With the release of With a Mind to Kill, author Anthony Horowitz will wrap up his Bond novel trilogy. Here, he writes about the journey, from reading Dr No as a 10-year-old to bidding a fond farewell to the iconic character.
This is not an easy piece to write because it is my goodbye to James Bond, a character who has played a huge part in my life.
I still remember reading Dr No as an unhappy 10-year-old and being transported away from the grim prep school where I found myself. I think it was always my ambition to write a Bond novel… but I never dreamed that I would end up being commissioned to do three.
To be honest, I was quite tetchy with the Ian Fleming estate when they announced the new adventures that began with Sebastian Faulks authoring Devil May Care in 2008. Then came Jeffrey Deaver and Carte Blanche (great title) in 2011 and William Boyd with Solo in 2013. I very much enjoyed these books, and admire all three writers, but even so I couldn’t help thinking: “Why not me?”
Bond was in my bloodstream. He’d inspired the Alex Rider series, which had launched my career. I’d shown, with Sherlock Holmes, that I could write a so-called continuation novel…although it’s not a description I particularly like. So what were they waiting for? When were they going to call?
To my huge relief, they finally did get in touch in 2014 and I remember being summoned to my first meeting in the boardroom of the family bank (founded by Ian Fleming’s grandfather) near Trafalgar Square. I was as nervous as if I’d been asked to report to Spectre and arrived in a suit and tie, clutching my notes for the book I had in mind. I looked ridiculous the moment I stepped through the door. The family could not have been more relaxed, informal… casually dressed. Nor were they at all sinister. Throughout my long relationship with them, they have been endlessly supportive. We’ve had a few differences of opinion – what Bond should wear in bed, for example – but they’ve never pulled rank.
I was both surprised and very pleased to be asked by the estate to return to Bond for Forever and a Day (a better title, I think… I was astonished it hadn’t been used before). To begin with, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. I’d got away with it once. Would I be so lucky a second time? In the end, what decided me was something very simple. Out of nowhere, the opening line of the book popped into my head. “So, 007 is dead.” Of course, 007 is a number, not a man, and suddenly I saw that it might be fun to describe how James Bond became 007, to go back to the very beginning of his career. Fleming had provided a few clues: a shooting in New York, a silent killing in Stockholm. Why did it have to be silent? What method did Bond use?
Sometimes I write books because they are the only way to answer a question that won’t go away, and this was the case here. I really wanted to write the chapter, ‘Strawberry Moon’, to see Bond perform his first, bloody kill. I wanted to describe his first assignment – in this case, investigating the murder of another agent in Marseille. The South of France is, of course, a perfect and well-rehearsed locale for our man. Another villain introduced himself in the shape of Jean-Paul Scipio, larger-than-life in more than one sense. Again, I was surprised that Fleming had never used extreme corpulence as the leitmotif for one of his villains (Mr Big in Live and Let Die is muscular rather than fat). Even as I created Scipio, I knew how I was going to kill him. This always encourages me. It gives me the impulse to write quickly, to get to the end of the book.
And then there was Madame Sixtine. Along with the title, getting the leading lady right in a Bond novel is always a challenge. It’s not just a question of avoiding the obvious pitfalls that come with modern sensibility and inadvertently giving offence. Despite their names (Pussy Galore, Plenty O’Toole), Fleming’s women are all remarkable; strong, independently minded, unforgettable – a hard act to follow.
I based Madame Sixtine on some of the women I’d read about in the Special Operations Executive, a highly secretive organisation created by Churchill in the Second World War. Many extraordinary women worked for the SOE as field agents, radio operators (with a life expectancy of about six weeks) and administrators. I loved writing about Madame Sixtine and her relationship with Bond, and although I was nervous about the inevitable bedroom scene – which actually takes place in the living room of her hideaway in Antibes – it seemed natural and unforced.
I’m not sure how two books became a trilogy. These books are not easy to write, mainly because of the enormous amount of research involved. It’s not just a question of knowing what car, what restaurant, what cocktail was around in the Fifties; it has to be the right restaurant, the right car, the right cocktail. Writing each page is a stop-and-start process, constantly referring back to the books, to biographies of Fleming, to the internet. I feel myself living in the shadow of Bond’s – and Fleming’s – snobbery. This extends only to objects, incidentally. Never to people.
But there was a part of me that couldn’t let go. At the same time, I’d written about Bond at the beginning and in the middle of his career. Surely it made sense to take a look at the very end?
And then there’s the last Bond novel: The Man with the Golden Gun. It’s not my favourite. Ian Fleming wasn’t well when he was writing it, and I can feel his fatigue in some of the chapters. It’s said that Kingsley Amis had to work on the final draft. Even so, I’ve always loved the opening of the book: Bond’s return to London after being brainwashed by the Russians and his failed attempt to assassinate M. And who exactly is Colonel Boris, who is mentioned in the text but never actually described (he appears briefly in From Russia with Love too)? Colonel Boris was a gift. And going behind the Iron Curtain just at the time as the Soviet empire was beginning to unravel seemed too good an opportunity to miss.
With a Mind to Kill is a markedly different Bond novel to my first two. It’s more intimate and driven more by character rather than some madcap scene to change the world. The three-act structure is very much borrowed from Fleming (who used it, for example, in Goldfinger) and as an end-of-career story, it delves into Bond’s life story, reprising one famous scene in particular and picking up on Bond’s short, disastrous marriage. It helped that I had visited Moscow and Berlin while the Iron Curtain was still in place but, for what it’s worth, the biggest challenge of the book was describing the dreariness that I remembered in a way that wouldn’t make it all too dreary a read. I see A Mind to Kill as not just the end for my Bond but also the end of a whole era of spies and spycraft.
I write this not knowing how well the book will be received and usually I get quite nervy in the weeks before publication. But not this time. It’s exactly the book I wanted to write and I say goodbye to Bond in exactly the way I wanted. I know I’ll miss him but I feel my work is done.
A special exhibition is set to celebrate the illustrator of the original James Bond book covers.
This summer, The Salisbury Museum in England celebrates the life and work of writer, illustrator and teacher Richard Chopping (1917 – 2008), best-known for illustrating the original book covers for James Bond.
Richard Chopping was a master of the trompe-l'œil technique, producing highly realistic three-dimensional images, and it was this distinctive style that led him to be commissioned by Ian Fleming to illustrate nine of the James Bond book covers from 1957 to 1966.
The exhibition features some of the original working drawings for the books, including the striking skull design for Goldfinger– one of Chopping’s personal favourites, and a commission that had been declined by his former friend and subsequent arch-rival, Lucien Freud.
The exhibition looks at Chopping’s entire output, positioning his work for Fleming firmly within the context of his 40-year career. Highlights from his early years include his illustrations for Butterflies in Britain (1943) and the collection of children’s short stories Mr Postlethwaite's Reindeer (1945). There are also delicate wild flower drawings, prepared for an ambitious 22 volume series on British wild flowers by Penguin, which was abandoned due to spiralling costs, and Chopping’s original design and preparatory studies for the book cover of his first novel The Fly (1965) which was a success despite being described by one reviewer as a ‘just about the most unpleasant book of the year’.
With many works which have never previously been displayed, this exhibition will be a genuine treasure-trove for the Chopping cognoscenti and for those discovering his work for the first time. They reveal a talented artist whose work should perhaps be as well-known as the fictional spy he helped make famous.
The exhibition runs from Monday, May 17, 2021 to Sunday, October 3, 2021. For more information visit https://salisburymuseum.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/richard-chopping-original-bond-artist
"Ian Fleming: The Brain Behind Bond" was the final interview recorded with the author. It was first broadcast as a half hour documentary by CBC-TV's Explorations on August 17th, 1964 - just five days after Fleming died.
Th interview was carried out by Munroe Scott, a Candian writer and director, at Goldeneye in Jamaica. With the Caribbean sea in the background, a chain-smoking Fleming appears relaxed as he speaks candidly, articulately and intimitely about his own life and that of his fictional super-spy.
You can now watch the full interview below.
By Matthew Blackman
On May 12, 1952, Ian Fleming was having lunch at a restaurant in London with the South African writer William Plomer. The two had been friends for years and had worked together in Naval intelligence during World War II. “How,” Fleming suddenly asked, “do you get cigarette smoke out of a woman once you’ve got it in?”
Plomer, bemused, carried on eating, unsure what Fleming was talking about. “You can’t use ‘exhales,’ while ‘puffs out’ sounds silly.” According to Plomer’s biographer, Peter Alexander, Plomer looked up sharply and exclaimed: “You’ve written a book!” After a pause, Fleming admitted that he had. The book was Casino Royale, and Plomer would ultimately be the man who would get it into print, despite the fact that even Fleming’s publisher hated it.
In many ways Plomer was an unlikely person to steer the world’s most famous secret agent into being. Born in 1903 in the tiny dusty colonial outpost of Pietersburg, in northern South Africa, Plomer was bookish and reclusive. And, very un-Bond-like, he hated gadgets — he refused to have even a telephone in his house. But there was another side to him, a side that sustained friendships with people of diverse backgrounds and vastly different personalities.
Like George Orwell, Plomer was the son of a colonial civil servant and grew up between places. He was partly educated in Great Britain, partly in South Africa. And, also like Orwell, he diverged from his social set, avoiding college for a career as a sheep farmer in South Africa, even though all he ever wanted was to be a writer.
After a year of apprenticing on a sheep farm, Plomer went to Zululand to help his father, who had bought a broken-down old trading station in a beautiful, extremely remote part of the region. There, the 19-year-old Plomer sat down many nights with an oil lamp and a pencil to write his first novel, as well as try his hand at poetry.
The poetry he sent to a man by the name of John Langalibalele Dube, who lived about 80 miles away. Dube was the founding president of the African National Congress — the political party later led by Nelson Mandela — and editor of the Black-focused newspaper Ilanga Lase Natali (The Natal Sun).
Dube liked the poetry and published it. More than that, the two men became friends. Through this friendship and others with activists of colour, Plomer developed loathing for white South African racists, a feeling he expressed through satire in his first novel, Turbott Wolfe. When the 21-year-old Plomer finished Turbott Wolfe, he sent it unsolicited to Britain’s Hogarth Press, the publishing house run by Leonard and Virginia Woolf. Plomer claimed that the two were drawn to the manuscript, which dealt frankly with interracial love, only because it was written “with hard pencil on thin paper” — he had no typewriter and ordinary paper was heavy and expensive to mail.
The Woolfs decided to publish the novel immediately, and it was well-received in Britain and the United States. In South Africa, though, it was a different story: Many white racists in the country were horrified by the plot. Under considerable social pressure, Plomer — who at 22 had begun to realize and accept his homosexuality — jumped on a ship bound for Japan and wound up settling in London, in 1929. In later life, he wrote of his native country, which had by then begun the policies of apartheid: “I could not imagine living there in a state of tension that I should only find endurable if bent on martyrdom.”
While living in England, Plomer continued to write, publishing several novels, but he had no steady income until, a decade later, he was offered the position of literary adviser to the publisher Jonathan Cape. The job was not an easy one, as Cape, a tall and forbidding figure with iron-gray hair, was known to be a hard-nosed businessman from a tough working-class background. What’s more, Cape had a passionate dislike for fictional thrillers, which Plomer enjoyed. Plomer is said to have found it hard to work for Cape although he respected him as a publisher.
In 1929, Plomer received a party invitation from a man he had never met who professed to have enjoyed Turbott Wolfe — aspiring writer and journalist Ian Fleming. The two would strike up a lasting friendship. Although Plomer never shared Fleming’s passion for women, fast cars and gambling, their mutual enjoyment of witty conversation is what kept the friendship alive for more than 30 years, until Fleming’s death in 1964.
When Fleming finally gave Plomer Casino Royale to have a look at, Plomer “was greatly impressed by it,” Alexander says. The same could not be said for Plomer’s publishers. None of the company directors enjoyed the book or wanted to publish it, with one decrying the novel as “deeply shocking” and cynically violent. Cape himself only read it because of Plomer’s insistence that it had to be published, and would would never read another Bond novel again.
Still, Cape ended up publishing it in 1953 and in doing so created a cash cow for the publishing house. Throughout their friendship, Plomer continued to offer Fleming literary support: The novel Goldfinger, which has never gone out of print, is dedicated to him.
Many fans know that Ian Fleming named his fictional spy after real-life ornithologist James Bond, but how many people know where the number 007 originated from?
Well, it turns out that Bond’s licence to kill number was named after a London bus.
Between 1934 and 1945, Ian Fleming lived at 22b Ebury Street, London, which later became a home of villain Sir Hugo Drax in Moonraker, as well as the starting point of a car chase to Dover.
Ebury Street is directly behind what was then the brand new Victoria Coach Station, which had opened in 1932.
In the early 1950s, when Fleming was forming the idea of Bond, he moved out of London to Kent. However, he would regularly travel back to London by a bus from either Dover or Canterbury.
And the number of this bus route was…007.
Casino Royale was published in 1953, and the rest is history. The bus was taken over by National Express in 1973, and a 007 coach service now runs nine times a day between Deal in Kent and London Victoria Coach station.
Nathan Rushton, the driver of the 007 bus, said: “While James Bond is more likely to be seen behind the wheel of a Bentley, it’s a massive honour to drive the 007 and it certainly attracts a lot of attention.
"People in Kent have always believed James Bond was named after this local service and I personally think the fact Ian Fleming also previously lived so close to the coach station at Victoria proves it – it’s just too much of a coincidence otherwise.”
Sights that can be spotted while aboard the 007 include Canterbury’s city walls, Dover and Deal castles and even France over the English Channel on a clear day.
Nathan added: “Bond is suave, sophisticated and devastatingly cool, so it’s quite funny to think he could have been named after a bus, but then again what could be more quintessentially British?”
From Overdrive magazine.
Long before James Bond was driving Aston Martins in Ian Fleming's books, 007 was the proud owner of a 1930 4 ½-litre supercharged Bentley Blower.
Now, the iconic manufacturer is making 12 "brand-new" cars based on the original pre-war race cars, on which Bond's vehicle was very closely based. In fact, assembly of the very first engineering prototype has just begun, after a year of development. All 12 of the Blowers have already been accounted for, at an unspecified price rumoured to be over £1.5 million each.
If you think that's a high price, consider that the original run of four racing 4 ½-litre Blowers built by Sir Tim Birkin, one of the legendary 'Bentley Boys', have sold for well over that in auction. Birkin went on to make 50 more Blowers between 1929-1931, of which Bond's car was one. The Bentley Blowers are considered one of the Britain's finest racing cars, even though it's only its successor that was actually garnered victories for the brand in endurance racing.
Each new Blower Continuation will be painstakingly crafted by the Bentley Mulliner team from new parts, laser-scanned and faithfully reproduced from a complete teardown of one of the original cars, Blower No.2, as raced by Birkin himself at Le Mans.
And except for some safety upgrades, each new Blower will be an exact replica of the original. Complementing the 3D-scanned parts is information gleaned from the original technical drawings for the Blower from the 1920s, and some of the original toolings as well.
Currently, the Mulliner team and selected artisans have put together a new chassis from heavy-gauge steel, engine with its Amherst Villiers supercharger, radiator and assorted body fitments, including the headlights and fuel tank from steel and copper.
Some of the noteworthy details of the 4.4-litre four-cylinder racing engine which produced a heady 240PS include its aluminium pistons, overhead camshaft, and four-valve with twin spark ignition layout, not to mention the roots-style supercharger sitting proud at the front of the engine.
It was enough to take the 1.9-tonne Blower on to a top speed in excess of 210kmph, though a keen Bond-fan will know the spy has only ever taken it up to 175kmph in Fleming's Casino Royale.
A treasure trove of rare Ian Fleming books and manuscripts has just gone on sale via British design company Mason & Sons.
The collection of first editions - many of them signed by Fleming - includes Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, You Only Live Twice and more.
Aside from the novels, there is a collection of personal correspondence between Fleming and a young Austrian girlfgriend, Edith Maria Thonet, a copy of the address given at Fleming's funeral, lithographs, original advertising artwork and a stunning recreation of the attache case Bond uses in From Russia, With Love.
The incredibly rare items are part of a portfolio called "Bonding with Dad", which Mason & Sons have launched ahead of Father's Day on June 21st. Also for sale are prints and posters, and a wide selection of Bond related clothing.
You can see the full collection at https://masonandsons.com/
John Gardner is something of a forgotten man in the overall picture of the James Bond phenomenon.
Everybody knows who Ian Fleming was, but how many non-Bond fans know Gardner's name? Of course, it's not fair to compare a continuation author with the man who created the character and every aspect of his world, but Gardner's contribution was nonetheless significant and, I believe, he deserves more credit.
Over a period of 15 years (1981-1996) he wrote 14 original Bond novels, plus novelisations of the movies Licence to Kill and Goldeneye. Fleming wrote the same number of books (counting For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy & The Living Daylights as two books) over an 11-year period, with his last two Bond books being published posthumously.
It was widely assumed that the producers of the Bond movies would turn to Gardner's books once they had exhausted the supply of Fleming's original material, but, to date, this has not happened.
Gardner wrote the novelisation of Licence to Kill to accompany the release of the film in 1989, but the story contained major elements from Fleming's Live and Let Die (Felix disagreeing with something that eats him) and the Milton Krest storyline from the short story The Hildebrand Rarity. The bulk of the story was written by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson.
Gardner was also commissioned to write a novelisation of Goldeneye (1995), which became the first movie not to include any of Fleming's storylines. Although Gardner inserted one of two small scenes, his novel essentially followed the screenplay written by American screenwriter Michael France.
There was every opportunity to use Gardner’s books for the later Pierce Brosnan films, but they were overlooked in favour of new stories by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. When you consider the dreadful storyline for Die Another Day, it seems almost perverse that Gardner’s work was not used.
The influence of the films is evident throughout Gardner's books. You get the feeling from the pace, plots, characters and action sequences that he was writing with a big screen adaptation in mind, rather than crafting a literary thriller in its own right, as Fleming had done. This makes it all the more ironic than none of his novels have made it to the screen as yet.
Admittedly, Gardner lacks the colourful turn of phrase, journalistic detail, and the casual snobbery of Fleming’s work, but that is irrelevant in adapting his work for the screen. The 1980s/1990s settings can easily be updated, as can the political and social elements that many of his novels cover.
You could reasonably argue that Raymond Benson’s Bond novels should be used (or even the more recent books by Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver, William Boyd and Anthony Horowitz), but Gardner devoted such a large part of his career to Bond that adapting his books into films would introduce a whole new generation to his work, and give him the credit he deserves.
In returning to Casino Royale for Daniel Craig’s debut, the producers understandably created a new story arc, which will presumably conclude with No Time to Die. With Craig now expected to hang up his Walther PPK, there is time for a re-boot of the franchise, and I think John Gardner’s books are worthy of consideration.