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Thursday, 24 February 2011

THE COMPLETE LITERARY 007 - THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN 1965

Ian Fleming, arguably the greatest pure-thriller writer the UK has ever produced, was dead. His creation James Bond had been left amnesic and floundering in Russia, and with the film series based on the books having gone crazy after the previous year's Goldfinger, he public were screaming for more James Bond.

There was still one more Bond novel to go but the problem was Fleming had left it unfinished when he passed away. The book was apparently mostly complete but had not been revised and polished to Fleming's high standards. The executors brought in a ghost writer (still rumoured to have been Kingsley Amis) to finish the book and it was eventually published in 1965.

Because of this the novel is generally considered Fleming's weakest - I'm not so sure of that though. Each time I've read it I've become engrossed in the story and although it's not as detailed as some of the books, I think that on time it makes the story move faster. I've always thought of this book as the most pulpish in style of all Fleming's books, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

There are several high points in the novel - Bond's attempted assassination of M for one thing. And of course it does tie up all the plot points left open after the previous novel. By the end of the book, Bond seems to be his old self again.

"James Bond,in the full possession of his senses, with his eyes wide open, his feet flat on the linoleum floor, stuck his head blithely between the mink-lined jaws of the trap. He said, and meant it, 'You're an Angel,'

At the same time he knew deep down that love from Mary Goodnight, or from any other woman, was not enough for him. It would be like taking 'a room with a view'. For James Bond, the same view would always pall."

Fleming went all out for boy's own style action, adventure with this book - in one section he has Mary Goodnight tied, virtually naked, to a railway track. There is a chilling moment when Scaramanga, Fleming giving another nod to his childhood favourite Dr Fu Manchu with this character, announces to everyone on the train that the woman up ahead is Mary Goodnight.

Good, bad or indifferent - make of this book what you will. I, myself, am of the opinion that it is a damn good thriller and whilst not the best of the series, I do not think it is the worse. In fact there's not a truly bad book in the entire series, and I'd take Man with the Golden Gun over any of the short stories Fleming wrote about Bond.

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