Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Man With The Golden Gun - Ian Fleming

Cover from the first edition.
 TMWTGG was published after Ian Fleming's death in August of 1964. It was published in 1965 and was instantly shrouded in controversy as many felt Fleming had written very little of it himself. It is rumoured Kingsley Amis finished and edited the novel after Flemings death. Yet this has been denied by various sources. But it does appear that Fleming did complete the novel and was going to revise in Jamaica, but died before able to do so.

 TMWTGG then is Fleming's penultimate Bond novel. In my review of You Only Live Twice I stated I felt that that novel wasn't as strong as many of its predecessors, putting it down to Fleming being ill. Many criticise TMWTGG for being somewhat empty as a Bond novel, and at only 205 pages it is more a novella than a novel. But I think it was stronger than YOLT even with its brevity. Somehow by breaking Bond in YOLT and then have him suffer amnesia Fleming opened a new door in what to do with Bond.

 IN TMWTGG Bond turns up after a year and tries to assassinate M, as the KGB had taken the opportunity to brainwash him while he was in Russia. M then decides to send him on a virtual suicide mission to prove himself fit again as an agent, or die in the process. For me the premise really brought out the best in Bond, and if anything he bounces back harder, and more ruthless than ever. By the end of the novel he appears more confident than he ever did before, having a steeliness that is somewhat chilling. If Fleming had lived it would have been interesting to see where he took Bond.

 Funnily enough before it was published in novel form it was serialised in Playboy between April and July of 1965. Of course it was adapted to film in 1974, being the 9th adaptation, and second to star Roger Moore. The film has virtually nothing in common with the novel. Because of its brevity it obviously had to fleshed out substantially. All that remained was the title and the names of the characters. Major changes also saw Scaramanga's base changed from Jamaica to China, and the sugar cane industry substituted for solar energy.

 In the novel Scaramangea uses a gold plated .45 Colt revolver whereas in the film he uses a customised .17 calibre pistol ( a puny calibre to say the least, and one wonders why Fleming picked such a small calibre for such a cold hearted, ruthless, gun for hire ). He also uses gold tipped bullets, whereas in the novel he hand loads them himself using a gold core encased in silver, and dum dums the tips. This was the first film that deviated markedly from the novel. It is understandable why, but as a film TMWTGG is considered one of the weaker of the franchise. I don't consider it a bad film even though it is undoubtedly a lesser outing. It shows that when the producers deviated from the novels the films suffered for it accordingly.

 And like all Bond novels I have to comment on Fleming's views etc. In this novel he has another dig at homosexuals. Here he comes up with the absolutely preposterous theory that gay men can't whistle!!! Scaramanga is apparently a homosexual because he can't whistle! I went into hysterics when I read this! I mean it defies belief that Fleming actually wrote such turgid nonsense and got away with it.

 Also like several of the preceding novels Fleming refers to current events of the time. Since the novel uses the Mafia in Cuba as a backdrop Castro is mentioned as is 'that missile crisis' ( which of course refers to the 1963 Cuban Missile Crisis ). I laughed also because at one stage bond reads John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage. Even though he had been assassinated in 1963 Fleming still writes him in as an acknowledgement to JFK's interest in his novels and the film adaptations. There is even a bridge blowing scene that refers to 'that River Kwai Stunt'. This is the first novel where Fleming infuses any sort of humour, and maybe he is borrowing something from the films in doing so?!

 But for me the most startling thing was that Fleming wrote a small indicting look at his very own England. After Bond has killed Scaramanga he says to Felix Leiter that he 'was quite a guy'. Leiter is aghast and states, 'That's the way you Limey's talk about Rommel and Donitz and Guderian. Let alone Napoleon. Once you have defeated them you make heroes out of them. Don't make sense to me, an enemy's an enemy'. I laughed as Fleming is somewhat correct.  But then the English aren't alone in that. We NZ"s have an affinity with Rommel since our own troops fought him as well.

 The Man With the Golden Gun I thought was a very solid novella. Bond bounces back superbly from his wife's death and his amnesia. As a character he comes back fitter and tougher than ever, and if Fleming had lived, then I'm sure he would have written some fine novels with this hardened Bond. But alas it wasn't to be, and there only came one more Bond outing with the,  The Living Daylights/Octopussy novella.


  1. He did get away with a lot of weird ideas.

    Many don't like this book but I felt it captures Bond in a different and a unigue lite.

  2. I like it because he takes Bond in a new direction. I believe though that by this tage Fleming was complaining to friends that he had run out of ideas for the novels. I wonder if he could have kept writing them if he had lived.

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