The 007th Chapter: GoldenEye

It’s a new world.

With new enemies, and new threats.

But you can still rely on one man.

Spoon. Ken Spoon.

You were expecting someone else?

Really ? Still? Why? Ruddy imbecile.

Ah, GoldenEye, that seventeenth dew-dappled dawn, that seventeenth fresh take on Bond, that seventeenth whirl around “pushing it in a new direction”, that seventeenth “which didn’t happen, again”. At the time, one wondered agape, agog and aggly-maggly-moo at the strategy of launching a (seventeenth) mint-crisp vision of Bond novelised (pfft) by a writer whose vision of 007 had developed cataracts; not just out of steam but boiled bone dry. Whether SeaFire was contemptuous or simply exhausted is open to debate (make it short) but having the same venture support (ostensibly) opposed attitudes to James Bond struck one as right dead weird.

Janus, indeed.

GoldenEye. You were the future too, once.

Just the once.

“Writing” this windy piffle now, with GoldenEye closer in time to Diamonds are Forever than to any current relevance, its patina of newness much-chipped, it’s just yet more Bond film. A less original one than many, its novelties being bog all happening until a rushed end, desperate riffs on previous (better) Bond things whilst pretending to be high-mindedly distant from them, much sedentary chat, something-something-Russia-something, a traitor, a tendency to pad out, a suspect relationship with history (particularly World War II), a startling lack of sense to the villain’s scheme, a now-overtaken-by-events plot (Russia doesn’t need EMPs to disrupt; a “14.4 modem”, “internet!” and an obese orange cretin seem enough), up-to-out-of-date technology, an inert romance, clodhopping nods to a changed (espion-) age and thumped-in gender politics. There’s also a scene with a sandwich. Given what we’d been subjected to with his “Bond”, having Mr Gardner adapt it wasn’t inexplicable: it had to be. No-one else’s take could embrace such a moribund repertoire. As hoodwinked as we had been into (initially) accepting that what was written at us from 1981 was “James Bond”, in our hive-mind glee that there was a new 007 cross-media promotion thrust our way, we fell for another trick, that the film was putting Bond back on track. Although, fair enough, film’s on the same track Bond had been for years, cabbaging along until it runs out of puff completely.

Not the only thing to do so. Hi.

One hears that there was an electrical videogame of GoldenEye. Doubtless splendid for those keen on living a non-life, but those things I find baffling and I didn’t - or couldn’t - or wouldn’t - or shouldn’t - engage, being older than ten. It appears it lured new enthusiasts into Bond. No bad thing: 007 always was a Jet Set Willy. I might have been tempted had it been an echt Goldeneye gaming experience. Level 1: put on Sea Island cotton shirt, masticate eggs, get pissed. Level 2: sniff the hibiscus and expectorate brackish lungjuice over a hummingbird, get pissed. Level 3: bash out three thousand words of juvenile provocative claptrap (side task: nick something and pass it off stylishly as one’s own), get pissed. Extra life (but not that much) awarded if you give The Hun a thump. Level 4: lunch (liquid). Level 5: have a snorkel about, for a bit, listlessly. Level 6: get depressed (and pissed). Contemplate the Negroman / Koreanman / Gerrrrman / Chinaman and his deviant ways. Level 7: count up today’s burst nasal capillaries. Level 8: argue with wife, ignore child, knob neighbour; review morning’s output and change character names to those of real persons / races you absolutely must listlessly bully this time around. Level 9: smoke sixty cigarettes (timed level). Level 10: all round to Noel’s for drinks. Extra life awarded if you reach end of level unpansified. Level 11: read letters from doctor, publisher and TV producer. Can you avoid the disillusionment and self-hatred? Level 12: fight to suppress the demonic perception that whatever your success, your older brother remains more critically revered. Level 13: can you defeat the iron crab and stay alive long enough to see it all become massive? (No; level is deliberately impossible). You’ll never know how it feels to get so close and be denied. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what you will know. Level 14: ectually be satisfied (level cannot be unlocked).

In the spirit of both extrusions of The Bond Jesus That Is GoldenEye that I own (“film” and “book”), as a reboot-o-vision of this 007th Chapter pish, one adopted to disguise an enterprise past its best (apt) and because the novelisation is slender, ceremonially - throw petals, ye - I shall tear the cellophane from m’Blu-Ray of GoldenEye (imprisoning completism, not liberating taste, demanded acquisition) and consider respective chapters. There are nineteen in the book; thirty-two in the film. Yikes on bikes. What this means is I have to watch all of GoldenEye, which I can’t have done for twenty years, and read the book, which I can’t recall doing at all. This is not simply a pretext for competitively-priced sneering at the valiant performance choices of The Actor Pierce Brosnan.


Let me make myself comfortable and settle down for an afternoon’s light entertainment. Once I’ve done that and wiped clean, I suppose I’ll have to “do” GoldenEye. You go off and enjoy yourself whilst I don’t. This might be self-neglect.

[Time…passes. Slowly. You’ll never know the days, the nights, the tears, the tears I’ve cried].

Anyone know how to refix cellophane?

OK, let’s do GoldenEye! The grimmest come-hither since a Don at m’College, a gentleman of the American or Canadian persuasion (some Colonial backwater, anyway), approached me with the phrase “Let’s go inside, and coincide”. I mean, quite . True, as a gilded youth (more burnt offering, tbh) I was possessed of a posterior that would have made Hadrian weep, although as I age it has let me down so very terribly as of late. In the mood for being let down so very terribly as of right now? OK, let’s do GoldenEye!

The 007th Chapter – GoldenEye: Every single stinking sodding second.

Unlike Licence to Kill, no foreword. One suspects that Mr Gardner could not muster for his task even the backhanded compliments expressed in his earlier “novelisation” (yucky-bum). A suspicion that the later Ken Spoon novels do little to suppress.

One could - should? - approach GoldenEye Da Bewk as a stand-alone, in a bubble of its own. Like any bubble, it only takes a prick to… um… pierce it. Warned you it would get cheap. This pocket universe angle may be the only way to accept it without worrying about M suddenly being a lady here and equally suddenly unpicking all his stitches for COLD. What’s curious is that the film falls over itself to strap onto its predecessors, otherwise its podge-fisted milky subversion (about five lines’ worth, tops) would have no target and stuff like the DB5 no context. Perhaps that’s it: this novelisation is not to be connected to the books, rather a written emanation only connected to the films. Unlike Licence to Kill, which gave Leiter a second nibble and referenced other literary happenings, Book Bond doesn’t appear here (cue the observation that he’s absent for most Gardners anyway) and GoldenEye stands as the subtlest of soft launches for an imminent series of, if neither credible nor satisfactory as novels, then let’s call them “typed-up Bonds” reliant on the films for oxygen, or necessity. One reconciles one’s self to the imminent arrival of Raymond Benson, thus.

Cowslip – 1986

We’re not in a hotel room, proof enough that this book is not connected to its literary contemporaries. Bond wakes from a deep sleep, which might be an amusing metaphor for where the film series had been, save that this episode is expressly set in 1986 when the Bond series was about to get a series-preserving shot in the arm by casting a new actor to secure its future. A series otherwise produced, written, directed, titled, scored, designed and edited by the same old lot who had been complacently churning out stuff since the dawn of time and couldn’t see that if the extent of their effort was to hire one different man to deliver lines in an embarrassed manner, such inertia was doomed as future-proofing.

Some assert that placing the GoldenEye opening in 1986 rather than – say – 1991, where it would work equally “well”, is deliberate retconning of this Brosnan into a time prior to Mr Dalt-Ton’s tenure, wiping the slate clear of the latter. No. The proposition is utter catflap. The incidents about to play out render Bond a bit miserable, five-minute call Mr Dalt-Ton, and the book opens with Bond having a lovely mid-morning nap, poor old soul, so this is patently Moore Bond.

“The spotter plane was over sixty years old… captured at Stalingrad from Hitler’s Luftwaffe.” As opposed to William Shatner’s Luftwaffe. What the ‘plane could spot, as can we, is Bond sitting on a hill, overlooking a lake and dam, whilst a couple of pages of solid, dense Gardnerprose about chemical weapons and plentiful abbreviations splay themselves before us. Why did they never film his stuff? Here’s why. Open a film like this and everyone’ll be throwing themselves off that dam. In passing, though, there is explanation of the geography which renders marginally more convincing that the chemical plant is near another very deep gorge which might (might) explain how Film Bond is subsequently able to ride a motorcycle into it. “The journey from Archangel to the processing plant took almost twenty-four hours – a day of intense discomfort”. Replicated by waiting for something to happen here. Amusing detail that Bond arrived here by HALO jump (deleted scene?) and Trevelyan, “his old friend” (never before mentioned, so probably the villain but I hope not because it’s a ghastly cliché), was “inserted” into Archangel for this “two-handed job”. Intense discomfort, indeed. M is currently played by A Man. “There’s many a slip twist cow and lip, he thought, his smile broadening.” Uh? Get on with it.

Chewy paragraph describing Bond’s coat with all its pockets that could only be written at us by one man, fills space, and informs us that Bond’s gloves “kept out the cold” – they’re gloves, this is all one can really ask of them – “without reducing his ability to use his fingers for the most delicate of tasks”. It has already been said that insertion is a two-handed job, so that’s handy. At least we know he’s well wrapped-up; even a slight chill at his advanced age could be deadly.

Bond shoots the guards at the top of the dam in the slowest gunfight in recorded history, interrupting it halfway through to contemplate for several thousand words the operation of the “Glasers”. “With Glasers you only needed one.” There are several Manchester United enthusiasts who agree. This is a graphic scene, unnecessarily protracted in its violence, and one can see why it did not make the finished film. That, and being very boring.

“He heard the whine of the metal from the far end of the cage, looked out and saw that the way onto the wide top of the dam was clear. Taking a deep breath he began to sprint forward.” Which is where we join the film. Nothing of this first chapter save for this last paragraph is otherwise delivered, explained or used in the film itself. Is any of it missed?


By default, one nil to the book. But only just. A literal definition of “better than nothing”, but it’s close.


Mission Accomplished

Takes a page and a half to chuck himself off (fnarr), but then he is very old and needs, apparently, to contemplate how well bedded into the dam the railing he is tied to, will be. Can’t be too careful. “Then, expelling his breath in a loud whaaa sound” – it is The Actor Pierce Brosnan after all, sharing with us his Strangulation Cumface – “James Bond launched himself from the top of the dam.”

“Bond’s stomach was still up on the top of the dam as he plunged downwards.” Along with his comfort bag. Has an awfully long time to contemplate things whilst plummeting: plummeting appears lasts two pages, plummet-fact fans. Are all James Bond films like this, Daddy? I’m bored . “…he reached up to free his foot from the loop and the bungee shot back up the dam wall, flying upwards like a long fast-moving snake.” …that can fly. Christ, the buggers are airborne now. Still, this does make one wonder, from the film, what happens to Bond’s bungee cord? Someone’s bound to spot it, even from a ‘plane nicked from Joan Collins’ Luftwaffe.

Film has Bond use a product-placed watch to laser his way in. John’s not falling for that: here, Trevelyan has cut a hole for Bond, and Bond takes best advantage of Trevelyan’s entrance. Bond goes down Trevelyan’s hole and this leaves “a musty damp smell in his nostrils”. Et cetera. “After what seemed to be ten or fifteen minutes and hundreds of metal rungs…” which are all lovingly described. Film’s been going about two minutes so far. “A floor? Or was it a ledge from which he could easily fall into some bottomless pit?” It’s a floor. Stop mucking about. Still – he’s done a HALO jump, then jumped off a dam, now he’s gone yet further down and in due course he will flying down into a gorge. At some point he will reach the Earth’s core, or at least pass a few fellow dinosaurs.

“It turned out to be a long haul…” Oh look, three people have left the cinema already. However, on reflection, this may be John trying to rescue (or take the mickey out of) the otherwise perplexing demonstration of the geography of the chemical plant, by sending Bond up and down and in and out to such an extent that one’s head is left spinning and open to the suggestion that it might well be a) below a dam but b) on top of a massive cliff nonetheless.

John misses two big tricks here. Firstly, the film has “James Bond” assault a soldier whilst the man is having a pooh-pooh, a curious introduction but ably setting the tone for the next seven years. Spared, though, two pages of description of what the man had for dinner the previous evening, or the intricacies of the flush mechanism. Secondly, and most remiss of him, nowhere does Mr Gardner write “Bond knew his hair was particularly bouffant that day and this rendered all the more enjoyable his startling mince down a staircase.”

“He could smell the scent of blood and death.” Well, it masks the scent of pooh-pooh, y’know.

Oh look, here’s “his old friend” Alec Trevelyan, so old a friend and so familiar to all of us, of course, that a basic physical description would be padding, even for this author. Gives us page after page about Bond’s coat, but not the face, height, weight, colour even of his lovely chum. Can’t waste time on such things when there’s a long, deathly paragraph to deliver, telling us all about some unlocking device Q has devised. In the film, this thing just works; do we need to know how? It’s a beepy-bloop thing. That’s all it needs to be.

“You ready, James?” “Let’s do it.” “You come up this way?” Given Mr Gardner’s obsession with hotel rooms, it’s surprising he hasn’t found one for these boys. We are spared, however, all that puke about “For England”, which always struck one as oddly specific, regardless of it being dialogue delivered by an Irish-American playing a Scotsman through the medium of monotonous hoarse groaning, and Sean Bean playing… whatever it is, no-one in England talks like that, unless they’re had a stroke. Messrs. Coltrane and Cumming do no better and one wonders whether the preposterous accent thing going on in GoldenEye was for a bet. The Actor Pierce Brosnan must have won as he’s kept it going for years. Even “sings” like that. How do we make him stop?

“By this time, Bond was completely disoriented. He had no idea of his position in relation to the ground above.” Nor me, to anything happening swiftly.

“I played at being a kind of phantom of the labs so to speak. The music of the night down here isn’t really my thing though.” Youthful Mr Trevelyan – the eternal schoolboy – has detailed knowledge of musical theatre, and his friend James manhandles men in toilets. 12 certificate, you say? On and on they bang, these undercover agents, chattering away whilst they spend paragraphs doing something-or-other. The film decides to precis all of that with the “half of everything is luck / fate” thing, which makes no sense as neither half of the lovely glass of Sancerre I’ve just helped myself to exhibited either quality, nor does my radiator and nor does my doggy. “Half of a few specific things are luck / fate”, then. “Alec, put that bit of high-tech gadgetry into reverse. Just hit the switch on the left side.” A) classic Gardner dire-logue, no-one talks like that: are we sure this is a bubble? and B) bet that’s not the first time Bond’s given Trevelyan that instruction. “His old friend 006, Alec Trevelyan, knelt on the floor”. Bet that’s not the first time… Et cetera. By now we have been told that Trevelyan is his “old friend” and “006” multiple times (by page 18) but we still don’t know what he looks like. Presumably he hadn’t been cast but the “eternal schoolboy” and Dorian Gray references (it’s Gardner, there has to be a clunking literary allusion, even more clumsy than usual as the book mis-spells it as “Grey”) suggests that they were at least beyond the statutory “Anthony Hopkins?” question by the point John was given a lunchtime to hammer this out.

I wonder if it was ever mooted that Bond’s chum here wasn’t some new character no-one had ever heard of, but Felix Leiter? That would have added something of substance to Bond’s attitude to the man and the betrayal (this infiltration thing could have been a joint operation… I’m overthinking this) and the emotional and sexual tension between the two would be wholly in keeping with their relationship since first meeting.

Given how slowly the book has moved to here, and how relatively swift it is in the film, quick cottaging incident aside, notable that the timers in the book are initially set for three minutes, then to one, whereas it’s six down to three in the film. I suppose even what happens in the film would take more than one minute, but if Mr Gardner thinks that from here to the end of the chapter is a record of the events of sixty seconds and not, as it feels, a fortnight, he’s being most mischievous.

Film has Bond hide behind a cage whereas in the book he is much bolder and activates a grenade from one of his multiple pouches, and Trevelyan getting shot provokes him to hurl it. One can see why the film went a different route: it would have been a ridiculous blooper to suggest that Bond would have been able to perform the bungee jump weighed down with the junk Gardner has him carry and not, say, just plummet (slowly, over several hundred words) straight into the ground. The suggestion is that it is the grenade that sets off the chain reaction about to render everything all so very Crimson! Fireball! Even though he doesn’t use those words, oddly. Still, it’s not part of the Gardner series, apparently, so he doesn’t have to.

If you were new to Bond in 1995, many sprogs were, and, thrilled by the exciting colours and comedy voices of the film, you decided to give Book Bond a go and picked up this written version of your latest Best Film Ever, would you have persisted? If you had read this book first, would you have sought out the film at all?

Significant departures now, the book rounding off the chapter by Bond stealing the ‘plane but at no point does James Bond of 1986 ride a motorbike from the manufacturer’s 1994 product catalogue off a cliff that previously wasn’t there. That sentence reads as a philosophical problem, and one that The Actor Pierce Brosnan might have contemplated whilst he was rather too obviously getting his hair cut in between jumping onto the conveyor belt and jumping off it. In the book, Bond struggles with the ‘plane and it goes off the edge of the drop into the aforementioned gorge, not too dissimilar, but whilst the film spends its special effects budget of however many millions of dollars on a lovely shot of the motorbike and Bond plunging after it, and several less lovely ones of some dodgy back projection, the book’s special effects budget of however many millions of words has the dam burst and flood the valley. If filmed, that could have been spectacular, but insofar as the film’s effects can’t make Bond’s umpteenth plummet of the day look good, and water is tricky to get right, better that they waited until Die Another Day to create convincingly majestic waves.

Book Bond is considerably less affected by Trevelyan’s death, which considering their long-standing friendship, about which we have been told if not seen, and sexual relationship, about which we have been told if not seen, seems harsh. The Actor Pierce Brosnan went all wibbly emoto-face for a minute back there, although that might be his having remembered he was about to have his hair cut. One sympathises: I hate going to the barber. Having to converse with one of the serving class whilst they brandish scissors presents many threats to my psychological wellbeing.

Curious end to the chapter, though: “On reflection, the one thing that pleased him was that there had been no biological or chemical weapons in the complex… So, he presumed M had already known there was little likelihood of deadly germs or toxic chemicals at the plant.” That justified wasting my time reading all about chemical weaponry over several deathly paragraphs, did it? How far distant is this really from “classic” Gardner, if there is such a thing, in its frustratingly redundant detail-flab? I suppose it covers a qualm about blowing the place up. Fits the Gardner M to send Bond on a useless mission and opportunity for pointless death, the nasty weasel. Film has no such concerns: up it blows and then doesn’t bother to explain how anyone who – duhduhDUUUUUUH – reappears nine years later made it out without being gassed. Or survived being shot in the head. There would be a pervasive toxic stink everywhere, too, but this dispersed once they rebooted.

“There was no way he could know that, in less than a decade, Colonel Ourumov would rise from the dead to become a thorn in his side and place him in even greater danger”. Zombie thorns, eh? Sounds exciting (therefore won’t happen). Does Ourumov actually do this? I thought he was shot almost off-screen and thereafter never mentioned again, despite James Bond killing a Russian General on Russian soil. Should lead to a short enquiry / a smidgelet of war. Nothing comes of this, nor the deaths of many soldiers and the stealthy demolition of St Petersburg with a tank. It is Bond who places Ourumov in danger, not the other way around. Film doesn’t bother “killing” Ourumov at this point, leaving him with his tremendously kindly face doused in bafflement at Bond’s escape, the ability to get a haircut mid-escape and how there could be a cliff edge underneath a dam and why he’d never noticed it before. He probably hadn’t read the book. Wonder how many did. Or could.

Film gets through all this with marginally better dialogue and stunts, so that’s one all.

For reasons of space and nothing else, the book does not describe the title sequence, although it’s a relief because otherwise we would be told at tedious length about the circuit boards of the “micros” in which it was hewn. The song is ground out by one Tina Turner, a cutting-edge artiste born in 1939, accompanied by a toy synthesiser and a thunderingly underalluring Reminder-o’-Binder* 1995-quality pixelblat that has aged as well as I have and is grit-of-jaw determined to drag depicting “a golden eye” to a dark, dark place far, far beyond literal. One can only imagine a similar take on Octopussy. Only imagine it though, lest incarceration beckon. I recall that at one point during the promotional “pop video” (are they still called that?), Ms Bullock wobbles her mandible in a homage to The Piers Brosmum Strangulation Cumface. Quite when she may have witnessed The Piers Brosmum Strangulation Cumface is a matter only for defamatory conjecture, although she might have seen Death Train (alone in that) or his career high in Mrs Doubtfire when The Actor Purse Blimblom gives this generation’s definitive reading of the challenging role of Man who has fruit hurled at his head by a depressed tranny.

*yes, I know it probably rhymes with Pinder rather than minder. Please just cope , yeah?

Song, such as it is, shoved our way by a recipient of horrendous domestic abuse clanging on about stalking someone, ends with an old lady growling “Whither GoldenEye”. Whither GoldenEye?, indeed. The oft-proclaimed saviour of the series (although saving it from what, other than its complacent redundancy?), its legacy in continuing film Bond has spaffed 8 films to date, including its merry self, of which two are jolly good, two more are entertaining enough and four are pathetic. It’s also arguably complicit in generating the fictional works of a Raymond Benson. Strike rate like that and one ponders whether it was worth it (other than for $$$, obvs.). Still, we weren’t to know this in 1995 (although anyone demented enough to expose their soul to the back catalogue of The Actor Peershe Brusnon might have guessed, and could have done the decent thing and warned us), off our collective noddle as we were on the prospect of “new Bond film”, that self-selected trap into which we skip every few years, habitually emerging with exploitable expectations defiled yet again.

1995… Over half my lifetime ago. Lord, as if GoldenEye isn’t depressing enough, there’s that too.

High Stakes

“Now, in the early summer of 1995…” Now, in the early summer of 1995, Bond is about eighty and an incredibly sour old measle, decrying the state of the South of France. Might be true to Gardner, might even be true to Fleming, but not the film, with The Actor Pierce Brosnan’s Bond having a gay old time in his lovely cravat and looking pleased he’s there. Other than mad, moist spinsters trying out lipids as a lifestyle solution, he’s amongst few who are. Fair do’s, if they’d put what is written here onto film, it’d be awful watching such a deliquescent lead character suck the joy out of things. You’ll have to wait for Spectre for that. I know sanctimonious misery at a glance; I permit reflective surfaces in my house. I suppose the film people had to be nice to the locality otherwise they would never have been allowed to go there. Beginning to see why the decision was made to go for Mr Benson’s “Isn’t Bond brilliant!!!” approach, though. Sell far more watches and teatowels, that way.

On the basis the literary Bond never got his blood-soaked mitts on a DB5, this is not he. There is a DB3 that’s been parked a few miles from Geneva since the late 1950s, mind, although the tyres and battery will be flat by now, I’d wager. This car is “as much of a thoroughbred as the beautiful Caroline who sat beside him.” Although physical descriptions have been scant so far, this one triggers spot-on casting: the actor is perhaps a touch horsey? “Speed, my dear Caroline, is one of the few true aphrodisiacs left to mankind.” Can see why this wasn’t in the film; can’t have James Bond endorsing amphetamines, however much I agree with him.

“… a bright yellow Ferrari 355…” I suppose the film went with whatever was kicking around on the day (and my motoring correspondent, Mrs Jim, describes non-red Ferraris in visceral terms one would rarely hear outside the fo’c’sle of a Whaler). “But from here she has good lines, and she’s certainly shaking her tail at us.” Oh look, another five people have walked out. For all his technical spoddery, it’s odd that Mr Gardner is shy to tell us that a Ferrari 355 would leave a poor old Aston DB5 for dust, due to something something engine sprocket valve piston (I’ve no idea what I am writing; I recognise I have joined the club late). “ ‘Ladies first.’ He tried to make it sound amusing, failing miserably.” Film and book as one, at last. No mention of the cravat, however, which seems a wasted opportunity as Mr Gardner could have delivered unto us at least a thousand words all about the best knots for the optimum opportunity to look butch.

Tour bus rather than cyclists as the hurtled-towards aside, this is all close to what occurs in the film, including the final shot over Monaco which reads as a weird non-sequitur on the page. But, ‘tis Gardner.

“That was the trouble with some women, even in these days of liberation and equality. You still got clingers now and again…” Go on, get this Brosnan bloke to say that. No? Cowards. I just want to hear him say the word “clingers”. Major missed opp. “Bond was not a great fan of the media either, particularly now that the Secret Intelligence Service appeared to have ditched the word secret.” You’ll like them even less if you change your hair colour; just you wait. All that well-meaning, sun-filled chitter-chatter about Mr Craig’s hair and yet the hair here (if the “right” colour) is wild. The body is so thin and the head so top-heavy, this Brosnan resembles a troll pencil-topper, or a lollipop that’s been rolling around the back seat of the car for a week, gathering dog moult and crumbs.

“…and the smoothness of her hair which had a depth of texture to it that reminded him of a bolt of sheer silk.” Meanwhile, whatever’s going on on top of The Actor Pierce Brosnan is a different shape entirely to its appearance when he was driving about. It’s giving a very multi-layered performance, of significant breadth and depth.

“…she certainly looked like the proverbial million dollars.” In 1995 terms, about £7.50. Her “gypsy” look is remarked upon a couple of times, suggesting she will shortly be trying to sell Bond some tarmac or a packet of dishcloths. The card game with Xenia behaves itself on the page in being close enough to what’s on screen to speculate how far into, and at what stage in, the production process this novelisation was being typed out. Close, but no cigar – literally, and presumably that affectation was an artistic flourish of director and actor in due course. “Her stride reminded him of a cat.” That and the furball she coughed up in response to his clumsy attempts at seduction. The bit about the Georgian accent all plays through, with the response “You’re a veritable Professor Higgins.” Sings a bit like Rex Harrison, too. The business about the registration plates starting with L still chimes oddly – I thought French plates of that era ended with the numerical regional code. Curious that Mr Gardner doesn’t correct this. Unless it’s his fault.

The only male character to get any substantial description so far is Admiral Thingy and he is described as possessing “the leathery, tanned and windblown face which women find attractive”. Must be a hell of a good photo in Spotlight, because – and I’m sure he’s a super chap and kind to chickens – the actor on screen isn’t quite there, for me; not getting the feels, although that might be because the wife’s out. However, it’s not as if the Bond films ever previously stuck to what was shoved onto a page, so let’s call that upholding a noble if dodgy tradition in line with the hopeless mis-casting over the years of Dr No, Tiffany Case, Felix Leiter and James Bond.

“There was definitely something wrong about the woman” – a page earlier he took a wild guess, based on absolutely damn all, that she was ex-KGB – “…he had a nasty feeling that lives could be at stake.” At least we’re getting a motivation for Bond to be stalking Xenia; the film leaves us making do with Mr Brosnan’s pained expression to suggest suspicion; at least, that might be what he’s doing. Puts too much faith in the viewer to grasp the significance of his gurny-frown, tbh. As far as the film goes, the only suspicious thing is this business about the licence plate and I’m still not convinced that’s right. Given that all this is very similar between book and film, save for the character in the book being a terrible man, and Bond’s crassly unsubtle and failed one-liners come across similarly in both media, it’s a no-score draw.

If one had never seen Bond before, what would one make of this?

James Bond will return in the next part of this nonsense, in which such pleasures await as “a white trail of foam”, Tub o’Lard, “sensual edible oils sold as sexual aids” and a big chopper. Probably some more stuff about hair, too.

You’ll never know how Jacques Stewart watched you from the shadows as a child. Still does. Go on; wear tighter things. On the wind, you feel his wind. You’ll never know, what it means to get so close and be denied. Unless you’ve been reading anything by John Gardner with the words “James Bond” on the cover. You’ll never know the days, the nights, the tears, the tears you’ve cried. Unless you’ve been reading anything by John Gardner with…



'Bin a long time. Thought these gems might have dried up. Thanking you that they haven’t.

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The Spider and the Admiral

A grumpy sneer (arguably Flemingesque) at the “instamatic, Doctor Scholl-sandled tourists” aside – John, poppet, we cover production costs by selling cameras and shoes, not mocking them – the curious filler scene in the film where Bond walks past a mime but neglects to murder it, is also a filler scene in the book. Both iterations exude atmosphere, though (one of few occasions when GoldenEye’s tin-eared score helps). “He stood looking down on the harbour… a large pair of night glasses glued to his eyes.” A challenging eveningwear statement, but ouch nonetheless. Equally ouch in the protracted technicals of whatever and thing. Film goes straight for using a camera, rather than a camera in at-length-described disguise; more efficient. Admiral Whassface now “looked incredibly like the long ago murdered Czar Nicholas”; still not seeing it in the casting, unless it’s how he appeared post-murder. Looks more like Edward VII to me (and that’s a terribly clever observation. No, it is ).

Very much filmed as is, with Bond noticing the helicopter which “…in silhouette looked dark” – that’s silhouettes for yer; reliable, that way. “If you cannot recall something immediately, it is probably not worth remembering anyway.” A neat way of avoiding referencing his own series, in which the life of GirlFriend hangs in the balance (the balance being whether we’re interested or not (I’m not)), but if that something is “writing James Bond”, it’s not the most praiseworthy philosophy.

“The launch, leaving a white trail of foam behind it…” Foreshadowing through imagery; they’re not off to play cribbage. I sense filth in the offing. Super-duper.

Instead of sitting in the car in the car park, Bond drives off to sit in the car elsewhere for “the best possible reception”, and the best possible use of extra words, but the worst possible use of screen time and another night-time location shoot and filming permit to negotiate and supporting artistes to wrangle and perplexing hair to comb, all of which come at cost, so the film doesn’t bother. In Role of Honour Mr Gardner wrote with engaging authority about the South of France, one of the rare but very welcome occasions when his sense of place is not itself displaced with abbreviations and traitors and turgid mechanical claptrap, so he’s getting his money’s worth out of that trip by reheating it here: warming-through past glory being so very GoldenEye. The machine-fetishism is not entirely absent - apparently the DB5 has eight speakers, seems unlikely - but one forgets this is no documentary, despite Mr Gardner implicating the Admiral in the Tailhook affair, because… he can? There seems to be a “Rear Admiral” joke missing, which is just as well as it’s not very good. In the film he’s Canadian rather than US Navy and another joke about “Mounties” and “Yank off, then” springs to mind, but again it’s too weak to live.

Why is Bond in the South of France, anyway? Is this how workplace appraisals are conducted by the new M? Was he on holiday and Thingy turned up unexpectedly, like a doping agency come to sniff one’s wee? Most profligate, contradicting this M’s reputation for soulless accountancy. No, we won’t meet in Breakout Space B; we’ll go to, I dunno, The Moon. It’s tax deductible. I accept that it’s no more ludicrous than, say, Thunderball to have Bond just amazingly in the right place at the right time, but there’s an explanation for being at Shrublands, even in the film, whereas here it is awfully, awfully convenient that HR procedures occur precisely where and when a bawdy Russian is about to very-bad-thing do.

On that…

“The main stateroom of Manticore was overtly designed for physical pleasure.” The main stateroom of Manticore was overtly designed by Mr Lamont as the inside of a Travelodge. One up to the book, without doubt. Talking of things being up… “…colourful bottles full of brand name oils and unguents…” such a Gardner word, bless his diodes “…including those sensual edible oils sold as sexual aids…” OK, John, we get the picture, you can leave it there…

…Oh dear God, he hasn’t left it there… “…the ones that come in various flavours which enable partners to lick them from each other’s bodies.” One wonders about the depths of Mr Gardner’s research into matters under description; also whether these come in Salt ‘n’ Vinegar. Extra Virgin is unlikely. Best avoid groundnut oil, lest it trigger anaphylactic shock, although that’s a similar sensation to reading the next page. One apologises to that Raymond Benson for accusations of his misunderstanding the yearning-look-don’t-touch of Bond with his lurid conjugal visits; Mr Gardner most assuredly came first, firing off all over the show with the “ultimate pinnacle of your sexual dreams”, “rousing him almost to a frenzy”, and “left with a sense that he owed her a great sexual experience”, by which I assume that won’t be a visit to Chatterley Whitfield Mining Museum and a bag of Skips. “She had slowly undressed for him… with the flair and professionalism of a ballerina.” Not any ballet I’ve ever sat through, although I’m usually asleep by first flounce (technical term). Perhaps I should pay attention, especially if ballet is “…straddling his body and riding him, goading him onwards until their sweat mingled and he was completely at her mercy.” Nutcracker, evidently.

“He cried out as he reached his summit for the third time in two hours…” His summit ? Although the film does suggest Xenia’s “own final and conclusive orgasm” – yes dear, the pretty lady is just happy that it’s bedtime, that’s all – this is both hilarious and oddly satisfying that, after all, Mr Gardner can write with enthusiasm and momentum about anything other than the innards of a photocopier. “A secret weapon like a spider who consumes its mate after the sex act.” You’ll be wanting the Pickled Onion oil for that, m’love. “She swayed to and fro, still rubbing herself against his corpse, moaning and supremely satisfied in her moment of glory.” Is this what Bond meant when he referred to some women as “clingers”? Do hope so. Dear Santa, I have just saw an exciting film on ITV4, they showed it during my teatime. May I have the book for Christmas? Thank you. Willy (aged seven-and-a-quarter). We are now buttered-up, oiled-up, prepared for the impact of the relentlessly seedy sextravagant pornucopia to be waggled our way by the next writer along, and we haven’t even yet reached Anagram-in-Chief Alan Cumming.

A jawdropping work of (relatively) staggering filthiness, to have this poked at us midst a plod of a chuck-it-out narrative, especially unexpected given the onslaught of clumfumble sex in previous Gardners, it’s perversely glorious. That it is so out of sync with his overwrought, over-syllabled couplings of books past confirms this is nothing to do with Mr Gardner’s other Bonds but it is weird to have his most enjoyable park-du-porc in a cash-in novelisation. Perhaps he didn’t have time to consult his thesaurus over the weekend he flicked this one out, and no bad thing. Coming across this here, not literally as it’s a first edition and all that’s being left to the offspring because I’m spending the rest, makes the film look chaste, staid. They definitely missed a trick in not marketing GoldenEye grunt unguents – grunguents – off the back of it. Off the back, the front, various places underneath. I wonder how much was left on the cutting room floor, along with bits of the Admiral. I demand to be told. It isn’t on the deleted scenes and I feel shortchanged. As well as amused, and slightly ill.

“A familiar figure stood in the doorway…” Because the male characters have thus far benefited from nil description, save for this dead sailor of whom we possess surprisingly intimate knowledge, this figure is not one familiar to us. Considering what’s just occurred, one wonders about “…rocked her as one will lull a child into comfort or sleep.” Adds to the delicious wrongness, somehow. Never abundantly clear in either film or book whether this is Ourumov or Trevelyan or some other person. I know Ourumov later turns up in the helicopter but it surely it’s somewhere on a risk scale for a Russian General, however well-bearded (and Xenia would be a spectacular beard), to dress up as the US Navy’s horniest Canadian Admiral. Russian General pretends to be “North American” Admiral who looks like a Russian Tsar and/or British Monarch. No, come on, this book’s awesome .

The Manticore - man-eater, how droll - had the head of a human, a lion’s body and a tail full of poisonous spines, eating victims whole. Reader, I married her. Pity we must disembark Hot Yacht and trouble ourselves once more with Dr Tedious. That James Bond, he’s right wicked and down wiv da kids. So far he’s had a natty coat of many pockets, a smashing cravat and a pullover knitted by his gran, a dinner jacket and, within the next few paragraphs, a blazer, “slacks” and espadrilles. I know bits of the film half-heartedly poke at Bond being anachronistic but John seems to have seized this idea and run with it, cackling wildly that at last the undermining he’s been tickling us with since Licence Renewed, that Bond is a redundant joke, has ironically matured into such richly sour fruit at the optimum moment, the grand relaunch. Hey there, kids of the mid-1990s! Put down those Pogs, they’re saaa-aaa-aad, here’s your latest craze right here, this middle-aged fussy bachelor in his sports casual summer yachting garb! Cowabunga! Riot grrrl! Smells like teen spirit! Smells like embrocation, anyway.

Having been 22 in 1995, I suppose I was at my prime of being targeted by phenomena cultural, that age seeming to be the key target audience for most stuff, sufficiently independently incomed to be pliantly handing over money, sufficiently inexperienced not to realise most stuff’s not worth buying and sufficiently lithe to make clothing worth the effort of putting on (that talent of mine I do miss, although my neighbours miss it more, especially on bins day). As it happened, 1995 largely passed me by, occupied by marriage, work and babies, although that last one might have been rabies or scabies (little discernible difference). Accordingly, and not just to live the dream of being Mr Gardner by filling space with digressive “research”, one turns to the internet to learn of the year’s key contributions. Ah, 1995, killer of Harold Wilson, Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Fred West, birther of Logan Paul, Kendall Jenner and the Miss Ukraine pageant (a fair swap). 1995, a year in which a Michael Jackson apparently had two Number 1s (and, when the rozzers subsequently came a-knocking, a spectacular Number 2). 1995, when GoldenEye was the top film in the UK for two whole weeks, equally the tenancy of To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar; one week in the USA, pacing itself nicely alongside Congo and Tommy Boy (whatever that is).

Well, that all sounds perfectly dreadful.

Consider the success in getting, in 1995, such a ploddy old measle, a post-colonial throwback even when one’s Granddaddy was a nipper, back into the public consciousness, and with more than acceptance; actual renewed enthusiasm. That they have strongly maintained it since, enhanced it and taken it to yet greater success, speaks volumes of determination / zealotry and fundamentalism on the part of the film producers to try to get it right, especially the nerve - the temerity – to make initially unpopular decisions. Tends to put anonymous whining about the next film not being revealed unto us RIGHT NOW in its proper place. Those product placements and cross-media marketing opportunities don’t negotiate themselves, y’know.

The film cuts straight from Xenia, in ecstasy, to a spray of white foam - mm- hm – but in the book we’re going to join Bond for his breakfast in his little villa along the coast. Not a scene filmed and anyone demanding that at some point we should see this timewasting staple of the novels is evidently off their plop. Sit-ups and push ups and coffee in an earthenware jug and Cooper’s Vintage Marmalade and boiled eggs and specific butter and Christ make it stop and look, another five people have left; bet they try to sneak into the Ace Ventura sequel. “He sat for a full hour after eating”. All go, isn’t he? Buy this wristwatch. Poor old sod’s probably a bit egg-bound. Needs a nice sit down. Can’t go charging around too much or his coccyx will burst, or something. Buy this BMW. I accept that the chapter needed to calm down after that demented rutting, but this is daftness in the other direction. To have the one character who sucks out the momentum be the leading man is an odd choice. Of that thin joke, the SIS woman evaluating James Bond’s place in the world just as much as a potentially sceptical audience could have been - it’s so meta -, we are delivered no outcome, no punchline, no final performance appraisal, no SMART objectives. An assessment of “Pernickety dullard” would fit. No wonder I persist with him. Buy these sunglasses.

Bond is struggling to remember something. Probably why he came upstairs. Happens to the best of us, that.

“It was after five in the morning when he finally cast off…” I accept that John is trying to make the chronology work without the sleight-of-hand who-cares trickery of film editing to gloss over such things, but what started as frenzied and orgasmic has ended in a long, hard labour and whilst that’s a natural course of events, I feel as consumed as the time. It’s nearly 10 a.m. before Bond boards the Manticore and it’s just as well that the trip there was “uneventful” as otherwise we’d have been introduced to every little fishy along the way. Back at the film, there’s an alarming moment when The Actor Pierce Brosnan pulls open a sliding glass door in such a posed manner that one wonders if they hadn’t fitted his truss properly that morning, or if he thought that is what Doing Acting is. It’s a brave physical performance choice, nearly as brave as Sean Connery’s decision to disguise himself as a whale throughout You Only Live Twice despite Japanese penchant for the harpoon.

“He was in a bedroom given over to sensuality: a mirrored ceiling, erotica on the walls and the scent of death reaching his nostrils…” Round Chez Jim, that’s usually the tipping point to change the sheets. Or burn them. “…the incoming breeze did nothing to disperse the odour he had smelled too many times in his life…” That’ll be the Boiled Egg oil. John’s not tolerating the silly – but, y’know, funny – way Bond discovers the body, although he has chosen to demote the man to a Rear Admiral (definitely wasn’t that before) which just seems to add insult to catastrophic internal injury. “He could see the ship dressed overall through one of the ports.” It’s that “dressed overall” that irks; I can see why and what it means in the film, but on the prose alone I would have no idea what this is telling me. We don’t yet know that there is going to be an public event there. This is germane to the story but protracted breakfast and footling about in a sailing boat were not. So, ‘tis Gardner after all.

“In that moment, the fact for which his mind had been searching since the previous night came into focus.” He’s left the iron on, the silly old trumpet. “ ‘Of course, Tigre !’ “ Classic Ken Spoon pomposity to whisper this to himself as the French spelling, despite the film, the manufacturer and the doors of the helicopter itself spelling it “Tiger”.

The Tigre’s a Wonderful Thing

Presumably the chapter title is a play on “The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers”, John always having been so bouncy, trouncy, flouncy and pouncy but then one realises this is another emanation of his Disney fixation and gloom erupts. Disperses when one begins to contemplate a flouncy, bouncy ‘chopper.

“He recognised the type. Hoodlums.” He dresses out of the 1940s and thinks that way too. It’s a new world. With new enemies. And an old fart. “…their ‘combat gangs’ that dispensed broken legs and bullets through the backs of heads.” You don’t want to mess with people like that, dispensing limbs through your head and whatnot. They sound terribly rough boys, in their bell-bottomed slacks and soft shoes. “One stood three steps inside the stateroom, the other took one pace inside, moving behind, and to his comrade’s left.” Even though it’s described in words of few syllables, and it should be clear what this means, I just can’t see it. Or summon up the interest to see it.

“In the back of his mind Bond baptised them.” This is a habitual Gardnorm, invariably the opportunity to demonstrate his gadfly wit. “Tub o’ Lard was three steps in, while Big Muscle was behind.” See? I apologise should the splitting of your sides now leave you bereft of ribs. Granted, it is a means of avoiding confusion caused by referring to more than one person just as “the man”. The film sidesteps the issue by taking the revolutionary step of there only being one anyway. This has the additional benefit of not giving the character a name, let alone “Tub o’ Lard”, which would have caused such embarrassment on the convention circuit.

“By this time, Bond had grappled with Tub o’ Lard…” There’s no need for this, there are plenty of oils in the room and they have less saturated fat. And so the fight continues, described to within an inch of its life but impossible to follow other than “Bond wins”, which is all any of us need to know, or tolerate, beyond the concept of a “whoof of pain” which has a pleasingly onomatopoeic quality to it, if nonsense. There’s a curiously distanced manner in how the fight is described. “The various crunches came.” “There was also a loss of consciousness for both of them.” Might as well say “I’m exhausted, this plays out much as you expect, the film will get this over in seconds, on you trot.” John can’t decide on “state-room” or “stateroom” and I can’t decide between sighing or shrugging.

Bond, now operating “at speed”, if not on it, spends “time” - several sentences - hauling a motorboat alongside the yacht and then bumps across the water to the inevitable lengthy description of the helicopter. “…the file had been on his desk before leaving for evaluation in the field.” Hang on, he’s on a mission, is he? Where’d that come from? And why are the French not bothered about having a British Secret Service agent kicking around their patch, in the World’s most conspicuous car? Or, for that matter, put out that the British Secret Service are conducting their training and development procedures there? Deserve to have their helicopter pinched. “ ‘Commander Bond, Royal Navy Intelligence,’ he snapped as though he would personally rip the nose off anyone who doubted him.” There was a spate of Bond threatening nasal mischief in an earlier Gardner, always a ludicrous threat, as ludicrous as announcing himself as a means of moving about “discreetly”.

“…two figures appeared from the crew room which was obviously situated somewhere to their right on the port side.” Why tell us this? Why does this detail possibly matter one atom of one crumb? Few if any characters have been described, we don’t know what Bond’s ectually doing in France, but we have to be told this? Fine, Mr Gardner is dressing a skeletal screenplay at which he was probably given one glance at gunpoint, but the padding is undermining any urgency. No-one else spots that a “slightly built” pilot with a “cat-like tread” isn’t a chap, except Bond. His performance-related pay appraisal should be rewarding high-level key performance indicators like this and, should it not, Bond should file a grievance and demand that it’s redone and this time, what the hell, let’s do it in New Zealand. Send a less equine bit of fluff, though. “There was a pause of maybe three seconds as the two figures swarmed up the ladder…” Can two be a swarm? The swarm of Fortnum & Mason. The swarm of Renee & Renato. The swarm of Purvis & Wade. Think on that; you might need to be sitting down. Odd that the band in the book strikes up “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines”, given that the plot is about proving British aviation superiority, which this French helicopter thing won’t. Fun quiz time, mes enfants : in that film there’s at least a swarm – triple-swarm, perhaps more– of actors associated with Bond. Enchant all the ladies and steal all the scenes if you can name them. Don’t bother telling me; I already know tiddly-know.

“Bond leaped to his feet and lunged forward, heading straight towards the helicopter.” Bloody British; don’t want anything to do with Europe but as soon as Europe shows its new toy, here they come, demanding to take part. We are to learn that “several” people stopping him amounts to four. Accordingly, several is twice a swarm. Never knew that. “He sucked in air and began to shout again…” He is most decidedly being played by The Actor Puce Binbag. “…he watched the machine take off, lifting very fast…” - very quickly – “…and then going into an almost impossible Rate Five turn, something you did not see helicopters do as a rule.” That, John, is true, and thank you for addressing my limited life experiences so very directly. In due course it will do a perfect “Immelman Turn” but as John’s not directing any comment to me personally about this, I assume this happens all the time. I haven’t lived.

“ ‘You are part of some plot.’ “ Well, marginally, and only by fluke of HR procedure. It’s not as if any of this is happening because Bond is there. We’re on page 48 already and Bond isn’t even an actor (… tempting) in his own story. Curious way to try to convince us of the relevance of James Bond. “…his eyes hard and his face set as though carved in hard stone.” As opposed to what other sort of stone? And is it as hard as his eyes? Today’s Word of the Day is “hard”; use it as often as possible. “ ‘The Russian Janus Crime Syndicate’.” Is the “Russian” bit really required? I suppose it distinguishes itself from the Chichester Janus Crime Syndicate, who are a great bunch of lads and do tend to suffer because of the similarity of name. Bit like my pal Torquil whose Sunday League football side just happens to be called Boko Haram. You can’t imagine the wigging they get on social media. Is Janus much of a syndicate? “Syndicate” suggests the likes of SPECTRE to me, but Janus seems to be Trevelyan (it’s a spoiler but we all know ), Xenia, a dotted line to Ourumov and that Boris, and a few dozen flammable persons in Cuba. Doesn’t seem to have “reach”. Bigger than a swarm, though, I s’pose.

To end the chapter, a scene that finds no place in the film and serves to remind those of us who have been here since Licence Renewed of John Gardner’s fixation with office chairs, and baffle those who haven’t into wondering why James Bond is being offered up as a modern hero when he behaves like this. It is unclear how many days later the scene occurs, but they all roll into one at his age anyway. “There was no rich smell of his pipe…” The office has had a clean. “There was a Scandinavian influence…” Instead of a naval scene, this M has a clipframed 8x6 photo of Benny & Bjorn, a swarm of Benny & Bjorn no less, a suspect decision in and of itself and one that will have a catastrophic influence on the future artistic development of The Singer PiErrrrrrrrrCEEE! bbbrrrrssNAAAAAAN. We’re not told what Bond is wearing, so to continue the mood and liven things up, in this scene he is dressed by Tom of Finland. “…her own chair was not a chair but something into which you appeared to contort your body.” A chair, then. Did John Gardner have something against osteopaths? The fondness expressed for the previous M blithely overlooks that in Gardner’s hands, old M kept trying to have Bond murdered. What hasn’t changed between GardnerBond and a given boss is the timewasting bickering over details. “ ‘It’s a shade too pat for my liking.’ “ One wonders if the author speaks through M here; the plot, such as it is, isn’t as corkscrew as his own efforts and the scene reads both as criticism of the low-level likelihood of what’s happened, and apology-in-advance that this is so linear. Look, John, we need it basic to get the audience back on side within the space of two hours, that’s all they’ll give us. We can’t bore, frustrate and confuse them. Yes, of course we’ll make Icebreaker next. Promise.

“…many said she should really have been assigned to the Inland Revenue Service’s Special Office.” Not with that blind-eye to absurd HR overspend. “Bill Tanner…had almost resigned…” Gave him something to do, then. Tanner’s whole career to date has been a story of “almost”. What an invertebrate.

“ ‘Yes, indeed, the Tigre is a wonderful thing…” Oh Lord, she’s at it too, quoting away at bits from Disney’s mediocre period (1938 to date). Just as well this wasn’t filmed; they’d never have received clearance. The scene does take pains to prod at and then fill a logical gap the film kindly doesn’t worry us with, about how the helicopter could have been pinched and no-one finds it. “Then they simply took off again and did the trip in easy stages.” What trip? At this point, no-one knows where it is. Just as with Bond in France, we’re hanging around here, waiting for the story to happen in the apparent belief that one will . All seems so passive, and hugely coincidental. Energetic thriller GoldenEye, a reinvention of Bond to face the technological challenges of a new age. Which amount to sitting, breakfast, the lack of transparency in workplace procedures, and office chairs. I can see why they left this out: scene tends to undermine the new M, whereas the film does present her more sanely for the long-term as a competent authority figure (with corking legs), and nothing happens here, beyond John sideswiping at story lacunae, that doesn’t happen anyway in the next few bits along.

It also makes Bond look grumpy and unappealing. The film’s gone for a good-looking man in a dinner jacket driving around in an Aston Martin and getting into scrapes with foreign types and then winning at the Casino; all the muscle-memory suggestions of “Bond” in the audience familiar with him (even though those memories lie) and setting up immediate iconography for those new to it. How diverting and glossy it all is, and that’s just the hair. Chap in the book, however, is prissy about his food, and pissy about interior decoration. Can see why the film jumped the way it did. I know they went Full On Frown with Mr Craig in Casino Royale but that’s because for the first half of the film, everything’s his fault (protagonist, not just a hanger-around; see?) and in the second half, his bungles get mashed and his girlfriend kills herself, and both score highly in justifying a fellow being a touch miserable. Bond of (the written) GoldenEye has no such excuses (other than Flicka von BlahBlah being poorly but that’s not something we’re being immediately invited to contemplate, at least not yet). He’s just a sanctimonious know-all, filling his time whining whilst waiting for others to drive the plot. A parasite.

“His intuition told him that the Operations Room had unpleasant news in store…” Pierce, hello mate, that was your agent on the ‘phone, they’re going to try another season of Remington Steele. Yeah, I know, who’d have thought that’d happen again, eh? Sorry, going to need that script back; you know how it is. Pop the espadrilles by the door on your way out if you don’t mind? No, put that girdle down, don’t do anything rash. Oh, cease your snivelling.

James Bond, that exciting, turbo-charged, thrilling avatar of all our transferred wish-fulfilment, might turn up in the next couple of chapters of GoldenEye but it’s looking unlikely. Jacques Stewart is contemplating sexual oils, but is bound to settle on Mazola and unless there is an emergency care intervention pdq, he’ll start necking it from the bottle, the great fat Jabba.



Glorious tears of joy, spilled on a summit…

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I cried all over my keyboard at this one.

Yes, John’s writing. At my tender age when reading his books for the first time, I could not put my finger on why it was all so difficult to get through, especially when the ‘other’ Bond books, by contrast, were so easy. The line by line dissection does the trick though.

Very clever, very well written.

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This snide guff I overwrite is occasionally accused of being cheap sneering. Justifiably. Won’t argue with that. What I shove your way can leave a sour taste in the mouth (contexts many). If seeking a more positive discussion of GoldenEye, I recommend unreservedly Mr Suszczyk’s “The World of GoldenEye”, not least because he writes with greater clarity in his second language than I can be troubled to in my first.

That is an indirect (but notable) achievement, of course. More relevant is that he proposes potentially persuasive points, perceptively put. Worth your time. My mind remains unchanged, but that’s more about my pig-headedness than anything lacking in his insights. Ah; I’ve turned it back round to me, which wasn’t my intention. Nor is it intended that any of the nonsense that follows here is targeting any of the arguments he advances. If that happens, regard it as incidental. If regarded at all.

I tire of being pleasant. How do you persons cope? So much effort. Time to return to easy but redundant knee-jerk self-indulgence, excess and bloviation. Time to return to GoldenEye.

Both book and film extract us from the nerve-shredding world of 007 doing bog all, the current workplace appraisal being that he’s risking exposure as desperately uninteresting. Daddy, I’m bored; were there really so many films before this with such an inert main character? Yes, and I’ve told you before, I’m not your Daddy. Not in that sense.

Hurled north, we are. Scene-setting, the film shows the dog-sled briefly, for local colour. Time-wasting, the book devotes two pages to this, culminating in the death of the Yuit when he drives over a rock. Whilst this sets up a sled team fortuitously kicking about to facilitate later escape, is “clumsiness” more engaging a cause of death than “missing presumed dead after base explodes when a jet fighter piles into it”? Drabber, certainly. Might have looked daft on screen, and I suppose Eon Productions preferred us to be taking their wristwatch, car and cravat advertisement seriously.

Ostensibly dormant, and considered by experts as obsolete, the Severnaya station is both active and a metaphor for Bond and the Bond series. A seemingly defunct relic of the Cold War with “hidden depths” (Bond’s prove shallow, and sixth-form essay obvious). Once a control post for the Soviet Union’s “most terrifying weapons of mass destruction”, it now houses Alan Cumming, delivering a performance homaging Sir Sean Connery’s robust Russian accent. Mr Gardner informs us that not one of the staff was over forty; take this forward another twenty years and they’ll have abandoned controlling “space junk” and hardware, and instead be programming spambots. GoldenEye’s legacy is to inspire Feliccia008777 (tweets: 2; followers: 2) to opine on Twitter that [ignorant political joke that misfires badly].

“Many of her colleagues wore the untidy, shapeless grunge look, or worse.” Oh dear, John’s opining about clothes again. Fear the Young. “The man to her right was clad in dirty jeans…”, the scoundrel, “,a Wired magazine T-shirt and a black leather motorbike jacket.” He’s obviously bad. He is not wearing the garb of heroic and decent persons (blazer, espadrilles) and is therefore A Person Under Suspicion. “His hair looked as though it had seen neither shampoo nor comb in a week”, unlike our hero’s, which is bouffant, lustrous and semi-regularly nit-free, “…and his attitude was one of an edgy, spaced-out cyberpunk.” Rock on, Granddad. He’ll be slashing cinema seats next. Dear me, the young people of today: why do they reject the windcheater and action slacks? “Anna rolled her eyes and made a gesture with her hand which meant to show that he was unhinged.” That’s not what that gesture means, John, and you know it.

There’s none of this “Not!” rot in the book – it’s Not Not, rather than Not Not Not. So 90s. A decade that at the time of writing started 29 years ago. Nor is there much of the inter-office emailing between people sitting five feet apart. GoldenEye is to blame for many things, such as catarrh, cat AIDS and cress, but its influence on indolent workplace culture is its most egregious. A surprise that all the shouting about “e-mail” and “internet” in the film, as if they’d just discovered fire or what their genitals are really for, to convince those who have stumbled into the cinema that this is modern entertainment and not warmed-over anachronistic twaddle trying to sell you a BMW, doesn’t make it onto the page. That sort of thing, relentless techy posturing, is Very Gardner and would have filled up space which is also Very Gardner. Less of a surprise, though, than Tomorrow Never Dies not mentioning the internet at all, given what it’s about.

No “slug-heads” in the book, albeit the next bit largely mirrors what the film shows, including all that business about sending a “spike”. Is that a thing? More to the point, is that still a thing? Was it something to do with dial-up? As with all Bonds depicting technological marvels, GoldenEye has dated rapidly. “It jams their modem. They can’t hang up.” Virgin Media, prob’ly. None of that “I am invincible” hogwash appears in the book either, Mr Gardner having not contemplated Cumming. “…for the last time he had seen him General Ourumov had a gun to the head of his old friend Alex Trevelyan.” With which John deftly proceeds to blow the twist. Whose old friend? Ah. The – let’s call them nuances– of Mr Cumming’s performance don’t leap from the page so presumably they were drawn out by decisions made by director and actor. I’m not giving “decisions” an adjective.

Xenia (not a word underlined in red by my computer; probably a Russian spike) has a broad, and unlikely, knowledge of British idiom, particularly as we assume everyone is speaking in Russian at the moment. They might as well be when the stilted but inevitable Gardnering stops everything stone dead to explain how the disc works. Something lasers something. Then people die, upon application of “Israeli-made Uzi”, distinct from the ones made in Gwent. As a change from the film, Natalya only hears the shooting, rather than seeing it. She’ll still later identify Ourumov as responsible. Hmm.

Marginal differences here between book and film throughout this chapter, although there’s a missed opportunity for John not to have Xenia going orgasmic when shooting her load. I accept that there’s more in Gottfried John’s absolutely delicious facial expressions – comedy gold – than could possibly come through in the text. Some of the casting’s richly rewarding. Some of it… isn’t.


Moneypenny – must be ninety by now – is “looking more than usually ravishing” as she and Bond get into the lift (whether it’s a stairlift is unclear). Her hearing is “almost unnaturally acute”, because she’s turned the little dial on her aid up to maximum. There’s still a high-pitched whining, although that’s The Actor Pierce Eardrum. “The old M used to say that she could hear the rumours from the old powdervine directly from her office.” The expression “powdervine” is not explained, because it already has been in Thunderball (and I think reappears in Trigger Mortis). For those new to James Bond, Thunderball is a book in a series that this novelisation has nothing to do with, or does, or doesn’t or HEAD HURTS.

Moneypenny’s theatre date isn’t an operating theatre – counterintuitive to her vintage – but Love’s Labours Lost. A play that proposes balancing out book-learning with just having a giddy old time. All work and no play makes James a dull boy. Is John slipping in a sly crack at a screenplay that has thus far delivered very little for its hero to do? Nope. It’s a set up for Bond remarking that having Moneypenny is his “midsummer night’s dream.” No, it’s hilarious. The film quotes Alexander Pope as the trigger for Moneypenny’s “sexual harassment” stuff; the book imagines Bond as King of the Fairies. Yacht Club casuals, thirty-year old car and now Shakespeare? I cannot cope with so much Modern.

Bill Tanner – who by the time of SeaFire was working for Two Zeroes as his usual dynamic self – is back at SIS now. Perhaps it’s another Bill Tanner. Perhaps it’s a codename. On which, here comes the “Evil Queen of Numbers”, justifying her primacy over the realm of the lowest common denominator with the deathless comment that “Numbers are more accurate than human beings”. The film is Bond-by-numbers, and it was successful, so it’s hard to argue.

007’s a number. Just saying.

“She gave Tanner a look that would cause concern to the toughest of men”, probably wondering who he is, but subsequently it is noted that she “…seemed to have little effect on him.” Accordingly, Tanner is tougher than the toughest of men. Why aren’t we reading more about him? He sounds exciting.

Why do the Russians call the weapons programme GoldenEye, anyway? Had they run out of Russian words? John slips in a bit of espionage-babble with “Elint and Satint”, although they’re commonly capitalised and would have been that way in his own series, obviously. “Unlike the American government we prefer not to get bad news from CNN.” Or Fake News, so it is said, although that’s probably Fake News.

Meanwhile, away from all the chitter-chatter, for Natalya “came action”. ‘Bout time something happened. She has to “get out of here very quickly indeed.” Oi, Monsieur Serra, fire up your pots and pans, something exciting’s about to occur!

She gets dressed.

Admittedly the film does take a liberty in asking one to believe that Natalya would survive in her cardy and “skimpy underwear” out there in the snow – unless she hollows out one of the sled-dogs with her teeth and wears its carcass as a hat (deleted scene) – but pause the action we must, for ‘tis Gardner, and we have a paragraph about sensible winter clothing. She has stout leather boots which we have to be told “she had bought during her last leave.” Would have been funnier just to tell us they were Boris’, and left it there.

The way the Petya satellite is described makes it sound more like the Diamonds are Forever one – it has a “ruff” like a threatened reptile’s. I recall now one disappointment from the first viewing of the film back in the last century was that the GoldenEye sticker album (don’t look at me that way) had the satellite shown as manhandled by a couple of blokes; the finished film processed them out. I demand their reinstatement.

John refers to the fated aeroplanes as “Flogger-Ks” but presumably they didn’t do that in the film lest Mr Brosnan’s natural accent mangle it into something rude. It’s only just dawned on me, but the story in both forms is bookended by radio dishes and their apparatus plummeting down into lairs hidden beneath them. Idle, or deliberate? I genuinely don’t know.

“…Bond moved, as though ready to throw himself to one side.” He doesn’t. Would be too much like his doing something. Anything. This is the second chapter in which he’s been hanging around the HQ, and there’s another to come. One character beat distinct from the film is that this M is less certain that what occurs is down to GoldenEye – whereas the existence of the system is a definitive statement from The Dench, here it’s a question. A question answered at some length by Bond, but a question nonetheless. I suppose the film wanted her more resolute, albeit that’s undermined by the “Come back alive” rot. Unlike her Predecessor in Gardner (“pig”, appropriately), she has not started quoting poetry. That comes later. How Gardner is Skyfall? Poetry, grumpiness, office politics, a fragile casserole of old and new, villainy-by-set-piece-expediency and general narrative incoherence. S’all there.

Oh, Bond, you up-to-the-minute modern hero fit for a new audience. “The security is, as the younger generation would say, awesome.” Y’old fart. Time to cut the Martinis; better off anyway with a Wincarnis, stirred, and a nice slice of seed cake. Cowabunga. “You could even keep Yeltsin out of one of these places.” Yeah, just tell him it’s a temperance hostel. Yeltsin… blimey, the 90s were ages ago, weren’t they?

“Maybe she would get to climb that apple tree again some day.” Natalya expresses a fondness for mounting erect old fruit. Ooh, clever plot foreshadowing. Depth, that.

James Bond will return in the next couple of chapters of GoldenEye, which will take us roughly to roughly the halfway point. Wonder if he’ll do anything by then? Jacques Stewart is invincible! Not.

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Ooooohhh yes! Never picked up on that.


Assignment GoldenEye

“Moneypenny – usually keeper of M’s inner sanctum…” Euphemism? John’s being so, so mucky. Epic filth. “He…wondered what the old M would have thought of the picture hanging there.” That old M who habitually contrived for 007 to die of information deprivation, and last time out nearly had him shot. Top spiffer, he. At least this “old M / new M” business suppresses any suspicion that this is Miles Messervy or Mohammed Hargreaves in a skirt. 1995 was too early to tickle that diversity kidney. Progression enough to have Bond bossed about by a powerful Wo-Man. Serf and TERF.

M… smokes? And… James Bond delivers an anti-smoking admonishment. It’s a “New World”. Joyfully. “She gave him the fish eye but did not answer.” I like her immensely. She’s weird. “Bond thought he was back with the Old Man who used to grunt regularly to avoid commenting on some questions.” To avoid the incumbent author having to weave them into a coherent plot. I now have the sound of Judi Dench grunting, in my head. And my heart. Other organs too. Best not dwell. Oh, her inner sanctum. I admire the little pause Mr Brosnan delivers when saying “Onatopp”. There is no reaction in the book. Mr Gardner invests no comedy in the surname, possibly out of contempt. If so, smidge rich coming from the emitter of “Percy Proud”.

Perhaps I have been harsh on this Brosnan scamp. In individual scenes, he does Bond stuff. As a whole, the performance meanders, suggesting indecisiveness about the 007 they wanted, having secured the performer (they felt) they needed. I know these films are not and cannot be made in order and that different shots within the same scene on the same set might be filmed months apart but, feeble haircut continuity aside, the staccato approach is very noticeable in this particular film. The character undulates. It’s pure scribble if considered other than piece-by-piece. Pierce-by-Pierce. A performance hard to pin down as delivering a settled persona across the full show but ably enough demonstrating individual facets moment on moment.

Possibly that was what was contrived. N much Connery and y much Roger Moore, absolutely no Australian (although the talent’s much the same), and a smudge of Mr Dalt-Ton but not much, for He Was Conveniently To Blame, Official. Not a Bond Rebooted but a Bond Reheated. Formula rather than freely formed. The references in the film either irritate or charm, but having the biggest harkback as protagonist, the momentum character, must undermine progress. Borne back ceaselessly into the past. In trying to say Bond is not a has-been, let’s run the audience through what he… has been. Curious decision. Perhaps that’s why there’s so little for Bond to do here. Too busy self-consciously grinding through a casserole of prior mannerisms that he can’t also be called upon to propel a story, so GoldenEye has others do it.

Given the rest of Brosnan’s run as evidence, GoldenEye’s James Bond plainly made it difficult to develop and they had to Go Total Craig. Too many approaches to juggle to allow anything new any breath. A performance of preconceived notions of Bond with no flag of its own to plant. Many would (and do, bless them) see the Brosnan Bond as a winning combination of earlier depictions, but this inadvertently confirms a depressingly complacent and nostalgic approach to the lead character and demands agreement that these facets do combine at some juncture. Rarely does GoldenEye allow this, keeping the individual pieces of the model on their snap-off framework rather than glued together. Whilst I accept that the (swiftly abandoned) idea is to deconstruct Bond, the character remains disconnected, a tasting menu of a James Bond with everything served separately, to be tackled individually rather as one sensation. It is never the sum of its parts; it’s just parts. Here he’s being expediently Connery; here he’s being Moore, etc. Hard to see where he’s being Brosnan, save for the strangulation cumface and the shoulder-chewing. Paltry novelty, those. Whilst there may be a drinking game in watching his Bonds and taking a glug every time he’s channelling Roger Moore, if you play to identify moments of “Pierce Brosnan” you’ll be the designated driver yet again.

This makes GoldenEye a fidgety film to witness. It invites an audience new to Bond to get their handle on him, and the performance and the direction of that performance impede this. A characterisation to suit whatever the months-in-planning individual set pieces individually demand, but little else. Very Gardner (apart from the months-in-planning bit). For those already aware of Bond, it toys with our memories but query whether this is just exploitation, a cynical display of cross-check shortcuts. I agree that an audience should be challenged – many Bond films present none – but there’s a difference between reaction to provoked expectation, and distraction taking one out of the film because characteristics of the lead character suit the moments but not the whole and are as graspable as air. Foggy. A mist opportunity (…sorry).

(“Mist” in the English sense rather than the German one. Maybe).

I suppose that if one were so intrigued by this GoldenEye film to buy the back catalogue, then it succeeded. Curious (not really) how they do a Greatest Hits whenever there’s a new home entertainment variation kicking about. Enjoy this? Then why not see how we did it (better) previously, available on DVD/Blu-Ray/download/streaming/dreaming. It is a business, and GoldenEye is one of its colder examples. There might be an artistic endeavour in there somewhere, but it’s arguably a soul-dead advert mechanically reconstituted and pin-sharp timed to shift warehousefuls of You Only Live Twice to the freshly corrupted. All that chat about Evil Queens of Numbers is in-plain-sight misdirection; GoldenEye’s pebble of a heart is in the focus group. BalanceSheet.

It’s a well-weathered observation but there’s an atmosphere of uncertainty around the lead performance which I’m not convinced was intended given what the film wants itself and us to do. Rather than re-establish Bond by the end as rock solid, fit for purpose (hurrah!), it hurls bitty gravel about until we succumb, an aggregate of the past rather than anything to take forward. It’s difficult to say who James Bond is by the end. I know Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace give us a fragmented Bond, but that’s their story. The scrutinised Bond of GoldenEye is fully formed already, so it must be a failure for the viewer to come away from it still unclear who he was or, more precisely, what this new one’s ectually for. This isn’t an origin story, Bond “learns” little and is James Bond at the outset and James Bond at the end of it, and the answer to the on-the-nose meta-performance appraisal whether 007 is ready for “A New World” etc is brushed aside as “Yes, of course he is, stop asking questions, Things! Go! Bang! Buy this car. Isn’t he good looking?”. The crowbarred-in, sub-sixth form psycho-posturing other major characters fling at the poor sod in the questionable suit doesn’t render depth; they expose the shallowness of the enterprise. We don’t need to be told (again and again and oh-God-not-more-of-it again ) that big brave James Bond is a coward to his emotions despite the pretence of detachment. We’ve seen him put on his sunglasses before telling Domino her brother is dead. That’s more than enough, and subtext point more than made. Admittedly, that was subtlety of direction and ability of lead performance and maybe GoldenEye can’t rely on either so we must be whacked around the brain with adolescent direct text about an emotional cripple’s desiccated soul. What happened to Show, Don’t Tell ? Incidentally, buy this watch; shiny, innit?

I accept that those new to Bond with this film may well not have seen Thunderball, nor MooreBond’s reaction to being reminded of his widower status, but introducing a character to an audience by not trusting them to figure out his flaws is an underestimation of the viewer and also another self-laid trap, leaving nowhere to go. There’s nothing left to say at the end of GoldenEye. It also tends to feed a myth that GoldenEye was the first Bond to explore this sort of thing. Evidently it wasn’t, but perhaps it was the first to do it so obviously that even thick people could spot it. GoldenEye’s reputation for firsts is generally ill-deserved. I read the other day (I’m not attributing: it doesn’t deserve it) that GoldenEye is the first film in which Bond doesn’t smoke. Thunderball again, ectually. One suspects the untruthful insistence - and persistence - that GoldenEye was first to do several things is a deflection from contemplating its true nature as warmed-over pieces of the past. It was the first, I think, to have the direct personal connection between Bond and the villain, sowing a seed that made Spectre such a winner. Yay. Thanks for that, GoldenEye, you utter, utter twat.

The bet-hedging in the gluing-together of the central character and the regurgitation of set pieces and incidents must (…might) have been uncertainty whether GoldenEye would succeed. Hit many bases without hanging it on one idea which, universal exhaustion and a lack of investment aside, may be a cause of Licence to Kill dropping dead. Don’t like this bit we’ve lifted from You Only Live Twice? Don’t worry, there’s something from The Spy who Loved Me along in a minny-mo, Was GoldenEye really risking failure? There’s much commentary about it having been a gamble but one suspects dark-arts PR, to make its success look stronger. There was a market for James Bond. The previous film failed financially (relatively), and for many artistically, but came at a point of creative underinvestment. We’d had enough by 1989 and it had become rote, a duty rather than an event. They didn’t feel special any more. For those now demanding more Bond more often, beware.

A break, for whatever reason, was wise, but I don’t recall many clamouring for Bond to end and never come back. Yeah, yeah, end of the Cold War et cetera, but film Bond more frequently triumphed over extremist capitalist enterprise rather than taking on the Soviet Bloc. When that did happen (For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy say), it wasn’t front-and-centre, hidden behind talking parrots and Tarzan yells. Insofar as the hiatus was due to litigation over the amount of money paid for rights to show Bond on TV (I think that’s it) then that shows that… people wanted rights to show Bond on TV. If it was a toxic, redundant thing, why bother? This was a significant, prized asset, and stemming the flow of increasingly underpowered films allowed a moment to reflect on the series. A step back, not a step away. Gave it time to sink in, to settle, to bide its time.

Despite the Bond films’ penchant for borrowing, they are often cited as inspirations by others who produce culture for us to masticate. This is the deepest-rooted film series in the popular psyche. The likes of Potter, H. and Wars, S. may have made more money in less time, and say nicer things about being lovely to people (rather than dropping them off, or putting them on, erections), their capacity to influence and be recognisable in other works – and wider influencing media - is more limited, sticking within their own fantastical realms. You see, hear Bond everywhere, sometimes subtly, sometimes not. The iconography used in wristwatch sales is not that of Chewbacca. Bond became shorthand idealised consumer-society cultural icon; aspirational consumption-driven art. How many creatively designed buildings find themselves described as a Bond villain lair, for example, or the PR for whatever reality TV star (misguidedly) proclaiming that they are in talks with “the Bond people”? Take a day’s newspapers (they still exist) even when new film production is fallow and one is guaranteed – guaranteed, every single day – a James Bond reference, somewhere; sometimes overtly using the name, sometimes just in how the adverts are designed or a touchstone quick-means reference to critique something else.

Every day.

Bond’s always there. It’s well beyond its cultural envelope of “spies” and that boringness; it is part of the social infrastructure, way beyond its occasional films and books. A shared understanding. A common Bond.

Why would one not want a slice of this? Why would one not want it to continue? How could it stop? Possibly by producing a film that didn’t embrace the perception the wider impact of Bond had created, that didn’t fit notional, public image “Bond”, that undermined the norms its predecessors had been perceived to fling into the world, that failed to keep up with the commercial crack-dependency, that failed to comply . Naughty Licence to Kill. Don’t do it again. (Really, don’t). Regardless of whether the films are any good, if they don’t fit the trap, they find themselves cast aside because they haven’t permitted the leeches to breed, they haven’t nourished the dependent. No wonder it takes the Broccoli family ever longer to gee themselves up to produce another film, with these silent, expectant, inadvertent partners to satisfy. With the level of responsibility upon you, not just to shove out a couple of hours of entertainment but also to enable industries you hadn’t actually invited in, why would you willingly take that stress on regularly? The money’s undoubtedly jawdroppingly good but the pressure and the inevitability that you will produce something some people won’t like, and the consequent net effect on all these additional vested interests if too many don’t, must weigh heavy. Accordingly, shove out a GoldenEye, play the received wisdom of Bond for all it’s worth (and it’s worth a lot), and everyone’s content. GoldenEye was no gamble. Quantum of Solace, now there’s a gamble. Doesn’t seem that popular. Didn’t feed the machine.

Of recent Bonds, the impression is that it’s GoldenEye and its equally cynical younger sibling Skyfall that are most highly thought of amongst the general public. It might not be because they’re any good, simply that by watching them one gets the overall gist of Bond relatively briefly and they are therefore convenient . One doesn’t really need to bother with sitting through the rest of them and can go outside and play in the sunshine.

Couldn’t-fail GoldenEye wasn’t going to. We are conditioned to Bond - or at least a preconceived, mass marketing, most-appealing characteristics notion of it - whether we like, or know, it. Still, True Lies must have put the willies right up Eon Productions. Bet it scared them to death, especially how much it cost, but also weirdly gratifying perhaps that such japery could find an audience. Perversely misogynistic to a degree the Bonds had never been, but in other respects, True Lies was parking its tanks on the lawn, but only to encourage 007 to come out to play. It was that film that was the gamble. If there really was no audience for a self-referencing, heightened fantastical spy caper, it would have failed or, more basically, wouldn’t even have been made. It’s that film, now seemingly discarded from the common consciousness, that took a risk, laying down its cape for GoldenEye to mince over. With (unjustified) public whipping-boy Dalt-Ton out, GoldenEye was a safe bet; the bar may have been raised but considerable heavy lifting had already been done for it.

With certainty I recall the publicity push on GoldenEye being massive, and huge goodwill exercised towards it, at least in the UK. Admittedly, Bond films tend to receive a nostalgia-driven pass in the British popular press whatever their merits. I accept that might be because several media conglomerates owning such outlets have a stake in the production / distribution of the films or the back catalogues of people appearing in them, and those sections of the press without any such interests are often those most willing to report trouble chez 007. And they’re all lizards (is this right?). There’s no business like showbusiness, but a wintry-hearted business is all it is. You know the name. You know the number. Of dollars. BottomLine.

In short: Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye – fine in individual pockets, mystifyingly beyond definition when tackled in one sitting. A criticism fairly levelled at this rot too, apart from the “absolutely fine” one. A pity that they didn’t energise the nerve to push the leading character more; the tip-toeing and reticence are tangible. It’s so apologetic. However, ultimately, it is the man than runs away, that lives to die another day. The epitaph for that spy. The Brosnans did prove that Bond could be popular again, although I don’t think they needed to worry too much about that, and could have pushed it far, far more. It’s not an actively bad film, and as a 2-hour sales lure-tease for the rest of the series it does that job soundly, but just not what the opportunity presented. Years down the line, though, it’s not so much a saviour of the series as archly detached from it. Strategically correct at the time, but now it stands out, stands aside, a run of thuddingly trite footnotes, and can quite easily be skipped by without missing anything of novelty. An executive summary of its predecessors if you didn’t care to watch them all.

In shorter: Tomorrow Never Dies is better because it’s not so nip-suckingly dependent on regime.

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One returns to 1995, back when rudey Judi had absolutely corking legs. 1995, when little if any of the above had crossed my mind beyond the disappointment hallmarking every revolution and a nagging feeling of being cheated. I know all that went on quite a bit but it’s not as if anything’s been happening. Come on, it’s the first hour of GoldenEye – nothing happens.

“One should never ruin a good glass of spirits with the abominable ice. Nasty habit. “ Oh, please “James”, spare me the recipes. I might as well ask you if all those vodka martinis ever taste any good without ice in them. Not sure film Bond is as fussy about ice; by the time of The World is not Enough, it’s a significant plot point of an insignificant plot that Bond has ice in his drink. And doesn’t wash his hands.

“I probably have a lot of habits you wouldn’t approve of.” You can tell me, M. Do they involve [very illegal]? No? Bad habit of poor syntax, then. Risk of a character emerging here. Film suppresses any such risk by not having The Dench say this. Pity. One habit seems to relate to the modern art. “A simple psychological trick. Someone sits down and the picture is the first thing they look at. I am the second, but I will have had time to take a good look at them.” Is this the first time they’ve met, then? Film suggests so, but there was an earlier scene between them in the book (which did not mention the picture at all). So, if this is her habit in how she analyses people, what was the point of that business in Monaco? “I’m also a computer scientist, and have what the PM calls, a razor sharp mind.” You can put away the bad habits of clumsy exposition speechifying and clunking immodesty for a start, m’lovely. In due course Bond will perform moisty jig-jig with a female computer scientist. Not the Craigs that started the Mummy M issues for Bond, is it?

All that sexist, misogynist dinosaur, relic of the Cold War stuff. But GoldenEye was the first to… Nah. See Bond meeting Dr Goodhead for his sexism and misogyny being mocked, and Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun for it being depicted as really, really unpleasant, and (if you must) Never Say Never Again for Jurassic Park and antiquity, For Your Eyes Only too. That aside, what of this speech, by the end of the film? Another moment designed for instant gratification in a film constructed of such random, disconnected bits, but on the basis Throatosaurus Bond wins out by the end, surely this new M is wholly wrong in these views? Is that not fundamentally undermining, and – ultimately – in having a female M make such a woefully poor call, of itself sexist and misogynistic? But no, it made us all laugh at the time. What a joke.

“ ‘I believe very strongly in having people…who can bore into the hearts and minds of any enemies.’ ” If boring’s your aim, Ken Spoon’s yer man. “ ‘I was put here to reorganise and make sure we come in under budget each year…’ ” You can cull the expensive appraisal system, for a start. Big win on the SMART objectives there.

“If anything, he did have a tad more respect for the new M…” There is no basis for Bond to have this view, given what she’s just said. Also – “tad”. Hmm. “ ‘I’ve never forgotten that a licence to kill is also a certificate to die.’ “ Licences permit ongoing and future actions, but certificates certify (hence the name) past achievement. Both are talking rubbish at this point. At least he hasn’t said “a licence not to kill,” because everyone’s got one of those. New M seems to have come very quickly to the conclusion, and on Bond’s guesswork alone, that there’s more than one GoldenEye satellite. Because this is plot expedience, rather than any evidence of razor-sharpness of mind. A moment of reminiscence about Trevelyan’s “cheeky smile” does little to dispel the rumours, especially as it coincides with Bond’s hand being “on the knob”. Miles Messervy would never have countenanced such things; the glass wall would have come straight down and 007 would have been carted off for another dose of brain-frying.

“Come back alive.” At least in the film, Mr Brosnan is permitted a dismissive look at this. He’s actually rather good in this scene, isn’t he, given that he’s up against The Talent and one would naturally assume he’d lose disgracefully. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t say much combined with the utterly stupid things The Dench has to deliver that makes it a fair fight.

And now for some Gardnering. “There were two days of intensive briefing…” A) We’re not told what happened, classic John-John and B) any sense of urgency is just binned and C) during the meeting with M, it is Bond who is called upon to brief on the Janus Syndicate so… what more could be said to him? Not least because he appears to be wearing the same things, the assumption is that in the film Bond goes straight from M to Q on the same evening, but in the book, time… passes. Inevitably Bond’s new belt gets several dozen words describing it, and the occasional Gardner fascination with “high tensile cord” makes an unwelcome reappearance, but at least he doesn’t devote an entire chapter to it (qv. Icebreaker). “The other item was more lethal.” Given that Q’s just given Bond a belt with a piton that shoots out with force and “will embed itself in practically anything”, this is debateable. “What looked like an ordinary pen, but was, in fact, a grenade.” What looked like an ordinary sentence from a seasoned author, but was, in fact, grammatically awkward. “Click the top once and you could write with it.” Could I? Are you addressing me specifically here, John? In the film it’s a Parker pen. I wouldn’t sully myself.

What’s notably missing here is The Car. Which is not missed. It added nothing, so John has nothing added about it. The drab presumption is that the mutually beneficial hard-nosed commercial deal with BMW, to promote their pastel blue hairdryer in return for money to spend on The Actor Pierce Brosnan’s shampoo, was yet to be done at the time Mr Gardner was doing typing. The more pleasingly fanciful assumption is that so enraged was the author at the naked advert for The Car That Does Nothing, without any shred of artistic justification for its appearance other than hard sell, that he chose not to refer to it out of spite. Given my suspicion that Mr Gardner was more mischievous in his Bonds than the tedium of the acronyms and technical obsession suggested, I prefer to think of it as a conscious deletion by a sorely underimpressed writer.

“It was the nearest Q ever got to a joke.” I agree with Mr Gardner wholesale here. Q is not an amusing character. Never was. I know there’s a view – I think promulgated by that Mr Benson – that Q is not a creature of the novels (…despite getting a name check directly in Casino Royale but… oh, never mind), but this little scene is yet more bubble-universing as far as the Gardners go, so here he is. It’s not immune from John’s charms, though, as “…there stood a large plate bearing six or seven inches of a French stick, cut in two and filled with tomatoes, onions and tuna.” Can’t give any characters a physical description but good to see Mr Gardner’s brought his sandwich-describing-at-length A-game along. The “French stick” (John will not use the word “baguette” on… moral grounds?) gets loads of page time, more than several characters thus far, and just when you think Mr Gardner’s outdone himself with that, we’re left at “In all, it was nearly six days before Bond boarded a flight to St Petersburg.”

Six days? Why? Magnificently John Gardner in its flamboyant timewasting, and a little pocket of Film Bond topped and tailed by non-more-Gardner Book Bond, but why? Assuming the first meeting between M and Bond was – say – a day or so after the Tigre was pinched and then two days pass prior to meeting Q and then the best part of a week more has now evaporated, that’s ten days. Of nothing. Thunderball has a reputation for being slow but its story plays out in full in roughly 96 hours, ish. One could have lived the Fleming Moonraker twice in this time, and still not understood the rules of Bridge. I told you that you weren’t missing anything.

Perhaps – perhaps – it’s an attempt to align the timeframe with Natalya’s journey from Severnaya to St Petersburg, which is undoubtedly a long way, made longer by there being no train for two days, which is the author’s timetable alone and yet more giving of nothing-going-on with which his Bonds are flooded. So, she boards the train roughly at the point Bond goes to see Q and his French stick. Ok… so it takes at least six days to get to St Petersburg? Are the dogs pulling the train, too? Something’s awry, here.

“…some of the young people, she thought, were dangerous. They looked like street hoodlums…” This is the audience, John. Don’t insult them. Young people are good. Their money is, anyway. Natalya’s papers show her rank as “…a computer scientist.” Yes dear, so when the bouffant dinosaur is pumping away atop you, it’ll be Judi’s face he sees. Despite stating that she “heard” everything, rather than saw those responsible, book decides now that she did indeed glimpse Ourumov and Xenia. Convenient. Not what happened several pages ago, but definitely convenient. At least it gives her some purpose otherwise – dare we say this of the Blessed GoldenEye – she would be pointless. “…she dreamed of the general and the woman colonel she had glimpsed, pursuing her down endless tunnels.” Sigmund Freud, analyse this. “Natalya could not know that early on the following morning her situation in St Petersburg was to become more fragile.” I accept that she could not know this. I’m not sure I accept I needed to be told.

Defence Minister Mishkin has decided on a new first name for the novel, but then he is a Russian politician and therefore [absolutely super, a puppy-soft scrumblenumpkin made of choccy-woccy]. “The ghosts of murdered Czar Nicholas and his family seemed to be everywhere.” Including impersonating Canadian Admirals earlier in the book. They do get about, don’t they? Explains the creaking in my attic, that. Oi, keep it down you lot, can’t you see I’m trying too hard to be flippant down here? Don’t make me come up there with my French stick. (Ghosts are tuna intolerant. Science Fact! Medical, though. Nothing moral in it; they loathe dolphins. You should hear Bobby Kennedy bang on about “them bottlenosed bastards”). This meeting takes place 72 hours after the exploderating at Severnaya; no-one’s in any sort of hurry are they? So Bond is on day one of his mysterious 6 day hiatus (one would have thought 007 had had his fill of hiatuses (hiati?) by now) and Natalya is probably on the Train of Hoodlums, sometime in the 1950s. Still about five days before Bond bothers to turn up in Russia, then. Could fit in a nice round of From Russia with Love in that time, with a day left for a short story or two.

“The men sitting around the table shook their heads…” Heads. Fnarr. “…some of them brought fists down hard on the wood…” Fists. Hard. Wood. “…several cried ‘No. No.’ “ Likely, given the circs. All very rude. John’s really unzipped himself with this one, hasn’t he?

Apparently Natalya is conversant in French, Italian, German, English and fluent in four computer languages (Grrr, What?, Nnnnnnnggg and Bah). She is a very talented Level Two computer scientist. She’s not the boss of James, though, is she? Losing that one, already. “Computer scientist” is vying with “French stick” as this chapter’s phrase of choice, although there’s a late challenger coming up on the rails in “Siberian Separatists”. Scene plays out in the film much as here (save for the massive orgy, which was replaced with The Michael G. Wilson Cameo; shame). The chapter has a little end scene in Ourumov’s office where he has a “data base” (terribly Gardner to split the word) “for his personal use” from which he can extract a photograph of Natalya. I suppose the logic is that if he can’t be fired for “losing” Severnaya (in the way my mother “lost” several of my childhood pets with a spade) then he won’t be fired for some personal desktopping. I suppose he is untouchable. I wouldn’t want to touch him. Nor his keyboard. Possibly not his wisest use of workplace resources, given the abundance of “computer scientists” kicking about. Even less wise is using his office telephone to Boris to murder Natalya. Not so much the communication interception thing [but such a thing does not occur in Russia; Russia is your friend], but Boris? When he has Xenia on hand (not that hand)? And probably on the data base.

James Bond is still five days away from reappearing in this story. If he ever does. Jacques Stewart enjoys masticating a crusty French stick every so often, but you’d probably guessed that by now. This one took a long time to appear but that’s only because this Stewart hoodlum emulated 007 and spent many days doing nothing.


You have spent as many months (hilariously) analysing Goldeneye as EON spent filming it. I look forward to TND getting it’s deconstruction (burn) soon

Yes…I did just use Wikipedia for that.


Again, really cracking verbiage, thoughts and insight.

Agreed. Not to distract the masses from the main thrust of this essay, it is by way of the above example that I consider the series’ ‘The Second Films’ to be of more pertinent quality, interest, perhaps experimentation, but certainly qualifying for later dissection, than the otherwise more commonly held belief that is the Third Film by when everything comes swimmingly together.

Goldfinger, Spy, TWODDLE and Skyfall all present as stodgy. All three, a bread and butter pudding of a film, if you will. Meandering, well meaning but otherwise blunt of clarity, already self congratulatory.

For me, it is always the second film that offers verve and thrust. Russia, Gun, Tomorrow and Quantum all offer something altogether more streamlined, more athletic, more punchy. Even LTK could possibly come into this parenthetic assessment, were it not for the winking fish.

But yes, GoldenEye was absolutely not a reimagining, and absolutely was a serving of all that which got the series that far, by '95. Not saying I could blame them, but I looked forward unabashedly to what came after GoldenEye.


Indulgent, but given the success all 4 had, it would seem indulgent is an attitude the general audience looks for in a Bond film.


Perhaps it’s not so surprising. The first film with a new Bond always aims to be a crowd pleaser because said crowds already have to chew on getting used to the new face. The second film - provided the first wasn’t a complete financial debacle - sets out to experiment with the fresh face. And by the time of the third there’s only one big aspiration left: make it huge and fill coffers with money.

The theory may be a bit wobbly on its legs since Moore wasn’t really grown into his role until TSWLM. And one might argue GOLDENEYE could have turned out much the same had Dalton still been Bond. But from Eon’s perspective it makes sense: first establish your lead actor; afterwards you can temper a bit with the tuning of it all.

I’d argue that in some ways SKYFALL still did at least try to surprise. But on a basic level it’s an action thriller with very conventional mechanics - though unusual ones for a Bond film. And you can see where SPECTRE tried to be SKYFALL II. Or rather, where SPECTRE ‘revealed’ CR, QOS and SKYFALL to be actually SPECTRE 0.25, SPECTRE 0.50 and SPECTRE 0.75…


The Brosnan era, I would argue, doesn’t necessarily follow this mold as other eras have. Goldeneye may have been a crowd pleaser, but I completely agree, not at all a reimagining. He is still the same Bond that lost Tracy. TND didn’t experiment. It was designed to be big. The setpieces are huge (Bond literally nearly jumps out of the stratosphere and off a skyscraper). TWINE is definitely not huge. It’s easily the smallest of the Brosnan films and one of the most imitate adventures in the canon. Then well, there’s Die Another Day, which fits perfectly in with the 4th film being absurdly OTT (even Spectre manages that).


Wade’s Ten Cent Tour

It’s a New World.

One untroubled by urgency, as the events of GoldenEye enter their third week during (according to an earlier chapter) the summer of 1995. One forgets much as years rumble by, so juicymoist thanks to the film for recording how freakishly nippy that summer was, boasting snow-lined roads in the South of France and a leading man perpetually regrowing his pelt.

Apparently Bond has been to St Petersburg once before, when Leningrad. Pointless trying to pick that apart as I have to accept what I am told about this “James Bond”, even if I doubt that the one I’ve read of since knee-high to an atom, did. Might have been The Man from Barbarossa. Who knows? If drawing up a list of those knowing, Achtung! Top Tip! Do it instead for those caring. It’ll be shorter.

Not sure the directors of Epsom racecourse would appreciate their lovely new stand, in its starring role as St Petersburg airport, being described as smelling of “decay and lack of direction” but they’ll be amongst the handful of billions who haven’t read this book. “Like many others, he felt that had the changes come from within the Communist Party, Russia would not have been in the freefall, crime and drug infested bankruptcy…” That Order of Lenin (twice-awarded) has gone to his head. It’s an… interesting view for James Bond to express. Putin’s got sex tapes of him, too.

Jack Wade, then. “The American accent was almost too obvious.” I have no idea what this means, other than it being put on for effect, maybe? Fancy that; someone in GoldenEye adopts a ridiculous accent. As casting notes go, “big, burly and reading a Russian gardening magazine” just screams “Let’s double down on undermining the Dalt-Ton tenure by casting one of its principal villains as Bond’s pal.” Fuels that rumour that Mr Davi was first choice for Paris Carver. To remind us who’s writing the book, classic Gardner in interrupting the business where Bond jams Wade in the car door by telling us how Bond got the gun through customs – “the special briefcase”, of course – and… what was happening again? Why does he do this? It’s Bond: we don’t need the documentary and even if we do (we don’t), why break the “action” like this, rather than relating this vital information at a less intrusive point? He does this ALL THE BLOODY TIME.

“His face had taken on the granite look of anger”. Is granite an angry thing? I thought it was one of the more easygoing of the igneous rocks; slovenly, even. Unless this is the plural of granita, which is pleasingly weird and I prefer it that way. Dues due, The Actor Pence Bonbon does do a good angry face. There’s an especially pleasing one at the start of The World is Not Enough, presumably because he’s realised there’s another two hours of that substandard binjuice still to go. This scene with Wade plays out less lightheartedly in the book than on film and it’s odd that the “stiff-assed Brit” line isn’t on the page as that’s a solid description of Bond’s prissy demeanour. Example: “I thought the CIA still understood the meaning of tradecraft, and the fact that we’re all still in business.” Oh, put a sock in it, you superior twerp. The James Bond of the real novels, the ones that matter, didn’t believe in any of that sort of drivel and was more interesting for it. This epically turgid spybusiness tosh isn’t in the film; good call. There’s no warmth in the exchanges between Bond and Wade as “novelised”, and Bond comes across as a monumental prig. “ ‘James,’ Bond snapped. ‘Never Jim, and certainly not Jimbo.’ “ Even if “written for Dalt-Ton”, which it wasn’t, his Bond was never this much of a point-scoring, joy-sucking arse. Bond is substantially the least engaging thing about the entire enterprise; an odd tactic in selling him as still viable and interesting. For all his ostensible professionalism, it’s only after all the codewords and chat about the KGB’s latest name – Gardner staples – that he asks whether the car is clean. Wazzock.

Because there’s bum all to do – it’s GoldenEye, nothing really happens – we’re taken on a slow drive through espionage hangovers between Bond and Wade, Wade being cheery and Bond putting the prick into prickly. On the car tootles, puttering around St Petersburg, setting up the armoured train, by showing us several paragraphs about a depot and its associated acronyms, and the statue park, presumably because the author a) doesn’t trust the audience to appreciate the significance of this unless told about it in advance and b) because the author has a deadline and a word count. Both scenes might have been in the screenplay but I’ve had an uninterrupted view over enough Gardner to suspect otherwise. Neither scene adds anything save for more sniping by Bond, gratingly ill-mannered, and probably detract from the impact of the subsequent scene of Bond walking amongst other relics of the Cold War. This grotty padding may demonstrate how much a film can do simply by showing, and having that narrative advantage over some typing trying to tease a visual into the mind’s eye. However, it’s not as if the writer’s helping that visual emerge from its shell. “Even if Vladimir Ilyich Lenin had been alive, it would have been anatomically impossible for him to obey that particular order.” Consider how pompous that is. The full name. The coyness. The what-the-Hell of it all. I’m still struggling to identify this as anything other than a suggestion that Lenin should lick his own elbows.

“Bond shrugged. ‘I’ve heard people in England say they were happier in World War II than they are now under incompetent government. They say ‘In the war, we at least knew where we stood.’ I know what they mean.” John foresaw Brexit. James Bond. Political animal. And that animal is a worm. Or a dinosaur, after all. Modern hero, everyone, Modern, modern, modern. It’s a New World. And he’s an Old Fart. Default GardnerBond, or an active attempt to undermine the shiny new Bond film by having him written as a wretched reactionary misanthrope? “Nowadays they got one of those keep-you-friends-close-and-your-enemies-closer kind of things going… I’ve sometimes think they’ve all seen Brando doing his Godfather bit.” Um… not really what happens in The Godfather, that. Pacino, Part II, Hyman Roth and Fredo, yeah, that’s the point of it, the corruption and compromise, the more glittering the crown the more decayed the soul, but… not the Brando.

…I digress.

However many days, nights, years, the tears we’ve cried since we last saw her, here’s Natalya, “with her body clean”, which is tremendously good news. Well done. In passing, a better waste of time than GoldenEye is in enjoying Ms Scorupco’s seminal popular music video for her seminal popular music effort “I Write You a Love Song” (1991). Waste more time contemplating how she womanhandles that guitar at the end. Makes me seminal. Left-field candidate for the next Bond song if they get really stuck for a choice and [notable artiste du jour] mercifully drops dead. Meanwhile, trudging back out of the poptastic cod-ABBA realm and back into the bleak and turgid GoldenEye, Natalya goes shopping. “She needed a good thick skirt, changes of stockings and underwear, a couple of pairs of jeans, some warm shirts, toiletries, an airline carry-on bag and a large leather shoulder bag.” How fascinating. On and on it goes, meandering. Not appreciating the competition, I’m back off to watch that video again. More happens there. And she’s got purple hair. Head to toe. Curiously, Ms Scorupco also released a song called “Brando Moves”. Everything is connected. Everything. Apart from my broadband.

“Natalya had no idea where she was going to spend the night…” and proceeds to debate going to her parents and then, after a couple of hundred words, decides not to. Christ. My remaining lifespan is getting sucked into the book. We’re on page 96. The narrative is 218 large-type, well-spaced pages long. Nothing has happened. Nothing will.

In the film, such as we accept any of its tosh, we accept that Natalya pretending to order quaintly bang-up-to-1995 computers is an act of expedient improvisation, and on we move to the next bit. However John can’t, simply can’t, allow us to so even gives this short, amusing scene with its wobbly camerawork some momentum-killing backstory. If he had “novelised” Live and Let Die, that buzzsaw watch would have suffered several chapters’ worth of prior explanation. Nothing can be left unexplained. Everything has to be so, so credible. Apparently. “500 megabite hard drives.” I may not be the most with-it chap, although I do possess a television (colour) and I permit the wife to start conversations, but even I know that’s meant to be megabyte. Even I know 500 of them is not very many. “CD-ROM”. CD-ROM. Bless. CD-ROMs. Forgotten about those. “14-4 modems”. Presumably open to mockery by those who spend the only life they will ever lead knowing such things. Where I live struggles to get 3G coverage, so I suspect a 14-4 modem is still exotic technology way beyond my village. For most of its populace, so is soap.

“She was on-line.” It’s so exciting it had to be hyphenated. I think I might be hyperventilating. Internet! Inherently fascinating! Boris’ email address is madvlad@mosu.comp.math edu, which won’t work because of that break between “math” and “edu”. I shouldn’t know these things but one has to in order to eat and not be disenfranchised from society. Very rudely, both of them write in capitals. My computer thing is now inviting me to Ctrl + click to follow the link to Boris’ email but I daren’t as anyone going by “Boris” simply cannot be trusted. Pasternak excepted. The film has us watching people doing emailing, which is as exciting as it sounds, and tries to compensate for that by arranging the meeting at the Church of Our Lady of Smolensk within the hour: ooh, tense times. For John, he decides that the meeting must take place at six p.m. the following day, killing time and plot momentum most efficiently. Although, being fair, given that the church is actually in Bayswater, it would take more than an hour to get there, and Natalya has after all acquired “an airline carry-on bag”; we know this because its description was sadistically hurled at us, the detail about every stitch of its lining weaponised. “Now all she had to do was find somewhere to sleep without being wakened by some cop putting handcuffs on her wrists.” Cop. Hmm.

“Bond was fast becoming irritated with Jack Wade’s constant patter.” Bond is horrid in this chapter. Presumably they had cast Mr Brosnan by the time this was typed out, so one wonders from where John got the idea that the role would be played as a total misery. Perhaps Mr Gardner was not that familiar with the prior works of The Actor Ping Bingbong, although that’s just aesthetic judgment and not to be held against him. What’s happened, of course, is that another night has passed. Whilst the film tries (tries…) to rush things along and quite clearly Bond meets Wade and Zukovsky on the one day, the book’s taking its – and, considerably more significantly, my – time.

“They had spent much of the morning touring the city and taking odd detours, many of which could prove helpful”. Replace the word “helpful” with “sodding irritating” and you have generated the blurb for the back cover. Back cover blurb of the Blu-Ray reads thus: “The effortlessly suave and sophisticated Pierce Brosnan…” fair enough, will give you that, even though I wonder if the shoulder chewing and gurny cumfaceness manifests either adjective “…makes his acclaimed debut as Agent 007…” the name “James Bond” is not used (it’s just a codename) “…in this rip-roaring espionage thriller…” no – nothing happens “…featuring the most eye-popping opening sequence yet!” which tends to suggest the rest of the film’s not quite as good. Yep. “When an MI6 agent…” a MI6 agent, m is not a vowel (although she is a lady) “…(Sean Bean)…” spoiler alert “…turns rogue and plans world domination…” does he? “…with a terrifying satellite-borne weapon…” don’t mention Bourne, that’ll just set everyone off “…Bond must pursue his former ally to Cuba…” uh-huh “…Monte Carlo…” No, he wasn’t pursuing him then; not sure what he was doing there, but not in pursuit of anyone save for dolly birds “…Switzerland…” Er, no, some of it was filmed there but he doesn’t actually “go” there “…and even Russia…” well, sort of goes there to find GoldenEye but not initially going after Trevelyan “…all whilst dodging a sexy, deadly femme fatale (Famke Janssen)…” not “all”, nowhere near “all”, they have five scenes together “…who will stop at nothing to put the “squeeze” on the intrepid spy!”. Just as GoldenEye is cobbled together from bits of Bond films half-remembered, that seems composed by someone half-remembering sitting through GoldenEye when they came back from the pub.

Looking at the blurbs for all the films on their cases, there’s something off about most of them; really weird. The Living Daylights insists the villains are after “world domination” (are they? They might be; no-one can tell) and Die Another Day (yes, I own it, but it remains unwrapped) talks of the villain “literally” slicing up the planet (I might watch it, that sounds great). From the “non-stop excitement” of The Man with the Golden Gun and the “riveting” For Your Eyes Only to the “exhilarating” The World is Not Enough, they’re terribly, terribly funny, but also – at the very least – negligent misrepresentation, if not actually fraudulent.

Meanwhile, Bond and Wade are arguing about homelessness in Russia, Washington DC, New York and London and I WANT THEM TO STOP. Frankly, how the unpleasant Bond man makes the end of this journey without Wade disembowelling him with a potato dibber, God alone knows. On they potter, alluding to conversations they have had but we have mercifully not been obliged to witness and it really is rip-roaring. So rip-roaring. Sad-eyed whores, gardening and a funeral parlour all pass by, slowly, and then “[T]he battered old car swung into a broad alley and Bond saw a sight so bizarre he could hardly believe it.” Whatever could it be? A scene actually filmed in Russia and not Watford? Judi Dench riding a tadpole through a teardrop? The undeserved reputation of GoldenEye given how pedestrian it is? The skipping of the rest of this boring escapade and going straight into the pre-credits of Tomorrow Never Dies? It’s the last one, of a kind. Behold, a terrorist supermarket, although as it seems to be taking place in the street, it’s more of a very mischievous car boot sale. “AK-40s…” (are there such things?) “…grenade launchers, hand guns, Uzi and H&K sub-machine guns; boxes of ammunition.” Done filled more space with another big shopping list; can I have my money now?

“ ‘I’m happy to say I’ve never been to East L.A.’ “ Me neither. I’ve been to Georgia and California and anywhere I could run. I took the hand of a preacher man and we made love in the sun. But that’s a tale for a different day. The line about L.A. didn’t make it into the film. Couldn’t go mocking the audience; consider the demographics. Numbers, especially those preceded by a dollar sign, don’t lie. Despite how John is writing Russia here – vile place, seemingly – the film goes in for a gentler approach, not least because they could never have hoped to film there if one is going to show it as a dreadful dump. This is why they have never filmed in Cambridge; there is no way to prevent it from looking appalling.

Bond’s wallet has a SECRET COMPARTMENT with the statutory Gardner lock-picking tools. Do we really need to know how Bond gets into Zukovsky’s den? Can we not just be relied on to accept that he does? “Zukovsky had a mania for unbeatable locks and the most sophisticated alarm systems”, but doesn’t any more. So – John invents a character point, then immediately dismisses it, and this ostensible mania is never thereafter demonstrated. C’mon, JoJo, you just wanted to use the words SECRET COMPARTMENT again, didn’t you? Are you doing this for a bet?

“Above, in the distance, he could hear someone singing just off-key enough to be grating on the nerves.” Given how appallingly Bond has behaved throughout the chapter, I question his judgment, but the irony of this comment appearing in a film that bears a closing song of an evil tunelessness, and Pierce Brosnan, is not lost on me. Zukovsky “…had a moon face, so much so that people said he must be related somehow because he had all the craters and pock marks to go with it.” Mr Coltrane must have been thrilled to read that. “Half-a-dozen scantily dressed young women waited on tables and pointed out certain favours they could bestow if you ordered from the reverse side of the menu.” I do hope it’s banoffee pie. Let’s look. “The most innocent of these was a normal massage.” Bugger.

In the film, we are told to Stand by Your Man, as indeed we must as he’s been away for six years and needs our support. The book chooses “ ‘ Raining in Baltimore’ by Counting Crows”, which seems an oddly contemporaneous reference for John Gardner and a curious choice of song in itself. Given that it starts off by telling us that the circus is falling and the big top is crumbling down (another sly dig by the author? They’re mounting up, suspiciously), it might have been too negative a vibe, too easy a criticism, because We! All! Must! Like! GoldenEye! and any suggestion that it is flawed must be purged. We have to show the World we love him, and keep giving all the love we can. And money.

“Lazily, he gestured to a man who had the making of a pair of gorillas…” He has two heads and four arms? Naughty Chernobyl. Don’t do it again. “Bond fell into the darkness of unconsciousness”. Blurb’s writing itself, now.

James Bond will have a bit of a rip-roaring kip-snoring and return on page 105 of 218 to do more timewasting. As for Jacques Stewart, if you love him, you’ll forgive him, even though he’s hard to understand. However, don’t give him something warm to come to when nights are cold and lonely, because he’ll write you a love song, drink all your wine, maim your cat and never take the bins out.


The thing is, you really make revisiting these 7th chapters fun - especially since you do the hard work and take us along for the ride. Splendid as ever, Jim!


Wheeling and Dealing

Told, we were, in the previous chapter that “Instead of surveillance teams, Bond now kept a wary eye out for criminals”. Yet here he is, wariness having failed the poor old freckle, waking from being bipped on the noggin. One expected all that hair would insulate the blow, but no.

“Coming back to consciousness was like dredging his way through mud.” Ah, GoldenEye. Bored with Bond, and not alone in that, it’s now deconstructing itself. “He… knew what had happened long before he allowed his body to reveal that he was back among the living.” He listened before waking up, then. Imminent arrival of “not restrained”, “overstuffed” and “seen better days” pass irony by. “Away in the club, the red sequined girl was murdering Lloyd Webber.” Why are we not watching that? Statutory John Gardner Lloyd-Webber reference; common of late. Or just some poor chuffer called Lloyd Webber, just as some unfortunate might be called Parker Bowles or Newton John or Rees Mogg? We should be told. Although that would mean more bleedin’ words and words and words , so best not.

“I’m tempted to be melodramatic and say, so, we meet again.” I’m tempted to believe John’s taking the piss, listlessly. Pisslestly. I’m not sure that in the film Zukovsky tries to shoot Bond’s willy off quite as many times as here, although that does play to the general theme of Bond having been emasculated, but all this plays out much as filmed; two characters sitting down bitching at each other, for ‘tis Gardner and ‘tis GoldenEye. The stars align. Zukovsky’s turn to take pot-shots at Bond’s character. Snore. “Bond thought they might be taking their lines from an ancient B movie.” Careful, Jockles: only write such things about The Jesus That Is GoldenEye once the cheque’s cleared. Given the scarred-of-soul way in which Bond and Thingy von Whatever spent evenings in SeaFire, odd that Bond can’t name that “movie”.

“After the red plush and velvet of Zukovsky’s club, his office was a surprise: neat, modern furniture and filing cabinets; a computer on a large uncluttered desk and coffee brewing in a big start-of-the-art coffee machine.” A Travelodge. Typical Lamont bland. Zukovsky has a “moon face”; s’about it. The other people kicking around are not described. But the things are. The things must be. Otherwise the book is fifteen pages long.

“I have a firm belief that we’ll all be back in business within a decade. Political ideologies do not die so easily…” Five years, actually, but John’s expertly manhandling the Predicto-miser once more. Despite the scene playing out between Messrs. Coltrane and Brosnan in accents neither can do, it’s unusual for the Bond films, if not the Gardners, to dabble in the quid-pro-quo of scratching the back of corrupt folks to eke out information. This is because James Bond is not a spy, despite what Mr Gardner tried. Can’t think of many more examples: Kristatos, at a guess. Whilst the Gardner books went way too far with this, into loop-the-loops of treachery and no-that’s-rubbish, its presence in the film adds a dimension. A dimension sent in hootingly funny directions by Quantum of Solace’s attitude to the United States. Still, one up to GoldenEye, and you’ll note I’m not saying that very often. That this grubbiness of the game comes through under-the-wire in a scene disguised as blethering on about “dashing, sophisticated secret agent” and “ ‘Shaken not stirred, Mr Bond?’ “ is defter than I thought. It’s an improvement on the old days of General Gogol turning up for drinks or – in a scene bafflingly underacknowledged as absolutely the very worst in the series – kicking about at the opera with the Taliban.

“ ‘The Cossacks who fought for Hitler against the Russians in what you called the Great Patriotic War…’ “ / “ ‘Yes, you know your history’ “. Knowing it so well we now have to be subjected to it, both in film and book. At least the book has the decency to describe the Zukovsky version of events as “rather simplistic”. It is. Still, it adds backstory and motivation, right out of the packet, if not a convincing chronology. How old is Trevelyan meant to be? Perhaps those earlier references to Dorian Grey (sic) are Mr John being pert and getting in a dig at the ludicrousness of Trevelyan’s timeline. Bit rich, given how he’s stretching out the events of this thin tale to several epochs. “Let him know that it’s me.” Why would the name “James Bond”, being a “secret agent” ‘n’ all, mean anything to Janus? Unless Bond has noticed that Sean Bean gets second billing and saw that trailer that gave everything away.

Meanwhile – although given the propensity of the “novelisation” to expand time bloatedly, it might not be “meanwhile” but three years later – John gives us half a page on Natalya’s watch having stopped. Fair’s fair, it does provide an explanation why she is still bothering to wear it when she and Bond eventually meet. Time is literally standing still now, however.

After a day’s meandering around the city, GoldenEye’s sense of urgency remaining that of a lame snail, Natalya rocks up at the church and prays for a bit, to kill some more time. “Had Boris been caught? Had he led her into a trap?” No, and very obviously yes, respectively. Why would one think this of a co-worker if not already suspicious of him and, if already suspicious of him, why agree to meet? “Was that a noise?”. The “that” being a noise already, otherwise there is no “that”, this is a curious question. Oh, here’s Boris, fancy that and oh, here’s Xenia Onatopp “looking like some terrible harbinger of death”, as opposed to a really lovely one.

Half a page of flim-flam about the design of the spa in the Grand Hotel Europe, because it’s a hotel and John must stretch his fetish, and we’re back with Bond, wanting to “swim and steam away the day’s tensions on his own.” The day involved pootling about with Wade – a nice sit down – being banged on the head – a nice lie down – and a conversation with Zukovsky – another nice sit down. I accept that he was almost castrated but he is supposed to be James Bond, not an incipiently obese teenager, and being gelded is meant to be an everyday occurrence, not all this sedentary chit-chat. “He wanted to be alone in the hope that Janus would take up the bait.” This seems remarkably foolhardy given that he’s evidently unarmed at the moment. Twit. “Time to open his pores and steep himself within that same steam.” Urr. Apparently there’s someone else kicking about – but isn’t that what he wants? “Quite near and luring with some unholy intent.” Again – isn’t this what’s intended? In which case, stop moaning.

“He felt the presence though he could not see, then the large pillar came out of the mist, just to his left. He had to pass it to get to his clothes, so he danced to the right, away from the pillar, his head turning left, eyes peering through what could just as easily have been dense cloud or smoke.” Left, right, left – what’s going on? Lots of words to summon up the fact that Bond manages not to walk into a pillar. He’s so great. It’s so tense.

“Xenia naked was every man’s fantasy of the perfect woman.” There’s a slice of society, Dr Who enthusiasts mainly, who’d dispute the “every” man. Not just for reason marital, one doubts the description, given earlier assurance that Xenia is a psychotic arachnid, albeit one with a “human wrist”. The other seven are presumably all spider. “A second later she was kissing him as though she were preparing to slake an unquenchable thirst.” I approach my 10 a.m. Fleurie like that. “This time she was on him like a lioness…” A madcap human zoo, this one. “For what seemed to be a long time…”, it’s GoldenEye, it’s bound to be a long time, “…they wrestled in an erotic sliding and slithering of wet flesh upon wet naked flesh.” Ooh. And… yuck? “Panting. Groaning. Grunting, like two animals, for this is (sic) what it was about, the animal instincts of two beasts.” The arachnid and the sloth. M’doggy has animal instincts of eating from the bin and rolling in fox pooh, so I assume this is what is going on here. Or with the “Panting. Groaning. Grunting…”, that Mr Brosnon has broken into – smashed into – song.

Scene plays out naked, which wasn’t going to happen in the film because children might be watching it and, given the bruxism of relentless amateur psychoanalysis, writing it too.

“Finally he was on top of her and could feel himself sliding and thrusting into her…” He sounds nice. “Somewhere in the back of his head he recalled Shakespeare’s definition of this – making the beast with two backs.” Yes, what usually comes (…fnarr) to mind at such junctures is random literary quotations. John falls into the trap of attributing to one of Shakespeare’s characters – of whom there is much record – something that Shakespeare himself said – of which there is bog all. The expression is used by Iago, and he’s an untrustworthy misogynist racist whereas James Bond…oh. If the character is the writer, if that logic holds (it doesn’t, although qv Fleming, I.L.) then at present we have brung unto us John Gardner panting, groaning, grunting, sliding and thrusting. I donate that image to your 3 a.m. fearsweats.

“He remembered the broken body of Admiral Farrel back in Monte Carlo a thousand years ago.” Too easy. You’re not helping yourself here, Johnny.

“She said they would meet in Statue Park, then went on to explain what Statue Park really was, going into a lot of details.” Uh-oh. Brace yourself. “Bond pretended he was hearing all this for the first time.” Even the book you’re writing is bored and wants you to hurry up with things, Mr Gardner. How meta. Likewise rumbling around “The outward and visible signs of a political ideology which may or may not be finished”, although I hold to the view expressed a thousand years ago that GoldenEye was always going to succeed. Weird little vignette of Xenia in quasi-bondage, trussed up with Bond’s ties (for some reason (a reason called $) they are called “neckties”), didn’t make it into the film, which seems a pity, nor did the bit where Bond finds himself “staring at the base of a statue of Felix”, which is pitiable in another sense. Apparently this was the “founder of what would eventually become the KGB and was now the RIS.” On this page, anyway. Give it another couple of chapters and John will unleash more initials for it. He’s like that. “The voice was all too recognisable.” As it’s GoldenEye, the accent really won’t be, and it is very hard to tell what Mr Bean (yikes) thinks he’s doing.

“ ‘Hello, James’, said Alec Trevelyan. “ Well, sort of .

James Bond was never in this but insofar as there’s a chap with his name kicking about, he’ll be back in the next chapter of FreudDeployed. Jacques Stewart is panting, groaning, grunting, thrusting and sliding but that’s because he’s put his back out again, the tubby wretch. Only one hundred pages to go, and then he’s done with all forms of GoldenEye forever. Might as well add some excitement to it. No-one else is.


I cried tears of animal instinct. I did.

This is gradually convincing me a reread of Goldeneye’s necktie-in might be fun, so I went in search of my copy. Can’t find it right now, must have misplaced it during a 90s drinking game. Or something in the vein…

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The God With Two Faces

“Bond could not believe it at first. He went cold and wanted to vomit.” Lovey, I know . Is it meant to be sort-of Yorkshire with a dash of Received Pronunciation and a smash of Welsh and perhaps some dog? No-one woman-born in the United Kingdom has ever spoken like that. “…his stunned disbelief was gradually turning to anger.” Agreed. Was there no dialogue coach on set? “…he had known Alec Trevelyan as friend and colleague all his active life.” Apart from the last nine years of it. Unless that was inactive life, which explains much of the prior plodabout feel of this.

“The familiar voice was only slightly slurred by the defect on the left of his mouth.” If they had played this up in the film, it might have excused the accent (if incurring the wrath of various charities). However, he was talking in that absurd way at the start, and Sean Bean’s performance pays no heed to the latex snot glued to his face.

“You used to be famous for your one-liners.” Used to be famous for exciting stories, too. Oh, deconstruct amidst this park of deconstruction. We haven’t had this sort of thing for at least four pages. They might as well put up neon placards. The critical faculties of anyone older than twelve are being held in utter contempt. This isn’t subtext; it’s just text, and as clankingly misguided as the “music”. “I’ve got a one-worder for you, Alec.” Moi aussi. “Why? Because I speak the language well.” You frickin’ don’t.

“I think I deserve a decent answer.” I think I deserve a decent story. I must have paid out thousands on this Bond rot in my time; where’s my prize? I accept that the money would only amount to half a bottle of something decent, but still . Is this how loyalty is paid off? Yet more chat about Bond being emotionally inert. Whither Dink? Whither Chew Mee? Did they get patronised in vain? What happened to James Bond in those six years away, and did it actually improve things? “OK, how about going out, risking life and limb…” cliché “…bombing around the world…” ha-ha-ha, he said “bombing” “…putting your life on the line…” cliché “…then finally ending up on the scrap heap.” Another cliché. Turgid motivation, this: the lack of job satisfaction. If only they’d had the occasional cake morning, or a Bring Your Doggy To Day, none of this would have happened, although Bond’s interpretation of “Doggy” would have meant tribunals. “Name any trade and you come to the same answer.” I name… restorer of antique musical instruments. And vivisectionist. And peep-show booth wiper. And I don’t .

Bit of a whinger, this Trevelyan. Might just be the “accent”. “Alec laughed, bitter, with a trace of Biblical wormwood and gall.” To be fair to Mr Bean, no-one could act that because no-one knows what it means. “The man, Bond considered, had gone too far to be brought back. The explosion? Ourumov’s bullet? Whatever had happened after the operation in the eighties?” Sound enough questions, John, but no-one knows, and no-one ever bothers to explain it. Not even you, with all your words ‘n’ ting. I suppose it’s clever to posit that there’s just as much flux and instability and uncertainty and searching for purpose on both sides, not just in Russia, but the point is being hammered home a touch too often now. It doesn’t stop here.

“ ‘James, don’t be so bloody melodramatic…’ “ Trevelyan is the second person in a few pages to throw accusations of melodrama about. John doesn’t like the script. John is wise. “ ‘Trust’s disappeared, gone, dropped out of the dictionary.’ “ No, it hasn’t. You just used it. “ ‘ The accountants have taken over, or hadn’t you noticed?’ “ He has noticed, although technically she’s a computer scientist. They appear to be the ones who have taken over. There’s about forty of them in this story alone. “ ‘Today’s dictator is tomorrow’s diplomat…” It’s always been like that, hun. “…the bomb thrower and terrorist now catch the Nobel Prize.’ “ Presumably he means the Peace one, rather than Chemistry (less of a scandal). Book comes out a year after they hurled it Arafat’s way, although he did share. Hm. Presumably he was the focus of scorn, rather than the Dalai Lama. However, given that the Arafat thing was in 1994 and what we are witnessing is ostensible justification for going AWOL in the mid-1980s, it’s a bleak opinion of Desmond Tutu. He seems so nice. I suppose they did give it to Kissinger, but that was ages ago.

Anyway, how did Trevelyan know that the Soviet Union was collapsing, given that he scarpered four years before that happened? What a stroke of luck for him that it did. Something about all this opportunism being the explanation for his actions, falls apart. We probably aren’t meant to worry about it. Look at the nice suits.

“ ‘We’re stuck in a slough of despond which goes under a new name: free market morality.’ “ But why did they never film Gardner’s stuff? Clue right there. I accept that Sean Bean might have delivered that dialogue, though. Hard to say, as well as being hard to say. “ ‘It’s a morality where your friends come and go as quickly as the next bus in Regent Street or Fifth Avenue.’ “ Slowly, then. “ ‘Your own parents had the luxury of dying in a climbing accident.’ “ One can envisage greater luxuries. Bring on all the stuff about Stalin and suicide and MOTIVATION but although Bond’s asked “Why?”, he can’t be bothered asking “When?”, lest convincing chronology die by falling off a cliff, too. “ ‘And friend Ourumov shot you before time was up. What did he offer you, Alec, a seat on the right hand of God?’ “ There are very good reasons not to go anywhere near Ourumov’s hands, especially if he’s been at his “data base”. Even with the opportunity to provide the answer, we still get no insight into how (or indeed, whether) Trevelyan and Ourumov were working together back in the day. If you’re coming to the book looking for any more explanation of How and When (there’s way too much “Why”, and none of it hangs together), you won’t get it.

“ ‘But somehow I knew your loyalty would always be to government orders and not to friends.’ “ On what basis is this knowledge founded? Licence to Kill? We’re not a country club. Goes rogue… for a friend. Admittedly, Trevelyan wasn’t around at the time to know this. The Living Daylights? Stuff my orders. Goldfinger? You were mean to investigate Mr Goldfinger, not steal his girlfriend. Octopussy? That’s government property now. Operation Bedlam’s in the bin; don’t have a strop. Breaching half the Napoleonic Code. Leave the Beretta. Perhaps we’ll get some good solid work from you. Oh, grow up, 007. When has this man regularly obeyed orders? GoldenEye relies on molesting our memories, except when it’s inconvenient to have us remember that some of Bond’s allure as a character, and success as an operative, has come from his consistent insubordination. I mean, he’d never have found out the… thing, the … whatever it is… the scheme… and put an end to… that, if he’d shot Kara Milovy through the back of her brain. 008 obeys orders, not instincts. 008 usually dies or gets her car nicked; useless.

“…Bond moved, falling flat…” poor old sod, “…firing into the darkness, rolling to the right…” These bloody pillars, they do just creep up on him, don’t they? “Once more that day his world went suddenly black…” it’s time for another lie down; there might be something pointed in the “once more”. “The last thing he registered was the smell of burning.” It’s that Biblical wormwood and gall that Trevelyan emits. Most pungent. On the wind you feel his breath.

“He was being banged hard, and regularly, in the back.” John, stop with so much sexy, you little imp. Can’t you see he’s a bit tied up? …never mind. “His voice sounded slurred…” An attribute he will in due course bring to singing. “Bond wondered if this was his personal countdown to death – for him and the young woman behind him.” Accordingly not that personal. You’re trussed up in a flying bomb; it’s not going to be a countdown to cuddles, is it? “…he now knew where the target was located. He was sitting in it.” Exciting, innit? Finally. Page 125. “Far away, high in the sky to the left…” Does the “to the left” add anything? “He could feel the sweat trickle from his hairline…” That’s the glue melting. Odd, given Mr Gardner’s prior disclosure that Bond has become interested in films all of a sudden, that this isn’t resolved by his thinking “I know how to get out of this contrived scrape: Die Hard 2!” Perhaps he hadn’t seen it. The producers definitely had, though. “At the apogee of its surge upwards…” Lick my Gardner. That’s not an invitation to lick my gardener, although he’d probably surge upwards if you did. I’ve tried.

“…he knew that his own mouth was open, but could not tell if it was wide in a silent scream, or if he was also shrieking with fear.” Whatever happened to our love? I wish I understood. It used to be so nice. It used to be so good. Bit like these films.

Three dense paragraphs of good meaty Gardner follow, to describe the untying of ropes. Just in case you were thrilled by the last bit, the cockpit’s not the only thing that’s come down to Earth with a “bone-jarring thud”.

“ ‘I think it would be a good idea to pretend we’re one of these damned statues,’ Bond said, gently wrapping the trembling girl in his arms.” Even Porny Johnny isn’t stooping so low as to suggest this as a joke about Bond going stiff, erect. I am, though. Why? Because I speak the language well.

Floating Through Sunlight

“The headquarters of Military Intelligence for the St Petersburg area…” give John Gardner a pretext to indulge in acronyms and all sorts of other cabbage about the Red Army or something, and also a lengthy description about the interrogation cell because quality office furniture is at the heart of all great adventures. Being fairer, he does bother to give a reason why Bond doesn’t check for bugs before starting his spy-based chitter-chatter, which is that it would be pointless to do so. “At the moment she cowered in a corner, her eyes full of fear.” Don’t worry, we’ve told him not to sing again, you can calm down now.

“ ‘Natalya, that’s a lovely name.’ Urr. You old creep. Boris gets promoted in the book to being “old KGB”, for which John Gardner has at least one other name, and is described as “quite exceptional” which is certainly close to describing Mr Cumming’s …performance. Rattling along much like the film, here comes Mishkin, sporting a nice coat and still a different forename than the onscreen one. Even the “boys with toys” stuff finds its way in, more or less, and Bond’s amplification of the point that “ ‘The one who dies with the most toys wins’ “ is amusingly bleak. It is delivered with “…a smile around the cruel corner of his mouth.” Wasn’t all of his mouth once cruel?

For those keeping a record of Xenia’s mutation, she’s gone from spider to snake. Money’s on achieving “scorpion” before the end, with an outside chance of “salamander”.

Here’s Ourumov, about to do something most naughty, looking “…unkempt…as though he had slept in his uniform…” and “…as if he had been running through terrible humidity and was very out of condition.” Or after a solid hour’s vigorous research on his “data base”. Some Gardner blasts its way through into this bubble universe with Bond’s gun being loaded with Glasers, one of which “…took off Mishkin’s head” which would hurt. I shouldn’t have mocked the business about the chair – Bond uses it, at some length, in the ensuing fight, and it’s never entirely clear that he drops it. The image of him dragging the chair around throughout the ensuing videogame machine-gun carnage greatly appeals, somehow. Corridors and corridors and “yet another” corridor and we all know what happens next, Bond basically mows a load of folks down, which must be terribly exciting for the pixel-enthused, but leaves me as cold as the bodies that pile up. Never strikes me as the most inventive thing for the Bonds to have recourse to, and for all the clamour that the current films could do with a big gun battle at their conclusion, such events are by far the least interesting aspects of the otherwise sublime The Spy who Loved Me and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, say. Work for stuntmen and the providers of trampettes they may prove, but always a sneaking suspicion that the scripts just say “big fight, guns and boom” and leave it there.

John has not left it there; this does rather chug on, every corridor walked. Or run. The chair has not yet expressly been abandoned. Natalya, though, does find herself so, and by this point she and Bond have shared about eleven lines of dialogue which makes Bond’s wordcount-filling internal debate about whether he should let “his heart rule his head” most odd. No odder than it taking a good page and a bit to fire belt gun thing – swing across building – crash through window . “He struck the window in the centre, feet first…” Why not thrown the chair? He’s still holding it. “As he went down, he thought of the many good things he had experienced in his life… he thought [Natalya] might have been the best thing of all.” This, I feel, is pretty bloody unlikely. He’s had more human contact with that blimmin’ chair.

In all the aspirational merchandising guffery that surrounds Bond, amongst the watches and drinks and cars, the memorabilia tat and decanter sets and ties, oddly they don’t make as much of the amount of time he spends cutting people down with the sort of weapon one can acquire very easily in some societies. I suppose that’s not a thing one is being invited to aspire to. They’ll show it anyway. They’re not to blame. Be like James Bond! Just not that bit of him. There, conscience clear, can now sleep at night.

“Now he felt as insignificant as a tiny speck of dust floating through sunlight.” It’s a nice image and, insofar as it doesn’t take fifteen passes to understand it, one of John’s less juddery ones, but in an enterprise designed to remind us of the very specialness of Mr James Bond, plays a bit off. One is suddenly reminded of the conclusion to Middlemarch, with its praise of the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs. Not sure that’s the spirit of renewal and relevance that GoldenEye seems to otherwise demand, and Mr Gardner seems to otherwise deride.

James Bond and his Chair will return in the next 007th Chapters of GoldenEye. Jacques Stewart is reminded of the need to give the gardener his tip.