The 007th Chapter: Licence to Kill

A word about continuity (nearer 8,000 ‘cos it’s me, yeah?). More hindrance than help?

Too broad a question? That, though, suggests a norm for framing questions. An act of continuity. This 007th Chapter has imploded earlier than usual. “Than usual” also embraces continuity and now my nodes are tingly. Deep breath from the diaphragm, application of discount myrrh: onward.

Evidently there exist enterprises of a whole, but presented in slices to enable us to tolerate them. One thinks of JRR Tolkein and those walking hairy-footed along his path. There is, obviously, a difference between continuity of crumbs of a cake already baked, and where my despair lies ripely rummaged: imposing continuity onto things not devised with much, or any. Some say retrospectively connecting disparate episodes creates unity, a universe. Claptrap: it doesn’t develop the “universe” but hems it in, an understanding of a universe that posits it as finite, within trussed-up boundaries, successfully failing to appreciate what a universe ectually is. Everything that has ever been or ever will be may indeed be connected, but chaining it is forced labour, and slavery is just so naughty.

If an endeavour is designed as partworks of a thought-through story, then super and duper. If not, why bother? It only causes arguing. Example: the New Testament (King James Special Edition, with multiple deleted scenes. No Easter Eggs; Easter’s a sore point. Several sore points). Shoved together over many years, multiple authors can’t determine whether the angel spoke to Mary or to Joseph to proclaim the dodgy paternity of their sprog. Nor can they decide whether Hell is a furnace (accordingly, light-emitting) or an outer darkness (accordingly, not). Similarly, inconsistency in how many doubted Jesus’s resurrection; indeed, folk would disbelieve the whole show if they had just done a box-set catch-up and tried to make sense of the peasant-scaring drivel. Things aren’t helped by the Lad Himself claiming that “defraud not” is one of the Ten Commandments; convenient later-season reset-button retconning that sloppily contradicts the Exodus story arc, etc.

More contemporaneous examples of forced continuity arise in enterprises initially well-intended, aiming to inspire one out of bed, to go boldly, standing testament to self-stretching effort. These, however, seem particularly subject to imposition of, and squabbling about, consistency from the compact confines of minds all-a-basement-bound. Star Trek, Star Wars, the Doctor Who Children’s Programme, all shrink into riffing on old routines, stuff they’ve already exhausted, lest “people” upset themselves, and others, because the complacent safe-space of fond memory is forever sullied. The more imagination the makers of the material occasionally show, the greater the display of enraged, spavined underambition by the recipients, their self-awarded entitlement to have the same thing forever is challenged, and challenged so, so unfairly. Why must things change, Mummy? Well, Darling, it’s so we don’t communicate by smearing excrement on cave walls. But Mummy, isn’t that Twitter? Yes Darling, you may have a point there.

An earlier instalment did X, so X is THE LAW and it would break everything to go outwith X. Laws, though, change (perhaps not that of gravity, although that’s debatable as I am heavier than 20 years ago and there’s no other reason why). This is why legislatures and judges exist. We don’t pay Window Tax any more, and witch-hunting has gone, except online. I accept the doctrine of precedent, but that can’t be mistaken for rigid adherence. Legal practice, at least in a common law system, relies on distinguishing prior decisions and moving things on, not sticking to them because, y’know, Thor’s hat has always been blue and must stay that way because otherwise… otherwise nothing. It’s never not the right time to trump a former precedent: time for ex-precedent trump.

(Yes, all this nonsense was building up to that).

“Make more of the thing I liked” is the death of art. That’s why they’re the artists and we’re just the little people in the dark. It’s like when one saunters through the Uffizi (it’s a big gallery full of lovely paintings, not the sort you lot are allowed to make with potato halves) and it’s relentless (as I’m sure you’ve noticed), Adoration of the infant or Pietas, that’s all there is for a dozen rooms and by God, it’s dull, the same bleeding thing over and over, occasionally changing the music over the gunbarrel but, y’know, big snore. When one finally happens across the secularity of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino, say, one is not only relieved but also appreciates the point. Progress. Interest. I accept the mantra “Give the people what they want” on the basis “want” has its meaning of “lack”. The people don’t lack the stuff they’ve had before.

“But… I don’t want progress. I want everything to stay the same. I was happy then, and now my happiness is threatened. How dare they try something new? How dare they molest my memory and go beyond the confines of my peanut of a soul? In episode 12 of season 5, the Socratic Jibbler of T’Drang had puce teats, not green. How can they get it so wrong? My childhood is raped (although if I was aware of sexual intercourse I wouldn’t bandy that about). I have started a Facebook group.”

There’s a Bond film called Quantum of Solace… you’ll just love that. It’s supposed to be direct continuity but gloriously takes every opportunity not to be, just to ruin it for everyone. Magnificent.

Perhaps more to the point, if there is one, there’s a Bond film called SPECTRE. As continuity, it curates flaws. Did the Vesper Lynd plot need more explaining, or explaining in the manner chosen, creating new (awful) story threads when the principal one is left hanging? Bond lost the money in Casino Royale (nobody is angry) thereby funding baddies. His intervention made things worse, confirming the incompetence of the Dench M. Save for the hurried explanation for why Bond later goes to Haiti, this is never subsequently addressed. Weird. Insofar as they felt it wise for SPECTRE to explore (badly, blindly) the repercussions of Bond’s actions, it’s an open goal missed that there’s no acknowledgement that Bond made the villain stronger, that for all his ostensible success and heroism and lovely watches and cars, he’s ectually endangered more people by ultimately enabling Blofeld to do the… thing with information (still unclear). But there I am, despite my ministrations, imposing a different continuity, albeit one that proclaims James Bond to be crap at his job.

It’s nothing new for the Bonds to boast references to previous adventures (GoldenEye is naught else but this) albeit there are only two worth contemplating: the maddeningly unexplained scar thing in From Russia with Love, and the Craig Bond’s stationery fetish. A request for some (he can’t spell the word) is the subject of his last email before his resignation in Casino Royale, and he’s still looking for it one film later. Fab. Don’t give him those silly gadgets; all he really wants is a stapler.

Nor was Fleming averse to the occasional reminder of past adventures, but SPECTRE’s most egregious error was to render the whole plot a back-reference, and crunchingly re-write whole plots of earlier entries in its wake, shrinking Bond’s universe rather than expanding it. Once shrunk, it fits as badly as Little Daniel’s suits. Think on that first press conference of October 2005, the point that those writing the history of the internet will specify as the moment it changed from cat pictures and porn to under-educated savagery and porn. You know, the one where Mr Craig turned up in armbands. If at that point the plan ectually was in the Eon hive-mind to work towards Bond and Blofeld being childhood rivals (we are meant to believe everything came from this), it was a sensible strategy not to mention it and instead misdirect the loons into thinking they were onto a valid point by banging on about continuity of hair colour. Poor little sods. How little they knew. How much they exposed of how little they knew. Had that particular crimson fireball been hurled at us, I might have joined them, although I doubt I can summon up so much pig-ignorance. You might not doubt that.

There’s also a Bond film called Licence to Kill… which I don’t like. Not one bit. Aha! You might say (it’s a multisyllable, so it’s no higher than “might”): you don’t like it because you don’t think it’s much of a Bond film. Therefore you have a preconceived set standard of “Bond film” so you’re as culpable as those you mock of clinging onto consistency. There you go, putting the hippo into hypocrite. To which my primary response is: nob off. To which my secondary response is that the joke at the end works best in the audiobook version of this tosh (and is very hurtful). To which my tertiary response is: no, it’s because it relies on too much canker from the Bond series, all the desiccated norms stretched thin, that it’s a vat of unmitigated arse. You’d have been better off pointing out – pointing’s a motor skill – that all these 007th Chapter pieces represent continuity at its most depressingly anal. My rejoinder is to wonder how we got onto the subject of bottoms. Again.

Meanwhile, meet the author.

For the Armchair Detective edition of his novelisation (ugh) of 1989’s inadequate little film Licence to Kill, Mr Gardner appears to have considered it sensible to pen the following introduction (reproduced here in this Couch Potato edition of the 007th Chapter for the purposes of “research” (cough), critical appraisal and in awed disbelief at its majestic peevishness):

In 1979, when I was living in the Republic of Ireland, out of the grey skies (you do not get many blue ones in Ireland) I was invited by Glidrose Publications - the literary copyright owners of James Bond - to take up the late Ian Fleming’s mantle and write some continuation James Bond novels.

Call it my female intuition going wobbly but I’m getting a whiff of a scintilla of a gossamer thread of a vibe of “none of this is my fault”. Might be wrong. However, I’m grumpy and I recognise a fellow traveller.

Both Glidrose and myself realized that we could fall flat on our faces. We also knew that, as far as those self-appointed guardians of literary taste- the critics (known in the trade as the Sixth through Sixth-Thousand Horsemen of the Apocalypse) we were in a no-win situation. As it turned out, our original deal for three books has grown into eight; I am writing the ninth, and the company who owns me has just signed me for three more.


(Surely it’s “Both Glidrose and I…”?)

Thinnish of skin? Potent literary exaggeration accepted, it’s still lemon-sucky, innit? “…the company who (that?) owns me.” Ouch. In writing anything, we reveal the history of ourselves. This revelation is so… bleak. Hand that feeds not just bitten but angrily masticated, spat out and collective noses subsequently rubbed into the mess. If he thought critics were an issue, bless him that he never encountered unmitigated tossmaggots like what I am. Alternatively, provocatively and ironically drawing out the skein of grumpiness that’s been developing in his Bonds to this point; playing persona to a knowing crowd? Maybe, but the book’s expressly not intended as part of his series and targeted at the sort of person who would willingly watch and enjoy Licence to Kill, i.e. the sort of person who cannot read, and therefore won’t necessarily have noticed the rest of his product.

Not a ringing endorsement of a fresh contract. Licence renewed, and touchy about it. This is the mood in which he wrote Brokenclaw. Although I understand he wasn’t in great health at the time, this explains much. The “three more” were The Man from Barbarossa, Death is Forever and Never Send Flowers, so it’s not surprising he’s gloomy at the prospect of banging those out. His legendary foresight predicts doom.

The Six Thousand Horsemen of the Apocalypse have since been reduced back to the original Four. Budget cuts. Very Licence to Kill. Not sure why he mentioned six, unless he’s as unconvinced by Biblical continuity as I am. Sorry: as myself am. What were Five and Six, then? Pestilence, War, Famine, Death, Cress and Cor Anglais?

While the reviewers appear to dislike the fact that I am not Ian Fleming, the book-buying public seem to have eaten the new Bond novels alive.

They munched them at McDonalds, John. So it is said. Terribly, terribly unwisely, as it turned out.

Nobody could be happier than I…

(Than me? Hmm.)

I’m sure he was lovely to all manner of saucer-eyed soft flolloping creatures, but his assertion just isn’t coming through. I have encountered happier people than this. Naïve pillocks all, obviously, but immeasurably happier.

… for my job is to entertain, possibly excite, certainly stimulate, and this I appear to have done with the James Bond books: no mean feat when you consider that I have produced an average of one a year, plus one of my own works of fiction a year since 1979 (I am well-known for my natural streak of modesty).

Going for “my personality’s an acquired taste”, then. The critics were wrong: that’s as close to Ian Fleming as he got. Or anything involved with Licence to Kill does. I am indeed stimulated by sour passive aggression, but then I’m weird.

I apologise for not being Mr. Fleming, just as I apologise for the reviewer who believes that there are no moving parts in a computer, the one who imagines that all cigarettes are white, and the one who thinks the books are sexually tame because his memories of the Fleming novels are that his parents regarded them as dirty books, so he read them in secret. Grow up all of you.

Shout. Shout. Let it all out. These are the things I can do without. Come on. I’m talking to you. Come on.

Someday you’re going to have to tell us how you really feel.

I do not apologise for the book you are about to read.

It’s Not My Fault Part 2: Splenetic Boogaloo.

It is a collectors’ item, for it has absolutely nothing to do with my series of James Bond books. It is unique, being the only book-of-the-film I am ever likely to write.

Ah, the legendary foresight lets him down, daring as he would to subsequently emit GoldenEye. Given the tone of this, that must have been a fun-filled commission accepted with skittish glee.

Last year, Glidrose was approached by Mr Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli - that wonderful and staunch defender of Bond who has brought all of the Fleming stories from page to screen. Mr. Broccoli asked if I would do a book based on the screenplay of his new Bond movie, License To Kill. I was not keen, having already had truck with screenplays before. On the bare white page, all screenplays are like lyrics without music, or as my old father used to say, like kissing your sister.

An internet git writes: no, not all of the Fleming stories. Ha! I win… something or other. I have corrected an authoritative figure in Bond history and therefore I take precedence over him and am now thirteenth in line to the throne. I am a Bond-knower. I am… absolutely wretched.

His father’s relationship with his sister sounds charming.

Isn’t a set of lyrics without music a poem?

If there’s anything wrong, the screenplay’s to blame. It’s Not My Fault III: Season of the Bitch.

However, Bond prevailed and I spent a number of happy weeks turning Michael G. Wilson’s and Richard Maibaum’s screenplay into the book you hold in your hands. I hope you enjoy it.

John Gardner.

I’m not sure which bit to disbelieve: the hope of enjoying it (it’s Licence to Kill, so don’t live in hope (nor, it appears, Ireland, if you want to avoid commercial enterprises dropping on your noggin)), or that the number of weeks was higher than “two”, or that given the tone, either was “happy”. That last sentence seems to be missing the conclusion to which we were patently being led: “…because I bloody didn’t”. Still, he did like his twist endings.

Once one’s scrubbed clean the stain of embittered reluctance, a clear point remains: this novelisation (ugh) of Licence to Kill has “nothing to do with my series of James Bond books”. Depending how deeply one prods, a number – more than “two” - of potential meanings to this:

• I didn’t say it had nothing to do with Ian Fleming’s books though, did I? Got you there.
• My books do cross-refer back (with increasing contrivance) to Fleming so his books are absorbed into mine; by implication it has nothing to do with those either.
• I definitely haven’t said that it is not connected with the films but I wouldn’t know that because I DO NOT WATCH THEM and keep saying this.

As a novelisation (still “ugh”), the logic is that it is connected to the films, if anything; whether that comes to pass is moot. Fine, Milton Krest never existed before – disconnect from Fleming, but prior films hadn’t used him, fine – but then Felix Leiter proceeds to be fed to a shark a second time and his prosthetic limbs savaged – obviously connected to Fleming (and For Special Services, for that matter), but disconnected to preceding films (and reality, medical science and other things that keep one’s mind in a sane place and not contemplating drinking paint). I suppose Cedar Leiter isn’t mentioned so Mr Gardner’s books remain pure and unreferenced, although her absence may be wise judgment. I wonder what happened to her after a decrepit Bond, with her father’s permission, moistly defiled her? Sub-prime pot washer at Hooters, if lucky.

It is, accordingly, a mess and perhaps the safest outcome is to consider Mr Gardner’s desire to avoid continuity to apply to all manifestations of Bond, meaning Licence to Kill should be considered as confined within its own bubble or, as I have long demanded, sealed in something lead-lined, buried miles underground and then forgotten about, Hurrah! Otherwise… the continuity is in a worse state of post-coital distress and ignominy than that there Cedar Leiter. Perhaps this is the only basis on which this increasingly mean-spirited series can approach this novelisation (it’s “ugh”), to see if, within the test-base of one chapter selected at random (but, uncannily, the seventh), it can really achieve this stance of (deserved) isolation for Licence to Kill. If it does not, I fear I may have to unleash the Seventh Horselady of the Apocalypse once she’s back from her kittenslitting class.

To tell the truth, Mrs Jim isn’t very horsey, although she does have a whip and stirrups.

Grow up all of you.

[As this 007th Chapter has absolutely nothing to do with my series of Abusive Petty Rubbish, no wordcloud].


The 007th Chapter – Licence to Kill: Final Contact

We’re in a hotel room.

Well, that experiment fell apart immediately, didn’t it? As the man said, fell flat on its face. Most of these Gardner pieces have opened with that phrase. One could be terribly sarcastic (a stretch, I know) and snidely assert that as this book is not associated with his Bond series, this must actually be an original and daring move. So I will.

Yet something does merit less knee-jerk sniping: which came first, the chicken or the egg? (It’s the chicken, evolution fans). But in this context, who is influencing whom? As Mr Gardner noted, his Bonds were very popular so if, as the film sadly suggests, Eon had hit a creative desert, why not look to popular Bond of the day? I’m sure I’ve said it before (…continuity) but Licence to Kill’s reputation amongst its dog-bothering apologists as being close to Fleming misreads how much Gardner there is here. Hotel rooms. Alliterative names. Real-world threat thing. Genre-ripping. A traitor. Right-on-cue action scenes that tend to go on a bit. Clattering literary references. Jumbled continuity to (much, much) earlier incidents. M being lousy to Bond. A dour, plodding, pompous and frankly unlikeable hero in grim garb. Loads of crimson fireballs. An interesting idea for a villain, but one surrounded by largely faceless goons. Stunning lack of interest in its geography. Female agent, clumsy banter. None more Gardner, is Licence to Kill. If, as I think we should for politeness’ sake, we take Mr Gardner’s happiness at the task at face value, it’s not surprising.

This particular chapter poses interest in that the first half of it contains scenes I don’t recall being in the film, and the second half some that are. I put my certainty at “recall” as there’s nothing you can do to persuade me to watch Licence to Kill. Nothing. Very possibly the scenes I think aren’t in the final product were filmed but deleted but then I’m of the view that there’s a further couple of hours or so of scenes that they could still have deleted without any great loss to humanity.

We join Bond and his room service meal (…whatever its merits as “Bond”, dodgy at best, I’m sure that’s happened before in a Gardner) watching television – quaintly referred to throughout as CNNTV - and making snotty remarks about it (definitely in Nobody Lives For Ever). The blithe stance taken by the television reporter towards Franz Sanchez does little to dissuade those who are persuaded to believe CNN as Fake News. “At that moment Bond had stopped eating, the fresh salmon on his fork hovering between plate and mouth.” Surely it was the fork doing the hovering? Mr Gardner might be right: this book may have little to do with his series of James Bond books as those seemed more carefully written. Still, everyone makes mistakes when they’re overwhelmed with happiness but on the basis the offspring might at some point read this, I’ll stop that analogy there. Get on with your homework.

The commentator’s name is Anna Rack. Hm. Might be an invention of the screenplay, and tells one a lot about how grimly desperate Eon were at this point or, were this in any way, shape or form connected with prior Gardners, a callback to the many anoraks and windcheaters and practical, hard-wearing clobber Mr Gardner has clothed Bond in. But it can’t be that, Mr Gardner said it couldn’t, so let’s chalk this particular stupidity up to Messrs. Maibaum and Wilson.

So President Lopez and his entourage turn up at the Casino, to which Bond’s reaction is “Look as if they came straight from Ruritania.” That’s pure Gardner: pompous literary references to show he’s hangin’ wiv da kidz. I can’t imagine why anyone would have preferred Batman over this.

Odd note in that the cars on show are all referred to in the abbreviated form as “limos”. Seems too casual for the otherwise detailed-to-pedantic Gardner style, a style that will shortly give us a step-by-step-by-step-by-some-more-steps account of what happened between stealing the money and the seaplane and returning to Leiter’s house (short version: he put the money into some suitcases, and ditched the ‘plane). Still, the content is nothing to do with his other books. Nothing much to do with English, either.

“Bond sighed. Well, he’s there, he thought. Where you lead, Franz Sanchez, I must follow. He had a lot to do before then, though, and it had been a tiring day.” An odd shift between first and third person in the one paragraph? Is that conventional, Jim asked himself?

Page-and-a-bit of flashback landing and taking off and flying about which pads things out but strikes one as more Gardner than Eon in its breath-by-breath intricacy leading to nowhere very much. From (hazy) memory, the film just has Bond turn up in Isthmus City with the suitcases: arguably this is all we need, or could want, to know. Perhaps this is a sound example of a film’s advantage of “show, don’t tell” whereas in written form one can’t show, although the decision taken to tell is open to debate. That said, I suspect the ensuing scene of scuttling the seaplane would have been way beyond the budget, so the books affords itself a luxury at our expense that the film does – and could - not.

Unusual passage about Bond and friendship: “Some had an inkling of his arcane work…” (kill them, you’re meant to be a secret agent, you rope-soled crretin) “others just got on with him, liked him for his company and conversation.” Not very likely, with this Bond, is it? Bond at all, for that matter. Perhaps in this bubble universe of Licence to Kill he’s wholly different but so far he seems just as riddled with traditional Garndertics as he has been throughout the run. Book proceeds to tell us about David Wolkowsky; from the description this might be a real person and probably a pal of the author and that’s not unusual for a Bond book (Mr Benson takes it to mad, tragic extremes) but I’m sure there’s a Wolkowsky kicking around the rest of the Gardners, the later ones I think, who is a CIA proto-Leiter. There’s a chap called David Wolkovsky (with a middle “v”) in Scorpius but it cannot be the same person as this book has nothing to do with that one. At all. We’ve been told that. Also, his name is ever-so-slightly different so the conceit of Licence to Kill’s isolation patently remains ever-so-slightly in place. Ish.

Further research (strenuous) indeed establishes this Wolkowsky as a real person and the actual owner/developer of the properties described at length. Spy thriller/subliminal real estate sales brochure crossover fiction. A niche genre, not sure it takes off. Bit like this 'plane.

Blimey, the Titanic sank quicker than this sodding aeroplane. Lost at sea and sinking slowly: welcome, one and all, to Licence to Kill.

“The money was drugs money, so he felt no moral qualms about it, for this loot would be used to bring Franz Sanchez to his final destiny – …” Great! Is Bond going to buy a big bomb or a mammoth man-eating tiger or something dramatic? “…either death or a long spell of imprisonment.” Oh. Well, I’m sure it’s going to be all really exciting anyway.

Quick bit of badinage with this Wolkowsky about Bond potentially breaking into the man’s house on the pretext of adultery – meant to be amusing, comes across as psychotic – and then we meet “Steve”. “A tall, fine-looking young man, and an excellent sailor.” Well, hello sailor. And then… then the purest Gardner one has read to date, dangerously risking pricking the bubble: half a page on the history of the Casa Marina Hotel, so staggeringly boring and padded out it’s brilliant, then a SECRET COMPARTMENT, another hotel room, drawn-out gun description, Bond being grumpy, dark “slacks”, a black roll-neck, doe-skin moccasins, small zippered pouches. It’s absolutely lovely, if you like that sort of thing. A single, wonderful page of concentrated, raw Gardner, breathtaking in its efficient capture of all the characteristics, be they for good or ill, before we rejoin the film.

At which point, Bond is breaking into his second house of the chapter. One can see why the first incident didn’t make the cut – superb, essence-of-Gardner it might have been, but it advanced the plot not one whisper and if it had been on screen, Licence to Kill would have made even less money (apparently possible). Even with this scene there’s a solid nine hours of housebreaking with miniaturised tools including a “rake” – unfortunately not a real rake, that would have been an actual joke, God forbid – before we’re finally into Leiter’s study. Meanwhile, about four seconds have passed on screen. Perhaps this sort of thing is where Mr Gardner “had truck” with screenplays before: the truck would have taken days to bloody describe.

Three – that’s three, mark you - dense paragraphs about a computer starting up and then displaying its folders – here’s exciting – by name. Is anything else on? When does the Indiana Jones film come out?

Right, so, this sets up the meeting with P Bouvier at the bar but unlike the film and going there, because this is Gardner, Bond goes back to his hotel. Superb. He does get value for money, doesn’t he? He “…had left the usual little traps: a matchstick here and a piece of cotton there.” Curiously under-described, for once. I think we should be told. Second thoughts, don’t, we’ll be here all day and there’s a fight to be had: also, check-out’s by 11 a.m. If these are the “usual” traps, how is this a self-contained universe?

“He put the Walther under his pillow, secured the door, stripped off, performed his nightly toilet and slid into bed.” There’s something very upsetting about any sort of sliding going on just after “performing” “his nightly toilet”; I remember at the time that the film was initially threatened with a 18 certificate so I assume this was one of the scenes that definitely had to go, if only because the suggestion of colossal and upsetting incontinence – however true to the aged Gardner Bond – would have clashed horribly with Mr Dalt-Ton’s look of wearied constipation. “Performed his nightly toilet”; it’s so Gardner it practically sings.

After a bit of back-and-forth buying the speedboat – is this in the film? Might have lightened the mood, even if it’s the same joke about Bond handing over massive wodges of cash that is played out on several other occasions, I think – we’re finally at the bar. “The clientele looked to be the dregs of humanity. Some looked to be downright dangerously wicked as well.” He made Cambridge in good time, didn’t he? “…a tired-looking stripper performed in a manner that would make it fun to watch paint dry.” Careful, John: not so long ago you spent around 150 words describing a computer turning on, and the cinema’s beginning to empty. Apparently Lethal Weapon 2’s quite jolly.

“A pair of men in outdated, and slightly mouldy dinner jackets stood inside the door. You did not have to be brain of the year to mark them down as bouncers.” What else would they be, John? Having just checked, my Brain of the Year medallion is capitalised (1991, fourth place Mid-Oxfordshire regional heats (Village Class (Intermediate))). I’m telling you this as it’s taking ages for Bond to walk across the room, edging his way slowly past all the description, and start the film going again.

From here, scene plays out pretty much as I remember it (and no, I’m not checking; you can put yourself through that pleasure, I have toilet to perform), with the amusing size-does-matter gun bit between Bond and Pam Bouvier (Bond is wearing a windcheater: Timothy Dalt-Ton is John Gardner’s Ken Spoon and there is no arguing against it). Pam is wearing “grubby white pants” which suggests she too has problem performing her nightly toilet, and the budget couldn’t stretch to some “slacks” for her, poor mite. Then Dario turns up. Dario… is not physically described, not one word, which lends itself to amusing speculation that they had no idea who or at what age to cast the part. At least Pam gets legs that go on “for ever”, although that would present a challenge for the Casting Director if Charlotte the Deformed Giraffe were to price herself beyond budget, which history tells us she did.

Unusually for a Gardner sequence, the brawl is described in quick and broad detail rather than punch-by-punch, suggesting this is from the screenplay that probably said “Insert bar fight here: make it up on the day, as much as we can afford and insure (won’t be much; we can’t even afford a haircut for Mr Dalt-Ton).” Weird chapter, come to think of it: so little of the start of it advances anything that it’s as if there was an instruction not to include too many new events that would change the actual structure of the film, but outside of that, include as much additional Gardnering as you like as long as it goes nowhere and doesn’t have to be spent on.

“…Bond saw a four foot hole had appeared in the wall. ‘If they will use cheap building materials,’ he said.” Bahamian builders. Hi, Jawn, it’s Cubby. That wise-ass crack about doing things on the cheap? I know you liked it, but it’s gotta go. And while I’m on, what was all that boring cubbible about the goddamn hotel?

“ ‘Kevlar?’ asked Bond, knowing this was the new lightweight combination from which the best flak jackets were made these days.” You’re meant to be escaping, not browsing a catalogue. Classic Gardner, though: punctuate the action with something stopping it stone cold dead. “I still fly a lot. Even got my own little Beechcraft Baron. Keep me hand in.” Your accent’s slipping. Pam Bouvier is one of the Liverpool Bouviers. She stole that ‘plane.

“Under the jacket she wore only a pink silk camisole which gave Bond an admirable view.” Don’t forget she’s only otherwise in her pants. You duhty old man. “His voice carried an air of frivolity.” Gardner’s Bond… no. Dalt-Ton’s Bond… no.

“She looked appalled; and, when Bond did not reply, she asked how many men he had.” At which she was even more appalled. Serve her right for asking such a personal question.

“Pam was in his arms and they both slid towards the deck.” Not incontinence’s best timing, but at least it was mutual, slapping about in their own bilgewater, him in his slacks, her in her grubby pants. Oh, the humanity. Oh, the mess.

With an image of uncontrollable botty sick now in one’s mind, it seems appropriate to leave Licence to Kill right there, to stew in its own juices.

Back to the premise: “…it has absolutely nothing to do with my series of James Bond books.” Perhaps in events (although second helpings of Leiter does cast doubt on this), but not in style. I’d overlooked this one before in considering which book might consolidate the Gardner Bond most effectively. A case could be made for Icebreaker, with its lunatic plotting that stands not one second of scrutiny, or Win, Lose or Die for its TRAITORS and remorseless detail, or Nobody Lives For Ever for being good despite all such things – but insofar as one chapter does it all, there’s a plausible argument for Licence to Kill. It’s not out on its own. Time to burst the bubble, and let it slide into its rightful place in the continuity, alongside its brethren.

For the film, its place still depends on how deeply you can dig.

“James Bond” – and by now, it would be weirder not to have the quotes around the name - will return in the 007th Chapter of Brokenclaw. “Jacques Stewart” was always completely fictional.


It was always evident that this book was going to be slammed - and slammed it has been.

A marvellous vein throughout in respect of incontinence, sliding and grubby pants. I did laugh.

I do wonder why Jim subjects himself to this twaddle if for no other reason than the pursuit of this series of ‘Chapters’. For my part, I cannot read badly written verse, or that which is filled with typos. Which is why I cannot delve into the otherwise well reviewed Another Kind of Hero - it is purportedly filled with examples that a single proof read would have done away with. It pains me and causes irritation and impatience.

But to go into these endeavours knowing this is exactly what you are going to get must fill one with the aforementioned irritation before the very first page.

Still good for me, if nothing else.

All the best.

Very amusing. Where can I read the other entries? A few years ago I read the first five or six Gardners, so I’d be interested.

They are to be found over at the archive in the General Literature Discussion ( and some have been published on the main page under the CBn-Dossier monicker (always a few months lagging behind).

Thank you Dustin.