Tour De Bond Revisited: 007 Reloaded

Long-time readers will recall that in 2010, I did a series of entries on this blog called the Tour de Bond, where I examined each of Ian Fleming’s James Bond Novels in publication order. I thought I’d give a brief return to that series today, since AudioGo, the home of BBC Audiobooks, has a new series of James Bond audios under the title “007 Reloaded.” The unabridged audiobooks, available for download or on CD, are read by some truly stellar performers. Samples of each are available below.

Unfortunately, for fans outside of the UK, these samples will have to suffice, because AudioGo has only made these available for purchase in the UK — even the downloadable versions are region-locked, which is frankly ridiculous in this day and age. Rather than making it simple and legal for non-UK fans to give them money, they’ve instead guaranteed that these audiobooks will be ripped and torrented and distributed for free worldwide.

…and that’s a shame. We want to give you our money, AudioGo. Let us do it.

Casino Royale, read by Downton Abbey‘s Dan Stevens:
Live and Let Die read by Rory Kinnear:
Moonraker read by Bill Nighy:
Diamonds are Forever read by Homeland star Damian Lewis:
From Russia With Love read by Toby Stephens (the villain from Die Another Day, who also portrays Bond in the BBC Radio adaptations)
Doctor No read by Hugh Quarshie (probably best known here in the US as Captain Panaka in The Phantom Menace)
Goldfinger, read by Downton Abbey‘s Hugh Bonneville:
Thunderball read by Lucius Malfoy himself, Jason Isaacs:
The Spy Who Loved Me read by Rosamund Pike (Miranda Frost in Die Another Day):
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ready by David Tennant:
You Only Live Twice read by Martin Jarvis
The Man With the Golden Gun read by Kenneth Branagh:

Tour de Bond: Octopussy & The Living Daylights (1966), and Post-Fleming

The last official release of the Bond canon was released posthumously in 1966. Originally a short story collection featuring only the two titled stories (which had been originally published in Playboy and Argosy magazines), later expanded in 1967 to include “Property of a Lady” (written for The Ivory Hammer, the annual publication of Sotheby’s Auction House), and then again in 2002 to include “007 in New York” (which had appeared in the NY Herald Tribune in 1963). Readers interested in a one-stop shop for all Bond short stories should check out the movie-tie-in release Quantum of Solace, which combines this book with the earlier For Eyes Only, to feature all of Flemings short stories in one book.
Continue reading “Tour de Bond: Octopussy & The Living Daylights (1966), and Post-Fleming”

Tour de Bond: The Man With the Golden Gun (1965)

The Man With the Golden Gun was published posthumously — and there is some controversy regarding whether or not it was partially ghost-written from an incomplete manuscript, either by Fleming’s editor, William Plomer, or by Kingsley Amis (who would go on to write Colonel Sun, the first post-Fleming Bond novel under the abortive house name of “Robert Markham” in 1968 — a great book, by the way, and a real shame that the line wasn’t continued). Personally, I’m of the opinion that it is a Fleming novel, albeit not one polished to his usual standards — which may have been a factor of his sudden death, or, more likely, his stated dissatisfaction with continuing the series.

The plot features Bond showing up in London after a year missing, and immediately attempting to assassinate M. It is revealed that he travelled to Russia from his amnesiac life as a Japanese fisherman, where he was brainwashed by the KGB. A bit of unsatisfying handwavery leads to him being “unbrainwashed”, and, to prove himself again, he is sent by M to Jamaica to kill a Cuban hitman — Francisco Scaramanga, known as “The Man With The Golden Gun” for his signature weapon: a gold-plated .45 revolver.

Interestingly, the whole thing is a bit of a come-down after the world-threatening plots of the past. The tone and scope of the novel are far grittier (maybe one might even go so far as to use the term “realistic”, for certain values of the word) and sordid. The main villain is little more than a thug, and Bond a tool of his government tasked with removing him. Of course, there is more than meets the eye — a simple assassination job turns into an investigation that reveals Scaramanga working with the American mob and the KGB to destabilize the Caribbean sugar industry (thereby increasing the value of Cuba’s sugar crops) — but even this plot is more grounded that we’ve seen before.

Bond is far less of a superhero than he’s ever been before — and there even seems to be a grudging acceptance of Britain’s post-colonial position in the world, rather than the earlier fantasies of Imperial glory-days. Towards the end of the book, Bond is assisted by the Americans, not his own people. The interests of Britain are largely meaningless — little more than playing sidekick to the maneuverings of the US vs the USSR. Bond manages to kill Scaramanga, of course — but in the end, it’s little more than a completed assignment, not a move that saves the world, or defeats the enemy. The world that Fleming paints seems to tell us that he felt that the glory days were truly over — the Empire was gone, and the noble man of action was meaningless in a world filled with Scaramangas.

Later this week, we wrap up the Tour de Bond with the last book of the canon, Octopussy and The Living Daylights (1966), and a brief look at the post-Fleming Bonds.