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The 007th Chapter: Goldfinger

Thoughts in a DB III

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#1 Jim


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Posted 29 April 2014 - 04:43 AM

 Why write?


To make money? Presumably. Not all do. Fewer should. Colossal drivel out there. In here, too, although you get this for free. Like roadkill, or the ‘flu.


To influence? Goldfinger was my first exposure to anything Bond. Made me the creature I am today. I blame Ian Fleming rather than take any individual responsibility.


To better the world with the outflow of their creativity and express the innermostest innermost of their tortured, yearning souls? Arguable, albeit pretentiously.


To annoy, and have a right old go at people they don’t like so narrative credibility can go boil its bum in Bovril? On the evidence of this novel, undeniable. Insofar as applying to these pieces too, see “influence”, above.


The 007th Chapter of the 007th book. If one believes weirdo Black Magic demented claptrap, this “lucky number seven” stuff promises good fortune. It’s no more weird, blackly magical nor demented as claptrap than the belief that spits diametrically opposed propositions about a man marrying another man (a heinous obscenity) and a man marrying his own rib (obviously totally unmental and the basis of a secure family unit). Should you choose to be offended by that, you’ve probably come to the right place, and definitely so if you:

  • are Korean and/or
  • smell of “zoo” and/or
  • drive slowly, be it in either/both the motoring or golfing context and/or
  • are Mexican and/or
  • are teetotal and/or
  • are a pansified Italian and/or
  • are around five foot tall and/or
  • are euphemistically probably Jewish despite unconvincing protestations to the contrary and/or
  • are fat and/or
  • are Chinese and/or
  • are wealthy and/or
  • [… is there anyone interesting left? If you’ve been playing along with “and” rather than “or”, we definitely need to meet; you sound scrumptious]

That’s only the first few chapters, and before we’re dipped in chocolate and thrown to the lesbians. On and on this (relatively) long novel goes, with practically everyone who ever lived getting a kick in the Penfolds. Few escape without (at least) a sideways barb, Fleming injecting into the book all the bitterness of his colossally difficult struggle, that “wealthy layabout elitist journalist drinks his private income and exploits well-connected wife’s literary contacts so he can afford to pretend that all he’s interested in is tropical fish rather than the vulgarity of being seen to try” specie of colossally difficult struggle. Long, stony road from underprivilege, that. With, let’s be kind, rampagingly feeble plotting and extensive pastoral interludes extolling the latest enthusiasm, be it bullion-smuggling, golf, curable lesbians or exuberant xenophobia, it’s the grumpiest of the books, in many ways unappealing misanthropy, and needing a good shave. I know I bang on unedited, but, y’know, influence.


In much the same way as (say) Die Another Day might be a good “James Bond film” because it contains the usual things but is a disastrous “film” when stacked up against anything outside the series, with its slothful pace, threadbare non-plot and appalling attitudes, Goldfinger is a ghastly novel when compared beyond its own kind, in which company it arguably polishes up reasonably well. It definitely has all the requisites exemplified in the 007th Chapters so far, and a few more that go towards building a Fleming Bond archetype:

  • Attitudes promulgated to provoke
  • High-living (with associated disdain), rich food (with associated disgust)and carrrdds (with associated… um… excitement, possibly, I dunno)
  • Foreigner-baiting, “exaggeration of an attitude that couldn’t possibly be held and is therefore a joke” beginning to wane as an excuse for unrepentant, attention-seeking racism
  • British Establishment snobbery (not wholly disconnected from the above)
  • Fewer bursts than one might expect of savage action interrupting lengthy digressions on “stuff”
  • A none-too-disciplined attitude towards having it convince; just rumbling towards the bits that interested the writer, and glossing over the rest with a practised aloofness
  • A nice drawing
  • Women! Know your place. Basically, a victim of childhood abuse who ends up dead, submissive or cured, or a combination of these
  • Ridiculous female names. Vesper. Solitaire. Gala. Tiffany Case. Romanova (given its context, it seems absurd). Pussy Galore. Jill.
  • Physical freaks roundly sneerbullied by a schoolboy athlete
  • American gangster clichés
  • The prospect of 007’s genitals accruing significant damage
  • Bond’s contemplation of his job, his income and disillusion with both
  • Hey everyone! It's they United States! They have food
  • Slightly half-hearted, at-a-distance-and-can’t-really-be-bothered dipping of the toe into the waters of tradecraft, in this instance with the Identicraft and the Homer, in comparison to ages spent eating crabs, being lectured to about gold and roughly forty pages setting up and playing golf
  • Nihilistic fatalism – the first chapter with its conclusion that everyone dies anyway is tremendously bleak
  • Structure games – the Happenstance etc… is funny, and Bond being held captive for so long is a departure from an adventure norm, where the hero fights his way out within seconds
  • Product-placement. Relentless product placement
  • Gentleman’s sports described at length, at which the cheat is himself cheated
  • Name-checking one’s acquaintances, in this case the likes of Blackwell, Blackwell’s cousin’s husband Mr Goldfinger, Raymond Chandler and Alfred Blacking/Whiting. How droll
  • Bond relying on total fluke such as hiding the message in the ‘plane’s loo and Goldfinger’s baffling decision not to butcher him into cutlets but instead recruit him as a P.A following a distinctly homoerotic interview process requiring an oiled-up half-naked mute bodybuilder masseur and buzzsaw-up-the-fudgegun. Fifty Shades of Gold
  • James Bond being passive and clumsy. Fancy getting yourself caught like that
  • Returning characters (Du Pont, the Spangled Mob and a questionable Felix Leiter cameo seemingly for the hell of it)
  • The savagery of the animal kingdom; the patently subhuman zoological specimen of Oddjob being fed a cat being a “highlight”
  • Substantial sexual deviancy, in multiple manifestations
  • Ham sandwiches with plenty of mustard (not wholly disconnected from the above, if in the right mood)
  • Knocking around Kent and the posh bits of London
  • The pesky Russians exploiting a hangover from World War II
  • Bond investigating X – Major Tallon’s murder, Strangways’ murder, gold smuggling – turning into exposing a lunatic masterplan with dubious scientific veracity but probably terribly exciting nonetheless
  • ‘Planes, trains and automobiles, the latter driven thuggishly.


I’m happy to assert this list as keystone Fleming Bond, despite risking meaning the 007th Chapter exercise is done. Oh, cheer not: there may yet be attributes to ascertain, but that run-through brings all the previous books into this one whole. On the one hand, that makes Goldfinger a dream Bond book – it’s got everything. Trouble is, that renders it as bloated as its eponymous villain. If written by someone else, it would be lampoon, tipping the individual ridiculous attributes into excess. Emanating from the original author, it’s hard to avoid the smell and smoke and sweat of indulged self-parody, one that was bound to sell and no-one had the guts – or the financial desire – to tell him to simmer it down a nadge. This is as far as it could go and the strain shows, I fear, particularly in narrative credibility. The traditional legerdemain of papering over lacunae with extensive description of peripheral incident (e.g. golf) now looks diversionary and idle rather than daffy and charming.  


Whilst books and short stories yet to come may take one or more of these elements further, I’m pretty confident nothing left to come includes them all to the extent that this does. Just as with GoldenEye and Die Another Day it’s a Greatest Hits package to keep the fans immediately sated but once the superficial thrill of first encounter dissipates, we’re left wondering whether it hasn’t cheated us by emitting little that was fresh. Fortunately, the remaining Flemings don’t go down this route but, despite the books from 1960 to the end containing much of interest and novelty, a fondness for short stories and borrowing other people’s work may suggest that the excess and overkill of Goldfinger exhausted (or bored) him. The film version is readily – if lazily – seen as the Bond archetype, a model for the films that followed (for good or ill); the book, conversely, exemplifies written Bond of the 1950s but query whether it was too rich a feast of the stale.


If, as happened to me, this was the first one you read, eminently possible due to a famous title, you might – as also happened to me, initially – consider other Flemings lesser because they didn’t include all “the stuff”. A similar phenomenon is observable with folks for whom their first Bond film was that merciless slog of reheated guff GoldenEye, when required to contemplate (say) The Living Daylights or Quantum of Solace. Without wanting to provoke an argument about the films, insofar as the books went I was mistaken. Because it has everything, Goldfinger is the weaker for it, leaking at the seals. Appealing characters, some (albeit not much) suspense but a directionless, complacent amble through overblown crowd-pleasing. When that happens with the films, people demand “they now need to make a For Your Eyes Only”.


Good idea.




The 007th Chapter – Goldfinger: Thoughts in a DB III


Hanging around the Bank of England, Bond espies five-pound notes being unloaded, probably something Fleming observed in his research but no-one advised him that he didn’t have to tell us about it. The perception that there was no-one prepared to tell him when to stop pervades this novel, overstuffed yet underwhelming. The problem is that everything has to have an opinion attached to it now. Give us a break, man. Give us a plot, come to think of it. It all comes to a halt far too often so that Ian can tell us what he thinks about X, about Y, about Z. I recall being at a family wedding, listening to a decrepit aunt bang on acidly about everything anyone else mentioned, until it got to the point where I had to ask her whether there was anything or anyone she did like, as it would be so much swifter for the rest of us. The monologue dried up as much as she was.


Gleefully embracing Old Fartdom, Bond steadfastly dismisses progress and whines about the notes’ redesign, moaning that “They look like any other country’s money”, which doesn’t quell the impression of his sinister pig-ignorant cultural insularity. What about those new 5 pence pieces? Eee, just like buttons. So fiddly and me fingers are all arthritic. Never know what the money is, these days. I blame that Europe. Man at bingo – Noel, you know Noel, slightly slitty-eyed and one of them, you know, those (sotto voce) ho-mo-sex-u-als, I’ve nothing against them, me, but I wouldn’t trust one with me cushions – anyway, he told me that Europe wants to ban clothespegs, gravel and shelves. Who won the War, then? Flamin’ liberty, it really is.


Colonel Smithers’ revelation that the changes were due to Reichsbank forgeries doesn’t dampen authorial enthusiasm for blaming The Hun for everything wrong with the World today. See – told you. Europe. They drive on the wrong side and can’t speak English proper. Now the currency plates are in the hands of the Russians, so it’s the usual Russo-German conspiracy again. Can’t trust ‘em. No, it’s not that I’m one of them racialists – I love curry, once had one of them paellas (didn’t like it) and I live in a cul-de-sac, can’t get much more unracist than that – but they’re all wrong ‘uns, mark my words. Open up one of them Russian dolls and they’re full of grenades. That’s how they smuggle them in, along with their unemployed come to take our jobs; my friend Noel told me that, in that way those people have. Now, I’m not against that lot – such nice teeth – but it’s such a shame. I know the type well. Not being funny, like, but they’re a direct consequence of giving votes to women and ‘sex equality’. Pansies of both sexes are everywhere… herd of unhappy sexual misfits…


…no, sorry, I can’t continue. It’s making me sweat, coldly. Mr Fleming, to paraphrase Bond’s attitude – I’m sorry for your views, but I have no time for them. I accept that the observations on homosexuality aren’t in the chapter under scrutiny, but the slope down to that Hell is well paved by the reactionary attitude to the currency. Not that the one immediately leads to the other, but there’s a consistency of peevish sourness. Is this Bond man fit to be a hero? The hard, detached, colder – perhaps more sketchy - Bond of earlier books seems to develop into an embittered bigot the more the author reveals of him. Is there a feasible counter-argument that Fleming is making Bond so unlikeable here – in this 007th Chapter, he doesn’t come across well, either – to challenge our idolising him? Fleming so tired of the man he wants to destroy him? Look at the Bs and Cs – I make Bond vile, and they still buy it. Will no-one rid me of this turbulent Bond? Heroes and villains all mixed up, etc etc etc. I’m not sure that washes, this time. Can’t convince myself that this is anything other than the author seeping through the page, the golf club drunken bore, so sure of a captive audience because he’s written another bestseller, abusing the platform and freedom that success brought him by delivering tired anecdotes, minor embellishments but at heart the same old thing and, via the medium of casual splenetic prejudice, venomously berating women, foreigners and – bloody hell – “pansies”. Oh, you mustn’t mind Ian; it’s just his little way. The schoolyard victimisation may explain why this appealed to an eleven-year-old me. It’s not a children’s book, but it is a childish one. Reading it now, one wonders why the Flemings have a reputation as more “adult” than the films; uncomfortably ill-informed tirades such as this expose them as pitifully juvenile.


On the basis few escape his wrath, Fleming is an equal-opportunities extremist, but this stuff about gender equality leading to homosexuality is so ignorant it’s disappointing for a well-travelled, well-educated man to express it. You catch Gay by giving women the vote. Riiigght. It’s not that he has to like it, of course he doesn’t, but the dislike could be based on something that isn’t ludicrous. Much like the spare rib thing. If this is the best justification his prejudice can hide behind… Surprised he doesn’t blame the Germans; missed opportunity. This isn’t the amused anthropological raconteur wandering around Harlem or Las Vegas or the Caribbean reef, telling us tall tales of the indigenous populace: it’s straight (pun… intended?) contempt with a foundation in utter rubbish. It might, of course, be no more than a provocative joke; given the absurdity it’s difficult to credit that anyone really believed this. Socially, Fleming welcomed homosexuals into his intimate circle, so it could just be a baity (albeit spectacularly mean-spirited) wind-up. How gaily we laughed. Oh Ian, you are a card. Bond’s frequent liaisons with women sporting boyish posteriors, and the creation of Felix Leiter as occasional recreational unrequited bi candy for him, renders such views open to allegations of protesteth too much, denial. It also makes James Bond look really thick, objectionably so. Ah well, impossible fictional character thinks equally impossible fictional thoughts; not sure why I take offence, but there’s a tarnish to Bond now that undermines his appeal and makes him not just a darker character but an actively unpleasant one. Can’t change it, and perhaps it has antiquity on its side as a document of its time, that time being The Time of the Stupid Embarrassing Gits.


Interesting depiction of M as looking a bit beaten around. Chapter 5,“Night Duty”, pulled few punches in suggesting that the service was shabby and the work frustrating, even raising the prospect of shutting down the Double-O section and, as with the previous book, it’s of interest to note the increasing office politics, pressures on M and the involvement of the SIS staff in the stories. There’s some payoff to this; M’s anxieties of For Your Eyes Only or his protective attitudes of You Only Live Twice and The Man with the Golden Gun – in the teeth of actions by Bond justifiably deserving the opposite – would ring hollow had the character not been built up in preceding books. Bit of a worry that he’s a member of a club that in its time has harboured at least two supervillains and the head of the British Secret Service; whiff of scandal about that.


“Germans didn’t have much gold after the war.” This is because Major Dexter-Smythe nicked it. “Look where they’ve got in ten years.” Yes, the Germans again. They haven’t been mentioned for at least three paragraphs. Let. It. Go. “Bond said thoughtfully, ‘I wouldn’t get anywhere sucking up to him…’ “. Blimey, even Bond’s on the turn. Emmeline Pankhurst, I blame you.  “I wouldn’t think he’s an easy man to fool.” Of Goldfinger. Of the man who hires you, and the sister of a girl he murdered, as secretaries despite the anorexic cover-story and presumably because there’s no-one else on Earth who can type and hand round drinks although, fair’s fair, neither are within the barely-housetrained Oddjob’s skillset. Of the man who doesn’t check you out with SMERSH until after you’ve foiled his plan instead of immediately upon being humiliated in Miami. Of the man who thinks he can physically steal beeeelions of bulllllion when, despite such lengthy pains to try to convince his gang (and us) that it can be done in time, it simply can’t. Of the man someone sharp saw coming a mile off when they sold him a (ahem) fallout-free “clean” atomic bomb that he can keep in “a carton”. No, Jimbles, he’s a total clown. This one’s going to be easy, so you can afford to spend ages of pages trying his – and our - patience. “D’you know, 007, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Goldfinger doesn’t turn out to be the foreign banker, the treasurer so to speak, of SMERSH.” No, well we wouldn’t either. Be more surprising if he wasn’t. Get on with it, then.


Sorry, no more story until we get through this traffic jam. Bond, driving like an idiot, all racing-changes mashing the gearbox, hits the “inevitable traffic crawl through Rochester”. Odd for a cash-strapped M to be whining about wasted resource in Bond playing golf and yet have a motor pool brimful of Jags and Aston Martins. One aspect this 007th Chapter gives us is the seed of iconography by putting Bond in a begadgeted Aston and it’s curious that the film versions have never gone for the lights that change colours to foil or assist night-time pursuit, which seem far more practical than a limited number of revolving licence-plates: what good are those, anyway? It’s still a highly conspicuous car and the steering wheel remains on the correct British side. Doubtless something this expensive and flashy does suit the cover of “a well to-do, rather adventurous young (?) man with a taste for the good, the fast things of life”, a label-fetishist who enjoys his golf, is under-par intellectually, hurls a specced-up Aston Martin around in a viciously irresponsible way and will in due course drink Rose d’Anjou by the pint. James Bond: Premiership footballer. A twerpish lout, displaying appalling manners in jumping the queue and shaking his fist at the slower, careful driver.


What a horrid, horrid man.


Once again, as with Sir Hugo Drax, M has suggested a theory and Bond – because he’s exploitable and thick – has taken it as fact. Goldfinger is in league with the Russians, and that’s that. British Intelligence, eh? British Guessing, “more like”. ‘Mazingly, turns out to be true, and that’s kind, taking pity on the poor reader otherwise the lengthy, practically baseless speculation about how Goldfinger must operate and what he gains by his involvement with the Soviets would have been more redundant filler. “The Russians were notoriously incompetent payers of their men.” Oh, be nice for once in your life, yeah? “Goldfinger was not making the money for himself. He was making it for the conquest of the world!” Calm down, love. It’ll only fuel your road rage further. Anyway, when financial collapses come, it’s invariably via incompetence rather than masterplans. Granted, sitting around waiting for banks to throw money at sub-prime scruffbags over several years doesn’t make a thriller, but then neither does this dawdling through the estuaryside of Kent. Come onnnnnnn….


A consistent theme of the books appears in the contemplation of Goldfinger’s vanity, etching the “Z” into the gold bars, being the start of the villain’s downfall and raising suspicion; a consistent theme of this book is Bond’s summation of Colonel Smithers as “a dull dog”; how rude.  Horribly ungrateful guest. Man even let you smoke his cigarette, but you’d probably only blame Emily Davison for that. “[T]he cheap bungaloid world of the holiday lands…” Look, mate, not everyone can afford your international jet-set lifestyle. Why bother protecting these places if you think so little of them?


“And here was Bond, launched against this man by a series of flukes…” You don’t say. Similar to the previous 007th Chapter, a creeping self-awareness is idling across the lawn. Does the author admitting that it’s all unlikely deflate the critic all-too-ready to accuse the same, future-proofing the tale against wastrels like me picking it apart? Don’t bore me in telling me it’s rubbish because I’ve already told you. Calm down. Cigarette? Pint of wine? The expression that comes to mind is that one about eating cake and yet still having it. “How often in his profession had it been the same – the tiny acorn of coincidence that soared into the mighty oak whose branches darkened the sky.” Requisite – and reassuringly florid – natural imagery aside, the real question is “how often in this series?”, with a follow-up of “how much longer can he get away with it?”. Proposed answer is – thus far, and no further. It’s readily apparent that Bond hasn’t even checked that Goldfinger is actually available to play golf; he’s just leapt into his battleship-grey penis metaphor and relied on coincidence turning up trumps once again and – how utterly amazing – it does. The book’s out of control. Still, I suppose its reliance on coincidence only goes to emphasise how loyal to Fleming Skyfall’s series of impossible events is. Watch that observation stretch until it snaps.


Seem to recall that later it’s suggested that the “sky-blue Ford Popular with large yellow ears (eh?)” currently legitimately pootling along, is driven by Oddjob. Just as well Bond doesn’t know there’s a Korean at the wheel, otherwise he would have force it into a hedge, shoot it up with the Colt .45 from the “trick compartment” under his seat and then, I dunno, wee on it. As it stands, his behaviour is already reprehensible, despite the oxymoronic – or just moronic - “polite jabs” on the horn. “The Ford Popular was doing its forty. Why should anyone want to go more than that respectable speed?” Why indeed? Pussy-chewer he may be, but at least Oddjob’s a courteous driver, unlike Bond, swerving about, blasting the horn and trying to muscle the Ford aside. You’re not going to get there any quicker, y’know.  It’s only golf. Look at me in the big flash car. Ooh, get her. “He changed down and contemptuously slammed the DB III past on the inside. Silly bastard!” True.


More redundant sightseeing – and wartime-hangover with the Super Sabres coming in to land – and finally Bond resolves “No hanging about”, a decision way overdue. My Fahey 2002 editions maintain their quality control in telling me “Be took the next right-hand turn…” although given the loutish swerving, it’s remarkable that the typing’s been otherwise accurate. Nice – if timewasting – detail about Bond’s accommodation and lunch noted, he “drove slowly over to the Royal St Marks at Sandwich”, pretty unlikely unless there were no other vehicles to bully. One wonders why he was hurrying earlier, unless he had an uncontrollable craving for a delicious ham sandwich. What an eccentric person.


“Why, if it isn’t Mr James!” Ah, the noble cringing deference of the grip-winding classes, those cheery below-stairs serving folk whose wives have no forenames and call their offspring Cecil. “There had been a time in his teens when he had played two rounds a day every day of the week at St Marks.” Sounds expensive, that, and questionable whether the Higsons covered this; seemed to be more about fighting alligators and mad scientists than 36 holes daily of sticky-ball-hit. Equally questionable is Blacking’s desire to have “always wanted to take him in hand”. Blimey, they’re everywhere. You be careful, young Bond, especially if he offers to regrip your Mashie Niblick.


Bond’s handicap – other than being a boorish drunken prejudiced roadhog thug – is discussed in detail, although for those wanting more insight into 007’s lifestyle will doubtless be cheered; I just want him to start killing more than time.  Unclear what the implication is in relation to these “tough, cheery men” plying Bond with booze after a round at Huntercombe or wherever, although as the drinks are double kummels it’s doubtless only to compliment him on his balls, discuss holes they’ve known, perhaps set up a threesome for next time out, query the flexibility of his shaft and finally pump him for information about his strokeplay and follow-through. A direct consequence of giving votes to women. At least Bond’s safe here: the real Royal St Georges only permits entry to male members. As t’were.


“Who’s this chap you’re playing with?” (fnarr) “A Mr Goldfinger, sir.” Well, there’s a coincidence. In da hole! What a birdie! Touchdown! (Is this right?) Etc. Goldfinger’s also a nine handicap: will the flukes never stop? Better not, otherwise the story ends.  “Alfred obviously found it difficult to believe that anyone knew Mr Goldfinger.” Bless his simple unsophisticated servile ways. The bits and pieces about Goldfinger improving his lie provide local colour but by now we’re expecting him to be a cheat – it’s practically all we know of the man for certain, Bond’s speculating aside - so how is this news? “He might think I’d been trying to keep him to myself, or something.” OK, just pretend that’s a tee in your pocket rather than your being pleased to see him. Women voting, eh? Who knows what Bond would have made of Margaret Thatcher, other than as the ultimate sorry outcome of gay liberation? The only person on Earth who would, I’d wager.


Bond and his chum have a chat about getting fresh wood, and we scuttle from this sordid episode to watch the Silver Ghost – subject in due course to a tragic dismemberment in the service of an appalling but inevitable pun – rumble along the drive and, in the time it takes to roll half a mile, Fleming seizes the opportunity to indulge in gleeful car porn, making the Rolls sound wonderful and casting doubt on 007’s judgment of Goldfinger: surely anyone driven about in a behemoth quite so magisterial isn’t going to be abundantly impressed by Bond’s flashy nouveau gitmobile? “It was almost as if they were driving a hearse”.  Subtle. It’s not as if Fleming’s not trying to represent Goldfinger as a deadly threat, but it’s all talk. He starts and then remains flatly detached, aloof and unthreatening throughout and although it’s in the text that he’s a laid-back kinda guy, bored even, it only serves the book’s absence of urgency and menace. There are tense passages – Oddjob features in all of them – but like the villain, the book’s flab hinders its energy.


We leave 007 manhandling a putter and it’s just as well that the chapter ends because doubtless he was about to attack Alfred with it, for having the temerity to have the word “black” in his name. Never mind women members, we’re definitely not allowing one of those in here.


One can see why some folk might not take to all that is “James Bond”, were this book their first (perhaps, only) exposure. It’s not a comfortable read, more careless than carefree and, for those lured in by the lighthearted films, it strikes an embittered tone . Not so much a thundering spy epic as a thin slice of mechanical recovered meat served as a gourmet blowout due to (il)liberal lardy dollops of rich pastimes and indigestible prejudices; fatty, soggy and increasingly tasteless, and trying too hard to disguise a lack of inherent quality of product with overdone sauce. What its 007th Chapter positively contributes – the Aston Martin, some insight into Bond’s formative years, more autobiographical amusement (the flatness of Bond's swing doubtless borrowed from his creator) – doesn’t on this occasion outweigh a suspicion that Goldfinger as a whole subtracts more from Bond than it adds. This is a great pity; easily twenty-five years since I last read it, it confirms that one shouldn’t meet one’s heroes. Especially not if he’s driving like a tit.


Apologies if this one was over-opinionated but, as suggested, I was influenced. Corrupted. Hopefully just a phase I’m going through but there’s an all-woman shortlist in this constituency, so who knows?


James Bond will return in the 007th Paragraphs of For Your Eyes Only. Jacques Stewart is pretty sure the collective noun for unhappy sexual misfits isn’t “a herd of”. Suggests “a Cambridge of”, instead.

#2 Simon



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Posted 29 April 2014 - 10:45 AM

I feel almost to be one of the 'disbelieving' while posting this, especially since I was writing and note taking while reading the above and, prior to the apologetic penultimate paragraph. Still, as was mentioned in Biloxi Blues, 'once you start compromising your thoughts, you're a candidate for mediocrity.'  Onwards.


Much has been said in this and perhaps the last essay about whether Bond is the sort of chap you'd be happy to be introduced to as, for sake of argument, your sister's new boyfriend and also, how 'the natives' speak.


Submitting in turn, if the world had wanted a naice hero who allowed old ladies to cross the road and not have an opinionated thought in his body, we would all have disregarded Bond and hailed All Creatures Great and Small as the 20th Century answer to the nuclear deterrent.  Was not a part of the opinionating and their content just that of 1) their time and 2) a hero who occasionally has to get on with killing someone?  Unlikely to find a naice man who also kills.  This would possibly come across as a contradiction in terms from the psychometric tests.


And, while the UK was colonising the world into their view of social niceties at the dinner table and organising the rabbles into business order, I feel Fleming’s writing and thinking was but a beat and a half away from sensibilities that thought the colonising and organising was a just act.  How would Fleming have written today, if around today?


As for whether an author places his opinions in the head of his hero, phonetically mimicking derisively the accents from around the world or county, Jim himself has waded into what one may understand to be his impression of the average intellect of the average internet forum poster, with famous quotes such as, ‘I no wot you should of done, your an idiot’, etc ad infinitum. For my part, taking a shot at someone’s accent is fair game in the world of free speech.  And if practiced, it should certainly be considered fair game across the board, not just at or by selective groups. The fact whether what is written is in print or on a screen should matter not a jot.


Minor thoughts as this was another superb piece.

#3 Major Tallon

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 04:41 PM

I've elsewhere recounted my introduction to James Bond.  My first book was Thunderball, but I promptly read quite a lot of Bond before I saw my first Bond movie.  It was "Goldfinger," an adaptation of one of the books I hadn't yet read.  I loved the movie, so I quickly bought the book, and, whereas I'd greatly enjoyed the others, Goldfinger left me underwhelmed, an opinion that still persists.   


I have a pet theory, you see.  I rather think that Ian Fleming began by enjoying writing the Bond novels.  Despite his statements about never looking back at what he'd written, the manuscripts in the Lilly Library show that not to have been true.  These statements were, I rather think, the upper class Englishman's way of dissociating himself from any suggestion that he really cared very much about this vile commercial enterprise.  The last third of FRWL has been extensively re-written, and the final chapter had a rather superficial "happy" ending.  It was only during the revision process that Fleming seemingly killed Bond off.  I've never read anything that definitively establishes that Fleming toyed with leaving Bond dead on the wine-red floor, but just as some have suggested that Sherlock Holmes was never the same after his return from the Reichenbach, I think that something of the same can be said about Bond following his revival. 


It's not that I criticize everything Fleming wrote after that point.  Indeed, I regard Doctor No as an excellent thriller, but hints of struggle begin to appear in the book.  Fleming set the book in Jamaica, a setting he was comfortable with writing about, but there were undeniable aspects of the fantastic that, when transplanted to other not-so-familiar locales, didn't hold up so well.  Why did Fleming write Goldfinger?  I have no had evidence, but I suspect it was because his publisher expected an annual book, and the public expected an annual book.  Fleming reportedly put a lot of research into the gold depository at Ft. Knox, and, having re-visited the New York, Miami, and Kentucky locales in the last year, the basic geographical details are solid.  But really, Mr. Goldfinger, you plan to get access to the gold in the vaults by exploding an atomic warhead outside it?  Some critics have commented about the plausibility of the plot, but I wonder how Goldfinger planned to carry away a three-inch deep puddle of molten metal of unknown but substantial dimensions.  And I know a bit about the American military's safeguarding of nuclear warheads, and believe me, you just don't borrow one and make off with it.  The book contains a host of other impossibilities, but these were enough for me.  These key elements of Goldfinger's plan were just nonsense.


After Goldfinger, Fleming's struggles continued.  Instead of an original novel, the following year saw a compilation of short stories adapted from Fleming's ideas for a television show, then the novelized version of Thunderball, and then the attempt at a story related by a female narrator in TSWLM.  Not to be understood, I think the writing of these books, including the latter, was quite good, but it's quite possible to see Fleming winding down, or, as he called it "running out of puff."  OHMSS was considerably better (indeed, it's my favorite book), and YOLT and TMWTGG, though flawed, had some fine moments.  Yet it's Goldfinger where, in my view, Fleming began to struggle, and, in my view anyway, the effort shows.

#4 Jim


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Posted 30 April 2014 - 06:28 AM

Can't readily disagree with either of the views offered. Insofar as it being unrealistic to expect a nice chap to do all these horrid things, won't dispute it - but there's something about the Goldfinger Bond that comes across as sour and unappealing, to me anyway. Fortunately that's not true of the whole of the series. Tend to agree that we've hit a corridor of uncertainty for the Bonds, this run of four books starting with Goldfinger potentially demonstrating an undecided mind in where it all goes next. Potentially.

#5 Matt_13



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Posted 30 April 2014 - 10:58 PM

Goldfinger was my first Bond novel, too. Excellent piece Jim. It's becoming increasingly apparent that it's probably for the best that I haven't read Fleming for quite some time.  On a somewhat related note, in recent years my opinion of the Bond character in both film and in print has been gradually shifting. The borderline (okay, overt) idolatry has ebbed, and in its place is a sense that there is very little about Bond as a fictitious person to comfortably admire. Yes, his athleticism, resourcefulness and cool demeanor continue to appeal to me, as does his wardrobe. That being said, his seemingly pathological self destructiveness, coupled with what appears to be a relatively narrow world view and a chilling facility to efficiently take the lives of his adversaries (encounters which, to his credit, appear to be intermittently punctuated with pangs of guilt emanating from the peripheral violence his actions unleash), have removed the rose tinted lenses through which I've observed him since my childhood, and rendered him in my mind as the definitive anti-hero, as opposed to the definitive hero. I suppose that was the intention all along, though, wasn't it? I guess I'm just a little slow in getting it. All the same, I'm still excited to bits about the prospect of more adventures. After all, the very reasons that make him unappealing also make him all the more entertaining. Looking forward to the next installment, Jim. Thanks again for these.

#6 freemo


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Posted 07 June 2014 - 03:59 AM

This might be why I've always prefered Goldfinger in small doses - just the opening, or just the golf game, or just the conversation about gold (the book's happiest passage) - than as a whole.


In, say, Casino Royale, the flashes of demented prejudice thought tend to occur when Bond is annoyed or frustrated or put out, or when distaster has just struck (i.e. "Bloody women!" right after Vesper gets herself kidnapped), while in Goldfinger it's all more a permanent state of grumpiness, usually more or less unprovoked by the targets (e.g "Bond mistrusted short people" comes before the short person presented has actually even done anything to him. He exists, that's enough). Also there's not (from memory) the "hard man easily tipped into sentiment" element that there is in Casino Royale. In Casino Royale, a paragraph that begins "Stupid bitch!" is just as likely to end "Poor wretch", while in Goldfinger Bond's summation of "pansies" ends with "Bond felt sorry for them, but he had no time for them". Um, okay.


But I read the book again recently and I still dig it. Always got the impression that this was ILF's "oh, sod it" or "stock" book. i.e. "I've tried to be poetic, I've tried to be litereary. From now on I'm just doing this" and he just wrote about whatever the hell he felt like writing about that year - some golf, some canasta, a bit about gold, some bleak stuff at the beginning and after Bond learns of Jill Masterton's death, etc. Fine by me. But the "Bond vs. Grotesque, multi-raced, mongrel, Russian-backed, new-money freak (with bad table manners to boot)" premise had probably run it's course by now (as Jim says at one point in this, "thus far, and no further") and after this it was time for a rethink.

#7 Dustin



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Posted 07 August 2014 - 12:30 PM

Now on the CBn main page: http://commanderbond...in-a-dbiii.html

#8 glidrose


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Posted 08 August 2014 - 08:48 PM

I still think it's one of Fleming's best novels.