his time killing over 200 soldiers as a sniper in Stalingrad.


‘I see.’ Yermolov nodded sadly. ‘I rather expected you to say that. I told Comrade Kosygin so. Well, there it is. It was an honest offer, expressing honest feeling. But, uh, you might not have found membership of the Order all that much of a distinction. Or an advantage. It wouldn't do you any good at all if you happened to come up against our counter-espionage forces in the future, as you've so often done in the past. As a matter of fact,’ – here Yermolov leant forward confidentially – ‘even Russian nationals who've been given it haven't noticed that it protected them very well – against anything. But, please, you must allow an old man his cynicism. Speaking naturally tends to go to one's head.’

He got up and held out his hand; Bond shook it. ‘If there's ever anything I can do for you, you must let me know, Mr Bond. Is there any chance that you might come to Russia – I mean as a visitor?’

‘Not at the moment. But I'll remember.’

‘I'll remember too. Goodbye.’

That high-pitched whine you hear is the sound of Ian Fleming spinning in his grave like a jet turbine.


Ariadne had extricated herself from the Russian circle and was now talking to Litsas.

Bond went over to them.

‘Thank you for all you did, Niko. I've said it before, but this seems another occasion for saying it.’

Litsas clapped him on the back. ‘No thanks are needed. I enjoyed it. I'd do all of it again. Except for one thing.’

‘I know,’ said Ariadne, looking grave.

‘You won't remember, James, but I became rather silly when I came back from … taking von Richter for a sail. I was like a baby. I couldn't make him understand, James.’ The brown eyes were at their saddest. ‘He thought he'd been quite all right at Kapoudzona. Reprisals against civilians to punish guerrilla activity as laid down in orders. I asked him about the children and he said it was … unfortunate. I wanted to make him know what he'd done. And feel bad about it. He didn't. He never understood. He was thinking I was a fool until I shot him. I intended to make an act of justice, an execution. But I just killed him because I was angry.’

‘Not in cold blood, then,’ said Bond, desperately trying to offer comfort.

Always a convenient loophole!


‘That's true. I must think of that.’ Now, with obvious effort, Litsas grinned. ‘Well, you've recovered in a good way. The glamorous secret agent again. I suppose that suit is full of little radios and concealed cameras and things.’

‘Packed to the seams.’ With mild surprise, Bond remembered for the first time since his return the devices installed by Q Branch – the picklock, the hacksaw blades, the midget transmitter. He had been right about their irrelevance, their uselessness when the crunch came.

I had completely forgotten he had all that! I guess Amis really had a message he wanted to send: it's not the gadgets that make Bond, it's Bond.


Litsas had swallowed his drink. ‘I must go. I will let you know about Ionides. I've asked everybody I know to keep a look-out for him. He must have sold the Altair in Egypt or somewhere and decided to hide for a bit. But it's funny. I could have sworn he was honest.’

‘So could I,’ said Ariadne.

‘And I,’ said Bond, remembering the guileless look and the proud upright carriage.

Oh, whoops.


‘Oh well … You're leaving in the morning? Come to Greece again, James. When the Chinese and the Russians aren't chasing you. There are many places I'd like you to see.’

‘I'll be back. Goodbye, Niko.’ The two men shook hands. Litsas kissed Ariadne and was gone.

Bond looked into the strong, vivid face at his side. ‘How are you, Ariadne?’

‘I'm fine. Don't I look fine?’

‘Yes, you do. But I meant … after that night.’

She smiled. ‘It wasn't so bad, you know. Oh, I hated it and I hated them. But I made it better by preventing them from enjoying it. I never let up on that. Finally they threw me out of bed and one of them went away and the other slept. So forget it, darling. Come on. I'll bet you're hungry, aren't you?’

It probably helped that she got to clock one of them in the face.


‘Very. Where shall we go?’

‘Not Dionysos’ place.’ They both laughed. ‘I'll find somewhere. By the way, I noticed you didn't thank me for all my help the way you thanked Niko.’

‘Of course not. You were on duty. You're an agent of the GRU. Or you were.’

She gazed levelly at him. ‘I still am. It's my work.’

‘After all that? After Arenski and his stupidity?’

‘Yes, after all that. It showed me how important the job is.’

The exact opposite of Tatiana Romanova. Not scared of her work, but proud of it.


‘If that's how you feel, obviously you must stay with it.’

Ariadne put her hand on his shoulder. ‘Let's not be serious tonight. We haven't got long. Must you leave tomorrow?’

‘I must. But you do believe I don't want to, don't you?’

‘Yes. Yes, darling. Let's go.’

As, five minutes later, they walked along the side of the square with the evening bustle of Athens around them, Bond said, ‘Come to London with me, Ariadne. Just for a little while. I know they'll give you leave.’

‘I want to come with you, just as you don't want to go. But I can't. I knew you'd ask me and I was all set to say yes. Then I saw it somehow wouldn't be right. I think old Arenski was right about one thing, when he said I was bourgeois. I'm still stuck with my middle-class respectability. Does that sound silly?’

‘No. But it makes me feel sad.’

‘Me too. It all comes from our job. People think it must be wonderful and free and everything. But we're not free, are we?’

‘No,’ said Bond again. ‘We're prisoners. But let's enjoy our captivity when we can.’

And that's it for Kingsley Amis's only trip into the Bond canon. I actually liked it! His writing style is very different, but he's a competent writer who crafted some good action scenes and a marvelously gruesome torture sequence even if he hasn't shaken his "old British man" biases. Unfortunately, I don't believe Litsas or Ariadne factor into any later author's stories.

Tomorrow, we move on to perhaps the oddest Bond book: one that is presented as the biography of James Bond, the real superspy and friend of Ian Fleming.

Feb 21, 2010

John "Black Jack" Pershing
Hard Fucking Core

Ami's deserved another bite at the apple...that was really good.

Apr 23, 2014

James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007, published in 1973, is the strangest book in Bond canon. To understand where it came from, one must understand the author.

Unlike several of our other authors, John Pearson is still alive despite being less than a month from 90. Born in Epsom, Surrey, Pearson graduated with a Double First in History from Peterhouse, Cambridge and worked in newspapers and BBC scriptwriting. Ian Fleming noticed him and offered him a job as an assistant for his Atticus column. When he was 32, he gave up journalism to become an author. Two years later, Ian Fleming died.

In 1966, Pearson had already published the first biography of Ian Fleming via interviews with over 150 people and extensive study of Fleming's private papers. Pearson served as an extensive non-fiction writer in addition to his novels, especially enjoying true crime writing. He first began interviewing infamous British criminals Ronnie and Reggie Kray in 1967 for their biography and kept up correspondence while they were in prison; after their deaths, he controversially revealed in his last book on them that they had maintained an incestuous homosexual relationships. His most famous work is likely the biography of J. Paul Getty and his heirs, turned by Ridley Scott into All the Money in the World.

There were three especially unusual books that Pearson wrote, all with the same conceit. Along with his Bond book, he also wrote The Bellamys of Eaton Place as an Upstairs, Downstairs tie-in and Biggles: The Authorised Biography. All three of them take the same conceit: what if these fictional people are actually real and we're merely reading a fictionalized depiction of their lives?

So The Authorized Biography of 007 is not an ordinary Bond novel by any means. While it's certainly fiction and mostly takes the form of Bond talking about his childhood and other missions he went on (a few of which got minor references in later films), it's written by Fleming's actual biographer and has him personally meeting Bond and various other characters from Fleming's novels. It takes the conceit (as Fleming hinted at in You Only Live Twice in Bond's obituary) that Fleming was hired by the Secret Service to write fictionalized versions of Bond's adventures in the hopes of disguising rumors of his existence as mere pulp novel fantasy.

The goal with reading this book is to discover if it hurts or helps our perception of Bond. Because Pearson is writing as if the Bond novels are fictionalized exploits with creative liberties taken, he makes some changes to Bond's personality and fleshes out some of his backstory in ways that may not necessarily be good directions. Do we take the revelations as canon going forward, or do we abandon them?

Ichabod Sexbeast
Dec 5, 2011

Giving 'em the old razzle-dazzle

chitoryu12 posted:

they had maintained an incestuous homosexual relationship.

I'm sorry, WHAT?! Is there any truth to that?

Apr 23, 2014

Ichabod Sexbeast posted:

I'm sorry, WHAT?! Is there any truth to that?

It's certainly what Pearson claimed in his book. He had maintained private correspondence with them for the decades of their life imprisonment, which he used to write his books on them, but he apparently swore not to reveal that detail until they were dead. Their homosexuality had become a sort of open secret the more notorious they got, and Ronnie in particular had a reputation among the underworld as downright predatory according to other witnesses. According to Pearson, they had experimented first with each other for fear of being outed if they tried to find any other gay men.

Apr 23, 2014

Chapter 1: 'This is Commander Bond


I like to think that the plane was Urquhart's idea of a joke. He was the only one of them to have a sense of humour (he must have found it inconvenient at times in that grey morgue of a building up by Regent's Park where they all still work) and since he booked my tickets when he made arrangements for my trip he would have known about the plane. It left Kennedy at 4 p.m. for Bermuda. What Urquhart failed to tell me was that it was a honeymooners' special, crammed with newly-weds on
packaged honeymoons in the sun.

There is something curiously unsettling about mating young Americans en masse. I had already had a two-hour wait at Kennedy from London, this on an icy January Saturday with the authentic New York sleet gusting against the windows of the transit lounge. Now for a further three hours I had to share this nuptial flight on mercifully false pretences. The roses, the Californian champagne were not for me.

‘Welcome aboard – this is the sunshine special, folks. For all of you just setting out together on life's greatest adventure, the congratulations of your captain, crew and Pan Am, the world's most experienced airline.’

Polite laughter. Some cheery fellow clapped. And in my lonely gangway seat I started worrying about my adventure.

Where did old Urquhart's sense of humour stop?

This is our first foray into the 1970s! Idlewild Airport that Bond flew into in Live and Let Die is now John F. Kennedy International, renamed in 1963 after Kennedy's assassination.


Between me and the window sat a nice young couple, suitably absorbed in one another. She was in pink, he in dark grey. Neither of them spoke. Their silence was disturbing, almost as if in disapproval of my so-called mission.

Dinner was served – a four-course plastic airline meal, a triumph of space-age packaging – and, as I munched my Chicken Maryland, crunched on my lonely Krispee Krackers, my angst became acute. Strangely enough, until this moment I had not bothered over my arrival in Bermuda. Urquhart had said I would be taken care of. ‘It's all laid on. Everything's arranged, and, from what I gather, they do one rather well.’ In London, words like these had sounded reassuring. One nodded and said ‘quite’. Now one began to wonder.

I had a drink, and then another and, as the big, warm aircraft thundered its way towards the tropics, tried going over in my mind the succession of events that had brought me there.

After publishing his biography of Fleming in 1966, Pearson says he received a letter from a woman named Maria Künzler of Vienna. She claimed to have spent time at the ski resort with young Fleming in Kitzbühel in the 1920s, one of the many German girls Fleming had courted during his education and the shirking thereof.


‘So you can understand,’ she wrote, ‘the excitement we all felt when the good-looking young James Bond appeared at Kitzbühel. He had been in Ian's house at Eton, although of course he was much younger than Ian. Even in those days, James was engaged in some sort of undercover work, and Ian, who liked ragging people, used to make fun of him and tried getting information out of him. James would get very cross.’

When I read this I decided, not unnaturally, that Miss Künzler was slightly mad – or, if not mad, then in that happy state where she could muddle fact and fiction. I thanked her for her letter, and merely wrote that her anecdote about James Bond had caused me some surprise.

Here I should make it plain that when I wrote the Life of Ian Fleming, I never doubted for a moment that James Bond was Ian Fleming, a Mitty-figure Fleming had constructed from his daydreams and his childhood memories. I had known Fleming personally for several years – the very years in fact when he was writing the early James Bond books – and I had picked out countless resemblances between the James Bond of the books and the Ian Fleming I worked with on the Sunday Times. Fleming had even endowed his hero with certain of his own very personal trademarks – the clothes, the eating habits, even the appearance – so much so that whenever I pictured James Bond it was always Fleming's face (and not Sean Connery's) I saw.

As Pearson puts it, the consistency in which Bond's background is referenced in the books led to rumors that Fleming had based Bond on a real life British commando he knew. He dismissed all of this, but then a second letter from Künzler arrived.


It arrived some three months after I had written to her, apologized for the delay and said that she had not been well. (From what I could work out, she would now have been in her mid-sixties.) It was a much shorter letter than the earlier one. The florid writing was a little shaky, but everything she wrote was to the point. She said that there was not much she could add to her earlier account of young James Bond. That Kitzbühel holiday had been in 1938, and she had never seen James Bond again, although she was naturally amused at the world-wide success of Ian's books about him. After the way that Ian had behaved it was funny, was it not? She added that Bond had written her several letters after the holiday. She might have them somewhere. When she could summon up the energy she would look for them and let me have them. Also she thought there were some photographs. In the meantime, surely there must be people who had known James Bond at Eton. Why not contact them?

I replied immediately, begging her to send the letters. There was no reply.

Pearson began combing through Eton records, using the knowledge that Bond was younger than Fleming (who enrolled in 1921) as a starting point. He finds a James Bond who entered Slater's House in 1933 and was gone before the spring of 1936, but that seems far too young for Pearson to believe it's someone caught up in spycraft by 1937. The Eton secretary who answered the phone couldn't find a single record of a James Bond and sent him to the Old Etonian Society, who gave him the names of some of Bond's contemporaries.


I wrote to eighteen of them. Six replied, saying that they remembered him. The consensus seemed to be that this James Bond had been an indifferent scholar, but physically strong, dark-haired and rather wild. One of the letters said he was a moody boy. None of them mentioned that he had any particular friends, but no one had bullied him. There was no definite information about his home life or his relatives. The nearest to this was a passage which occurred in one of the letters:

I've an idea [my correspondent wrote] that there must have been some sort of trouble in the family. I have no details. It was a long time ago and boys are notoriously insensitive to such things. But I have a clear impression of him as a boy who had suffered some sort of loss. He was the type of brooding, self-possessed boy who stands apart from his fellows. I never did hear what became of him.

Nor, it appeared, had anybody else.

This adds up with Bond's obituary in You Only Live Twice listing his time at Eton as "brief and undistinguished" and the reference to being brooding and having suffered some sort of loss matches Bond's parents' deaths in a climbing accident. But again, these are the sorts of coincidences that crop up everywhere. Interesting, but not proof.


My next step was clear. Bond's obituary goes on to say that, after Eton, the young reprobate was sent to his father's old school, Fettes. Accordingly I wrote to the school secretary asking if he could tell me anything about a boy called Bond who may have entered the school some time in 1936. But before I could receive a reply, another letter came which altered everything. Inside a large brown envelope bearing a Vienna postmark was a short official note from an Austrian lawyer. He had the sad task of informing me that his client, Fraulein Künzler of 27, Friedrichsplatz had died, not unexpectedly, in her sleep some three weeks earlier. He had the honour now of settling her small estate. Among her papers he had found a note saying that a certain photograph was to be sent to me. In accordance with the dead woman's wishes he had pleasure in enclosing it. Would I be so kind as to acknowledge?

The photograph proved to be a sepia enlargement of a snapshot showing a group of hikers against a background of high mountains. One of the hikers was a girl, plump, blonde, extremely pretty. On one side of her, unmistakable with his long, prematurely melancholy Scottish face, stood Ian Fleming. On the other was a burly, very handsome, dark-haired boy apparently in his late teens. The trio seemed extremely serious. I turned the photo over. On the back there was a note in purple ink.

This is the only picture I could find. There seem to be no letters, but this is James and Ian out in Kitzbühel in 1938. The girl with them is me, but somehow I don't think you'd recognize me now.

So much for poor Miss Künzler.

As Pearson begins contacting some of Fleming's friends from his Kitzbühel days, he gets a phone call from a Mr. Hopkins who is aware of the inquiries he's making, and would he be so kind as to join him for lunch at the National Liberal Club in Whitehall Palace?


Mr Hopkins was an unusual Liberal: a big, bald man with outsize eyebrows, he was waiting for me by the bust of Gladstone in the foyer. Something about him seemed to make old Gladstone look a little shifty. I felt the same. We had a table by the window in the big brown dining-room. Brown was the dominating colour – brown Windsor soup, brown walls and furniture. Mr Hopkins, as I noticed now, was wearing a somewhat hairy, dark brown suit. When the soup came he started talking, his sentences interspersed with noisy spoonfuls of brown Windsor soup.

The National Liberal Club is a private club founded in 1882 by William Ewart Gladstone for Liberal Party campaigners. The club took a direct hit in the Blitz, necessitating expensive rebuilds in the 1950s. Its members have included an array of notable authors, from Bram Stoker to George Bernard Shaw to HG Wells. It was also relatively progressive, allowing ethnic minorities like Indians as members since 1885 and allowing women as "associate members" in 1967 and then full members in 1976. Churchill was a member for over 18 years but resigned in 1924 when he joined the Conservatives.

And as you can see, it is indeed very brown. It matches the Windsor soup, a meaty soup commonly made with lamb and/or beef and Madeira wine. While it was once a rich and decadent soup with Italian and French influence, wartime austerity led to it commonly being seen in government-established "British Restaurants" as a sort of watery brown gravy masquerading as soup. The follow-up of poor canned Windsor soup and cheap restaurant imitations permanently destroyed the meal's reputation until it became a symbol of British blandness.


‘This is all off the record, as you'll understand. I'm from the Ministry of Defence. We know about your current inquiries. It is my duty to inform you they must stop.’


‘Because they are not in the national interest.’

‘Who says they're not?’

‘You must take it from me they're not.’

‘Why should I?’

‘Because if you don't, we'll have the Official Secrets Act down on you just so fast that you won't know what's hit you.’

So much for Mr Hopkins. After brown Windsor we had cottage pie, apparently the staple food of Liberals – nutritious doubtless, but no great stimulus to conversation. I tried getting Mr Hopkins to reveal at least something of his sources. He had been at the game too long for this. When we parted he said, ‘Remember what I said. We wouldn't like any unpleasantness.’

‘Tell that to Mr Gladstone,’ I replied.

As expected, the Ministry of Defense confronting and threatening Pearson only encourages his belief that Bond is a real person. A few days later he gets a call from a Mr. Urquhart, once again inviting him to lunch (this time at Kettner's in Soho) with the promise of no threats this time.


Urquhart was very, very thin and managed to combine baldness with quite startlingly thick black hair along his wrists and hands. As with the statues of Giacometti he seemed to have been squeezed down to the stick-thin shadow of his soul. Happily his expense account, unlike his colleague's, stretched to a bottle of respectable Chianti.

Kettner's is a London institution since 1867, a place once attended by Oscar Wilde.


From the beginning I attempted a bold front, and had produced the photograph of Bond and Fleming before we had finished our lasagne.

‘Well?’ I said.

‘Oh, very interesting. What a good-looking chap he was in those days. Still is, of course. That's half his trouble.’

‘You mean he's alive? James Bond's alive?’

‘Of course. My dear chap. Why else d'you think we're here?’

‘But all this nonsense from your Mr Hopkins – the Official Secrets Act. He almost threatened me with gaol.’

‘Alas, poor Hopkins. He's had a dreadful lot of trouble with this dreadful lot. He has a hernia too. And an anaemic wife. Some men are born to suffer.’

Urquhart smiled, exposing over-large false teeth.

Turns out Bond was actually a fan of Pearson's biography of Fleming!


‘But where is Bond and what's he doing?’

Urquhart giggled.

‘Steady. We mustn't rush our fences. What do you think of this Chianti? Brolio, not Broglio as Ian would insist on spelling it. But then he wasn't really very good on wines. All that balls he used to write about champagne when the dear old chap couldn't tell Bollinger from bath water.’



For the remainder of the lunch we chatted about Fleming. Urquhart had worked with him during the war, and, like everyone who knew him, was fascinated by the contradictions of the man. Urquhart used them to avoid further discussion of James Bond. Indeed, as we were leaving, he simply said, ‘We'll be in touch – you have my word for that. But I'd be grateful if you'd stop your investigations into James Bond. They'd cause a lot of trouble if they reached the papers – the very thought of it would do for Hopkins's hernia.’

Somewhat lamely I agreed, and walked away from Kettners thinking that, between them, Hopkins and Urquhart had managed a deft piece of hushing up. Provided I kept quiet I expected to hear nothing more from them. But I was wrong. A few weeks later Urquhart rang again, asking me to see him in his office.

It was the first time I had entered the Headquarters building up by Regent's Park which formed the basis for Fleming's ‘Universal Export’ block. I was expecting something altogether grander, although presumably all secret services adopt a certain camouflaging seediness. This was a place of Kafkaesque oppressiveness – grey corridors, grey offices, grey people. There were a pair of ancient milk-bottles outside Urquhart's door. Urquhart himself seemed full of bounce. He offered me a mentholated cigarette, then lit one for himself and choked alarmingly. The room began to smell of smouldering disinfectant, and it was hard to tell where Urquhart ended and the smoke began.

Urquhart tells Pearson that he's not the first person to stumble upon the reality of James Bond, but he's been the most cooperative with it. They're afraid that one day they won't be able to stop the truth from coming out, so they want the whole story told "responsibly." And that means Pearson is going to meet James Bond.


As I learnt later, there was more to Urquhart's plans than he let on. He was a complex man, and the years he had spent in undercover work made him as secretive as any of his colleagues. What he failed to tell me was the truth about James Bond. I had to piece the facts together from chance remarks I heard during the next few weeks. It appeared that Bond himself was facing something of a crisis. Everyone was very guarded over the details of his trouble. No ailing film-star could have had more reverent discretion from his studio than Bond from his colleagues at Headquarters. But it seemed clear that he had been suffering from some complicated ailment during the previous year which had kept him entirely from active service. The symptoms made it sound like the sort of mental and physical collapse that overworked executives succumb to in their middle years. Certainly the previous September Bond had spent over a month in King Edward VII Hospital for Officers at Beaumont Street under an assumed name (no one would tell me what it was). He seems to have been treated for a form of acute hepatitis and was now convalescent. But, as so often happens with this uncomfortable disease, he still had to take things very easy. This was apparently something of a problem. The doctors had insisted that if Bond were to avoid a fresh relapse he simply had to have total physical and mental rest from active service and the London winter. James Bond apparently thought otherwise.

He was insisting forcefully that he was cured and was already clamouring to return to active service. People appeared to sympathize with his anxieties, but the Director of Medical Services had called in Sir James Molony – the neurologist and an old friend and ally of James Bond in the past – to back him up. After seeing Bond, Sir James had raised quite a furore in the Directorate. For once they really had to use a little sympathy and imagination for one of their own people. Something concrete had to be done for Bond, something to take his mind off his troubles, and keep him occupied and happy while he recuperated. According to Sir James, Bond had been complaining that ‘with liver trouble it's not the disease that kills you: it's the bloody boredom.’

Surprisingly, it was M., rarely the most understanding of mortals where human weakness is concerned, who had come up with at least a partial solution.

One of M's friends is Sir William Stephenson, codename Intrepid during his time in the British Security Coordination and one of the inspirations for James Bond in the real world. Stephenson at this time was living in semi-retirement in a penthouse in the Princess Hotel in Bermuda, and he suggested Bond come on down for a vacation. To keep his mind occupied, the Head of Records suggested he write his memoirs, but M pointed out that Bond is notoriously bad with even filling out after-action reports. So Urquhart suggested getting Pearson to do it.


‘You mean,’ growled M., ‘that you'd let this writer fellow publish the whole thing?’

‘If he doesn't,’ Urquhart apparently replied, ‘someone else is bound to before long. Besides, that whole business between you and Fleming and 007 is going to rank as one of the classic pieces of deception in our sort of work. The opposition know the truth by now. It's time a little credit was given publicly where it is due.’

According to Urquhart, M. was susceptible to flattery. Most old men are. Somewhat reluctantly he finally agreed to back my mission.

Back in London, all this had seemed quite logical and clear. If Urquhart told me Bond was alive and well and living on some distant island, I believed him. Now, with the first lights of Bermuda gleaming below us in the darkness, I wasn't quite so sure. The air-brakes grumbled down, the undercarriage thudded into place; Hamilton lay straight ahead.

The night air was warm and scented. Stepping down from the aircraft was like the beginning of a dream. There were palm trees beside the airport building, hibiscus and azaleas in bloom. For the first time I began envying the honeymooners. I trailed behind them, feeling conspicuous and lonely. Urquhart and London seemed a long way off. Urquhart had told me I would be met at the airport. I hadn't thought to ask him how. Stupidly I hadn't even an address.

After his passport is checked, Pearson is led to a large gold Cadillac where a black chauffeur is loading his luggage. He doesn't even get told where he's going.


We purred across a causeway. There was a glimpse of palm trees, lights that glittered from the sea. Then we drove through high gates, along a gravelled drive, and there before us, floodlit and gleaming like that party scene from High Society, stood the hotel – old-style colonial, pink walls, white louvered shutters, pillars by the door. The pool was lit up too. People were swimming, others sitting on the terrace. A doorman in top-hat and wasp-coloured waistcoat took my distinctly meagre luggage to the lift.

The Hamilton Princess opened in 1885 on the outskirts of the capital city of Hamilton. It was used in World War II as housing for Allied servicemen and an intelligence and mail censorship center. No wonder a Canadian intelligence agent ended up rooming there.


Urquhart had said, ‘they do one rather well.’ They did. Bath already run, drinks waiting on the table, a discreet manservant to ask if I had eaten or would like something from the restaurant. I told him ‘no’, but poured myself a good slug of Glen Grant on ice. I felt I needed it.

This is actually the first mention of a single malt scotch in the Bond books!


‘Sir William asked me, sir, to kindly welcome you and tell you to treat this place as your own home. When you are ready, sir, say in half an hour, please ring for me and I will take you to Sir William.’

I bathed luxuriously, changed into the lightweight suit purchased three days before from Aquascutum on Urquhart's expense account and, after more Glen Grant, I rang the bell. The manservant appeared at once, led me along a corridor, and then unlocked a door which led into a private lift. Before starting it the man picked up a telephone inside the lift.

‘Augustus here, sir. Bringing your guest up now.’

The lift ascends slowly, and there's a pause as the doors open that suggests they're controlled remotely from the other side. The enormous room is almost entirely in shadow.


On three sides long, plate-glass windows looked out on the dark night sea. Along the fourth side there were chairs, a radio transmitter, two green-shaded lamps. By their slightly eerie light I could make out only one man at first – elderly, grey-haired with a determined, weather-beaten face.

‘I'm Stephenson’, he said. ‘London have been telling me about you. Glad you could come. This is Commander Bond.’

chitoryu12 fucked around with this message at 02:05 on Apr 21, 2020

High Warlord Zog
Dec 12, 2012

chitoryu12, did you even saying what your favourite and least favourite Fleming bond books were in the old thread?

Apr 23, 2014

High Warlord Zog posted:

chitoryu12, did you even saying what your favourite and least favourite Fleming bond books were in the old thread?

I think my favorite would probably be Casino Royale. The action is more contained but it’s a very detailed, grounded book that plays on both Bond and the audience’s expectations about damsels in distress to hide the twist.

Least favorite is obviously Golden Gun. It’s completely unfinished.

Apr 23, 2014

Chapter 2: Boyhood of a Spy


So this was Bond, this figure in the shadows. Until this moment I had taken it for granted that I knew him, as one does with any familiar character in what one thought was fiction. I had been picturing him as some sort of superman. The reality was different. There was something guarded and withdrawn about him. I felt that I was seeing an intriguing, unfamiliar face half-hidden by an image I could not forget.

It was a strong face, certainly – the eyes pale-grey and very cold, the mouth wide and hard; he didn't smile. In some ways I was reminded of Fleming's own description of the man. The famous scar ran down the left cheek like a fault in the terrain between the jaw-line and the corner of the eye. The dark hair, grey-streaked now, still fell in the authentic comma over the forehead. But there was something the descriptions of James Bond had not prepared me for – the air of tension which surrounded him. He had the look of someone who had suffered and who was wary of the pain's return. Even Sir William seemed to be treating him with care as he introduced us. We shook hands.

‘The authentic warm, dry handshake,’ I said, but Bond didn't laugh. Levity was clearly out of place. There was an awkward silence, then Bond lit a cigarette, inhaling deeply.

As I said, Pearson assumes that Fleming took creative liberties with Bond's personality in some places and creates a slightly different Bond for his book. "Less personable" is an understatement.


‘I'm not sure,’ he said, ‘that I'm going to be much help to you. This seems a half-arsed sort of project.’


‘Because there's not a great deal I can tell you. Quite frankly, I'd like to hang on to the few shreds of private life that Ian left me.’

Sir William tactfully remarked that he was sure that his private life was the last thing I was interested in; before I could object, he had brought the subject round to Fleming. Bond softened up a little then. I asked him how well he had known him.

‘Extremely well – if it was ever possible to know him.’

‘And you didn't object when he started writing about you in the books?’

‘Did I, Bill?’

The old man chuckled, as if the whole question of the books were something of a private joke between them.

‘That's something,’ said Sir William, ‘that's going to take a little explanation.’

‘And has M. given his authority for me to tell the whole grisly story?’


‘Incredible,’ said Bond. ‘Well, if he says so, I've no objections. Quite the reverse in fact. I'll be relieved to have the truth recorded over that little episode. Rather too many people still seem to think that I agreed to Ian's efforts out of vanity. If they only knew the trouble those damned books have caused me.’

‘Come now,’ said Sir William. ‘They were a master-stroke at the time. And they undoubtedly did save your life. It isn't fair to start complaining because they got a little out of hand.’

Pearson asks Bond of his plans for the future. He's 52 years old now, too old for active service, but Dr. James Molony is on his way to Bermuda. If he gives Bond the okay, he could find himself back on active duty.


He dropped his voice, and stared out at the dark ocean. The lighthouse on Lighthouse Hill flashed and subsided.

‘It's not a question primarily of age,’ he said. ‘The little that you lose in stamina you make up in cunning. What really matters is something deeper; whether your courage lasts.’ He turned impatiently and faced me.

‘As for this present business, I'd like to get it over and done with quickly. What can I tell him, Bill?’

‘Virtually the lot. He has total security clearance.’

‘Headquarters will be checking what he writes?’


‘That makes it easier. When shall we start?’

‘Tomorrow morning if it suits you.’

‘And where do you want me to begin?’

‘At the beginning.’

He may be bad at paperwork, but Bond is nothing if not punctual. At precisely 9:30 the next morning he calls Pearson and is in his room in 2 minutes.


Somehow he looked completely different from the night before – no sign now of tension or of that wariness he had shown then. He was fit, bright-eyed, positively breezy. He was wearing espadrilles, old denim trousers and a much faded dark blue T-shirt which showed off the width of shoulder and the solidity of chest. There was no hint of a paunch or thickening hips. But he seemed curiously unreal this morning in a way he hadn't previously; almost as if he felt it necessary to act a role I was expecting. (Another thing I was to learn about him was the extent to which he really was an actor manqué.)

Remember in Thunderball when Fleming had him wearing a full suit with sandals in Bermuda? I think we can assume that's one fictionalization.


He talked about his early-morning swim. Swimming, he said, was the one sport he still enjoyed.

‘And golf?’ I asked.

Golf, he replied, was much too serious a matter to be called a sport. He added that he really hadn't played much recently. As he was talking, he loped around the room, looking for somewhere that suited him to sit. Finally he settled on a bamboo chair on the balcony from where he had a fine view across the harbour. He breathed deeply, stretched himself, and stared at the horizon.

‘Now,’ he drawled, ‘what can I tell you?’

‘Something that Fleming never mentioned is where you were born.’

Bond swung round immediately.

‘Why ask me that?’

‘You said begin at the beginning.’

Bond smiled, somewhat ruefully, and paused before replying.

Bond was born on November 11, 1920 in the town of Wattenscheid, in the Ruhr area of western Germany. His father, the Scottish Andrew Bond, was a Metro-Vickers engineer on contract with the Allied Military Government to dismantle the Krupp factory in Essen for war reparations. A railway strike had trapped his parents in the house Andrew Bond was living in during his work; being a native-born German caused some paperwork issues when he joined the Royal Navy later on and helped feed his dislike of Germans.


Once Bond had settled the question of his birth, he seemed to relax. He suggested that we order coffee, which he drank strong and black – always a good sign with him as readers of Fleming's books will remember. For the rest of that morning we went over the basic facts about the Bonds. Fleming, who used to get very bored with families, had been predictably brisk over James Bond's ancestry. Apart from some hypothetical dialogue in On Her Majesty's Secret Service suggesting that James Bond might be descended from the Bonds who gave their name to Bond Street – dismissed by Bond himself as ‘sheerest eyewash’ – all that he disclosed were the bare facts of his hero's parentage. The father, Andrew Bond, had come from Glencoe in Argyll whilst the mother, Monique, was a Delacroix from the Swiss canton of Vaud.

I was surprised to see that James Bond was evidently proud of his Scottishness, talking nostalgically about the stone house in the Highlands which was still the centre of the family. He said the only roots he felt were there. ‘I always feel myself emotionally a Scot. I don't feel too comfortable in England. When I die I've asked that my ashes be scattered in Glencoe.’

He talked a lot about the early Bonds, tough, warlike people who followed the MacDonalds and had lived in Glencoe for generations. Three Bonds, all brothers, were slaughtered in Glencoe during the massacre of 1692. Later Bonds preserved their sturdy independence; during the eighteenth century they had prospered, whilst by the nineteenth they had produced a missionary, several distinguished doctors, and an advocate. But, as with many Highland families, the Bonds clung to their identity as Scots. They had avoided being softened up like Lowlanders. They still regarded Glencoe as their home. The men remained big-boned and wild. One of them, James Bond's great-grandfather and his namesake, won a V.C. with the Highland Infantry before Sebastopol. His sword still hangs in the house in Glencoe. Other male Bonds were less impressive. One of them, Great-Uncle Huw, drank himself determinedly to death in his mid-thirties. Great-Uncle Ian was sent down from university for shooting his law books one night with a .45 revolver. The present head of the family, Bond's Uncle Gregor Bond is a dour, drunken old gentleman of eighty-two.

The Massacre of Glencoe is still a sore spot for proud Scots centuries later. In 1689, the Jacobites (adherents to the exiled House of Stuart) revolted to restore King James II and VII (he was James II of England and James VII of Scotland, because you just can't have duplicates) to the throne in place of William of Orange and Mary II. William got a number of Highland clans to agree to support him with the promise of a pardon as long as it was done before January 1, 1692, but delays in transmitting the message (possibly intentionally by his enemies) and getting someone around to pledge an oath to led to MacIain of Glencoe learning about it late and not being able to get it done until January 6. Secretary of State Sir John Dalrymple sent soldiers to execute the clan over what was essentially a paperwork mishap.

Two companies of William's soldiers happened to be quartering in the MacDonalds' home for the past week. Their commander, Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, suddenly received written orders to assist in massacring everyone there along with an implicit threat if he didn't carry it out. He did so, killing roughly 30 men (as well as some women and children) even as they surrendered, MacIain included. This was, to put it mildly, extremely controversial. Laws were in place regarding "slaughter under trust" that people accused this massacre of violating, and it also violated strong cultural cachets regarding safe travel and hospitality. Seeing as William himself signed the order that made this massacre official, the government promptly investigated itself and found that no wrongdoing was committed, and no compensation will be provided to the survivors!


According to James Bond, the men in his family all tend to be melancholies. Through this side of the family he evidently inherited his shut-in, brooding quality. There is a lot of granite in James Bond. He also got the family determination and toughness mixed with a solid dose of Calvinism. The Bonds, as true Scotsmen, believed in guilt, great care with money and the need for every man to prove himself.

Bond's father, Andrew, was a true Bond. Extremely gifted, he appears as something of a paragon during his boyhood – prize scholar and captain of games at Fettes, he went on to Aberdeen to study engineering with considerable success. In his early twenties when the war began, he joined the Royal Engineers, survived the Somme, and was seconded to Ian Hay's staff at Gallipoli. Here he lost an arm but gained a D.S.O. and also a lifelong admiration for the Turks. When the war ended, he was an acting brigadier and joined the Allied Military Government to supervise the dismantling of the Ruhr, a task which must have suited this puritanical young engineer.

But the real passion in his life was mountains. Climbing suited his strenuous nature, and late in 1918 the handsome young ex-brigadier spent his first peacetime leave climbing the mountains he had dreamed of – in the Swiss Alps. He was trying to forget the horror of the war, but he did more than that. He found a wife.

Whatever else they were, the Bonds were great romantics, and Andrew's marriage was in character. Just as Garibaldi saw the woman that he married for the first time through a telescope, so Andrew Bond caught his first glimpse of his future wife half-way up a mountain. She was suspended at the tail-end of a rope of mountaineers ascending the spectacular peak, the Aiguilles Rouges, above Geneva. Climbing conditions were appalling. From below, Andrew Bond admired the tenacity of the climbers. When, later, he went to congratulate them, only to find that the final climber was young, female and extremely pretty, his fate was sealed. So was hers. Nothing deterred him – neither the fact that she was barely nineteen, nor that her family opposed the match, nor that she was already officially engaged to a Zurich banker three times her age. The same spirit that had inspired old James Bond against the Russians at Sebastopol urged on his grandson for the girl he loved.

The Delacroixs were a rich and obstinate family, and their daughter rejecting her wealthy suitor for a one-armed Scot was matched by Andrew Bond getting into an argument with her father that ended with him storming out and slamming the door behind him to go elope. They had their first child, Henry Bond, exactly 9 months after their wedding and she was soon pregnant again. Unfortunately, the two found that they had little in common beyond their love of mountain climbing and Monique missed her wealthy lifestyle that her parents had now cut her off from.


As always in such cases, one wonders how two human beings can have been so painfully mistaken over one another. How could Andrew Bond possibly have been the sort of husband she required? He was profoundly serious and solitary, a dedicated engineer and something of a puritan. Worse still, he had no money. His old employers, Metro-Vickers, were prepared to have him back. There was a job for him in Birmingham. Monique, for the first, but not the last time, kicked. Andrew gave in; to keep his young wife happy, he accepted his secondment to the Allied High Command in Germany. James Bond was born the autumn after they arrived.

It should have been an idyllic childhood for two small boys. Their parents doted on them and they had everything – love, comfort, playthings and security. In this defeated country, they were like spoiled young princes. The house at Wattenscheid had its own grounds and was filled with servants, nannies, dogs and horses. Summers were spent along the Baltic coast or down the Rhine, Christmases at Glencoe where all the Bonds would gather and stay for Hogmanay like the old-fashioned tribal clan they were.

This was where James Bond saw his paternal grandfather, old Archie Bond, for the first time. He was terrified of him; and the old man spoke such broad Scots that the child, who already spoke better German than English, could understand little that he said. There were the wicked uncles too, his father's brothers – whisky-sodden Gregor and wealthy Ian who was such a miser. But the one relative they both adored was their father's only sister, their Aunt Charmian – sweet, sad Charmian, bride of three weeks, whose husband had died at Passchendaele. She lived in Kent, grew dahlias and believed in God.

James adored his mother; indeed, the more that she despaired of him, the more he loved her. Even today James Bond still keeps her miniature beside him, and regards her as a female paragon. When he describes her he uses words like ‘fresh’, ‘gay’, ‘irresistible’. Neither her affaires, her dottiness, her wild extravagance can dim her memory.

The two Bond children were devoted to their parents despite their problems. He felt unable to talk to his father about anything that mattered and held long resentment toward his beloved mother for her dismissive behavior toward him, which Pearson attributes his later issues with women to. He grew up extremely strong for his age and a big eater, spending a portion of his childhood severely overweight (at least as a spy he had exercise to keep up with his massive caloric intake).


Another feature of his boyhood was the continual movement that went on – the Bonds were wanderers. After Monique's refusal to settle back in Birmingham, Andrew accepted a succession of overseas assignments from Metro-Vickers when his attachment with the Military Government ended. From Germany they moved to Egypt, where Andrew worked as consultant for three years on the Nile dam project above Aswan. By now James was five, and, just as in Germany, he proved himself adaptable in his choice of playmates. Soon he had his private gang of small boys from the neighbourhood, most of them Egyptian. James seemed to find no difficulty communicating with them, or with asserting his leadership. He had always been big for his age. The Bond brothers had an elderly French governess. James could elude her, and for days on end would roam the city with his gang of guttersnipes. Sometimes they played along the river, scampering along the waterfront and living on their wits. At other times they flitted round the market-place, picking up money where they could and playing their games with other gangs.

With Andrew away for days on end, and Monique occupied with a new admirer, nobody appeared to mind what happened to the boy. He must have picked up more than a smattering of Arabic (much, to his regret, entirely forgotten) and with his dark complexion seems to have become almost an Arab boy himself. One of his strangest memories of this period is of waiting with his followers one evening outside a big hotel in Cairo, watching the cars arrive. Suddenly a black and yellow Rolls drew up. Out stepped his mother followed by a fat man with a monocle. James recognized him as an Armenian contractor who had visited the house on business with his father. The man seemed so gross that he couldn't imagine what his mother was doing in his company. James called out to her, but the smart Mrs Bond failed to recognize the street Arab as her son. Next day, when he asked his mother what she was doing at the hotel, she became furious, insisted she had been at home, and ordered James to his room for insolence.

This was, as Bond says wryly, his first real lesson in the female heart.

The Bonds made one more move, this time to a big house near Chinon, France for Andrew's work, and the pattern continued. Monique only got more wild and irresponsible, spending their money with abandon.


France suited James. He picked up the language, loved the food and made a lot of unexpected friends – the boatmen on the river, the village drunk, the gendarme and the madame who kept the caf in the village. He also fell in love for the first time – with the butcher's daughter, a sloe-eyed, well-developed girl of twelve, who deceived him for an older boy who had a bicycle.

That hussy!


James Bond remained in France a year – then his world changed again. In 1931 the Metro-Vickers combine won an unprecedented contract from the Soviet Government to construct a chain of power stations around Moscow as part of Stalin's policy for the electrification of Russia. Inevitably, Andrew Bond was despatched with the advance party of British engineers. Three months later he sent for his family to join him.

The Metro-Vickers representative in Paris had booked the Bonds a first-class sleeper to themselves, and Bond can still remember the small details of the journey – the rare excitement of eating a meal with his mother in the restaurant car, the white gloves of the waiters, the mineral water and the reading lamp beside his bed. As the train thundered east towards the Polish frontier, he can remember dropping off to sleep to what Fleming called ‘the lullaby creak of the woodwork in the little room’, then waking drowsily to hear the porters calling out the names of German stations in the night. This was Europe, the grey Prussian plain as dawn was breaking, Warsaw by breakfast-time. That evening he watched as the train slowed down and passed the red-and-white striped posts marking the Russian frontier.

James saw his first Russian policeman then – a large silent man in dark blue uniform and red-starred cap who checked their papers. Grey-tuniced porters helped the family aboard the Moscow Express, a magnificent relic from pre-Revolution days. Once more the Bonds had their own compartment – this time with rose-pink shaded lamp and Victorian brass fittings. In the restaurant car, as foreign visitors with roubles, they ate even better than the night before – it was here, incidentally, that Bond formed a life-long love of caviare. All this made the arrival next day at Moscow something of a shock.

The British engineers and their families were quartered in Perlovska, a small village 20 miles from Moscow. While the Russians put up the best they had available for their foreign guests, the spoiled Monique absolutely couldn't handle a place with no shopping district or nightlife and grew worse as the winter set in.


Ten-year-old James Bond was getting an impression of Soviet Russia that has never really changed. Deep down he still believes this is a land of starving peasants, cowed citizens and an all-powerful secret police. These conclusions must have seemed dramatically confirmed by the events he witnessed in the early months of 1932.

Historians are still arguing the causes of the so-called Metro-Vickers trial of that year, when several of the leading British engineers on the power-station project were put on trial in Moscow, charged with sabotage.

This was a show trial in 1933, in which 6 of the Metro-Vickers engineers were suddenly arrested and accused of sabotage and espionage. Stalin was paranoid about counter-revolutionaries and made a speech claiming that they had infiltrated the burgeoning Soviet economy, and it's suspected that the OGPU went nuts "uncovering" various plots to try and help Stalin's image by making him correct. In particular, they wanted to make sure that any engineers and technicians connected to the pre-communist regime knew their place and feared that any betrayal would be uncovered.

It started with the Metro-Vickers secretary being literally dragged into a car and roughly interrogated and forced to help with a frame job, then multiple others were arrested and put through long interrogations to break them down into signing false confessions.

At the trial, the Metro-Vickers engineers were accused of being paid to sabotage their equipment and that all of the equipment failures they had suffered were intentional. The trial received massive media coverage worldwide and was roundly criticized for the obvious sham that it was. Ultimately 4 were convicted and deported (while their "crimes" could have resulted in imprisonment or execution, it's believed the Soviets wanted to avoid causing too much damage to international relations by suddenly grabbing British engineers and shooting them for alleged crimes to help Stalin look strong).


For the Bond family, huddled in their freezing house in Perlovska, it was all hideously real. Andrew Bond's friend, the minister Tardovsky, had already been arrested. Rumours were everywhere. Then the six British engineers – the Bonds knew them personally – were carried off to the fearful Lubyanka prison, by the secret police. It seemed a miracle that Andrew was not among them.

Throughout the desperate weeks of the trial that followed, James Bond was to become one of the few Westerners to have lived through a Russian purge at first hand. (Those who condemn him for his anti-Communism should remember this.) He has not forgotten the scared families, the hopelessness of waiting, the cold dread of the next move of the police.

Andrew Bond became one of the main points of contact between the Kremlin, the British embassy, and the prisoners. Despite Monique's rapidly declining mental health, he adamantly refused to leave Russia until the trial was done.


During this period, James Bond had an uncanny glimpse into the future. Several of the accused engineers had been released on bail, and were waiting in the compound of Perlovska for the trial to start. James, along with most of the English nationals, was with them. Suddenly a car drew up, a big, official-looking limousine. Out stepped a tall, impeccably-dressed young Englishman, looking for all the world as if about to enter some St James's club. Sounding distinctly bored, he introduced himself. He was a Reuter's correspondent, sent out from London for the trial. His name was Ian Fleming.

The two things about him that stuck in James Bond's memory were his suit – an outrageous check, the like of which had not been seen before in Moscow, let alone Perlovska – and his unruffled ease of manner. Despite himself, James Bond was most impressed, and there and then changed his mind about being an engineer when he grew up. All these things considered, it seemed a better bet to be a journalist.

While I don't know if Fleming was already wearing his checkered suits at this point (he was only 25), this is true! Fleming really was one of the journalists who was sent to cover the trial, and he even went so far as to try and get an interview with Stalin himself.


Although he had to stay on at Perlovska throughout the trial, James heard all about it from his father. It was from him that he learned of the impassioned speech of Andrei Vishinsky, the vitriolic Russian prosecutor. When the verdicts were announced they amounted to a triumph for Andrew Bond. All but two of the engineers were acquitted. Andrew was congratulated by his company and marked out for promotion. Still more important for the Bonds, their ordeal was over. The Metro-Vickers mission was withdrawn from Russia. The family was coming home at last.

With Andrew appointed to head office, he took a house in Wimbledon, 6 North View, an echoing Victorian monstrosity facing the Common. Here the Bonds settled for the summer. They must have appeared an odd, outlandish family. Andrew was thirty-eight, but looked much older, his big-nosed, craggy face now lined and battered by the last few years. The two boys also must have borne the marks of their ordeal. They, too, looked older than their years and both of them seemed strangely out of place among the well-to-do children of their neighbours. They were oddly dressed. James Bond ascribes his subsequent sartorial conformism to childhood anxieties on this score. He still remembers other children laughing at his lederhosen. He says he also felt distinctly foreign here in Wimbledon. He was not used to hearing English spoken – he and his mother generally conversed in French. As a result, he felt himself painfully unwanted. Although back in England, he was as much of an outsider as ever.

6 North View is a real house in Wimbledon, in a small neighborhood on the outskirts of the town.


But the member of the family who fared worst was undoubtedly Monique. During the long months in Russia she had hung on, because she had to. The boys depended on her. Now that all this was over, she fell to pieces. Her zest for life deserted her. A photograph taken that July gives an idea of what was happening. The face is still beautiful but white and drawn, the thin hair turned prematurely grey, and there is a hunted look about the eyes.

At least Bond's older brother Henry was doing fine! The two boys were sent to King's College School a five minute walk away. While Henry was a star pupil, James was sullen and moody. And then something would happen that would make it all worse.


It started with his mother's nervous breakdown towards the end of that July. She had been acting strangely for some time, complaining that the Russians were pursuing her and that she had seen several of the Soviet secret police from Perlovska watching the house from the common. Then one night she went berserk and tried to stab Natasha, the Bonds' devoted Russian maid. Fortunately, Andrew Bond was at home. The doctor came and Monique was sent off to a sanatorium at Sunningdale. She soon seemed to recover, but the specialist advised a change. At his instigation, Andrew Bond decided that the time had come to forget the past, make peace with the Delacroixs and take his wife home. It must have been a difficult decision for a man of his proud nature.

James Bond remembers how his father saw him and his brother off from King's Cross for their summer holiday in Glencoe. It was an emotional occasion. Andrew Bond assured them that he was taking their mother off to Switzerland and that when she came back she would be cured and happy. He promised that the days of wandering were over. The family would settle down and they would love each other. It was an unusual speech for so reticent a man.

The boys had been at Glencoe nearly three weeks when they came back from a day on the moors to find the house in uproar. Aunt Charmian had suddenly arrived from London. James Bond remembers that his grandfather was in tears. The sight was so unusual that it took some while for him to understand what his aunt was saying. The boys were to get their things together. They were to be calm and sensible. From now on they would both be living with her at her house in Kent. There had been a frightful accident … climbing in Switzerland … their parents had been killed.

While Henry broke down crying, James shocked everyone by how calmly he took it. He seemed to know that when his father left at King's Cross three weeks ago, he wouldn't be coming back.

From what Bond was able to piece together, Monique made it to her family's home and stayed for several weeks after reconciling with her parents. When Andrew came to pick her up, he got into yet another bitter argument with the Delacroixs that turned into a shouting match over who she should continue living with. They got so heated that they didn't even realize that Monique had run out and driven off. Andrew Bond found her car abandoned outside the cafe in Chamonix; the owner said he saw her heading for the mountains.


It was past midday and Monique had more than two hours' start on him. But he remembered the climb up the sheer face of the mountain where he had first caught sight of her so many years before. Monique was making her escape at last.

She must have climbed with desperation. The route she took was one which is normally for well-equipped mountaineers, fully prepared and roped together. Despite this, she had almost gained the shoulder of the mountain when her husband reached her. She was crouched on a ledge too narrow for the mountain goats.

By now there were people watching from the valley. Through their binoculars they could see the pink dress she was wearing outlined against the red mass of the rock. They could see her husband edging close towards her, and, for a while, it seemed as if the chase continued. It was nearly dusk by now. The watchers in the valley saw the two figures on the mountain close together. Evidently Andrew was trying to persuade her to come down. Finally she did; the pink speck started to move back towards him, edging along the sheer face of the rock.

Whether he tried to clutch her, whether she threw herself or slipped no one will ever know. James Bond believes she could not face leaving her husband or returning to him. At any rate, they were together when they fell and what was left of them was buried in the village cemetery below the mountain.

Aunt Charmian was the one who traveled to Switzerland to learn what happened. She convinced the Delacroixs to let her take care of the children and moved them into her cottage in Pett Bottom, near the Duck Inn.


There is something wholly admirable about Aunt Charmian. In the two Bond boys she had found something her life had lacked – a purpose – and this slightly dumpy, gentle woman dedicated herself to them with all the single-mindedness of her family.

Early that autumn, Henry went off to Eton as arranged. There was inevitably strong pressure on Aunt Charmian to send James to a suitable preparatory school, ‘to knock some sense and some behaviour into his young head’, as Gregor Bond put it. She resisted – furiously. As she wrote to both sets of grandparents, ‘If James is sent away again, after all he's been through, we'll have a problem on our hands for the rest of our lives.’ Instead she said that she would keep him with her at Pett Bottom, and promised that she would coach him for the Eton examination. Finally everyone agreed. Aunt Charmian was a persuasive woman.

Certainly it was thanks entirely to her that James Bond passed the Eton entrance examination and went to join his brother Henry there in the autumn term of 1933.

Bond did not do particularly well at Eton, though his behavior is "classic Etonian." Placed in the same house as his successful older brother, James Bond resented being in his shadow and rebelled against the strict structure, the uniforms, and the "fagging" system in which an older boy pays a younger one to do his chores and help him handle anything he doesn't want to himself. His incredible height and strength made him impossible to bully, and he made a few friends who were similar.


Bond's favourite crony was a boy called Brinton, nicknamed ‘Burglar’. He was a year older, embarrassingly handsome, with the cool, mondaine sophistication of the cosmopolitan rich. He and James got on together. During the holidays, James visited his house in Shropshire, and later was invited to his father's place in Paris. Here, with his looks and his command of French, Bond impressed Burglar's father. It was this rich old rake who discovered the boy's natural talent for cards and love of gambling. He backed the two boys when they played bridge for money with his rich Parisian friends. The canasta craze was starting – James Bond cleaned up at that.

Burglar père introduced Bond to his earliest Morlands Specials, and also gave him his first taste of the life of the very rich – something which, in his way, James Bond has been seeking and rejecting ever since. He liked the Brintons' sense of style – the luxurious flat, the drinks, the dress, the servants, and the cars – particularly he liked the cars. Burglar's father was not only rich, he was indulgent, to a fault. As a final treat he lent the boys his big café-au-lait Hispano Suiza and a chauffeur, sending them down to Monte Carlo for a week's holiday in style. In theory the chauffeur drove; in fact the two boys took turns behind the wheel and Bond got his first experience of what has remained an unabated pleasure – driving a powerful fast car across the Continent. He also had his first glimpse of a casino. Burglar's father joined them in Monte Carlo. James Bond won 500 francs at roulette.

After all this, Eton seemed doubly boring. In his second year, James Bond did less work than in his first. He also started to antagonize his house master who saw him as a pernicious influence. Soon it was clear that Bond's days at Eton were becoming numbered. Despite this, he is still irritated by what he considers the poor taste of Ian Fleming's so-called joke about the reason why he was finally asked to leave, the coy reference to ‘some alleged trouble with one of the boys' maids'. Bond says that Fleming knew quite well that the girl was not a housemaid, but Burglar's illegitimate half-sister, a very beautiful half-French girl of seventeen he was in love with. She had been staying with her father at the Dorchester. James Bond, aged fifteen, borrowed £5 and a motor cycle from Burglar, rode up to London, and took the girl out to dinner before riding back to college. It was his brother Henry who reported him. It was exactly the incident the house master had been waiting for.

chitoryu12 fucked around with this message at 23:45 on Apr 21, 2020

High Warlord Zog
Dec 12, 2012

chitoryu12 posted:

I think my favorite would probably be Casino Royale. The action is more contained but it’s a very detailed, grounded book that plays on both Bond and the audience’s expectations about damsels in distress to hide the twist.

Least favorite is obviously Golden Gun. It’s completely unfinished.

If you had to rank the books from best to worst how would you do that?

Apr 23, 2014

High Warlord Zog posted:

If you had to rank the books from best to worst how would you do that?

That would be difficult. Except for Golden Gun, most of them are pretty close in quality to me. I think that (other than the racism) the only part of any of the books I would seriously criticize is the ending of Goldfinger, where it seems like Fleming realized he had ended his book with two love interests dead and one a lesbian and decided to quickly throw in a scene of Pussy Galore falling in love with Bond on the last two pages so he could get a Bond Girl out of it. And then you get books like Dr. No, where his most virulent racism is in a book that also has one of his most memorable villains and a creative obstacle course that leaves Bond more battered and broken than ever before.

If I had to make an order:

Casino Royale
Diamonds Are Forever
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
From Russia With Love
The Spy Who Loved Me
You Only Live Twice
Dr. No
Live and Let Die
The Man with the Golden Gun

Out of the short stories I'd give "The Living Daylights" the top place for being a very grounded Cold War story that lets Bond show his roguish and compassionate sides.

Apr 23, 2014

Chapter 3: Les Sensations Fortes


Bond had been talking all the morning. I was surprised. After the ritual show of reluctance of the night before, I had expected to have trouble getting him to talk – quite the contrary. Indeed he showed all the symptoms of someone who had lacked an audience too long – now that he had one, nothing would stop him. He was clear-cut and businesslike, precise on facts and quite uninhibited about himself. After my unfavourable first impressions, I found myself starting to like him.

It was nearly one o'clock when he finally broke off and suggested we should have a drink down on the terrace. He had his favourite place near the pool, shaded by the succulent green leaves of several banana palms. As we arrived, couples were coming up from the beach for lunch; I was amused at the automatic way his grey eyes followed the plump bottoms of the girls. None of them seemed to take much notice, but I did wonder how they would have reacted had they known the identity of the lean iron-grey-haired man eyeing them so professionally.

The sight of female flesh clearly relaxed James Bond. He smiled to himself, leaned back in the steamer chair where he was sitting and, from his T-shirt pocket, produced a familiar object – the famous gun-metal cigarette-case. He flicked it open, offered it to me.

‘The first today,’ he said. ‘I hope you weren't expecting Morlands Specials. Officially I've given up, but one can't be too strict about these things. These are the latest de-nicotined Virginian. I'd better warn you that they taste revolting.’

I can imagine!


‘Fleming would have a shock,’ I said.

‘After he had me smoking seventy a day? He exaggerated that, you know – as with a lot of other things as well. He was a strange fellow. With the cigarettes I'm sure it was an excuse for his own heavy smoking – he liked to think that there was someone who smoked even more than he did. In fact I never have been more than a two-pack-a-day man, and then only in times of tension.’

‘And drink?’

‘Oh, he got that about right. What did he say I drank – half a bottle of spirits daily? No one can call that excessive. Even Sir James Molony says it would be wrong to cut out alcohol entirely. Perhaps with his authority behind us, we should have something now to quench the thirst.’

‘Shaken not stirred?’

Bond laughed. ‘Precisely.’

I can absolutely call that excessive.


By the telepathy that marks the finest waiters in the very best hotels, Augustus was waiting for our order just as James Bond finished speaking. I was intrigued to see how Bond treated him. In fact he gave the order just as Fleming had described in the precise, clipped voice of the man who knows exactly what he wants and is used to getting it – the vodka iced, the French vermouth specified by name, the single slice of lemon peel. I felt there was a touch of parody in the performance – Bond acting out the part of Bond – but he seemed unaware of this and coolly nodded to Augustus when the drinks arrived. Fleming had been right. This was a man who, as he said, took an almost old-maidish pleasure in attention to the minutiae of life.

As he drank, I had a chance to observe him carefully. He was, if anything, taller and slightly thinner than I had expected; the arms below the short sleeves sinewy rather than muscular. His denim trousers were unpressed, his hair was worn a little on the long side. What would one have thought of him from first impressions? A colonial administrator here on convalescent leave? An aging playboy between marriages? Only the face might make one wonder – that bronzed Scottish face whose hardness seemed so out of place among these lush surroundings.

‘You takin’ lunch today, Commander?’ asked Augustus.

The Commander nodded.

‘Customary table?’

Bond grunted his assent. I checked an urge to smile.

‘You must excuse me,’ said James Bond. ‘I am a creature of routine. A dangerous thing in my profession, but I feel here it does no harm.’

So does Augustus know who this is?


The customary table proved to be the best in the hotel – set well back from the pool and shaded by a great hibiscus, busy with humming birds. Clearly the birds delighted Bond, taking up most of his attention so that it was harder to get him to continue with the story of his life. Once more he did the ordering – ‘I always have the lobster done with coconut and lime juice, and avocado salad; then perhaps some guavas and blue mountain coffee. Suit you? The usual, twice, Augustus.’ When the food came, he ate with relish.

I asked him about getting thrown out of Eton. How did Aunt Charmian react?

‘Oh, she was wonderful, although I know that she was bitterly upset. You see, the dear old thing had this firm idea that I was infected with what she used to call “the curse of the Bonds”, and that her task in life was to save me from it. When I got into Eton she thought that I would be a gentleman at last. Now that I was leaving under a cloud she really thought that I was going to the dogs.’

‘Wasn't she angry?’

‘No. That was the marvellous thing about her. She never blamed me. She blamed herself. Made me feel dreadful. There was quite a rumpus in the family about me. My mother's people seemed to think that I should go to Switzerland and live with them. The family in Glencoe seemed in favour of sending me to prison. As a compromise I was finally packed off to my father's old school, Fettes. I rather liked it after Eton, stayed there until sixteen, then got fed up with it. Decided it was time to move on. Got to Geneva University. And that was where the trouble really started.’

Bond had kept up communication with the Delacroixs after his parents' death. They had been encouraging him to come to Switzerland, so as a compromise Bond agreed to study in Geneva on their dime.


Surprisingly, he liked Geneva. One says “surprisingly” because the prim, staid city is hardly the background one associates with Bond. And yet as soon as he arrived he felt at home here. Part of the explanation may be that he was half Swiss, and part that he was suddenly experiencing freedom here for the first time in his life. But there was something else about Geneva that appealed to him, and he agreed with Ian Fleming on the subject. For both of them it had, what Fleming called, a ‘Simenon-like quality – the quality that makes a thriller-writer want to take a tin-opener and find out what goes on behind the façade, behind the great families who keep the banner of Calvin flying behind the lace curtains in their fortresses in the Rue des Granges, the secrets behind the bronze grilles of the great Swiss banking corporations, the hidden turmoil behind the beautiful bland face of the country’.

This then was Switzerland for Bond, and he was fascinated by it. He had two rooms with a respectable Swiss lady over a sweet-shop off the Quai Gustave Ador. In theory, the good lady was supposed to keep a strict eye on him both for the university and the family. In fact, James Bond soon used the charm on her that worked infallibly with elderly ladies of all nationalities; within a month he had Frau Nisberg round his little finger. For the first time in his life he found himself free to do
exactly as he wanted.

Bond was very self-sufficient in Geneva, requiring nobody but the girls he flirted with. He worked enough to satisfy the university, studying psychology and law. He also took up skiing, which appealed to his risk-taking nature. One day, a boastful young instructor made fun of him one too many times and told Bond that he should head to the Aiguilli du Midi and see how long he lasts with that form.


‘Fine,’ said James Bond, ‘we'll try.’

The instructor said this was impossible. Chamonix was two hours' drive from Geneva, and he was only joking. James Bond replied that he never joked. Early next morning the two of them set off. By the time they had reached the top of the ski lift, the instructor was begging Bond to come to his senses. He apologized for seeming to make fun of him. He would make any restitution that he pleased. But he must realize that if he attempted the Aiguilli he would quite certainly be killed. Bond made no reply except to ask him if he wanted to go first or second. The instructor, thinking that Bond would need help, said he would follow him.

‘Please yourself,’ said Bond as he checked his skis.

The beginning of the Aiguilli is spectacular. There is a straight drop of more than a mile between the narrow shoulders of the mountain; from there the ski-run passes between rocks and clumps of pine then plunges down into the valley. The hazard comes from the sheer speed of the descent – after that first drop the skiers are hurtling on at speeds approaching sixty miles an hour. To keep control at such a speed is a supreme test of nerve and skill.


Bond put on his goggles and, without looking back, thrust himself off. To this day he is not sure how he survived. Some instinct from generations of mountaineers must have helped preserve him – also his strength and his beginner's luck. For the hair-raising first mile of the descent he thought that he had gone. He had no control – nothing except the will to stay alive. But then he realized that he was winning. His mind was very clear. The closeness of death was sharpening his reactions; for the first time he was enjoying the one drug to which he would always be addicted – danger.

The remainder of the run was an experience of pure exhilaration which he has never forgotten. At the bottom of the slope he didn't wait for the instructor, and never spoke to him again – nor did he ever go back to the beginners' class.

But this piece of bravado was important for James Bond. Once he had tasted such excitement he needed more. From that moment on, life became a pursuit of such extremes. It was around this time that he met a Russian student called Gregoriev – a drunken, violent youth with a black beard. He was an anarchist, and Bond enjoyed hearing him rail against society, morality and all the forces of their so-called civilization. Something deep down in Bond agreed with him and they often drank together late into the night. It was during one of these drunken sessions that Gregoriev introduced James Bond to Russian roulette. He produced a rusty .32 Smith and Weston, put in a single bullet, spun the chamber, put it against his forehead and pulled the trigger.

As one casually does among friends, I guess.


Bond asked him why he did it. Gregoriev's reply was to provide James Bond with something of a motto in the months ahead.

‘Ah,’ said Gregoriev, ‘mais j'adore les sensations fortes.’

As a gambler, Bond could appreciate the logic of Gregoriev but he loved life too much to follow him. When the Russian offered him the gun he refused it. He had other ways by now of finding les sensations fortes.

One was through skiing. Now that he had conquered the Aiguilli, nothing could hold him back, and he soon gained a reputation as the wildest skier in the university. When he was writing of the events described in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Fleming was impressed to discover that Bond had been down the Cresta run in a bobsleigh about this time. Bond also mountaineered under the most hazardous conditions. It was all a way of proving himself and of enjoying les sensations fortes. For Bond insists that he took these risks out of sheer joy of life, and was indignant when a psychiatrist suggested that he was suffering from an acute death wish. Fleming understood him here. In Dr. No he writes of Bond's ‘usual blind faith that he would win the duel’. Bond says that this faith has never quite deserted him.

Fleming did not understand, however, all of Bond's motivations. When Fleming described Bond thinking of how he once climbed the Aiguilles Rouge, he had no idea it was the site of his parents' deaths and that Bond climbed it as a way of seeking closure.


During his first months at Geneva, Bond had been developing his appetite for life. He was voracious. The same greed which had made him a glutton as a small boy was now directed outwards, and he was hungry for experience. One of his girl-friends was to compare him with the character of Nora in Ibsen's The Doll's House – always waiting for something umnderbar to happen. But that first Easter in Geneva, it must have seemed as if this ‘something umnderbar’ had finally arrived.

It was the beginning of April. Term was over, but James Bond was in no hurry to leave Geneva. He enjoyed the rackety routine of life with old Frau Nisberg; he enjoyed the silence of his room with its views across the lake; he enjoyed Frau Nisberg's cooking. He had told Aunt Charmian that he would be back with her for Easter, but the thought of England secretly depressed him – that grey weather, that appalling food and all those boring dreary people. Even the thought of dear Aunt Charmian failed to reconcile him to England. He would recognize the anxiety behind her smile. She would be worrying what he was up to. And brother Henry would be there. He would much rather not see brother Henry. So James Bond decided to stay in Geneva just a few days longer.

The next day, Burglar showed up in his dad's Hispano-Suiza. While he had little contact with the Brinton family since coming to Geneva, he was on his way to Paris with Burglar within half an hour to seek new adventure.


It was a memorable day with the great car sweeping towards Paris through the early spring. They stopped at Mâcon where they lunched off Poulards comme chez soi at the Auberge Bressane. Burglar insisted on champagne. When they drove on to Paris, he promised Bond that they would have a night to remember. Bond, slightly drunk, agreed. And so occurred that evening which Fleming has described as ‘one of the most memorable of his life’.

On Burglar's father's account, the got started at Harry's Bar and moved on to Fouquet's for dinner. The next challenge was to find women.


At this time the most notorious, if not quite the most fashionable, brothel in Paris, was the Elysée on the Place Vendôme. Le Chabanaif was wilder, Le Fourcy enjoyed a reputation still for the blowsy splendours of la belle époque. The Elysée was different. The superb eighteenth-century house was run like a London club, complete with doorman in full livery, smoking-room with hide armchairs and library smelling of cigar smoke where it was strictly forbidden to talk. The one unusual feature of the place was the presence of a lot of pretty girls with nothing on.

Although distinctly drunk by now, Bond seems to have treated the whole situation with the self-assurance one would hope for – Burglar likewise. The Brinton name secured them entry. According to Fleming, Bond was still a virgin. Bond, in the interests of strict accuracy, insists that technically this was not quite true. But he agrees that this was the first time that he enjoyed the real pleasure that would loom so large in all his subsequent adventures.

‘Until then I hadn't really known what it was there for.’

The girl's name was Alys. She was from Martinique – short, slightly plump, demure and adept in the arts of love. She giggled at him (thus revealing dimples and small perfect teeth), praised his looks, admired his virility, and, in a 500-franc room on the second floor, gave him the courage to accomplish creditably what, by its nature, was still unfamiliar. As an afterthought she stole his pocket book. It contained 1,000 francs, a passport and photographs of his parents. Bond noticed his loss just as he was leaving.

This turned out to be a mistake, as the Elysée was a classy institution. Bond, drunk and angry, promptly knocked out the doorman and began shouting for the manager. And she arrived.


Although forgotten now, Marthe de Brandt was famous in her day. The daughter of a judge and a famous courtesan, she was something more than the successful harlot she became. She was beautiful, abandoned and ambitious. She was also undoubtedly intelligent and well-educated. By twenty she was rich, by twenty-five, notorious. Thanks to the generosity of de Combray, the armaments king, she attained sufficient capital to open her own establishment. Thanks to her own attractions, she made the place something exceptional in the pleasure-life of Paris. It was her idea to call it the Elysée after the presidential palace. It was also her idea to base the décor on a London club. Within a few months of opening, it had become an unofficial centre for the political élite of France.

Like many of her kind, Marthe de Brandt was something of a spy. It was not hard for her to gather information from her guests and it was mere common sense to sell it to the highest bidder. At the time that James Bond met her she was already in her late twenties and a little past her prime – small, very blonde, with a determined mouth and periwinkle eyes. She was very rich. As far as one can be precise about such things, she worked mainly for the Eastern powers.

For some unknown reason, Marthe de Brandt took an immediate liking to the 16-year-old Bond. She was unusually apologetic, slapping and firing Alys and reprimanding the doorman once he had woken up. Bond and Burglar went to bed for the night and woke up to Bond being delivered his belongings, 10,000 francs, and a note inviting him to dinner.


The remainder of that Easter holiday is something Bond won't talk about. His friends, the Brintons, saw little of him. Nor did Aunt Charmian. Marthe had a small flat in the tiny Place Furstenburg off the Rue Jacob. For the next few months this became his home.

He obsessed her as no man had done before. She obsessed him as no woman would again. His studies suffered – so did her business. Neither of them seemed to notice. The amour fou between Marthe de Brandt and her young Englishman became the talk of Paris.

It was a Chérie-like affaire. She indulged and spoiled him. He appeared to be her creature. During that Paris spring-time they went everywhere together – to see the horses run at Longchamp (where he was bored), to watch the twenty-four-hour race at Le Mans (where he wanted to drive) and to the latest show at Le Boeuf sur le Toit (where, for the first time in her life, she felt jealous). They drank a lot, fought a lot and loved a lot. She had his suits made by a famous tailor in the Rue de Rivoli, arranged him boxing lessons with Charpentier. When they felt bored, they drove down to Antibes where she had a wistaria-covered villa hidden among the pines. She bought him the famous Bentley with the Villiers supercharger. (Fleming got the details of the purchase slightly wrong – also, of course, the date, one of a number of inaccuracies which have caused Bond subsequent embarrassment.)

This was included by Pearson as the explanation for why Fleming listed Bond as acquiring a Bentley "almost new" when he should have been a teenager.


Despite their difference of age, they seemed to have appeared a well-matched couple; she was so small and fair and doll-like, he so tall and mature for his age. For these few months they led a charmed existence, almost oblivious of others. Aunt Charmian wrote anxious letters until old Gregor Bond told her he would get over it. Burglar's father tried to warn him of a woman like de Brandt. One night, as they were dining in the crowded Restaurant des Beaux Arts, they heard a drunk American call out, ‘Here is the lovely Marthe and her English poodle.’ It was a well-known brawler called Sailor Hendrix. Bond hit him very hard between the eyes, then pushed his head into his onion soup.

Another time he thought that she had been unfaithful with a former lover, a distinguished figure on the Paris Bourse. The following night she invited the man to their apartment and made him watch as she and Bond made love.

I cannot emphasize enough that Bond is 16 here.


In fact there was only one man in the whole of Paris who could come between them. James Bond met him early that summer. His name was Maddox. He was a curious, dry, bespectacled man of totally indeterminate age, tough as a prewar army boot, and very rich. Bond met him through the Brintons. He appeared a typical wealthy foreigner, a collector of paintings and of pretty women, gourmet and wit and friend of many politicians. Officially, he was military attaché at the British Embassy. Unofficially, he ran the British Secret Service inside France. As an old lover of Marthe de Brandt, he had observed Bond's success with interest. A methodical man, he had checked on him as matter of routine. Then he decided he should get to know him better. But Maddox was a cold fish. Having met James Bond he did what he often did with people he thought might prove useful – he pigeon-holed him carefully away, but kept his tabs on him.

Maddox was always proud of his ability to use unlikely people for his work. A good judge of character, he used to claim that he had rarely been let down. He used to talk about his ‘cellar’ of potential agents. ‘Let them mature,’ he'd say, ‘wait until they're ready to be drunk.’ For James Bond this moment came quicker than Maddox had expected.

At the beginning of 1937 the British Secret Service faced a sudden crisis. For the past year the energies of the British government had been directed to cementing ties with France and with outmanoeuvring the extreme right wing which was pro-German, anti-British and which later formed the main support for Pierre Laval and Vichy France. The British had been having considerable success. As the German menace grew, there had been discreet cooperation between the French and British High Commands, who were unofficially exchanging plans and information. This was all very secret, but in January reports reached London that this information was known in Berlin. Rumours were picked up in Paris and soon published in the right-wing press. Official French Government denials followed.

At this point in history, Italy had invaded Ethiopia and the Spanish Civil War was raging. Germany was secretly remilitarizing and unexpectedly sent troops into the Rhineland region in March 1936 (which was off-limits to the German military under the Treaty of Versailles). Unwilling to risk a war, Britain and France decided to let it slide despite being a treaty violation. Hitler became convinced of his infallibility and the German people felt strong again after the economic crisis that had led to the Nazi party seizing power. With no challenges to German remilitarization, the balance of power had shifted and Hitler was confident that he could begin making territorial claims that eventually led to his attempt to conquer Europe.


Two days later came the bombshell. A Berlin newspaper published photographs of French High Command documents together with comments by the British General Staff. They were repudiated by the French, but in Paris the right wing was in full cry. The President was said to be distressed, and behind the scenes the whole policy of military cooperation between France and Britain now seemed threatened. Maddox had frantic messages from London. However the leak of documents had happened, it must be found and blocked. Immediately. Maddox had several suspects. One of the major ones was Marthe de Brandt. Von Schutz, the German military attaché, was an habitué of the Elysée. Marthe had done business with him in the past. Maddox was informed that she was the source this time. She needed money for her fancy boy. He half suspected her already. Even so, normally he would have checked more thoroughly. There was no time with London clamouring for action. That same evening Maddox had dinner with James Bond.

Maddox wrote later that he found him quite insufferable – arrogant, ill-educated and drinking far too much. (How much simple jealousy was motivating Maddox is anybody's guess.) But Maddox found no difficulty breaking down the arrogance. He probably enjoyed doing it. He seems to have played upon Bond's anxiety for a purpose in his life. He claimed to have known his father. He got him talking and then asked him if this life was really what he wanted – acting the kept man to a notorious tart.

Normally Bond would have hit him as he once hit Sailor Hendrix, but Maddox had handled situations of this sort before. Besides, he wasn't drunk. Bond was. Maddox asked him why he stayed with a woman who was flagrantly unfaithful to him. Bond asked him what he meant. And, in reply, Maddox produced photographs of Marthe de Brandt with a variety of men. They were not the sort of pictures that one enjoys seeing of the woman one loves. Bond was too shocked to realize that they had all been taken at least two years earlier.

One of these men was Von Schutz. Playing on Bond's patriotism, Maddox manipulated Bond into believing that Marthe de Brandt had betrayed Britain and would directly cause tens of thousands of deaths should war break out.


Bond was silent.

‘What do I have to do?’ asked Bond.

‘I am afraid she has to die,’ said Maddox. ‘The only question that remains is how to do it. I don't want you involved or hurt, but I must know that I can count on your discretion – if not exactly your cooperation.’

‘How soon must this happen?’

‘As soon as possible.’

There was a long silence then. Maddox puffed softly at a large cigar. Finally James Bond said, ‘I'll do it – personally. I don't want anyone else to touch her.’

‘I hardly thought you would,’ said Maddox.

Now this is a change that I don't like. Remember that Bond is 16 years old when this is happening. He's a moody boy who's getting involved in stuff way over his head, sure, but murder? Of his lover? That isn't the Bond we know. That's frankly a shocking level of sociopathy, and I can't believe Pearson would put that in.


The next day was a Saturday. The day after was to be Marthe de Brandt's thirtieth birthday. She dreaded being thirty. To make her happy, Bond had arranged a long weekend with her and some old friends at a small hotel beside the Seine where they had often enjoyed each other in the past. The place was called Les Andelys. It has a famous castle built by Richard the Lionheart and Monet painted here along the river.

Bond felt curiously cold and self-possessed, and, from the moment that he woke, he treated Marthe de Brandt with exceptional affection. He had spent all his money on a ring for her – an amethyst and diamond which she loved – and put red roses on her breakfast tray. They made love, and Marthe de Brandt seemed happy at the idea of their weekend in the country. All the way down in the Bentley she chattered gaily. Bond thought that she had never been more beautiful.

If you know a teenager who's willing to just murder their girlfriend because they get told she'll be executed as a spy, run.


Just after midday they reached the long road from Les Thilliers. The Seine was on their left, its waters shining through the leafless poplars. The road was empty. On the far hill stood the ruin of the Norman fort. The Bentley sang at something over eighty.

‘Darling,’ said Marthe de Brandt, ‘I do hate being thirty. It's so old. I can't bear being old.’

‘You never will be,’ said James Bond. He jammed his foot down to the floor-boards as the bend approached. The great car lifted, kicked like a jumping horse against the verge, then somersaulted slowly into the lilac-tinted river.

Dec 24, 2007

That’s a direction I wasn’t expecting.

Apr 23, 2014

Midjack posted:

That’s a direction I wasn’t expecting.

Neither was she!

High Warlord Zog
Dec 12, 2012

The problem with the whole such and such pulp hero is real and this is their true biography genre is that the writers can't resist pulping up the parts of their life not covered in the original texts whereas the conceit works better when they keep the new between adventures material grounded

Apr 23, 2014

Chapter 4: Luminous Reader


When Bond had finished telling me his story he fell silent. At first I thought that he was deeply moved: then I realized that he was simply watching the two humming-birds that were still flickering like small blue lights against the coral flowers of the hibiscus. By now the sun was at its height and they were the only things that moved. The empty pool was bright-blue plastic, sea and terrace had become some over-coloured photo on a travel brochure. Bond sipped his coffee. His grey eyes still followed the two birds intently It was impossible to tell what he was thinking.

‘Strange business,’ he said finally. ‘Still, it taught me a lesson I've remembered ever since. Never let a woman rule you – total disaster if you do.’

....that's the lesson you took from that?!


‘A pretty drastic lesson.’

‘Yes,’ he said, smiling faintly. ‘Yes, it was.’

‘What happened?’

‘To the car? Oh, it was salvaged. Cost quite a bit, but it was finally all right.’

‘And you?’

‘I was salvaged too. Went through the windscreen. That's what did this.’ He touched the long scar down his cheek. ‘Fleming was always trying to find out how I got it. Now you know. I was quite knocked around in other ways – several bones broken, mild concussion, but one floats, you know. One floats. I was picked up by one of those big Seine barges.’

‘And the woman?’

‘Oh, she had had it. Very swift death. She was still in the car when they pulled it out. Her neck was broken. The ironic thing about it all was that Maddox told me later it was a mistake. It hadn't been her at all. The real spy had been some wretched fellow in the British Embassy. They caught him a few days later.’

‘Weren't you horrified?’

‘Of course. But there was no use blaming Maddox. It was terrible for him, and he had done his duty. Besides, I owed an awful lot to him. He cleared up the mess, settled the French police, somehow avoided having me involved in the inquiry. God knows how he did it. These things are very difficult in France. It was through Maddox that I got my real start within the Service.’

What the gently caress? You got manipulated as a teenager into murdering your lover, found out that it was all a lie, and this was somehow your impetus to join that organization? gently caress no! This is a Bond who should have become a German spy instead!


I tried getting Bond to continue with the next stage of his story, but he seemed reluctant. He had been talking for a long time. Clearly he needed his siesta, but, before he went, he promised to see me that evening over dinner. Then he would continue with his debut with the British Secret Service, the famous affair Fleming mentions of the Roumanians at Monte Carlo.

Before going down to dinner, I rang his room. There was no answer. Nor was there any sign of Bond that evening. I asked Augustus if he had seen the Commander.

‘No, sir. The Commander ain't dining in tonight.’

‘You sure?’

‘Quite sure, sir. He left the hotel with his lady. Somehow I don't think the Commander will be back tonight.’

Nor was he back the morning after. I spent the morning lying in the sun and swimming. There seemed no need to worry about Bond. It would have been strange had he not had a woman with him, but I wondered who she was. I also wondered how long she was keeping him.

My second question was soon answered. Punctual as ever, Bond appeared for lunch, dressed as the day before – same T-shirt, same old espadrilles, same uncreased denim trousers. There was, alas, no sign of any lady. Nor did he offer an excuse or explanation for the night before.

Bond continues on with his biography. Maddox was an old spy who claimed W. Somerset Maugham based one of the characters in his Ashenden collection after him. He had Bond sent to a nursing home to recover from the assassination he just put a 16-year-old on, hiring a plastic surgeon to try and reduce the scar on his face; he wanted Bond to continue working for the Service and didn't want him to have a distinctive facial feature.


The evening James Bond left the nursing home, Maddox took him out to dinner – at the fashionable Orée de la Forêt. The food was somehow typical of Maddox –fonds d'artichauts au foie gras, tournedos aux morilles, a bottle of Dom Perignon – and over the brandy and cigars, Maddox outlined his proposition. He did it with great charm and skill. James Bond has never forgotten the small, frog-like man with the bald head and bright black eyes who gave him his first introduction to the life he was to follow. It was a Faust-like situation with Maddox playing Mephistopheles. Bond had little chance against the future that fate had in store for him.

Maddox began by breaking the news of Marthe de Brandt's innocence. Bond was deeply shocked.

Maddox did nothing to lessen the boy's sense of guilt. Instead, he cleverly exploited it. Such things, he said, did happen. Bond should forget the whole affair.

Bitterly Bond asked how he could possibly forget? He had killed the woman he loved, for something she had never done. How could he go on living with such a load of guilt?

Maddox was sympathetic then. If Bond really felt like that, there was something he could do – something dangerous, something which could save countless lives. Here was a chance for Bond to expiate his hideous mistake.

‘War is coming. It is a matter now of months not years; and there are certain ways in which you can help your country. You possess qualities which we can use. At times the life will seem glamorous and exciting, but I must warn you that your chances of ever seeing a comfortable old age are slim.’

There was no real decision to be made. James Bond agreed to work for the British Secret Service as Maddox knew he would.

So Maddox is the real villain of this piece. He saw an opportunity to exploit a teenage boy and push him down the path to being used as a tool for espionage and murder by his government.


At this period Maddox was still dealing with the mess left by the stolen documents affair. Officially the incident was closed. Behind the scenes it was regarded as a considerable loss of face for the British; in the undercover world of secret agents such things matter.

The Germans were exultant – the French mistrustful. Somehow the British needed to regain their credibility – with their own agents, with their allies, and, most of all, with the enemy.

Maddox was an aggressive man. In time of crisis his instinct was to attack. The early part of 1938 saw him mounting several swift operations aimed at restoring the prestige and confidence of his network. As a small part of this, James Bond was to perform his first assignment or as he calls it now, ‘my apprentice piece’.

It was an unlikely business for the British Secret Service to become involved in. Maddox would normally have steered well clear of it. But these were not normal times, and when Maddox heard of the chaos being caused at Monte Carlo by the Roumanians, he smelled his opportunity.

In the long history of the great casino there have been just a few notoriously successful players – Taylor, the professional gambler from Wyoming who had his succès fou back in the high days of the 1890s, Fernande, the little Belgian, and the extraordinary Charles Wells, the original ‘man who broke the bank of Monte Carlo’. (In fact he did this six times before his luck ran out.) Such men were considered good for the casino. They were showmen who encouraged other gamblers, raised the stakes and brought Monte Carlo valuable publicity. The Roumanians were different. From their appearance at the beginning of the previous season, they had spelt bad news for the casino.

I'm not sure who Taylor or Fernande are. The best suggestion I can find for who "Taylor" could be is Buck Taylor, the "King of the Cowboys." He was a legitimate cowboy who Buffalo Bill Cody cast in his famous wild west shows as General Custer, who ended up with dime novels about his fictional exploits by Prentiss Ingraham. I can't find any other famous person who was involved in at least spurious gambling by that name in the 1890s.


They were a syndicate of four, headed by a man called Vlacek. No one had heard of them before, but in the season which had just ended they had played steadily and won remorselessly. Nobody knew quite how they did it.

Naturally there had been endless speculation over the systems they were using, but as the four Roumanians lived in seclusion in a walled villa down the road at Juan les Pins, they kept their secrets to themselves. The casino had automatically investigated them – supervised their play, checked their credentials, attempted every known test against cheating – without result. The Roumanians, whatever else they were, were clean. And night after night, like dark automata, they had continued their inexorable game. Against all known odds they had continued steadily to win. Nobody seemed to know how much, but, according to Maddox's informant inside the casino, they had milked the tables of something over £12 million during the last season.

For the casino all this was far more serious than most outsiders realized. In the first place, most of this money ultimately came from the bank – the casino paid. And in the second, these invulnerable Roumanians had begun to scare off the big-time gamblers. The entry every night of this inscrutable quartet into the grande salle, had a depressing influence on play.

Seeing as casinos are famously places of intrigue among the high-roller clientele, Maddox decided it would be helpful to get the company running the casino in his debt by helping them with their card shark problem. As a gambler himself, he felt that the card table was the best place to see someone's strengths and weaknesses. James Bond has sharp instincts and a drive to win, so why not let him try?

Bond was put up in the Carlton Hotel where a battery of medical, language, and firearms experts were brought in to study him. He quickly cottoned on that he was essentially on probation for the British Secret Service.


Maddox explained all this over dinner in the grill room. He also said that he would be saying goodbye to Bond for a month or two. Now that he had started him on his career he must return to Paris where he had work to do. But quite soon now, Bond would be meeting his instructor. Bond was becoming slightly bored with the whole air of mystery.

‘Why the delay?’ he asked.

‘Because it's taking just a little while to get him out of prison,’ Maddox replied.


‘Yes, Wormwood Scrubs. A splendid fellow called Esposito – Steffi Esposito. American, I'm afraid. And, as you'd imagine with a name like that, he's a professional card-sharp. Scotland Yard tell me he's the best in Britain.’

‘He must be if he's in Wormwood Scrubs.’

‘That's not the point,’ said Maddox. ‘He's going to teach you everything he knows. Work hard. You've a lot to learn.’

Bond tried to find out more, but Maddox's wrinkled monkey-face was now impassive. All that he would tell Bond was to take his work seriously.

‘They're letting this Esposito off a nine-month rap in your honour.’

Esposito was a plump, gray-haired man who reminded Bond of the Eton chaplain.


‘I am informed, sir, that I must teach you all I know.’ Esposito sounded much put out by this. His voice had traces of New York and Budapest. ‘I tried to tell the fools that it would be impossible, and probably not in anybody's interests, but the police have never understood my sort of work. Your Mr Maddox seemed a cut above the rest of them. He and I agreed upon a basic course for you on the manipulation of the pack. May I see your hands?’ He felt Bond's fingers, tested the suppleness of the joints, and sighed impatiently.

‘You will have to work. You, my friend, possess the hands of a karate expert. Instead you need the touch of a virtuoso with the violin. Perhaps we should begin with the bread-and-butter business of our art. We call it the Riffle Stack, a straightforward matter of shuffling the cards to produce a desired pattern for the dealer. When – and I use the word ‘when’ advisedly – when we have mastered that we can move on to more artistic things, until we can deal our aces, kings and any card at will. The aim, dear Mr Bond, is to make those fifty-two cards in the pack our devoted servants.’

Esposito, for all his talk, was an iron teacher; for the next week, ten hours a day, he kept Bond practising the Riffle Stack. Bond used to dream of cards at night, but after ten days of this gruelling work, Esposito let drop his first hint of encouragement.

‘You are learning, Mr Bond. Slowly, but you are learning. The fingers are becoming suppler. Within a year or two you might even make a living from the cards.’


But this was not the purpose of the course, and now that Bond was beginning to achieve the basic skills of the card-sharp, Esposito started to introduce him to the main tricks on the repertoire – how aces could be slightly waxed so that the pack broke at them, how cards could be marked on the back with faint razor cuts, and how the whole pack could be minutely trimmed to leave just the faintest belly on a few key cards.

Finally Bond graduated to the gadgetry of the profession – ‘Shiners’, small mirrors fixed into rings or jewellery, devices that would feed cards from underneath the sleeve, electric gadgets that could signal an opponent's hand.

Bond worked for two whole months in that flat off Baker Street. Apart from Esposito he met no one and heard not a word from Maddox. Despite this he had an uncomfortable feeling of being watched; on the third day of each month £100 would be deposited into his bank account. Then at the end of August, Esposito relaxed. He announced that they would soon be leaving London.

‘Time for a little field-work, my friend.’

During lunch at the Hotel Windsor in Dieppe, Esposito regales Bond with tales of his gambling adventures. While he's made enough money to be a millionaire many times over, his only interest is in gambling as a thrill. Maddox had the idea of letting Bond go out and try his hand at card sharking to see if his training is paying off. Since Esposito is already known in Dieppe, he takes Bond somewhere with a small casino: Royale-les-Eaux.


Bond liked the little town immediately. It had a certain style about it, an air of well-fed tolerance. It was not pretentious, but seemed the sort of place where comfortable French families had come for generations for their holidays. There were fat plane trees in the square, an ornate town-hall, several tempting-looking restaurants. There was also a casino, almost a Monte Carlo in miniature. Bond's heart sank when he saw it. Silently he cursed Esposito.

Esposito was in his element. They booked in at the Splendide. They dined together (although for once Bond wasn't feeling hungry). And then they strolled to the casino. Bond could not help but be impressed now by Esposito. As he followed him into the salle des jeux he was reminded of a great musician walking towards the podium. The room was crowded, and for a while Esposito and Bond surveyed the table. The play was high. Royale-les-Eaux was currently attracting an exclusive clientele and suddenly Bond felt an excitement he had never known before. He had known the thrill of gambling for high stakes with the Brintons. This was different. He was experiencing the forbidden pleasure of the card-sharp ready to pit his skill against the table.

After that evening Bond could understand the thrill of beating the system. He and Esposito were playing baccarat. The stakes were high – a group of businessmen from Paris were pushing up the odds and for a while Esposito played along with them. So did Bond. They played cautiously and unobtrusively. After half an hour Esposito was down and Bond about even.

Bond kept his eyes upon Esposito. When card-sharps work in pairs, one is invariably the leader; during those weeks in Baker Street, Bond had learned to follow Esposito minutely. There were certain signs by which Esposito could signal advance details of his play. Suddenly the way he held his cards told Bond that he was about to force the pace.

Esposito subtly signals to Bond that the banker is standing on a 5, while Bond has a 9 and an 8 (a 7 in baccarat terms, if you've forgotten how to play in the last 2 years). He's unsure about whether to trust him, but he does. He stands and the banker puts down a 9 and a 6.


There was that faint murmur from the players – part envy, part excitement – as the croupier pushed Esposito's ten red plaques across the table. Bond felt a twinge of regret as his white ones followed. The play continued, but his opportunity was over. Esposito made no more signals, nor did he gamble heavily again. Half an hour later he rose, tipped the croupier, nodded towards the banker, and departed. Five minutes later James Bond followed him. Bond found him in the bar. Esposito was laughing.

‘Well, my friend, and how does it feel to win illicitly?’

Bond replied sharply that he disapproved of it. Esposito still laughed.

‘Quite, quite, your attitude does you great credit. It was most necessary though. Your Mr Maddox was insistent. What was it he said – something about needing to have poached to be a game-keeper? I don't understand these English phrases.’

Back in Paris, Maddox outlines Bond's assignment over dinner. He's being sent to the casino in Monte Carlo to find out how the Roumanians are winning and beat them at their own game. He'll be undercover as Pieter Zwart, the son of a South African millionaire, staying at the Hotel de Paris. His contact is a young agent named Mathis from the Deuxieme Bureau. He's to use no violence and draw no attention to himself, and he'll be on his own with virtually unlimited funds.


‘But if there is no secret?’ Bond asked anxiously.

‘Then you must make up one. I want those four Roumanians back in Bucharest within a fortnight.’



At Monte Carlo, Bond was in his element. The character of the wild young Pieter Zwart appealed to him. He hired himself a car – an electric-blue Bugatti. He had silk shirts and pink champagne sent up to his room. Above all, he was thrilled to be back in France and in such circumstances. He never gave the memory of Marthe de Brandt more than a passing thought.

His first evening he dressed carefully, dined well, then strolled for a while along the Grande Corniche. The evening was beautiful. Down in the harbour there were moored the yachts of the very rich. The lights of Cap Ferrat winked from the headland. Back in the rococo palace of the casino, the chandeliers were lit, the halls were filling, and the early gamblers placing their first bets. It was all totally unreal, but something about its unreality appealed to Bond. He was developing a marked distaste for the realities of life. He was nearly seventeen, but looked a handsome twenty-five. Behind the cold mask of his face, he felt even older. When Marthe de Brandt died, something had died in him. All that he wanted now was action and the sort of life that Maddox offered.

He was glad too that he was on his own. Already this was how he liked to work and he was grateful to Maddox for understanding this. Esposito had stayed behind in Paris, but it was understood that if Bond needed him he would come at once.

Bond is quite fortunate this is the age before you got asked for your ID.


Bond took his place in the grande salle early, anxious to secure a good seat and to have a chance of seeing who was there. The great room was crowded and Bond played the usual game of trying to pick the genuinely wealthy from the would-be rich. Esposito had told him there was something in the eyes. Bond believed him, but was still not certain what it was. He wondered what his own eyes gave away.

He did his best to play the part of the extravagant young gambler, buying some half million francs worth of chips from the caisse and wagering them wildly. He was successful here. By midnight, when the Roumanians were expected, he had already squandered over £500 at baccarat, and was beginning to attract attention. This was what he wanted.

Almost on the stroke of midnight the Roumanians appeared. Bond watched them carefully. All were short, swarthy men wearing tight-fitting dark suits like uniforms. They were unsmiling and formidable, entering the room like a troupe of well-trained acrobats. They stood out from the other players by the certainty and calm which made them curiously forbidding. Now that he had seen them, Bond could understand the anxieties of the casino. These men would take a lot of stopping.

Bond looked across at Vlacek. The only way that one could pick him out was by his enormous head. It was completely bald and tanned the colour of brown paper. His features were inscrutable for, like his three colleagues, he wore large dark glasses.

Vlacek sits at the table and is essentially a computer in a tuxedo, winning every single hand without a change in expression. Bond loses 500,000 francs to him in a heartbeat.


Bond did his best to bear his losses as he imagined any well brought-up millionaire’s son would. He shrugged, grinned, tipped the croupier and nodded towards Vlacek, who made no sign of having noticed him. But as he got up from the table a girl brushed his arm. She was tall, beautiful and very blonde. Bond apologized to her. She smiled; he noticed she was very young.

But as young as 17?


‘Sorry you had such bad luck tonight,’ she said.

Bond thanked her.

‘You'll have to try again tomorrow. Your luck is bound to turn.’

‘Do you guarantee it?’ said Bond.

‘Certainly,’ she said, and smiled again, a very special smile which Bond remembered.

‘Will you be here?’ he asked.

‘I'm always here,’ she said.

Bond would have offered her a drink for she appealed to him. He had not had a woman now since Marthe de Brandt. Until tonight the idea would have shocked him but in his present mood it seemed permissible. He was not James Bond now – he was Pieter Zwart, a rich South African, and he had just lost 500,000 francs. Something told him it would not be difficult to get the girl to bed.

Before he can engage in any questionable behavior brought on by multiple traumas, Bond has to meet the casino manager, De Lesseps. The case seems hopeless; everyone from the croupiers to the lavatory attendants has been checked and there's not a single sign of any foul play. The Romanians are taking more and more of the casino's money.


He sat down weakly behind the largest buhl desk Bond had ever seen, and, for a moment, seemed on the point of tears. Bond felt embarrassed and a little helpless. Neither were emotions he enjoyed. He was relieved when someone knocked at the door.

Bond recognized the broad-shouldered man who entered as one of the uniformed attendants from the grande salle. He looked intelligent, with a lively Gallic face. De Lesseps introduced him as Mathis from the official French Deuxime Bureau. Ever since Maddox had mentioned that their French opposite number was working on the case, he had been looking out for him.

Mathis was perfectly polite but Bond felt an air of condescension in the Frenchman's attitude. Like De Lesseps, Mathis seemed to have checked everything and hinted that the affair was now so serious that ‘other means’ might have to be employed against the Roumanians. Bond knew enough about the French to understand what these ‘other means’ might be. Just as Bond was leaving, Mathis asked him how he had got to know Vlacek's mistress. Bond asked him what he meant.

‘That tall blonde girl you talked to when you left the table. She's always there with him. Surely you knew?’

Bond was surprised – and put out by the Frenchman's knowingness. He remarked that Vlacek had appeared totally sexless. De Lesseps laughed.

‘Sexless? A Roumanian? Our inquiries show that all four of them avoid tobacco and alcohol, but consume women in large quantities. They seem to think that sex helps clear the brain.’

‘Perhaps it does,’ said Bond.

With how Bond's judgement is, I think "totally cleared out of brain from sex" is a viable diagnosis.


Although it was nearly four by the big yellow clock on the casino before Bond got to bed, he was up early. The sun was shining, there was a splendid day ahead, and he had plans for using it. Now that he had finally met Mathis he was on his mettle. He liked the spur of competition – there would be a very private pleasure in showing that Frenchman how to settle an assignment.

First he ordered breakfast. This was his favourite meal of the day. During his time with Marthe de Brandt he had discovered how a successful breakfast sets the pattern for the day. In her French bourgeoise way, she had taught him to pay attention to such minor details of life, and he gave precise instructions to the room-service waiter – double fresh-squeezed orange juice, strong black double-roast coffee, whole-wheat toast and two boiled eggs. Clearly the habits that so fascinated Fleming were formed early, for Bond even gave the time the eggs were to boil – three minutes, twenty seconds. As Fleming noted, Bond really did believe there was such a thing as a perfect boiled egg.

Bond phones Esposito and tells him about the assignment. As soon as he mentions Vlacek's sunglasses, he immediately identifies the trick: the "Luminous Reader".


During the next few days, James Bond played the part of spendthrift Pieter Zwart with gusto, driving the blue Bugatti wildly, eating splendidly, gambling recklessly. He made a point of losing three or four thousand pounds a night, yet always having a quick smile for everyone in the casino – including Mathis, who was convinced by now that he was mad. He also made a point of always chatting to Vlacek's mistress. Although so beautiful, she struck him as a shade pathetic. She was English and her name was Pamela. He recognized the type and wondered how she had become involved with the Roumanian. Did she love him? He would find out, but first he had to speak to Maddox. He was soon dealt with. There was a predictable explosion when Bond rang to say that he had got through £15,000 in four days, but Bond could cope with this side of Maddox. He knew how he admired extravagance, and confidently promised him that by the weekend the Roumanians would all be back in Bucharest. In return Maddox gave him three more days' unlimited credit.

The girl was even easier. She was scared of being seen with him during the day, but otherwise appeared delighted to be driven in a Bugatti by a young millionaire. Bond took her to Menton, where he gave her lunch at a discreet restaurant owned by an Italian. Later, in the pine woods, he discovered that she did not love Vlacek. When they were dressed again she told Bond how she had got into his clutches – gambling debts at the casino; Vlacek had paid but still held her receipts; she had had no alternative. There were hints of the Roumanian's gross depravity. Bond listened sympathetically. They made love again, had drinks together at the Eden Roc, and Bond assured her that he would settle her debts with the casino – on one condition.

"You never tell anyone that I'm underage."


The next day was a Friday. He had two days left. Reluctantly, he decided that to keep his promise now to Maddox he needed Mathis's help. At first the Frenchman was distinctly sceptical of Bond and treated him with much the same courteous disdain that he had shown before. He also made it plain that his own plans for dealing with the Roumanians ‘in the only way that's left’ were well advanced.

‘Rather than that,’ said Bond, ‘let us at least try out a little hunch of mine.’

Mathis asked what this would involve.

‘Simply to find the finest optician in the South of France.’

Mathis was efficient. He thought that this ridiculously rich young Englishman was mad – but in the end he got him what he wanted. Alphonse Duverger was from Cannes. A shrunken, stick-like man with a blue beret he was the senior oculist from the main opticians in the city. Fortunately the firm also had a branch in Juan les Pins. It was there that Bond and Mathis met him early that afternoon. Bond explained what was at stake and what he needed. It would mean a long night's wait and then a period of frantic work. Alphonse Duverger asked certain questions. When Bond had answered them he smiled, exposing over-white false teeth and promised he would do his best.

That Friday night, the routine continues.


It was to be a night of waiting. It was gone four when the casino had begun to empty and the Roumanians had won enough. Bond was sitting in a hired Peugeot opposite the main entrance when they came out. Mathis had joined him, and they saw the Roumanians troop out, solemn as four constipated undertakers. The girl was with them. A big limousine purred up with darkened windows. They got in and drove away.

I was not going to include this passage, but "solemn as four constipated undertakers" is a line that deserves to be read.


There was no hurry. It would take the Roumanians twenty minutes to reach their villa. According to the girl, Vlacek was a leisurely lover. It would be an hour at least before he was asleep. So Bond and Mathis made sure that the Roumanians were well ahead before they set off for the villa. They drove slowly, then took up position near the small tradesman's door at the rear. Several lights were on. One by one they were extinguished. At ten past five the back door opened. Keeping to the shadows Bond walked across. The girl was waiting. Neither of them spoke as she handed something to him and then closed the door.

Then the rush started. It took the Peugeot three minutes flat to reach the opticians in the Rue Maréchal Leclerc. The lights were on and, still in his blue beret, Alphonse Duverger was waiting. Bond handed him a pair of heavy dark spectacles.

‘The lenses must be indistinguishable,’ he said.

The blue beret nodded.

Bond has the glasses back at Vlacek's villa before sunrise. That Saturday night, De Lesseps has made it a gala night to try and attract bigger name gamblers. It's a veritable parade of expensive cars and fireworks as a ball occurs up at the Prince's Palace.


The casino was crowded, with the rich elbowing the would-be-rich for places at roulette; in the grande salle the croupiers were performing miracles of speed as they kept the cards and the counters on the move. There was excitement in the air, that unique excitement of high gambling in a great casino where fortunes and human lives are desperately at risk. The heavy money seemed to be originating from a group of South Americans – sallow men with diamond-covered wives. Bond wondered how they would react to the Roumanians when midnight came.

But the Roumanians were late. For the first time since Bond had been there, there was no sign of them at 12.15. Had the girl been seen? Had Vlacek's suspicions been aroused by some difference in his spectacles? Suddenly Bond realized that if he had failed, it was the end of his career. Maddox would somehow manage to explain away the money he had spent to Whitehall. But there could be no explanation for himself. In his business failure was the only sin against the Holy Ghost.

Then suddenly the Roumanians had come. The usual rigmarole began. Vlacek took his customary place. There was a hush. The dealing started. Bond watched him carefully. Vlacek picked up his cards and, for the first time, Bond saw him falter. Instead of that mechanical inhuman play, Vlacek was pausing. And, for the first time since Bond had watched him, Vlacek lost.

Vlacek begins to panic as he loses hand after hand unexpectedly. He suddenly rips off his glasses and stands up, staring at Bond, but Mathis puts him back in his chair.


‘Sit, monsieur,’ he said, ‘the game goes on.’

Then Bond produced his own dark glasses. Duverger had made them up for him with Vlacek's original lenses. Bond put them on. The cards were shuffled from the shoe and Bond could finally see the trick which had come so near to ruining the casino. On the back of every card were clear luminous signs – dots for numbers, crosses for kings, circles for queens, and so on. This was the famous ‘Luminous Reader’ – with these extraordinary dark glasses, Bond could tell everybody's hand, even the banker’s. He could see now how the Roumanians had always won.

For the next half hour James Bond played – the game of a lifetime. Mathis kept Vlacek at the table and James Bond destroyed him. He had some £50,000 in chips before him. Bond took it all, and only then did Mathis let Vlacek rise.

Bond, Mathis, and a whole team of casino security bring the Romanians up to De Lesseps' office. Mathis wants to make the case public, but De Lesseps wants to keep any potential negative publicity to a minimum. Instead, the Romanians agree to return most of their winnings and sign an agreement never to enter a casino again.


So they agreed, and Bond saw them walk down the grand staircase and across the foyer for the last time. It was a moment not without its pathos. The big limousine was waiting.

Bond went to send Esposito a cable – ‘Luminous reader triumphant.’ And as he came back from the desk to have a drink with Mathis, a tall, blonde girl brushed against his arm. The drink had to wait.

Apr 23, 2014

I managed to get myself some Kourtaki retsina wine, albeit not in time for Colonel Sun. The brand isn't mentioned but Kourtaki became popular in the 1960s, so this may have been the exact same wine Amis had in mind!

This stuff is weird. It tastes sort of like pine wood mixed with seawater, with a slight sweetness.

chitoryu12 fucked around with this message at 20:42 on Apr 23, 2020

Nov 3, 2008

Not as strong as you'd expect.

Roald Dahl described retsina thus in 'Going Solo':

"The Greeks have a trick of disguising a poor quality wine by adding pine resin to it, the idea being that the taste of the resin is less appalling than the taste of the wine."

I'm no drinker, so I don't know the truth or false, but the description stayed with me.

Apr 23, 2014

Chapter 5: Eve of War Games


Bond seemed to have enjoyed telling the story of the luminous reader. There was no mistaking the nostalgia with which he talked about those far-off days.

Does that include the part where he was manipulated into murdering his lover, or...


‘So,’ he concluded, ‘I like to think that I'm the man who saved the Bank of Monte Carlo.’

‘But was it really useful to the British Secret Service? Did it work the way that Maddox planned?’

Bond laughed good-humouredly.

‘Well, yes and no. The undercover world was very different then. There was a lot of make-believe and some extraordinary characters. When I look back it seems a sort of game – but I did take it all extremely seriously. We all did. Maddox especially. He enjoyed planning an affair like that and got a great kick from its success. The night after the Roumanians left, he arrived in Monte Carlo. Of course he was in his element. De Lesseps gave us dinner – and what a dinner. Mathis was there, and most of the directors of the Société des Bains de Mer. I took Vlacek's girl. Maddox had some actress with him. It was an incredible affair. And in a way old Maddox was quite right.

‘The defeat of the Roumanians really was a great boost to the morale of the whole Service. It happened at a time when we needed a success. It certainly did win us friends inside the casino – after this, nothing was too much trouble for them where we were concerned – and it did a lot for our good name with the French Deuxième Bureau. Over the years, Mathis has been a good friend, you know. I'm not so sure though that it was good for me to start off with a success like this. In some ways I think that I've been paying the price for it ever since.’

It was unlike Bond to indulge in this sort of introspection. Self-doubt was not a failing that he suffered from. On the other hand, I longed to know how self-aware he really was – how consciously he analysed himself.

Actually, we've seen in the books that Bond has historically had quite a bit of self-doubt! He just gets thrust into situations where there's no way out but forward and he presses on, expecting his competence in violence and sheer luck to help him through.


‘What price?’ I asked.

Bond glanced up quickly, and then shrugged his shoulders.

‘I'm not sure myself. I suppose that you could say the price of never being quite like ordinary people.’

‘You'd like to be?’

‘Of course. I realize it now, but it's too late. I'm what I am. I know myself quite well enough to know I'll never change. I need this life – I'm hooked on it. Why else d'you think that I'm so anxious for that damned call back to London? But sometimes I'd give anything not to have to worry. And in a way, you know, I blame it all on Maddox that I do.’

‘Why Maddox in particular? Surely your whole life had been setting you apart from other people? You were a born outsider from the start?’

‘Touché,’ said Bond. ‘Of course I was. I was a very mixed-up adolescent. Whatever happened, life could not have been that easy for me, given my background and what happened. The point was, Maddox saw all this. He understood. In his own quiet way he was a very wicked bastard. He indulged me, gave me exactly what I wanted, and made me what I am. It's only now I realize how much he was enjoying it.’

I would say he was very loudly, obviously a wicked bastard.


Bond grinned, revealing strong, faintly discoloured teeth. We had stayed too long at the table. The last of the coffee had gone cold, the waiters had already laid the other tables for the evening meal.

‘Time we moved,’ he said. ‘I tell you what. Why don't we have a tour of the island? There's a car here, belonging to a friend. While we're driving I can try and tell you just what happened. Then perhaps you'll understand.’

The car turned out to be a white Rolls Royce Corniche. It had been parked in a lock-up garage under the hotel. As Bond drove it out I saw that the whole rear offside wing was buckled and an expensive gash ran the whole length of the body.

The poor Rolls that Bond has destroyed was the latest two-door luxury car by Rolls-Royce, debuting in 1971....except not really, because it was actually the two-door version of the more famous Silver Shadow rebadged as a different model.


On the front seat there was a woman's pink towelling beach coat, also a pair of gilt-and-diamante framed sunglasses.

‘Shove them in the back,’ said Bond.

He drove with a relaxed control which somehow matched the car, but seemed to have a faint contempt for it.

‘Pity the way the Rolls Royce has become like any other car – just one more status symbol now for rich Americans.’

‘You don't like it?’

‘Everything about it's soft, ridiculously luxurious. This isn't what a car should be. The last real car that Rolls produced was the 1953 Silver Wraith. One of those with Mulliner coach-work, and you have something.’

It was somehow typical of Bond to be complaining about luxury whilst still enjoying it.

Well good news Bond: the Corniche does use coachwork from Mulliner Park Ward! Despite Bond's love for the classic Silver Wraith curves, the Corniche is actually technologically superior in every way and has a top speed over 20 MPH greater. The only thing the Silver Wraith will win is legroom for the passengers.


I asked him about his favourite cars. The old Bentley was the best. The essence of a car is that it should be part of you, an expression of your character. He explained that for him a motor-car was as personal a possession as his wrist-watch or the clothes he wore. It needed to be absolutely perfect.

We had taken Black Hole Lane – the ocean was bright blue, the island very gentle, like an Isle of Wight gone tropical. There was a pleasing quality about it, something not completely real. The same with Bond – the island suited him. He insisted on stopping at the old fort of St Catherines, and for a while talked knowledgeably about the pirates and the privateers. Bond looked out to sea, and spoke of the ruin of the fauna, and the island.

‘I can remember the same thing with Europe. It's hard you know, not to feel nostalgic for that bad old world. For one thing it had such variety. And, for another, one could still enjoy oneself – if one had money and a little freedom. I had both.’

At the age of 17, Bond had already become a full-fledged MI6 agent. He attracted both envy and mockery from the other agents for his youth, good looks, and competence in showing them up. For his cover, Maddox had him return to the University of Geneva in 1938 to continue his studies.


He also seemed much more sophisticated, dressing so elegantly now, smoking his foreign cigarettes that made the whole house smell like a bordello. He had his great grey battleship of a motor-car which Herr Nisberg garaged for him behind the shop. He used to drive off in it for days, sometimes for weeks on end. Frau Nisberg was certain that the young Herr Bond had got himself a rich, demanding woman. Frau Nisberg knew the signs. She would hear his telephone ringing in the night and in the morning his room was always empty. He would never leave a note or any hint when he was coming back. She used to tidy up a bit while he was away – he was even more untidy than she remembered – and when he reappeared he was often in a dreadful state – unshaven, hollow-eyed for lack of sleep. ‘Women,’ Frau Nisberg thought, ‘keeping the young Herr Bond away from his studies.’

But young Herr Bond was learning – things which would have turned Frau Nisberg's iron-grey Swiss hair snow-white had she suspected them. On one occasion Herr Nisberg did notice three neat holes in the offside door of the Bentley and wondered. On another, young Herr Bond had been confined to bed after an absence of some weeks. There had been bloodstains on his clothes and instead of old Herr Doktor Neuberg there had been some funny foreign doctor she had never seen before. As she told Herr Bond, he must really be more careful.

Frau Nisberg is not very observant.


But Bond was careful; it was how he survived. One of the highest words of praise in Maddox's vocabulary was ‘professional’, meaning a man who knew his job. Bond liked to think that he was rapidly becoming a true professional.

For several months after the Roumanian job, he had been employed on what was known as ‘bread-and-butter work’ – the essential, down-to-earth, prosaic work of the European secret agent, working for Maddox as a carrier or as a contact man. This involved long, often hazardous, trips across Europe. There were certain routes he got to know – passing through Strasbourg into Germany, or through the Simplon into Italy or taking the unsuspected paths between the customs' posts to enter Spain across the Pyrenees. He would use different covers, sometimes an English student travelling to learn the language for the Foreign Office examination. His favourite cover was to be the self he hankered after – a rich young Englishman on holiday, driving the Bentley, preferably with some, glamorous young thing beside him.

It was a vital training, for, as Maddox told him, it taught him Europe – not the Europe of the tourist, but the undercover Europe of the spies, conspirators and double agents. He learned how to cope with the police – when to bribe and when to bluff and when to bluster. He discovered how to employ disguise (the unobvious detail was the secret here – change just the few key features people recognize). And he found out the hard way how to guard himself, rapidly developing a sixth sense for the face, the gesture that proclaimed danger.

Bond actually finds the spy life ideal for him. It reminds him of all his adventures with his friends as a child in different countries, and gives him les sensations fortes that he's almost addicted to finding.


It was in Berlin that James Bond first killed a man. It was a bizarre affair. Bond says that ‘it gave me the creeps for quite a while.’ He is fortunate that this was all it did.

Specifically a man. He has already killed a woman. At 16.


The assignment was a routine affair which Bond had already carried out before. During these early months of 1938, British Intelligence was fostering connections with a small resistance group in Germany – a dedicated band of anti-Nazis with plans for the assassination of various top Nazi leaders. It was an offshoot of this group which brought about the so-called Stauffenberg plot against the Fuehrer in 1944. But even in 1938 the conspirators were busy. British money was helping finance them and in return top-secret information was being sent to Britain. Much of this two-way traffic was controlled from Station P, and inevitably Bond's fluent German fitted him to play the part of courier. He used to travel to Berlin and always stayed at the Hotel Adlon. This was a hotel Bond disliked intensely. It was the epitome of a Germany he had hated almost as long as he remembered – heavy and stuffy and authoritarian. And in those days it was cram-full of party members and their fat supporters. It was Maddox's idea that Bond should stay there, on the grounds that he was less likely to attract attention under the very noses of the Nazis. Bond was not sure that he agreed. He had had one uncomfortable moment there already when the Gestapo carried out a sudden check on the whole hotel because Goering was guest of honour at a banquet. Bond escaped having his luggage searched by sheer effrontery and arrogance. He could be very German when he had to and calmly informed the Gestapo sergeant that he would be searched only with the official order of his friend, Reichsführer Himmler. The sergeant blustered. Bond coldly ordered him to get him the Reichsführer on the telephone, banking on the fact that no mere sergeant would risk bothering the head of the Gestapo at a time like this.

Bond was lucky. Had the sergeant carried out his search and found the false bottom in Bond's suitcase, there would have been some awkward questions to be answered.

Bond's way of making contact was a well-tried one and all but foolproof. On his way out for dinner he would leave the key with the concierge at the Adlon, tipping him well, and explaining that a young lady would probably be calling for him. In prewar Berlin, this was an accepted way of meeting one's mistress, and there was never any trouble. What could be more in character than for a good-looking rich young foreigner like the Herr Bond to wish to have a woman for the night? When he returned from dinner he would find his contact waiting for him in his bed.

So Bond would meet his contact, a pretty blonde, and they would play up the roll of wealthy young Nazi and high-class call girl for the benefit of any microphones placed in their room while exchanging documents. They would have champagne and laugh and, well, they were already there so....


It was in May of 1938 that Bond made his fourth and final trip to the Adlon. He had come via Munich – all the way he was thinking of the girl. Against all the rules he had brought a present for her – a mammoth bottle of Guerlain's L'Heure Bleu. Its nostalgic fragrance seemed to suit her. He left it in his room, and, as usual, tipped the concierge and went out for dinner. He returned earlier than usual, eager to see the girl.

L'Heure Bleu hasn't even changed the bottle since the 1930s, but the scent at the time was much darker and muskier than the modern formulation.


To this day, Bond is not sure what put him on his guard. It was probably a subtle difference in the smell inside the room as he opened the door. Only the rose-silk covered bedside lamp was on; the girl was lying with her back to him, apparently asleep, her honey-coloured hair spilling across the pillow. Bond called to her. She stirred, but she still seemed half asleep, and made no reply. The light was dim, her face was hidden in the shadows. Bond undressed, and as he slipped in beside her, she rolled towards him. Then suddenly, she lashed out, and for the first time, Bond saw her face. In one nightmare moment he realized the truth. This was not his mistress – but a man.

As much as I wanted to put an Austin Powers clip here, a similar concept was used in the pre-title sequence of Thunderball. Bond is sent to the funeral of SPECTRE agent Colonel Jacques Bouvar, who is in fact in disguise as his own widow at his funeral. This ends with him making a famous escape on a Bell Rocket Belt, an actual working 1960s jetpack.


It was a gruesome fight, for the Nazis were evidently taking no chances. The man they had put to wait for Bond was a trained killer. But once he was over his surprise, Bond found he had the advantage as he hurled himself against him.

There was a blonde wig. This came off as Bond grabbed at it, revealing a close-cropped scalp beneath. The face was cruel – and looked depraved with its layer of thick, woman's make-up. But as they fought, Bond could feel steel-hard muscles under the silk of the expensive night-dress. For a while they grappled silently. Bond reached the throat and began to press. The man groaned softly. Bond eased his grip, and at that moment the man heaved himself sideways and threw Bond across the bed. Bond smashed against the dressing-table and the man was on him. He had the advantage now and knew how to use it. Bond felt a staggering blow to his throat and as he heaved with the pain, the man had got a scissors grip around his neck. Bond reached out with his one free arm – an instinctive movement of survival. His consciousness was going and he wanted anything to strike his enemy. His hand found something on the dressing-table. He grabbed at it, then brought it up with all his force against the man's unprotected throat. Something smashed then and the man screamed. Bond was aware of wetness on his arm and the sweet scent of carnations. The man relaxed his grip. Bond struck again. The scream choked to a gurgle. As Bond staggered forward he could see the weapon he was holding – the jagged top of his bottle of L'Heure Bleu. The blood and scent were mingled on the floor.

Bond maintained his usual keen mind under danger. He heard no sound outside; the Germans must have kept clear to avoid rousing his suspicions on his way up. He put the wig back on the body and put it in the bed, tidied up, changed, and left out the window.


Not all of Bond's assignments were as violent as this. The majority were quite straightforward and went off without a hitch. And just occasionally Bond would make a mistake – like the time he was in Istanbul.

If you thought Bond was incompetent on his assignments under Fleming, have I got a tale for you!


The Istanbul affair began as a routine assignment – so routine that Bond now admits that he did not take quite the care with preparations that he might have. It came a few weeks after the Adlon business, and he was frankly looking forward to the trip as a holiday to help forget that hideous affair. There had been some trouble with the Turkish network. Normally the few British agents around Istanbul were run and paid from Station N in Cyprus, but a courier had been arrested by the Turks, and as something of an emergency measure it was arranged for funds to be transmitted through Station P. Maddox gave Bond the task of taking them. Fortunately Bond still enjoyed long rail journeys. Packing a lightweight suit and an early novel by Eric Ambler he travelled overnight from Paris on the Simplon-Orient. Sewn into the lining of his jacket was a bearer draft for £20,000 on the Etibank of Turkey.

Bond loved the train. He remembered the trip he took to Russia with his mother aboard the Moscow Express and savoured every moment of the journey. He enjoyed the food, the service and the constant change of scenery as the train roared and clanked its way through Eastern Europe. This was true Ambler territory; Bond was excited at the thought of what might happen. Nothing did. There were no breakdowns, no disasters, no mysterious strangers. Even the customs men gave Bond no more than the most perfunctory of nods before chalking his suitcase and bidding him goodnight. Barely an hour late the train steamed in to the grey Sirkeci Station. Bond alighted and took a taxi – a battered Chrysler, one of the very few in Istanbul. It was nearly dark and Istanbul, that sleazy relic of Byzantium, appeared the most romantic city in the world. The moon was rising over the great mosque of Suleiman, the Bosphorus was shimmering with light.

Bond is staying at the Pera Palas for one night before meeting his contact, Azom, whom he can identify through a photograph. Bond has to put the bearer bond in a black suitcase that will be identical to Azom's. They'll meet on the Bosphorus Ferry and make a simple briefcase switch.


The ferries across the Bosphorus are frequent, shuttling all day between Europe and Asia and linking the two halves of Istanbul. So Bond had to take great care in choosing one that left just before 3.30. Punctual as usual, he was early, but after some waiting boarded a ferry that left at 3.28 precisely. Under his arm he had the battered briefcase with £20,000 inside.

At first Bond thought he would never find Azom. Although it was nearly May, the Black Sea wind was cold and clouds were blanketing the Golden Horn. The boat seemed almost empty. Then Bond realized that most of the passengers were inside. There was a tea lounge and a place for passengers to sit. Azom was there.

He was exactly like the photographs – the same short hair and powerful moustache. Bond put his age at forty-five or so. He looked a shrewd, tough character. Bond decided that he was glad that he and Azom both worked on the same side. Azom was drinking tea – sweet tea with lemon, Russian-style. Bond loathes tea, but, for once, decided he should take a glass. Tea in one hand, briefcase in the other, he sat down beside Azom. Azom smiled. Bond nodded and suddenly regretted that he spoke no Turkish. Instead he sipped his tea. It was disgusting.



Bond found no difficulty switching the two briefcases. Azom's was identical with his, and at the far shore Bond picked it up, bowed to the smiling Turk and joined the jostling disembarking crowd. He then caught the next ferry back.

Bond had to hurry. He had a sleeper reservation in his name aboard the Simplon-Orient Express to Paris. It left at five. He just had time to pay his bill at the hotel, grab his luggage and reach the station with two minutes in hand. He felt quite satisfied with himself; it wasn't often that an assignment went so painlessly, and he felt better for the trip. He smoked a Turkish cigarette and ordered a glass of raki from the attendant – a poisonous form of alcohol, but he was feeling at peace with Turkey and enjoyed it. He read more Ambler, dined, and was just turning in, when something made him think of Azom's briefcase. By now the train was rattling through the Bulgarian night at sixty miles an hour. The briefcase was sitting on the luggage rack; Bond took it down and opened it.

Inside there was a sandwich, a Turkish paperback, some bills and an identity card. Bond examined it. The photograph was certainly exactly like the pictures of Azom he had seen in Paris; but, as he now realized, Azom possessed a very typical Turkish face. The card was made out in the name of Yusuf Rhazid. Azom must have missed the ferry. Bond had swapped cases with a total stranger.

Absolutely incredible.


For the remainder of the journey, Bond wondered what on earth to do. Should he go back to Istanbul and try finding Azom and Herr Yusuf Rhazid? It was too late for that. Should he tell Maddox? What could Maddox do? After a sleepless night, he decided to await events: events, for once, were on his side. In Paris, Maddox was in the best of spirits and praised him for a successful mission. Early next morning, Bond drove the Bentley back to Geneva. During the drive he was mentally preparing his explanations for when the inevitable complaints arrived from Turkey. They never did. Station N reassumed control of the Turkish network. Maddox was thanked for his assistance, and Bond decided to let sleeping Turks lie. Just the same he often wondered what did become of the £20,000 he had given to the stranger with the moustache aboard the Bosphorus Ferry. Eighteen years later he found out.

During the events of From Russia With Love, Bond joined his friend, Nazim Kalkavan, for dinner at a proper Turkish restaurant owned by his friend. It's a beautiful place on the water. That friend? Yusuf Rhazid.


The face had hardly changed. There was the same cropped hair, the same magnificent moustache that Bond had last seen eighteen years before on the Bosphorus Ferry. For a moment the sharp currant eyes caught Bond's – then, unmistakably, Herr Rhazid winked.

‘Nazim Pasha,’ he said quietly, ‘Mr Bond and I have met – a long time ago – but we were never introduced. I have a lot to thank him for and now I must thank you for bringing him. Tonight you will be my guests. And Mr Bond, I hope that you will come again whenever you are in Istanbul.’

The dinner was one of the most memorable of Bond's entire career – he describes it as a ‘banquet’. It began with caviare and vodka – Turkish government monopoly vodka – and heavy-grained grey caviare which, as Kalkavan explained, had come from Samsun on the Black Sea. This was followed by a Turkish speciality – Lufer fish, which exists only in the Bosphorus. The main dish consisted of small chickens, roasted whole and stuffed with Pilav (rice cooked with pine-nuts, raisins and diced chicken livers). And afterwards there were Turkish dishes with names that amused Bond so much that he can still remember them. One was called ‘Vizir's finger’, and the other ‘lady's navel’.

Rhazid refused to produce a bill. This annoyed Kalkavan who tried to insist on paying, but as Bond said to him, ‘I think the British government has already settled it.’

"Vizier's Fingers" are made by shaping semolina dough into fingers flavored with rosewater, almond, and lemon. "Lady's Navel" is a cream-filled fried pastry.


Throughout the long splendid European summer of 1938, Bond was busy. Apart from a snatched few days in Kent visiting Aunt Charmian, he had no real holiday.

He found his few days at Pett Bottom disturbing. The house was quite unchanged – so was his aunt. She was still growing dahlias, apparently untouched by time. But Bond felt he had aged a hundred years since last he slept in the little room beneath the eaves. His aunt was as gentle and uncritical as ever. She asked no questions but he knew her well enough to tell what she was thinking. Who was this hard young man? Were all those fears she had for him becoming true? He would have liked to reassure her but she was too intelligent for that. He left her, promising to come back quickly, but both knew that he wouldn't.

And yet the past still followed him. Within a few days he was sent to Russia; it was like a return to those hateful months at Perlovska during the Russian Terror. It was a routine trip – by rail through Negoreloye to make contact with a man in Moscow. There was no real danger this time. Bond was officially a King's Messenger, travelling on a diplomatic passport and covered by the British Embassy. But when he passed the final station on the Polish frontier he felt that strange oppression he had known in Russia as a boy. It never lifted for the whole time he was there, and, for the first time since childhood, Bond was afraid.

Bond has been sent to contact a Soviet biochemist who has expressed a desire to move to Cambridge and work there instead.


keen to have him. Bond had to tell him so and see what could be done. Leninskie Gory was the new Moscow of the Russian Revolution – monstrous and unrelieved and grey with its cliff-like blocks of workers' flats. Fedyeov, the scientist, lived on the eighth floor of one of these. He was a small man with a three-day growth of stubble and bright scared eyes. Bond recognized the air of hopelessness within the flat. Fedyeov had given up. Bond was reminded of a bird with a broken wing he had once tried to nurse – Fedyeov had the same uncomplaining stillness. The man's eyes seemed to know exactly what was coming.

Bond was touched by his courtesy. His wife, a motherly plump woman, brought tea. Bond drank it dutifully and gave him his message. There was something quite pathetic about how the man received it. Tears filled his eyes, he stammered out his thanks, but said that it was quite impossible – the government would never let him leave. In that case, Bond replied, there might be other ways to get him safely to the West. Bond had never seen such terror as appeared on Fedyeov's face. He begged Bond to say no more. He was being watched – nothing was possible. He thanked him, but good-day.

I think we can all guess where this is going.


Bond had not expected much success – even so he was disappointed. He spent a somewhat melancholy evening with an official from the Embassy, and since he was due to leave next day, went to bed early. He was staying in the annexe to the Embassy. This suited him. He didn't care for diplomats, but the Embassy had two advantages – he was saved trouble with the Russian state police and he was guaranteed a decent breakfast. While he was eating it the Head of Chancery came in. He was a plump, tweedy man in his middle thirties, who chatted for a while about life in Moscow.

‘Nasty business about that scientist of theirs,’ he said.

‘What scientist?’ said Bond.

‘Haven't you heard? A man called Fedyeov – terribly distinguished. News came through from Pravda early this morning. Supposed to have thrown himself out of an eighth-floor window – typical of these bloody Russians. They're all mad, the lot of them.’

Bond was no longer very hungry.

‘When did it happen?’

‘Early last night.’

‘D'you think it was really suicide?’ Bond asked.

The diplomat shrugged his shoulders. ‘You never know in this God-awful country. It seems a dreadful bloody waste whatever happened.’

Of course, this brings back memories of his parents. Everyone around him seems doomed.


He hoped that with his return to Paris all would be well. It wasn't. Something was hideously wrong. He couldn't sleep and when he did there was a recurrence of those nightmares which had troubled him after his parents' death. He drank. He went on sleeping pills. Neither did much good. And, as always in the past, Bond had no way of telling anybody what was wrong. Luckily Maddox noticed.

Maddox was sympathetic. Bond had been working much too hard. He needed fresh air, exercise, a holiday. He suggested Kitzbühel. And so began that curious series of coincidences through which Bond renewed his brief acquaintance with Ian Fleming. Without that trip to Kitzbühel, there would have been no James Bond books; nor, for that matter, would I have heard that Bond existed. For, of course, it was at Kitzbühel that James Bond met Maria Künzler.

In 1938, Kitzbühel was still a sleepy little Tyrolean market town beneath the jagged mass of the great Kitzbüheler Horn. For years now it had been a favourite haunt of Fleming's who had been coming here since the 1920s. He was there late that autumn when Bond arrived at the Hirzingerhof Hotel. It was inevitable that they should meet in that closed circle of rich winter visitors. Most of them in those days were Austrian. Englishmen – and particularly good-looking Englishmen – were a rarity. It was also inevitable that they should clash. Fleming was something of a prima donna with a considerable following of adoring maidens. Bond, despite the difference in their age, was competition. They were both tough, both Scottish, both powerful characters. But whereas Bond was somewhat dour, Fleming was an inveterate deflater of other people's egos. He was a mocking, highly cynical Old Etonian. James Bond, another Old Etonian, was quite capable of taking care of himself against such opposition. In their different ways, both of them seem to have enjoyed it.

According to Andrew Lycett's biography and others, this is a completely accurate description of Fleming.


Certainly for Bond the presence of Fleming was a godsend. As he admits he ‘stopped me brooding’. He also introduced him to a lot of girls – Miss Künzler among them. According to James Bond she was ‘a cheerily amoral little thing, a sort of doll who slept with everyone’. He was upset to hear about her death.

Somehow Fleming knew of Bond's connection with the Secret Service. Bond confirms that he pulled his leg about it. ‘It was wrong of him of course, but I imagine I must have been a little pompous about it all. Ian couldn't stand pomposity.’

Fleming apart, the most important person Bond met at Kitzbühel was a man called Oberhauser. Fleming, who knew him, wrote of his tragic death in Octopussy, and quotes Bond's words to his murderer, the pathetic Major Smythe – ‘Oberhauser was a friend of mine. He taught me to ski before the war, when I was in my teens. He was a wonderful man. He was something of a father to me at a time when I happened to need one.’

Fleming was exaggerating Bond "learning to ski", but Oberhauser did teach him the style of a professional Olympic skier and acted as a father figure to him.


Oberhauser was a realist. Like Bond, he had often found himself face to face with death as he climbed the mountains. He had lost comrades, friends and those he loved; and yet his zest for life was undefeated. Bond talked to him of Fedyeov, of Marthe de Brandt and finally about his parents. The Austrian was sympathetic, but, as he said to Bond, ‘so what?’ Did he intend to live his life out with a load of guilt? Would he continually blame himself whenever things went wrong? If he went on like this, the past would finally destroy him.

What did he suggest, asked Bond, and Oberhauser pointed to the mountains.

‘Climb them,’ he said, ‘and don't look back.’

During those weeks in Kitzbühel, Bond took his advice, and once again he felt the joy and the renewal of a whole day's climbing. By the time he returned to Paris, the mountains and Oberhauser's words had done their work. Bond had evolved a conscious plan for living. His aim was now to live entirely for the moment and to enjoy the pleasures of his calling to the uttermost. There would be no more remorse and no regret. He would turn himself into what Fleming called ‘a lethal instrument’.

Bond moved into a flat in Paris and began obsessively turning himself into the best agent possible. Shooting at the Garde Mobile range, swimming in the Olympic pool at Vincennes, learning judo, and playing bridge with Maddox at the clubs.


Behind it all, Bond was attempting to destroy the softness and weaknesses that were in him. Usually it worked, but he was always conscious of his private enemies. Fleming described him getting sentimental when he heard La Vie en Rose, and there were similar occasions that Fleming never heard of. Sometimes, however hard he tried, his memory and his imagination tortured him. And always in the night there was the hideous fear of cracking. He describes himself as ‘old before my time’. He was cynical and bored, and always in the background lurked something worse than any enemy – world weariness.

But nobody knew anything of this. Outwardly Bond was a young man to be envied – rich, handsome and invulnerable, living a life which would apparently go on for ever. It continued through 1939 like this – then in August, as the German armies massed on the Polish frontiers, he took his favourite married woman off on what he knew would be their final holiday. Cramming the Bentley with champagne, he drove her south. They ended at the Eden Roc at Antibes. Jean Cocteau had just left – the hotel was nearly empty. They had a memorable two weeks. The girl was beautiful, the weather perfect. Bond felt his youth was almost over. When the month ended, she had to join her husband and her children. Bond returned to Paris where he found a movement order from Headquarters to return to London. The big building overlooking Regent's Park was claiming him.

Somebody Awful
Nov 27, 2011

Kill Em All 1917
I am trench man
410,757,864,530 SHELLS FIRED

Got to be honest, I wish we'd gotten more Amis instead of this. The writing isn't bad on a technical level, but some of the storytelling decisions...

On the topic of biographies, my father recently gave me a secondhand copy of Ian Fleming: The Man with the Golden Pen - A Life by Richard Gant. A previous owner appears to have gone through it and made a few annotations in pencil.

Gats Akimbo
May 28, 2007

Ignoring this post

chitoryu12 posted:

Does that include the part where he was manipulated into murdering his lover, or...

From what you've quoted it sounds more like an attempted murder/suicide rather than a simple murder - was there any reason given that he'd think she'd die and he'd survive? It seems like it was just luck it turned out the way it did.

Somebody Awful posted:

Got to be honest, I wish we'd gotten more Amis instead of this. The writing isn't bad on a technical level, but some of the storytelling decisions...

Apr 23, 2014

Chapter 6: Bond's War


‘The war changed everything,’ said Bond, ‘but it's a complicated story and it will take a lot of telling. Right now I feel like a siesta. Perhaps we'll start again this evening after dinner.’

He had an abrupt way of dismissing one, almost as if suddenly upset at the thought of how much he had revealed. With an impatient gesture he pushed back the coffee and went loping off in the direction of the hotel. He had an odd walk, forceful yet relaxed. People made way for him. Whether he really would be taking a siesta, I had no idea.

That afternoon I took a motor-scooter – the standard means of tourist transport on the island – and rode off to the beach. It was a perfect day – the sun exactly the right temperature, the sea the ideal shade of blue. Lazy Atlantic breakers were arriving, as if by previous arrangement, on the meticulous gold sand. It was all most agreeable, but there was something wrong. Was this perfection just a little empty? Didn't this immaculate toy island act as a sort of limbo-land, a background against which one inevitably waited for something, anything, to happen. Already I could feel impatient, and, as for Bond, could all too easily understand his restlessness and longing to be back at work.

And yet the island suited him – the heavy sun-tans and the golden girls, the long cool drinks, striped awnings, and hibiscus-scented evenings – in its own tiny way, Bermuda was authentic Bond-land.

Ah, to be an old British man longing for retirement in the tropics, where you can still tell a black man what to do as if he's your servant.


At dinner I looked out for Bond – he wasn't there. But afterwards I saw him in the bar. There was a woman with him. Was this the mysterious companion of the last few days? I felt that Bond would want to keep his woman strictly to himself, but he must have seen me and immediately called me over. He was unusually affable, almost as if relieved to have me there. The woman was, I felt, less welcoming.

‘This,’ he said, ‘is Mrs Schultz. Fleming described her in his book on Dr No, but she was still Miss Ryder in those days – Honeychile Ryder.’

Even the Bond Girls are real!


He seemed amused by this. She was quite clearly irritated. She seemed a hard, bad-tempered, very beautiful, rich woman. Certainly she could hardly have been more different from that appealing child of nature Fleming had described living in the ruins of a great house in Jamaica. The golden adolescent with the broken nose had metamorphosed into a tough and all too typical socialite American in her early thirties. As Fleming had predicted, the nose had been remodelled – quite triumphantly; and Honeychile, like Miss Jean Brodie, was in her prime. Bond looked, I thought, a little hunted.

Rather as if making conversation, he told her about the plans for his biography. She thawed immediately – as some women do at the promise of publicity.

‘But James, you never told me. You mean your real biography? Isn't that just what I always said that they should do? I mean those books of Ian's were ridiculous. I never will be able to forgive him for the way he described me in that dreadful book of his. But, darling, I'm so happy for you. Truly, I think that it's the greatest thing that possibly could happen.’

"Comparing my buttocks to that of an adolescent boy! A scandal, I say!"


Bond grunted then and asked what I was drinking. He and the Mrs Schultz were taking bourbon on the rocks. I chose the same. Bond, as usual, made it doubles, then steered the conversation firmly away from literature.

‘Honey,’ he explained to me, ‘is cruising. In her yacht. It's her own floating vodka-palace – all eighty feet of it. Twin diesels, state-room designed by David Hicks, a crew of twelve. Somehow she heard that I was here and paid a social call.’

David Nightingale Hicks was an English interior designer who went from drawing cereal boxes to designing Prince Charles' apartment in Buckingham Palace until his death in 1998. His work has been found all over the world, from rooms at the Okura Hotel in Tokyo to BMW interiors.


She pouted. This did not improve her looks. She had, I noticed now, a thin upper lip.

‘Don't think that you're the only reason why I'm here. When Mr Schultz passed on I was a nervous wreck. Mr Schultz worshipped me, and I felt I owed it to him to pull myself together. He would never have wanted me to sit there getting miserable. You know Mr Schultz's last words to me?’

Bond shook his head, resignedly.

‘“Honey,” he said, “be happy.” So to respect his wishes I brought the Honeychile – he named her after me – down on a sunshine cruise. I feel that it's what he'd've wanted.’

‘Indeed,’ said Bond.

So that's how Pearson portrays Honey Ryder. A stuck-up new money aristocrat looking for fame.


She prattled on about herself. Bond seemed in full retreat and I thought that she was set to stay all evening. But she refused another drink, explaining that she had to be back on board by nine and that her chauffeur was already waiting. We walked out of the hotel with her. A Rolls Corniche drew up as she appeared, and, as it purred away, I recognized its scratched bodywork and badly smashed rear wing.

Bond grinned, a little sheepishly, and said,

‘Be sure, as dear Aunt Charmian would say, your sins will find you out. I always knew that girl would travel far – but not so far as this.’

‘But didn't she marry some clean-cut young New York doctor after Dr No?’

‘She did – and left him four years later to become Mrs Schultz – of Schultz Machine Tools Inc. He, I might add, was in his seventies. And now, unless I'm much mistaken, she's after husband number three. I recognize the look.’

Remember when we knew this girl for killing rapists and breaking out of ill-conceived death traps on her own?


He drained his glass and settled himself comfortably back into his chair. Without the woman he seemed more himself. Somewhere a band was playing a calypso. The bar was filling up. The big windows to the terrace had been drawn back and from the beach below came the faint murmur of the sea.

‘I was telling you about the war,’ he said.

I would have preferred to have known more about the spectacular Mrs Schultz, but Bond was obviously relieved to change the subject.

Yes, let's move away from the character assassination.


‘I didn't realize at first quite what the war would mean. For years I had been thinking it would be my great moment. Instead, when I came back to London, I found that nobody was remotely interested in me. Maddox was stuck in France. Headquarters had just been moved into its present offices by Regent's Park – sheer bloody chaos everywhere. When I reported there, the place seemed full of Oxford dons and refugee Hungarians. All of my records had gone astray and some moron would insist on calling me James Band. When I told him the name was Bond and that I'd been working for the Service for the last three years, he told me not to lose my temper, and gave me the “don't-ring-us-we'll- ring-you” routine. To cap it all, the Carlton Hotel was full.’

‘Where did you go?’

‘Where d'you think? Back to Aunt Charmian of course. But even she was busy winning the war – civil defence, evacuees, the Women's Services. Aunt Charmian was in the thick of it. It was the old girl's finest hour. I stayed with her for something like a month. I'm sure that she believed I was some sort of draft dodger, but she was too polite to say so. She would go on about my brother Henry though. He was in the War Office and he had a uniform. Two or three times a week I'd call Headquarters, but they had somehow found out I was born in Germany. At one stage I'm sure they wanted to intern me.’ Bond laughed and signalled to Augustus for some more to drink.

‘It really was one of the most depressing periods of my life. I was just nineteen, and I felt useless and unwanted. It also dawned on me that my whole way of life was over. Nothing would ever be such fun again – and, to be quite honest, it never really has.’

This is the "Phoney War" period, between France and Britain declaring war on Germany on September 3, 1939 and Germany actually making it to the Low Countries on May 10, 1940. The two sides were engaging in naval blockades and engaging in a few sporadic skirmishes, but mostly just drawing up plans for what to do when the war inevitably hit France. On the very day of the German invasion of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, Neville Chamberlain resigned as PM after a vote of no confidence in relation to the Allies' complete inability to block the invasion of Norway and would be replaced by Winston Churchill.


By a strange coincidence the man who rescued Bond from the stagnation of the ‘phoney war’ was Ian Fleming. He was already working in intelligence – as personal assistant to Admiral Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence at the Admiralty – and he was on the look-out for suitable recruits to the Admiral's empire. He must have heard about the strange young man that he had met at Kitzbühel, checked on his records, and decided, as he often did, that this was the sort of man Naval Intelligence required. Thanks to his backing, Bond was commissioned as lieutenant in the Royal Navy with immediate secondment to the D.N.I. Bond's war had finally begun – and also the bizarre relationship with Ian Fleming.

M. has authoritatively described the two of them as ‘personal friends’. If he is right, it was a most uneasy friendship, for they were very different characters.

Fleming was a dreamer, an intellectual manqué, the perfect desk-man at the D.N.I. Bond was essentially a man of action; he had inherited from his father the clear-cut mind of a good Scottish engineer. He was a realist, and his experience of life had taught him to keep his imagination in check and not to be too sensitive with people.

Fleming was witty, sociable and worldly. Bond was plain-spoken, wary of others and something of an outsider. And yet they seemed to complement each other. Each came to play a vital part in the other's life – so much so that today it is difficult to think of them apart; even in 1939 there are clear signs that this strange interdependence was beginning.

To Pearson, Bond and Fleming both envied the other and saw in each other the man they wish they could have been. Bond's first taste of action came with one of Fleming's typically wild plans: to plant an observer on the small North Sea island of Wangerooge to monitor Kriegsmarine traffic from Hamburg and Wilhelmshaven.


‘How on earth?’ said somebody.

‘It could work,’ Fleming said. ‘Those off-shore German islands are pretty bleak at the best of times. At this time of the year there'd be nothing there but miles of God-forsaken sand dunes. A trained man with binoculars and a radio transmitter …’

Somebody asked how he proposed to hide such a man under the noses of the Germans.

‘Didn't you ever read The Riddle of the Sands?’ Fleming replied.

The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service is one of the first true examples of the espionage novel, published in 1903. It's set among the same Frisian Islands as Wangerooge and details an attempt to uncover a secret plot by the Germans to invade Britain through the North Sea by yachting through the sandbars between the islands.


The idea hung around as ideas do but Bond could see its possibilities. Unlike the other members of the department, he had worked as an agent inside Germany and knew how often the most daring scheme succeeded. Without Bond's interest the idea would have lapsed. Fleming, the potential thriller writer, liked to devise his daydreams, but for James Bond anything was better than this futile life in London. And, for once, Fleming was spurred to action.

It was the first time Bond had seen the practical side of Fleming. Every objection was politely swept aside, each difficulty calmly coped with. Fleming displayed an obsessive attention to detail, almost as if he, not Bond, were going. Bond, who lacked this sort of mind, could value it in others. Fleming worked hard. Within a day or two he had decided on the sort of clothing Bond should wear, the food that he should take, his weapons and his sanitary arrangements. The two men spent several afternoons at Brookwood, testing entrenching tools in the Surrey sandhills, and planning the living quarters Bond could dig for himself on Wangerooge. Experts were summoned to devise a form of shuttering to hold back the sand. Binoculars and periscopes were lovingly selected and Bond instructed how to use the latest model short-wave transmitter. Fleming performed all this with boundless energy. He was planning an adventure – Bond had merely to perform in it. The fact that his life would be at stake seemed almost incidental.

This did occur to Bond. Increasingly, it seemed as if he were simply taking part in some complicated game. He wanted action now – not suicide. His doubts, however, merely acted as a spur to Fleming. For the last few days Bond had been through a crash-course in identifying German warships and had been practising the final points in the construction of his shelter. Fleming explained arrangements for landing and retrieving him by submarine. This would take place at night.

Fleming's attitude toward any of Bond's concerns is a dismissive "Of course it'll work, my dear chap" attitude. With no way to argue, Bond is loaded aboard the HMS Thruster submarine at the beginning of February 1940 for a 3-week patrol.


Secretly Bond had always dreaded submarines, which seemed like steel coffins, but he was excited by this new adventure. Fleming was there to see him off – a tall and somehow melancholy figure in his superbly cut lieutenant's greatcoat. There was a thin dawn drizzle from the sea. The submarine shipped moorings, the engines started. Fleming smiled wryly, raising a languid hand and Bond finally sensed how much he envied him his journey.

It was an exciting voyage. The Germans had anti-submarine patrols working from the Isle of Sylt: the submarine submerged by the Dutch coast and proceeded slowly northwards under water. There was a scare of enemy attack and only after dark did Thruster surface and pick up speed from her diesels. For a while Bond stood on the bridge with the Commander. It was pitch black with freezing sleet in the wind. The Commander pointed to the right, ‘Emden's through there and Wilhelmshaven's further on. We'll reach your place by midnight.’

Germany seemed such forbidden territory that Bond was surprised at how easily he landed. Just twenty minutes later he was climbing into a rubber dinghy from the submarine and being rowed ashore. Two sailors helped with his equipment. No one spoke or showed a light; when Bond was safely in the dunes they left him. Bond had never felt so lonely in his life before.

Wangerooge is a tiny island even today: a smidge over 3 square miles and 1263 people. Hiding on the beach isn't incredibly hard.


Not that he had much time to brood. First light was due at eight. By then he would have had to have dug himself in, camouflaged his hide, and made himself secure before his first full day. He worked furiously. There was a fishing village just along the coast. His stretch of beach was theoretically deserted at this time of year, but he could take no risks. The dunes were covered with thick clumps of dense sea grass and sea holly – more than enough to give the cover he required. The fine sand too was simple enough to burrow; as Bond dug he kept remembering himself as a small boy, building his sandcastles on the beaches of the Baltic.

Bond digs himself a sort of foxhole, using aluminum planks devised by Fleming to hold up the walls and a roof of driftwood, sand, and grass that blends in with the beach. During this cramped and very cold day, Bond watches the sea with his periscope binoculars and makes regular pre-arranged calls back to the British from his radio.


During the first morning Bond could appreciate the accuracy of Fleming's thinking. Wangerooge was on the German navy's doorstep and there was a constant flow of inshore shipping – first the low crouching shape of German E-boats roaring their way home to Bremerhaven after a night patrolling in the Channel. Then came some coasters bound for Hamburg. And twice that morning Bond saw the quarry he was really after – two U-boats, grey steel whales sliding past so close that he could hear the throb of engines. He could see their numbers on the conning towers. Within two days they would be trailing Allied shipping out in the Atlantic.

This was exciting, but Bond found himself longing for a cigarette, someone to talk to, even a book to read. At times he felt a wild urge to leave his burrow and stroll across the sand. To console himself he munched biscuits and sucked malted milk tablets from his rations. Around six o'clock he made himself his first meal of the day – more biscuits, chocolate and a can of self-heating soup. Afterwards he thought that he had earned a double swig of brandy.

Self-heating rations are viewed as completely modern, but that was a real thing....4 years later. In 1944, Heinz and ICI collaborated on cans of soup that had a heating element lit by a fuse. You would puncture the top of the can with a knife to let the steam out and light the fuse with a cigarette or something, giving you a hot meal within minutes. They were withdrawn and not heavily used, likely because they burned so hot that they would scald you if you didn't wait long enough to eat and there were reports of cans exploding when not properly pierced. Presumably Bond has been given an early prototype!


Like a large nocturnal animal, Bond crept from his lair when it was safely dark. The joy of stretching cramped limbs and sniffing the night air from the sea! For a while he worked, enlarging the burrow so that he could lie full length in it and sleep. He had an inflatable sleeping-bag and was soon comfortable. At 12.15 he called the Admiralty in London, using a simple code and prearranged waveband, and reporting everything that he had seen. He would have liked a two-way conversation, even a word, with Fleming. This was too big a risk. He pulled the cover tight above his head, wound in the aerial, and slept.

Bond doesn't get much sleep before he's awaken by the roar of a Dornier seaplane flying low overhead. It circles around, then lands and deposits a rubber dinghy that begins rowing toward the beach.


Fleming had been over-optimistic about the transmitter. The Germans must have intercepted last night's message and fixed its origin with accuracy. These searchers knew what they were looking for.

Bond thought he was lost. All he could do was lower the periscope and wait. Never had he felt so vulnerable and helpless. It seemed impossible that four trained German airmen could miss him. He could hear them calling to each other and even picked out certain words – ‘English spy’, ‘radio’. One of them was mentioning a gun. Finally the four men seemed to give up. They had stopped ten yards from where he lay. One of them, the leader, said, ‘It's no use. No one could hide out here. Perhaps the bastard's in the village.’

Someone replied, ‘But that's impossible. He'd have been spotted. He must be here.’

The first voice replied, ‘Well, he's not, is he? We'll just have to wait. The Herr Colonel will be furious.’ Bond heard them walk away – and then he breathed. Slowly he raised the periscope and saw the men climb back aboard the dinghy. There was the savage rasp of engines; the Dornier swept up and away.

Bond quickly realizes that he has no way out except surrender. If the Germans are monitoring his radio, any attempt to summon the submarine to pick him up early will inevitably bring them down on him. He doesn't have enough water to stay here forever. Making plans to steal a boat from the village at night, he eats and falls back asleep.


It was late afternoon when he awoke. He was cold. He started to prepare the rations he would take with him that night for his escape. But first he needed to survey the beach. It was empty – so was the sea. Then he noticed something. Far to the right there was a ship approaching. There was the beginning of a North Sea mist, making it hard to identify, but as it came closer Bond was certain what it was. One of the outlines he had learned during his lessons on enemy shipping was of the high-speed ocean-going tankers – the Germans called them milch-cows – which the Germans had developed to refuel their U-boat fleets. This was one of them. Two E-boats followed it to give protection as it steamed off into the darkness.

For James Bond this changed everything. The tanker was a first-class prize. Once the Admiralty knew its route, it could be shadowed: at some point out in the Atlantic there would be a rendezvous with several German U-boats.

It would be worth a great deal for the Royal Navy to be there.

Bond knew then where his duty lay. Whatever the risk, he had to radio once more to London – only then would he try to escape. And then he had an even better plan.

Bond radios in his message, immediately sending the seaplane swooping back down to land and drop off the dinghy commandos. Bond placed much of his equipment a hundred yards behind him, where it would immediately attract the attention of the Germans. As they search his gear, Bond crawls out of the burrow and makes it almost to the water before being spotted.


Bond had never rowed so hard in all his life. Luckily, the sea was calm, and, luckily, the German airmen were no marksmen. But there was still the problem of the flying-boat. The Germans would certainly have left somebody aboard – this firing from the beach must have alerted him. But Bond possessed one advantage. Whoever was aboard the plane had no idea of what was going on. The last thing he would be expecting would be for the English spy his comrades were out looking for to come aboard of his own free will. Bond drew along the side of the Dornier. There was an open door in the fuselage. Here he shouted out in German.

‘Quick, you idiot, bring the first-aid kit. There's been shooting, somebody's hurt.’

‘What?’ said a voice.

‘Quickly,’ said Bond, ‘somebody's dying.’

A German's head appeared. Bond had his gun out.

‘Steady,’ he said, ‘don't move. I'm going to need you. It would be a shame to kill you.’

It was a terrifying takeoff. The aircraft roared and shuddered over the water. Some of the men on shore began to fire, and for a moment Bond thought the pilot would purposely crash the plane. Then the nose lifted and, reluctantly it seemed, the Dornier was away.

And this is why you learn the enemy's language!


But even then, Bond's problems weren't over. The pilot was a surly individual – a heavily built, red-headed man. Bond had to keep his pistol firmly in his back as he ordered him to set his course due west for England and climb to 5,000 feet. For a while the man obeyed; then suddenly he shouted – ‘Look out, Englishman. Fighter-planes.’

Bond glanced where he was pointing. He should have known better. The pilot's fist landed against his jaw, and in a moment the two men were grappling in the cabin, 5,000 feet above the North Sea. It was a vicious battle. The pilot was heavier than Bond, and in the moment of surprise, had knocked Bond's pistol from his hand. Then he kicked out with all his strength. Bond doubled up in agony. As he did so, his shoulder lurched against the Dornier's controls. The nose tilted and suddenly the world became a dizzy, flailing madhouse with the engines screaming and the aircraft diving steeply towards the sea. In desperation Bond tried one last wild blow against the man's throat. Against all the odds it connected. There was a gurgling noise. The man went limp. Desperately attempting to remember his prewar flying instructions and hoping they held good for German aircraft Bond reached for the controls, the plane responded and he managed to pull the aircraft up. But only just. By now it was almost down to sea-level. Bond saw the grey waves just below. He eased the Dornier's controls towards him, and slowly the big lumbering plane responded.

It really makes you want a good action writer back for these scenes, huh?


By now, Bond had no idea where he was, or how much fuel remained. He had picked up his pistol and kept the pilot covered in the seat beside him. At the same time, he held the plane on course for England, trusting in his luck and the compass to get him there.

Bond estimates that they had been flying nearly two hours when the attack came. The first he knew of it was the uncanny sound of bullets ripping through the fuselage behind him. And then, away to the left, he saw two British Hawker Hurricanes, in their green and brown camouflage, wheeling away before returning to the attack.

The Dornier pilot was quite conscious now.

‘Bad luck, Englishman,’ he said. ‘Your own people will kill you after all.’

It looked as if they would. This time the fire was closer still. One of the cockpit windows shattered, and then the whole plane shuddered, and reeled sideways. Bond fought to hold it, but part of the tail was shot away. One of the Hurricanes returned, wheeling like a bird of prey around its victim. The flying-boat was now out of control, heading for the sea in a fast shallow dive. Bond struggled to keep the nose up. Then with a great thump they struck the water. There was a wrenching, tearing sound as the Dornier's back broke. The spray subsided and the plane began to sink.

Despite having previously tried to take out Bond, the Dornier pilot realizes that they're getting out of this tub together or not at all. He shows Bond the escape hatch and pulls out the rubber dinghy, which both of them spend the next 2 hours floating in until an RAF rescue boat arrives to pick them up.


Bond came back to Whitehall feeling jubilant, but not for long. True he had got the information of the German tanker through to the Admiralty, but there were delays and it was lost. And in the meantime the whole adventure had been criticized. Bond's old reputation as a glory-seeker was pursuing him, and Lieutenant Fleming had been reprimanded for a scheme which put a British submarine at risk. Having to be rescued by the R.A.F. was considered thoroughly bad form, and Bond, though still officially attached to the D.N.I., was in disgrace. He was sent to work at their offices at Penge. And it was here his great adventure ended.

But during these early months of 1940, the secret-service world was changing rapidly. Whole new branches were sprouting – MI5 and MI6 were taking on fresh personnel. Fleming was off to Canada. It was a bad time for Lieutenant Bond. He was considered ‘frivolous’, and when he applied for transfer to active service his request was swiftly granted.

In real life, as far as unclassified evidence suggests, at this point in real life Fleming was a liaison and assistant to Rear Admiral Godfrey. He wrote a lot of memos and plots, many of which were ignored or had their flaws pointed out before being rejected.


Bond loved the navy and the fourteen months he spent as a seagoing sailor are among the happiest of his life. He trained at Devonport and was seconded to destroyers. Just before Dunkirk he joined his first ship, H.M.S. Sabre, as a lieutenant. He was at Dunkirk. Sabre was bombed but still managed to bring back three loads of British troops from the beaches. After repairs, she went on convoy duty in the North Atlantic.

It was a novel life for Bond. He had never known the daily hardships of a serving officer, nor had he had to face the cramped togetherness of life below decks in a narrow ship. He was regarded as distinctly “odd”. He was considered something of an intellectual and a puritan. He was reserved, swore rarely, and never discussed his women or his family. The men found him meticulous about duties and they respected him, the old hands in particular. His fellow-officers soon found that he was not a man for liberties. He had a sharp tongue, a strong sense of amour propre and could drink anyone beneath the wardroom table. He was admired and popular but had no particular close friends. This used to worry him. Everyone thought him self-sufficient, whereas he was really nothing of the sort: his natural reserve, the life that he had led, made him unfitted for close human contact.

The Sabre was a ship that really shouldn't have been fighting. This S-class destroyer was launcher in September 1918 and had already been demilitarized to use as a target ship before war broke out. Out of desperation, she was returned to active service and re-equipped as a convoy escort. She indeed made 10 round-trip runs evacuating troops from Dunkirk in spite of bombing, one of the highest evacuation rates of any individual ship. She continued on through more evacuations across Europe in 1940, convoy escorts, U-boat hunting, and a famous rescue of every passenger and crew member (except one poor bastard who got hit in the head by a pulley while climbing a rope ladder) of the SS Volendam, a Holland America Line passenger ship carrying 320 children of the Children's Overseas Reception Board that had been torpedoed. It would not be until 1946, nearly 30 years after her launch, that the Sabre would be scrapped.


Even so, life aboard the Sabre did a lot to thaw him out. One night ashore in Kingston, Jamaica, he became the hero of the ship. He was in charge of the liberty party. The men were due back aboard at midnight but there was a bar brawl with the crew from an American cruiser, so that Lieutenant Bond found himself in the middle of a pitched battle. Bottles and knives were being used. His men were getting much the worst of things. Bond was very calm, telling his men to get outside. Most of them did but a drunk heavyweight U.S. petty officer kept up the battle.

He had already knocked out several British ratings and threw a bottle at Lieutenant Bond. Bond saw it coming, ducked, then, grabbing the American, threw him across his shoulders. The man landed with a crash of broken glass against the bar. Bond hit him once as he tottered to his feet and the fight was over. Bond's men were safely back on board by midnight.

The incident worked wonders for Bond's prestige, and it was really after this that he began to feel that he belonged aboard his ship.

The shared dangers and discomforts of the mid-Atlantic helped Bond become more human, and he enjoyed his freedom from the tensions of the undercover world. Those lonely battles of the past were over. The enemy was open and straightforward, and he was fighting now with men he trusted. Bond preferred that. He became brawnier and put on weight. He could sleep anywhere and any time. For the first time for years he was devoid of worries or ambitions. Then it all changed.

This one is actually long enough to need a chapter break!

Gats Akimbo
May 28, 2007

Ignoring this post

chitoryu12 posted:

So that's how Pearson portrays Honey Ryder. A stuck-up new money aristocrat looking for fame.

Remember when we knew this girl for killing rapists and breaking out of ill-conceived death traps on her own?

And knowing enough about shells to support herself and save money. That's just depressing.

I'm going to pretend Bond was lying and she's actually a marine biologist doing cool stuff on her yacht.

Dec 24, 2007

Runcible Cat posted:

And knowing enough about shells to support herself and save money. That's just depressing.

I'm going to pretend Bond was lying and she's actually a marine biologist doing cool stuff on her yacht.

This book feels like it's wallowing in the same "your heroes are actually shitbags, let me tell you how awful they are" pit with a lot of other 1970s books and films.

Apr 23, 2014

Midjack posted:

This book feels like it's wallowing in the same "your heroes are actually shitbags, let me tell you how awful they are" pit with a lot of other 1970s books and films.

God only knows what he did to Biggles!

Gats Akimbo
May 28, 2007

Ignoring this post

chitoryu12 posted:

God only knows what he did to Biggles!

I actually have a copy right here; I'll have a skim through and let you know.

(I like fictional biographies, but AFAICR I got bored with this one very quickly and stuck it in the "see if this is worth anything before giving it to the charity shop" pile, where it sat for years before last week's lockdown clearout.)

Somebody Awful
Nov 27, 2011

Kill Em All 1917
I am trench man
410,757,864,530 SHELLS FIRED

chitoryu12 posted:

So that's how Pearson portrays Honey Ryder. A stuck-up new money aristocrat looking for fame.

No sir, I don't like it!

Should have landed on the next island over, then he might have found a passing witcher to help him out.

Apr 23, 2014


During this time afloat, Bond lived a life of almost total chastity. This too was a relief. After his past involvements he enjoyed a pause from the demands of sex. There had been moments of brief indulgence in the Bahamas or New York, generally with married women who regarded the servicing of good-looking Allied personnel as essential patriotic war-work. Perhaps it was, but it left Bond depressed. He enjoyed sex, but not impersonally. He liked his women to be something more than animated text-books of the sexual act. He was also slightly prudish or, as he would have said, romantic. He liked to think that there was at least the possibility of love before he clambered into bed with anyone.

This attitude and long months of seaborn abstinence meant that, by spring 1941, Bond was becoming vulnerable. His teenage cynicism was behind him, and as he became more human so it appeared inevitable that he should fall in love. He duly did – sentimentally and quite predictably with the sister of a brother officer. Her name was Muriel. Her brother was the second-in-command. Bond got to know her from her photograph in her brother's cabin. The smile was Claudette Colbert's, and the nose Greer Garson's. The second-in-command assured Bond that she was ‘a thoroughly good sort’. He was quite right. Bond met her briefly during leave that Easter. They saw a show together, had supper in a Corner House. Bond kissed her – that was all – but promised he would write. He did.

The photograph had flattered her. It was not quite Miss Colbert's smile – nor for that matter quite Miss Garson's nose – but she was a thoroughly nice, well-nurtured, English miss. Daddy was army. The family lived near Pulborough in Sussex. She was twenty-two, pure as they used to be in those days, and she had never met anyone like Bond before.

Despite the name, this is not the Muriel Wright that Fleming fell in love with, who was traumatically killed during the Blitz. I wouldn't be surprised if it was an intentional reference.


Late that July, H.M.S. Sabre steamed home from the West Indies for a refit at Birkenhead. Bond had leave and traveled down to London with the 2i/c. Some three weeks later he was happily engaged. It was all terribly conventional – visits to Kent to introduce Aunt Charmian (she raised her eyebrows but said nothing), visits to Sussex relatives of Muriel, visits to London. Bond seemed happy. Muriel adored him, and for the first time in his life he was conscious of doing what Brother Henry always called ‘the proper thing’.

Bond rents a room for them at the Dorchester Hotel. Nervous at the prospect of that night for the first time in his life, he heads down to the hotel bar for a drink first.


Bond was ordering his favourite martini – the bar, to his surprise, had Gordon's gin – ‘And do make sure,’ he told the barman, ‘that it is …’

‘Shaken, not stirred,’ a voice behind him said. Bond turned, and there was Fleming.

Bond thought that he had aged. The sombre face had grown more lined, but otherwise he seemed exactly as Bond remembered. For some reason, he felt relieved to see him. Bond offered him a drink explaining that he was just engaged; Fleming roared with laughter.

At first Bond was angry, but Fleming's laughter was infectious. They drank. They talked. They had another drink. Fleming recalled the Wangerooge affair and hinted at the secret work his department was engaged in. Bond tried to talk about his life aboard the Sabre, but it all sounded just a little flat.

‘Pity you left,’ said Fleming.

Bond said nothing.

‘Things have changed in D.N.I. We could do with you. The Admiral said as much the other day.’

‘He did?’ said Bond, and Fleming nodded.

‘I think,’ he said, ‘that we should have a bottle of champagne to celebrate – our meeting, your engagement.’ Champagne was all but non-existent in wartime London, but the barman was a friend of Fleming's. He produced a bottle of vintage Clicquot. Fleming had become didactic, as he often did with alcohol.

‘You should be back with us – not playing sailors.’

Bond and Fleming talk until well past midnight, until Muriel falls asleep waiting for him. Bond does indeed take Fleming's offer, being sent to Hertfordshire for a saboteur course and then to Camp X in Canada for weapons and judo. He's the top trainee, even giving the judo instructor a concussion.


The Canadian establishment was at a place called Oshawa, on Lake Ontario. It had been founded, late in 1940, by Sir William Stephenson as training ground for his American agents, and at the time it offered the most rigorous and thorough training of its sort anywhere outside the Soviet Union. Bond learnt a lot.

As an inventor in his own right – much of his fortune came from his prewar inventions in radio photography – Sir William was a technocrat of sabotage. It was from him that Bond became acquainted with the whole armoury of the modern agent – cyphers and electronics, explosives and radio and listening devices. The trainees used the lake for underwater exercises, and it was here that James Bond trained as a frogman, learning evasive tactics, underwater fighting, and techniques with limpet mines. Bond spent three months at Oshawa. When he returned to London, D.N.I. had already received a confidential report, commending his success and ending with a single statement – ‘The agent is a lethal weapon of the highest calibre.’

Camp X, officially Special Training School No. 103, was a real training camp for Commonwealth agents and a document forging facility. The famed Fairbairn and Sykes did close combat training and the OSS ran an assassin training program through it. It was open for only a few years until 1944 (Pearson gets the date wrong, as it actually opened on December 6, 1941), but the Hydra telecommunications relay station remained in operation for receiving and sending Allied radio and telegraph signals until 1969. The buildings have since been demolished.

Ian Fleming has been rumored to be one of the visitors to this site, but it has never been proven.


Had Bond known this, he would have been more wary when Fleming took him out to lunch soon after his return. Bond had enjoyed himself in Canada. Muriel had seemed a little sullen when he left – despite the débâcle at the Dorchester they were still officially engaged – but out in Oshawa he had found it hard to worry too much on her behalf. Now he was looking forward to some active service and Muriel agreed that it would be wrong to rush ahead with marriage. Fleming seemed relieved when James Bond told him this, for as he explained to Bond, there was ‘an element of risk’ in the small assignment the Service had in mind for him.

Fleming had chosen Bertorelli's Italian restaurant in Charlotte Street for their meeting – a change from Scott's: none of those silver tankards of black velvet, no grilled plaice. They had the plat du jour, an ambiguous wartime stew called spezzatino, and half a bottle of Valpolicella. It was a strange background in which to be asked to kill a man. Not that Fleming used the word ‘kill’. He said, ‘deal with’. It was all arranged and shouldn't be too difficult. But there must be absolutely no mistakes. There was a fearful lot at stake. Fleming poured himself the last of the Valpollicela and started to explain his task.

Bertorelli's is one of the restaurant chains in this book that has actually closed. The Bertorelli family arrived in London in 1913 and founded the first serious, influential Italian restaurants in the UK. While they grew all the way through the 1970s, the family sold most of their restaurants to a restaurant group in 1984. Before 2009, the entire chain had closed.

Spezzatino is simply an Italian beef stew, though this is Britain under wartime rationing...


‘The man's Japanese. He's called Shingushi and he's in New York. Officially he's with their consulate-general – he has an office on the thirty-sixth floor of a sky-scraper on Lexington Avenue. But unofficially the man's a cypher expert – probably the greatest in the world. We've been studying him, and now we know for certain what he's up to. For several months we've known that the Germans have been getting detailed information of Allied shipping movements from New York, and it appears that this has been relayed from their friends in Tokyo. The question was how the Japanese were getting it. Now Stephenson's found out. The Japanese have been intercepting all our messages, to and from the Atlantic convoys, and little Shingushi has been busily decoding them.’

Bond still remembers Fleming's cold impassive face as he sat there, chain-smoking his Morlands Specials.

‘So what do I do?’ said Bond.

‘Dispose of him, dear chap. This is war. It must be done. One just can't be a softy in these matters. It will be like shooting an enemy in the front line – except that this little fellow must be worth a good three top-rank divisions.’

‘Isn't there someone in America who can do it? Why bring me in?’

‘America's not in the war but she is giving us a lot of help. There must be nothing that could create a diplomatic incident. This must be what gangsters call “an outside job”. Officially no one in New York will know you. If anything goes wrong, you're on your own.’

As I mentioned with the mistake Pearson makes in Camp X's opening, this causes a timeline oops. Camp X actually opened only one day before the Pearl Harbor attack, so America would doubtlessly be involved in the war by the time Bond finished any training there.


Bond could not refuse. This was the sort of operation he had trained for. He knew its logic, but wished it didn't have to seem quite so like cold-blooded murder. Fleming was smiling. ‘I envy you New York,’ he said. ‘Take my advice and buy some shirts from Abercrombie's while you're there.’

Bond travelled light. He took no weapon and no identifiable possessions. There was a certain urgency about his mission so he was booked by air, flying to Lisbon where he caught the morning clipper to New York. It was a ten-hour flight – which gave Bond time to brood. But at the same time he felt that lift which always comes at the start of an assignment. Nothing could ever equal it.

Bond's sense of excitement was increased by his first sight of New York, for he loved the city. It was evening and all the sky-scrapers of Manhattan were guttering with light as if inviting him to some enormous celebration. After his nights in blacked-out London he was suddenly alive. He had to remind himself that he was here to kill a man.

He had booked in at the five-star Volney Hotel, because he heard that Dorothy Parker lived there. It had the right degree of comfort and respectability and Bond had the sense of being something of an honoured guest: it was a long time since he had known the luxury of a good hotel, the pile of towels in the bathroom, the well-made bed, the discreet air-conditioning. He rang for a double bourbon on the rocks, shaved and then bathed luxuriously. At 8.15 he rang Sir William Stephenson's private number.

The Volney at 23 East 74th Street still exists but is now a residential building rather than a hotel. This is another mistake by Pearson: while Dorothy Parker did live there, it was from 1952 until her death in 1967. Perhaps the Bond of this timeline succeeds at his missions despite his glaring incompetence because he can see the future?


As head of British Intelligence in North America, Sir William was a busy man, but he arranged to meet James Bond that night at 10.15 at Murphy's bar on 45th Street. Bond dined alone – off T-bone steak and ice-cream in the drug-store round the corner – and walked to his appointment.

Bond had never met the quiet Canadian before, but was impressed at once by his efficiency. He liked the down-to-earth approach of this small energetic man, the way he bought the drinks, asked Bond if he had eaten, and then got down to settling his task.

He made no bones about the difficulties. There had already been attacks upon Shingushi; the Japanese were thoroughly prepared.

‘They're treating him the way they treat their Emperor. He's removed from normal human contact, guarded day and night. None of us have seen him. You're going to have your work cut out.’

Bond asked about Shingushi's private life. As far as Stephenson knew, he had none. He had his quarters in the Consulate. Only occasionally at weekends did Shingushi venture out, carefully guarded by security men, who hustled him inside an armoured limousine and drove him to a villa on Long Island. The Japanese had women there.

‘What chance of getting at him there?’

‘No hope in hell. The place is walled in and there's every possible burglar device. I know. I've tried them.’

Stephenson gives Bond photographs of the target, detailed plans of the consulate, and biographies on the people around him. While Bond is dealing with the problems of describing how he likes his eggs cooked for breakfast, a monogrammed Saks box is delivered to his hotel room.


‘Sure sah, you're meanin' sunny side up with double crispy rashers.’

For once, Bond had given in rather than try telling an American how to boil a three-and-a-half minute egg. He told the bell-hop to leave the parcel on his bed. When he opened it he found a neat attaché case. Inside were the barrel, stock and telescopic sight of a folding high-velocity Manlicher sniper's rifle – plus twenty rounds of mint-new steel-tipped ammunition. There was no delivery note.

Mannlicher rifles do not come standard as folders, but they've had biathlon stocks made for their use in the high-speed shooting sport. This is a change from Casino Royale, where Bond describes himself as using a Remington.


Bond had slept well, but the excitement of his arrival in New York had left him. His eyes smarted in the October wind, and for the first time he felt the effect of time lag from his journey.

It was Sunday. His instinct was to take the day easy, but he could not relax on an assignment. Despite all Stephenson's doubts about the villa, there was something to be said for seeing it. As a gambler, Bond had often benefited from outside chances; one never knew one's luck. Besides he had never seen Long Island at this time of year and could think of no better way of spending an empty Sunday in New York.

He took his dark blue Burberry and the small attaché case and called a cab to Penn Station. There was a sense of holiday about the trip – the all but empty Sunday morning train of the Long Island Railroad, the glimpses of the tenements of the Bronx (what Fleming called ‘the backside of New York’), and then the potato fields and duck farms of Long Island. It was all very different from Fifth Avenue. The villa was at the far end of the island – the name of the station immediately appealed to Bond. It was Sag Harbor. Here he descended.

Sag Harbor is a summer place – a few big old houses out towards the Sound, but otherwise a lot of summer property. Bond found its October melancholy appealing. He asked a porter for a cab.

Here Bond had his first real piece of luck.

Because there's only one cab here this morning and both he and the other customer there are going to Lansdown Boulevard, they have to share. This other passenger just happens to be a middle-aged Japanese woman.


There are moments in an agent's life when he must accept whatever chance comes up. This was one of them. The journey took some fifteen minutes, and finally the cab drew up at the entrance to a private drive. There was a large, green painted steel door – each side of it a high brick wall. Beside the door a notice warned trespassers that there were ‘electric methods to repel them’.

But the cab was evidently expected. There was an answering device beside the door. The cabbie gave his name. One of the doors swung open.

‘No one around this morning,’ said the cabbie.

The drive wound between trees and shrubbery towards the house. Bond tapped the driver on the shoulder.

‘Here. This will do for me,’ he said and gave a twenty dollar bill.

As Bond got out the woman took no notice. In her world whatever men did was strictly their own male business.

There was a bank of rhododendrons – a shrub which Bond detests, but which provided cover. He hid and waited twenty minutes. He saw the cab return, there was no outcry from the house. Now was his chance to reconnoitre.

Bond sneaks through the shrubbery until he has a view of the two-story concrete house. The doors are grilled and the windows are shuttered, making an impenetrable fortress as far as one man in a Burberry coat with a sniper rifle is concerned. Nonetheless, he assembles the gun and waits.


The house puzzled him. There was no light within, no sign of life. Bond lay very still; the rifle was becoming part of him. Then the rain started, a cold drizzle from the Sound: the hours ticked by. Twice he thought he heard a car, but still saw nothing. It was early afternoon before anything occurred. The rain had stopped by now, and suddenly the grille was pulled back from the big French windows facing the lawn. A white-coated servant stepped out, shouted something and a dog bounded out, barking and bounding off across the lawn. The servant called again and a small girl appeared, an ugly little girl of seven or eight in a bright pink dress. Bond watched her through the telescopic sight. She was laughing at the dog, and Bond could see that she had lost her two front teeth. She threw a ball and the dog went bounding after it. It was a mud-brown mongrel bitch with a tail like a feather duster.

Then a third person appeared. There was no mistaking him. There was the same large head and dumpy body that Bond had seen in the photographs, except that now the man was laughing. Bond moved the cross hairs of the sight to just below the grey breast-pocket of Shingushi's suit and squeezed to first pressure on the trigger. At that moment there was a gust of wind, bringing some leaves down from the lime trees on the far side of the garden. The dog chased them. The girl laughed, clapped her hands. Shingushi picked her up.

It was Bond's chance. Shingushi was squarely in his sights, but all that Bond could see was the girl's pink dress.

His moment lost, Bond can't fire. At dusk he climbs the wall out of the community and walks back to the train station, making it back to the Volney by midnight. The next morning, a telegram from Fleming reminds him that he's already late on his murder.


Bond skipped breakfast – always a bad sign – and spent most of the morning sitting on a bench in Central Park. Here he went over the whole affair. He thought about Shingushi and the child – why did the wretched little man have to involve himself in such a dirty business? He also forced himself to think of sailors drowning in the North Atlantic, sailors perhaps from his own destroyer. Quite calmly then Bond made his decision. He no longer had the luxury of following straightforward orders aboard ship. He was a solitary man doing his best to fight a war. There was no point in being squeamish. It was a bright autumn day; the Park was crowded, but Bond had never felt so much alone. He strolled out and down Fifth Avenue. New York no longer seemed exciting, but he ate a good lunch at Flanagan's Restaurant in Lower Manhattan and then rang Stephenson. There were still certain things he had to know.

That afternoon James Bond got down to work. First he met a man called Dolan, a fat Southerner with bright blue eyes. Dolan showed no surprise at what Bond wanted. All that he seemed concerned with was to double the $500 a day which Bond was offering. Rather than argue, Bond agreed.

Then Bond took a taxi to the building on Third Avenue, where Stephenson had hired him an empty office on the fortieth floor. Here he made sure of the view from the windows. Some sixty yards away stood the building containing the Consulate-General of Japan – almost directly opposite were the windows of the thirty-sixth floor.

That evening Bond and Dolan took possession of their office: the long wait started.

This is one weird episode of Mad Men.


It was a very simple operation. The main requisite was patience and Bond remembered how, as a
boy in Kent, he had waited all afternoon with his air rifle for a rat to emerge from its hole in a barn. Now he and Dolan both had snipers' rifles and were waiting for Shingushi.

It was an endless business and Bond began to wonder whether it would work. Not that Dolan minded; every day that passed earned him another thousand dollars. He rarely spoke, drank endless cans of beer and belched in place of conversation. Bond soon detested him, but he was said to know his job. Bond hoped he did.

Who the hell is this guy? Is he an American agent? Is he an alcoholic hitman? Casino Royale describes him as a "colleague from the agency in New York" but this guy doesn't seem very agent-like.


It was surprising how soon Bond picked up the routine in the Consulate – also the faces in that office opposite.

Only on two occasions did he see Shingushi – both around nine o'clock at night when he suddenly walked in to the main office, chatted with someone at a desk, then walked away. Bond understood how difficult he would be to kill. There could be no mistakes – only one shot, one chance. Another problem was that the windows of the building were all double-glazed and strong enough to deflect a bullet. This had to be allowed for.

The days pass. Bond gets another, much less polite telegram from London on Wednesday. Finally, at nearly 9:00 PM on Friday, Dolan spots Shingushi coming into the office.


‘Now,’ barked Bond.

It was an eerie noise within the darkened room – Bond's voice and then the strangled thud of two silenced rifles firing almost simultaneously. Dolan fired first as arranged, for his shot had to break the double glass in the Consulate window. A split second later, Bond's shot sped through the hole straight to its target. Bond paused to watch the little Japanese keel over, then collapse. At this distance he barely seemed a man at all – more like a target on a range.

Everything went smoothly then, for Bond had rehearsed it many times – the swift dismantling and packing of the rifles, the locking of the office door, and in the street the car was waiting where Bond had left it. They drove towards the Park, then stopped the car. Bond had Dolan's money ready in assorted bills, and as he paid him, Dolan's blue eyes smiled.

‘Good shooting, Mr Bond. It's been a pleasure working with you.’

As he opened the car door he belched, then ambled off towards the Park. Bond drove away. He didn't feel like celebrating. Instead he sent a telegram to London, then dined alone, got moderately drunk, then bought himself a hundred-dollar whore. Her name was Rosemary. It was a pity she was wearing pink.

With Bond having a reputation as an assassin, he's now finding himself offered those tasks. Whenever he gets a chance, he picks something that doesn't involve murder, like destroying a refinery in Brest or arranging for the release of jailed Allied agents in Vichy. Now promoted to Lieutenant-Commander, in early 1943 he finds himself on another similar assignment.


For some time Naval Intelligence had been having trouble with its Baltic circuit. This whole area was of great importance since it also covered the British convoys to Murmansk. Russia was now our ally – Germany was battling towards Leningrad and trying hard to close the Northern ports. But we were getting faulty information; agents were being caught, four in the last two months. With so much at stake, such wastage could not continue.

Fleming explained all this to Bond, but, as he talked, something about his manner made Bond uneasy.

‘It looks as if you'll have to take a little trip,’ he said. ‘Sweden. You'll find it chilly after Egypt, but I'm sure you'll make the best of things. I'm told the Swedish girls are ravishing.’

‘Whereabouts in Sweden?’

‘Stockholm. Lovely city. There's a man called Svenson. I'm afraid we need him dealt with – rather your line of country.’

Bond raised his eyebrows but said nothing.

‘He's one of ours – in theory. We trained him over here – you may have met him. He's a Norwegian – big, good-looking chap – ex-sailor. I had him set up in a Stockholm shipping agency for cover, but he's doubled on us.’

‘You're sure?’ said Bond.

‘No question. It's the usual story – good work to start with, then too many women. We've had reports of heavy spending. Now we're having all this trouble with the circuit and it must be Svenson. The opposition got two of our best men last week and we know that Svenson was the only person who could possibly have betrayed them. He must be fixed – for good.’

Unfortunately, Svenson is an agent that Bond was familiar with and liked. Fleming has some sympathy but puts Bond on the mission regardless. Now he has to kill not just an abstract traitor, but an old friend.


Perhaps it was his mood, but Bond found Stockholm an uneasy city. Behind its palaces and quays and calm good sense lurked a hygienic pallor that depressed him. It was a city of cold eyes and painless dentists. Any excess was possible in such a place.

Bond had officially his prewar role of diplomatic courier to the British Embassy. He had made a complicated journey to the north by British warship, then across the border and by train to Stockholm. He had no doubts about his mission. It was necessary, but it was no adventure. Instead of the usual excitement of a fresh assignment, he felt a dreadful heaviness. He was the visiting executioner. Bond didn't want to meet his victim face to face. Stockholm was an impersonal city – the place for an impersonal death; the quicker now the better.

He had no difficulty finding Svenson. His house was in the old city, a gabled, yellow-painted house straight from the pages of Hans Christian Andersen. Svenson had his office here and private flat. From the caf opposite Bond spent some time watching it. Business did not appear to be too good. During the morning he saw two people entering the house, both of them well-dressed Swedes in heavy overcoats. There was no sign of Svenson. Just before lunch the front door opened and a girl came out. From behind his copy of Svenska Dagblat, Bond watched her as she crossed the street and walked towards the caf where he sat. She was tall, slender with the palest coloured hair that Bond had ever seen, a Hans Christian Andersen princess. He saw her enter the café, walk to the counter where she bought some smörgäsbord. Then Bond sensed that she was looking at him. Lowering his paper he looked back. The girl had violet eyes. Bond recognized the look she gave him – it was a look of fear and unmistakable suspicion. For just a moment he thought she would speak. Instead she turned away, collected her neatly tied package from the counter, and Bond watched her cross the street and enter the house again. She used a latch-key of her own.

There's no sign of Svenson as Bond watches the house, and he thinks the girl must have alerted him. With his plan to avoid any personal contact foiled, Bond just calls the house and tells the girl that Svenson's old pal James Bond has come to visit. He later gets to call Svenson from his hotel that night.


At the first sound of that booming voice with its fragmented English, Bond was reminded of the man that he had known. Happy-go-lucky Svenson, great drinker, womanizer, and Norwegian patriot. He always had enormous warmth of personality – even now Bond felt it in the voice.

‘James, this is wonderful, just wonderful. You of all people here in bloody Stockholm. I can't wait to see you.’

‘I'm not staying long, and tomorrow looks impossible. Any chance of seeing you tonight? It's been a long time.’

‘So it has – too long. But yes, of course. We must meet and have a drink or two at least. I can't have you leaving Stockholm without seeing you.’

Svenson suggested a café, Olafson's on Skeppsbron – two minutes from the royal palace. Bond promised to be there.

He was, but Svenson wasn't. Once again Bond was armed and ready to complete his mission. But although he waited until gone eleven there was no sign of Svenson. Bond was almost relieved when it was clear that he would not come. It would have been a wretched business to have drunk with a man and reminisced about the past, then gunned him down. On the other hand it meant that Bond would now need to involve himself still deeper with his old friend to get a chance to kill him.

Bond didn't feel like food, but forced himself to eat some smrgsbord and drink sufficient schnapps to numb his feelings. Then he set out again for the yellow gabled house in the old city. This time Bond walked. It was a freezing night, and Bond recalled that Stockholm was as far north as Alaska. But the stars were bright, the spires and roofs of the old city still glittering like some Arctic city in a fairytale. Bond cursed the city for its beauty.

I feel like this change to the story, making Bond's kill in Stockholm an old friend, is getting too dark. It's like this book is trying to psychologically brutalize Bond.


When he reached the little square, the house was in darkness. This time Bond was careful to stay out of sight – Svenson or the girl might well be watching for him. Instead he tried the street behind the house. There was an alleyway, a wall, a window he could force, and he was in. He found a staircase and then, gun in hand, set out to explore. The house was silent. Bond's first thought was that Svenson and the girl had fled. Then he heard voices from above. Tiptoeing he reached a landing. There was a bedroom door with light beneath it.

Bond called out, ‘Svenson,’ there was no reply, but the light inside the room went out.

‘Svenson, I'm coming after you,’ he shouted, then kicked the door in. There was a shot – a bullet hit the woodwork by his head, and spun off down the stairs. Bond was expecting this. He had dodged back and fired twice towards the source of the shot. This seemed as good a way as any now of killing Svenson. It would be less like murder – more of an equal fight.

Hey, what's a good way to make this even darker?


Bond waited, holding his fire. He could see nothing in the room, but somebody was moaning. Bond paused in readiness to shoot again.

‘Svenson,’ he called softly.

‘For God's sake hold your fire,’ said a voice, Svenson's voice. ‘Why are you doing this to me?’

‘You know why,’ said Bond.

‘James, just wait while I put the light on. Don't you know you've hit her?’

Bond realized it was a woman moaning. The light went on.

Svenson was sitting up in bed. He was much fatter than Bond remembered and sat clutching the bedclothes to his chest. He was unarmed and white with fear. Sprawled across the floor lay the girl Bond had seen that morning. She was naked. Blood was pumping from a bullet hole below the breast. In her hand she still held a small silver automatic.

There was not much that Bond could do for her. The violet eyes were already closed, the knees drawn up against the slender belly. She tried to speak, then slumped against the floor. Bond knew that she was dead.

That's how.


Svenson was trembling. He was moaning now.

‘Let me explain,’ he said. ‘You are my friend, James. You must understand.’

‘I understand too well,’ said Bond.

It was a pathetic business. Bond had never witnessed the effect of total fear before. He would have liked to have shot Svenson where he lay, but couldn't. Instead he heard his terrified confession followed by the inevitable plea for mercy. Bond was revolted – as much by himself now as by Svenson. War is a dirty business: but some men's wars are dirtier than others.

When Svenson realized that Bond was quite implacable he begged him one last favour – to be allowed to shoot himself – and Bond agreed. He took the gun from the dead girl, left one bullet in the chamber, and threw it on the bed.

‘I'll wait outside,’ he said. ‘Get it over quickly.’

Bond waited several minutes but there was no shot. When he went back into the bedroom, Svenson was still lying in the bed. He had the girl's gun in his hand and fired at him, as Bond knew he would. Svenson's gun-hand trembled when he fired. Bond's didn't.

Bond is commended for his work, while the murders are blamed on a crime of passion by the local police.


For Bond, the irony of the case was that it confirmed him in the last role that he wanted – that of a ‘hard’ man, a remorseless killer. But luckily his talents were employed on ‘cleaner’ assignments for a while. Towards the end of 1943 he was back in Switzerland, organizing the escape of two important Jewish scientists from Germany across Lake Constance. He had a period behind the lines in Italy, helping the partisans attack the big Ansaldo naval works at Spezia. Later he was attached to the naval task force liaising with the French resistance in the Channel ports before D-Day. But Bond's big assignment came at the end of 1944, during the crucial German offensive into the Ardennes.

This has long baffled the more attentive readers of Ian Fleming's books. For Fleming was involved in this as well, and mentioned the affair in passing, thus giving rise to Mr Kingsley Amis's pained query, ‘what was a commander of naval intelligence doing in the Ardennes in 1944?’

Fleming himself did hint at the answer in his short story From a View to a Kill where he mentioned ‘left-behind spy units’ set up by the retreating Germans in the Ardennes. In fact these units at one point looked like becoming a menace to the Allies, and it was largely thanks to James Bond that this was averted.

Throughout the summer of 1944 there had been reports from Allied agents that the Nazis were preparing a full-scale resistance movement against an Allied victory. It was known that in Berlin an entire S.S. department, based in big offices off Mehringplatz, was concerned with nothing else. It was commanded by a full-ranking S.S. general named Sender, and already Goebbels was planning to ensure that the Nazi myth survived defeat in war.

Already he could see that a full-scale Nazi resistance movement was now the immortal Reich's best hope of immortality. And in London the Joint Chiefs of Staff set up a small committee to contain it. As something of a German expert, Fleming was a member. It was through him that Bond became involved.

This was the German Werwolf program. While propaganda claimed that the Nazis would fight to the last man and conduct guerrilla operations for years after the official end of the war, armed to the teeth with the best saboteur gear on the market, the dire supply situation Germany was facing as they approached April 1945 meant the units were never issued even close to as much as they needed. Otto Skorzeny found out when he was assigned to train units that the number of cells had been greatly exaggerated and it was effectively a useless plot that would do nothing to stop their defeat. While some Werwolf units did actually try fighting, most of them surrendered or just aided in helping Nazi officers flee the country.

This makes Pearson's portrayal of the program somewhat problematic, as it directly flies in the face of actual evidence regarding the sorry state Germany was in by this point. It paints the Nazis as incredibly tenacious, well-equipped, and only narrowly stopped by the skin of our teeth, rather than a failing fascist state that overstretched itself and was hamstrung by infighting and inherent flaws in fascist white supremacist thinking.


During the autumn the committee's chief concern was the Ardennes. Nobody doubted that the Fuehrer's massive armoured offensive to win back lost German conquests here would ultimately fail. But our agents were reporting that one of the secret aims of the offensive was to gain time to plant a self-contained resistance set-up here for the future. It would have arms, underground headquarters and carefully disguised command points for its troops. It would include the so-called ‘Werewolf Movement’ but in addition have a fully equipped and trained ‘secret army’ to harass the advancing Allies from the rear. According to well-confirmed reports, the S.S. general from Mehringplatz was personally in charge, and Himmler had paid a two-day visit to the area.

Information had suddenly become crucially important, but no Allied agents had succeeded in penetrating the area. Nazi security throughout the battlehead was strict, with a virtual black-out of all information within forty miles of the salient. Fleming suggested Bond as one of the very few men who might discover what was going on.

Bond was summoned to a house in Knightsbridge where he was briefed by an owl-like man called Grunspan. He was a former history professor from the University of Munich and one of the few Jews ever to have escaped from Auschwitz. Later Bond learned that it was here that he picked up his appalling stammer.

Himmler's visit is planned to be a showpiece to encourage further resistance. Bond needs to hunt through the Ardennes to find the center of this bullshit secret army Pearson somehow thinks is a great idea and find General Semler.


Just two days later Bond heard the rattle of German Spandaus firing across the narrow no-man's land to the west of a town called Haslach. He could see nothing, but the Armoured Corps captain with him pointed towards the line of woods where the firing came from.

We already covered in Dr. No how "Spandau" is a pretty bad way to describe German WW2 machine guns. It seems Pearson didn't pick up on that.


‘They've got their armour concentrated there. A division of Panzer Grenadiers, equipped with Mark Two Tigers – what you might call the cream of the cream. We know they're grouped back through the forest. We'll have to see if they attack again.’


The Tiger II, nicknamed "King Tiger", is a classic example of why Germany lost the war. Intended to be the successor to the Tiger heavy tank with sloping armor for better protection, only 492 were ever built. The tanks were insanely expensive (costing over $4.2 million in modern currency per tank), underpowered, and drank fuel the Germans didn't have like a whale opening its mouth underwater. It wouldn't have changed the direction of the war even if they could have built enough of them.


For the past two weeks the armies had been locked in battle. On one side was the massive power of the Allies – on the other the desperation of a Wehrmacht launching its final bid to save the Fatherland. The German heavy tanks had broken the Allied advance, but now they in their turn were halted. This forest land was witnessing the power of steel and high explosives as the Allied armies picked up their momentum towards Berlin.

Bond knew that his mission was somewhere behind that line of forest. Rosenfeld lay five miles to the east. It was a daunting prospect to attempt to infiltrate the enemy's front line, but there seemed no alternative. That night James Bond was dropped by a low-flying British aircraft into a wooded area close to Rosenfeld. Rather than risk a parachute, he used a reinforced container known as a ‘coffin’ which had been invented to land men and arms for the French resistance. He landed safely, rolled clear, and did his best to hide the coffin in the undergrowth. Just at this moment hell seemed to burst around his ears. Bond had never been on the edge of an artillery bombardment before. The whole forest seemed to rock and the night was lit up with the flashes of the German guns firing back. Bond smiled to himself – the artillery were certainly on time with the diversionary cover they had promised. The shells were dropping half a mile to the west, but nobody was going to challenge Bond as he picked his way to his objective.

Bond conceals himself in the brush and finds himself near 8 concealed Tiger IIs, mechanics hard at work (presumably figuring out how to get these drat things actually running). As he observes the German troops walking through the village and tanks occasionally driving off, he takes note of a loudly marked hospital building in the village. A massive flow of trucks is going to and from the building, far more than any hospital should need.


There was a narrow bend in the road a mile or so back, and as the German army driver changed down to take it, he saw a figure in British army uniform leap towards the cab. That was all he saw of Bond as the door swung open and a jarring blow caught him below the ear. The lorry stopped. There was a brief scuffle in the cab, and three minutes later when it drove on there was a different driver in the German's uniform – James Bond. Propped up unconscious by his side was the German, now in British uniform.

Bond drove fast, with tyres screeching through the village and up towards the hospital. When he arrived he parked the lorry behind several others, slung the unconscious German over his shoulder and dragged him inside. From now on everything depended on how long he could sustain the bluff. It was the British uniform that did the trick. Bond began shouting about British troops being in the forest. Orderlies were running, an alarm was sounded and everyone was suddenly yelling orders. The unconscious man began to stir. The pandemonium increased, and Bond was free to slip away. He had seen enough.

Someone did ask where he was going. In a thick Hamburg accent Bond replied,

‘I must just back my lorry up.’

As fellow goon HEY GUNS informed me, a Hamburg accent has a working class connotation. Bond is putting on a "dumb soldier" routine.


But instead of backing it, he turned it and drove full pelt towards the village. Nobody stopped him and he abandoned it on the corner where he had ambushed the driver. Soon afterwards the bombardment started and Bond hid in the woods. He was hungry now and very tired. When darkness came he slept a while and after midnight started the hazardous trek back to the Allied lines.

It was ten days before the German panzers cracked and the retreat began. By then the whole German salient had been blasted by Allied guns. Much of the forest was a wasteland, but, to Bond's surprise, Rosenfeld appeared to have survived. Apart from shattered windows, the hospital on the hill appeared intact. Bond had made sure to be included in the advance party that occupied the village. He also made sure that his first call was to the hospital. It was full of German wounded and humming with activity. Some of the wounded men were lying on mattresses in corridors. A young doctor showed him round. Bond was accompanied by a British brigadier, an upright, very typical regular soldier with a moustache and double D.S.O. He was obviously impressed by what he saw.

‘Can't help admiring Jerry, can you? They're an efficient bloody lot, even when they're beaten.’

You literally just used the two most glaring examples of the Nazis being extremely inefficient in this chapter!


Bond nodded, but said nothing.

‘That doctor in charge – the tall one with the monocle. Couldn't take his eyes off you. Ever met the man before?’

‘Yes,’ said Bond, ‘I have. Ten days ago. He was in uniform.’

‘Uniform? What sort of uniform?’

‘An S.S. general's. His name's Semler. Some people think that he'll be Himmler's successor, but somehow, after today, I doubt it.’

It took the Allied field security three days to check the hospital. Some of the cases were quite genuine – so were the doctors. But a lot more of them were S.S. personnel. The cellars of the hospital were crammed with arms, and a command post had contact with Berlin and with resistance points throughout Germany. Thanks to James Bond the rising the S.S. planned from Rosenfeld Hospital never materialized, and without it the German Nazis were truly doomed.

Somebody Awful
Nov 27, 2011

Kill Em All 1917
I am trench man
410,757,864,530 SHELLS FIRED

chitoryu12 posted:

It's like this book is trying to psychologically brutalize Bond.

I feel like it's been going that direction since his first kill.

chitoryu12 posted:

This makes Pearson's portrayal of the program somewhat problematic, as it directly flies in the face of actual evidence regarding the sorry state Germany was in by this point. It paints the Nazis as incredibly tenacious, well-equipped, and only narrowly stopped by the skin of our teeth, rather than a failing fascist state that overstretched itself and was hamstrung by infighting and inherent flaws in fascist white supremacist thinking.

To be fair, the same could be said for an enormous amount of material published between 1945 and now. Can't sell the ignominious truth to gullible wehraboos.

chitoryu12 posted:

We already covered in Dr. No how "Spandau" is a pretty bad way to describe German WW2 machine guns. It seems Pearson didn't pick up on that.

If you stand in front of a mirror at midnight under a full moon and say "Lindybeige" three times...

Lord Zedd-Repulsa
Jul 21, 2007

Devour a good book.

HEY GUNS is a good dude. But yeah, this is going hard on Bond as if his adventures in Fleming's tales weren't enough trauma for one man to survive. Hopefully it doesn't get much worse or it'll cross the line to laughable.

Apr 23, 2014

Lord Zedd-Repulsa posted:

HEY GUNS is a good dude. But yeah, this is going hard on Bond as if his adventures in Fleming's tales weren't enough trauma for one man to survive. Hopefully it doesn't get much worse or it'll cross the line to laughable.

What happens to Bond may get worse, but let's just say that Pearson isn't done with just Honey Ryder in destroying Bond girls....

Somebody Awful
Nov 27, 2011

Kill Em All 1917
I am trench man
410,757,864,530 SHELLS FIRED

Oh no.

Apr 23, 2014

I just had a thought.

Ian Fleming was very dissatisfied with the first draft of The Man with the Golden Gun, to the point where he wanted to rewrite as much of it as possible and publish it a year late. Sergio Leone's famous A Fistful of Dollars would release in Italy in September 1964, a month after his death, and across other European countries in 1965.

What could the book have been like if Fleming not only had more time to work it out, but had seen one of the most influential spaghetti westerns while fixing a book about a gunslinger with a revolver right out of the old west?

Apr 23, 2014

Chapter 7: Scandal


I had an idea that there had been some scandal hanging over Bond at the end of the war. Urquhart had mentioned what he termed ‘a spot of trouble’, and from chance remarks of Bond's I gathered that he still felt bitter over how he had been treated. When I asked him, his first reaction was to shake his head.

‘Absolutely nothing,’ he said briskly.

‘But you left the Secret Service.’

‘So did a lot of others. The war was over. I'd had enough.’

‘Enough? Enough of what?’

‘Oh, for God's sake. Can't we just leave it there? I was bored, you understand.’

‘And that was all?’

I had not seen Bond furious before. It was quite daunting. The jaw clamped tight, the face went slightly pale. I sensed the violence just below the surface. He breathed deeply, checked himself and then said very softly,

‘Just say that I was anxious for a change. And now, if you'll excuse me …’ He rose abruptly, nodded me good-day and strode off to the hotel. It was to be two days before I so much as caught sight of him again.

Pearson turns to Stephenson for more information. He learns that Bond had a huge fight with M shortly after he became head of the Service, some sort of conflict regarding how both parties handled a situation. Stephenson, however, believes it's wrong for him to gossip and tells him to get the info from Bond himself. Two days later, he gets his answer when Bond suddenly calls him over while sitting at the bar alone after dinner.


According to what he said, he had been uncertain what to do in peacetime England. Officially, he was still on the establishment of the Volunteer Reserve of the Royal Navy. Finding himself with a fortnight's leave, he went back to spend it with Aunt Charmian.

‘I was hoping I could think things out. It was the one place where I thought that I could come to terms with myself.’

Instead he found this sudden contact with his family unsettling. Aunt Charmian was full of gossip; Henry was married now and in the Treasury. ‘Just the place for him,’ said Bond. A week or two before, Aunt Charmian had met Bond's ex-fiancée in Canterbury. ‘She was looking very settled. She had two children with her – told me her husband was in fertilizers. She was most interested to know what you were doing.’

Later, Aunt Charmian talked about the Bonds: Grandfather Bond had died the year before – aged ninety-two – and Uncle Gregor had inherited the house in Glencoe. ‘It should have been your father,’ said Aunt Charmian. ‘It would have suited him. Instead your uncle's drinking more than ever, and often talks of selling up the place.’ Aunt Charmian was horrified at the prospect. To his surprise, Bond found he didn't care.

Nor did he care about the past. In his old room he found a locked drawer-full of letters – most of them from Marthe de Brandt and other women long forgotten. There were some photographs as well. He burned the lot. The Bentley was still in the garage where he had left it at the beginning of the war; the tyres were very flat, the metalwork was rusty. Bond locked the garage doors. Wherever else the future lay it wasn't here. That night he told his aunt that he would probably be staying in the Service.

‘I'm sure that you know best,’ she said.

In February 1946, Bond submitted his application to transfer to a peacetime civil servant position. A few days later he was summoned to meet the new head of the Secret Service, Admiral Sir Miles Messervy. Now secretary to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, M had a reputation as a brilliant officer who was often arrogant and inflexible.


Bond's first impression was unfavourable. Perhaps it was the pipe. (Bond had never cared for pipe-smokers since Eton – his housemaster had been a devoted Bruno Flake Cut man.) And there was something less than warmth in M.'s manner – no word of welcome, not even an invitation to sit down. The steely eyes surveyed him from the weatherbeaten face. Bond noted the closely cut grey hair, the tightly knotted tie, the neat arrangement of the ruler, blotter, shell-case ashtray on the desk, and, once again, remembered school. The last time he had felt such apprehension was when summoned by the head during the trouble over Brinton's sister. M. had the same headmaster's trick of staring at his victim hard before speaking.

‘Commander Bond,’ he said at last. M. had a cool dry voice. ‘I have been looking at your records.’ He tapped a thick, much-handled manilla file on his desk. Bond would have given much to read it. ‘An interesting career. Experience like yours must be unique.’

Bond didn't like the way he said ‘unique’.

M proposes that Bond be recruited into his service on probation, sent on loan to the OSS in Washington. He would officially be a staffer of the British Embassy, a position that Bond notes is often a way of getting rid of unwanted personnel.


Bond flew into New York in the spring. It was the first time he had been there since he killed the Japanese in the Rockefeller Center; the memory haunted him. He was twenty-five but felt immensely old. For ten years he had been at war, plotting and struggling and murdering his fellow men. Now it was over and he realized his soul was sick of it. The time had come to catch up on a lot of living.

In For Your Eyes Only, Fleming quotes Bond as saying that the best things in America are the chipmunks and the oyster stew. He saw no chipmunks during his few days in New York, but it was then that he discovered oyster stew – in the Oyster Bar on the suburban level of Grand Central Terminal. It struck him as the greatest dish since the bouillabaisse he ate with Marthe de Brandt in Marseilles before the war. He discovered other things as well. After the years of wartime London he was excited and appalled by the affluence of New York. He enjoyed shopping for objects that would give him pleasure – things had to work and either be extremely cheap or extremely luxurious. He bought a 25-cent Zippo lighter and the Hoffritz razor which he has used ever since. He also bought Owens toothbrushes, socks from Triplers, and an expensive set of golf clubs from A. and C. But what gave him greatest pleasure was to discover what he always called ‘the greatest bargain in New York’ – the 5-cent Staten Island Ferry from the Battery.

I still say that oyster stew wasn't that great when I went!

The Staten Island Ferry is a meme in the New York City LAN thread, especially since it's now free instead of costing 5 cents ($0.71 cents today). A 30 minute ride will take you to the forgotten borough, a mostly suburban island that constantly tries to secede from the rest of the city. During my last visit I actually took a train all the way to the opposite end of the island to eat at Killmeyer's, a Bavarian restaurant that's been virtually unchanged since Bond's time and has a Bavarian bar built in 1849.

Also, that $0.25 price of a Zippo is only $3.55 today. If you're being sold a Zippo for that much today, it's a fake that'll probably break as soon as you flick it.


It was the perversity of a puritan, loving and rejecting the richest city in the world – an attitude which Bond has always had towards America. During these few days in New York he stayed at the Stanhope, a five-star hotel opposite the Metropolitan Museum. Sir William Stephenson had recommended it. Its dignity and calm appealed to Bond, despite its cost. Similarly, he made great show of eating simply in the most expensive restaurants. As a friend of Sir William's and something of a celebrity, he was entertained extravagantly; but at Voisins he insisted on dining off vodka martinis, eggs benedict and strawberries. At Sardis he had scrambled eggs. When he flew on to Washington, Bond had the feeling that he had put New York firmly in its place.

The Stanhope Hotel is yet another that's turned into apartments in 2005, at 995 Fifth Avenue. It's been seen in film and TV from Woody Allen's Manhattan to multiple episodes of Sex and the City.


In Washington the Embassy took care of him. This was a mistake. The last thing James Bond needed was to dine with the Ambassador or swap gossip on the city's cocktail circuit. Washington was not his city. After New York he found it formal and pretentious with too much marble and too many monuments. It brought out the worst in him. The Head of Chancery offered to take him round the White House. Bond replied that he'd rather see the Washington gasworks – end of conversation.

The one thing Bond was grateful for was his flat. The Embassy had lent him a ground-floor service apartment in a brownstone off N Street. Bond had never seen Georgetown before: almost in spite of himself he found that he was captivated by it. He liked its style, its easy elegance. Also, although he won't admit it, he clearly did enjoy the rich indulgent lives of the wealthy set who lived there.

For, socially and sexually, Bond was a success in Georgetown. He was invited everywhere. His arrogance and obvious dislike of politicians appealed to the masochistic instincts of his hosts – and, more still, of their wives. His British accent and his hard good looks seemed to guarantee him all the conquests that he wanted. He was quite ruthless, knowing and very cruel to women, a policy which, as usual, paid rich dividends.

So...not the James Bond we've seen.


Somewhat hypocritically, Bond insists that once again he was distinctly shocked by the eagerness of these rich American wives to go to bed with him. ‘They had no self-respect. It was all too easy. There was absolutely no romance.’ But this time, absence of romance did not stop him making the most of things.

This isn't Bond, this is Fleming. Ian Fleming was notorious for his womanizing, and was even worse until Muriel Wright's death finally shocked him into realizing his callousness. I think Pearson is (subconsciously or otherwise) letting his time with Fleming and writing his biography influence his version of Bond.


Bond had work to do. It suffered. He claims that not until much later did he discover what a crucial period this was for American Intelligence.

Men like Alan Dulles and General ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan were hard at work revamping the whole U.S. secret-service structure. The old Office of Strategic Services was about to be transformed into the all-powerful Central Intelligence Agency, the C.I.A. And several of the top men genuinely wanted to draw on Bond's advice and expertise. Bond didn't want to talk. He got on well with Donovan, and, in later years, Alan Dulles became something of a personal friend. But he still had a condescending attitude to most of the American secret servicemen he met. Some of them clearly were naïve and others inexperienced but Bond made the mistake of treating them all as something of a joke. He gave little and was particularly bored by the organizers of the O.S.S. who consulted him (unlike Ian Fleming who was in Washington a few months later and who compiled a detailed constitution for the C.I.A. for General Donovan). The simple truth was that in U.S. Intelligence circles, Bond soon made himself heartily disliked. He never had been a tactful man, particularly with anyone who bored him; within a few days of his arrival in Washington, he had begun to put the backs up of several men who mattered. His socializing made things worse.

So you're saying he's a tremendous, unlikable rear end in a top hat.


There were several warning incidents. The first involved a young French diplomat. A former Vichyite, he had somehow got himself appointed to the French Embassy. At a small dinner given by a leading Georgetown hostess, he taunted Bond about the British in North Africa. There was a scene. Bond replied in the sort of French that is rarely heard in Washington, and when he hit the man the Frenchman fell, smashed an almost genuine Chippendale escritoire and needed his jaw pinning in three places.

A few days later there was another scene at a big reception for a famous film-star who had just made a film on the Normandy invasion. Bond arrived slightly drunk with a U.S. Navy captain. Both of them laughed a lot throughout the film, and afterwards Bond told the star to stick to Westerns – they were safer.

This is terrible. This isn't Bond.


None of this mattered over-much. People who knew James Bond liked him and made allowances. The final incident was different.

This time there really could be no excuses.

As usual, the cause of all the trouble was a woman, but, for once, Bond was innocent. She was the wife of an influential Congressman, a rich pro-British democrat and friend of the Ambassador. He was in his fifties, his wife in her early thirties. ‘She was,’ says Bond, ‘a hard-faced, predatory bitch.’

The husband had heard of Bond from Sir William Stephenson, and was anxious to meet him. He made a fuss of him, and invited him for the weekend to his house near Albany. Bond went. He liked the Congressman and, as he had a private golf course near his house, Bond was looking forward to a weekend's golf. He felt he needed it.

That night the Congressman got drunk, and the wife suggested Bond should sleep with her. Bond claims that he refused, ‘but as things turned out it would have been much better if I had.’

The following weekend, Bond accepted an invitation to see the Congressman for a golfing competition. His wife wasn't there, fortunately....until she promptly landed a Piper Cub at the private airstrip behind the house. She was awful to the guests and Bond could hear the signs of a fight upstairs between the couple. The Congressman abruptly left, claiming he had sudden urgent business in Washington, and the wife insisted on flying Bond back in her little plane after sleeping with him. Bond was very insistent on not engaging in such a dangerous affair, and she finally (and angrily) acquiesced.


She was a skilful pilot, and it was only later that Bond was to learn just how drunk she was. At the time he thought she was doing her best to scare him. She certainly succeeded, but he was determined not to show it. He admits it was the most hair-raising flight he has ever lived through. They were following the main line of the Turnpike but losing height. Bond asked her twice about their altitude: she didn't answer. He asked again. This time she swore at him, shoved the stick forward and shouted, ‘O.K., big boy – fly the bloody thing.’

Bond tried to grab the stick. The plane was a bare few hundred feet above the Turnpike. It stalled, the engine roared, and the plane fell like a dead bird. It landed in a field some twenty yards from the road and flared immediately. Bond seems to have been thrown clear. The first patrol car at the accident discovered him along the road. There was not much that anyone could do to save the woman.

There's obviously no way you can hush up a member of congress's wife dying in a plane crash with another man. Bond was unable to tell the truth to her husband, who was incredibly bitter about it. Bond made the mistake of telling the man at the embassy who was in charge of dealing with the press; a devout pupil of Winchester College with an inherent dislike of the Eton-educated Bond, he assumed Bond must have been at fault and trying to shift the blame.


Coldly, the diplomat suggested Bond had better catch the evening plane to London. Once he had gone the Embassy would do its best to smooth things over. These things did happen, but in future Commander Bond might be advised to steer very clear of politicians' wives.

Bond says that he was sorely tempted to hit the man. ‘He was so very smug, so very Foreign Office about it all.’ The fact that he was right did not make it any better, although in fact James Bond has followed his advice religiously ever since.

At least that punch would have been justified.


Bond's disgrace was serious. He did his best to salvage what was left of his reputation by seeing M. at once: at least he managed to make sure that M. heard his version of events before anybody else's. But if James Bond was expecting a sympathetic ear from that old sailor he mistook his man.

M. said very little, but his silence made it clear what he was thinking. While Bond was talking he went on filling his pipe. He said ‘humph’ once or twice, then lit up, puffed, and muttered ‘most distasteful’. Finally he told Bond that he would be looking into the affair in detail. Bond would be hearing from him.

Bond had been hoping that things could somehow be glossed over and forgotten: he did not know the rancour of an outraged Wykehamist. A full report arrived from Washington along with all the newspapers. None was particularly flattering to Bond.

It was a bad time to have come unstuck. With the ending of the war, establishments were being pruned, and good men thanked for their services and given their bowler hats. Even his old ally, Fleming, was soon to leave Whitehall for Kemsley Newspapers. The whole style of the Secret Service was changing too. The new fashion was for what Bond sardonically refers to as the ‘Dirty Mackintosh Brigade’, the self-effacing, slightly shabby men whose subfusc image was so different from his own.

These were the men who called him ‘Playboy Bond’. He claims that they were jealous of him – of the money that he spent, the women he enjoyed, the life he led. Above all, they were jealous of his past success. Now they could have their own back. They did so with a vengeance.

When M finally sent for Bond, he had coldly determined that he was fired. No board of inquiry necessary. As the summer of 1946 began, James Bond was unemployed.


Bond's spirits rose. By Marble Arch he noticed new leaves on the plane trees by the park. People were strolling past him, leading their ordinary, uncomplicated lives and suddenly Bond realized that he was one of them. He was no longer tied to a life behind a gun, no longer threatened with the fear of sudden death. M. had set him free and he could start a normal life at last. The idea was so exciting that he crossed Park Lane, entered the Dorchester and ordered a half-bottle of Dom Perignon to celebrate.

Bond began looking for a job. He was quite optimistic now that the time had come to settle down. He reviewed his assets – youth, good looks, and skill with languages. He was single and without dependents. But as he soon found out, these were assets which he shared with several thousand other young ex-servicemen.

He took job-hunting seriously and wrote endless letters that began, ‘Dear Sir, I wonder whether …’ One in ten brought a reply. There were a few offers. A jute mill in Madras required a manager. A stock-broking firm in Mincing Lane required a clerk. A private eye in Marylebone needed investigators … ‘most of the work's divorce-court stuff. You'll find it stimulating.’ Bond thought otherwise.

Over the next two weeks, Bond gets no offers he's actually interested in taking. A suggestion from a wartime colleague that he become a Harrods store detective is the last straw for his ego.


It was the last sad straw. That evening Bond decided to make money in the one sure way he knew – by gambling. Bond still enjoyed his wartime membership of Blades, although he hadn't been for several months. He put on his dark blue suit, arrived at nine, stayed clear of the bar (to avoid the embarrassment of having to buy drinks that he could not afford) and took his place in the great eighteenth-century gaming room. He had always played to win, but never before because he needed money. He was disturbed to find how much this spoiled the game: it even dictated his choice of an opponent. He found himself picking someone he would normally have avoided – Bunny Kendrick, a cantankerous old millionaire who was a bad but frequent loser. Bond played high. For more than half an hour he lost. Kendrick was delighted in the way that rich men are at such unnecessary strokes of fortune. When Bond was £200 down, he panicked – and it was then that he was tempted. He suddenly remembered an all but foolproof card-sharp's trick Esposito had taught him, a way of dealing himself a perfect run of cards. It would have been so very easy, and no one would have noticed – certainly not Kendrick. Bond was sweating, and this chance of cheating was so frightening that he almost left the table there and then. Instead he forced himself to finish playing and ended owing £80. It was the most wretched evening Bond has ever spent at a card table in his life. Next morning he decided he would ring the man at Harrods. But on that very day his fortune changed.

Bond was walking past the Ritz Hotel (he tended to walk everywhere these days) when he saw a small, familiar bald figure entering the large swing doors. It was a good three years since Bond had last seen Maddox. After the fall of France he had made his way to London, picked up a colonel's job with Military Intelligence and spent most of the war in the Middle East. Later he joined the Free French in Algiers and returned to Paris with the ending of the war. He was delighted to see Bond, and insisted that they had a drink together. Maddox showed all the signs of obvious prosperity – expensive highly polished shoes, a tightly cut check suit, the rosette of the Legion d'Honneur in his buttonhole.

The Legion of Honour, established by Napoleon in 1802, is the highest French order of merit for military or civil service. He's clearly been busy during the war.


‘Consultant work,’ he said when Bond asked what he did, ‘at, shall we say, a somewhat elevated level. I work with various big French commercial houses, chiefly with connections throughout Africa.’

‘And you enjoy yourself?’

‘Have you ever known me not to? I have a family you know – two boys. We live just outside Paris at Vincennes. You must meet my wife.’

But Maddox was a wary husband. When his wife appeared – she had been shopping and returned earlier than expected – Maddox treated her with care. Bond could see why. She was lovely – a blonde, Parisienne with that particular sheen of beautiful French women who take their menfolk and their wealth for granted. Bond was amused to see that Maddox was careful not to press her to stay. Only when she had gone did he invite Bond to lunch.

Bond loved the grill room of the Ritz. It was like old times to be eating here with Maddox. He remembered the evening long ago, in Fontainebleau when Maddox had recruited him. Soon he was telling Maddox everything – the ups-and-downs of his career, the scandal out in Washington, and M.'s behaviour. Maddox sat in silence, staring at the park.

Maddox has turned Bond into what he is now. He's too far gone to change. So he offers Bond a chance to work for him.


Bond would have hated to admit how good it felt to be aboard the morning plane to Paris. He had his battered pig-skin case that had been with him on so many old assignments. Even to pack it had brought back a touch of the excitement of the old days: pyjamas, light blue shirts, and black hide washing-case. He wore the dark blue lightweight suit, the hand-stitched moccasins, the heavy knitted-silk black tie that virtually comprised his private uniform. He stretched his legs and watched the Staines reservoirs recede below the Viscount's wing-tip. Early though it was, he broke his usual rule and ordered a long cool vodka tonic. Maddox was paying for the trip. He could afford it.

He thought of Maddox. That wily little man wasn't befriending him again for fun although Bond had told him that his days of dangerous living were over. Bond wasn't giving up his dream of normal life as easily as that.

He had forgotten how much he loved Paris. It was his first time back since just before the war, but nothing had really changed – the same stale smell of Gauloises at Le Bourget, the drumming of the taxi on the cobbled roads, the barges on the river. He was remembering things that seemed forgotten. From the Place d’Italie the driver took the Boulevard St Germain. Bond was earlier than he expected and paid him off at the corner of the Rue Jacob. This was where he had lived with Marthe de Brandt – the little flat beside the Place Furstenburg; it seemed so long ago that he could not believe that this was the same scarred brown front door, the same trees in the courtyard.

Bond's nostalgia deepened as he walked down the narrow street towards the river, then crossed the Pont des Arts. How sensible of Maddox to have settled here in Paris, and how typical of him to have chosen an office on the Ile de la Cité with a fine view of the river and one of Bond's own favourite restaurants, the Restaurant Jules, just round the corner. At Bond's suggestion this was where they ate, although Maddox had a table booked at the Tour d'Argent. Bond felt at home at last as he sat down at the marble-topped table in that crowded restaurant. They had quenelles and boeuf gros sel, apricot tart and camembert and splendid coffee. They had the faintly sour house wine in a heavy glass decanter, then drank their cognac afterwards in the little square beneath the mulberries. It was Bond's first day of positive enjoyment since he had left the Secret Service.

Quenelles are a dish of creamed fish or meat (optionally with breadcrumbs) with an egg binder shaped and poached. Boeuf gros sel is boiled salted beef, a very English French dish.


Maddox outlined the work he had in mind for him. Since the Liberation he had been working for a syndicate of big French bankers as ‘security director’, A title which appeared to cover top-level planning to protect the group's massive interests throughout the world.

Maddox was much concerned with anti-subversion and the control of sabotage. He wanted Bond to join him, ‘as an adviser, nothing more. You'll have your base right here in Paris, and the job can be what you care to make it. You can travel, and I'll promise that you won't be bored. At the same time you can settle down a bit, make some money and decide what you really want to do with life. We might even find you a good-looking rich French wife. You could do worse.’

Bond spent the next 4 years in this job, where his non-Frenchness made him a perfect neutral party for handling disputes.


There were great journeys which he loved, weeks spent travelling rough across Morocco or over the Sahara. He got to know Dakar, that scorching, fascinating melting-pot of France and black Africa. In Conakry, the capital of Guinea, he found a night club where the black hostesses wore nothing but full-length ball-dress skirts and long blonde wigs. In Timbuktu he bought himself a ‘wife’ for fifteen sheep. He caught the spell of Africa – its size, its paradox, its mystery. He travelled up the Niger river, and got to know the tribes of Senegal. Here it seemed that he could live a cleaner life than he had known in Europe. did Pearson manage to be more racist than Fleming in the 1970s?


When he did come back, it was to Paris, to confer with Maddox in his elegant small office by the river. He never seemed to visit London now. He had given up the flat in Lincoln Street and finally arranged to have the Bentley repainted and restored and brought over from Pett Bottom. Resplendent in its polished brass and ‘elephant's breath grey’ paint, it now lived in a lock-up garage off the Rue Jacob. Bond lived nearby. He had a tiny roof-top flat behind the Place Furstenburg, ‘more like the cabin of a ship than a gentleman's apartment’ as Maddox used to say. So far the rich wife Maddox had promised had not materialized.

Professionally, Bond pulled off several coups which more than justified his salary. In Bamako he stopped the blowing up of the great barrage recently built by the French across the Niger. At Algiers airport he scotched an attempt to hijack a consignment of gold to the Bank of France. In Paris itself he had the task of handling a kidnapping. The son of one of Maddox's wealthy colleagues had been taken from his house near the Bois de Boulogne. Bond was convinced he knew the kidnappers, and on his own initiative set out to find them. There was a risk of the child being killed. Bond knew that if that happened he would be blamed. Despite this he went ahead and bluffed the gang into believing that he was bringing them the ransom. They were holed up inside a block of municipal flats in Belfort. Thanks to his instant marksmanship, Bond shot two of them before they could harm the boy. The rest surrendered and Bond drove the child home in safety.

Through acts like these, Bond was becoming something of a legend. But it was a strange uneasy life he led. France was not his country. At times he felt as if life were uncannily repeating a perpetual pattern which had started with the wanderings of his family when he was a boy. He was becoming like his father, always on the move and always fighting other people's battles.

All of these would be a lot more interesting if they were actual books, not sentences.


He was approaching thirty and knew quite well that he had settled nothing. He was still rootless and, despite a succession of fairly clinical affaires, still without lasting emotional attachment. He had begun to doubt if he were capable of one.

Like most compulsive bachelors, Bond was scared of women. Not physically – he was a vigorous and virile lover, and he enjoyed the routine of a seduction. It was an all-absorbing game that satisfied his vanity. His fear began when that other head was firmly on the pillow – worse still the morning after. Like all romantics, he was genuinely shocked when his women were revealed as human beings. Smeared morning make-up quite upset him and he disliked it if his women used the lavatory. Any demands, except overtly sexual ones, made him impatient.

With such an attitude to women it was not surprising that James Bond stayed resolutely single, especially as his habits were becoming more and more confirmed with age. His ‘cabin’ up among the roofs of the Rue Jacob possessed a monk-like quality, his mistresses were becoming more and more alike. They were all beautiful, all fairly young, and married or divorced. They enjoyed sex as much as he did but they all stuck by the unspoken rules of the game – pleasure but no extraneous demands, sentimentality but no sentiment, passion but no comeback from the world outside. Bond secretly preferred them to leave shortly after making love. (Since they generally had husbands, they invariably did.)

Despite Bond's psychological issues with women, he lusted after the ideal of a stable family life. He became "Uncle James" to the Maddoxes, always coming around to play with the children and give them presents. Following a typical Madonna/Whore Complex, married women were the only ones he could respect.

Which is why he went after Maddox's wife, Regine.


Soon after his arrival he had attempted to seduce her. She had been perfectly good-natured about it, even taking care to protect his precious vanity.

‘Darling James,’ she said, kissing his hand before replacing it where it belonged, ‘you're too good-looking for me now. A few years ago it would have been different, but now …’

Bond tried to replace his hand. She firmly repelled it.

‘Besides, I'd probably just fall in love with you, and think what trouble that would cause.’

And so, instead of sex, they dined at Maxim's.

Within a day or two, Bond had convinced himself he was in love with her. The role suited him. It did not stop him chasing other women, rather the reverse. Depending on his mood he would be seeking consolation or revenge. But he had an air of sadness now which was irresistible – to everyone except Regine.

She remained resolutely what Bond used to call his 'Princesse lointaine’. They were friends. She used to recommend him books to read and remind him when he needed a haircut. He bought her scent and told her all about his different women. It was the sort of friendship that would have gone on for ever – but for her husband.

There was something ironical about an old rake like Maddox becoming jealous of James Bond, especially when Bond was technically quite innocent. Perhaps Maddox understood this, perhaps he knew that mental infidelity was worse than any physical affaire. For several months Bond did not realize he knew. Then there was trouble.

As demonstrated in this dramatization:


Everything went wrong that summer. Bond had been going through one of his periodic hates against the French – their rudeness, narrowness and general meanness. There was a running battle with his concierge. Several assignments had been unsatisfactory, and suddenly Paris seemed impossible – crowded and hot and full of tourists. Maddox had been increasingly irascible. Bond began counting the days off to his holiday. Maddox was very much concerned with trouble in Algiers. The local nationalists were already starting their campaign against the French: the French were getting worried. There had been small-scale riots, bomb attacks and killings. Maddox, and many like him, saw them as portents of disaster round the corner. Much of the trouble was that already it was clear that the local gendarmes in Algiers could not contain the unrest. There had been raids on banks owned by the Syndicate. Several employees had been killed, but there had been no arrests. Then, in July, the manager of the main branch in Oran was gunned down and several million francs were stolen.

It was a disturbing case, seeming to create a pattern for the future. If it went unchecked there would be more killings, more armed robberies to finance the violence and subversion. Maddox was much concerned and visited Oran in person. When he returned he discussed it with James Bond.

‘The gendarmerie are useless. None of them realize that this is war. The only answer is attack.’

Bond was surprised at Maddox's vehemence – it was unlike him. Bond asked what he meant.

‘I mean that we must teach the Nationalists a lesson. In Oran I found out who was behind the raid – a man called El Bezir – a Communist and head of the local F.L.N. commando.’

‘You told the police?’

Maddox began laughing. Bond felt suddenly uneasy.

‘The police? James, you're getting softer than I thought. Since when have the police in Algeria done anything? I want you in Oran. I've a man there called Descaux. He has his orders and you'll work with him. I want this El Bezir man dealt with.’

This is obviously tremendously illegal, but Maddox explodes on Bond until he reluctantly takes the job.


In fact he liked Oran. At this time it was relatively peaceful, and the city with its port, its great bay and the mixture of the French and Arab worlds was still part of the old North Africa. It had great atmosphere and charm. French legionaries from the Sahara lounged in the outdoor cafés of the Rue Maréchal Lyautey, sipping their Pernods and smoking their issue Bastos cigarettes. The Arab city of the kasbah seemed to Bond part of the oriental world that he remembered from his boyhood. The only drawback to the mission was Descaux.

Bond met him the first evening he arrived, and disliked him instantly. He was a strutting, loudmouthed little man with thick eyebrows meeting above the nose. He talked a lot about ‘teaching the blacks a lesson’ and soon made it clear to Bond that this meant assassinating El Bezir. He had it all worked out. There was an empty shop beneath the flat where El Bezir was living. They would drive in at night, plant half a hundredweight of gelignite beneath the flat, set a short time fuse, then drive off.

‘You'll kill a lot of innocent Algerians,’ said Bond.

‘Innocent Algerians – are there any?’ said Descaux.

Bond considers immediately quitting the job, but he realizes Descaux will go ahead without him and Bond could find himself implicated regardless. And he realizes that Maddox knew exactly what he was doing when he sent him here.

The head of the Sûreté in the city, Fauchet, is a Corsican that Bond had met while he was with the French Resistance. He tells him everything about the plan, and Fauchet informs Bond that Descaux is actually a Vichy and Gestapo agent named Grautz. El Bezir is a moderate nationalist with no connection to the bank robberies. Maddox is putting Bond on a political hit.


Bond felt that he was beginning to understand.

‘What about this man Descaux?’ said Fauchet. ‘We'd better pull him in before there's trouble.’

‘No,’ said James Bond. ‘Leave him to me.’

Bond knew the cheap hotel where Descaux was staying. There was a garage at the rear. He had no difficulty entering, and in the old Citroën van he found the gelignite, the timing apparatus Descaux had boasted of. It was a primitive affair, but certainly sufficient to destroy a building. Bond was examining it when Descaux entered, with a gun.

Bond could have shot him first. He didn't, because he had other plans and there were things he needed to find out. Descaux disarmed him, tied him up – the knots were very tight – and then, methodically and lovingly, beat him up. Again Bond could have stopped him, but again he didn't. There was no other way of getting him to talk. Then, finally, when Bond's face was pulped and his body limp from kicking, Descaux stopped – the orgy over.

‘That was on orders from your boss,’ he said.

Bond mumbled some reply.

‘He really hates you. Still, you've yourself to blame, you stupid bastard. Playing around with his wife like that. You should have known better with a man like Maddox.’

This is a great story and I wish Pearson had just written a book about it instead.


Bond stiffened. Up to that moment he had never guessed the truth. Now that he did, everything was clear. Maddox had simply used the El Bezir affair to get even with him. The fact that the Algerian was innocent didn't matter. Maddox wanted Bond destroyed – and didn't mind how.

‘He's got it all worked out,’ said Descaux gloatingly. ‘You're going to take the rap for tonight's little caper. When our black friends are blasted to their Maker the evidence will point to you. He's a clever little man, your Mr Maddox. He's seen that I'm completely in the clear, but as for you the evidence would guillotine the President of France.’

Descaux opened the garage doors and climbed aboard the Citroën. Bond heard him backing out, then listened for the bang. He had already fixed the timing apparatus on the bomb and it exploded, as he knew it would, three minutes later. Descaux was killed, a lot of glass was shattered, and it took several hours to fill in the crater in the road. No one else was hurt.

As Fauchet takes care of everything locally, Bond calmly cables his resignation to Maddox, then has his flat closed and his Bentley sent to Aunt Charmian's house. He moves to Kenya for a few months, working for an American wildlife filmmaker, then to Mombasa and then Seychelles as he has money and girl troubles. For once, hitting rock bottom has been his best situation.


It is hard to know how long he might have stayed here. Places like the Seychelles, dead-end paradises, seem to be full of potential James Bonds. For a while he helped a man prospect for treasure, then he worked for an American millionaire who was searching for rare fish. Fleming retold this episode, changing the time and names and certain key facts, in a short story which he called The Hildebrand Rarity.

It was a gruesome business. The millionaire was killed – to this day full responsibility for his death remains uncertain – and, for some while, Bond lived with his widow. She was rich. She loved him. And as Bond says, ‘I was past caring what I was by then. If I was a gigolo, at least I was paying for my keep.’

That story is a lot less fun when Bond is just a cold womanizer.


Then, once again, chance intervened; Ian Fleming arrived in the Seychelles. He was travelling for the Sunday Times and writing about the buried treasure of an eighteenth-century pirate. He said he was appalled to see how Bond was living. No one should waste their talents and their life like this. They talked a lot together and Fleming said that during the time that Bond had been away, there had been changes in the Secret Service. Why not come back?

Suddenly Bond found that he was missing London, missing the old life, and the excitement he had known. It was too tempting to resist. When Fleming travelled back to London, Bond came with him.

Lord Zedd-Repulsa
Jul 21, 2007

Devour a good book.

Oh no, Stephanie Meyer is bleeding into this thread now. How far into this book are we?

Dec 24, 2007

If the author is still filling out the 1970s bingo card Bond will spend a little while strung out on heroin, amphetamines, or psychedelics.


Gats Akimbo
May 28, 2007

Ignoring this post

chitoryu12 posted:

God only knows what he did to Biggles!

If anyone's curious I got to chapter 5 of that before tapping out from boredom. Not much of interest, though I was vaguely amused to see Pearson has a Type:


Dad married a much younger woman with Issues...

Though she ran off with a bounder rather than fell off an Alp. OK, I got a snigger out of this:

And Mum is gloriously stone cold when she shows up again:

Other than that it seems to be pretty straightforwardly out of the books - no-one's secretly gay or drug-addicted or anything even faintly interesting; just punching Huns and Rule Britannia doncha know old chap.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • Post
  • Reply