The 007th Chapter: Never Send Flowers


#1

Lonely business, being a fan of something.

One might loiter in a public place – let’s say a tavern, not a toilet (… although… hm…) – and, mind a-wander, be tormented by a smash-of-dawn realisation that the house in which they set Tiffany Case’s apartment is far too small to accommodate rooms of that size, even men of that size, let alone a bleedin’ lift, and equally socially anxious that one’s fellow drinkers, all gammon of limb and strawberry of nose, unwise of tattoo yet jocular despite incipient cirrhosis, could not give one faecal ounce about this.

A self-inflicted wound. The more there is of Bond, my engaged / enraged interest seems in inverse proportion to that of real people not caring how consistent the latest addition may prove. They have moved on; James Bond entertains them on occasion but to obsess, or even pursue it as more than a corner-of-the-mind distraction, is as healthy as the amount of “lager” that the stag-do lads over there are knocking back, drowning the liver and the unnspoken mutual yearnings, killing the one but never, ever, the other. I acknowledge that I have a foot in both camps - a foot and a rubbery prosthetic stump, anyway - as my indifference to (say) Star Wars as anything other than an evening’s diversion from the family and permanently stinging kidneys seems at odds with those berating its latest endeavour for whatever-don’t-care-it’s-just-a-film. One excretes not. Female lead for the Doctor Who children’s programme? I remain unsoiled; pleasing achievement; given my vintage.

Ah, the loneliness of the long-distance Bond fan. I accept that there exist conventions and the opportunities for gatherings in costume, but not having been four years old for several decades now, they appeal at femto-atomic level.

This isolation in a crowd of Non-We and their stool-based critical measurement is alienating enough; accordingly it must be soulcrushing that within the chalk circle of fandom itself, where one might expect fraternal sympathy as defence against disengaged masses, one can still be despairingly alone, lest one let slip to the doghandlers of the thought rozzers that Denise Richards is overwhelmingly the best thing about The World is Not Enough. One would be cast into unforgiving tundra, not least because that notion seems so mindbending for many that their natural response is an accusation that one is taking a dishonestly provocative, trolling stance rather than spewing a genuine thought. It’s a genuine thought (a more precise articulation would be “least inept thing”). One is prodded into purgatory by the jabbing fingers of complacent hive-mentality; excommunication is only reversed on penitent exhortation that, yeah whatever, Skyfall is the singlemost significant moment of human history since the invention of the dustbin. When I feel brave enough to assert that The Man with the Golden Gun is a better novel than Casino Royale (it is: fact), I shall steel myself for denunciation and a sound thrashing with something prickly. Although that sounds like smashing fun.

Imagine then how feels the Bond fan who thinks Never Send Flowers is competent (let alone “good”). Imagining it is all one can do. One thinks of a Bateman “The Man who…” cartoon (that’s Bateman, not Batman, child). If humanity has hope there cannot be more than one enthusiast. Can there? We have reached the Trough of Bond: the slogpile of the later Gardners, rarely enough read even by those interested in the subject, so even more rarely liked; the authority voice is that of the aficionadon’t. The route of least resistance for this one – I am a season-ticket holder – is that it’s weak, for abundant reasons that I’ll get to (eventually). The loneliness of the admirer of this tale is at emergency intervention level. Witness, from the other side of a swiftly-crossed thoroughfare, its cowed, sad-eyed shuffling around the otherwise convivial, Christmassy streets of Bondland. Tragic, really; noticed by several, pitied by some, but embraced by none due to justifiable assumptions about adequacy of toilet training and whether it is allowed near children. As and when such a “person” and its thoughts are discovered mostly moistly bluedead and a-catgnawed in a bus shelter, remember this - send flowers. That would really, really annoy it.

I’m exuding the aroma that I don’t respect this book much, nor the exercise of free belief to respect it. It’s not so much a case of not respecting either, nor of not wanting to, as not needing to, reducing the experience from emotionally engaging (whichever emotion) to commoditised: the continuations nutshelled. There is plenty other Bond out there for me. This marks the point reached several decades beforehand by the sane, that prolonging Bond is unnecessary. Embarrassing, even. Returning to the observation commencing this tomfoolery, for me it is the Star Wars sequels of written Bond (albeit “not as successful”). Not a good thing, I hasten to add. Coincidentally, “some” Disney. I find any reaction to this book and its advocate other than my default reaction to anything (education-rejecting contempt, a lip-curl with lungs) to waste time. If you are kinder of soul towards inconsequential unpopular fiction and consider my conventional thoughts on the matter to be a waste of your puff to read, adding little as they do to the breadth of human wisdom, I will unshackle you, return (most of) your possessions - less tithe - and you can now forage free for nuts and berries. You depart with my blessing (and, upon later discovery, most of my daughter’s underwear) and we’ll only laugh at you once you have left the room. There is nothing for you here. Go on, skedaddle.

Bog off.

Has it bogged off yet? Right, good. Ectually, don’t mock it: if it finds material of merit in Never Send Flowers then its capacity to yet more greatly appreciate the (umpteen) better Bonds should be praised, not scorned. Who knows: Never Send Flowers might have been its first Bond, and as a staunch enthusiast of Nobody Lives For Ever (two words) I am on shaky ground in criticising anyone’s launchpad, and things from here could really only get better. If one spots beauty in a weed, one appreciates the roses yet more. On that level, such a creature is not to be pitied but envied. Imagine starting with From Russia with Love and then happening across this next: monstrous.

So, it is we, not that s/he/it, in the wrong, indolently bleating about the godawfulness of this book; we are darker of heart than that simple soul, and therefore could - should - embrace a happier vibe. To that end, to buck us all up, I said “buck”, let’s play a game, a sorta Odd Ones Out thing. Can you spot them? Do you care? Incidentally, I wonder if you will make it to the end without weeping.


#2

She… listened impatiently to the whimpering discords of an orchestra from Turkmenistan. This dreadful oriental stuff they were always putting on to please the kulaks of one of those barbaric outlying states.

And the gamblers stood and clawed at the handles of the machines as if they hated what they were doing… Crank-clatter-ting. Crank-clatter-ting. With an occasional silvery waterfall the metal cup would overflow and the gambler would have to go down on his knees to scrabble for a rolling coin. Or, strictly speaking, her knees, for they were mostly women,… elderly women of the prosperous housewife class. Droves of them stood at the banks of machines like hens in an egg battery… Now they reminded Bond of Dr. Pavlov’s dogs, saliva drooling at the treacherous bell that brought no dinner, and he shuddered at the empty eyes and the flaccid skin and the half -open mouths and the thoughtless minds.

Bond interrupted the rather solemn narrative. “The only trouble with beautiful Negro women is that they don’t know anything about birth control.”

Bond looked down at the dead Rasta. In death, his face was as horrible as it had been in life.

“Our American residents are of a sympathetic type - on a low level. They enjoy the subservience, which I may say is only superficial, of our women. They enjoy the remaining strict patterns of our life - the symmetry, compared with the chaos that reigns in America. They enjoy our simplicity, with its underlying hint of deep meaning, as expressed in the tea ceremony, flower arrangements, No plays - none of which, of course, they understand. They also enjoy, because they have no ancestors and probably no family life worth speaking of, our veneration of the old and worship of the past.”

Her teeth were even, and showed no more prominently between the lips than with a European girl’s, so that she avoided the toothiness that is a weak point in the Japanese face.

"It’s like in the new African states where they pretend the cannibal stewpot in the chief’s hut was for cooking yams for the hungry children.”

At Number 8 was the Maharajah of a small Indian state, probably with all his wartime sterling balances to play with. Bond’s experience told him that few of the Asiatic races were courageous gamblers, even the much-vaunted Chinese being inclined to lose heart if the going was bad… Number 10 was a prosperous-looking Italian, Signor Tomelli, who possibly had plenty of money from rack-rents in Milan and would probably play a dashing and foolish game. He might lose his temper and make a scene.

The fantastic never materialized in this business. There would be some drab solution that had been embroidered by overheated imaginations and the usual hysteria of the Chinese.

The Canadiennes pride themselves on their spoken French, although it is a bastard patois full of two-hundred year old words which Frenchmen themselves don’t understand, and is larded with Frenchified English words…

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a great Negro criminal before,” said Bond. "Chinamen, of course, the men behind the opium trade. There’ve been some big-time Japs, mostly in pearls and drugs. Plenty of Negroes mixed up in diamonds and gold in Africa, but always in a small way.”

So these dark, ugly, neat little officials were the modern Turks. He listened to their voices, full of broad vowels and quiet sibilants and modified u-sounds, and watched the dark eyes that belied the soft, polite voices. They were bright, angry, cruel eyes that had only lately come down from the mountains. Bond thought he knew the history of those eyes. They were eyes that had been trained for centuries to watch over sheep and decipher small movements on far horizons. They were eyes that kept the knife-hand in sight without seeming to, that counted the grains of meal and the small fractions of a coin and noted the flicker of the merchant’s fingers. They were hard, untrusting, jealous eyes. Bond didn’t take to them.

“You know, the first time I went to the Magic Kingdom, in Orlando, I didn’t think I was going to like it.” Bond though he might put the man at ease by telling him the truth. “Funny, I went with a girlfriend and we only booked for two days. I thought the whole thing would be tasteless, tawdry and a bit phony. In the end we stayed for a week. The great thing about Disneyland is that it works. The moment they walk through those gates and find themselves in the Town Square and Main Street, the visitors know they’re going to have one hell of a good time. The rides are a knockout and it does become wonderful.”

Kerim harangued the waiter. He sat back smiling at Bond. “That is the only way to treat these damned people. They love to be cursed and kicked. It is all they understand. It is in the blood. All this pretence of democracy is killing them. They want some sultans and wars and rape and fun. Poor brutes, in their striped suits and bowler hats. They are miserable. You’ve only got to look at them.”

“But it is odd that you in the West do not use perfume. All our men do.” “We wash,” Bond said dryly."

“They eat nothing but offal cooked in rancid olive oil in Turkey.”

The words were yelled out, and the whole of Prussian militarism was in the parade-ground bellow.

“I quite agree about the Russians”, [replied Bond], "They simply don’t understand the carrot. Only the stick has any effect. Basically they’re masochists… That’s why they were so happy under Stalin. He gave it to them. I’m not sure how they’re going to react to the scraps of carrot they’re being fed by Khruschev and Co.”

Russian girls are reticent and prudish about sex. In Russia the sexual climate is mid-Victorian.

On the honeymoon in Venice (all Germans go to Italy for their honeymoons) they would of course do it every night because, Kurt said, it was most important that ‘the act’ should be technically perfect, and to achieve this, much practice was necessary"

“There’s nothing so extraordinary about American gangsters,” said Bond. "Anyways, they’re not really Americans. Mostly a lot of Italian bums with monogrammed shirts who spend the day eating spaghetti and meatballs and squirting scent all over themselves.”

Now, as he wandered around the park, he smiled with pleasure to see Chip and Dale, or Minnie, signing autograph books for clamouring children, while Pluto and Goofy played the fool with kids of all ages… so he took himself off to pass the time on some of the rides… It was certainly value for money.

He felt the sexual challenge all beautiful Lesbians have for men.

“I’ll be glad to get out of here. I used to think your gangsters were just a bunch of Italian greaseballs who filled themselves up with pizza pie and beer all week and on Saturdays knocked off a garage or a drugstore to pay their way at the races. But they’ve certainly got plenty of violence on the payroll."

The third member of the staff had a shifty Armenian face, with clever bright almond eyes.

Bond came to the conclusion that Tilly Masterton was one of those girls whose hormones had got mixed up. He knew the type well and thought they and their male counterparts were a direct consequence of giving votes to women and ‘sex equality’. As a result of fifty years of emancipation, feminine qualities were dying out or being transferred to the males. Pansies of both sexes were everywhere, not yet completely homosexual, but confused, not knowing what they were. The result was a herd of unhappy sexual misfits – barren and full of frustrations, the women wanting to dominate and the men to be nannied.

"The language they talk in their room is Bulgarian. We don’t see many of those around. They’re mostly used against the Turks and the Yugoslavs. They are stupid, but obedient.”

“The Chigroes are a tough, forgotten race. They look down on the negroes and the Chinese look down on them. One day they may become a nuisance, They’ve got some of the intelligence of the Chinese and most of the vices of the black man. The police have a lot of trouble with them.”

The other man looked like a Corsican shopkeeper. He was short and very dark with a flat head covered with thickly greased hair. He seemed to be a cripple.

Walking over to Discoveryland, he spent almost an hour in line for the Star Tours, watching R2D2 and D3PO [NB not my typo – this is direct from the first edition] preparing a craft for take-off and finally entering the very realistic spaceship which was to take passengers to the moon of Endor… [T]his wonderland of illusion, pleasure, fun, excitement and laughter.

It was a strong Western handful of operative fingers - not the banana skin handshake of the East that makes you want to wipe your fingers on your coat-tail.

"You probably couldn’t find ten non-squeal killers in France…”

Even supposing he found a girl in the next hour or so, the contents would certainly not stand up to the wrapping. On closer examination she would turn out to have the heavy, dank, wide-pored skin of the bourgeois French. The blond hair under the rakish velvet beret would be brown at the roots and as coarse as piano wire. The peppermint on the breath would not conceal the midday garlic. The alluring figure would be intricately scaffolded with wire and rubber.

“They are to fight. If the loser is not killed she will be banished for ever. That will be the same as death. These people wither and die outside the tribe. They cannot live in our world. It is like wild beasts forced to live in a cage.”

Bond had put forward the proposition that, if M.I.5 and the Secret Service were to concern themselves seriously with the atom age ‘intellectual spy’, they must employ a certain number of intellectuals to counter them…" “Oh really,” Troop said with icy calm. “So you suggest we should staff the organization with long-haired perverts. That’s quite an original notion. I thought we were all agreed that homosexuals were about the worst security risk there is. I can’t see the Americans handing over many atom secrets to a lot of pansies soaked in scent.” “All intellectuals aren’t homosexual, [Bond replied]. And many of them are bald…”

Jamaican servants, for all their charm and willingness, are not of this calibre.

It says much for the Disney organisation that they had the fire out long before any local fire brigades arrived.

By the time the coffee came, Pleydell-Smith was delving well below the surface of the prosperous, peaceful island the world knows. “It’s like this.” He began his antics with the pipe. “The Jamaican is a kindly lazy man with the virtues and vices of a child. He lives on a very rich island but he doesn’t get rich from it. He doesn’t know how to and he’s too lazy. The British come and make easy pickings, but for about two hundred years no Englishman has made a fortune here. He doesn’t stay long enough. He takes a fat cut and leaves. It’s the Portuguese Jews who make the most. They came here with the British and they’ve stayed. But they’re snobs, and they spend too much of their fortunes on building fine houses and giving dances… Then come the Syrians, very rich too, but not such good businessmen… They’re not a very good risk. Then there are the Indians, with their usual flashy trade in soft goods and the like. They’re not much of a lot.”


#3

The Amazing World of 007! He hates practically everyone in it. Anyone else want a bath? Wash away the silt… I could do with a vigorous scrub down after that tide of filth… No? What a pity.

Could you spot the ones that seemed so out of place? Of course you could. if only because they expressed “nice” rather than dementedly malignant. I accept not all of the racial, gender and sexual profiling is Bond’s (most of it is, though), but he does not expressly challenge the thinking where it is expressed by another.

Three readings of this.

The first, seemingly prevalent, view is that this Disney stuff is so jarring, such a miswriting of “James Bond” that it’s the most embarrassing thing in the literary enterprise, even including the first third of The Spy who Loved Me and the first, second and third thirds of Never Dream of Dying. One wonders why we are not terribly embarrassed by the other stuff I’ve quoted, though; the Disney stuff exudes positivity. What can that say of us? Discomfiting self-awareness aside, a sub-set of the this opinion is that Mr Gardner must have been got at by Disney, that in order to set his fiction there, he had to say nice things otherwise they would rip the Mickey ears from his noddle and cast him into the Magic Pit of Denial permanently occupied by Song of the South and The Last Jedi. These sentiments are not Bond; this is Ken Spoon (were he permitted within 300 yards of where children might gather).

On most days, I don’t share this view. Mr Gardner appears to have proven himself sufficiently independent of spirit and trenchant of view that a) this positivity may have been his personal opinion, lovely, and b) the proposition of Bond being nobbled in this way suggests a corruption of the freedom of the artiste. Whilst one would be naïve to consider Bond in any medium as anything other than a slop of compromises, this does underestimate Mr Gardner and dismiss him as a pliant stooge; I doubt he was. My preferred reading if taking this first stance – if read the book at all I must – is that this is the ultimate Freddie Uncle Charlie Katie You to the snivelling know-all Bondwhiners who had been getting at him for more than a decade, and who Mr Gardner did not appear to have liked “much”. They can consider their noses rubbed raw. Think Brokenclaw’s tea drinking was too far? Odd how the authorship would soon go from someone none-too-concerned with Bond “history” to one detrimentally obsessed with it. Consider which approach ultimately proves more creative. So outrageous is the Disney material in its flagrant incongruency that it’s admirable in a very wrong way.

Anyway – approach number one, however one reconciles one’s self to it, is that this is a terrible and shaming idea. A dark, stinking passage better left unexplored out of sadness and denial, and one contemplates the stag-do group again, their “names” across their “shirts”, and notes Carl’s cow-eyed, heartbroken gawping at Andy: conceptually similar.

Second view: regardless of the content or context of the thinking, this Disney stuff is as dreadful and deliberately riling an opinion as any of the rest expressed above, keeping the Fleming end up of spewing out something so wantonly barmy that one could only witness a similar tumble of massive bollocks inside one of Carl’s dreams . Therefore, rather than being a contradiction of the James Bond we know and keep at a distance, to hold a grotesque point of view is not a reversal of the character and the style of story, but an endorsement. This man thinks or endorses colossally stupid things, and this is another colossally stupid thing. Accordingly, consistent with “James Bond,”, not a character of whom Mr Gardner seems to have thought very highly. This proposition relies on the springboard point that the views articulated in those other quotes are universally cretinous.

They are.

The third approach plays that theme darker, into really bleak [stool sample] and it pleasures me as much as Disney pleasures James Bond. A person who happens to think those appalling things about women, homosexuals and other races, or acquiesces in such thinking, would be precisely the sort of person who would think this benevolent way about Disney. You might have noticed that I’ve often been contriving out a subversive angle within Mr Gardner’s Bonds – otherwise they’re barely worth even my time, I’d admit – and this one’s gold. James Bond is horrible and likes Disney product. Far from being wildly at odds, simply asserting “James Bond is horrible” covers the same ground. Bold to bite the three-fingered hand that fed him, or at least permitted him access to their theme park, but it’s a gloriously sour from John-John. Those cack-rancidly faecal of mind are those for whom this Disney output is designed. The gutpunchingly craven (a.k.a. “simply polite”) acknowledgements page of the book militates against this proposal as intentional, but consider the pin-sharp cultural awareness of, say, Aladdin, and then tell me I’m as wrong as the decision Carl’s booze-drenched sexual unhappiness and similarly sloshed libido are about to make him take.

Unpalatable opinions, then. Ready for more?


#4

The 007th Chapter – Never Send Flowers: The Man with the Glass Head

Might have been a working title for the novel itself? Albeit “Never Send Flowers, so James Bond Disnae” sort of works as a giveaway pun, in a particular accent which I won’t be attempting as it would be incitement to racial hatred and we could all do with a little holiday from that.

I’ll just sit in the corner and eat me nuts (it’s that sort of pub) and contemplate my solitary, unpopular thoughts. You’re welcome to join me, but I am precisely the dogmatic pub bore you suspected. Mine’s a crème de menthe, by the way. Whoopsy-daisy, I appear to have forgotten my wallet again. Bag of scratchings too, yeah? I wonder how many of these I actually believe.

We’re not in a hotel room. We are, however, in a hotel lift on the way to one, following earlier chapters’ tour round several; all is well in Gardner’s Magic Kingdom. Bond is accompanied by a Carmel Chantry, whose boss is called Gerald Grant, and we’ve just learned of the involvement of one David Dragonpol, and it’s only now that it’s dawned on me that the slew of alliterative names across all of the Gardners has been designed to gently break us in for Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Anti-Semitic Antelope (note to self: check last one). It was all part of the plan. Cunning. Yes, yes, Tiger Tanaka, Miles Messervy… pipe down, poppet. Shsshhh. Whisper your observations as quietly as Carl now whispers his heart to Andy.

From Russia with Love and Thunderball work better when watched in black and white. So does Moonraker, oddly.

Bond spends this chapter in a hotel room with a bisexual female intelligence operative. Not as exciting as it sounds; see the name on the cover. More talk than pork, and a promulgation of the safe sex idea (sort of) introduced last time out, and penetrated further with this book’s infliction upon 007 of a girlfriend. I sniff a ruse: this neutering of the teasing eroticism of James Bond is not about safe sex but keeping us safe from John’s mad descriptions of it, and John doesn’t have to molest his thesaurus when there are lovely, lovely abbreviations to transcribe instead. He never seemed that comfortable with such scenes, and such scenes never seemed that comfortable. Consider the 007th Chapter of Icebreaker, say. Oh look, Andy’s punched Carl. Top bantz.

Ian Fleming was a staggeringly unpleasant man. Completely appalling.

“In that short space of time, he went through all that he could remember concerning the great actor who was, in himself, an enigma.” It takes Mr Gardner a long space of time to do it. This lift is very slow and we are being threatened with massive amounts of exposition; where’s the alarm button? I know that whole chapters of Fleming could be given to a briefing document, but it wasn’t all being dredged from a character’s memory during a journey that should take seconds but reads as half an hour. Brown’s isn’t that big a hotel. Perhaps there’s a little man in the greasy undercarriage tugging away for all he’s worth, but enough about Carl, he’s suffered more than enough. Consistent with the last offering’s piquant observations on the merits of Lloyd-Webber musicals, Bond seems tremendously aware of the theatrical world: doesn’t seem much like James Bond, to be honest, who always came across as a rarely sober misanthropic philistine with a big willy and a little pop-gun.

The most competent Bond film director of the last thirty years was Roger Spottiswoode.

The precision of the detail Bond “recalls” is absurdly precise; he’d be better off remembering with such specificity how to be James Bond. It’d be a more productive use of my time, anyway. The reference to “Graft – by unknown author Jack Russell” is peculiar as the play does not appear to exist; genuinely unknown, and genuinely unsettling that James Bond 007 would ever be contemplating such a thing. No, pub, no; now is not the time to play The Timewarp. That was several paragraphs ago, all those quotes. But now… seriously, no.

DoubleShot is the strongest Bond novel of the last 30 years.

“Rumours spread: that he had Aids…” Odd for one so fond of acronyms and abbreviations that Mr Gardner misses this one. “…disappearing as though he had never been.” In a few paragraphs we are told he lives in a damn great castle on the Rhine; sense and logic disappearing as though they never had been. This villain is An Actor who therefore can Change His Appearance and if you don’t see duplication and double-twists coming right down the line, yours evidently isn’t a head made of glass. Carl’s, though, does now seem to be. That’s going to hurt, a lot. Hasn’t anybody called the police yet? No, I can’t; they blocked my number after that contretemps with the insufficiently wounded cat.

Although his casting as A Sneer in Die Another Day prevents a tilt at the top job, Toby Stephens’ Radio 4 Bond dramas suggest he could have been The Best.

As far as Dragonpol’s ultimate plan goes… wouldn’t bother, mate. She dies anyway. Spoiler alert, and all that. The risk of prominently using people from real life is that real life ends, occasionally prominently. Obviously Mr Gardner’s noted foresight couldn’t stretch into predicting this particular death but reading the book again now… well, it provides an atmosphere in the closing stages that what is actually written there… disnae. (Yes, I know the accent’s offensive, but is it any less offensive than the first draft’s observation that the book’s a complete car crash? Or that this gitdribble goes through more than one draft? Just have to play the percentages sometimes. (I have no idea what this means))

Britt Ekland’s performance is absolutely spot on for the material that she’s given, and is therefore one of the better acted Bond girls.

“Bond had seen him on stage and film…” hmm… “…then once in the flesh, dining at Fouquet’s in Paris with the British director Trevor Nunn, and swore he could feel the creative static right across the busy restaurant.” Odd sort of paragraph to find in a James Bond book; the character I knew wouldn’t have released a chocolate hostage over such an encounter. Fair dose of creative static going on in this pub too, as Andy has to be restrained from kebabbing Carl’s kidneys with the rough end of a pool cue. “…he felt a strange sense of déjà vu, as though the David Dragonpol of that time was very close at hand.” Is déjà vu anything other than strange? OH GOD HE’S IN THE BUILDING! In the next room, or this very one, The Man with the… Glass Head. He might even be in this very essay!!! Where is he, this man who has “enhanced the art of acting”? Well, I’ll be mentioning that Brosnan later, but that can’t be the disguise (for reasons very obv). There is considerable challenge to the artistic preconceptions of the audience in this depiction of “James Bond” though, so that’s probably in whom he’s hiding. Stop him, before he does any more damage.

For Your Eyes Only is the most ridiculous of the Moore films.

I forget who this Carmel Chantry is, seems to be someone who has previously been pretending to be someone else because… Gardner, but we’ve joined the “action” with James Bond, a serial killer pretending to be a detective chasing a serial killer, bumbling about during one of his inevitable Gardneresque periods of official disfavour. GardnerBond spends more time during this series of continuations operating outside his gainful employment than within it. One suspects Carl is regretting a number of recent choices, although the one undergoing current energetic debate is neither recent nor choice, of course. I’d wager with hindsight he wouldn’t have been so insistent that the stag party costume theme was A Clockwork Orange,

The first hour of Die Another Day is very much worse than the second hour of it, which is admittedly dreadful.

Chitter-chatter, abbreviations, tradecraft, internally feuding security services, hotel bedroom – are these things now written by D3PO? “ ‘…I’ve had fat Gerald up to here.’ She raised one hand above her head…” Blimey. It’s a talent. A very Disney image for the kids, there, as is that of Carl’s nose conjoining with the crumb-flecked fibres of the rarely-vacuumed carpet, whilst Andy stamps on his skull. When Andy is eventually arrested for (what one hopes is) a non-fatal offence, doubtless in trying to understand what cause the outbreak of homophobic violence, his collection of extremist right-wing reading matter will be scrutinised. One expects the work of a particular popular author of the twentieth century to appear.

Charles Gray’s performance is the closest to the written Blofeld.

Its execution and many of its artistic choices rendering it a withered garage-bought bunch of blooms at an accident blackspot, flapping listlessly in the drizzle at a soiled teddy bear, yet Never Send Flowers comes with a reasonable concept – James Bond vs. Serial Killers. This chimes with the lazy trend of the early 1990s of hitching one’s self to the Lecter express and hoping for the best or, if not the best (because it’s nowhere near “the best”, you’d be deranged to think that), a little bit of leech-generated money. No reason particularly not to do this – it’s very “Bond” to follow popular entertainment trends and given the developing fascination with dramatic arts over the last few Gardners (John does Top Gun; John does Dances with Wolves; John has Bond watch Mel Gibson’s Hamlet (yeah, I know – weird)), it’s not surprising that this emerged. Inevitable, really. As is all this pottering about and PLEASE STOP TALKING.

What do you mean it’s my round? Off you pop and, y’know, do me a favour, don’t bother with the Rohypnol this time? I can taste it a mile off. Quite a lot of practice. You can’t kid a kidder, Kidda.

“The possibility of blackmail was worse than the old days when they wouldn’t use gay people. Thank heavens that’s changed.” Would Ian Fleming’s James Bond agree with this? No. No, he wouldn’t. “…for the first time, Bond got her message.” He doesn’t want to cure her, though – no James Bond, he. It does make one stop and wonder that the dissatisfaction with the mannerisms (and manners) Gardner invests his Bond is because he’s made him an almost normal human being with tolerable (if dull) views. But… but… I want my toxic bigot back.

The gulf between the quality of the script and the quality of the actor in Licence to Kill is so great that Timothy Dalt-Ton’s acting in the film is the most misjudged Bond performance. What the bloody hell does he think he’s in?

“Yes, she was stunningly professional. A walking encyclopaedia on all known terrorist operations, and personalities.” This is the murdered agent, one Laura March, and the memory suggests that this plot line gets quietly sidelined once the Dragonpol melodramatics take over, pretty much in this chapter. As much private eye as he is spy (not, both), it is curious to have a Bond adventure launch in this way but everything’s relative and this is one of the less silly ideas in the book, even if it is, because, well, “Gardner”, terribly protracted at first and then desperately rushed to what might have been a conclusion but was more just a disappearance. Talking of relatives, Carl appears to be ‘phoning his mum to say goodbye.

Casino Royale: Daniel Craig – super. Everyone else – bit duff. Goes on far, far too long. Quantum of Solace is a much more interesting film.

“ ‘So tell me about Laura and the great man. The man with the glass head, as some people used to call him.’ / ‘He didn’t like that, by the way.’ “ Nor should he; very clunky. At least they didn’t say “crystal skull” because, y’know, that reminds of an experience sadder and more culturally dodgy than this piffle. The serial killer of celebrities is himself a celebrity; I think there’s a point in this, that the obsession with “the famous” will eventually eat itself and the agent of its demise will be one of its own. All well and good, and one suspects Mr Gardner regarded the onset of a dominant cultural force of “fame” with suspicion (not least because it was filling a void left by the Cold War and all its lovely, lovely acronyms), but weirdly he chooses to portray a Bond not distant and cynical about this milieu but one enraptured by it. Had Bond been James Bond, aloof from all this rubbish and probably of the view that it was all run by Turks or Jews or Negroes, this might have worked “better”. Then again, there may be a further point that even James Bond, the last bastion of acrid bile, has himself been corrupted, ruined by exposure to mass media and the deification of entertainment. In a series of books that only exists to make money off the back of a film series, that is proof-positive of an anarchic spirit very well disguised, and that John really is distancing himself from his face-value task now. To attack superficial mass entertainment via one of the massest of superficial mass entertainments, James Bahnd: wow.

Demanding stand-alone Bond films without connective scar tissue misunderstands Bond: the films only became one-offs because various persons got greedy / desperate for one-picture deals. Accordingly, SPECTRE being behind everything in the Craig films is in essence, fine. It was behind most things when Connery was on a multi-picture contract – albeit, I accept, it was the villain expressly, rather than retconned; however, many of the Fleming novels have callbacks to earlier events (usually inaccurate ones because he was habitually sloshed by 8.30 a.m.).

“David Dragonpol is a great chameleon, you know. Can hide in plain sight, even though his face and name are of the household variety.” Just in case you can’t see what’s inevitably coming in a John Gardner James Bond. The Man with the Household Variety Face. No, me neither. Might be more fun were he a great chameleon; Disney could have anthropomorphised him, even given him a character-defining villainous soliloquy halfway through.

“Beware, Beware”, from the OST of Walt Disney Pictures’ “Never Send Flowers” (1993), performed by Peter Wyngarde.

During the song, as I’m sure you’ll recall, the character of Bad Karma Chameleon writhes around the pointed erections atop his fantasy Rhineland castle, underpaid animators having subliminally included abundant phalluses for the creature’s darting tongue to lick. The performance concludes with a spray of jackbooted, glass-headed chorus boys spurting from the top of the Lorelei and the villain’s skin turning rainbow. Baptist groups boycotted the film because they deemed this section in particular to promote “pansification”, whatever that is. Also because the story’s rubbish. Stupid they may be, daft they’re not.

I once played the Dane, so many years ago
The Life of Richard Wagner, my most celebrated show.

For my pieces Restoration,
Receipt of such ovation.

But now I skulk within
My ever-changing skin.
Face “household variety”,
Whatever that might be.

My motives non-existent,
But Ken Spoon so persistent.
Through murder and illusion
We’ll come to a conclusion
So wrong in its emotion
Yet, cross-media promotion.

Beware! Beware!
I have a fiendish scheme.
I am not what I seem.
A standard Gardner theme.

Beware! Beware!
Those critics were so cruel.
This story’s thinnish gruel
Makes James Bond look a fool.

Beware! Beware!
You saw my King Dick Three?
Oh, such great artistry.
Now this, for meagre fee.

Beware! Beware!
An actor tantalising
In a “Bond” is quite surprising.
(Cut of merchandising).

Beware! Beware!
This chapter goes on ages
A struggle through the pages
The reader, it enrages.

Beware! Beware!
My repertoire is kill,
I’ve not yet had my fill.
That Carl looks very ill.

Beware - Beeee-WARRRRRE!

Connected to the last proposition, Bond being sort-of related to the villain is also, in essence, fine (it’s the “least inept thing” about Never Dream of Dying, for example). It’s only - and only - the convergence of SPECTRE (particularly SPECTRE) and a personal history that is so spectacularly “not fine”.


#5

“If you want the truth, I’m like the Circle Line. I go both ways.” All Underground lines go both ways, otherwise there would only ever have been one journey on each. Theoretically, being circular, the Circle Line would in principle be one that didn’t have to. Unless (fascinating, this) she’s aware that the line isn’t an unbroken circle and she’s A Woman Who Gets Off at Wood Lane. What might the euphemism for transgender be? Minding the Gap at Cockfosters? Those in transition are Changing Tubes at Turnham Green? Fun game, although it has to end when that Fleming bloke turns up – why do you always invite him? – and insists, drunkenly mispronouncing, that male homosexuality is Theydon Bois. Always spoils it for everyone. Bit far, Ian, bit far. As, indeed, it is.

If they’re looking for a name for a new villain, best bet would be Victor Ludorum. Yes it would. Don’t you bloody well argue with me, unless you don’t want a smacked bottom.

“You’d be surprised how many people are bisexual.” Andy’s surprised, definitely. Expresses surprise through the medium of incredible violence, mind. Poor old Carl, he’d spent years growing those teeth. “ ‘Ah. No, I wouldn’t be surprised. Nothing surprises me any more and, like they say, some of my best friends, and all that.” If this is James Bond, he’s a bloody liar. “He wanted her to get to the real meat, and spill her own problems or proclivities to him.” Hmm – still sort of sees it as a problem, then? A reassuring glimmer of an unhappier time. And there’s just nothing worse than a spilled proclivity. You’ll need to boil wash those sheets. Carl’s proclivities seem to be all over the place; I think you might have some in your hair.

The episodes of The Saint that Roger Moore directed demonstrate great skill in dealing with the genre (especially the one about giant ants in Wales: mad): definitely should have been given a go on a Bond.

“ ‘She came back into the office like a loony tune. You could almost see the bluebirds flying around her head, tweeting like they do in cartoons.’ “ Don’t say you weren’t warned. Don’t you dare. “ ‘And she spilled the beans to you?” / ‘I forced it out of her…’ “ Fnarr. Oh, Mesdames. Fifty Shades of… well, if it is coming out grey that means you’re not eating enough aubergines. Selections of matter have been forced out of all of Carl’s original orifices and also the new ones Andy’s been making. Another member of the group, “Stevo”, looks worried: he thinks his pint’s off.

In answering all of its limited questions about Bond’s relevance straightaway, GoldenEye might have, short term, “saved the franchise” but then gave them nowhere to go with Pierce Brosnan, thereby longer term rendering his run hollow and redundant, resulting in greater harm than good. Its influence was counterproductive, corrosive even, and didn’t give the man a fair shot, although an absence of any discernible talent didn’t help either.

Given that Schloss Drache – “that’s German for Dragon” (is it now? Is it really?) – has been in the Dragonpol family for centuries, and there are manor houses in Cornwall and Ireland because they may as well be somewhere, and the man’s hardly kept a secret about it, the stuff about no-one being able to find him is peculiar. It all adds to “mystery” I suppose, albeit a mystery brought about through stolid defiance of logic, which is basically cheating. “…the Dragonpols are mentioned in the Doomsday Book.” But not the Domesday Book: I’ve looked.

Although not remotely controversial, Gareth Hunt was the best Ken Spoon. Lewis Collins was awful, wasn’t he? That Ian Ogilvy seems to be playing James Bond, a totally different character. William Shatner’s Cedar Leiter remains tremendously bold casting. Despite revisionism since, I still don’t get OJ Simpson as M, though; can’t follow McClory’s thinking on that one. Funny how Elton John never talks about “No Deals, Mr Bond”; surely one of Mr Taupin’s most lyrically pleasing? The long-threatened Tarantino re-make of Scorpius has gone quiet, thankfully; Hugh Hudson’s original can’t be bettered.

“There was a long pause. Somewhere, far away, down the corridor, somebody slammed a door.” Mostly long years of marriage have taught me that doors don’t slam themselves, just as Carl is discovering that heads don’t cave themselves in. I think – not sure – that it is later suggested that this is Dragonpol wandering around the hotel; disappointing, as I thought he was giving unto us this generation’s finest reading of the challenging role of “padded headboard”. Chapter contains a curious shout-out to Terry Waite, which patently dates the book (and this specific chapter gives certain incidents particular dates in the later 1980s and early 1990s); presumably all to inject veracity, veracity that then gets shot to cockery in the soul-shattering denouement.

John Gardner foresaw the advent of Mr Deaver and gave us the twisty-turny serial killer drivel of Never Send Flowers to spike his guns.

“He shook his head, reached out and gave her shoulder a comforting caress. ‘Maybe some other time, Carmel.’ “ James Bond, absolutely insatiable piledriver of lust, runs off. Still, anything to avoid being described really awkwardly.

I wonder why Queen never did a Bond song. Suspicion points to the lifestyle thing; reality to licensing, long-term contracts and record labels. One can only dream how Freddie Mercury would have chewed his way through Octopussy.

I’d forgotten that Bond set fire to his own flat in the previous chapter, ostensibly to cover his tracks when being watched. One espies much burning down of what we thought was Bond, in this book. I think Andy’s just waking up to the realisation that covering his tracks might be difficult; loads of witnesses and with the arrival of the paramedics, it’s quite a busy pub now. Carl? Not waking up at all. Do stop feeding Scampi Fries to the police dog.

You can ignore all the James Bond films of the 1980s and really miss nothing. Tomorrow Never Dies aside, same for the 1990s.

“[The police] told him there had been a fire. ‘Nothing serious, sir, but it looks like arson, and a break-in.’ “. I’d call both of those serious. Police priorities, eh? Solving crimes too difficult for the poor little pi… pickles, so just bother folk otherwise minding their own business. Especially that dog. It bloody planted that stuff on me. No, I will not come quietly. Never have done. Yes, Mrs Jim and I do ectually call it shunty-grunty; what of it?

Goldfinger? Meh.

“It was obvious that the cops had not been taken into the confidence of the Security Service.” As they’re American, why would they be? Cops… dear me. All the groundwork’s there for what’s eventually coming down the line at Big Thunder Mountain, but still… Well, it wouldn’t be the “C” word I’d used to describe them. (Constabulary, obviously. What a bunch of constabularies). That? It’s medicinal, officer. It’s cress. What do you take me for? Oh, right. Sorry. Can you actually say that, outside of a Tarantino film? Oh, right: Oxfordshire.

There is no artistic reason for James Bond to continue in any medium.

“ ‘Don’t call me.’ M sounded like a theatrical agent after an audition.” Dear God, they’re all at it.

They should have brought that Brosnan back for one more Bond. But only to sing the theme.

Brief interlude with Flicka, the real villain of the piece, and if you’re playing Hotel Bingo, you can dab off the Inn on the Park. “ ‘I’m registered as Mrs Van Warren.’ / ‘As in rabbit?’ “. Best to hope Thumper doesn’t get up to that sort of thing with the children, or they’ll have to close the park down. Since you ask, I’ve never been to Disneyland. I have been to Daylesford Organic Farm Shop, though, which is basically Disneyland for the terminally middle-class.

The evident fear and uncertainty in Lazenby’s eyes adds such a positive dimension to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service that having Connery do it would have been a disaster.

Oh good, Carl appears to have opened his eye.

The proclamation on the cover of the likes of Never Send Flowers “The New James Bond Adventure” provides opportunity for misunderstanding, and one I have been promulgating myself through lack of intellect. This sort of thing isn’t the new “James Bond” adventure, it’s the “New James Bond” adventure; possibly, given how far distant it is from Fleming, “The” New James Bond adventure. As with New Coke, New Labour, New Beetles and New York, all are at best doomed to fail in replicating anything of the merit of the original. New Bond, then. Ugh.

“He cradled the receiver and muttered, ‘The things I do for England.’ “ As John NEVER WATCHED THE FILMS (although seems to have watched many others) this is either an almighty coincidence or he’s just preparing us for the upcoming Benson relentless cross-referencing. There are story arcs and then, at the highest level of clever-clever, there are Gardnarcs. As for the British narcs (sorry - Drugs Squad), they have taken away my cress for testing. Thankfully, they didn’t find the quaaludes. Inspired by what I have been re-reading over the last few months, I have a SECRET COMPARTMENT, although like opinions, everyone’s got one. Sir Roger Moore joked he had three. One suspects Andy’s is troubling him.

There’s almost nothing of Fleming worth left filming. The sole exception is the Brooklyn Stomping from Diamonds are Forever but since The Singer Pierce Brosnan left, what’s the point?

“…so knew nothing about the young woman found murdered, stabbed to death, in a third-floor room at the exclusive Brown’s Hotel.” This happens offstage. Bloody hell, I’m at it now. Time to bog off. I’ll pay next time, promise. And if the room really was third floor, Brown’s really needs to fix its lift. Sorry – elevator. Apparently. Ah, Carmel, we barely knew ye (we barely cared, tbh); A Lady at West Ruislip (it’s the end of the line).

It’s a common fan thing to abbreviate the titles of Bond stories, because spelling’s tricky, and obviously Never Send Flowers should be WTF. That, or DILLIGAS. Given what the “S” stands for, this is pretty much where I came in…

“Nor did he hear or see the slightly inaccurate description of himself which had been put out by the police…” Nor did he see the wretchedly inaccurate description of himself which had been put out by Hodder & Stoughton for £14.99 net in UK in 1993.

All of them. Every one believed.

James Bond – nah – will return in SeaFire. Ian Fleming still gets published, amazingly. Andy and Carl have kissed and made up, very touching, even if there’s no actual touching yet (after an unjustifiably short gaol term, Andy went on an awareness course, became more aware of himself than he expected and is slowly coming to terms with his own latent desires but does not wish to be rushed). Jacques Stewart is writing a standalone D3PO film for Disney, working title The Droid on the Queensway Escalator.


#6

I wept. I really did.


#7

I wonder if Gardner (hopefully re-)read YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE shortly before writing this one. Both books have their floral element, both lay on the castle-dragon-slay symbolism pretty thick (YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE especially, NEVER SEND FLOWERS especially especially), one of the method of killing in FLOWERS, the Japanese poison fish, reads like something out of TWICE, and at one point in TWICE Irma Bunt refers to Blofeld’s castle and garden as a “disneyland of death”.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that NEVER SEND FLOWERS is “YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE as farce”, but my (less amusing than yours) interpretation of the Disneyland setting is as a critique of travelouge and of the conciet of the well off Western traveller and their tendancy to view their destinations more or less as amusement parks made especially to entertain them, with their “amazing sights” and “big attractions” and “fun things to see and do”. Have we made but disneylands out of other people’s homes and customs? If so, perhaps it’s in line at the real Disneyland where we would in fact “find ourselves”.

Anyway, much food for thought in this piece as always (celebrity obsession, mass entertainment, etc). This and particularly the DEATH IS FOREVER 007th actually made me want to revisit the books (so it’s your fault)!