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James Bond:The Authorized Biography of 007


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#1 Felix

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Posted 08 February 2002 - 10:26 AM

This book is one of my favorites, and I was curious to know others' opinions of it. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it was published in 1973 and is by John Pearson (author of THE LIFE OF IAN FLEMING). It is based on the premise that James Bond was a real person (much like many "biographies" of fictional characters written in the 70s). It's a great read, especially for fans of Fleming's books since it "fills in the gaps" between novels.

#2 Mister Asterix

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Posted 10 February 2002 - 12:33 AM

Felix (09 Feb, 2002 10:19 p.m.):(edited)

Blofeld's Cat (09 Feb, 2002 01:56 a.m.):
Should it be called a "proper" novel?


Probably not, because while it acknowledges the adventures in the Fleming books, and even the Markham novel, it regards them as "fictionalized" retellings of actual events...


True. However You Only Live Twice also acknowledges that the Fleming books are fictionalised.

From You Only Live Twice Ian Fleming (1964) Chapter 21: Obit:
...The inevitable publicity, particularly in the foreign press, accorded some these adventures, made him, much agaimst his will, something of a public figure, with the inevitable result that a series of popular books came to be written around him by a personal friend and former colleague of James Bond. If the quality of these books, or their dergree of veracity, had been any higher, the author would certainly have been prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act. It is a measure of disdain in which these fictions are held at the ministry that action has not yet--I emphasize the qualification--been taken against the author and publisher of these high-flown and romanticized caricatures of episodes in the career of an outstanding public servant...


So does that mean that we shouldn't consider YOLT a 'proper' novel?

#3 Blofeld's Cat

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Posted 09 February 2002 - 01:55 AM

I can't remember too much about it, but I did enjoy it.

I do remember that the cover was in the same style as the "still life" series of novels currently available at the time.

When I first saw it on the shelf I thought it was a "proper" novel and thought: finally they got someone to follow Robert Markham (as noted on the CS novel at that time).

Should it be called a "proper" novel?

#4 Felix

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Posted 10 February 2002 - 02:12 AM

I had forgotten that little bit of info in Bond's obituary in YOLT. I guess it goes to intent. I don't think that it was Glidrose's intent to consider the biography a continuation of the series, although the set-up at the end with Bond headed off to Australia certainly would have been a nice lead-in to another book.

#5 Felix

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Posted 09 February 2002 - 10:19 PM

Blofeld's Cat (09 Feb, 2002 01:56 a.m.):
Should it be called a "proper" novel?


Probably not, because while it acknowledges the adventures in the Fleming books, and even the Markham novel, it regards them as "fictionalized" retellings of actual events. Also, the novel MOONRAKER is "revealed" to be completely fictional, part of the larger plot with Fleming's books, which was to convince the Soviets that James Bond did not exist, and was nothing more than a fictional character.

It does, however, set up an interesting adventure at the end, with Bond heading out to Australia to capture Irma Bunt, who is waging biological warfare against the country.

#6 Mr Twilight

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 03:18 PM

It does, however, set up an interesting adventure at the end, with Bond heading out to Australia to capture Irma Bunt, who is waging biological warfare against the country.


As you say it had a interesting twist in the end, as an cliffhanger and a possible continuation. Personally I count this as an real Bond book.

#7 Double-0-7

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 01:58 AM

I shelve my copy along with my other books "about Bond" like "The James Bond Dossier" and Snellings "A Report". I found that it read very much like a Fleming novel and enjoyed the book very much.

#8 manfromjapan

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 02:11 AM

I loved this book!! I have never read a book so fast. I found it fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable. I wouldn't consider it a proper Bond novel though. I think it is a great shame Pearson never went on to write any continuation novels. I really enjoy his writing.

(Just realised how many 'I's I have used. Oh, there I go again. Aaagh!! I am sorry. Aaaagh!!)

Edited by manfromjapan, 20 February 2007 - 02:12 AM.


#9 Mr Twilight

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 07:10 AM

Why this book works so good, for me that is, is because it brings light to many things that I wondered after reading a book and it left me with some question like why so, why this and why that, what happened with her and what happened with him. To me it works perfectly! I which there had been a part 2. Pearson certanly sets up for it when Bond leaving in a hurry at the end.

#10 Burnsy

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 05:52 AM

I loved this book. It was fun, interesting, and quite insightful. It just became one of my favorite books of all time. A definite enjoyable read! =D

#11 Qwerty

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 09:36 PM

Welcome to the CBn Forums, Burnsy. :cooltongue:

#12 Loomis

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 09:16 PM

Felix (09 Feb, 2002 10:19 p.m.):(edited)

Blofeld's Cat (09 Feb, 2002 01:56 a.m.):
Should it be called a "proper" novel?


Probably not, because while it acknowledges the adventures in the Fleming books, and even the Markham novel, it regards them as "fictionalized" retellings of actual events...


True. However You Only Live Twice also acknowledges that the Fleming books are fictionalised.

From You Only Live Twice Ian Fleming (1964) Chapter 21: Obit:
...The inevitable publicity, particularly in the foreign press, accorded some these adventures, made him, much agaimst his will, something of a public figure, with the inevitable result that a series of popular books came to be written around him by a personal friend and former colleague of James Bond. If the quality of these books, or their dergree of veracity, had been any higher, the author would certainly have been prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act. It is a measure of disdain in which these fictions are held at the ministry that action has not yet--I emphasize the qualification--been taken against the author and publisher of these high-flown and romanticized caricatures of episodes in the career of an outstanding public servant...


So does that mean that we shouldn't consider YOLT a 'proper' novel?


To be fair, YOLT only acknowledges that the Fleming books may be fictionalised. The adventures CASINO ROYALE - ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE may still be real (as it were), and for all we know the personal friend and colleague of James Bond (Tanner?) may just have written books like, say, PROFESSOR YES, in which rugged spy John Black battles a mysterious Japanese on an island in the South Pacific, if you get what I'm trying to say.

Leastways, that's my reading of it, 'coz the sad fanboy in me needs to still believe that the Fleming adventures were all real, darn it! *Sob* *Throws darts at Lee Tamahori dartboard in anger at the man's invention of the Codename Theory™*

Whereas THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY goes a whole lot further than YOLT in terms of the "the Fleming books are fictionalised" thing.

Am reading THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY at the moment, and have just put the following thoughts in another thread:

Have wanted to read this book for years, and am now doing so thanks to the happy fact that it's finally back in print and in paperback.

With both the films and the books, we seem currently to be going through an era (about to be broken, of course, by DEVIL MAY CARE, although even then Faulks' effort will fit into the Fleming timeline rather than follow the adventures of 007 in the early 21st century) in which James Bond can for some reason be served up only in origin story form ("Read about Bond at school!", "See Bond being given his first mission by M, who grumbles that she knew it was too early to promote him!"), or, as I gather the MONEYPENNY DIARIES have it, with the explanation that Bond was real (which of course makes the events of the Fleming series fake!) and that there was a chap called Ian Fleming in the shadows who somehow manipulated the Bond puppet in print.

In which light, it would appear that what zencat calls "the least known James Bond continuation novel" has actually been extraordinarily influential. The first, or at any rate one of the first, instances of what I'd call Bond With A Twist™, JAMES BOND: THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY feels remarkably fresh. Indeed, it could quite literally have been written today. I mean, everyone else who's professionally producing 007 fiction seems to be knocking out just this type of genuflecting-at-the-past stuff! And so well does the script of CASINO ROYALE and Craig's performance chime with Pearson's descriptions of a slightly unbalanced (even before Vesper), fiercely arrogant young Bond who's both attracted to the good life among the playgrounds of the rich and disgusted by its decadence, wearing his fine suits with more than a hint of disdain, that it's hard to believe that the makers of the last Eon film did not take plenty of inspiration from THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY. Craig's Bond seems in many ways more Pearson's than Fleming's.

I'm only about halfway through, but the Bond of this book comes across as a colder, darker figure than I've encountered in any of his adventures. Indeed, he's a nasty piece of work, and vanity-ridden with it (and his first kill is a shockingly Stuntman Mike affair). In parts, THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY feels like the sort of origin story that might have been penned by a Fleming with a Churchillian black dog gnawing away at him. These parts are, of course, pure delight for Fleming fans.

However, there's often the sense of Pearson trying to be a little too clever for his own (or, more importantly, for the book's) own good, the feeling of an overconcern for myth-busting (that's not bold, merely gratuitous and show-offy). Pearson both builds Bond up and tears him down. The 50-something semi-retired Bond is an unattractive character, and reading about his "faintly discoloured teeth" fair made me choke on my Benzedrine. Elsewhere, the child Bond is described in terms that would seem more appropriate to an account of the boy Gordon Brown (Pearson notes that at one point he was "immensely fat", or something). This is all very well, but.... do we need it? Or rather, do we want it? Personally, I don't.

And not that I've read that far yet, but I suspect that the bits where Fleming starts sticking his oar in as a character and Pearson begins to really mess with our heads about what was real and what wasn't.... I suspect that those sections will not necessarily be among the book's high spots.

spynovelfan has, I believe, called this the best of the continuation novels. I can see where he's coming from, chiefly because it'll give you a Closest-Thing-To-Fellming Fix™ like nothing else.... but, to me, it isn't even a novel so much as an episodic filling-in of some Flemmmmingian blanks, mixed with a DIE ANOTHER DAY-esque Bond's Greatest Hits™. Not, I suppose, that you could reasonably expect anything else from a book calling itself JAMES BOND: THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY, but, still, it's undeniably missing something. Rich in anecdote and detail, it's undernourished in drama, and there's next to no narrative sweep. It's a treat for Fleming fans that'll really serve only to make 'em want to rush back to Fleming (to be fair, this is also true of many of the other continuation novels, and may well be true of DEVIL MAY CARE, excellent though I'm certain it is).

Ultimately, it's a concept, not a book. It feels as though Pearson is just dipping his toe in the water, uncertain as to whether or not it's really worth going through with, and calculating that, in the event of the sort of sneering reviews that I gather Amis received for COLONEL SUN, he can pull a few clever tricks to make it look as though it was all just a bit of a lark.

Which is a longwinded way of saying that I'd rather he'd written a "proper" Bond novel. He certainly had (has? Is he still with us?) the talent. Hopefully DEVIL MAY CARE delivers the sort of goods that THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY merely teases us with.

There's plenty to quibble with, but also much to enjoy, and this book is certainly an essential purchase for Bond fans.



#13 spynovelfan

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Posted 05 May 2008 - 08:56 PM

To be fair, YOLT only acknowledges that the Fleming books may be fictionalised. The adventures CASINO ROYALE - ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE may still be real (as it were), and for all we know the personal friend and colleague of James Bond (Tanner?) may just have written books like, say, PROFESSOR YES, in which rugged spy John Black battles a mysterious Japanese on an island in the South Pacific, if you get what I'm trying to say.


I get what you're trying to say... but come on! Someone else posted something similar to this a while back - Trident, I think, from memory (apologies if not) - and I was a bit taken aback. This is surely just retro-con fan-wanking, as you yourself admit. Get into the spirit of Fleming's wit - read the passage again. He is clearly having fun with it, he is clearly being self-referential. Anything else is just striving not to get the joke, surely. He's also half-jokingly, self-deprecatingly-but-not-really offering up an explanation/defence for his at this stage now famous 'fantasy' depiction of espionage. He's doing so in a carefully constructed, superficially rather plausibly written obituary of his character. Carefully constructed both in terms of Bond's biography (the first time in the whole series we learn anything, really), the prose (it sounds rather like a real obituary) and the fact that he got the Times' permission to use their logo. Fleming was rather obviously jaded by Bond at this stage, and had clearly grown tired of the traditional Bond plot. His reaction was to take him a very long way away indeed, kill him, give him amnesia, etc. This is a splendid little in-joke, as is the one about David Niven in the same book. Fleming loved self-referencing like this.

It is so close to what Pearson does as to be touching.

Whereas THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY goes a whole lot further than YOLT in terms of the "the Fleming books are fictionalised" thing.


Yes, he takes the idea and runs with it. But I for one have no problem with it at all. And it's the only explanation that fits Fleming, really. Ursula Andress, David Niven - these people appear in his books, or are referenced. How? Well, here's how. Yes, it's post-modern nonsense than makes a mockery of continuity - Fleming, I mean! Pearson just took it to a logical, rather neat conclusion. The idea that continuity can't be messed with always seems a very odd objection to me - Bond doesn't [censored]ing age, so you can't have any continuity if you want him to live much longer!

And so well does the script of CASINO ROYALE and Craig's performance chime with Pearson's descriptions of a slightly unbalanced (even before Vesper), fiercely arrogant young Bond who's both attracted to the good life among the playgrounds of the rich and disgusted by its decadence, wearing his fine suits with more than a hint of disdain, that it's hard to believe that the makers of the last Eon film did not take plenty of inspiration from THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY. Craig's Bond seems in many ways more Pearson's than Fleming's.


It's a nice thought - but it is hard to believe they did, really!

However, there's often the sense of Pearson trying to be a little too clever for his own (or, more importantly, for the book's) own good, the feeling of an overconcern for myth-busting (that's not bold, merely gratuitous and show-offy). Pearson both builds Bond up and tears him down. The 50-something semi-retired Bond is an unattractive character, and reading about his "faintly discoloured teeth" fair made me choke on my Benzedrine.


They're only faintly discoloured. It's just one of those touches that makes him seem a little more real. Fleming did it the whole time with his female characters. Broken noses, etc. Bond smokes dozens of ciggies a day, remember.

And not that I've read that far yet, but I suspect that...


Um... PearsonnotFleming.com?

Ultimately, it's a concept, not a book. It feels as though Pearson is just dipping his toe in the water, uncertain as to whether or not it's really worth going through with, and calculating that, in the event of the sort of sneering reviews that I gather Amis received for COLONEL SUN, he can pull a few clever tricks to make it look as though it was all just a bit of a lark.


Hmmm. Yes, I sensed a touch of that, too. But just a touch. I don't think he just dipped his toe in - it's a real attempt, and he took a lot more care to get the details right than any other writer, including Amis and... Fleming. Fleming didn't care all that much for mistakes or continuity errors or plot holes. Pearson uses those as leverage. It's a very closely researched novel, unsurprisingly considering his background. Perhaps this is too fanciful, but I think even the structure of the book is taken from a Fleming work - the Diamond Smugglers, with Fleming interviewing a slightly reluctant former agent with the flashbacks interspersed. The Diamond Smugglers was a piece of fiction masquerading as journalism. So is this, but it also reverses that. There is, I think, more emotional truth to Pearson's novel than there is to Fleming's non-fiction work.

There's plenty to quibble with, but also much to enjoy, and this book is certainly an essential purchase for Bond fans.


Can't wait to hear what you think when you've actually read it, Loomis. :tup: Perhaps you'll even admit it's better than Amis' curate's egg!

#14 Loomis

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Posted 05 May 2008 - 11:59 PM

I'm only continuing to read it because I understand that the wonderful COLONEL SUN is referenced at some point. :tup:

Nah, seriously, though, I may have been a wee bit harsh on Pearson back there. THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY is indeed a splendid book, and, as you indicate, a very touching read for Fleming fans. If only all the continuation novels were half as good. (And I really do love Pearson's turn of phrase, of which I'm sure The Master would have approved.)

Still, the next one may be even better. :tup: :(

#15 Trident

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 04:12 PM

To be fair, YOLT only acknowledges that the Fleming books may be fictionalised. The adventures CASINO ROYALE - ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE may still be real (as it were), and for all we know the personal friend and colleague of James Bond (Tanner?) may just have written books like, say, PROFESSOR YES, in which rugged spy John Black battles a mysterious Japanese on an island in the South Pacific, if you get what I'm trying to say.


I get what you're trying to say... but come on! Someone else posted something similar to this a while back - Trident, I think, from memory (apologies if not) - and I was a bit taken aback. This is surely just retro-con fan-wanking, as you yourself admit.


LOL!

Well, actually I was a wee little grasshopper-fanboy back when I first read YOLT, you know. :tup:



Get into the spirit of Fleming's wit - read the passage again. He is clearly having fun with it, he is clearly being self-referential. Anything else is just striving not to get the joke, surely. He's also half-jokingly, self-deprecatingly-but-not-really offering up an explanation/defence for his at this stage now famous 'fantasy' depiction of espionage. He's doing so in a carefully constructed, superficially rather plausibly written obituary of his character. Carefully constructed both in terms of Bond's biography (the first time in the whole series we learn anything, really), the prose (it sounds rather like a real obituary) and the fact that he got the Times' permission to use their logo. Fleming was rather obviously jaded by Bond at this stage, and had clearly grown tired of the traditional Bond plot. His reaction was to take him a very long way away indeed, kill him, give him amnesia, etc. This is a splendid little in-joke, as is the one about David Niven in the same book. Fleming loved self-referencing like this.

It is so close to what Pearson does as to be touching.


Of course Fleming is self-referential in this paragraph of YOLT's obituary. But I find it interesting to note here that Fleming wrote the passage so it can be read either way, as an in-joke on his many admirers and equally numerous critics or as a statement from a parallel Bond-world that closely resembles our own (even down to events, persons, brands and celebrities; in contrast to Modesty Blaise' world where celebrities are for the most part purely fictitious), but alas isn't.

IMO there are two major cracks that might have harmed the temporary suspend of disbelieve and Fleming might have avoided them on purpose by his ambigous phrasing. For one thing, Fleming didn't name this ominious colleague of Bond. Back in 1964, writers didn't as often appear as characters in their own fiction as nowadays. Perhaps Fleming wouldn't have been so cautious and even have written a chapter where he interacted with his creation a few years later. But for YOLT he has chosen to go another way, keeping his joke a bit more discrete.

The second, and in my view much more curious implication would concern Bond himself. Novelizations of Bond's real-world adventures would on all accounts have to omit Bond's real name. And they couldn't just stop at the name but would have to change places, too. Bond's flat for example. He considers telling Security about the suspicious affair of the man from the Electritions Union in FRWL but refrains from doing so as they might make him change his flat. Oh, Security Section certainly would, but not because of an innocent union member. They'd be forced by the masses of people congesting Kings Road every day in their pilgrimage to Bond's flat. The City Council, hand in hand with Bond's enervated neighbours, would have demanded a move, preferably to Fort Knox, the bottom of the Puerto Rico Trench or some equally accessible place. And, with changing names and places there'd raise another necessety its ugly head. Wouldn't have the circumstances have to face a similar fate? For reasons of public interest and national security? You bet!

You see, if this door that Fleming only showed us with a wink by his little joke is actually opened, it's not easily closed again. And through that door, in fact a door into reality, would all kinds of things slowly trickle into Bond's world. Up to the point where Bond would have to recognize his own fictitious nature? Perhaps, who knows? Pearson's Bond already suffers the effects of 60 cigarettes per day in the form of yellow teeth and double helpings of all his meals by an implied tendency not to obesity but at least to getting a bit out of shape.


That said, I still enjoyed Pearson's work tremendously although I'd have much more preferred a 'proper' continuation. :tup:

Edited by Trident, 06 May 2008 - 04:20 PM.


#16 spynovelfan

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 07:03 PM

Sure - but the game is not opening the door all the way. Lazenby's comment about the other fella in OHMSS is the same - we don't like the implications of the full logic, and so we deny that it exists, or some of us do, and say the comment was ambiguous, a reference to Prince Charming or what-have-you. But, even without Peter Hunt explaining on the DVD track that it was put in because of Lazenby's repeated whinge about Connery, it's clear what it was really about, and that it was not ambigious at all. It was, quite simply, breaking the fourth wall. Casual fans of the series have no problem with that, usually: serious fans often do. If you examine every last particle of the series you do, it threatens to make it fall down, and you realise you can't treat it like the real world because it's not. It's fiction.

Fleming repeatedly insisted he was writing fiction in his fiction. He did indeed have Bond interact with the real world, very deliberately. But what made the Ursula Andress who exists in OHMSS famous? What was the David Niven that Kissy Suzuki met doing in 1967 - and did he also know a British writer for the Sunday Times? Fleming references E Phillips Oppenheim and Bulldog Drummond to make Bond seem more realistic. But he references others to make it clear he is fictional. The Spy Who Loves Me is a post-modern experiment, with Fleming claiming that it was a real manuscript, and the accompanying publicity doing the same. That makes it very much of the same ilk as Pearson's book, doesn't it? She's supposedly a person who has encountered the real James Bond. Naturally, it doesn't make much sense - even with a name change, Bond can't exist in the real world, and the only way he could, just about, is the way that Fleming has M relate in his obituary. An obituary written in one of those self-same fictional books, so his name has been changed, etc. The head hurts. Make it stop! It must be ambiguous.

It's just a bit of fun. Fleming wanted to stretch the form. He killed Bond off, brainwashed him, had him the secondary character, put him in a Somerset Maugham-style story, etc. This is the same. Pearson's book can only be a one-off for this reason, I think - it just stretches it too far otherwise. And it would have been great to have had a 'straight' adventure from him, too. But I think his book was very much in Fleming's spirit- not just the prose style and accoutrements. The concept of it. I think he'd have been tickled pink by it.

#17 Trident

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 08:33 PM

Sure - but the game is not opening the door all the way. Lazenby's comment about the other fella is the same - we don't like the implications of the full logic, and so we deny that it exists, or some of us do, and say it's ambiguous, a reference to Prince Charming, or what-have-you. But, even without Peter Hunt explaining on the DVD track that it was put in because of Lazenby's repeated whinge about Connery, it's clear what it was about, and not ambigious at all. It's breaking the fourth wall. Casual fans have no problem with that. If you examine every last particle of the series you do, because it threatens to make it fall down, and you realise you can't treat it like the real world because it's not. It's fiction. Fleming insisted he was writing fiction. He did indeed have Bond interact with the real world, very deliberately.


I'm not sure if this is actually a fourth-wall thing. You see, when reading YOLT at the age of about 12 I didn't have any problem with Fleming's obituary. And I still don't do so now, although I have to confess to see it as a minor in-joke by an author that is at times almost haunted by his creation and its success.

My general problem (if it is a problem at all), with breaking the fourth wall in literature is more of a basic nature. You see, Fleming wrote in third-person, auctorial narration.

'But then, of course, he didn't know that his name was James Bond. And, compared with the blazing significance to him of that single Russian word on the scrap of paper, his life on Kuro, his love for Kissi Suzuki, were, in Tiger's phrase, of as little account as sparrows' tears.'
(from 'You Only Live Twice', Ian Fleming 1964, Coronet paperback 1988, page 190)


There is a certain implication connected to this kind of narration. Things, thoughts, actions, events are. They are in just the way they are described. If I read: 'James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death.' this is just what happened. Nothing more, nothing less.

'Royale-les-Eaux, which lies near the mouth of the Somme before the flat coast-line soars up from the beaches of southern Picardy to the Brittany cliffs which run on to Le Havre, had experienced much the same fortunes as Trouville.' (from Casino Royale, Ian Fleming 1953)

This is Bond-world, and while reading it I believe it, even though there doesn't exist any 'Royale-les-Eaux' (nor any 'Blades Club' (much as I privately would appreciate the mere existance of this institution and gladly peek through its high windows). This is the world as Fleming described it and I can live with its minor shortcommings, so far, so good.

But if this auctorial narrator suddenly chooses to acknowledge our world, all kinds of certainties are suddenly endangered. Is there a Royale-les-Eaux? A Blades Club? A Berns-Martin holster for the Walther PPK? Did Bond really, with two double bourbons inside him, sit in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and think about life and death? Or was it only a single bourbon? And did he really think about his mortgage?

Mind you, I don't say such a move wouldn't be possible for an author. Or maybe, depending on his intention, even necessary. But I have my doubts with the kind of story that usually is Bond-country. And I think this is the very reason Fleming kept his own experiment with the fourth wall in the way he did. He showed the door, that, as we all know, does exist, but kept our hands from toying with its handle. In fact, it's not necessary to actually open this door. Because we all already know what's hiding behind it: our own world.


It's just a bit of fun. Fleming wanted to stretch the form. He killed Bond off, brainwashed him, had him the secondary character, put him in a Somerset Maugham-style story, etc. This is the same. Pearson's book can only be a one-off for this reason, I think - it just stretches it too far otherwise. And it would have been great to have had a 'straight' adventure from him, too. But I think his book was very much in Fleming's spirit- not just the prose style and accoutrements. The concept of it. I think he'd have been tickled pink by it.


Oh, I don't doubt for a single minute that the setting, Bond interviewed in a kind of debriefing, would have appealed to Fleming's experimental moods and would have made for a splendid background for a collection of short-stories. And he might have even changed the basic idea to himself interviewing Bond, had he had the time to go on with his protagonist.

Edited by Trident, 06 May 2008 - 08:45 PM.


#18 spynovelfan

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 08:41 PM

He showed the door, that, as we all know, i]does exist[/i], but kept our hands from toying with its handle. In fact, it's not necessary to actually open this door. Because we all know what's hiding behind it: our own world.


Yes, I think that's a perfect description of what he was doing. And Pearson grabbed the handle, opened the door, and then looked back through it and winked at us. And, of course, the version of our own world presented by Pearson is every bit as absurd - possibly more so - than Fleming's version, and is as patently a fiction as The Spy Who Loved Me was not written by a woman called Vivienne Michel and delivered to Ian Fleming. I can see it is more troublesome - it has to be a one-off for that reason. But I don't see the problem that it postulates that all of Bond's missions were elaborated on by Fleming in spy thrillers, and one or two might never have happened at all. That would only be a problem, surely, if Pearson's book was non-fiction. It's just another fiction, another layer. There could be a sequel in which Bond reads Pearson's book, and smiles at *that* deception operation. We've no reason to believe Pearson, any more than we need to believe Fleming that Vivienne sent him her manuscript or M that there were a series of novels written about this 'Bond' figure. We accept that they're all fiction, I think. I do, anyway. :tup: Pearson perhaps felt that there wasn't a lot else to do with Bond - what would be the *point*, somehow, in just another 'straight' adventure? I think the idea that it's not a 'real' Bond novel conveniently ignores some of Fleming's own experiments.

#19 Trident

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 08:51 PM

There could be a sequel in which Bond reads Pearson's book, and smiles at *that* deception operation.


LOL, splendid idea! That would be most interesting. And afterwards he'd get decidedly angry at the actors depicting him on-screen. :tup:

#20 spynovelfan

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 08:54 PM

Well, now you're just taking things too far.

#21 Loomis

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 09:53 PM

Lazenby's comment about the other fella in OHMSS is the same - we don't like the implications of the full logic, and so we deny that it exists, or some of us do, and say the comment was ambiguous, a reference to Prince Charming or what-have-you. But, even without Peter Hunt explaining on the DVD track that it was put in because of Lazenby's repeated whinge about Connery, it's clear what it was really about, and that it was not ambigious at all. It was, quite simply, breaking the fourth wall. Casual fans of the series have no problem with that, usually: serious fans often do.


Indeed. Witness Bond fans' reactions to Tamahori's codename theory (which I personally don't mind). I'm sure, though, that I could tell non-fans that there was a line in, say, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS that made it clear that "James Bond 007" was just a manufactured identity given to whoever happened to be the British secret service's most capable agent, and most people wouldn't bat an eyelid - indeed, I'm sure that some would claim to remember the line and that they'd known about this aspect of Bond for ages.

I know it seems churlish to criticise THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY since it's so well-written and so much fun, not to mention so stuffed with wonderful in-jokes for Fleming fans, but at the end of the day it's just a series of episodes under the umbrella of an amusing concept. It's not A Proper Novel™. It's a footnote to the James Bond literary canon, albeit a bloody good one.

#22 spynovelfan

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 10:24 PM

This is just revenge for my views on Amis! :tup:

I think it's every much a Proper Novel

#23 Trident

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 10:37 PM

A very interesting way to look at it. Hasn't ocurred to me up to now. On a first thought I'd suppose Fleming's episodic approach partially might have stemmed from his journalist days where he often was intrigued by (minor?) details. Also seems to have fitted his personal interests. Never looked at it this way.

#24 Loomis

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 10:43 PM

If Fleming had written it, would you feel the same?


Well, no, because then it would be Flemmmming. :tup: And I'd probably be trying to construct an argument as to how Fleming didn't actually mean us to take the whole "authorised biography" thing literally and how it still meant that all his earlier Bond adventures had still really happened! :tup:

Okay, so Fleming "essentially worked with the episode", and, yes, he's full of holes, but the problem I have with Pearson - although I stress that it's a small one and not really a problem so much as an obligatory bit of fanboy griping - is that he works in episodes that for the most part are essentially resolved within a few pages, and then it's on to the next, and the next. Thus does THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY fall into something of a predictable pattern. It's Bite-Sized Bond™. It's like listening to a greatest hits album (albeit a brilliantly-compiled one of very high quality) that, for all its magnificence, can never achieve the sweep or complexity or je ne sais quoi of a proper LP.

But you make some terrific points, as always, spy, and, really, I'm just quibbling. I'll say it again: THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY is splendid stuff and certainly among the handful of must-buy continuation novels. Indeed, it's worth more than most of the rest of them put together.

#25 doublenoughtspy

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 11:00 PM

James Bond isn't real? WHAT!!?!?!?!

But seriously, I'm digging the Pearson love.

One of the reasons I grilled Higson on his contradicting the Authorized bio.

#26 spynovelfan

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 11:04 PM

You are right, of course, that it's a lot of episodes strung together. It's a collection of short stories linked by the central premise - something that if it had been written by Ian McEwan or, say, Faulks now, would be acclaimed as genius and win the Booker, I expect. I agree that there is something a little unsatisfying as a result, but I just love the sheer verve of it, and the attention to detail. *Serious* attention to detail. Staggeringly so in places. Not just mentioning a character from Fleming. He obviously researched the war, Paris, etc, as well as the books. And he was thorough, and thoroughly authoritative as a result. Although there is a 'this is slightly beneath me' feeling to it in places, as mentioned, I think that improves the book in some ways - it makes it more real. He did the same with his biography of Fleming. If you're a real fan of Fleming - as I am, I should say! - he is very critical of him in an official biography of the writer. But you accept it, or I do, I think partly because it's so well observed and so well written, but partly because it is critical. It's a device. If he waxed lyrical about how brilliant Fleming was, it wouldn't have worked the same way. To delineate his brilliance but at the same time point out that all his villains were essentially from the same mould, and show rather starkly that Fleming was a slightly pathetic Gatsbyesque figure at times, boasting mysteriously about his past, is more of a realistic picture. You don't feel like you're being sold something perfect. And who is perfect, and which novel doesn't have flaws? So soon after such a famous writer's death, though, it must have been quite shocking. If he wasn't such a good writer, I wonder if he'd have gotten the permission for it.

The same applies to his biography of Bond. For me, part of the fascination is that it was officially sanctioned. I mean, it's extraordinary what he did with the character! Gardner felt restricted, and clearly was to some degree (look at the titles he got given), so for them to have given a writer such leeway was, I think, a golden moment. And he could have squandered it. He could have run with the concept, but played Bond up as a super-hero, or gone far too far in the other direction. He played it pretty much note-perfect. And he found the perfect niche to explore lots of juicy stuff that had been completely forgotten. The concept is a little distracting at times, I'll admit, but I'm a sucker for that sort of idea anyway.

(I wonder if this is part of my problem with COLONEL SUN. Apart from the fact that a good third of it is dull, which is unforgivable in a Bond novel, Amis seemed rather anxious to show how much he admires Bond. I don't want to be told to admire the character. I want M to feed him to the lions and say he's washed up and see him so, and then admire him. Amis insists on Bond being a Good Chap, takes it as given. He seems unremittingly dull as a result. Just a thought.)

I think the episodic nature of Fleming's work probably does partially stem from his being a journalist. Or rather, his being a journalist stemmed from that. He came late to the novel game, despite wanting to do it for a long time. I think you can sense when reading his novels that he was blasting through them, desperate to get to the end on his momentum - especially CR, which Pearson described as something like a fever dream of a novel. And he built up tremendous atmosphere - but really very little pace. The stories themselves are not exciting - but they have lots of excitement in them. His plots were, for the most part, incidental. The girls and the villains and the meals and the hotels are the plots we're following - he realised those are what is important to the thriller, and I think he was also just not the kind of writer who could create something densely and intricately and coherently plotted. Or if he could, rarely. He made up for it in other ways. Re journalism: there are many different types of journalist. I think Fleming was a pretty poor journalist in some ways: he was great at colour, but didn't care much for accuracy. John Pearson was probably a much better journalist, and would be a much better novelist, too, in some ways, if this book is anything to go by. But not everything needs to make sense to resonate: there's sloppiness aplenty in Fleming's world, but it's his world and nobody else's, and it's more vivid than anyone else's, and that's why we're discussing him now. :tup: I realise this seems like Pearson's device - but it's how I feel. I think Fleming was massively flawed, but great. I find it hard to accept arguments that he was perfect. Perhaps his flaws are part of what made him great.

#27 Loomis

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 11:45 AM

I think Fleming was massively flawed, but great. I find it hard to accept arguments that he was perfect. Perhaps his flaws are part of what made him great.


Of course.

The only "perfect" thing Fleming did was create James Bond, a character who is really only perfect through being subsequently enriched by the work of many other people, from Cubby Broccoli and Connery and Pearson right up to Martin Campbell, Paul Haggis and Daniel Craig in the present day. Fleming gave birth to Bond, who went out into the world and made something of himself, as it were. Heck, Fleming didn't even give Bond some of his most important elements, like Blofeld's cat, Jinx and blond hair. :tup:

(Rather like David Morrell created Rambo, yet the Rambo in Morrell's head while he wrote FIRST BLOOD (have you read it yet, spy? I think you'd quite like it :tup: ) was nothing like the image that pops into most people's minds nowadays when the name Rambo is mentioned.)

But, no, Fleming certainly wasn't perfect, either as a man or as a writer. As you say, though, "it's his world and nobody else's, and it's more vivid than anyone else's, and that's why we're discussing him now". Pearson's great Bond achievement, I think, lies in making THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY chime much more closely than COLONEL SUN or any subsequent continuation novel with Fleming's world, although I do of course say that without having read the Christopher Woods or DEVIL MAY CARE.

Anyway, I've found your passionate and erudite defences of Pearson very enjoyable and interesting reading. Am tempted to quibble with the book further just to provoke more great posts from you. :(

#28 Skudor

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 11:56 AM

I managed to read half of "James Bond:The Authorized Biography of 007" before forgetting it on a plane somewhere... but I will definitely be picking it up again. So far, it is by far my favourite continuation novel. Better than Colonel Sun and miles better than the drivel those other two churned out. Haven't read Higson, so can't compare with that though.

#29 David Schofield

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 12:10 PM

Perhaps we should just accept that James Bond doesn't exist as Fleming, Pearson, Weinberg have alluded.

He is not six feet, dark haired, charming and yet bored with life, ruthless and pretty limitlessly courageous. He is not of an upper middles class demonour, privatley educated and with an inheritance. He does not have sohisticated taste, in clothes, cars, places. And nor does he live off the Kings Road.

His real name is Trevor Bryant. And he was five feet six inches tall and of stocky build, and lived in a council block in Fulham. He did not drink, bar the odd pint of mild in his local. He did not smoke, and his favourite dish - though had no real taste for food - was a cheese roll. He had little time for women, but prefered to relax watching cricket, and collecting Wisden Almanacs. However, his bravery for the British Secret Service was limitless, and his adventures for them, should they have been accurately reported, were more unbelievable than in the published narratives of the authors listed above.

And it must be that way, because Royale Les Eaux dosn't really exist. Nor is Crab Key to be found of the coat of Jamaica. And the building of a ICBM in the 1950s by a private individual called Huge Drax would have been a major part of set texts in schools. And Ian Fleming did exist. And Ursula Andress. And David Niven.

Just an idea.

Now I've got it. James Bond can't be James Bond because he's a literay figure.

Sorry I can't intellectualise it like some of you have rather brilliantly above, but I'm from the school of thought that says what Fleming wrote is true, though not in our world - cause that's where we live and Fleming lived - that the YOLT obit joke was about a series of books written by Bloggs about a spy called Jones, that the David Niven and Ursula Andress refer to were not OURS, that MI6 was good in the 1960s, and that anything published, whether authorised by IFP or not, that contradicts this is, well, just not writing about Fleming's Bond.

:tup:

#30 Loomis

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 12:33 PM

His real name is Trevor Bryant. And he was five feet six inches tall and of stocky build, and lived in a council block in Fulham. He did not drink, bar the odd pint of mild in his local. He did not smoke, and his favourite dish - though had no real taste for food - was a cheese roll. He had little time for women, but prefered to relax watching cricket, and collecting Wisden Almanacs.


Admit it, David: you've stumbled upon Eon Productions' top secret backstory for Craig's Bond, haven't you?




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