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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Ian Fleming's Second Uncompleted James Bond Short Story Collection

In the Jonathan Cape first edition of OCTOPUSSY AND THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1966) by Ian Fleming there is a very interesting piece of information contained on the dust jacket inner leaf:



‘These two stories, written in 1961 and 1962, were among those composed by Ian Fleming while he was writing the incomparable series of James Bond thrillers. The first collection of stories appeared in 1959 as For Your Eyes Only; a further collection which he had planned to publish was never completed.’



Does this mean that Ian Fleming intended another short story collection outside of the OCTOPUSSY AND THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS collection or simply that he had intended it to be a larger collection containing a few more stories to make it a match for the ‘Five Secret Occasions in the life of James Bond’ that made up FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1960)?



When Fleming’s second short story collection and his last completed Bond work was published in paperback form in 1967 under the title of simply OCTOPUSSY the short story THE PROPERTY OF A LADY which Fleming had specially written in 1963 for Sotheby’s ‘The Ivory Hammer’ was added to bulk out the collection. If Fleming had lived would 007 IN NEW YORK, which was first published in the American edition of THRILLING CITIES have also been included? Of course Fleming left behind at least two other uncompleted Bond short stories when he died in August 1964.



In THE LIFE OF IAN FLEMING by John Pearson extracts from these two unfinished Bond short stories are given along with some interesting details that place them in their proper context:



‘During the winter, when the real wealth of the world was still to be found on the Riviera, the Greek Syndicate operated at Monte Carlo; and in the summer, as money migrated north, they came shuffling their cards after it. And wherever the Greek Syndicate operated in those days its best and most famous ‘dealer’ at baccarat was an ex-shipping clerk with a gentle manner and an infallible memory for cards and faces. His name was Zographos. He was one of Fleming’s earliest heroes. Through him Fleming felt that he had finally begun to understand the real mystique of the casino.



Not long before he died, Fleming actually began a short story in which James Bond met Zographos. It never got beyond the first page and a half, but it managed to convey something of the excitement its author felt for the really great ice-cold gambler.



…’It was like this, Mr Bond,’ Zographos had a precise way of speaking with the thin tips of his lips while his half-hard, half-soft Greek eyes measured the reactions of his words on the listener…‘The Russians are chess players. They are mathematicians. Cold machines. But they are also mad. The mad ones forsake the chess and the mathematics and become gamblers. Now, Mr Bond.’ Zographos laid a hand on Bond’s sleeve and quickly withdrew it because he knew Englishmen, just as he knew the characteristics of every race, every race with money, in the world. ‘There are two gamblers…the man who lays the odds and the man who accepts them. The bookmaker and the punter. The casino and, if you like’ – Mr Zographos’s smile was sly with the ‘shared secret and proud with the right word – ‘the suckers.’



What seems to have excited Fleming most of all was the thought that the Greek Syndicate and Zographos were the bankers and in the long run had the odds in their favour. It made him think that somehow, whether through skill or crime or self-control or knowledge of human nature, a really determined man could beat the system, establish his final ascendancy, his uniqueness as a human being, over Zographos’s ‘suckers’ and all the other dull worthy people who gambled without appreciating what they were up to.



This was what Fleming always wanted to do. But since he was a careful man with a profound appreciation of money and a gambler in the imagination, he never did. It was left to James Bond to risk everything on that single throw and clean out the bank.’ (‘The Life of Ian Fleming,’ John Pearson, The Companion Book Club, London, 1966, pp. 207-8)



An extract from Fleming’s second uncompleted Bond short story and Pearson’s reading of it is also given:



“‘In the early morning, at about 7.30, the stringy whimperings of the piped radio brought visions of a million homes waking up all over Britain…of him, or perhaps her, getting up to make the early morning tea, to put the dog out, to stoke the boiler. And then will this shirt do for another day? The socks, the pants? The Ever-ready, the Gillette shave, the Brylcreem on the hair, the bowler hat or the homburg, the umbrella and the briefcase or the sample case? Then ‘Dodo’, the family saloon out on the concrete arterial, probably with her driving. The red-brick station, the other husbands, the other wives, the clickety-click of the 8.15 round the curve by the golf course. Hullo Sidney! Hullo Arthur! After you Mr Shacker…and the drab life picking up speed and flicking on up the rails between the conifers and the damp evergreens.



Bond switched on his electric blanket and waited for his hot water with a slice of lemon and contemplated the world with horror and disgust.’



Into this opening of a short story he never finished Fleming managed to cram his horror of the idea of marrying and settling down. It was a typical piece of Flemingesque black fantasy – he must be one of the few men it is totally impossible to imagine stoking an early morning boiler before driving off in a family saloon with a bowler hat and a caseful of samples. It gives some idea of the passion with which he clung to his independence during the long years of the romance before ‘Annee Rothermere’ became ‘Madame F’.



For when the marriage did take place not even its bitterest opponents could say that the couple needed more time to get to know each other or that they failed to realize what they were in for; rarely can two people in love have had quite such a gruelling prelude to a wedding.” (‘The Life of Ian Fleming,’ John Pearson, The Companion Book Club, London, 1966, pp. 192-3)



It would be interesting to know if the rest of these two unfinished Fleming Bond short stories are still in the archives as Pearson did write that the Zographos story was a page and a half in length, implying that that was just an excerpt and the other excerpt only contains the opening of the story. It would be great if the rest of these fragments of Bond short stories could be published also. A delve around in the Fleming archives would hopefully uncover them in their entirety.



Perhaps one of the reasons that the full short story collection was never delivered by Fleming, quite apart from the fact that he died at the relatively young age of 56 was that Fleming was not in a great state for writing during 1964. In his autobiography, WITHIN WHICKER’S WORLD, Alan Whicker mentions how he was approached one day in 1964 by Ian Fleming’s agent Robert Fenn, who was also a friend of his about the possibility of doing a ‘Whicker’s World’ TV programme on the creator of James Bond, who was then writing at Goldeneye, his house in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Whicker recalls:



‘After some discussion the BBC agreed, and I wrote to tell Fleming I was looking forward to our meeting, mentioned a few mutual friends, gave him a rough schedule of our movements and a few thoughts on how we might approach the programme. By return I had the rudest letter I have ever received.



I should have kept it. It was after all from a Bestseller, and must still be burning a hole in some Documentary department file. He had not the slightest intention of giving his valuable time to the BBC, or to me, for little or no payment. In that short sharp vein he dismissed us as parasites upon the creative body. It was strong stuff. Since I had understood the whole project was his and we were merely being agreeable and falling in with his wishes, I was stunned.



I had an active sense of injustice and a tendency not to turn the other cheek, so was about to leap to my typewriter and shoot off an indignant rejoinder. However for some reason I stayed my hand. I have never been quite sure why. Instead I sent an unusually gentle reply, regretting our lines had got crossed in that way, and saying only that his decision was certainly my loss – as it was. 



Weeks later while filming in Jamaica we visited Ocho Rios, and I went to stay with Jeremy Vaughan on his father’s plantation, just above Goldeneye. They saw Fleming most days and were concerned about him, for he was drinking heavily and usually legless by lunchtime. His writing was not going well, if at all. I recalled what had happened. ‘Don’t take it to heart,’ said Charles Vaughan. ‘That’s not like him – but obviously he’s a sick man.’



Within a few weeks, Ian Fleming was dead. I was profoundly thankful I had not risen to the passing irritation of an unhappy author in his last days.’ (‘Within Whicker’s World,’ Alan Whicker, Coronet Edition, 1983, pp. 284-5)



This description of Fleming’s last few weeks and the effect it had on his creativity and his enthusiasm for Bond is also borne out in Andrew Lycett’s biography of Fleming,



‘Once again he claimed that he would write no more Bond books. Although he had said this before, there was a certain finality in his statement to Plomer, who was editing The Man With the Golden Gun: “This is, alas, the last Bond and, again alas, I mean it, for I really have run out of both puff and zest.”

‘Ian seized on the imminent publication of Amis’s work as an excuse to delay putting out The Man With the Golden Gun, which increasingly dissatisfied him. He hoped he might be able to rework it in the when he was in Jamaica the following spring. But Plomer disabused him of that idea, telling him that the novel was well up to standard.’ (‘Ian Fleming,’ Andrew Lycett, Phoenix, London, 2002, p. 434)



In an article entitled ‘My Enemy’s Enemy Is My Friend’ over on the 007 Forever website, Nick Kincaid wrote in February 2001 of Fleming’s plans for future Bond stories which were taken from notes outlined in his 128 page notebook. Kincaid reveals some of the contents of Fleming’s notebook,



“In February 1964, shortly before Fleming died, he allowed a reporter from the Daily Express to have a look [at his notebook]. The reporter copied several entries:

‘There was a notation of the name “Mr. Szasz,” which Fleming thought would be ideal for a villain. He had somehow come across the Bulgar proverb “My Enemy’s Enemy (is my friend),” and if he had lived, it would probably have turned up on the lips of some inscrutable villain” (Quoting from Henry Ziegler’s ‘The Spy Who Came In With The Gold’)



The reporter’s notes from Fleming’s notebook also revealed how Fleming had outlined prospective Bond works. Here are the plot outlines:



“Bond, as a double agent, has to shoot his own assistant in order to keep his cover…”



“A battle under Niagara Falls”



“A masquerade ball in which the benign clown is the Russian killer and the crowd thinks that a real fight is part of the buffoonery.” (As Nick Kincaid notes in the article there are shades of the 1983 film OCTOPUSSY here, where Bond, dressed as a clown has to persuade the American General that there is a nuclear bomb in the cannon waiting to go off any second.)



It is a wonderful piece of black tragic-comedy with clear Fleming roots. Consider, for instance, the scene in Fleming’s CASINO ROYALE where one of Le Chiffre’s Bulgar henchmen places his cane-gun against Bond’s spine and asks him to pull out of the high stakes game of baccarat:



‘Immediately he felt something hard press into the base of his spine, right into the cleft between his two buttocks on the padded chair.



At the same time a thick voice speaking southern French said softly, urgently, just behind his right ear:



‘This is a gun, monsieur. It is absolutely silent. It can blow the base of your spine off without a sound. You will appear to have fainted. I shall be gone. Withdraw your bet before I count ten. If you call for help I shall fire.’



The voice was confident. Bond believed it. These people had shown they would unhesitantly go to the limit. The thick walking-stick was explained. Bond knew the type of gun. The barrel a series of soft rubber baffles which absorbed the detonation, but which allowed the passage of the bullet. They had been invented and used in the war for assassinations. Bond had used them himself.

[…]

Trois

Bond looked over at Vesper and Felix Leiter. They were smiling and talking to each other. The fools. Where was Mathis? Where were those famous men of his?

Quatre

And the other spectators. This crowd of jabbering idiots. Couldn’t someone see what was happening? The chef de partie, the croupier, the huissier? (‘Casino Royale,’ Pan Books Ltd., London, 1965, pp. 87-8)



Another plot outline with a connected circus/fairground theme is:



“Fight in a fun fair with a man on the rollercoaster being shot at by another on the Big Wheel.” 



The notebook also contained descriptions that may have turned up in a future Bond short story collection or even novel:



“She had a blunt, short-lipped mouth, proud like a half-healed wound.”



“You won’t have a lover if you don’t love,” (This is very like Elektra King’s and Viktor ‘Renard’ Zokas’s shared philosophy in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999): “There’s no point in living if you can’t feel alive.”)



“Most people are unconscious up to 17, dreaming until 25, awake to 39, mad after 40, dead after 60.”



“Pain is a private address. Only those who have been that way before know the unlisted number.”



As has been suspected, the notebook also revealed that Fleming might have considered branching into non-Bond stories, such as the story of revenge he had outlined in a synopsis. Fleming may have also contemplated a book of non-fiction or a biography had he lived:



“Millionaire wants baby. Kidnaps girl. Rapes her. Keeps her prisoner until baby is born. Makes huge settlement on baby. She signs. He throws her out. She gets her revenge by proving the baby started a week before he kidnapped her.”



A trawl through the various excerpts from the uncompleted Bond short stories and from the outline notes from Fleming’s notebook makes one wonder what might have been had Ian Fleming lived beyond 1964. Would Ian Fleming have continued with more Bond short stories and novels or would these unfinished stories have been his last foray into the world of the literary James Bond? There is no real way of knowing, but there is also no denying that a look through Fleming’s unfinished work does raise some interesting questions about where he would have taken James Bond had he lived.


TBB Article No. 9


© Brian McKaig, 2007.