A few thoughts in reply (I don't know how to do this fancy insertion of my replies to your text where they should be)
No problem, it is a bit tricky.
1. Fleming's nonsense about his limited writing ability was all based upon his false modesty, and inadequacy in teh company of great writers. History has proved the true standing of Fleming's literature.
I wouldn't call that false modesty. Fleming could at times hint that he "of course could write a serious book" or something to the effect. And in my opinion he's certainly proven that. But Fleming simply had set his priorities and literary acclaim always came second to financial gain.
To understand that decision one has to look at Fleming's background. While he came from a rich family he never was of independent means, as most of his fellows at
or Sandhurst. And, on top of that, the wealth was not old money but earned by his grandfather (who apparently had to graft and slog away like most of us mortal humans do every day). Fleming was a member of the nouveau riche, and that class could be ten times the snobs the old money and aristocracy they aspire to be ever were. Yet he had to depend finacially on the goodwill of his mother, who refused to marry again (which would have given the Fleming boys their share of the family funds) and, ironically was known as "Em" to the boys.
Fleming's first M figure: a mother! Now I wonder, what do people complaining about Dench's mother figure in the films make of that?
Fleming's mother was a demanding and domineering character and he never could quite live up to her expectations, to the example of the successful older brother or to the WWI superhero father. While far from ever having to turn every penny, it's perhaps justifiable to suspect Fleming wasn't exactly a happy character in his younger days, constantly competing with larger-than-life adversaries. Adversaries he couldn't beat, not for the life of him; not even overcome in his later days. The groundwork for Fleming's passions, that would become Bond's one day, was laid in the childhood and youth of a talented but unhappy youth.
I think it's fair to say Fleming would have wholeheartedly agreed with the words of one of his characters. Not Bond's. Not M's either, or any of Bond's allies or few friends. I think of Hugo Drax, that Nazi who regarded the war as "Those were the great days...". For Fleming it sure was true, for he had found a place and an opportunity to make a difference. He was at a post that allowed him enormous insights and called for his talents where imagination and fantasy were required. It was maybe for the first time he was cut loose from the ties his mother represented and he wasn't merely a scallywag waiting for the next cheque from his family. His journalist days already had given him a whiff of what it could mean to stand on his own, but that was of course no occupation for a member of the Fleming family. This time he was concerned with the destiny of millions, in and out of Britain, and nobody could call his duty a folly or not fitting for his family. Ironic, given it was probably very much intended as a means to get a somewhat black sheep a post at base to keep him away from the front.
Bond, and all that came with Bond, was very much a way for Fleming to digest all of this. Not just his war time memories, or the numerous operations that came to his desk from all sides. It worked also as a therapy for the other themes in Fleming's life (as maybe writing does for most of us, in some form or other).
Fleming has found a way to use all this and entertain other with it. Entertain them so much they paid him money to get more of it. Yes, Fleming could have written some epitome of the post-war English literature of the mid-20th century. And I believe he knew that he could have. But he chose to write thrillers, and for all he or anybody of his contemporaries knew, they'd be forgotten since 1985 or so. He never knew his work would stay with us for so long.
And, more importantly here, he didn't care.
And, of course, just knocking out a thriller that might sell to Bond fans because of the latent appeal of its content permits the literary inadequacies of Benson and Faulks. I do not.
Most thrillers are knocked out to sell them to Bond fans. Not Bond fans as such, mind you. But a Bond fan usually happens to be also a thriller fan in general. So there is a fair chance that among thriller readers you will find a vast majority of Bond fans (casual, fairly-well and fanatic, and all sorts in-between). Inadequacies is indeed a concern. But, as in all businesses, there are some catering for different sectors of the market. Quality is only an issue in relation to competition, businesswise. But it can only ever come from the writer, and only if the market appreciates it. The publisher will sell the thing regardless.
2 I don't think Gardner's Bond would ever say to May, "Bugger it, fetch in the drinks tray" after someone tried kill him in TB. Fleming's Bond used booze, in differing degrees, as a calming compensation. Gardner's did not; it might have impaired his health.
I would be quite happy for X Bond in CARTE BLANCH NOT to smoke, like you.
Oh, Bond did have his Lagavulin in LR, if memory serves (picking up another of the often overlooked details of Bond's world, the "when in rome"-rule). We probably both know why Gardner didn't go into greater detail with Bond's alcohol intake in the books.
But Bond used to smoke in his bed, staring at the ceiling and pondering events past and present. I must say, while it wasn't mentioned as such in Fleming's books, to me this seems to be an incredibly "Bond" thing to do. It's very in character I think.
3. I don't mind change. The progression made by Bond through Flemings canon, even Gardner's brief but abandoned attempt to age him.
Do you happen to know Travis McGee? That's a character who works a different sector of the thriller range, yet he is quite detailed and, for want of a better expression, as conchise as Bond. He was around for 20 years and he did age, although not in real time. But that is why his Korea war experieces became his Vietnam war experiences. And probably would have become his Lebanon/Panama/1st Iraq/2nd Iraq war experiences, had he been around much longer.
But I need to see he started off as the character Fleming created, not just a man called James Bond. Or Nick Stone
In my opinion Fleming created a number of Bonds. Or one Bond flexible enough to incorporate a number of facettes that usually would be found in different characters. Yes, of course his creation is a child of its time. But it could as well be a child of our time. In my view, if I deny this I'd deny Bond any place in our time. Not just a re-invented or re-booted or re-styled Bond, but Bond altogether, period.
Edited by Dustin, 31 March 2011 - 03:50 PM.