1982: Kingsley Amis rags on Gardner, 007 films

Kingsley Amis

Kingsley Amis

Kingsley Amis, a novelist who enjoyed more prestige than Ian Fleming, was a fan of the latter’s James Bond novels.

Amis (1922-1995) wrote  The James Bond Dossier , a 1965 book that seriously analyzed Fleming’s 007 works. Of course, Amis wrote the first James Bond continuation novel, 1968’s Colonel Sun, under the pen name Robert Markham.

The Times Literary Supplement unearthed  and posted Amis’s 1982 review of John Gardner‘s For Special Services. It was Gardner’s second 007 continuation novel in which Gardner brings SPECTRE back into the picture.

In taking a look at that review, Amis comes across as crabby not only with his Bond continuation novel successor but with the world of 007 in general.

First, an except about For Special Services:

(T)he present offering is an unrelieved disaster all the way from its aptly forgettable title to the photograph of the author – surely an unflattering likeness – on the back of the jacket.

Meow! Still, Amis is just getting warmed up.

Here, Amis unloads on the James Bond films:

Over the last dozen years the Bond of the books must have been largely overlaid in the popular mind by the Bond of the films, a comic character with a lot of gadgets and witty remarks at his disposal.

Still, Amis mostly writes about For Special Services. Here, Amis is a golfer and For Special Services is the golf ball. Here he describes Gardner’s women characters:

The first is there just for local colour, around at the start, to be dropped as soon as the wheels start turning. She is called Q’ute because she comes from Q Branch. (Q himself is never mentioned, lives only in the films, belongs body and soul to Cubby Broccoli, the producer.)

Nor is Amis impressed with the novel’s main female character.

Bond scores all right with the third of the present trio, Nena Bismaquer, née Blofeld and the revengeful daughter of his old enemy, a detail meant to be a stunning revelation near the end but you guess it instantly.

In this regard, Amis was rather prescient. In 2015’s SPECTRE, it was supposed to be a “big reveal” that the head of SPECTRE would be revealed to be Ernst Stavro Blofeld, a “reveal” that surprised nobody. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and all that.

Before he ends the review, Amis really, really makes it clear he’s not a fan of the films.

Amis writes the 007 movies “cover up any old implausibility or inconsistency by piling one outrage on another. You start to say to yourself ‘But he wouldn’t –’ or’“But they couldn’t –’ and before you can finish Bond is crossing the sunward side of the planet Mercury in a tropical suit or sinking a Soviet aircraft-carrier with his teeth.”

Amusingly, years after his death, a portion of Amis’s Colonel Sun novel was used in 2015’s SPECTRE — specifically the torture scene. Amis got a backhanded credit, deep in the end titles, where “The Estate of Kingsley Amis” got a “special thanks” credit.

It was the first time Eon Productions utilized the continuation novels in any way, shape for form. Previously, Michael G. Wilson, Eon’s co-boss, has criticized certain continuation novels (Gardner’s in particular).

As for Amis’s 1982 article, you can judge for yourself by CLICKING HERE and reading it for yourself..

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4 Responses

  1. Amis himself didn’t do much better with Colonel Sun. His book has a great start but after M’s kidnapping and before the torture sequence, nothing of note really ever happens. Sun’s plan was also shockingly banal; kill important international leader and leave M’s and Bond’s bodies near the crime scene. As for John Gardner, he would have been better off working on the films. He knew how to write a good action sequence and he came up with great ideas for films but his books weren’t that good.

  2. Kinglsey Amis’ 007 novel, Colonel Sun, read a lot like a Fleming novel, but without the bravura and elan. In fact, it was well that it followed Fleming’s last novel, The Man With the Golden Gun, because that novel never received the final polish, and hence lacked Fleming’s touch. So Colonel Sun felt like an almost natural continuation. He’s a very acceptable stand in for Fleming. Gardner’s 007 books on the other hand, had no feeling of the Fleming Bond books. Gardner himself had no liking of, or respect for, the Fleming works, and it showed. He took the gig at his agent’s urging. It was just a paycheck.

  3. Oddly, TLS dropped the review’s title “Double Low Tar 7, Licensed to Underkill”.

  4. Amis was kinder about Christopher Wood’s The Spy Who Loved Me novelisation

    “Mr Wood has bravely tackled his formidable task, that of turning a typical late Bond film, which must be basically facetious, into a novel after Ian Fleming, which must be basically serious. … the descriptions are adequate and the action writing excellent.”

    http://www.ajb007.co.uk/topic/40204/two-james-bond-novel-reviews-from-kingsley-amis-1977-1982/

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